Sunday, July 30, 2006

AIDS Convention

The Nth annual pre-convention on AIDS is taking place in Toronto. Once again, it's hard to figure out just where this convention is on AIDS.

It's not as if there's a lot of good news on the subject. The big breakthrough seems to be about some prophylactic cream for women to use that might protect up to 60% of the users from acquiring the disease. World AIDS spokesperson Stephen Lewis - a genuinely nice man, but like anybody in a hopeless situation, a lot lost - sounded like a panacea had been discovered. It seems to me that 60/40 is still a bit of a crap-shoot, paricularly if you wind up in the 40% who 'lose'. Needless to say, the homosexuals at the convention wanted to know when a phylactery for anal use would be available. I wondered if they were thinking of flavours next? If this is the best news we're going to get, then next year in wherever!

Bill and Melinda Gates were the heroes of the occasion for the work of their foundation in supplying anti-viral medications to AIDS sufferers. I wonder how far their 70 billion dollar fund would go in the 'fight against AIDS'. I don't think it would be anywhere near enough, given the on-going growth in the numbers of those affected.

For all our knowldge, the things that we do know, we don't apply the least bit well. We know that AIDS remains undetected for a period of time before the host becomes ill with secondary diseases. We know that most AIDS is transmitted during this period, usually out of ignorance. We know that attitudes toward women in some parts of the world are a prime factor in the number of AIDS-infected women. We know that abstinence,nonogamy, chastity and fidelity are pretty effective ways to avoid getting AIDS. We continue to insist that latex and now, prophylactic cream, will provide an answer to this scourge; human behaviour is tangential and cannot be changed.

I think that as soon as the United Nations decides to be absolutely truthful about AIDS and to encourage nations to tell the truth, too, before giving-in to easy 'good news', the sooner AIDS will be reined-in. 'Wrap it in rubber', or 'put some cream on it', seem like they might have some appeal to those frequenting a native-healer, but the obvious "don't do that" seems eminently more efficient and sensible, if not do-able. Couldn't we try both?

Bomben auf Lebanon

Like their fore-runners, the modern day luftwaffe called the IDF Air Force, is raining bombs on cities, roads, villages and anywhere else that might benefit from a good bang. Why? To fight Hezbolleh, or to be more accurate, to punish Lebanon for not fighting Hezbolleh. The faster Lebanon gets after those shiite Lebanese who call themseves the 'Party of God', the faster the bombs will stop falling. If they don't, well the USA is always willing to replenish the bomb magazines.

I think there is something inherently wrong with this 'measured response' to Hezbolleh's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers. I wonder what an immoderate and irrational response would have looked like? Probably little different in effect. Besides, how do soldiers get 'kidnapped'- were they off duty? Soldiers get 'taken prisoner', but the former term makes a better excuse for the need to respond in a "measured" way. Bottom line, the massive destruction and loss of innocent life seems disproportionate to the 'crime'.

It's not as if this kind of thing hasn't happened before. Israel has a large number of 'prisoners' on hand who have been that way for a number of years now, with no charges or Geneva protections. Israel has negotiated exchanges with Hezbolleh before.
In fact, exchanges have been good for Israel insofar as, after release, some of these 'terrorists' can be targetted for assassination and killed - something that couldn't be done so cleanly while they're in custody. This time, however, no talking until the stale ammunition gets used up.

The latest Israeli peace stipulation is a multi-national force in southern Lebanon to 'fight' the Hezbolleh. Israel seems reticent to fight the Hezbolleh and would like the rest of the world to do it. Why didn't Israel do a reprise of its last two Lebanese vacations? Because they were far too expensive and the last time they had to come home before they'd done everything they'd planned to do. Even old Arik Sharon realized, the second time, that invading Lebanon was like a dog catching a car, once you got it, what you gonna do with it? Hezbolleh just made things worse. I can't see anybody, except some peculiar 'Murrican' types, lining up for this duty. I hope old 'Harpy' ain't thinkin' about tossing in our reserves.

As it is, the bombs will keep falling just so long as they can be shipped in from the 'Arsenal of Democracy' because now it's about Hezbolleh rockets and not the two servicemen. I wonder if anybody studying economics has done any work on the relation between economic cycles and America's 'wars'. America's economy should be booming with all the money cut loose by the Bush wars.

Summertime and the Livin' is Easy

Maybe for we who have access to a cottage rental for a week at the lake. Or the truly happy who have a cottage at the lake on a permanent basis, the livin' is easy.

Not so much for those who have to swelter in Canada's summer cities. At least those who don't have air conditioning.

I believe that air conditioning will be the ultimate downfall of society. Cold, people have manage to deal with for eons. You just pile on more layers of clothing and keep active and Bob's yer uncle, the benefits of the Nordic culture and temperate zone living start to accrue - new ways to keep warm electro-efficiently and to be comfortable, out-of-doors, even on the coldest of days. The ability to cope with the hottest of climatic variations by reducing the environmental temperature to semi-winter norms is a curse, in disguise.

Hot weather, like extremely cold weather, acted, in times past, as a form of population control. The elderly, and others with disablities, sometimes could not cope in these conditions - systems were stressed to the point that they died. Such seems to have been the case in a spate of deaths during California's recent heat wave. And so it was in most places with extremes of temperature.

Air conditioning has put an end to much of the effect of really hot weather. Homes and most public areas are now A/C equipped. I wouldn't be surprised if, for instance, in Canada the cost of A/C cooling during the warm months is well in excess of the cost for winter heating. Surely our southern neighbour, the home of 'frosti-freez', has had this experience for decades. Canada is a recent new-comer to the air-conditioned environment. Until fairly recently, the idea of open windows and fans were the only source of relief for heat-toasted canucks. Even to-day, most cottage-goers abjure the use of the AC system and open the windows to ventilate naturally. Modern cotteges excepted of course: 'cooling centres'like malls and public buildings in major cities have put paid to the cinema as a summer relief. Of course new city homes have A/C environmental systems as a standard feature and modern 'cottages' have followed suit. Living the city life at the lake has only extended the reliance on electric power for cooling.

There are two deleterious effects of the A/C revolution. First there is the obvious cost in fuel usage and the concommittent environmental deterioration that entails. Smog-laden air gains insulating qualities and adds to summer 'heat'. Summer electricity usage requires increased generation capacity - most of which uses fossil fuels and costs for this are skyrocketting. The second effect is more subtle , but no less dangerous. Exposure to a stressor has a hardening effect. Is it possible that our progenitors were able to 'stand' the heat better than we are? When one looks at photographs of clothing styles alone, one has to wonder if they were crazy, or if their 'heat waves' weren't 15 or 20 degrees colder than ours. The answer for both questions is 'no' - they weren't nuts and it was warm. They just coped better.

Could you imagine the results of a collapse of the electrical system during a bout of hot weather? Most buildings designed to run with integral A/C sytems, aren't designed to utilize ventilation for cooling - most are sealed systems and would quickly assume the qualities of a slow cooker. At the same time, many of our buildings aren't equipped to operate without A/C. We're not equipped to operate without A/C! From clothing to cooking, our activities and how we do them are not oriented toward natural heat, or its extemes. An un-cooled heat wave would result in a myriad of casualties in our towns and cities, as a population unused to such extremes would try to cope, while trying to live the same way.

The dependence on A/C is not going away, it's just that with each year of growing demand the ability to match it remains fairly static. At the same time the technology of A/C is not improving from an energy efficiency point of view and the lifestyle is becoming more and more common to people who have never felt the full effect of protracted heat, and wouldn't have clue one about how to handle it.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Tsunami Update

It was easter 2005 when the big tsunami hit Indonesia and other parts of Asia. Response was immediate and generous. One of the most notable of NGO's in relief operations was Canadian Red Cross which garnered the lions' share of donations by Canadians.

Red Cross operations were started in all three hard-hit areas. Banda Aceh and region in Indonesia being one. Immediate needs for temporary shelter, food, water, medicines and medical aid were in place by the end of month 1. Clean-up operations proceeded and rebuilding operations were scheduled. In all of these CRC was heavily involved, The most expensive aspect was the building of permanent housing, to which CRC had pledged the construction of 6,000 units. By the end of the first year CRC was rushing to complete the first house.

Four months later, CRC announces that 280 homes are 'near completion' and that by the end of the year, this number will have risen to 1600 homes. In my math, the current rate of 70 per month will have to increase by more than 200%. This construction is being hampered by increasing costs and a sporadic supply of building materials. I guess the original notion of shopping locally might not be the best idea, but then importing supplies will run right into the cooperative government of Indonesia.

With the latest in seismic events just reported last week and another appeal to help those affected by the mini-tsunami and the on-going volcanic activity on the Island - it looks like the rebuilding process might be susceptible to derailment.

It was noted that CRC appeared to be a little slow getting rebuilding started as other groups were well in the lead providing housing rebuilds while CRC was bogged down in realty negotiations. Very few people have been relocated o these accomodations. Recent news from Bandah Aceh criticises some reconstruction efforts as being 'shoddy' or built in dangerous sites. The CRC touts its houses as being of excellent quality. Perhaps the critcisms arise from the first group housed seeing others getting something 'better'?

The CRC continues support efforts geared to those currently living in temporary camps. If previous experience is any indicator, a significant number of temporary accomodations become more permanent as time passes, and people get settled. Perhaps CRC could be more effective by getting into the building supply operations and let people reconstruct their own houses. A choice of 4 models is nice, but is it the best way o meet peoples' needs, and is it ciost effective?

One thing that is fairly certain is that this most populous of lands, built on the Pacific's fiery rim, will continue to have more than the normal share of disasters, and that CRC and other charities will continue to appeal for aid. How effectively that aid is used, remains nebulous.

I'll have to see if I can find out how other Canadian groups are doing.

The Saskatchewan Manhunt

The hunt for Curtis Dagenais came to an end last week when he walked into his hometown RCMP post and surrendered. On a sadder note the surrender occurred shortly after the deaths of both officers, shot the week before, were announced.

It seems that the 'job' of community policing is becoming more dangerous for Mounties,particularly on the prairies. This time last year we were mourning the deaths of 4 constables in another attempted arrest gone bad.

The Saskatchewasn incident is reputed to have started after a domestic dispute led police to attempt to apprehend Dagenais, who fled in a vehicle with the police in pusuit. At some point the chase stopped and shots were exchanged. Of the three constables on the scene, two were hit in the head and one was unharmed. Dagenais fled into the bush on foot.

I would assume that Dagenais was firing a rifle, or that he is a remarkably accurate, or lucky, pistol shot. Since the police were acquainted with him (he is reputed to be a "cop-hater") and having access to the national firearms registry, they might have been aware that firearms could be involved. Unless Dagenais is a native person, who doesn't have to register firearms, or one of those scofflaws who refused to do it.
Would knowing he had a rifle have prevented what happened? I doubt it, but at least the police might have been better prepared for a confrontation and minimized their exposure.

As it is we'll have to see what comes out at he trial. Dagenais claims police harrassment and self-defense. We'll see how high that flies.

It is lucky for him that he was able to evade the police forces searching for him. His daytime surrender came as a surprise to the RCMP who really had no idea where he was. If you've been in the bush in the summer, you realize that his time on the run was no picnic - I'm surprised he could last that long. He looked pretty good for a guy who'd been 'roughing it' for 10 days.

An interesting appendix: Degenais' Father spent most of the week in police custody - he, too, is described as having no great affection for police.

Condolences to the families of officers Robin Cameron and Marc Bourdages.

I'll take You Home again, Kathle......,er , Zagoub!

"Across the oceans wet and wild, to where your heart has ever been, since first you were my blushing bride...."

The words of the old Irish tear-jerker came to mind as I watched the Lebanese Canadian refugees get off the boat in Turkey. They have probably been through an experience we would not want to dream about, but to be frank, they were a darn good-looking bunch of refugees!

You say that word and you conjure up images of some Kosovan farm cart, piled high with belongings and family members, being pulled down a dirt road by a tractor. Probably right into that mistaken coalition airstrike that killed a bridge-full of them.

Not like the Darfur refugees, walking miles for water and covered in flies. No, these guys looked like they'd had a bad night in some hotel lobby. And weren't some of them griping about it? If the worst thing that ever happens to them is a dirty toilet they should be very grateful. What no sandwiches? These refugees left home without food or water (most of them) but they had their cell phone and could call Canada to grouse. They probably had what loose wealth was lying around, as well, but ya can't eat the jewels.

Canada jumped into action, four tour boats rented and a shuttle service started. The PM not to be outdone - dumped his entourage in Paris and flew to Cyprus in 'Govermint 1' to rescue the first group to arrive. Given the fact that they had undergone an ordeal on the way, in a pig-boat, I'll bet he was wishing he'd just sent the jet! But then Steve's always been a good listener, and I'm sure, if there were any Jihadis on board, by the time they get to Ottawa, they'd think he's on their side. Never pass up a potential vote.

I'll bet the drinks were free on the jet home - bar nuts too!

The other thing I found surprising was the large number of Canadians living in Lebanon - 50 000. Now you can't tell me that's the annual family holiday home crowd.
They looked fairly affluent, so they're probably not depending on any Canadian social service cheques to get by. Lebanon is a fairly pricey place to live. It's not the health plan. I saw one guy, on the news, who had just had heart surgery, with his kids brushing the flies away from the deveining incisions on his legs. I hope he's OK after a recuperation like that, hope he's on Govermint 1. I imagine a lot were refugees to Canada during the 70's & 80's from the civil war, but a lot of them looked younger than that.

I think that if they can afford it, they should pay a symbolic fee, like $1000 per family - $500 per individual. If embassies help you with emergency funds, or a ticket home, you have to repay it. Why not now? I know they hadn't planned on being in a war zone. Just like most people who need help hadn't planned on needing it. Neither had the rest of us, but we organized help for them. I think payback is important here. Lebanon will be back, and so, thanks to Canada, will the refugees.

"I'll take you home again Zargoub! Across the oceans wet and.....", blubber! weep!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I'm Signin' In

I'm signin' in, as opposed to signin' up. I notice that the "1000 Jobs in the C.A.F." sign out front of the local menage militaire is gone! Either they got the quota, or they don't have the job funding any more. The world seems much in need of 'sojers' right now.

Since last I was griping, the middle east seems to have hit 'boil', two Mounties shot out West, Canadians being rescued from Lebanon, and another 'baby' tsunami in the Andaman Sea. I've got some yappin' to do about most of this and maybe a few words in praise of my favorite city - Tronna. Oh yeah, there's a BIG AIDS conference going on - hear about it?

I guess the 'biggie' right now is how Israel is fillin' in her neighbours, or rather her terrorist neighbours. This has been in the works since the Gazaians (?) elected themselves a Hamas government. Hamas is one of the Palestinian factions - aimed at giving the 'Zionists' the old heave-ho. With that kind of attitude the Israelis will not have any part.

So they did something that would show the newboys who was boss. They withheld the money. Israel collects all the PLA's taxes for them and uses them to fund the Palestinian government. Either they don't take enough (their story) or they put it into the 'general revenue' account (other side), but the world and the UN have been keeping the Palestinian basket cases afloat since the 50's. Well, no money means a world relief effort well-watched by Israeli customs. Now this should be seen against the backdrop of the wonderful generosity of the Israelis in withdrawing from some Palestinian territory they'd been squatting-on, this time last year. The same thing was supposed to happen in parts of the West Bank but only just began when a minor adjustment to the great retaining wall nipped-off another little Arab enclave
and scuppered the works. Next thing the regime change, some sanctions - some rockets - some artillery work - some kidnapping, and then the whole shebang reverts to the 50's - deja vu.

Hezbolleh - the Lebanese Shiite group who claim to have driven the 'Zionists' out of Lebanon in 2000 - decide they'd like to get in on the easy pickings, so they do a raid and kidnap a soldier, too. That does it - Israel pummels Lebanon - isolating it and wrecking infrastructure. Hezbolleh thumbs its nose and rockets northern Israel, including Nazareth and Haifa. A land incursion follows, followed by a return to 1972 and the last Lebanese tour, which lasted 18 years!

Israel seems to think that if they hit their enemy hard enough, he'll quit. That seemed to work with regular armies and the Israelis have been quite successful at it. But the 'terrorist' groups are quite a different entity. Arafat clung on like a louse for 30 years, even though full pest-control measures were in effect. He succeeded to a kind of ugly-looking-statesman status. Remember him at the UN with that horse pistol on his belt? But you couldn't help but think that shooting that thing would probably have hurt Yassir.

Anyhow, he said he would live in peace with Israel, in his own little private country, and the Israelis were almost talked into it. But Yassir wasn't as grateful as they thought he should be, and started acting like he ruled something. Well Israel wouldn't have any part of an attitude like that ......

So here we go again. You got the Yanks worried that Iran has a 'nuculer' missile and will lob it into Israel, which then would want to nuke the Arab world. Or maybe America should nuke Iran as a preemptive strike! There are actually idiots proposing this be done! Anyway America has given Israel a week or so to 'git 'er done!' Considering the Yanks haven't been real good at doing that themselves, we'll have to see how long Israel takes, and if she does.

Which brings us to Canadians in the middle of things. Another blog!

Friday, July 07, 2006

World Piece and Lunch

The secret that has eluded diplomats for centuries in their search for harmony between nations has been right under our noses all along, it's lunch. More particularly, the White House lunch.

Less formal than the White House dinner - which can be a little over the top, diplomatically speaking, the lunch affords the President an opportunity to be a buddy, or a baddy, to the invitee. It provides the opportunity for some 'sidebar' deals that are the hallmark of what America is all about. If the sucker bites, that's great! If the president misspeaks himself, or if the sucker don't bite, then the second squad of 'tough' negotiators moves in to make sure that the world's best and greatest gets exactly what it wants.

The massive problem caused by Kim Jung Il and his 'Rockets for Reds' program could be settled with the drop of an invitation. A Texas style bar-b-q and a photo opportunity with POTUS are all the Great Leader really wants. Oh, maybe a sidetrip to Graceland and afternoon at Disneyworld as well. But all this sabre (or rocket) rattling could be solved with a little love.

Speaking of love. The leader of Canada - the True North Strong etc, is in Washington for some petting and stroking. And the results? He went down to talk about the shitty trade deal we negotiated, open borders and winds up getting the heebie-jeebies about the Korean rockets from the Prez. Not only that, he's making noises about that multi-kazillion dollar missile defense shield the US would like the 'free' world to help her build. Then the USA would get the respect it deserves, being able to nuke whoever they needed to, without having to worry about somebody shooting back. One-way assured destruction - the dream of conquerors.

One could just imagine that initial meeting yesterday.

Welcome to the White House, Preston. Say, have I met you before? Anybody ever tell ya ya got hair like JFK? Ya pork a lotta bimbos like him?

My name is Stephen, Mr. President and yes, we met here just a couple of short months ago.

Well welcome back Steve. One of the hands on the ranch is called Steve. I wanna show ya a trick I learned last week. Take off your jacket for a minute will ya?

Mr. President, I'd like to say thank you for the opportunity to meet with you like this. There are some important issues....

Get down on all fours for this, Preston. I'm just gonna sit on your back here for a minute. Don't worry about the spurs, I only need 'em on the golfcart.

Mr. President, I ...

Ok Now Preston, crawl around and make pig noises.

Oink, Oink. Snuffle, snuffle ,oink!

Crawl faster an I'll give ya twenny bucks. Hey Rove get yer camera, I gotta get a picture of this. Soooeee, Soooeeee!

You keep this up Preston and we're gonna get along just fine!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Bag 'em and Tag 'em Dano

In spite of what the Chief of Police says about bang-bang in the city, Toronto's denizens have to be getting used to the nightly fusillades in various parts of town. The other night at one of the swank downtown hotels, last night out in the west end. They seem to be everywhere - the pistol-packers. Not just packers, target shooters too.

One questioned citizen succinctly pointed out that TO is safer than many other cities. How nice!

The point is that, although Toronto has had its share of problems, there SEEMS TO BE AN EPIDEMIC OF SHOOTING going on. Toronto the good mght have strangulations, stabbings, beatings and other methods of inflicting extreme prejudice on somebody else, but gun deaths were fairly infrequent and mostly at the hands of police. But the 'glock is in the other holster' now and the hands-on approach to murder has taken a back seat to the safer 'reach out and touch someone' approach.

So what do you do about it? The police have tried gang raids - the last about a month ago - obviously there are still gangs and guns and shooters on the street soooo.... more raids? Maybe, maybe not ( bad PR). They've also tried a diversion program - hiring "at risk", youth for paid summer jobs. That should give them cash for clothes and bling-bling and good times without them thinking they have to steal, a positive move. What minority group will arm themselves next?

Why don't the pols just admit that 95 percent of this shooting involves young black men, particularly young black men from the Caribbean with a funny attitude toward what 'men' are supposed to be about. Why don't they make the community, or at least the family, responsible if young 'Deshawen' makes a few babies or gets nabbed with a pistol or some belongings that aren't his. Instead of treating the demise of some youngster over a bad drug deal as a lottery win for his grieving family, find out if they condoned or ignored the things he did. If they did, cut them off their other benefits. Make them work, or go back down south.

Asking for cooperation, and having the little kids promise not to play with guns is nice, but it isn't going to work. This has to be stopped before Toronto gets as bad as other places, and it will.

I Pee on the Past

The Canada Day Weekend resulted in at least one memorable photo: that of some jejeune idiot cranking a leak on the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa.

This thoroughly tactless act has raised the ire of various concerned groups and individuals. One fellow even volunteered to walk post at the monument to safeguard it from further degradation.

The leaking lout? So far still at large, but suggested punishments would have him running the gantlet at Kandahar base or scrubbing public pissoirs for the summer.

Perhaps he was, literally, pissed-off about the recently-concluded softwood lumber agreement. We knew we weren't going to get the $5 billion the US held back in countervening tarriffs, even if the arbitration panel said we should. What we didn't know was that the 'old Harlot' to the south wanted us to 'take it out in trade" and wasn't about to give us one dollar back. So our trustworthy solons, those mavens of the capitalistic spirit, signed us on for 2, count them 2, Boeing C-17's. 'Yeah, that's the ticket, we couldn't afford them before, but this puts a new light on things.' That looks after the $3.5 billion the Yanks were thinking about giving us.

So in return for ripping us off for illegal tarriffs on lumber, the US is going to give us some huge airlift capability. And it's a good thing, too, because by the time they get here in 4 years, the Armed forces might be huge! As it is you could get the whole army, with most of their equipment, into those babies now! (I'm exaggerating.)

And the lumber agreement, why, we get to keep on pumping cheap lumber into the US just like we did before, they jack up the price and make a tidy profit. Heck they might even sell some back to us! It really helps that old balance of trade deficit.

From the look on the leaker's face, I don't think the words 'countervailing tarriff' ever crossed his arthropodic little mind. He was cranking a leak because he'd O.D.ed on O'Dowds and feeling a lot smarter that he looked. Catch the nice 'hang loose' he was flashing at the photog! Really, his Mom should have whacked his pee pee some time back to discourage public pashing. I hope the next picture shows him using a scrub brush and bucket. What a dork!

Personally, I'd send him down to the States as part payment for those two strata lifters - with a dong like he's got, this boy has a future in the American porn industry.