May 31, 2006

Jimmy's funding

May 31 - Jimmy Carter has some explaining to do. Judi McLeod of Canada Free Press reveals that the Censure Carter Committee has uncovered a paper trail which, it is alleged, traces funds from the Saudi Bin Laden Group to Carter.

From The film the world never viewed: Fahrenheit Jimmy Carter:

A paper trail shows that more than $1 million has been funneled from Bakr M. Bin Laden on behalf of the Saudi Bin Laden Group to The Carter Center.


"An investigation by the Censure Carter Committee into the financing for The Carter Center of Atlanta, Georgia founded by President Carter and his wife to advance his "Blame America First" policies reveals that over $1,000,000 has been funneled from Bakr M. Bin Laden for the Saudi Bin Laden Group to the Carter Center," says Censure Carter.Com in a mainstream media-ignored recent media release.

"In fact, an online report accuses former President Carter of meeting with 10 of Osama Bin Laden’s brothers early in 2000, Carter and his wife, Rosalyn followed up their meeting with a breakfast with Bakr Bin Laden in September 2000 and secured the first $200,000 towards the more than $1 million that has been received by the Carter Center."

The group lists a number of allegations here and it makes for some extremely uncomfortable reading.

I think there is a general assumption that Jimmy Carter lost his mind after the Tehran Embassy takeover and doomed rescue attempt. He's become much like that elderly woman you see on the street corner -- the one with several large message buttons pinned to her coat passing passing out leaflets produced by The Nut Factory.

But he's also family, so you let him button-hole you for the obligatory 10-minutes on Thanksgiving until you can escape.

But no degree of diminished capacity could absolve Carter of not going public after Sept. 11 to explain that he had accepted funds from a highly questionable source nor excuse his failure to return the money to the Saudi Bin Laden Group after Sept. 11.

Unfortunately for Carter, another respected American, Rudy Giuliani, set the standard when, right after Sept. 11, he refused a donation for New York City from a Saudi prince.

We'll see if the U.S. news media picks up on this story; in the meantime, the Censure Carter Committee is raising money for ads to be aired on television.

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Memorial Day, 2006

May 31 - I feel as though my fingers have been poised over this keyboard for 3 days now, groping for words and trying to cut through the mingled humility, gratitude, and guilt that this day inspires.

I did not volunteer to serve my country in my youth. I believed, as do so many now, that it was better to work for peace. I had the feeling that, in ways I could not articulate even then, a general desire for peace could spread from belligerent nation to belligerent nation until we defeated all the warmongers.

I guess I believed that peace would spread by osmosis.

It's easy enough to laugh at such naivete now, yet my generation was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. King: two men who successfully challenged two great nations in the cause of freedom, and they had done so not only without violence but by intentionally using non-violent methods. What we failed to take into account, though, was that both Gandhi and Dr. King knew that they were dealing with countries that, despite their flaws, believed in justice and thus would respond justly.

So, in our innocence, we believed communism wasn't evil but just a different economic system that offered hope to the Third World, and all the facts as to the deadliness of Stalin's gulags and the terrible death toll of Mao's cultural revolution were dismissed as American propaganda.

There were so many questions we should have asked about Russian and Chinese involvement but didn't, nor did we consider the Russian and Chinese propaganda machines. So we sang "Down by the Riverside" and "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream" and protested the War in Vietnam, the draft, racial inequality and supported all the progressive things because we were so open-minded. We believed we were rescuing America from McCarthyism and the military-industrial complex. We believed ourselves pure.

When the U.S. finally withdrew from Vietnam, we felt proud because we had restored self-determination to the Vietnamese people who hated us and wanted nothing more than to be reunited with their Northern brethren.

And then we saw scenes like this one:

US Emb. saigon.gif
Marines throwing Vietnames back over American Embassy wall in Saigon

And there were other images: Vietnamese clinging to helicopter skids, and helicopters being shoved overboard to make room aboard carriers for as many people as could fit, and reading in the newspapers about the unspeakable horrors those people endured crammed on open flight decks and others who had boarded rickety boats rather than live under communism. Many of them in fact died -- of thirst, starvation, disease, and by drowning when their boats capsized in stormy seas.

The heartbreaking stories of the boat people forced thinking people to wonder why there was such a flood of refugees and the possibile answers were unsettling.

All this shook my sense of confident righteousness -- and then the shocking reality of Pol Pot's Utopia demolished it:

Skulls pol pot.jpg
Life under the Khmer Rouge for 1.6 million souls

[Aside: The above is one grim picture, yet it is not entirely of an ugly past: were the bones of all those Iraqis beheaded, shot or blown apart by Zarqawi and others stacked in a pile, how high would it be?]

It was troubling, but maybe the "warmongers" were right after all. Maybe people didn't want to live under communism. Maybe communism really was evil and enslaved people. Maybe its spread had to be stopped. Maybe, just maybe we had been wrong.

And yet, despite our well-meant but unbearably foolish innocence, we were more fortunate than we could ever have imagined because those we had dismissed as brainwashed victims of U.S. propaganda remained vigilantly at the walls to protect us from the very dangers we had laughed off as simple-minded attempts at fear-mongering.

The American soldier stands between us and the monsters and often, because we are a compassionate people, he stands between people of other lands and the monsters. He has done so in Europe, the South Pacific, Africa, Korea, Panama, Grenada, Somalia, Vietnam, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, and too many places to count and too, because it is the right thing to do, has brought aid to people in far away countries devastated by tsunamais, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.

It is a curious thing, that calling to serve in a military and humanitarian capacity, and we are blessed that so many answer it.

I am humble because my youthful idealism was so misdirected, I am grateful because the men and women of the American military continue to protect me, my family, and billions of people in the world from monsters I once believed did not exist, and I feel guilty because, although I am wiser, the Pentagon thinks I am too old to serve so I can't make up for the foolishness of my younger years.

Neither words written nor spoken can ever repay this nation's debt to those souls lost in struggles to secure and protect our nation and our values, but we can vow to keep faith with them and, in the words of Lincoln, "highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . . and that government of the people. . .by the people. . .for the people. . . shall not perish from the earth."

And, if you haven't done so yet, go here and, in the name of those who gave their lives to secure your freedom, take advantage of the ways available at that site to show your gratitude to those who now serve.

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May 30, 2006

On Haditha

May 30 - Yes, I remember My Lai. In fact, I'm old enough to actually remember My Lai -- as well as the subsequent court-martials and sentences that were handed down because following orders then, as now, were not grounds upon which U.S. military personnel can base their defense.

But I also remember Jenin. After much of the media and pundits denounced Israel, the U.N. reported the following:

Palestinians had claimed that between 400 and 500 people had been killed, fighters and civilians together. They had also claimed a number of summary executions and the transfer of corpses to an unknown place outside the city of Jenin.

The number of Palestinian fatalities, on the basis of bodies recovered to date, in Jenin and the refugee camp in this military operation can be estimated at around 55. Of those, a number were civilians, four were women and two children. There were 23 Israeli fatalities in the fighting operations in Jenin.

There's a lesson there, people.

However tempting it may be to denounce unproven allegations, I'm willing to wait because, just as happened with My Lai, the Ongoing Probes Will Yield Facts About Haditha Incident.

Not speculation, allegations and rumours but facts.

As a sidenote, many of those in the media (ahem, Haroon Siddiqui and Toronto Star) did not apologize to Israel for their hysterical condemnations after the Jenin fraud was exposed. That failure, by any reasonable yardstick, is what separates propaganda from honest news reporting.

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No points for subtlety

May 30 - Anti-Iraq forces aren't even trying to be subtle: Future City Hall Bombed in Lutafiyah.

Fortunately neither are we, as the same article also notes that "coalition forces killed three terrorists and detained 10 more suspects in three incidents May 28."

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23 Problems with the Senate bill

May 30 - John methodically outlines 22 Problems With The Senate's Illegal Immigration Bill and I'm adding a 23rd:

23. Why should we trust the Senate to see to the enforcement of their own proposals -- weak as they may be -- to improve security at the border?

Been there, swallowed that.

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On "Faustian Deals"

May 30 - The French were so concerned about probable terror attacks on the 1998 World Cup that they contemplated kidnapping Abu Hamza, according to a book by Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory, The Suicide Factory, scheduled for release June 19.

The authors wrote about a portion of the book examining these worries in the Times Online article French plot to kidnap Abu Hamza and save the World Cup and, whatever we may think of the lofty posturing by French politicians, that country's security organizations indicate more accurately the seriousness with which the French regard terror threats and the ruthless steps they are willing to take to thwart them:

Jean Pierre Chevènement, France’s Minister of the Interior, had one worry in particular. It was March 1998. In a few months the football World Cup was to be held in France, and it was a huge security headache. Algerian terrorists of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) had bombed the Paris Métro in 1995, and the architects of that atrocity — regarded in France as a deadly enemy — were still on the loose, living untroubled lives in London. The World Cup offered them an opportunity, and there were whispers in the intelligence world that something was being planned. It might take only a word from their spiritual guide Abu Hamza, an article in his newsletter, or a line in a communiqué pinned to the Finsbury Park mosque noticeboard to set the wheels in motion.


There had been panic in 1997 when a newsletter carried a GIA logo in which the letters were arranged in the shape of a triangle.

Was it a signal that terrorists were going to target the Eiffel Tower? In 1994 four GIA men had hijacked an Air France jet in Algiers and threatened to fly it to Paris and smash into the tower. The plane was stormed by French commandos at Marseilles and the terrorists killed.

France was on edge. Such was her anxiety about the World Cup that she demanded co-operation from her European neighbours. Where she deemed that collaboration was lacking, or less than enthusiastic, she was sending teams of agents abroad to gather intelligence on Islamist militants. Hassaine was part of the team in London, recruited by France’s DGSE intelligence service, to be a spy inside Finsbury Park’s Algerian community and its mosque.


As far as the French were concerned, the British had entered into a Faustian pact with the extreme Islamist groups assembled in London. They were free to organise, propagandise and speak, as long as there was no threat and no trouble on British soil. Abu Hamza seemed to enjoy a friendly relationship with MI5 and Scotland Yard’s intelligence wing, the Special Branch. They called him regularly, invited him for meetings and were generally on cordial terms. (Emphasis added)


“But the French believed that this plot to attack the World Cup was real, that it was being drawn up in London and that Finsbury Park mosque was the capital of Londonistan. The names of many suspects were passed to the British – veteran terrorists arriving from around the world – but the British did nothing. They did not take it seriously, even when the French said that if anything were to happen they would declare publicly that they held the British responsible.”

In the event, France thwarted the threat to attack the tournament. The process of unravelling it began with the arrest of an Algerian terrorist in Belgium in March 1998. The man had been convicted in absentia by a French court in connection with the Paris Métro bombs in 1995, and was subsequently jailed by the Belgian courts for nine years for attempted murder, criminal association, sedition and forgery. In the three months before the World Cup began, more than a hundred North Africans were arrested in France, Switzerland, Italy, Britain, Belgium and Germany as suspected terrorists.

The intent of this post is not to criticize the British; just as I've long regarded it as useless to issue solemn pronouncements of blame over U.S. (in)actions prior to Sept. 11, it seems that too many countries, even staunch U.S. allies in the war on terror, don't take Islamic terror threats seriously until there's blood on their homesoil (e.g., the Theo van Gogh murder) and others, like Indonesia, don't believe there's even a terror threat until it happens (e.g., Bali.)

Of course those lessons we can learn from the many failures are valuable, but endless blame games tend to distract instead of focus us. One glaring case in point: how, exactly, did Farenheit 911 serve to secure the nation from terror attacks?

One thing this article does highlight is the urgent need for security agencies from different countries to work together. There is an interesting Cancon aspect to this because French security agencies had tried in vain to alert Canadian authorities about al Qaeda operative and Millennium Bomber (and Canadian refugee-applicant!) Ahmed Ressam, but those warnings were ignored -- and then he was caught by a U.S. border guard trying to enter the USA with a trunkload of explosives with the intent of bombing LAX.

Despite the well-earned reputation of French intelligence agencies, domestic security in that country remains troubled: the kids are at it again because, it is claimed, the French haven't addressed the root causes of last November's riots.

The French Parliament recently tried to relax labour laws in an effort to reduce the high unemployment of the nation's young -- especially the disproportionately higher numbers among the children of immigrants -- but the the labour unions and students forced a retreat. (Is it really so surprising that, when it comes to protecting their own comfortable incomes and job security, the French left-wing turns downright reactionary? /obligatory French bashing)

The French seem caught in their own Faustian deal, a state which, to larger and lesser extents, afflicts us all -- including the USA, where an irate American electorate demands border security but is only getting platitudes.

(A goal and an assist to Newsbeat1 because the latter link led me to the first link. How about them Oilers?)

Posted by Debbye at 07:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 29, 2006

Ont. Civil service union to boycott Israel

May 29 - I should be outraged but such would be entirely too subdued: civil service workers in Ontario, whose generous wages and salaries are paid for by taxpayers, have endorsed the boycott of Israel:

The Ontario wing of Canada's largest union has voted to join an international boycott campaign against Israel "until that state recognizes the Palestinian right to self-determination."
You got that backwards, idiot. Israel has recognized that right and is instituting that right, but the Hamas party, which now holds majority rule, has not reciprocated and still holds to its position to eliminate Israel.
Sid Ryan, the Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario president, said 896 members voted unanimously at its convention in Ottawa on Saturday to support the campaign.

"This is not an attack on Jewish people. It's [an objection to] the state of Israel's policies on Palestinians," Mr. Ryan said yesterday. "They say they are creating an independent state but they're not giving them the tools to do that."

"Tools" like mortar, explosives, schoolbooks that teach that Jews are monkeys and pigs, and ambulances to transport weapons? They have them.

Or "tools" as in "useful fools tools?" 'Cause I can assure you they got those too aplenty -- including your delegates.

Under the resolution approved by delegates, the union -- which represents more than 200,000 workers -- will also develop an education campaign about the issue, according to a press release. The statement condemned the West Bank barrier erected by Israel.

"The Israeli 'apartheid wall' has been condemned and determined illegal under international law," the release reads.

That stupid myth of international law is again raised as though it has legitimacy (in the proper sense of the word) and breezes past the murderous attacks that prompted the erection of the wall.
In a reference to boycotts, it also notes, "Canada has a free trade agreement with Israel, the only such agreement this country has outside of the Western hemisphere."

"In Ontario, the Liquor Control Board carried more than 30 Israeli wines, many produced in the occupied Golan Heights."

I never noticed that before, being a California wine lover, but I will definitely buy a couple of bottles now.
Mr. Ryan said the global campaign started last July and has been supported by 170 organizations around the world. "It's a human rights issue," he said.

He said the union has also come out in the past against attacks by Palestinian extremists and suicide bombers.

Insert the pro-forma "It was wrong but .." b.s., and, having been fair and even-handed, jump back to showing how enlightened you are.
CUPE Ontario's next step, he said, is to try to get other unions such as the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress to join the campaign of "boycott, divestment and sanctions."

In recent years, CUPE Ontario has called for the end of Israeli military action and a withdrawal from the occupied territories. The executive of the Canadian Labour Congress crafted a resolution in 2002 comparing Palestinians in the occupied territories to blacks living under apartheid in South Africa.

Note the discrepancies: blacks in South Africa lived in South Africa; the Palestinians are living in what is not part of Israel. Israel is in fact withdrawing from the territories, but the issue for most of the Palestinian leadership is that Israel is not withdrawing from Israel. Not that details matter when you're enlightened.

In other news, Israeli soldiers thwarted a homicide bomb attack and here's the part that really sticks out:

Senior IDF officials told Ynet that the intelligence alert that led to the arrest is one of the most severe they have received so far. “This was a joint plan of the Islamic Jihad, Fatah and the Popular Front to carry out a large scale terror attack in Israel,” an army source explained.
Get that? Fatah. Now that they no longer control the PA, they have no need for the pretense of wanting peace, instead choosing to restore their reputation as butchers.

Reader Timbre sent me an email about Toronto Star editor and columnist Haroon Siddiqui's thrat to sue a commenter over at little green footballs. Anyone know how that is developing?

(CUPE link via Neale News)

[The transit workers' work stoppage has ended, so I'm heading to work. More tomorrow.]

Posted by Debbye at 07:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Road rage? Not.

May 29 - The timing of the demonstrations in Kabul, coinciding as they do with Memorial Day, is highly suspicious, you know?

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TTC wildcat strike offends Mayor Miller

May 29 - Another glorious day in Toronto, and a really great day to skip work as Toronto buses, streetcars and the subway are not running due to a wildcat strike, and despite the fact that Toronto transit workers were ordered back to work, the system still isn't running.

This is definitely a laugh-cry stituation. Despite the personal inconvenience this may cause as I head for work tonight, our labour-friendly mayor certainly looked foolish on the news this morning and even as I write he is assuming a tough stance on CP24 but is coming off sounding petulant.

How could they do this to him? He's pro-union, by golly, and here they are making him look bad.

But there's some confusion as to what exactly triggered the shutdown:

Union officials warned of a possible strike on the weekend, claiming management was not properly addressing the concerns of employees.

Maintenance workers reportedly instigated the strike, and other employees followed suit.

The union earlier claimed management had locked out some employees, but management disputed the allegations.

The cease and desist order hasn't achieved much because:
[Toronto Transit Commission general manager Rick] Ducharme said the illegal picketers are waiting to hear from their union leader and its executives, who Ducharme has not been able to contact for negotiations.
According to one report, the union is currently in a meeting with the Ontario Labour Board.

The story is being updating continuously on the CTV link.

Obviously this whole mess is clearly Howard ("terrorists can't find Toronto on the map") Moscoe's fault.

13:16 - It's also Moscoe's fault that the time stamp on today's posts are screwy. Clearly I didn't write this at 5:17 a.m.! I'm adjusting the times now.

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Memorial Day (-48 hrs)

May 29 - Memorial Day is one holiday that gained new relevance since the Sept. 11 attacks. It is more painful, it is more grateful, and it is more humbling.

We Were Soldiers was aired on (American) television last night and it was an experience that won't be easy to shake off.

As always, Mudville Gazette has several excellent posts commemorating those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Although I realize that Memorial Day is being celebrated today stateside, my heart insists that Memorial Day is on Wednesday. Maybe that's due to the fact that it's not a holiday up here and I am supposed to go to work tonight (I hope) or maybe I really am in my dotage. but I've elected to honour our fallen on May 31st.

12:46 - I'll never be able to write anything so eloquent and direct as Christopher Hitchins has:

... the insoluble problem: how to estimate the value of those whose lives were cruelly cut off before victory was in sight. It is sometimes rather lazily said that these soldiers "gave" their lives. It would be equally apt, if more blunt, to say that they had their lives taken.


This Memorial Day, one might think particularly of those of our fallen who also guarded polling-places, opened schools and clinics, and excavated mass graves. They represent the highest form of the citizen, and every man and woman among them was a volunteer. This plain statement requires no further rhetoric.

(Via Newsbeat1)

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May 28, 2006

Oh, that Canadian MSM (Updated)

May 28 - Interesting debate going on up here which, although seemingly stemming from alterations in how PM Harper handles (or fields depending on your POV) questions from the press, reflects deeper problems with which most Americans are wearily all too familiar: rank partisanship by reporters, a news and commentary elite that cannot distinguish between fact and opinion, editorial statements disguised as questions, different reporters repeatedly asking the same questions already asked and answered (Sec. Rumsfeld deals decisively with them,) deliberate or lazy (again, depending on your POV) misrepresentation of what was actually said (remember the infamous Dowd ellipses?) and above all, in what amounts of a near-derelicition of duty, a failure to perform the kind of investigative reporting that might have brought attention to scandals like Adscam and over-spending for the Gun Registry much earlier.

JM at Newsbeat1 makes an extremely pertinent point on exactly that failure here in his link to the following item.

Stephen Taylor has an excellent post on the controversy giving Fair time to both sides of the debate and the comments are both stimulating and informative. Be sure and follow the links in both the post and comments; this is not an idle debate but one that exposes the degree of disenchantment that has led to the rise of blogs and questions as to the amount of unfettered access the media should have to the Prime Minister.

This comment by Maria cuts to the heart of what many of us see as a direct challenge to the assumumption of an "independent press":

I don't have exact source but here is another fact that makes Canadians suspicious of the motives of some members of the press:

56 appointed for life Senators were journalists (don't know how many of those were from the Ottawa press corps)

Of these 48 were appointed by Liberals.

Another extremely large number of journalists have been made Ambassadors.

The past two Governor Generals appointed by Liberals were from CBC.

There is a perception that these appointments are for "favours rendered".

No kidding. Certainly the prospect of getting a plum patronage appointment would indicate a potential conflict of interest if not a direct conflict of interest but (surprise!) the Canadian media hasn't exhibited much interest in pursuing that story.

Furthermore, the CBC is not the only news outlet that receives funding from the Canadian taxpayer so maybe it isn't so strange that much of the news media actively fanned a scare campaign in an effort to secure a Liberal win during the last two national elections.

(Please note that I am not singling out the Canadian news media for scorn -- laziness and the wholesale failure to check their facts is endemic among news organizations around the world and I cordially despise most of them all of the time and all of them some of the time.

I must admit, though, that U.S. press briefings would be far less entertaining without Dowager Helen Thomas.)

May 30 21:10 - Lorrie Goldstein points out in his column that the practice which is so outraging the PPG (Parliamentary Press Gallery) today was, in truth, instituted back in 2004 in honour of the the last two election campaigns. At those times, though, a Liberal, Paul Martin, was Prime Minister.

So the same press gallery that quietly accepted restrictions under a Liberal PM -- and, it must be stressed, during two national election campaigns -- has suddenly re-discovered the concept of a vigorous and investigative press? If we are to believe they are indeed neutral, then why didn't they stage walk-outs under the Martin government? Were they somehow afraid of the Liberals?

It is simplistic to always assume liberal (and Liberal) bias in the media, but their own inconsistencies are increasingly hard to fathom and they aren't offering any coherent explanations.

Posted by Debbye at 11:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rally in Toronto for illegal immigrants rights

May 28 - It was inevitable, I suppose, that rallies in the U.S. demanding rights for illegal immigrants would trigger similar ones up here. 500 attended a rally for immigrants' rights in Toronto yesterday:

The protesters, who gathered outside the OISE building on Bloor St., chanted "No one is illegal," and "Status for all." The rally and march was one of several across Canada yesterday.

"We want an end to the detentions, deportations and use of security certificates," said Zima Zerehi, a spokesman for No One is Illegal Toronto.

Zerehi said studies show about 500,000 illegal immigrants live in Canada with 80,000 in Toronto.

If we apply the 10:1 ratio when comparing Canadian figures to those for the U.S., that would approximate 5 million illegal immigrants in Canada and 800,000 in Toronto.

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Our Ambassador to Canada

May 28 - Nice little story about US Ambassador David Wilkins: In one short year, the new U.S. ambassador to Canada has become a poutine-loving, Moosehead-swilling Canuck-at-heart.

I think most Americans will readily admit that Canadian beer is better than ours (it has a higher alcoholic content) and to my taste, Moosehead is indeed The Best (with thanks to Sammy and Amelia for introducing me to it) and well worth the higher price.

As for the poutine, to each their own, eh?

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New cycle in Ring of Fire (updated)

May 28 - The Indonesian quake toll is up to 4,600 according to Indonesian officials, and rescuers are in a race against time to dig through the rubble in the hope of finding survivors of the 6.3 magnitude quake that hit Indonesia yesterday. The government has declared a 3-month state of emergency.

There is an interesting connection to recent activity at Mount Merapi and this as well as previous quakes, including the 2004 undersea quake that triggered the Asian tsunami. Some scientists believe the ring of fire is going through a new cycle:

"There is certainly a connection between the December 26 quake that triggered giant waves that swept much of Aceh and the one that jolted Yogyakarta on Saturday," he [Priyadi Kartono, of Indonesia's National Co-ordinating Agency for Surveys and Mapping] said.

Dr Kartono told The Jakarta Post that both events were triggered by the movement of the tectonic plates underlying Indonesia and the Indian Ocean.


"Yogyakarta and the rest of Java island are located in the Ring of Fire belt, where the Eurasian and Indo-Australian plates stack on each other and create regular movements which cause earthquakes," said Wahyu Supri Hantoro, of the Bandung-based Centre of Geotechnology at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences.

Indonesia is home to the world's largest collection of volcanoes - 76 - and after the Boxing Day disaster University of Ulster seismologist John McCloskey predicted more quakes due to the stress placed on neighbouring faults.


The recent earthquake and activity on Mount Merapi raises concerns that a so-called "super-volcano" on nearby Sumatra might erupt.

If it did, the catastrophic blast would toss hundreds of thousands of cubic kilometres of rock and ash into the atmosphere, dwarfing the eruptions of Krakatoa, Mount St Helens, Pinatubo and any conventional volcanic explosions over the past tens of thousands of years.

"These super-volcanoes are potentially the greatest hazard on earth, the only greater threat being an asteroid impact from space," Monash University vulcanologist Ray Cas told The Australian last year.

Studies of the impact of volcanic eruptions on global weather patterns have given rise to many interesting speculations. One suggests that the effects from an Indonesian volcanic eruption may have caused famines in places as far away as Europe and triggered the French revolution in 1789.

May 29 17:04 - A seismologist disagrees that the earthquake will affect Mt. Merapi:

David Booth, a seismologist with the British Geological Survey, disagreed, saying the quake would not necessarily cause the volcano to erupt. He said the plates that shifted to cause the earthquake did not necessarily open cracks in the surface that would be needed to cause a volcanic eruption.

"Volcanoes are all about creating pathways for the magma to move up to the surface," Booth said in a telephone interview. "It's like a lemonade bottle having been shaken. There is enormous pressure there. But if there isn't a pathway to the surface, then the pressure will stay contained."

The biggest danger isn't from lava, which is slow moving, but pyroclastic flows, and Merapi has produced more of them than any other volcano in the world, according to the Merapi page at John Search's website (interesting site, he provides volano tours!) Volcano News at that site says the recent earthquake was "not large enough to change the state of activity" which I take to mean "what will happen will happen."

Posted by Debbye at 08:13 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

So long, Bob

May 28 - Bob of Let It Bleed announced that he has written his last post for the blog.

Many Toronto columnists will sleep better tonight, secure in the knowledge that their skewed logic, mixed metaphors and non-sequiturs will not be exposed at Let It Bleed.

I'm really going to miss him.

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If you want something done ...

May 28 - There's a sensible way to do things and then there's the government's way, and the lengthy, convoluted methods of the latter are probably what gave rise to the American joke "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you."

Americans want border security, but Congress has chosen, most probably in order to avoid dealing with providing genuine border security, to merge the issues of border security with the details of dealing with those already illegally in the U.S. (There's little point of berating the president over this; it is clearly an issue for the legislature to deal with. Separation of powers, and all that.)

But it's no secret that the biggest headache of any branch of the U.S. government is attempting to govern independent-minded Americans, and those tough, sturdy people who showed that "illegal aliens can be stopped with dedicated volunteers sitting in lawn chairs for 30 days" have a new project. While Congress is posturing, the enterprising folks of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corp. are building a fence, or, as Michelle Malkin terms it, DO-IT-YOURSELF BORDER CONTROL:

At present, six private land owners have partnered with the Minutemen for the commencement of construction of border fencing on their land. Surveillance cameras on the fencing will be monitored via computer by registered Minutemen across the country. We have chosen a fence design that is based on the Israeli fences in Gaza and on the West Bank that have cut terrorist attacks there by 95% or more. ...
And, as Ms. Malkin notes, they didn't ask Mexico's permission to erect it on American soil.

Actions that spring from grassroots organizations have a unique power that baffles politicians accustomed to striding through what is termed "halls of power" and who believe everything must be pondered, considered, debated, locked up in committee; in short, action is to be deferred by any means necessary and brother do they have a lot of means.

In true Wonderland fashion, they often succeed in making inaction appear to be action, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time and once the Minuteman sunk their first metaphorical posthole it became self-evident that a fence could indeed be built because one is being built, and furthermore renders the 320 miles the Senate graciously allowed pitifully meagre compared to the relative ease with which one could be built from the Gulf to the Pacific.

We reached the damned moon within a decade. What's 2,000, or even 5,000 miles, compared to that?

It seems to me that mobilizing the National Guard to build a fence makes eminent sense. Perhaps some savvy governor will chose to go that route? Now that would be sweet and, I believe, it would be legal should they receive permission from landowners along the border.

If you can donate money to this worthy Minuteman cause, go here.

(Via Newsbeat1.)

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May 27, 2006

The Battle of Panjwai

May 27 - I am impressed: this item, Canadian troops capture militants, which was written by Bob Weber and appeared in the Toronto Sun, has some solid reporting and indicates some understanding of the military and how they fight. I'm going to quote more than usual due to the uncertain lifespan of the link:

For nearly two weeks, hundreds of Canadians have been fighting in the mud-walled villages of the Panjwai district west of Kandahar, facing large concentrations of Taliban militants who - unusually - have chosen to fight rather than fade away.

The battle, a hide-seek affair of house-to-house searches and sudden, ferocious ambushes, has cost lives both Afghan and Canadian. Forty Taliban fighters were reported killed and 40 others captured in Panjwai last week in a battle that also took the life of Capt. Nichola Goddard, whose funeral was held in Calgary on Friday.

And still the fighting continues.

"We're not 100 per cent sure why (the Taliban) are fighting so hard for this area," said Capt. Dave Johnston of Second Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

"But this is definitely the main event now."

I suspect the Taliban are not fighting so hard for the area so much as fighting Canadians and hoping their ferocity will compell the withdrawal of Canadian troops from the region. They probably rely on the Star for their intel and have misunderestimated the character of Canada outside of Toronto.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the big action came to Banzya ...

A long convoy of light armoured vehicles - or LAV IIIs - and G-Wagon patrol vehicles had pulled into an adjacent field the previous night, its soldiers bedding down on the flat plain of dust and goat droppings.

By 8 a.m., about a dozen soldiers had filed through Banzya's main gate to begin the operation.

The Canadians set up a blocking cordon along one side of the town. Then, working with the Afghan police and army, they formed a line at right angles to the cordon. They started from one end of the cordon, searching homes, poking down alleyways and questioning villagers, moving along methodically like a squeegee cleaning a window.

The Afghans took the lead. They understood the tribal differences that allowed them to recognize someone out of place. They could spot the signs that suggest a man habitually carries an AK-47.

"We've got a lot of technology that they don't," said Johnston. "We've got more firepower, we can see better and we can call in artillery."

"But they've got a spidey sense."

The anti-war folk (and much of the MSM) are generally dismissive of the growing involvement of Afghan (and Iraqi) army units in operations because it defies their multi-cult worldview which respects the inherent dignity of people from places like Afghanistan and Iraq. No, wait, that's a contradiction. Let's try again: the anti-war folk (and much of the MSM) are generally dismissive of the growing involvement of Afghan (and Iraqi) army units in operations because it undercuts their premise that the Afghans and Iraqis liked living under the monstrous Taliban and Saddam regime.
For hours, the work went smoothly. Mid-afternoon, the Canadians and the Afghans broke from the mid-40s C heat under a shady tree. After days of fighting in the area, the place seemed deserted.

But about 3:20, as the Canadians were working through a narrow choke point of road near the vineyards, the Taliban sprung an ambush.

"There was a lot of rounds, a lot of (rocket-propelled grenades)," said Pte. Paul Carey - at least 15 of them. Carey watched one of the rockets bounce across a road like a stone over a pond, hopping over a soldier who had dived into a ditch.

The Canadians returned fire with rifles and their own grenade launchers.

Usually, such attacks last for 15 minutes or so then fade before the Canadians can call in air or artillery support. But this time, using the vineyard as a network of trenches and a nearby building for cover, the Taliban kept up fire for an hour.

One Taliban round rammed through a mud wall and the armour of a G-Wagon, setting its interior alight and badly wounding the platoon's interpreter.

The Canadians often escape an ambush by going around it. Suspecting that's what the Taliban anticipated, they changed tactics.

I'm just pausing here because it's hard to write with a big grin on one's face.
"We decided to power through the attack," said Master Cpl. Chris Alden.

Under cover of the big Canadian howitzers, landing punches from kilometres away as the soldiers cheered, the platoon gradually worked out of the trap the Taliban had tried to close on them.

But as they edged forward, they discovered their enemy had one more surprise in store. The road out was now blocked by an IED - or improvised explosive device, the sort of roadside bomb the Taliban regularly use on Canadian convoys.

"They had stuff set up for us," said Alden.

This time, the soldiers zigged, blowing a hole through a wall to open an egress.

Ka-boom! I love this stuff. It's almost Patton-esque. And, not to dwell, it's a testimony to the Canadian soldier that, despite years of neglect, they can still kick ass -- not because of what they carry in arms or equipment but because of what's inside them: guts and determination.
Meanwhile, air support arrived. A U.S. B1 bomber unloaded a 900-kilogram bomb, flattening a Taliban position with a concussion that could be felt inside LAVs two kilometres away. A U.S. air strike earlier this week in fighting elsewhere, in Azizi, killed at least 16 civilians along with dozens of Taliban fighters. Canadians were not involved in that battle.
Let it go. There are political reasons why Canadian non-involvement in that action needs to be emphasized. But, and this is directed to the American MSM, there seem to also be political reasons why the Geneva Convention is often mentioned when they report on the controversy over the Guantanamo holding facility but they don't condemn the Taliban for using human shields -- a definite violation of that same convention.
The platoon finally arrived back inside the defensive perimeter late that night, their interpreter the only casualty. During the skirmish, they had fired at least 7,000 rounds.

The work resumed the next morning at first light, with another platoon of soldiers filing into Banzya. A smattering of gunfire shortly after 10 a.m. was answered almost immediately with about 20 artillery rounds.

As I prefaced, one rarely read this kind of field reporting up here and I look forward to reading more by Mr. Weber.

One more nod to the Afghan soldiers:

Banzya is only one of a dozen tiny communities in Panjwai and operations in the area are ongoing. Each one will be different, and each will be the same.

"With the Afghan National Army taking the lead," said [Capt. Dave] Johnston [of Second Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry], "Canadians are going into compounds and making sure there are no bad guys around."

I ran a google on Bob Weber; a photo is credited to him in a Washington Post story about the battle last week in Musa Qala, a report about the death of Capt. Nicola Goddard, and there's an item by him cited in The Agonist about the Nov. 2004 Alberta elections. It seems he's a photojournalist who works for CP and AP.

I don't often note by-lines, but I'm going to be looking for his.

The season finale of Battlestar Galactica is about to begin (we're only concluding Season 2 up here) and I am so hyped. And the view on my monitor still looks brilliant.

May 28 20:35 - I wonder if information gathered from those detained is in any way connected to the successful U.S. air attack on an insurgent training facility near the Pakistan-Afghan border.

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May 26, 2006

His Elective Majesty

May 26 - Sorry about the downtime -- I had some trouble with the computer so took it into the shop, and it turned out "the" problem was actually a number of issues.

Oh well, they got fixed. I'm poorer, but I think the new video card in particular resolved a lot of other little problems. I hope.

On more relevant issues: I don't get Mexican President Vicente Fox. The boast that the United States (and Canada) get the best and brightest from other countries is not an idle one, and one would think, if he truly wants to see Mexico advance, that he would regard the steady outflow of ambitious, energetic people with dismay.

It doesn't matter, really, because the American people are no longer buying the "defer and delay" tactics of the past 20 years from our government. The reluctant urgency by the Senate to at least appear to resolve immigration issues has been sharply challenged by the nervous House of Representatives who are scrambling to give some semblence of leadership yet who are merely following We, the People, who are determined the laws be upheld and the borders be secured. We don't always get to set the agenda but this is one of those wonderful times when the wisdom of having fixed, two-year terms for House members proves sound.

Yes, they will continue to try to wriggle of the hook, so the pressure has to kept on.

As for the Senate, I did use the down time to some advantage. I began to re-read a book from my university days, The Federalist Era (1789-1801) by John C. Miller, and find it both aggravating and comforting that the Senate was as supercilious then as it is now.

Miller writes than when the "great experiment" was launched, the Senate appointed a special committee which recommended that the proper title for the President should be "His Highness the President of the United States and Protector of the Rights of the Same" and he should be properly addressed as "His Excellency" or "His Elective Majesty."

Bush-bashers will doubtless see the above as an opening and thus miss the point: at a time when the country desperately needed to establish institutions and precedents for the governance of the infant nation, the Senate was more concerned about pomp and ceremony.

We are so used to think of our Senate in modern terms that we forget that the body after which it was consciously modeled was composed of patricians and their primary concern was remain aloof from the common man even as they placated the citizens of Rome with bread and circuses.

This week, though, the circus moved back to the House of Representatives, the members of which seem to believe that they too are above the law. Although they have been appeased, Tuning Spork has an interesting theory about the real reason behind the evacuation of the Rayburn Building after a report of gunfire -- which is now being attributed to noises orginating from a construction crew? Hmm.

Day-um, the screen looks good. The problem had developed so gradually that I hadn't realize how the view had degraded. It just goes to show: you can't beat clarity.

More tomorrow, and a good albeit bittersweet Memorial Day weekend to everyone.

Never forget those who serve.

May 27 - 18:01 Ah, this explains everything. Members of Congress are not only tone-deaf but suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (or should that be we are suffering from their narcissism?)

Maybe we should try something different and elect adults to Congress come November.

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May 18, 2006

Howard in Canada

May 18 - Australian prime minister John Howard addressed a packed Commons and spoke directly but eloquently about the dangers we face in this war on terror:

"Terrorism will not be defeated by nuancing our foreign policy," he said.

"Terrorism will not be defeated by rolling ourselves into a small ball and going into a corner and imagining that somehow or other we will escape notice."

America's '100% ally' also directed some blunt words to anti-Americans:
"Australia, as you know, is an unapologetic friend and ally of the United States," Howard told a Commons chamber that has heard frequent criticism of Washington in recent years.

"The United States has been a remarkable power for good in the world. And the decency and hope that the power and purpose that the United States represent in the world is something we should deeply appreciate," he told a packed Commons to sustained applause.


"For those around the world who would want to see a reduced American role in the affairs of our globe, I have some quiet advice. That is, be careful of what you wish for. Because a retreating America will leave a more vulnerable world."

I've previously expressed my gratitude (and relief) that Australia steadily and forthrightly provides leadership in the war on terror for southeast Asia - the western flank in this conflict - and I'll gladly say it again: thank you, Australia. Your deeds are noticed and appreciated. Also, it won't hurt for us to remember that when the tsunamai devastated that region in 2004 that Australia was the first on the scene providing rescue and relief operations.

Australia is a member of the Commonwealth and one would think that country would get more recognition here. Australia saw to the evacuation of and medical treatment for Canadian citizens after the 2002 bombing in Bali but that received scant attention here much less any outpouring of grief from Candian citizens for the deaths of Australian citizens.

There's no way around it: the rugged capability of the Australian military and navy do not reflect well on the Canada of recent years. If, as the news report snidley suggests, Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper considers John Howard to be a role model then that is not a bad thing at all.

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Afghan mission extended

May 18 - Parliament voted yesterday to extend the mission in Afghanistan for two years. It was a very close vote at 149-145 with the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP voting against the motion but, although the Liberals were split, enough voted for the extention to carry the motion.

17:22 - Andrew Coyne titles his post on this succinctly: We're staying and looks at the divisions within the Liberal Party over a mission they initiated when they ran the government.

I was too tired this morning to do more than note this extremely important committment, but it should go without saying that it is indeed welcome news. The media here (as indeed it does everywhere) takes note of the firefights and deaths but the gains don't make the headlines: building schools (and a school system that educates girls as well as boys,) medical clinics and supplying much needed equipment and medicine.

Coalition forces are also helping to train Afghan police and army units. This too doesn't make the news nor does its significance: that we are helping to build the very institutions that will eventually lead to our withdrawal.

Did I mention that girls are now allowed to attend schools? Or that women are allowed to vote? I just don't understand how any woman who calls herself a feminist could not rejoice at this news.

Another gain has been downplayed: The Torch has a post noting, among other things, the emergence of a healthy press in Afghanistan.

The Taliban and al Qaeda are caught between coalition forces, the Afghan army, and Pakistan, a country that is somewhat reluctant to engage an enemy that threatens its government (as well as the tenuous peace between it and India) but cannot help but note the extension of the Canadian mission and all it conveys.

This period in history has increasingly become one in which actions speak louder than words, and the vote in Parliament confirms that Canada is indeed committed to advancing the march of freedom. Well done.

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May 17, 2006

Female soldier killed in Afghanistan (updated)

Cdn female soldier killed.jpg
(Photo from CTV web site)

May 17 - Bumped and Updated 16:43: CTV has updated the information on the link noted below and the fallen soldier has been identified as Capt. Nichola Goddard, of 1st Royal Canadian Horse Artillery based in Shiloh, Man.

Goddard was serving with Task Force Afghanistan as part of the 1st Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (1 PPCLI) Battle Group. Her age and hometown were not immediately available.

A military spokesman said the captain was killed in action at 6:55 p.m. local time (10:25 a.m. ET) about 24 kilometres west of Kandahar city in the Panjwai region.

Members of the Canadian Forces were backing up combined operations of the Afghan National Army and police, who were involved in a firefight against a group of Taliban fighters.

It's worth noting that the mission was a success.

I wish to extend condolences to her family for their loss as well as the gratitude of us all.

Remember those who serve.

15:27 - Very few details have been made public yet, but it has been confirmed that a female Cdn. Forces soldier has died in Afghanistan. PM Harper confirmed it was a combat death during Question Period today.

This too is something about which it is difficult for me to comment. Americans have had to try and steel ourselves to a rising death toll that does include female military personnel -- nevertheless it always hurts a bit more when it's a woman.

But far worse would be to deny those women the recognition and honour due them because they chose to accept, along with equal rights, equal responsibility for the protection and defense of their country.

Anyway, that's how I see it.

(Via Neale News.)

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Scrap the gun registry (updated)

May 17 - The Auditor-General's report hopefully dealt the gun registry its final blow when she informed Canadians that not only had the cost of the program far exceeded the initial projections but that the true costs of the registry were concealed by the previous Liberal governments. The figures given for a computer system are hard to believe:

Her audit found the price tag for a computerized information system ballooned from an initial $32 million to more than $90 million -- and it still isn't in operation.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said today that Canadians will no longer be required to register long guns and shotguns and those who failed to register them will not be penalized. (See below for correction)

The desire to be seen as "doing something" has led governments to do initiate all sorts programs that too often don't even address the problem which they are meant to solve. Rex Murphy speaks to that urge and how it produces zero results, twinning the gun registry and Kyoto and labeling them to be little more than Yoking wishfulness to vast expenditure He gets in some splendid shots; regarding the gun registry, for example, he says

In the early days of this program, it was all so simple. We had then Justice Minister Allan Rock standing to tell the country, "All that we're asking of firearms owners is to fill out two cards and mail them in."

A few postcards and a postage stamp. And we get a billion dollars?

Who was the mailman? Wile E. Coyote?

Murphy link via Newsbeat1, who has has a post in which the editor of the site pointedly takes us on a little trip down memory lane and compares Adscam and issues raised by the Gomery Commission to the unresolved questions about the gun registry ("Some politicians should be walking around with a bag over their head." Heh.)

19:10 - Rats. I need to correct what I said above about the requirement to register long guns and shotguns: the announcement on the Canadian government website:

The Government is moving ahead today with the implementation of the following measures:

* transferring responsibility for the Firearms Act and regulations to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), taking over from the former Canada Firearms Centre;

* reducing the annual operating budget for the program by $10 million;

* implementing licence renewal fee waivers and refunds;

* eliminating physical verification of non-restricted firearms; and

* introducing a one-year amnesty to protect previously-licensed owners of non-restricted firearms from prosecution and to encourage them to comply with the law as it currently stands.

As well, the government will table legislation to repeal the requirement to register non-restricted firearms.

Any legislative and regulatory changes will continue to require the safe storage of firearms, safety training, a licensing program including police background checks, a handgun registry (as has been the case since 1934) and a ban on those classes of firearms currently identified as prohibited.

(Via Newsbeat1.)

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Mount Merapi still rumbling

May 17 - Any of you old enough to remember the lengthy watch on Mount St. Helen's? Scientists kept warning she was going to blow and everyone waited and scientists issues the same warning and everyone waited ... and then she blew.

There must be a fair degree of impatience on this volcano watch as well; do it or don't, for crying out loud, so people can either react or get on with their lives.

After the report Monday that volcanic activity was at it's highest level things seemed to quiet down but today another cloud of hot air and ash was released.

Some residents have not yet left the mountainside which brings up the same Katrina question many of us asked ourselves: would you leave or stay?

Perhaps more relevant is the Mt. Rainier question, as the Seattle metropolitan area sits next to that volcano.

Mother Nature is not, despite the popular saying, a bitch. She is all woman and reserves the right to change her mind.

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Galling (updated)

May 17 - I had expressed curiosity in my post about the president's speech on immigration as to exactly what he meant by continuing to "work co-operatively" with the government of Mexico to control the southern border.

Evidently, co-operate means to do nothing because Mexico is threatening lawsuits over Guard:

Mexico warned Tuesday it would file lawsuits in U.S. courts if National Guard troops detain migrants on the border and some officials said they fear the crackdown will force illegal crossers into more perilous areas to avoid detection.
My reaction to this could not be described as diplomatic.

Just build a wall, Mr. President, and let's stop the appeasment game.

17:07 - Looks like the Senate at least was listening: Powerline reports that the Sessions amendment, which requires building 370 miles of fencing and 500 miles of vehicle barriers along the southern border, passed the Senate by a fairly wide margin: 83 - 16. I suspect the House might pass the amendment as well - more of them are up for re-election.

20:10 - Bill O'Reilly just threatened to instigate a boycott of Mexican goods and travel there should the Mexican government pursue their threat to sue the U.S. government. The assumption that it's just rhetoric is speculation, and, after Sept. 11, I think we're stupid not to take people at their word.

The U.S. State Dept. routinely issues travel advisories -- the Mexican government should adopt a similar approach if they are truly in earnest about protecting Mexican citizens.

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May 16, 2006

President Bush's speech on immigration

May 15 - I had to attend a meeting tonight so didn't hear the speech but the transcript of the president's speech calling for legislation to reform immigration laws is here and no, I was not impressed by a speech that was short on action but at the end, he did score some points for those still willing to listen.

He placed securing the border in the the lead-off position thus acknowledging that problem is the biggest national weakness as well as the biggest concern of Americans. Nevertheless, the plan proposed is to continue to have no concrete means to stop the flow. Deploying the national guard seems much like window dressing given the mission objectives:

So in coordination with governors, up to 6,000 Guard members will be deployed to our southern border. The Border Patrol will remain in the lead. The Guard will assist the Border Patrol by operating surveillance systems, analyzing intelligence, installing fences and vehicle barriers, building patrol roads, and providing training. Guard units will not be involved in direct law enforcement activities -- that duty will be done by the Border Patrol.
Conducting patrols without the power to detain, relying on electronics rather than human presence, and undertaking construction projects? Not exactly inspiring, and I noted he referred to building fences, not a wall.

It was interesting that he inserted that we would not "militarize" the border by which it could be inferred that we won't be building the North American equivalent of Hadrian's Wall but I have a feeling that it is precisely at that point that he probably lost much of his audience. Americans are fed up, and when we get like that we aren't in the mood to hear vagaries in place of firm, decisive action.

In truth, I think many Americans would like to see a structure on the border that makes it clear that we regard maintaining control over who enters our country seriously. I don't think we could countenance killing those who try to enter but we want them stopped cold.

Continuing to "work co-operatively" with Mexico pre-supposes either that the Mexican government is currently co-operating (most believe they aren't) or that the status quo is as good as it is likely to get. I believe most Americans find that unacceptable and would prefer to see the president honestly lay out the difficulties with the Mexican government rather than pretend they don't exist.

Ending the catch and release system would be an improvement and instituting a temporary worker program with tamper-proof identification cards is a future regulatory device for immigration control but what about those now in the country?

You see, this is where I diverge from those who want them deported. Those who have the guts to pack up and leave everything they know in order to face an uncertain future in the U.S. on the chance they can build better lives are in fact of the stuff of which we are made. The difference is that our ancestors passed through Ellis or Angel Islands and although technology rarely made criminal background checks possible, names were recorded, papers stamped and given to the new arrivals, and there were stringent (for the day) health exams with sometimes heartbreaking results when someone who failed was sent back.

Some of those people who entered were political refugees and a small number of them continued their activities - among the most notorious were the anarchists who planted bombs and the infamous "deranged anarchist" (or so history notes him) who killed President McKinley - and then too Americans became fed up and demanded the federal government take action by deporting the "troublemakers."

We've been through this before and despite the problems we survived and we thrived. One key difference, however, between now and the past is that nobody seriously entertained the notion that the school curriculum be taught in Italian or Gaelic, and the expectation was that those moving here would speak English and strive to become Americans by learning and accepting the heritage of the U.S.A. It worked, the proof being the many great Americans we study in history classes who are not definitely not of Anglo-Saxon origin.

That brings us to the dilemma of how to deal with the millions already here. That portion of the speech spelled out a recognition that this is America, English is the recognized language in schools and in the public sphere, and we cherish our heritage and are willing to share it. The rest can be summarized fairly neatly as Compromise, Compromise, Compromise. That's not a bad thing: our ability to compromise has guided the Union through many inflammatory issues but the compromise has to stick. Sadly, both houses in Congress have been more adroit at ducking substantive issues of late and grabbing the cheap headlines than providing leadership (Dubai port contract, anyone?) and I suspect I'm not the only one who understands that there's a serious flaw when new legislation is passed to obscure the fact that current laws are not enforced.

The fact that unemployment is so low would seem to argue that indeed those working and living in the U.S. are -- despite their undocumented status -- contributing to the wealth of the nation, and although payroll taxes are not being deducted and paid on their behalf, they are paying taxes through their rents and sales taxes on purchases.

Getting co-operation from the states and towns is going to be another problem but the taxpayer, also known as the electorate, may well have the final word depending on how local candidates present the issues and choices.

The Minutemen project gave tangible evidence of the growing unrest by Americans at the government's lethargic response to the porous border. It's not necessarily a bad thing when the people take the lead in the face of government inaction, but Congress has had that "deer in the headlights" look for well over a year and people on all sides of this issue have noticed and the vacillations and grandstanding has diminished respect for the legislature.

That diminished respect may be the true casualty of this crisis. We have a respect for our institutions that invariably transcends those who are elected or appointed to them, but the polls indicate so deep a disappointment in Congress and the Presidency as to be dangerous at a time of war when leadership is not only desirable but mandatory.

[No, I'm not going to address the demonstrators and boycotters. This is going to sound harsh but a monumental error of principle was made when ANSWER took over leadership of their cause; although the president was right to remind us of those who have fought for this country valiantly and courageously in order to obtain American citizenship, those few names pale in comparison with the hundreds of thousands we saw demonstrating and holding up traffic - not only on a weekday but also a schoolday - under the auspices of ANSWER's political agenda. Even stupider are plans to hold demonstrations on Wednesday in response to the president's speech. ANSWER's goal is to create an image of much put-upon victims, and they won't hestitate to turn people into victims in order to realize that goal.

Hispanics need to regain control over their cause and get better leaders. Maybe then the issue can be discussed with people who are serious about a just and fair resolution. Until then, we're discussing this with ... ANSWER.]

04:26 - Well worth staying awake for: John poses those Questions Not Answered by Bush's Illegal Immigration speech.

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May 15, 2006

The Last Battle

May 15 - I used to love books about Elizabeth I when I was a girl and have enjoyed the Helen Mirren two-part series now showing on TMN. There are always lessons from history, but the outcome of historical events should not blind us to the fact that, had those wars not been waged, the Western civilization we celebrate today may not have evolved.

In short, had either side surrendered without a struggle, would religious tolerance have triumphed?

I think it unlikely. I can understand why so many want to take a short cut, but much as we deplore war, war has come to us just as it came to the Protestants in those days and we have only two choices: fight on our feet now or die on our knees later. This Westerner's temperment is not suited for submission and, in the spirit of the ancient Greeks to whom we owe so much of our civilization, I do not prostrate in fear before my God but stand before Him freely filled with the awe of the love and compassion He has shown both those who have accepted Him and those who have not yet nonethless walk the path of righteousness.

Don't take that to mean I am a good Christian. I'm not. I suffer terribly from pride and I find it hard to forgive my enemies. It takes me a long time to build a grudge but once I have one it's difficult for me to let it go. I pay to Caesar that which is owed to Caesar but it's only money, after all, because my soul remains free.

I believe that the theory of evolution best fits the scientific knowledge we have accumulated but I'm always struck at questions that eventually circle around to what happened one second before the big bang and that too feels me with awe. For someone who really sucked in science I am nonethleless a most curious person who can delight in the little bits of plate techtonics and quest for the Theory of Everything that I can grasp. Indeed, the theory of evolution or the prospect of life on other planets doesn't dissuade me from belief in a benign deity but confirms it, and if there is anything I don't understand it is how discovery of life on other planets would destroy our faith in God.

If God created rational, creative life on one planet why wouldn't He do it on other planets? If we truly understand what it means to celebrate life then why wouldn't we expect to find life throughout the universe?

Such thoughts fill me on Mother's Day because, like many women, I worry that I have borne sons who are destined to fight a war that my generation failed to wage. But unlike the appeasers and defeatists, I know I didn't bring children into this world to be slaves but to be free men who would chart their own destinies and that is both a blessing and a curse.

Some books stay with you longer. I can't tell you why The Last Battle, the 6th books in C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, was my long-time favourite of the series, but the events of these past years have caused me to revisit this book and see it in a different light. Did C.S. Lewis foresee a potential danger clearer than us sophisticated, modern folk? This portion from Chapter III has haunted me:

The Ape jumped up and spat at the Lamb. .."Tash is only another name for Aslan. All that old idea of us being right and the Calmormenes wrong is silly. We know better now. The Calormenese use different words but we all mean the same thing. Tash and Aslan are only two different names for you know Who. That's why there can never be any quarrel between them. Get that into your heads, you stupid brutes. Tash is Aslan. Aslan is Tash."


"Excuse me," said the Cat very politely, "but this interests me. "Does your friend from Calormene say the same?"

"Assuredly,"" said the Calormene. "The enlightened Ape--Man, I mean--is in the right. Aslan means neither less nor more than Tash."

"Especially, Aslan means no more than Tash?" suggested the Cat.

"No more at all," said the Carormene, looking the Cat straight in the face.


... But now, as Tirian looked round on the miserable faces of the Narnians, and saw how they would believe that Aslan and Tash were one and the same, he could bear it no longer.

"Ape," he cried with a great voice, "you lie. You lie damnably. You lie like a Calormene. You lie like an Ape."

He meant to go on and ask how the terrible god Tash who fed on the blood of his people could possible be the same as the good Lion by whose blood all Narnian was saved. If he has been allowed to speak, the rule of the Ape might have ended that day; ...

The Cat's question and his conclusions from the answer should raise the question as to how any Christian - let alone a Pope - can kiss the Koran because the question and answer is that of an atheist, not a believer. As the forces for both deities are aligned today, it is clear that Allah is not God and God is not Allah unless neither exist, yet it is in noting whose blood was spent for salvation that we find the key difference which belies the assertion that we all worship the same God.

My God asks that I expend my blood to save that of innocents. Their Allah demands that the blood of innocents be shed for his glory.

The martyrs of my religions gave their lives freely without taking life in affirmation of their belief in one true God. The martyrs of Mohammed's religion have become martyrs by taking the lives of others.

I wish there was an easier path. I wish it could be resolved with dialogue and no loss of blood. I wish that my wishes were not so futile.

Now read Sword Without Leniency by Bruce Thornton (via Newsbeat1) and remember that we already have been already converted to the "true faith" -- the one that gives life, not death, and the one which, through the gift of freedom, allows us to find God through affirmation, not submission, and that it is through our journeys by different paths that we affirm that the gift of free will is the path to righteousness.

On this day, the day after Mother's Day, I wish I could wish peace be upon us but I fear the best I can wish is that we raise our sons and daughters well and that we keep our faith with the mothers before us who grieved to know that their sons were needed to fight a war no one wanted but one that came to us nevertheless. It is our curse and our blessing, and although it is not of our choosing, we must take that which has given to us and know that future generations will not decry our lack of courage.

And that, in truth, is the one lesson history teaches us: that we accept the burdens bequeathed to us and bear them as have those before us.

Posted by Debbye at 01:38 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 14, 2006

Andrew Coyne

May 14 - Andrew has posted several links to columns from April 8 - May 14. There's lots to read there so I'm gonna start reading.

Looks at though comments are re-enabled too.

Posted by Debbye at 09:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Quick Hits

May 14 - Happy Mother's Day to all my sisters engaged in the struggle to raise children and/or cope with the realities of having adult children.

A lot of those adult children are deployed abroad and won't be home for Mother's Day. Words are inadequate to compensate for the sacrifice these Moms are making, but one courageous Marine Corp. Mom writes of her memories of the past 21 Mother's Days she spent with her son and sends her own best wishes and some darned good advice to the all the Moms out there.

Members of the C Troop, 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry conducted a Good Mother's Day Patrol which ended in the best of all ways: they all returned safely.

As part of the effort to bring the troops home from a stable Iraq, some insight as to how Transistion Teams Coach, Mentor Iraqi Units

Serving on a military transition team may be the most important job in Iraq today, with members working with Iraqi units to realize President Bush's promise: "As the Iraqis stand up. We'll stand down."

Military Transition Team 0911, the "Mohawks," is where the rubber meets the road. The team works with the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade of the Iraqi 9th Division, the "Desert Lions." The Iraqi unit is a mechanized outfit and patrols the area north of this sprawling base. The Iraqis secure the three water points that supply 70 percent of the drinking water to the capital.

Some common sense is applied to the latest uproar in Intel-Dump's Another NSA Scandal:
Ahh, the moonbats and tin-foil hats ask, how do we know they're not putting Cindy Sheehan's number through the database? The answer is, who knows? However, several facts would lead a reasonable person to conclude the answer to be "ain't happening."

First, NSA, while large, at some point has limited resources. Basic laws of bureaucracy dictate that NSA will only apply enough resources that will allow them to meet their basic mission - catching terrorists and agents of foreign powers.

Mark Steyn writes that To connect the dots, you have to see the dots
So there are now two basic templates in terrorism media coverage:

Template A (note to editors: to be used after every terrorist atrocity): "Angry family members, experts and opposition politicians demand to know why complacent government didn't connect the dots."

Template B (note to editors: to be used in the run-up to the next terrorist atrocity): "Shocking new report leaked to New York Times for Pulitzer Prize Leak Of The Year Award nomination reveals that paranoid government officials are trying to connect the dots! See pages 3,4,6,7,8, 13-37."

On the efficacy of the "international community," James Phillips and Peter Brooks write Iran’s Friends Fend Off Action at the U.N. Security Council: Here’s Why. It's more than "all about the oil" (although that is a factor, especially with the Chinese who, surprise! have a similar oil-for-weapons relationship with Sudan and and have been instrumental in blocking U.N. action to stop what the U.N. doesn't define as genocide in Darfur.)

(Last three links from Newsbeat1.)

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May 13, 2006

Favourite Right-of-Center Columnists

May 13 - John of Right Wing News requested that right-of-center bloggers submit in ranked order their favourite columnists and the results are in. I was among those polled and the hardest part was definitely the ranking.

It is an impressive list. Mark Steyn came in first, Charles Krauthammer came in second, and Victor Davis Hanson came in fifth.

John has provided links for the columnists to their home pages or to their publication sites for those who might be interested in reading what these columnists offer. There are a couple of gems in the group and worth the time and effort to check them out.

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Darfur and Ottawa

May 13 - Another great read I came across at Newsbeat1: Stephen Taylor has a fascinating look at "Google Trends" and has an interesting tidbit for those of us for whom Darfur was of deep concern long before it became a popular issue:

On first glance, it appears that the Sudanese region of Darfur is within the mindset of a greater number of Canadians than Afghanistan. [Stephen has a really cool chart here.]

However, on closer inspection, it appears that Darfur is really only being researched in Ottawa rather than by the rest of the country. Certainly others in Canada are interested in Darfur, however, in reference to Canadians that search for information on Afghanistan; those that search for Darfur are in Ottawa.

I'm a normal person so I just naturally seize upon something that piques my interest! Evidently, Darfur, which wasn't very important when the Liberals were in power, is suddenly a Subject of Great Interest in this nation's capital. True, the Liberals did approach the Sudan government about sending a modest force to stave off a confidence motion in the Canadian Parliament but the Sudanese said No without the thanks and it all kind of fizzled. But now, after years of killing off the Canadian Forces by monetary starvation, the Liberals and the NDP are calling upon the current government to send troops to Darfur.

It's kind of funny in a sick, twisted way: they are inadvertantly heeding Usama bin Laden's call for the muhajadeen to go to Sudan but in order to do that they have to abandon their committment to stabilize Afghanistan, a country that once sheltered bin Laden and advanced his aspiration to restore the caliphate until al Qaeda dared attacked the USA on our own home soil and he fled because we smote them. Now they want to send troops to Sudan, another country that once sheltered bin Laden and advanced his aspiration to restore the caliphate until al Qaeda dared attack the USA on home soil (also known as embassies) and we smote them so they ejected bin Laden and he went to Afghanistan.

I need to find those who declared that irony was dead and beat the crap out of 'em.

I wrote the above before I noted a link to a column (again from Newsbeat1) by Jim Travers in today's Toronto Star that stops just short by a millimeter of urging that the Canadian military leave Afghanistan and go to Darfur but reminds us that Canada is only in Afghanistan as a concession to the USA - evidently the vicious reign of the Taliban didn't offend Canadian values - and even though he acknowledges that the state of the military is one Harper inherited, not created, he fails to be consistent and give proper consideration to the fact that the committment to Afghanistan in general and the Kandahar mission in particular were also inherited and should be honoured.

The best part lies in his desperate need to find some way to conclude the column. I do sympathize; its often easier to begin a piece than to end it, but I mean really, was this the best he could come up with?

Still, the continuum between past, present and future is serendipitous. In the first decade of a new century, peacekeeping is subordinate to peacemaking, failing states compete with newsreel victims for scarce resources and even the most dubious policies are justified by the search for the holy grail of security.

In trying to balance those forces, Harper is gambling that Afghanistan won't come to haunt his government and that Darfur won't redefine this nation as one that no longer cares.

"The holy grail of security." Isn't he clever? He's oviously channeling the Da Vinci Code, but I wonder if he's familiar with another Holy Grail tradition and, no, I'm not referring to Monty Python but to something slightly more appropriate to military matters: Wagner's Parsifal and the Holy Spear which some scholars believe to be the relic which is referred to as the Holy Grail (and which, interestingly, may actually have belonged to Charlemagne rather than a Roman soldier, and the former attribution has a definitive context which I find quite appealing.)

Serendipity is a great word. It's all about accidental but pleasant discoveries and has nothing to do with inattention to historical events. The "continuum" - a great, Star Trek: the Next Generation word - is far from serendipitous when rooted in blood and death, or maybe Travers forgot the famine in Ethiopia which was neither the first or the last of "newsreel victims for scarce resources" and for whom the world - well, actually, those with European traditions - rallied to save. It appears he also missed that little incident in 1993 when some say peacekeeping without peacemaking died along with 18 U.S. Marines although others say it died in 1983 and no matter how you look at it, all the noted events, according to my calandar, were in the last century. (This century, as most of us realize, also opened with a bang and it too was unpleasant.)

As do all good liberals, as Ann Coulter has said, he only wants the military to engage in wars which it cannot win. I'm not sure it's intentionally defeatist, but there it is. There will be no adjacent land base from which to deploy or supply troops so any intervention there will need air power, and, for those who have a memory, being denied a northern base from from which to launch an assault hurt us when we invaded Iraq so imagine the difficulty of having no land base.

Don't look at us. I think we may be busier than many realize, and I've got my wonders about the real circumstances behind recent events in Somalia (mums the word) and besides, I think our guys should be allowed to finish their jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan and, you know, go home to their families and loved ones and that's not even taking into account possible action in Iran. Certainly an intervention in Darfur is in keeping with everyone's values but the U.N., which until quite recently was pronounced to be the only legitimate authority under "international law" to wage war, seems disinclined to sanction military force to end the not-genocide so I fear that Darfur will be like the weather: everyone will talk about it, but no one will do anything about it.

And who's fault will that be? I know, it will be all our fault. Everything is our fault. Certainly we can't blame Canada and other value-laden countries who were busily dismantling their militaries to meet the entitlement demands of their populations and felt secure in doing so because ... well, because the U.S. had always been willing to pick up the slack. Until Sept 11, 2001, when we were attacked and we learned where we really stood in the world.

John Robson makes this point and others in Plenty of mercy, but no muscle for Darfur (via Daimnation!) and he makes the one vital point about a reality that is neither unexpected nor pleasant:

Liberals talked about the duty to protect. But they ignored the capacity. So now the pitch to those-awful-macho-Americans in sunglasses and body armour is, we didn’t join you in Iraq but you should join us in Sudan. Well not exactly join. More let’s you and him fight.

Ahem. Dear President Bush, remember all that joshing about how you lied and were a war criminal and the worst president in a century and an imbecile and stuff? Ha ha. Just kidding. Actually we share your idealism but um forgot to have an army, navy or air force so could you maybe just totally invade and occupy an oil-rich Muslim country for us a bit? If trouble erupts elsewhere, like Korea or Taiwan, and you’re overextended because you took on Darfur, well, you can count on us to rely on you. But we’ll cheer … until something goes wrong. Then we’ll denounce you as an insensitive imperialist and start muttering about Halliburton.

There are Americans who are desperate for world approval and then there are the rest of us, and if outsiders understood American politics they would see how far to the right John Kerry swung in '04 yet still lost and how much farther to the right Hillary is swinging now yet her poll numbers are poor. Maybe then they would begin to realize how angry we are and, if they think it through, they'd suddenly realize that we're taking Mom's advice and ignoring the people who bug us. That's why we can have our silliness with American Idol, attend NASCAR races, keep our guns clean and our ammo close by, and produce wonderful moves like Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and do all the stuff that so offend the elites because the only thing that really matters is how we feel about ourselves, and we kind of like us.

So the situation in Darfur is undeniably desperate - albeit only one in a frighteningly long list (be sure and look at the entries for May 5) but we're kind of busy right what with Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea and probable players to be named later.

But it's not hopeless: the world could still face this challenge without U.S. leadership.

I propose that France assume leadership in a Coalition of the Used-To-Be-Unwilling. They possess aircraft carriers and might even be able to use their presence in Congo and Ivory Coast from which to launch a land assault and besides, it will demonstrate French superiority. The Spanish could redeem their honour by participating and Belguim too could demonstrate that their horror for crimes against humanity is not just rhetoric.

I devoutly hope, however, that Canada doesn't trade its valued presence in Afghanistan for an adventure in Sudan for many reasons not the least of which is because, like it or not, any intervention there will be one without an exit plan

I would be heartened should there be a genuine humanitarian intervention in Darfur. It's lonely being the only guys on the block willing to take on the bullies. But I have my doubts, though, because doing such would also require taking on the Russians and Chinese and I'm not sure the French in particular are willing to abandon their playing-off-the-USA-against-Russia-and-China strategy.

But shh! don't tell anyone that Sudan has oil. I'm sick of those posters.

Posted by Debbye at 07:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Great reads

May 13 - I meant to go to sleep but I foolishly visited Newsbeat1 and I've spent the better part of the night (morning? whatever) reading some great stuff.

Top of the list is Michael Yon currently writing from Afghanistan. I need to put a post-it on my monitor to remind myself to complain about the "mainstream media" rather than the shortened "media" because assuredly Michael Yon is a member of that profession -- or maybe he is what they wish they were: someone that writes from heart and mind rather than studied artifice.

Just as he does always, this latest post, The Long Road Ahead, has filled me with a sense of joy, sorrow, laughter, fierce pride and all-round general choked-up-ness.

After reading it I realized I need to return to Right Wing News to re-read John's Favourite Hindu Story.

The thematic connection between the two is not restricted to dogs, though, but to the kind of steadfastness and loyalty we so often see in honourable warriors.

Now here's a thought: we should encourage the Lefties to send a peace delegation to a Hindu village in Afghanistan to explain to them why removing the Taliban was wrong.

If you followed the last link, by the way, you'll note a name that recently popped up yet again: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. I swear this guy is like an Afghan Keyser Soze.

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May 12, 2006

Cindy Sheehan on Canada

May 12 - Michael Moore came up here and Al Gore came up here so I guess it was inevitable that Cindy Sheehan make the trip. Oh. Joy.

There is (surprise) one point with which I commiserate with Cindy. I too have adult sons who sometimes make questionable decisions or have opinions with which I might disagree. It's a part of growing up (I mean us parents growing up.) That doesn't mean that I'm giving her a pass for being such a jackass, only that I do understand why she feels so guilty (indeed, what parent doesn't feel guilt when one's child dies?) I suspect that she hasn't found a way to mourn for the man her son became but only for the son that she lost.

Anyway Cindy came, encouraged Canada to accept the hundreds of U.S. military deserters (?) she claimed want refuge here and is enlightening Americans on Canada in Cindy Sheehan Reports from Canada:

Canadians are distressed that defense spending rose by 5.3 billions of dollars (roughly what the US spends for 2 weeks in Iraq) while the preschool budget is being cut and college tuition is rising. This increase in military spending coincidentally correlates with a push to recruit thousands of more soldiers who are still be told by the Canadian recruiters that their country only does peace keeping missions. This manipulation of facts and the exploitation of fear and false patriotism is being fueled by the Canadian media who seem to be turning, for the most part, into propaganda tools of their government a la our rightwing 4th estate. (Bolding added)
Cindy didn't check her facts. She may have just accepted what she was told uncritically -- yet she flings accusations about others lying and being manipulative! For one thing, the promise to rebuild the military was a key election promise. The recruitment centers are busy up here because young Canadian men and women read the papers and listen to the news (unlike Cindy) and they know full well that there is a firefight in Afghanistan and they want to do their part to defend this country now that they have a government that will support them and rebuild the military thus restoring an institution that was once a source of tremendous Canadian pride.

The accusation in the bolded part of her report is just as funny up here as it is down there and for much the same reason - in fact, it might even be funnier as there's no Canadian equivalent to FoxNews or even CNN.

The recent polls in Canada show that the people there are starting to wake up by the truckloads with support for their administration's support of BushCo's war slipping 14 percentage points in two months! Canadians are seeing that the war in Afghanistan is not righteous and that when Canada sends troops there, it frees American troops to be illegally and immorally deployed to Iraq. Canada needs a Cindy Sheehan to go to the PM's residence and demand to know what noble cause her child died for, or is still fighting for.
See how she did that? Once again it became All. About. Her.

Neale News mischieviously links to her report with the caption "Cindy Sheehan: "Harper is Wildly Unpopular"" next to these three:
Tories Riding a Wave of Support, Polls Show,
Canadian military asks photographer to suppress photos of Taliban raid, capture, and
Majority support Afghan mission: Poll which indicates that Cindy has poor math skills:

The Ekos survey -- provided to Reuters -- shows 62 percent of Canadians support the mission in Afghanistan, down from 70 percent in early February. The number opposed grew to 37 percent from 28 percent.
The article doesn't break down the numbers by region or province, which is Canadian for "support would be higher if you factor out the numbers from Quebec."

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Would they change the meters if the GST went up?

May 12 - The Ontario government just passed the budget which included a provision increasing the terms for Toronto elected officials from 3 to 4 years. (It's disturbing that the budget included this provision and even more disturbing that the province could do this without even consulting the people of Toronto; in most if not all U.S. cities such a civic matter would be on a city ballot but what can I say? The amagamation of Toronto was also ordered by the provincial government. Centralized authority is a fact of life up here.)

Meanwhile, the minority Conservative federal government is honouring an election promise to reduce the Goods and Services Tax. It's going down by 1%, bringing the federal tax down to 6% (the provincial tax stays at 8%) (yes, people in Ontario pay 15% tax) but now it has been suggested that Cabbies could keep GST cut:

Councillor Howard Moscoe said yesterday that cabbies will have to pay $35 to have taxi meters adjusted to reflect the cut, which kicks in July 1.

They will also lose half a day of work while the meters are reset, he said.

"It just makes sense to leave the meter rates as they are," Moscoe said. "There are going to be those who argue that we're denying people their GST rebate, but in this case, it's not practical to do."

The issue of raising fares to offset the tax cut will be dealt with at next month's meeting of the city's planning and transportation committee. The city sets cab fares in Toronto.

Moscoe noted that the Toronto Parking Authority has already determined it will not pass the GST break on to its customers.

I don't think it makes sense (I mean the part about the cabbies. The Toronto Parking Authority will pocket the extra money and smugly congratulate themselves.)

Surely had the federal government increased the GST the cabbies (and whoever services parking ticket machines) would have found the means to adjust the meters! And isn't the cost for adjusting the meters tax deductible?

Also, why do they need to raise cab fares to offset the tax cut -- the taxes are paid directly to the federal government and are not income.

This city is one weird place.

I have to be back at work at 3:30 this afternoon, so be sure to log onto Newsbeat1 regularly for news and pundit links.

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Canadian troops capture 10 Taliban

May 12 - Canadian troops capture Taliban suspects without firing a shot and turned them over to Afghan police. Much of the article content, though, focuses on whether photos taken by an embed from Agence France-Presse may have violated Geneva Convention articles on the rights of prisoners.

The Toronto Sun article also focuses on the photo issue, but provides much more information about the suspects and what they were carrying:

Ten prisoners were taken in the raid, including three known to authorities. [Maj. Marc] Theriault said the men were found with large sums of money and bomb-making materials.
That information is conspiciously absent from the Yahoo account as well as the the CBC story. which is exactly the same as the one at Yahoo but does include a link to a photo gallery (requires Macromedia Flash Player.)

Posted by Debbye at 05:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 11, 2006

New kerfuffle because the NSA is doing it's job

May 11 - Oh frak. Kill me now - no, wait! That's the point: there are those out there that want to either kill or enslave me -- and make me wear an ugly sack. Uh, no thanks.

So the NSA has a program which looks for patterns in telephone communications and the President says it's within the law. Dollars-to-donuts his approval ratings jump because those of us who are adamant that every possible tool we can utilize to prevent another Sept. 11 are most decidedly not upset that one of the surveillance lapses noted by the Sept. 11 Commission has been addressed. If references to wedding celebrations or other indicators result in thwarting another attack then I will be happy. If the forces that seek to destroy us have to work harder to plan and coordinate attacks then I'll take grim satisfaction that at least we didn't make it easy for them.

We are at war. I get it, millions of Americans get it, and if the Democrats really intend to win they should yell that not enough surveillance is being conducted and demand the FCC pull the license of Qwest until they comply.

I am curious about one thing: there are millions of undocumented persons in the USA, so on what basis can anyone assume that the phone records actually belong to Americans as opposed to the Mohammed Atta-types?

The renewed frenzy this story has caused is sending me right over the edge, and in my darker moments I wish we would just go all German on those who seek to kill us: round 'em up, pass out the cigarettes and shoot them. (Germans, you ask? 4 words: Battle of the Bulge.)

In my more rational moments (heh) I remember that if they are Americans and they communicate with members of al Qaeda they may very well be guilty of treason and should at least be monitored if not arrested. If they aren't Americans they may very well be enemy agents, saboteurs, or spies and should be monitored -- if they provide clues that will assist in the war that's a good thing, and if not let's arrest their sorry asses and at minimum deport them.

Thanks you, Dems, for reminding me why I despise you so thoroughly. I was beginning to mellow.

Note: I was in a rush when I wrote this last night because I had to go to work so I didn't express myself clearly. I realize that the NSA project is not eavedropping but data mining, but I assume that when red flags are raised that the next logical move would be to initiate more active surveillance.

May 13 00:01 - An ABC poll indicates that, unsurprisingly, "Americans by nearly a 2-1 ratio call the surveillance of telephone records an acceptable way for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, expressing broad unconcern even if their own calling patterns are scrutinized." (Link from Powerline.)

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Keep those letters coming in ...

May 11 - The translation of the letter recovered in a raid on a terror house in Samarra is available here and is well worth reading despite the length.

The writer's evaluation of the limited tactics al Qaeda can employ are chilling:

1. ... The only power the mujahidin have is what they have already demonstrated in hunting down drifted patrols and taking sniper shots at those patrol members who stray far from their patrols, or planting booby traps among the citizens and hiding among them in the hope that the explosions will injure an American or members of the government. In other words, these activities could be understood as hitting the scared and the hiding ones, which is an image that requires a concerted effort to change, as well as Allah’s wisdom.
2. The strength of the brothers in Baghdad is built mainly on booby trapped cars, and most of the mujahidin groups in Baghdad are generally groups of assassin without any organized military capabilities.
3. There is a clear absence of organization among the groups of the brothers in Baghdad, whether at the leadership level in Baghdad, the brigade leaders, or their groups therein. Coordination among them is very difficult, which appears clearly when the group undertake a join operations
4. The policy followed by the brothers in Baghdad is a media oriented policy without a clear comprehensive plan to capture an area or an enemy center. Other word, the significance of the strategy of their work is to show in the media that the American and the government do not control the situation and there is resistance against them. This policy dragged us to the type of operations that are attracted to the media, and we go to the streets from time to time for more possible noisy operations which follow the same direction.

This direction has large positive effects; however, being preoccupied with it alone delays more important operations such as taking control of some areas, preserving it and assuming power in Baghdad (for example, taking control of a university, a hospital, or a Sunni religious site).

Investor's Business Daily has an excellent analysis of the letter, noting that it laments the sucess of U.S. efforts to build Sunni political organizations that will participate in rather than try to destroy the new Iraq government and has some great commentary on the aspects of the document that connect the terror bombings to how they understand the manner in which the U.S. media is likely to portray them yet overlook the political gains in Iraq. The analysis concludes with an all-too familiar question:
But there's also a question just screaming to be asked: When al-Qaida itself knows we're winning this war, how come Democratic politicians and the media elite in America want us to declare defeat?
The answer is both self-evident and elusive. Clearly the terror attacks, especially in Baghdad, are made-to-order for a news media that thrives on spectacular events and too often seeks to prove their compassion by portraying the Iraqis as helpless victims, yet that is precisely what they failed to do when Saddam was ruthlessly murdering hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and dumping them in in mass graves (new mass graves are still being found but when did that last make the front page?)

Yet why does the news media seemingly protect the images of both the Iraqi insurgents and al Qaeda? It is as though the mindset of CNN, which confessed it had repressed news about atrocities in Saddam-era Iraq in order to maintain their offices in Baghdad, still operates on the part of too many in the media. Most of us recognize that those responsible for the bombs are those who planted them, but it is hard to keep that focus when the media relentlessly blames the U.S. and President Bush for the actions of a cruel and vicious organization.

Actually, I do understand the U.S. mainstream news media. Their problem is that they balance their eagerness to expose American real and imagined wrongdoing by downplaying the wrongs of others; in other words, they seek balance through imbalance. Oh well, no one said they were capable of self awareness or there would have been more red faces onscreen when they covered the significant turnout for Iraq elections -- the same elections which they had solemnly predicted would not even take place.

Back to the letter, read this part again:

The only power the mujahidin have ... is planting booby traps among the citizens and hiding among them in the hope that the explosions will injure an American or members of the government. In other words, these activities could be understood as hitting the scared and the hiding ones ...

2. ... most of the mujahidin groups in Baghdad are generally groups of assassin without any organized military capabilities.

That's fraking cold. How many Americans or members of the government do they think go to markets? How many children are they willing to kill in the forlorn hope of getting one American? I don't think I'm bloodthirsty but damned straight I rejoice when one of those miserable bastards is sent to Hell.

(Investor's Business Daily link via Newsbeat1)

Posted by Debbye at 06:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 10, 2006

Ardent Sentry

May 10 - 'Ardent Sentry' Testing U.S., Canadian Crisis Response:

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2006 – More than 5,000 U.S. and Canadian servicemembers are working with authorities in five U.S. states and two Canadian provinces [Ontario and New Brunswick] to test their response capabilities to crises ranging from a major hurricane to a terrorist attack to a pandemic flu outbreak.

Ardent Sentry 2006, a two-week U.S. Northern Command exercise, kicked off May 8 to test military support to federal, provincial, state and local authorities while continuing to support the Defense Department's homeland defense mission, according to Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Butterbaugh, a NORTHCOM and North American Aerospace Defense Command spokesman. The Canadian part of the exercise began May 1 and continues through May 12.


While testing the military's interagency coordination, the exercise also focuses on its ability to operate with the Canadian government and the newly established Canada Command, NORTHCOM's Canadian counterpart, Kucharek said.

"This is the first major exercise which will allow Canada Command to train with federal and provincial departments and agencies," said Gordon O'Connor, Canada's national defense minister. "Exercises such as Ardent Sentry 2006 help ensure we respond to domestic threats and natural disasters in a coordinated manner." It also will promote "cross-border information sharing" between Canada Command and NORTHCOM, he said.

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The sad story of Cecilia Zhang

May 10 - As did many others, I tried to spread the word when Cecilia Zhang first went missing over two years ago and I feel I should follow-up with an account of her killer's trial, but his stark account of his motivations and the events that lead to her death are so selfish and desperate that I don't know how to reconcile how I feel about the human instinct to protect children with this man's willingness to use a child as a bartering chip in an extortion scheme concocted out of his desperation to stay in Canada rather than return to China.

Here's the link (Cece's night of terror revealed) and it needs no further elaboration.

May 13 08:37 - Joe Warmington's comments on the sentence of the accused says it all.

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May 09, 2006

That unelected Sentate

May 9 - Can you imagine this coming from a body whose membership has to face an electorate? Canada's Senate committee recommends nickel-a-drink tax hike for mentally ill.

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Leadership: Canadian Style

May 9 - The Conservatives continue to impress me with their handling of the big stuff. Recent polls have indicated support for the Afghan mission is slipping, so Peter MacKay, the foreign affairs minister. pays surprise visit to Canadian troops in Kandahar and pledges that Canada will "finish the job."

Posted by Debbye at 08:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mount Merapi and other explosive things

May 9 - Volcanoes fascinate me, and there's one on the Ring of Fire that seems likely to erupt - Mount Merapi. Lava began flowing down the slopes at 2 a.m. their time and residents have been urged to leave.

It last erupted in 1994, sending out a searing cloud of gas that burned 60 people to death. About 1,300 people were killed when it erupted in 1930.
Volcanoes are one of those nasty things that may give hints of restlessness -- but after they blow, it's often too late to respond.

I recently watched a documentary - probably on the Discovery Civilization channel - that pointed out that, as Mt. Vesuvius had not erupted for centuries, those in Pompeii and Herculaneum had no oral tradition or stories about the mountain that would have helped them understand the magnitude of the danger. They were used to earthquakes and behaved as though this was just another in a series of tremors, so went about their business rather than run for their lives. As history records, they waited too late and died horribly trying to flee Pompeii or while waiting for help on the beaches and, for those from Herculaneum, huddled in caves as they waited for it to "blow over." It did blow over - an intense pyroclastic wave with heat so intense their brains literally boiled away.

As many have pointed out in discussions of the nuclear threat from Iran's mullahs, it is instructive to remember that an earlier European response to Hitler would have averted not only much of the devastation of World War II but also the Holocaust. We have well-studied history and oral tradition but too many of us behave as though the undeniable threat is unprecedented.

Iran's mullahs, as was Hitler, have been very clear about their aims. When the worst happens, we will not be able to pretend that we were blindsided and it will be useless at that point to admit we were stupid.

That letter from Iran is not an overture to resolution of the problem -- it doesn't even address the problem -- but the appeasers among us are likely to use it to justify their weak-kneed response to the threat. See! They wrote a letter! This is an opening! It's not an opening -- it's a diversion. It's a token bereft of meaning but one intended to lull the foolish into a false sense of renewed hope that we can talk (Taheri writes a great dismissal of the Cheap Talk Approach here.)

At the very least, the measures the U.N. has approved are naive:

Representatives of the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France as well as Germany made the decision to tell Iran the pluses and minuses of its refusal to halt its uranium enrichment program at a meeting after more than three hours of talks by their foreign ministers Monday did not produce an agreement on the resolution.

As a result of Tuesday's decision, representatives from the three European countries that had been spearheading negotiations with Iran will spend the next few days preparing a package of incentives and sanctions, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because there has been no official announcement.

The European Union was eager to become Syria's bestest new friend after the U.S. applied sanctions, and our experience with the U.N. Oil-for-Food program for Iraq demonstrates how many in the "world community" are willing to do business with rogues.

Besides, would Iran be in a better bargaining position with nuclear weaponry or without? Need I ask?

I remember how sharply President Bush was criticized when he included Iran in the Axis of Evil ... I haven't heard that particular one lately.

Vulcanologists stationed at Mt. Merapi have learned from it's history and that of other volcanoes. We should emulate them rather than the conventional wisdom of those who lived and miserably died when Mt. Vesuvius blew.

May 10 18:49 - Deborah Orin's column on the letter is titled Tyrant's Letter Lunacy. Heh.

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May 02, 2006

The Ninth Rule of Fight Club

May 2 - The ninth rule of Fight Club is you do not posts videos of Fight Club on the internet.

Video Of Son In Local Fight Club Fuels Father's Fears.

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Got another one

May 2 - A U.S. law enforcement official has confirmed that a top al Qaeda operative, Mustafa Setmarian Nasar, was captured in Pakistan last November and turned over to U.S. authoritities. He was indited by a Spanish court for involvement in the 2004 Madrid train bombing and believed to have been involved in last July's train bombings in London.

He was also a far too well-travelled propagandist for al Qaeda:

Nasar, who lived in Spain and was married to a Spanish woman, also stayed in London during the mid-1990s before traveling to Afghanistan, where he was believed to have been part of bin Laden's network, a Western diplomat in Islamabad said.

His movements have been traced to Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and at least two European capitals.

Singapore-based terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna said Nasar's capture is a major blow to the Al Qaeda movement because he was the "most prolific writer" of jihadi propaganda and held close links with extremists throughout Europe and South Asia.

"The ideologues are as equally important as the operational people and he was in close contact with very prominent figures with movements in different countries, particularly the North African region," Gunaratna said.

In 2004, Nasar released a 1,600-page book titled "The International Islamic Resistance Call," which lays out strategies for attacking Islam's enemies.

Nasar holds dual citizenship in Spain and Syria and the latter government reportedly want him back (as if.)

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May 01, 2006

"just another way to get to work"

May 1 - Interesting information about a new paratrooper unit formed up here (you have to read that post to get the title -- it's a doozy of a quote!)

I've always felt awkward about commenting overly on Canadian military issues. After all, I could hardly be called neutral much less even-handed but I do feel it's important for Americans to recognize that, despite the sniping and barbs hurled at us by the previous government, Canada was contributing a great deal in Afghanistan and the Persian gulf and it was certainly no reflection on those who serve in the Canadian Forces that the government and news media largely ignored them (unless there was a death, at which time they all hyped it up to a suspicious degree -- and I'm not alone in my cynicism.)

So I guess there are two points to this post: that there is a determined if clumsy effort by the minority Conservative government to get across the fact that the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan is a war, and that you will want to read The Torch on a regular basis to learn just how engaged Canadians are in Afghanistan. (True, its not yet on my blog roll but I've only just managed to restore my permalinks and haven't the faintest idea yet how I fixed 'em much less lost 'em so venturing into a template might be a Bad Idea.)

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United 93

May 1 - I needed to see the movie because I needed to pay tribute to the passengers and crew of Flight 93. It was really that simple.

The theatre seemed empty -- only about a quarter full. Many attended alone. The audience was silent even before the lights were lowered and remained hushed as they filed out after the movie. It was respectful and eerie.

The movie did not cause me to "relive Sept. 11" but rather to live through those elements which we learned of days afterward. I did find a curious solace in the reminder that the air controllers, FAA and even the military comprehended the magnitude and intent of events at the same moment as did we all.

The movie did not renew my rage so much as intensify the burden I accepted when I first learned of the defiant and desperate choice the passengers and crew made to retake the plane and avert another attack -- when I instictively knew that I needed to be among those who, in the words of Lincoln, would be "dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion."

Each will take something different from United 93 and no, I really haven't adequate words for what I took, but there are two essays that do: Right Wing Prof masterfully takes us from the movie to the Shanksville memorial and Gerard Vanderleun invokes a different scene at another site: those early memorials in New York constructed from flyers of the missing on fences and candlewax on sidewalks. I think much is said about the events within the movie by the descriptions and pictures of the imprompteau tributes at both sites which ache of loss and resound in thanks far more poignantly than any architect or committee could impose, and therein too lies the power of the movie: the only offering is one of stark events which do not condescend to explain or rationalize, and thus it respects the ordinary person.

Gerard's awed definition of heroism encompasses the firefighters and police as well as those on Flight 93 whose response to danger was to act, and it's much too good not to quote:

What I know in my heart, but what always escapes my understanding until something like this film renews it, is that heroism is a virtue that most often appears among us not descending from some mythic pantheon, but rising up out of the ordinary earth and ordinary hearts when the moment calls for actions extraordinary.
They chose not death but to fight for their lives and to save those unknown others who would die if they failed, and therein lies an important distinction that has sometimes been lost these past few years: the only ones who had chosen suicide and murder were the hijackers, and they cannot be allowed to win. We -- I -- won't let them.

(Right wing prof link via a succinct but brilliant entry at It comes in pints .)

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