Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Wolfie of the North

The Liberal party, to avoid a public meltdown, are clustering around their great white hope Mike Ignatieff. Politically this is a good move. For the country, however, it's another step toward the dark side. For Iggy has all the jugular instinct, and more, than the fey chaps glad-handing each other in the backroom of the PMO. Mr. Harper might just have met his match when it comes to tricky-dickiness.

A recent addition to the godhead rank of Liberality, Ignatieff is a recyled neocon latterly from the Ivy League. An ardent supporter of Mr. Bush's little Asian adventure, Iggy saw the light when he was approached by a Liberal 'agenda' group about his interest in leading a nation. On paper he now opposes the Iraq war, but as an Israelite, he knows on which side his blintz is honeyed and as a proponent of lesser evils, he knows eggs have to get broken to make omelets. So Canada will be counted on to continue to make itself a target in the GWoT.

Not that there's much wrong with additions to the Liberal party, mind you, most leaders lately are additions to the Liberal party. Since Dave Peterson they've been working off the bottom of the barrel. There's nobody left who fits the 'mantle of leadership' inside the party. Jean Chretien knew that, and that's why he parachuted the two Quebec 'gars d'or' , Stephane Dion and Perre Pettigrew, into the party and into his caucus. Pettigrew was the obvious star, but his meteoric rise was matched with a notably uneventful and sudden disappearance. He must have goosed somebody's missus or have been caught with his finger in an aide.

Dion persevered to continue and, being the last of a dying breed of long term Liberals-by-choice, he succeeded in getting the nod over the even more novel float-ins, or the still raw contenders for leadership. That vote happened the day after the statutory hospitality suite blow-out, I'd imagine, for the Liberals failed to note that, for a professor, Dion was virtually incoherent. Needless to say the Conservatives, and lately, the people of Canada, did.

The other contender for 'leadership' - Bob Rae - is another convert to liberalism. Harper's minions would have been having nocturnal emissions about his becoming the leader. He's just too big a target with his 'communist' background, and too nice a guy to hit back. Giorno put him 'to bed' once already for little Mickey Harris. He stepped aside to allow Ignatieff to become some people's choice. The acclamation and coronation will come at a later time, for right now there's work to be done.

I wouldn't imagine that toppling the Tories will be it. By the time they return, the blues should have cobbled out some sort of an economic plan that Iggy would have been 'consulted about' (and, no doubt, will find acceptable). For Iggy has more in common with Steve Harper than he does with Duceppe and Layton. He wasn't big on 'power sharing' anyway. He's an all or nothing sort of guy. El Lupo will be getting ready for his next election from day one - and that's about getting money, not upsetting applecarts.

It should be interesting. He'll support Harper until Harper gets fed up with him and decides to call an election. Or until Harper gooses somebody's wife or gets caught with his finger in an aide. Harper may have a harder time blaming an election on a recalcitrant opposition like he did last time, and Iggy should have a gang of cut throats waiting to go after him. I would hope, however, they're not numbering the wet farts who put him in place among them. Peterson, Jean Augustine and Dave Smith who might be able to fool the lib's, but would have their asses handed to them in thin slices by the Conservative 'punkerpan' division.

Iggy may have awards and credentials up his wazoo, but he's much like the bride at an Tazhik wedding - all protests and innocence until she gets a look at the new fridge; then it's knickers off and hit the blocks. Iggy's got his new fridge, and the house and the boat .... and there's more than a likelihood that somebody's going to get screwed. Let's hope it's Harper. But Canada with a choice between two big 'dicks', is more the likely target.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

They Didn't Buy It!

The malignant dwarf's budget, if that's what it can be called, was surprisingly, and maliciously attacked by those who would see this great nation held in thrall to the political machine and big unions. Just because the latter-day 'robin-ette' wanted to take back public funds that were wasted on political parties in order to save the taxpayer the expense of electing the bastiges, and make those civvy servants keep their noses to the grindstone, the lily libs and Quebec firsters banded together to thwart the 'peoples' choice'. (Same day they appealed to their public supporters to pony-up $200 each. You won't see these guardians of the public purse cut back on tax deductibility of political donations, or even make them equal to charitable donations. I guess it's "important" to have that part of the process funded by the rest of the public.)

Actually what has happened is that the Ontario wing, who must know where Steve Harper keeps his dirty undies, have managed to get themselves into a position where they can dictate policy. Figuring that Harris got away with the same crap in Ontario, and trusting in the innate nastiness of the Canadian people when there's an opportunity to bone anybody in a lower tax bracket who can be targetted, they've gone-off prematurely. Most people in Canada are starting to wonder if the age of free-range business is paying-off like the trickle-down folk said it would. They've been caught in an untenable position and the enemy have united into a solid-looking front with the objective of cold-cocking the Conservatives.

Guy Giorno, and that office full of fey fellows who've done nothing useful so far in their lives but pull each others ding-dongs and run the levers of power, are scrambling for an 'out'. Steve Harper has one, it's called bone the backroom boys. But that would cause rancour and dissension in the ranks, and that's not supposed to happen. After all those coordinated group genuflections have been practised so long. So, for now, the PC's are toughing it out. They've started moaning and blaming the bad old incompetent Libs for going against the 'will of the people' (dentifrice Blair's take). They won't compromise, or commit to any sort of a plan for the economy (they don't have a plan for the economy) but they say they aren't being allowed to govern. That's what happens when you don't get a mandate from the majority. Actually the 'majority' of Canadians will be far better represented under 'Cerberus', than under the business-friendly PCs, - after all the majority voted for them.

The Liberals are a concern. Already the PC 'plants' in that group have called on Dion to step aside for a new leader - saying Canadians rejected him. I don't know if that's the case so much as they preferred the local PC candidate. We know he doesn't speak well, but he's brighter than some folk around the Prime Minister. Waiting in the wings for a 'promised' leadership convention in 3 months, are the heirs apparent - the wolf, the lamb and the non-entity. I would hope that if he does succeed, Dion would give the job a chance before he gives it up. A deal-breaker might just drive some potential Liberal 'leaders' back to the philosophies from which they came - and that, in my estimation, would be a good thing. If there's anything undemocratic it would be the Liberal caucus picking the next Prime Minister without an national leadership test beyond the conventional peter-pull.

Announced to-day was the possibility of a parliamentary ' break' to allow the PCs to run a damage control program before the face-off in parliament. How long that break would be remains to be seen. An early Christmas adjournment would have Orders in Council running the shop until mid-winter. By that time, the lack of an anti-depression package might well, of necessity, have been addressed. Goes to show that Steven Harper knows how to play tricks. But then we knew that, and let him off with it once.

It might be the best move to let 'Cerberus' reign, but whoever is in the catbird's seat is going to get a sore bum from the economy. I'd like this to be Mr. Smooth, he and his neocon pals deserve it. There are few pols on the scene who'll walk away from an economic collapse with their mandate intact. Steve deserves that.

Monday, November 24, 2008

J.M. Keynes - a la Neocon

John Maynard Keynes the economist who gets credit for the economic model which helped the world start to claw its way out of the last great swamp created by panicked Wall St. 'investors' has been newly-revivified to justify the neocon solution to the mess that's happening now. Problem is they're not reading Keynes, they're interpreting Keynes and we all have ample evidence of their powers of interpretation.

These are the same wizards of economy who espouse the 'Chicago School' of free markets - J.S. Mill and Adam Smith without the 'intelligent' or 'decent' parts. These are the same guys who clapped when the greatest market on earth dropped Keynes' slow-and-steady growth model for a wild west wahoo where a shyster could really make a buck. They're the guys who brought the Roaring 20's back to Wall Street. No wonder the past two decades have seen a wave of the greatest flim-flams and failures, and now, possibly, the biggest crash of all time. Having studied basic economics these mavens can't say they didn't think it could happen. They can't even say they didn't see it coming, they did, but by then even they couldn't stop it.

Here's the punchline - they aren't going to stop it this time either. For their Keyensian model isn't Keynsian at all and is just another waste of dwindling resources.

Keynes was all for government spending to get out of a depression. He was for massive public works projects and for support for the poor. But he wasn't big on bailing out private banks and businesses. The depression was caused by a round of self-generated bailouts which weren't enough to undo bank liquidity problems. Credit caused business failures and a round of unemployment, lack of credit, and diminished resources put the economy into a coma. Public spending - on infrastructure on America, on housing in Britain, on rearmament in Germany got economies started again. Massive public spending for World War 2 drove the economies into high gear and a developing consumer market after the war kept it there. Keynesian economics kept the lid on the high spots and supposedly revved up the low spots.

Increases in resource prices - particularly oil - in the 70's gave rise to an inflationary period that wasn't handled well. And 'new' economists - the Chicago School began to call for more relaxed market structures and lowered barriers to trade to minimize the cost of resources and raw materials. High production for a global free trade market would control the effects of demand on prices of goods. From the 1980's, as the world economy expanded, it seemed they were right, the bull market was eternal. The bull really was eternal, for the only thing missing was some inanity like 'prices will rise forever' - I think some real estate bozo actually said that! We know all too well that real estate, as it has been in other downturns, was the catalyst again this time.

So to-day we have our governments being 'Keynsian' and bailing out failing financial institutions. Now major industries are lining up for the free lunch. Next it will be smaller business. All demanding handouts, or selling crap to the public purse. Not that the government should be demanding value - liens and bluechip shares - that would be like socialism. The government would 'own' businesses - and we all know what a bad job government does managing business. So we'll settle for partial Keynes, a welfare Keynes, a hand-out that we hope will be a hand up. So far it seems the banks are sitting on their handouts, waiting for that 'run', when people want to get what they can. And that day may well come, for the banks are setting business up for it. And business is setting the people up for it.

They have done better, if not at least just as well to have blown 700 billion on economic stimulus to ordinary people. Most would have spent it at banks and business anyway - and solved the same cash flow problems naturally. As it is now, the ordinary people can't afford to drive the economy, and big government is in too much debt to do what needs to be done - take back the money supply and pass laws that might 'hurt' the debt-holders.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Soldiering On

The latest edition of the Canadian Legion Magazine (the Legionnaire) has an article on Canada's current role in Afghanistan. It is remarkable in two regards. The first is the good spirits and professionalism of Canadian soldiers serving in a military conflict where military victory is not attainable. The second point is the 'disconnect' between personnel inside the wire i.e. the 'base wallahs' at Kandahar and those outside the wire on the sharp end.

After hearing a long-service soldier address our men's group the other night, it is evident that an even greater disconnect exists between Ottawa and the forces in Afghanistan about what are realistic goals in Canada's involvement.

First some history. Canadian involvement, recently, dates back to the late 60's when a Canadian military mission, based in Pakistan was tasked with mine clearance or mine ameloration operations to assist Afghani refugees. Afghanistan, even to-day, being one of the most heavily-mined places on earth. The Canadian mission - from what the speaker said, was successful in educating Afghan refugees in Pakistan about mines and how to identify and dispose of them. This mission ended when government funding was withdrawn and the Afghans were left to their own devices.

As a military man, our speaker seemed informed, but had a 'biased' view of recent Afghan history. This is a commonly held one; that the Taliban are, somehow, a 'foreign' and 'evil' force in Afghanistan. Left out of his history are the facts that the Taliban were the only force to bring anything like stability to Afghanistan in the past 30 years. Given the fact that the country had been virtually destroyed in a series of wars and was 'isolated' from support by both 'sides' in the 'cold war'. The accomplishments of the Taliban are remarkable. However it is their religious fundamentalism that gets the attention. And that aspect gets them the 'blame', for lurid Islamic radicalist attacks on the 'free world' and their own people, that takes pride of place in explaining what Canadians are doing there at all.

What we're doing there, apparently, is 'fighting' so that the Afghans, or some Afghans, will have a chance to set-up and cement in place a western-style democracy where nothing like that has existed, ever, before. Somehow this can be done, when a socialist-style workers paradise - supported by an equally powerful neighbour fell to Islamic goatherds, supported by another power, in only 5 years. What we're also doing there is spending 20 billion dollars on the military - most of which will be attrited in Afghan service. This is part of what we're told, is our committment to NATO. It's also part of our support for America's 'war on terror'.

Canada's active combat role came after two years in a non-combat NATO role - the original intention, to re-build Afghanistan. Canada's post was initially outside Kabul, but when US forces were faced with an intractible and growing Taliban resurgence in the southern and eastern provinces, Canada responded by taking responsibility for Kandahar province. Once the Taliban realized we were there to fight, they obliged and since then the Canadian 'mission' has been involved with supression of insurgents, or development activites relating to suppression of insurgents. Canadian influence has been extended to some areas of the province near the capital, but, in essence, Canadians continue to fight over territory they were fighting over when the mission started, or within gun range of it. US Marines were reintroduced into the border regions - areas that had not been to amenable to Canadian or Afghan control.

We are told, by the Americans, and Canadian leaders, that troops are too-thin on the ground to 'take and hold' territory. The best we've come up with is to put out Afghan army and police units - stiffened with small Canadian units in little forts - to see if the Taliban can be held down. This has resulted in on-going attacks and cavalry 'rescues' which themselves risk attack. Supply and replacement has to be a real operational problem as Canada suffers from a dearth of helicopters. Even the main base is regularly rocketed. And Kandahar City, only an hour away, has been like 'Dodge City' at times this past year with jailbreaks, assassinations and even a fairly large military operation to take back a land grab.

Canada is committed to a presence in Afghanistan until 2012. It was recently reiterated after an announcement of a notable increase in US forces, that Canada would be sticking to this withdrawal date. Something tells me that those who 'support the troops' will be heard from if the Afghjan government is still fighting insurgents at that time. We're not getting Canadians killed so we can adhere to a calendar are we? If peace , security and freedom in Afghanistan are worth fighting and dying for in 2008, it's highly unlikely they'll become unworthy in 3 years time. Leaving before that gives the impression they weren't 'worth' anything at all.

And so things continue. Winter is taking hold in the Panjwai and Arghanderab. The Afghans generally hunker down in the winter which provides an opportunity for NATO to 'get active'. Last year that was the case, and it just might have had something to do with the 'active' summer the Taliban have given our troops in return.

Monday, November 03, 2008


There was a simpler time when, if you heard the word melamine, you thought about a plastic kitchen counter top. Not any more!. Now you think about additives in your food.

The stuff has been around for more than a century but it was only when research into plastics had this complex nitrogen-based molecule mixed with cyanide to produce a heat-formed plastic that the word came into general use. And it came into use to describe a form of thermo-plastic.

But the nitrogen base of the original fabrication was the thing that interested food producers. Nitrogen is a base for fertilizers and so it was only natural that somebody decided to dump some melamine on the garden. It didn't work as well as other forms of fertilizer, so there was nothing to be gained from that. But other wizards who were experimenting with high-protein animal feed were looking for something to replace urea. (No I'm not taking the piss, they lace animal feed with chemical urea to bulk them up.) Melamine looked like a source of cheap, easily-absorbed nitogen-based protein. Problem was, it wasn't all that easily-absorbed and, when used in high quantities, had some 'side-effects'. But somebody noticed that when it was added, it boosted the tested content levels for protein in the feed, even if the animal couldn't process it.

On large animals the effects were not as marked, although there were some reproductive affects noted. In dogs and cats the stuff was toxic, attacking the kidneys and leading to renal failure. It was in pet food that the first food-chain problems came to light with a rash of sick animals in pet-fancying America. The cause was traced back to pet foods and to protein additives imported from China, that were used in the manufacture.

While the Chinese were investigating, it came to light there, that infant formula was making some very sick babies. When that was checked what showed up? You've got it - melamine!

How come? Well, that point about melamine boosting tested protein levels wasn't wasted on the smart. Particularly the smart who thought that watering milk down and adding some melamine was a great way to increase the profit margin. Turns out there was no 'secret' here, virtually every milk producer in China was doing it. And the milk products - lactose, milk powder, whey, et alia were being exported everywhere and dumped into everything from soup - to nuts. And the melamine, too.

The Cadbury chocolate company pulled all its Hong-Kong produced products because they were made with contaminated milk. Whole and powdered milk was destroyed in bulk when contamination was discovered. The latest to go in China is 'eggs' - from contaminated chickens. Seems the melamine in their chickenfeed goes right into the chickens' eggs. Remember that reproductive thing?

Where are we in North America? Well, we're busy with the stock market plunge and electing presidents and we're too busy to think about food right now. But somebody's on it. In Canada they took some obscure chinese-made cookies of a shelf somewhere out west.

Maybe they are on top of it, but I doubt it. For a couple of reasons. First the FDA - that American food watchdog - says a little bit of melamine ain't gonna kill ya, so if it makes somebody's packaging advertisement true, what the heck, eat up. For another reason, the number of 'reputable' western firms involved. New Zealand's biggest food conglomerate is involved 'big time', being part owner of a couple of the worst 'offenders' in China. Buying food additives from the Fonterra Corp. doesn't sound half as scary as from the Huangzhou Industrial Chemical Plant #46.

For a third, there's always the need to minimize the bottom line, while avoiding regulation as much as possible. When it comes to corporations, as has been well demonstrated, while the head honchos may be the nicest people you're ever going to meet, when they get together over the balance sheets and some flunky 'on the way up' has a million-dollar idea to save on a few bucks on a cost item, those group decisions can always be regretted. But the cheque for all that 'responsibility' is a bigger attraction. I don't think we're too interested in scratching how deep the Chinese food additives business goes in North America. That might ruin an election and make a stock market crash worse!

A lot of additives are put into our food now, additives that didn't even exist in some cases 30 years ago. They're added for a number of reasons - to prevent oxidation, maintain moisture level, prevent decay, etc, etc, etc. But maybe it's time to start thinking about what we could be doing to ourselves, and our kids. Maybe it's time to go back - not a long way - to a saner time about what we do to our food. If somebody was grinding up your plastic counter top to make sandwiches .......

Monday, October 06, 2008

Time to Get Out of NATO?

When the Quebec Conference of 1942 started the process that eventuated in the NATO alliance the world, and Canada, were far different places than they are to-day.

In 1942 the Second World War was looking like it might be a very close run thing when Winston Churchill met with US President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Mackenzie King of Canada at Quebec City. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was months away and Britain was fighting Germany alone, and not doing too well at it. The subject was protection for Britain's vital convoys of food and materiel from the 'arsenal of democracy' in the US and the granary of the Empire in Canada. Defense of the North Atlantic was the topic, the alliance was in the future.

As the war progressed toward victory the notion that the relationship of the Allied powers should be cemented in a cross-ocean pact came more evident and NATO took shape. A mutual defense pact - geared first against the Axis took form and included the allied powers Great Britain, the US, the Dominion of Canada, Brazil, Dominican Republic, and the free forces of France, Norway and Holland. Liberation brought Denmark and Norway into the fold, Portugal became a member, too.

As the war turned into a Cold one - eventually former 'enemies' in West Germany, and Italy joined. The Korean War brought Turkey on side, Greece joined as NATO opposed a communist menace in Russia and its east European Warsaw Pact.

Canada as a Dominion, and then, in the seventies, as a fully-independent country maintained its ties with NATO. In the beginning Canada was oriented toward Britain in its trade and in its foreign policy. Both orientations changed over time until the USA was Canada's major partner in trade and in defense, particularly of North America.

Canada's closely-interlaced defense scheme cost her a notable lead in independence and research and development into advanced systems. The AVRO Arrow project was dropped in favor of US 'Bomarcs' and 'Voodoos' and a number of British high-tech industries closed up shop in Canada. In foreign relations Canada generally agreed with the USA but, at times, was annoyingly independent. Cooperation with US foreign policy activities has become more marked with the advent of the 'war on terror'. Canada has become involved in a war to reconstitute Afghanistan at NATO, and US, behest.

At the same time NATO has taken on a distinctive American cast. Perhaps this is due to GWB's notion of "With us, or against us." The black or white option has involved NATO in Kosovo, Afghanistan and to a lesser extent Iraq. Although the range of involvement varies from actual combat operations to civil affairs assistance. There are, now, with French rapprochement, no 'enemies' inside NATO.

Another recent trend is the expansion of NATO. Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Hungary and other elements of the former Russian sphere of influence have been welcomed into the North Atlantic defense pact. Ukraine, Georgia and Asiatic elements have applied as well under the US led all-pile-on-the rabbit scheme of uniting democratic countries wherever they may be. Nothing wrong if this were a cultural or trade group, but the recent bit of stupidity in Georgia indicates that some indigestible 'rump' of disputed territory there could have the potential of a new Balkans, as if the one we already have isn't enough.

Canada signed on to fight the Nazi blight and stayed to combat the Red Menace. It seems that after the demise of one enemy, our southern cousins have a habit of cultivating another. This year the enemy is around the other side of the globe. Where the next one will be could involve a NATO ally, one of the 'newbies' more than likely, and we'd be treaty-bound to 'defend' them. I'd say NATO has outgrown its usefulness for Canada and we'd best let the 'super-blocks' look after themselves.

Modern day NATO isn't what Canada signed up for.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

It Ain't Who You Know

It's what you don't know, that's going to get you.

There's that old saw about ignorance being bliss, and in a way it is. If you don't know anything, you won't worry and you won't gripe about anything until it's too late to do something about it. That, I believe is what our governments are using as a standard operating procedure. If it doesn't get into the papers it's good. But just make sure the papers are full of the stories you want to be in there.

And so our papers are either full of inconsequential pap, or the kind of 'sky is falling' horse-pellets designed to get us all genuflecting in unison. The press of late is no exception.

The US election is the BIG news - shy of a universal pandemic dropping people out in front of the Mall, it won't get bounced. Even the Wall St. meltdown is viewed through the prism of the 'greatest game on earth'.

We had both as-yet-to-be elected candidates acting all presidential to broker the same deal for the Wall St. titans, while the ruptured duck resident of that office quacked the same tune. It would have been great had one of them taken the Nader approach - F**k Wall St, or the 'trickle up' economics of a nation-wide 'bail out of Main St.', so wisely espoused by a CNN pundit. But America don't work like that - too soialistickal, ya know?. And so newspapers, even ours, were filled with their exertions.

A minor story buried in Newsweek about a sophomoric protest at a west coast college, last week, got the deep six from the major media. It was remarkable. Remarkable that EVERYBODY agreed with the immediate police investigation - that no 'crime' was involved and that, considering most people on the Christian campus never saw the protest before it was removed, the Dean could deal with it. Nuff said. No divisiveness.

The protest was about increasing the number of 'disadvantaged' students on campus by some equal opportunity action, and it involved suspending a cardboard cut-out of a prominent black Democratic presidential candidate by the neck, from a campus tree.

Now, we all know and congratulate the USA on the way it has improved relations between the races. At least relations with Blacks - who now seem to have most of the rights that other Americans have, even if the distaff still looks down on them with some distaste. There are other races in that big melting pot still in questionable states. The Spanish-American seem to be tolerably-well accepted providing they're signing up and carrying out some military service and they're not illegally hanging around anybody's community stealing jobs. Asians, particularly south and west Asians, still have a National Security mindset to overcome. No 'Little Mosque on the Prairie' down south, yet. But they do run a good flea market.

But the reaction to a lynching, even a fake one, is more than a non-story given the first time ever a Black man has run for leader of a country outside Africa or a former Caribbean slave state. The 'good housekeeping' approach to see no evil leaves the mentality that a lynching joke, even a dopey one, is somehow 'OK' intact for the next time. Had it been somebody pasting a photoshop of Mrs Palin's whoo-hoo on the campus clock, there might have been a greater reaction - there was to Obama's 'lipstick on a pig' remark. Spare us, we know somebody has already faked that whoo-hoo on the internet .. probably the one where she "dressed like Tina Fey". But I digress into the stuff of current press.

Our Canadian election putters-on in its 'good government' sort of way. The only real oh-ohs are a couple of boners on the Prime Ministers staffers, and a propensity to steal somebody else's ideas, or at least their words in speeches. Ho freaking hum!

There was a debate last week, all the candidates sitting around a table battling it out eyeball-to-eyeball in French and the next night, again, in English. Wonder if our Yankee cousins noticed that?

They are 5 individuals running - each one a good caricature. The little green lady made a surprising amount of sense, too bad she didn't look like MS Palin, because she'd be the next PM, I'd bet. Even all the retired bikers couldn't top a good looking, and intelligent green. But voting green might just allow that sorry SOB Stevie Harper to sneak in again, perhaps with a majority depending how the votes fall. I like May's idea of representation by vote - it makes more sense than a 'mandate' given by 38 percent of the electorate.

One of the topics that hasn't come up is Canada's role in the future North American prosperity and security union (Egad that sounds like the thing the Japanese tried on East Asia 60 years ago.) I would think that an agreement to have the Thunderin' 804th US mechanized infantry come rolling across the Queenston bridge to restore law 'n order in Hamilton might be debatable to some candidates. I thought such an idea was a joke until I read, this week, that for the first time since the Indian Wars, a regular US Army unit is being assigned to exactly that - homeland security in Centcom: the US 1st Infantry Division, starting in October, will be posted south of the Great Lakes to 'assist civil authority'. They used to have a law about that, but a Presidential directive changed it. Discussions for a revised trade zone featuring linked economies, freer trade, transportion and 'linked' security has been 'on the table' for some time now. We wouldn't think that was important, would we?

Add to that a developing notion that businesses are deputies of the FBI in the great fight against terror. Now what, you might ask, can businesses do to assist the forces of law and corder. Well surveillance comes to mind - employees first, customers next. And turning-in a bad guy - or even a suspected bad guy - is a large part of the work that needs to be done. Can't see Walmart Canada, being 'out-of-step' with head office.

Another little American 'gem' is another one of those presidential fatwas enabling the powers that be to seize the property of anyone they deem to be interfering with the Iraqi/ Israeli/Afghan/Colombian/fill-in-the-blank struggle for freedom. I'd imagine that new unified North American whatever would need the same kind of laws too, eh? No more safe harbour for terrorists in the GWN!

Having your feet checked for explosives, and your baggage x-rayed as you leave the airport probably makes sense to somebody, but I'd bet he'd be wearing a badge and a bad attitude about the enemas of his country.

All this unanimity of spirit might have been a good idea when Red was entertainin' Otis at the Scuttlebutt Lodge. Back then only drinking was of concern. But nowadays our usually good-natured neighbours have a hate on for just about the whole world. Their media is designed to keep them that way, and our media is starting to be the same way - as a lot of Canadians adopt that paranoia that comes with having been attacked, well almost.

What you know is becoming more important.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

On - Going Going On

Summer is on its way to slamming to a close and with it the 'activity' season for the Taliban facing Canada's military peacekeepers in Afghanistan. It has been a more active season than in years past, on both sides. Added to a renascent insurgency - or just a revitalized one - possibly attributed to an exodus of AQ fighters from the newly-pacified Iraq, is an increased or more 'robust' NATO presence in the form of what are shaping up to be significant American reinforcements and more actively involved forces from such as France.

Starting last spring when the USMC deployed a battalion into Helmand to show the Brits how to fight insurgents, America has rediscovered the original 'pure' reason they invaded Asia. However, they seem to be under some sort of delusion that the Taliban were virtually 'finished' back in '02, and that they can be easily finished in '09. The nice thing about bad memories for us homebodies is that we can generally make them go away. And so it is with the neocon remnant still working the levers of US foreign policy and the failed 'new' American century. They have forgotten that a treatment resistant and spreading Taliban infection got Canada, and other NATO allies more actively involved in the combat they're so fond of, 4 years ago. We've been fighting that 'good fight' since.

Canada maintains a presence of about 3500 personnel at Khandahar base. The fighting rotations are provided by deployed battalions from homeland regiments - some units are going into their third rotation. Support services are increasingly coming from other arms of service - i.e. communications, medical, etc from the Air and Naval arms. So far this summer, casualties have been fairly light, but then operations, other than the great 'Boo!' in Arghandab haven't been overly dramatic, either. Patrolling and suiciders with another small poke at the Panjwai. 'Getting 'er done' remains an exercise in patrolling, PR and applied airpower.

Lately the Taliban took a PR poke of their own at the Achilles heel of the Coalition - regional development. The conventional wisdom, at least in Canadian circles, is a combined military and redevelopment thrust. Increasingly the latter was being devolved on Government-sponsored (CIDA) NGOs and their personnel to move in under the military umbrella and provide the services that, until recently, had been within the purview of the military. Last week, in the absence of that umbrella, the Taliban caught, and killed, a carful of aid workers.

The results of this little horror have been understandable. First the Taliban are associating aid workers and the military, they do, after all work hand-in-glove to develop the anti-Taliban, pro-Afghan (go figure) mission. Without the protection provided by the military the NGO's are largely ineffective. Any 'unapproved' NGOs tend to want to blend into the Afghan population and, reportedly, or at least so far, have been treated with a modicum of forbearance by the locals. But the work of 'approved' NGOs, whose prime focus is helping 'friendly' Afghans as a representative of Karzai and his western supporters, may well be starting to jeopardize everything.

The basic problem is that reconstruction can't be done without security. Apparently security can't be done without killing Afghans. Killing Afghans can't be done without upsetting the locals and affecting security which means not much reconstruction is getting done. So it all boils down to a purely military solution. And that's where the problem lies.

We, westerners, have little knowledge of Afghans and since we're possibly their killers, they're not being very helpful to us. Yes we can find Afghan assistants and interpreters, but it's an act of faith to take them at their word when they're not dealing with their own tribe, or even their own family. NATO is often used to get somebody 'onside', to settle old scores or to provide an example. The year in, rotate out - patrol from base tactic gives westerners little chance to learn about the Afghan environment outside a war view. And our war view isn't healthy for Afghans, or ourselves.

As we get ready for another year of this crap. We have the Prime Minister's Office touts led by Guy the Mastermind Giorno and spokesperson Korey Machismo letting us know that they know the Taliban are 'full of it' with their threats. They claim the Taliban 'can't win' - I'd bet that was a notion the Russians had. We'll be staying the course, whatever that is, because Mr. Harper and his back room pals claim they know bullshit when they smell it.

Afghanistan is looking less and less like Canada's mission, and more and more like a festering sore. But it's, thanks to the warfighter's in the Martin and Harper administrations, the only mission we've got. And we wouldn't want to lose. So re-pave up the 'Highway of Heroes' we will continue to need it.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

They'll Cut Your throat if You Let 'Em

I was in Manitoba last week when Slaughterhouse 5 happened on the bus at Portage La Prairie. It was a bizarre thing to be driving by the place they day after it happened. Manitoba isn't one of those places you'd think would have such occurrences, but apparently things they are a changin' out there, too.

That same week two young Indian men were tasered, and one of them shot and killed, by the police - that would be the RCMP who have provincial duties in Manitoba. Winnipeg has had it's share of ghastly murders - little kids, etc and the problems of reservation life, and off-reservation life have been made the stuff of Jackson Highway's plays.

I would imagine that one would have to be pretty hardy, and good natured, to live in Manitoba, particularly in a Manitoba winter. For that province seems to be a kick-back to the original sparsely-populated state of the pre-Columbian continent. North of Lake Winnipeg, or it's little sister, the province is largely formless and void. There isn't even much road kill. You can rocket along empty roads with none but the ravens for company - maybe they explain the dearth of road-kill. One can only imagine the perceptions of neophyte Europeans HBC, or Nor'west traders, Eastern European immigrants or a Toronto Orangeman laying eyes on a valley bottom. Manitoba is lovely in a well-watered summer, but I know that won't last. Couldn't imagine what it might do to somebody from China.

Two day's later another story from around the other side of the world, about another decapitation. This time on a little Aegean gem - Santorini. Somebody killed and removed the head of his girlfriend and took it round her village showing it off. Like the bus-master, he managed to cow the witnessrs, I guess with the sheer horror of what they were seeing. On the bus, the passengers managed to close the door and trap the killer there until police arrived. On Santorini, the police arrived, one was stabbed and the headsman stole a police car. In the ensuing pursuit the killer was shot five times and was arrested. He was in serious condition in the hospital. On the bus the killer decided to break a window and escape. He might have thought about that sooner had he been compus mentis, but the police took him without tasering, anyway, although his face looked a bit lumpy the next day.

Closer to home an altercation that started when somebody apparently mis-identified a man whom she thought had sexually assaulted her, wound up with the man thumped, coshed with a two-by-four, and stabbed all on a main street, by four of the young woman's friends. Some interesting considerations. First, Molly Pitcher - who thinks she recognizes a sexual attacker - even though he's old enough to be her father and in the company of his wife and another woman. Instead of calling authorities, this spitfire rounds on him in a Tim Horton's. Must have been quite the sexual assault.

Then there's the victim. He reacts by going to the local police station to ask assistance in explaining that he's not a sexual attacker. The police accommodate his wishes but Jezebel had retired to other quarters. The victim, to celebrate his new-found security decided to take a walk down main street. It just so happened the vixen lived on Main street, not only that she got another chance to interact. Not having been present when the police declared the chap a 'good guy', she approached some hi-testosterone male acquaintances to assist a damsel in distress. Four of them did. In short order they put the boots to the dastard, punched the piss out of him, nailed him with some lumber and for good measure punctured him a time or two. All were able to make good their withdrawal before the local constabulary arrived on scene. But identification didn't take long and all 5 - sweetheart and swains - were booked like Dano on the 5-Oh.

I don't even want to think about the 5 mental midgets who deputized themselves defenders of whatever virtue this young miss has left. But it concerns me to think that there are such young louts, with too much time on their hands and edged weapons in their pockets. There are, and they are legion. Unemployed and umemployable - walking bad attitudes with head fogged with whatever substance they can get into themselves. Nothing to do but adjust their privates in public and use the F-word in some hitherto undiscovered ways of communicating. They're going to make an interesting demographic.

Friday, July 18, 2008

TO is No.1!

Toronto, so crowed this morning's Star, "Is the Safest City in Canada". Don't know exactly what aspect of safety they were looking at but it isn't shootings. The announcement was followed, within hours, by volleys of gunfire that killed three more people.

Last week Metro's Finest were moaning that nobody was 'coming forward' to give them the intelligence they needed to crack outstanding murder cases. The 'public' wasn't doing its 'bit.

Now, I'm up there with everybody else on law and order. But it's my take on things that to most cops, there's is a job - like any other job. They want to do their shift in safety and go home to get away from it all. That's understandable. But unofficially the police are divorcing, have divorced, themselves from the communities they're hired to serve and protect. They certainly, in large part, don't live in them - or were raised in them, preferring anonymity and 'security' in the suburbs. That's understandable as well, for organizationally they've developed a bunker-mentality that doesn't serve them well. Their press releases are either bombastic or pusillanimous, their stations are controlled-access FOB's. They've pegged themselves, if only in their own mind, as the centurions holding back a tide of chaos, defenders of the country even. And they can prickle more than most if criticized.

They're following the Baghdad model. Leaving the base at the beginning of a shift, armed and armored, to cruise through a potentially deadly environment. At least they can be sure that their shit's safe back in the access restricted and surveilled parking lot where perps can't be copying their plate numbers or bending antennas.

To-day's story featured a couple of stories about how the police are trying to become more of a presence - pulling the cruiser over, or pulling motorists over, for a little 'how's it hangin' and who's doin' the banging around here?'

I'd bet dollars to free glazed donuts that the only place that there's been a real change in the crime rate, is in those new police station parking lots. For the 'boys' were doing exactly the same stuff forty years ago, and asking for the public's assistance then as well. Difference is now they're talking to people raised to believe Police don't wish them much good.

Until they get out of the cruisers and start living in the communities they serve and getting to know their neighbours, they'll remain 'some guys doing another job'.

It is heartening to see ethnic groups among the police - that is a change. But once the 'old dogs' get used to it, they'll be passing on the 'p'leece' mentality to the newbies as well.

I'd like to think that Toronto, one day, might be Canada's safest city, but it's going to take a lot more creativity and real concern, than has ever been a 'qualifier' at police headquarters.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bringing Coal to Newcastle - Tronna Style.

The gun culture in Toronto remains relatively undisturbed by the ministrations of a few layers of government and the investment of millions in social service fixes. And now the latest greatest idea - mini cop-shops in troubled high schools.

The notion initially raised by an inquiry into a shooting death at a Toronto school a year or so back, was jumped all over by no less than Toronto's top cop Chief of Police and 'imperator praetorii' Bill (I'm a lot smarter than I look) Blair. Bill sees this as a wonderful opportunity to put the 'pleece' were they can get to know the kidz, build some community and develop that ever-important trust. Not only that they'd be on the down-low for some timely and positive 'intel'.

The schoolboard types might have had a different vision than the one the Chief has in mind. They'd envisioned a cool cat sort of cop, clad in chinos and an untucked hawaiian shirt - schmoozing with the kids over fries in the caf. Somebody setting a good example and discouraging any rampant gangbanging. That ain't what the chief has in mind.

He wants his people in the uniform to which they've sworn to be true in their hearts - blancoed, buttoned, shakoed , belted and shiny-booted defenders of the common weal and unflinching upholders of the law. A quasi-military presence in an all too unstructured clearing house for the nefarious teenager. He also wants them armed.

Now if you think about the reason they'd be there in the first place, because of a macho gun culture that seems to be expanding rather than going away, I would guess that somebody else with a pistol at school would make sense to some, but it doesn't make a lot of sense to me. 'Yeah, but what about the day somebody decided to go Columbine? Wouldn't some protection be a good idea?'

Maybe, but if I was going to go Columbine, guess who would be the first target? If there was a cop in the school, he's got another gun to use. In fact, if memory serves, weren't there security people at Columbine when that happened? Security, police included, often have a strong sense of self-preservation at such times, which often limits their role to assisting survivors and making notes about what happened after the perps have shot themselves.

Somehow I think, arms in the school are the antithesis of the message that needs to get out, no matter how responsibly they're borne. I think the Chief is as 'batty' on this issue as he was on those fortress walls and security systems in police parking lots. But then, this is really about the new hires he'll need - the expansion of the guardian empire and a strong offense will shut up the defense.

A MOO-vable Feast

The Toronto Star reported the finding of another case of 'mad cow' disease in a British Columbia animal. They would have us believe that's nothing too unusual since they've tested 200 000 animals for holes in the head since the first notorious case showed up few years back.

Remarkable what a few years and a little testing will do! For that first case revolutionized the beef farming and packing industries in Canada. In fact it almost destroyed them. If memory serves, that incident originated in two Canadian animals found on American farms and resulted in a two-year freeze of the import of Canadian beef in a number of world markets.

So we have to believe that the original brouhaha was contrived - for some reason. Or that the current situation is being downplayed ... because the disease remains fairly significant in effect, debated in causality, and medically incurable.

Suppose it was the first. A trade 'problem' - cheap Canadian beef imports - was resolved by stoppage. American farmers selling 'safe' expensive beef had their market clear. A spin-off result was the opportunity to capitalize on a weakened Canadian meat-packing industry for some heavy-duty market-cornering. There are far fewer packing operators in Canada now than there were at the start of the crisis and the larger ones are American-owned. A second opportunity saw a significant market shift from farmers to beef 'investors' when packing houses bought out beef herds at fire sale prices, or less, and then paid farmers to pasture the animals with funds the government so generously provided to assist those possessing less-than-marketable beef herds. The beef industry has been changed.

How about downplaying the 'crisis'? That sounds plausible too, for the last thing the government wants is more trade problems, or a repeat of the farmer fiasco of last time. The beef industry wants Canadians to know that the meat supply is 'safe' - uncontaminated. By extension the world market should be thinking that if it's safe enough for Canadians to eat well - gosh darn it...

It's disconcerting to know that, after all the problems the disease has caused, and that the cause of it is claimed to be so clear - unless that's something else we're not being told - that somebody, somewhere, still thinks filling-out the feed with some meat products is a sensible thing to do. Tell ya, if the guy's name was Abdul, CSIS and the National Security apparatus would be hut-hutting all over him and his attempted 'terrorism'. If it's just an incident, or three, on BC farms, well, what the heck, we caught it before it got into your Big Mac, so feel free to dine-out tonight,eh?

Another thing we're not told is the incidence of Creuzfeld-Jacob Syndrome in Canada. Granted there seems to be a genetic causality to it, but the statistics would indicate if there could be some cases arising from tainted meat products. But who wants to go where the Brits have been? It's not a happy place and there aren't more spongiforms than there are dope-induced psychotics and aged-impaired dodderers, so why let it upset anybody. Unless you're one of the 'lucky lottery winners'.

It strikes me if there were only three cases this year, how come there were no cases last year? Somebody just didn't start thinking to mix some mutton into the chop? Did they? I bet it's because of how many animals they chose for testing. Last year there weren't any positives tested. This year they 'lucked out' with three. But that doesn't mean there might not have been more - this year, or last.

If testing, as is claimed, can keep infected meat out of the supply chain, then every animal should be tested. The peace of mind would be worth the few mills added to the price of a kilo of beef. And it would make Canada look like it took food safety seriously. Malheureusement it could be that they have relatives of the security people running the food safety organizations too - 'smarts' like that tend to be genetic.

In to-day's world food shortages have the potential of making somebody eat anything to survive. But there's no excuse for that in Canada, yet. Let's get moo-ving on mad cows.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Who's Sorry Now?

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Won't you please accept my apo-lo-gee-ee?"

The dulcet tones of Brenda Lee wouldn't be lost on Little Stevie Harper who rounded-off his parliamentary year by apologizing to the native Canadians for all the bad governments, Churches and social agencies that dragged them out of the bush, hundreds and even thousands of miles away from home, to schools where they would lay the groundwork for the lives of drug dependency and social degradation that many of their descendants live to-day.

Almost immediately the chorus of 'not good enough' went up. There are generations who've been scarred by the fact that Granny spent her 'tween age years in the care of nuns and didn't get a chance to run off to 'live' in the big smoke. Them generations are going to need some compensation for their 'trauma'. And that's what's wrong with a government apologizing - somebody's right behind with the chequebook.

Frankly I can't perceive of a lot being wrong with what happened - for the alternative was something worse. There may have been some aboriginal parents who wanted, and were able to keep the kids in the native ways, but most saw the opportunity to move their kids 'ahead'(or even just away) and took it. This was the best that they could get. Indeed if it hadn't been for that experience there would still be a dearth of Indian teachers to-day. Many schools on reservations are no longer staffed by non-native teachers - they have their own - some of whom learned in residential schools. A recent news report noted that the average age of speakers of aboriginal languages is 60 - the majority of whom who were 'abused' and forbidden to speak it, in the residential schools. The non-abused youth of to-day, I imagine, have been traumatized into not bothering to learn.

Residential schools may not have been the optimal situation but they were 'free', and generally well-staffed. The children had good nutrition and health care that might not have been available 'at home'; they were warm, and clean and had something to do. None died of abuse or neglect. There may have been abuses, but no more than are found on every reservation to-day and, probably, then as well.

The problem with starting apologies is figuring out where to stop. So far the Chinese have been 'restituted' for the poll tax applied to their sires. The natives have received at least two apologies now. How about the Acadians? Or the Irish, aren't they due one? The Ukrainians are 'in line' for one, as are Austro Hungarians interned during the Great war, and Japanese moved during the Second. What about a slew of DP's and refugees 'forced' to not live in the urban areas of Canada and consigned to the 'sticks', don't they deserve some largesse along with the 'sorry'?

The Natives were even extending their own apologies to the Japanese for living near, and working in the uranium mines from which the A bombs were made. Does that mean an official government apology for being allied to the American bombers could be far behind?

Ultimately there will have to be a hearty 'I'm sooo sorry', accompanied by a nominal federal cheque, to all Canadians especially the hyphenated kind who chipped in for the 'sins' we had no hand in, of forefathers to who we had no relation. But by that time 'we Canadians' should have 'screwed somebody else over' and we'll be able to begin again.

Right now we're working up a future apology to the Afghans. On the other hand I don't think any country on earth has had to apologize for invading another one, so we might be 'good' there. On third thought, Canadians have a penchant for apologies that harder-nosed nations don't have, so.....

Saturday, May 24, 2008

What a Cast of Characters

The Federal Conservative government look like an eclectic gang of 'refer'ees from some casting agency, it's not surprising that they 'act' like them, too.

Starting at the top, there's the PM. A cross between the Sheik of Araby and one of those nazi villains from 'The Lost Ark', with that signature John F. Kennedy hairdo, Steven Harper has gone out of his way to stop appearing goofy. No more hats on backwards or 'chowing down' pictures, he's lost weight and is actually looking more 'presidential' than his funny friend down south. His latest role as 'the sojer's friend' would warm the cockleshells of any wannabe's heart. Let's just hope he's not doing JFK-style horizontal mambas to lose the pudge, them 'still waters running deep' as they say down east.

The latest 'booby' to stick is head up is the Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime, 'hey dat's my girlfren' you're staring at' Bernier. This poor sap is well out of his depth and standing 5' 16" that's somet'ing. He looks like Constable Tom, but he talks and acts like Ti' Pierre. Showing up to be sworn-in on the arm of a statuesque gal who looked like she had intentions, couldn't be laid entirely at his door. That it turns out she'd had a ride on a large number of 'ells Angels (Quebec Chapitre), and been married to a crook. Says something about the competence of his handlers.

He's getting some attention for a gaffe or two relating to Afghanistan, and not getting a governor fired, and a very expensive junket to Thailand. He's also taking heat for the boss's decision to let the Americans palm-off the end of line C-17's this week. But not knowing much about them either, should stand him in good stead. He didn't sign off for them.

Another character is John Baird. Political life must be agreeing with John, he's developing a certain Travolta look - jowlly, but with more hair. Along with his dimensions and seeming inability to answer a direct question directly, Baird was
noted for an ill-fitting set of dentition. Now whether this is an act of God, or a product of the vacuum formers' art, John still has them. You'd think he'd have had a makeover by now. But then, silk purse eh? He still does a good non-job at question period.

A recent import from Harris' Ontario administration is Guy, the master of the black arts, Giorno. He bears a passing resemblance to Guy Caballero but is said to be much quieter and less funny, if just as much in control, a hatchet man. Or, in the words of a Tory backbencher, - one of Mike Harris' 'pimply-faced nancy boys'. We won't see much of Guy, but hopefully we won't feel him either, he would have made a good eugenicist.

Another 'eminence gris' of the Harper administration in the Minister without Portfolio and general know-it-all defender of government policy on anything Jason Kenney. Either a frustrated lawyer, or a flunk-out from some seminary, Jason is a sweaty little driver who demonstrates the symptoms of 'small man disorder'. Years ago one of the news rags ran an article of this 'up and coming conservative - sharing his bachelor digs with another guy and ironing his own shirts. Impressive. I would hope he still does that, but I doubt it. Ironing your own shirt keeps you grounded and Jay is beginning to seem 'napoleonic' or megalomaniacal.

Another member of the bantam brigade is the Minister of Finance, Joe Flaherty, or is it Bill Rafferty, Dick Slattery? Anyway, he's another short fellow. The 'Preem' must like to look down on the bright members of his entourage, as the bigger ones tend to the stupid side of the scale, sort of like that Spanish King who kept smart dwarves around the palace. But I diverge! The Minister of Finance finds himself rolling in the dough, as opposed to a stint in Ontario where all the dough was borrowed for him to roll in. Largely because of the tax on gas that he forgot to roll back like he said he would, Flaherty would actually have to work at running a deficit. But if he keeps on giving corporate tax breaks to tide the bigshots though the on-coming recession, or wasting money on 'friendly' contracts, he just might get one. One thing is for sure; he doesn't have enough in the bank to 'spend Canada out of a Depression'.

And last but not least is the former Secretary of State and now Minister of Defense - Peter MacKay. Pete seemed to enjoy being out east with the troops and this post is probably a reward for doing a good job in his old one. He has a reputation as a charmer and his warm 'personal' relationship with Condoleeza Rice was blatted abroad. Of course, being a bachelor, he's no doubt had a few of those. One notable one is with former MP, and golden girl, Belinda Stronach. Their break-up led her to the arms of opposition Liberals, and a washed-up hockey player, and ended in a welter of nasty personal references. Since then Peter, and his real dog, have been keeping a low profile, especially since one of his Afghan visits drew a salute of rocket fire from the Taliban. McKay is lately rumored to have hooked-up with Sophie, the daughter of the mighty Demarais corporation ... no spring chicken but a nifty pedigree.

Friday, May 16, 2008

'Sparky ' Junior

The taser is getting a good close look in a judicial investigation that resulted from the death of a Polish visitor to Canada in Vancouver airport last fall. And the standard cast of characters is on-board to tell us all why it's such a good thing.

Just before the panel opened a high level RCMP commander permitted himself to be tasered to demonstrate that a) he could take it and b) it was perfectly harmless.

In a sop to societal sensibilities a number of police forces have introduced the concept of self-tasering in order to reassure an increasingly concerned society. But as one wag pointed out, there are some subtle differentiations. For one thing they aren't repeatedly tasered. For another, work safety requirements might include a helmet and body padding, even supportive assistants to ensure than no injuries occur. Most male policemen tend to be large individuals in fairly good health.

Needless to say the boy millionaire who thought up the actual Tommy Swift's Electric Rifle has appeared to defend his wunder-invention. His position is, 'I don't have to prove a taser is safe', I wouldn't have sold a couple of million of them if they weren't. You have to prove it's not safe'. To the boy wonder I would suggest taping the firing mechanism and inserting it rectally. The only thing more stupid, would be for police to start self-shooting.

The remarkable thing is how well these gizmos have taken-off, police wise. Every town in north America must have taser-armed peace officers by now. And for a generation raised with imaginary 'phasers set on stun', they've really sucked us in. These little gems may have increased levels of compliance, but they are the source of some significant injury and can be a cause of unintended death. Now a plethora of security people have been authorized to use them. You might just get tasered one day at the local cineplex. If they're all that shit hot, why can't they be used to discipline the kids?

Bottom line, they're not safe. They shouldn't be used by security guards and if used at all by police they should be set for a maximum of two jolts. If the police can't handle somebody when they've been tasered, the situation was probably too serious for tasering in the first place. Mind you getting tasered might just infuriate some folk, but then so might being coshed, sprayed or put in a wrestling hold. Policing has always been a risky job, that's why societies pay policemen so well and have extra protection for them in law.

A case currently in the news about the death of a non-english speaking man after a tasering by airport police on BC, begs the question. The Polish guy's mother showed up to say for him what RCMP taser agents prevented him from saying for himself. The police reacted rashly and in ignorance of the situation. The situation was the ridiculous, sadly turned into the sublime my a series of errors and bad timing. He didn't need to die and the police didn't mean for him to die, but if they'd been reasonable, and not equipped with a taser, perhaps he might still be alive. I agree with his Mother, this doesn't need to happen to someone else's son.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Cooling it. Elsewhere

Canadians are about the same as anybody else, except perhaps Russian 'gypsies', at falling afoul of the law in other parts of the world. There are, at this moment, probably a good few Canadians - more than 1700 last count, cooling their heels in foreign slammers.

A few of note: Khadr, Mohamed Kohail, Brenda Martin and Paul Neil.

Khadr, whom I've remarked on a few times, remains in Guantanamo with a tribunal pending.

Mohamed Kahil is the latest to get into trouble in the Arab world. Kahil, and his brother are Saudis educated in Canada, who returned home. At a party last summer the two were involved in a fight in which one party-goer wound-up dead. The two Canadians are among a group charged. The older brother Mohamed was convicted and sentenced to death. The Canadian government claims it can't interfere, but Saudi law being what it is, it seems a 'virt. cert.' that a 'deal' will be made and reparation paid to the dead man's family in return for a royal pardon.

Paul Neil is a former schoolteacher of English in Thailand who is currently on trial on child pornography charges. This after German police used software to un-photoshop some pictures of Neil in the throes of passion with some very minors. This looks like a 'slam dunk' as Neil posted quite a few of his conquests on pedophilic sites for a number of years, after carefully and elecronically, 'swirling' his face. No doubt the Canadian government will be bringing his sorry ass back to a warm cozy in Canada when he's convicted.

Brenda Martin in much in the news of late. She's been jailed in Guadalajara Mexico for going on three years relating to some fast-buck scheme floated by an American, who's himself doing time, at the moment, in a US penitentiary for a different scam. The story is that Brenda took a job as 'Daddy Warbucks' cook and housekeeper. He fled Mexico and forgot to take her along, so she got to hold on to  'la bolsa' while he went on the lam. The Mexicans probably have the notion that, if they hang onto somebody, they might get some of the money back. Warbucks has bravely come forward with an exculpatory statement, but, unfortunately, hasn't a clue what happened to all the pesos he swindled. Karen just about can't take it (the Mexican prison) any more, although she does manage to get a decent supply of anti-depressants. There is a rising swell of public opinion, and in public servants, that something should be done.

A recent development is a number of visits Karen has received from visiting Canadian politicos. In particular a visit she didn't receive from the Canadian Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs who was busy at a party for Canadian ex-pats in Guadalajara, but didn't have any time to go see the woman. I'd love to know how ex-pat Canadians get to know an MP is coming let alone get to go to a party in her honour. Must be a consulate in G'jara, I guess.

Anyway the MP, Helena Guergis, said something truly profound about 'visiting one, and having to visit them all' before she jetted back to a snow-covered Canada to continue to "work hard" on the case. The Mexicans have put a $500 000 price tag on Martin's freedom. Considering he stole the money in the first place, maybe her American padrone will kick in part of it. Advice to Canadians: be careful in Mexico and don't do stupid. Or go to work for los gringos ricos o locos.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Four More Years

You have to pity poor politicians. You vote on something one day, and the next day you find out it's really something else. But being as since you 'put yourself on the line' you don't want to appear stupid by calling for a reconsideration. So you just 'suck it up, put on a brave face, and these days, soldier on.' And that's just what happened in Ottawa last week.

Canada's House of Commons passed legislation extending Canada's role in Afghanistan for another three years. The bill was based on Mr. Manley's report on the Afghan situation which, though hopeful indicated some areas that needed to be addressed before Canada recommitted itself. Three salient points were to be considered.

The first was a requirement for more NATO involvement. The US has deployed a battle group of Marines to assist the Canadians in Khandahar and Helmand provinces. Whether this will satisfy the requirement remains to be seen. The Foreign Minister claimed to have been promised NATO troops. France has indicated an interest and last week Albania signaled an interest.

The second point was in regard to air resources. Helicopters are in great demand and Canada had hoped to jump the queue in getting a few more Chinooks. To date the best America can do is to provide a number of refurbished Blackhawks. It seems the new helicopters might be available to help remove Canadian military equipment if its withdrawn in 2011. Everybody's screaming for them in Afghanistan. The other item was drones - they're not available either.

The third requirement was a 'switch' in roles, over the period, to concentrate on training the Afghan police and army to take over the combat role. However that would be precluded by the necessity of security, without which training would be difficult. They have Mounties training the police - what does that tell us?

The first glimmer that anything was amiss happened the day before the vote when it was announced that military expenditure had gone a billion dollars over budget. The military budget was significantly increased, but not enough obviously to pay for keeping 5 000 pairs of Canadian boots in Afghanistan over a year. Nobody was prepared to ask about this so it was ignored and the vote went on.

The second glimmer of something amiss came two days after the vote, when it was bruited in the news that the Army was toying with the notion of extending the 6 month deployment period. Nobody had thought to bring this up during debate. One would have thought the Army's ability to sustain the mission would have been up there with the need for drone aircraft. It apparently wasn't.

But all is not gloomy, not by a darn darn sight. To-day, to celebrate with the troops, the foreign minister, the C-in-C, and a bunch of superannuated hockey stars, flew in with the Stanley Cup for a pick-up game of floor hockey. The hockey stars won, but it wasn't lost on anybody, that the Afghan mission is as much a sure thing as the Toronto Maple Leafs getting into next year's slot on the trophy. It would take a miracle - and so will Afghanistan - given the Marines, no helicopters, no drones and Taliban who haven't yet realized that Canadians are only there to help.

Sometimes, in politics, you just have to keep on keeping on, making the best of a bad situation. Good thing there aren't 'Talies' in the Press Gallery.

Update: The Poles have come up with a flight of Mil Helicopters to assist the Canucks. The Albanian and French commitments didn't materialize - at least in Khandahar. And the security situation has certainly not improved, with the Taliban summer offensive being a lot more robust than last summer's version.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Guessnocentric Learning

The Toronto School Board has decided that one way to stop young black men from shooting each other at school would be to get them all to stay in one school together and teach them an 'Afrocentric ' view of the world. And so the Board is preparing to launch its first all-black educational institution.

Not that there's anything wrong with exclusive educational institutions - the rich have had them for years. Some religious groups and organizations, too. Just look at the Army - although 2 military colleges have bitten the bullet. An all-black school might be just what's needed.

But if the bone-headed dopiness displayed by an overjoyed Director of Education is any indication, the school curriculum might be in for an interesting slant on reality. Didn't the head honcha of the Board go all deep when she gleefully reminded the media that 'eurocentric' history wasn't the only kind. Take those Spaniards who 'discovered the new world', the conquest was different from the Indians' point of view she gushed. As if the Indian point of view, if we could figure it out at a distance of 3 centuries, would change a single fact of that history. And as if any sort of school history textbook to-day would relate that story in the words of only Hernan Cortes, and not mention anything about the peoples he encountered. Bottom line, they do help kids understand what happened by looking at events from different perspectives. At the black school they might concentrate on telling the story perhaps featuring one of the Moriscos present, but once again the 'history' would be the same. Something tells me it wouldn't stop Jar-vhonn from bringing his shooter to school if he was feeling dissed, or quitting to lie-in late if his momma let him.

To be rednecked about it, letting the black kids all go to their own school might eliminate some of the racial bumpff that does on in some of the others. But next I can hear the Moslem kids starting to agitate for their schools too. A math school for Chinese, East Indian schools, Canadian Indian schools - the French already have theirs. And that should leave the polyglot Euroschools that did such a fine job of turning 'euros' into Canadians.

And what about the 'wanna-bees'? Those white kids with the baggy trouz who wantz to be bruth-ahz. Who knowz the rap and wearz da colahz? Like the M&M copyist from the Trailer Park Boys, any 'euro' who wishes may apply for the black academy. But admittance is to be determined by space availability. Now whitey will get to know what it's like at the end of the line and the back of the bus.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Lights at Night, Are Big and Bright ......

Getting to the Premier Ministre and the Ottawa fun crew.

It didn't take the Conservatives long to get 'progressive' and wind-up in a new year stink. This time about Atomic Generation and medical isotopes. It seems that sometime last year the oldest Atomic generator in Canada at Chalk River, near Ottawa, had one of two pumps on the cooling system fail.

If you're familiar with the CANDU nuclear generating design you'll know that they operate on a dual water system - heavy water is used to cool the reactor and in turn is used to heat water for steam. You'll also know it has a good safety reputation. The pump was a redundant part of the fail safe system.

One of the reasons for the safety record is, perhaps, the fact that the regulatory body looking after atomic power - the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC ), exists independent of the operator, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) a crown corporation, and, theoretically, the government. Such has been the case since Canada's atomic power systems first developed.

When apprised of the situation the NRC ordered the pump repaired. The head of the AEC ignored the work order. Until in December the NRC ordered the reactor shut down. The fur didn't start to fly until hospitals started to complain that they were running out of medical isotopes used in a variety of procedures. Chalk River is the major supplier of such isotopes.

After a quick study, and at the behest of the new head man at AECL, who also turns out to be a PC party 'bagman', the Minister of Energy overruled the NRC's safety concerns and ordered the plant back into operation. It also turns out that the whole incident last year seemed to have escaped the attention of the Minister . Being caught flat-footed, and dozing at the atomic switch, he lashed out with a good offense, at the NRC. Not for causing a problem with nuclear energy, but for causing a problem in the health system. The head of the NRC had the temerity to remind him that nuclear safety was the only task within the purview of her commission, the isotopes were the bailiwick of AECL.

Well, you shouldn't tell an uninformed minister such as this and she, consequentially, got her walking papers three days ago. The plot is just starting to bubble as nobody in the current government visits the rest room without the imprimatur of the 'Lone Ranger'. If it hadn't been for the Liberal leaders Marcel Dion and Mike Ignatieff coming back from a visit to Afghanistan with an epiphany about NATO invading Pakistan, Harper might have been beaten around the head and ears for suffering fools lightly. He still might be, after he gets finished laughing at Gunga Dion and his wanting to march on the Paks to re-take the Khyber Pass.

The isotopes are flowing again, and the pump's not repaired. If there's a blue green glow in the northern sky it might be the Aurora Borealis, or it might be a super isotope. Or it might be more Ottawa ballistics.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Boyz are Back in Town

Actually they never left. or they never grew up, or something. Juvenility is rampant in our society and I imagine that's because the notion of 'hard' work, or physical labour, in foreign to us. Academics, and indoor endeavors might hone some fine marketing skills, but they feed the little boy in all of us. That wouldn't be so bad, but men in our society, if they aren't engaged in building something, generally keep themselves busy by wrecking something.

To wit, the news.

To-day in the paper a front page story relates the experience of two former 'honchas' of the Bell Communications company who are engaged in a legal dispute over what they claim is rampant sexism at that corporation. Now these two gals weren't at the front line customer assistance level, they were the six figure income types of 'power dames'. What they claim happened is rooted in some sort of 'Peter Pan' male bondo exercises at Ma Bell. Case in point a weekend experience that had the boys explore their manly sides in some martial arts grappling. Trouble was they forgot to tell the girls, who were expected to participate, not to be wearing the standard female 'power outfit'. After facing off against each other, the girls put their foot down at facing off with the he-men. (Or rather they claimed to have hurt themselves - some coy female defensiveness.) They also claim they were shut out of office drinking sessions - God knows why they wanted to hang out with a bunch of macho drunks - and were exposed to foul language - including a "Go f**k yourself" uttered by one potty mouth at a 'meeting'. My pension fund is thinking of buying the company these sophomoric idiots are running. The gals were 'let go' with a year's salary apiece. I'll keep tabs on their lawsuit.

A second story to-day comes from the automotive sector. Depending on what you're doing, or on your mental capacity, sometimes warning signals can be overlooked or misinterpreted. And so they seem to have been by the 'boyz' who market the automobile. What other industry is so tied up in adolescent yearning? Not only do these birds get to live out a fantasy, they get paid for it. And so it doesn't come as any great surprise that, having come off one of the worst years in decades for auto sales, the mavens of marketing pull out all the stops and go 'hog' wild. Well in this case more like 'cow' wild. They rolled out the '08 - or would that be '09 - pickup trucks with a quasi rodeo of Texas cowboys, broncos and longhorn cattle. Said one cowpoke, "The cattle stay close to the trucks because that's what they get fed off."

That should be great tag line for advertising to the road warriors whose tonneau-covered monster trucks never see dust, let alone a bale of hay. You can't sell a $70 000 velour and leather pick-up to some guy who thinks it's like a rolling bordello, unless he thinks Matt Dillion would be using it to let Miss Kitty polish his pistol. The modern, fully-automated farmer might like it if had a GPS and a wireless computer hook-up - as would a Bay Street lawyer with a fondness for Australian rain gear, or an investment house heavyweight looking for a hobby farm vehicle. The old-fashioned farmer, or anybody who'd actually use a pick-up would be more concerned with price and durability. Obviously there aren't many of the latter, or the marketing boys don't have any truck with them.

So the great hope is that another 'Peter Pan' experience will turn the industry around. Somehow I don't think so because the 'Peter Pans' who should be buying, are finding themselves looking for alternative employment after doing a 'Neverland' on some bad mortgage risks and, possibly, bringing down the whole economy. But what the hell, there are still cops working.*****

A final instance of the 'Peter Pan' syndrome comes from the recently released report on violence in Toronto schools. This report was engendered after the shooting of a 13 year-old at a Toronto High School last year. The 'gun' is being blamed for all the problems relating to violence. But there are some other things - I call them the 'Peter Pan' factors that could have more to do with that. First some history. Virtually no Christmas in the ancient days, went by without the juvenile males getting a set of pistols from Santa under the tree. The Saturday afternoon oaters displayed gunfire in a series of 'wingings' and the rare dramatized dropping of an outlaw. Repeated play consisted of imaginary shootings accompanied with blood curdling sound effects and 'gotchas', but engendered no great desire to snuff a playmate. Real guns were not toys. Nowadays the gun is banned, but television, film and video game brings a steady stream slo-mo blood- drenched bullet impacts on the vile 'enemy'. Cowboys and Indians are taboo, but first-person shooters against a host of communicative protagonists are popular. Paintball pitches and sales are growing notably, they're even marketed for some of that corporate team-building noted above. Guns, if available, are only the real kind and are used to enhance the macho.

Meanwhile the 'macho' is, more increasingly common in a growing number of momma's boys and little princes who are 'protected and mollycoddled' by single moms with their own issues. By the time they grow 'nads' in the Ali G style, they're most likely well to the way to being a total loss to their Moms, mommas, babies and society in general. Well-grounded in the notion that work is for 'suckas' and that they'll get by by talking dirty and hanging with a posse. Schools are in a tough spot, trying to sell these 'boyz' something they don't want to buy and keeping them off the street while trying to stop them from doing what they want to do to everybody else. Actually trying to deal with them can 'get you into trouble', with irate, racially over-sensitive Mommies and a hierarchy that would prefer you didn't 'cause trouble' especially of the cultural mosaic kind. Teachers have to deal with it on the front line, many do it admirably and some do it by remaining uninvolved. Administrators tend to depend on the 'book' and the theoretical and are more sensitive to the politics of the issue rather than the practical. When it comes to 'boyz' and guns, both should be licensed and registered. Being caught with an unregistered gun should get a sentence at hard labour - no exceptions, like drinking and driving is supposed to be. Because shooting somebody, even by accident, is, in my opinion, worse than hitting them with a car. Guns have only one purpose, cars can be used for a number of things.

Guns and trucks and women might be immediate presentiments but the problem of 'boyz' in powerful places will remain until there's a societal change. Probably of the catastrophic kind.

***** In June GM announced it was closing its Oshawa truck plant. Poor sales. Go figure.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

And a Happy New Year

Because we don't know, or, more appropriately aren't sure about what's going to happen, new year's cogitations are usually focussed on the 'I'm gonna', rather than the 'wha' happened?'.

Resolving to do something about the 'glandular condition' that caused a massive weight gain, or intending to stop entertaining 'gennamum callers' after giving birth to your eighth bastard child, might be laudable aspirations, but a good hard look at preexisting conditions might be more sensible.

For organizations as well as people.

Police, the darlin' boys in blue, have no monopoly on foibles. The recent holiday and its spate of 'ride checks' has proved what the Liquor and Gaming commission already knew: people are drinking more. Concurrent with that, they're driving their cars. Alcohol sales and driving offenses are up!

So out of the swirling blizzard comes MADD, fresh from an embarrassing financial fiasco, their mandate again crystal clear. They're on the road to 'zero tolerance' - a wonderful old police catchphrase. A voice from the wilderness crying dulcet tones on the enforcement ear about increased policing to "prevent" drunk driving completely. That means money, and more cops and that could only be good. Why is that news so good?

Forgetting, for a mo, the plaintive cries of being short-staffed and not being able to catch all the boozed-up perps, the boys in blue now want to enforce a weather driving law! They have a law to stop drunks, a new law to stop street racers, along with all the other HTA malefactions and now they want one that will allow them to turn their throbbing corns and bunions into court proceedings.

Along with blood alcohol levels and quantum physics they're going to become expert at weather and driving conditions. Now, mind you. they're out there, or not - if they've closed the road. But trying to get a road condition report from police is no longer a provided 'service', and whatever information they might provide to the Department of Transport must be passing through some significant security clearances, considering its usual relevance to current conditions.

Julian 'they named a calendar after him' Fantino, Ontario's "top cop", may be soft-pedaling the stand-off at Caledonia (, or winding down his watch-on-the-park at Ipperwash, but he's out on the front lines with the seasonal RIDE checks. Not only that, he's crying the blues about how it takes two officers off the checkpoint to process a drunk, book him and dot those P's and Q's that shyster lawyers all too often get kicked out of court. The LAW needs some toughening IHHO.

He'd probably like something more akin to the 'automatic' 12 hour suspension the law provides for anybody drinking and driving, period - never mind being impaired. The car gets impounded - often involving towing and storage fees, you get a cab ride, or two - the second to retrieve your license from the station, on your way to the impound yard. All without any judicial hearing, charges, or a 'day in court'. Much akin to that old-time police 'kick-in-the-ass', instant payback for breaking the law. One could only imagine what Julian would like. Iraqi-style detention, anyone? PS those 'instant suspensions' were way up- more than DUI, probably to keep the manpower at the checkpoints. I wonder who did get 'charged'? The obviously drunk, or the guys with the 'bad' attitude - either way they're in for some 'serious' monetary expense.

As last year fades into the distance. The National police wish they were coming from a better place. They were chosen the most newsworthy of the past year and not for good stuff.

Two cartoons, among the many highlight their plight.

Harper and the blue ribbon boys next. 'Harpy' new year )*(!