Saturday, April 10, 2010

And the Pols Come Tumblin' Down

Steve Harper pulled the rug out from under his Minsiteress for the Status of Women - Helena Guergis - last night, and not without lots of good reasons and not before her time. One of Harper's cabinet skanks, Helena, and her 'bozo' Karim Abdul  - ex future prime-ministerial material - Jaffar have been getting it in the neck from the Libs and the press for some while now.

They've  been 'picked on' - but not without some substantially stupid input from themselves.

Looking like something out of a Bollywood spectacular, the 'Sheik of Araby' swept single mom Guergis off her size 10's and merged them into Ottawa's 'ultimate power couple'. In a town full of cheap rugs, dentures and hairplugs, Guergis and Jaffar hit the scene like Wayne and Schuster hit the Sullivan Show.  Except they weren't kidding.
Rahim Jaffar was the first to start to melt. On his 4th shift as an Edmonton MP, Jaffar was knocked-off by an NDP lightweight. Maybe his riding got the message that 'on the way up' meant he didn't have time to do his basic job. The second nail in his coffin resulted from a police spot check in his home area of Caledon, Ont. That stop resulted in serious charges of drunk driving and possession of cocaine. For a guy who took delight in accusing other pols of being 'soft on drugs', Jaffar was apparently in a bind. Never fear however! The episode cost him an admission that he was driving carelessly and a fine of $500.00. The drug and drunk charges were dropped.

That must have pissed a lot of people off and so, when the story of what Jaffar had been doing earlier on the night he was stopped came to light, the 'hue and cry ' was on again. It seems the young man on his way up had become a shill for the 'green industry' offering his services and knowledge of government,  to make sure his clients were steered toward the proper teats for government largesse. His business web site even bore the PC party logo until it was removed after the story came to light. Influence peddling would be an apt descriptor. And the smell attaching to the business 'clients' he was meeting that night was stronger than pungent week-old babaganouche and beer butts.

Helena was only slightly smarter. Her first gaffe occurred during an annoying airport security thing in PEI. She took offense to having to to remove her power boots and wigged-out on the staff. After the apology for that,  next thing was a series of letters to the editor praising her public probity and innate brilliance. They were written by her staff - without her knowledge of course. That is natural:

" Geez, Clarice, the electorate thinks I'm an asshole!"
" No boss, I know that to be untrue. You are hard-working and diligent.. I won't tell you that I will be spending my lunch, speaking truth to the power of the media."

Perhaps it was the thought that Jaffar was serious about his ability to make cabinet contacts for business on the mooch. He was cohabiting with one. That he was brazen enough to carry on as such, and that she was either naive enough, or cupiditous enough, to let him, explains why, after being removed from caucus she, and he, are the subject of a police investigation.

But the PC's aren't cruel by nature. There's her pension to think about. And why make a martyr out of one of your own? The day might well come when it's another Tory's business being sniffed, and one wouldn't want to set any nasty precedent.

Pervs and Perps

Big in the news this Easter is the scandal of pedophilia in the Catholic Church. That's the way it's described and the way most people seem to understand it, but the story should be reported as the problem with the way the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy has dealt with pedophilia in the Church. Statistically, there probably isn't as much of a problem with pedophilia as there might be in a less select population. But there have been some clergy with that propensity, and the way they have been 'dealt with' is now coming to light.

I would imagine a contrite Catholic pedophile, like a contrite murderer, or thief, or other sinner, coming for the absolution of the confessional, and receiving the same conditional absolution as any other penitent. The conditional part lies in the penance part. For, in most cases of sin, sorrow, atonement and restitution, if possible, as well as the firm intention to avoid such sin again, lie at the heart of forgiveness. A thief wouldn't get a 'by' to keep his ill-gotten gains; even if they were already disposed of,  restitution to the offended party remains part of the penance. In like manner, a civil penalty might also be inflicted. A murderer, say, while protected by the privilege of the confessional, would not find forgiveness until he surrendered and confessed to the law. Other than that, there is no real contrition. That someone might suffer from an illness causal to the behavior is not the bailiwick of the confessor, although knowledge of such would enhance the penitential aspect. The onus for forgiveness lies with the confessed, not the confessor. In like manner a pedophile seeking absolution would have more than the confessional dialogue to work through. A course of spiritual development to ensure there is no repetition, even a legal process, should be de rigeur.

That such Catholic pedophiles were part of the Holy Office adds another dimension. Such a moral failure in the light of whatever stresses of the vocation might have caused it, does not reduce the severity of it. Unlike a sexual dalliance with an adult, a relationship that uses children lies outside the pale, both social and theoretically, of the Curia. That such an individual might find absolution is understandable. That such an individual would be returned to his milieu without a rigorous moral reindoctrination, is simplistic at best, ludicrous at worst. The strength of the Holy Spirit lies in avoiding occasions of sin, not so much in an absence of recidivism. One failure should be all that is tolerated in terms of a failure of celibacy, no failure should be tolerated if it involves a child. Such a man might continue to serve as priest but not in the society of those who evoke his weakness. Not so much for his good, as for theirs.

But that doesn't seem to have happened in the church. The people have known of these things, and have been scandalized by these things but the hierarchy has been on the 'hush'! Those making complaint have been silenced by threat or blandishment. Those offended against have been reoffended by blame. Those weak vessels have been 'passed on' to other situations with no warnings or cautions. And some have reoffended without effective sanction either from religious, or lay powers. This is unacceptable and requiring acknowledgement and action.

The hierarchy of the church remains on the 'hush'. Refusing to submit to what it calls 'gossip' and refusing to examine what has gone on. In doing so, the hierarchy wounds the Body of Christ. The People of God are called to trust, not in the Divine Providence, but in the continued direction of those who have so abjectly failed in their Pastoral  duties. In a misguided attempt to maintain the majesty of the 'unblemished Bride of Christ', they have ministered to the wolf and ignored their flock. This lack is telling on the face of the Holy Father. He looks worn and haggard. If he failed as bishop he should acknowledge his failure and seek forgiveness. They say that confession is good for the soul, his too.

Like all confessions it need not be public. But what needs to be public is the church's condemnation of those who knowingly cause the little ones to sin. Jesus did no less.

Monday, April 05, 2010


Since Leni Riefenstahl put the nascent Third Reich on the map with "Triumph of the Will' back in the thirties, the documentary has maintained itself, not only as a form of propaganda but as an art form. That Mother Earth continues to have her troubles has only provided more opportunity for the cameraman - read to-day 'photo journalist'- to point the enlightening lens at things, that in years past, would have remained hidden. If the picture tells a thousand-word tale, then film or video can relate a saga. Where a picture can be staged, or edited or altered, live video is far more difficult (but not impossible) to fake. Particularly when it is taken in real time, out of doors.

How many world events have been affected by a photo, or by video? The assassination of a president captured by the home movie of an on-looker affected a generation. The moment a bullet was fired into the head of a bound captive gave the American public the notion that the war in Vietnam was not the clean war Look, Life  and National Geographic had been selling them. A host of live video in years to follow helped belie the claims of victory and a light in the tunnel. Vietnam was lost on the 6 o'clock news.

The lessons haven't been lost on the warfighters. 'Bad' - read a free and open - press can can damage a war effort by uncovering the bullshit with which such activity is normally festooned. And so, to-day, 'information operations' are every bit as important as strategy and tactics, for information often sets the stage, or defines and directs it.

One of the present's more notable 'information efforts' gone awry involves Fox News and retired Col. (and hero of the Contra wars) Oliver North. Two years back, Ollie , on a tour of western Afghanistan with a Fox News team in tow, had the opportunity to accompany a special forces unit on a raid on Afghan insurgents. The midnight visitation and the ensuing six hour 'battle' was, apparently, captured for posterity by the Fox News team. In the light of the next day the mistakes began to appear. The first was the large numbers of insurgent women and children killed in the Afghan compound, bombed by NATO aircraft after the raiders had reported being fired upon. Oliver North was among the first eyewitnesses denying that any women and children had been killed in a firefight with 'massive numbers' of insurgents. Unfortunately the Afghans had cameras too, and, within a day, UN representatives were documenting the carnage as well. It turned out, after initial denials and a lengthy investigation, that there had been some 'bad intel' that resulted in the deaths of 80 plus Afghans gathered for a family celebration. To add insult to injury, the dead male Afghans formed the main part of a native defense force contracted to guard a nearby US air base. Needless to say the video that would have corroborated Ollie's version of the incident was never released. The UN's photos were.

A case currently before a military court in the States was the subject of the movie 'Haditha'. A Marine sergeant is currently on trial for the manslaughter of a dozen or so Iraqis in a 'battle' that started when an American force, that had been 'frustrated' by insurgents hiding among the residents of the town, were struck by an IED which killed one of them. Shortly afterward, a car full of  'insurgents' (who later turned out to be university students) happened on to the scene. While these were being marshaled for interrogation, the Marines claimed they were fired-upon from a nearby house. When the six Iraqi men from the car started to flee. The sharpshooting Sgt. managed to drop every one of them. His unit then tackled the unseen insurgents hiding in the house. 'Prepping with hand grenades' as they went, the Marines 'fought' a room-to-room battle through one house and into two others in  pursuit of insurgents whom they never managed to see but still managed to engage. What they did engage however were a number of women, children and old men, only two of whom, a young brother and sister survived. The Marines suffered no casualties from all the reported gunfire. The movie portrayed the tale sympathetically as young men frustrated by war doing a little too much that left them shocked. The photos taken at the scene by one of the Marines, as well as an official record made the next day by a Marine photographer, and the concommittent photos and video released by the Iraqis, gave the impression that there was a good amount of latitude in the battle report and possibly some staging in the pictures. A photo of the first six dead shows them lying in a group near their car, they must have revivified for a later picture shows the corpses scattered.  The dead in the houses demonstrate the effect of the grenade prep, but some of the corpses showed an interesting pattern of  'accidental' gunshots, many between the eyes. To date charges have been withdrawn against all others involved.

There are some good documentaries out recently. An English photojournalist called Ross Kemp has done some excellent work with British forces in Afghanistan, an honest look at the life of a soldier. He has also done a couple of good recent programs on Gaza and Israel.

'The Lionesses' takes an unvarnished look at a handful US army women who were seconded to the Marines to assist in security problems involving female Iraqis. It depicts the unifying perspective of military service to the country as a public good, while making note of the fact that such service often derives from economic necessity and, in the case of such women, can be more destabilizing of family life and equally as traumatic on a personal level. The "Lionesses" were an afterthought in the cakewalk that turned into the Iraq of to-day.

An HBO effort 'Baghdad High' made in 2007 lets 4 Iraqi high-schoolers tell part of their story through the use of video cameras loaned to let them document their lives. Along with the normal high school existence - friends and studies, interests and loves, there is the backdrop of a Baghdad spinning out of control where the air is filled with the train-roar of helicopter engines. Shooting and explosions happen all too regularly and the increasing danger leads to increased security measures - even at school with some of the boys considering leaving school altogether. At the end of the film we are told that two boys have graduated and one of them is at university, the other can't afford it.  Of the others one has failed and quit, the fourth is repeating his year. Amazing that these young men are so  much like ourselves.

'Taxi to the dark Side' is a classic of the genre. A docudrama,  the film tells the story of  one Afghan, who through a fluke of fate and location, winds up a suspected insurgent in Bagram prison. The experience there was to take his life. But the investigation that resulted opened the book on the 'enhanced interrogation techniques' that also sullied the Iraq experience.

'Brothers in War' tells the story of a young American Army officer and his 'photo-journalist ' brother who follows him to Iraq to document his service there. The story also explores the relationships on the home front with parents, wives, families and girlfriends.

If the Vietnam war was well-documented - indeed as as claimed, 'lost' by the negative images it generated, then the 'Asian Wars' of the new millennium, too, will have their tales to tell. With the exception that, if they are lost, the loss can't be laid at the doorstep of a society misled by an antagonistic press.