Thursday, April 30, 2009

British Leave Iraq: Not With a Bang

I confess I had almost forgotten that the UK were still in Iraq. At the height of their commitment, they had 46,000 troops over there. It's perhaps too early yet to reflect on their role over there but I get a sense of emptiness. Britain ends combat operations in Iraq
"They will always be remembered for the service they have given. Our country owes them a huge debt of gratitude," [Prime Minster Gordon] Brown said.

Brown, who supported predecessor Tony Blair's decision to join the invasion, defended Britain's military mission, saying it had helped to bring new opportunities for Iraq's people.

"Today Iraq is a success story. We owe much of that to the efforts of British troops. Our mission has not always been an easy one; many have said that we would fail," he told reporters.
Not exactly stirring words, considering how controversial this issue was over there. It was a deeply unpopular war and remains so.

If/when the US withdraw, let's hope the occasion is this dull. Not another helicopters on the embassy roof situation.

Lunch Companion

Found this little fellow on the balcony today. I didn't have the heart to chase him away.

Nixonian Quote of the Day

The United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates our obligations under the Convention Against Torture, and so by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture."
-Condoleezza Rice (details)

Pandemic of Pig Pictures

Every newspaper, magazine, and tv newscast that I've looked at in the last few days, provides you with photos or video clips of pigs. You know, because it's Swine Flu.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Official Bilingualism Charade Travels to Vancouver

Good Grief! MPs worry Olympics will be lost in translation

Gauthier acknowledged things got off to a shaky start following a ceremony marking the one-year countdown to the Games that was criticized because of a lack of French.

"There were some francophone activities that evening but not enough and effectively it has allowed us to increase our monitoring to ensure that it doesn't happen again," Gauthier said after his appearance at the official languages committee of the House of Commons.

MPs from the Liberals, the Bloc Québécois and the New Democrats expressed concerns about whether tourism information, signs and billboards in the city and broadcasting would be offered to francophones in town for the events.

Vancouver is an English city. These directives are from Quebec, which is an officially unilingual French province 3500 km away.

Hat tip: Strack Attack, who adds: Open the wallet and spend a few million to fix this emergency!

China the New Mercantilist Power

While American and western powers are attempting money draining projects like nation building, and Global Warming prevention; the Chinese are gobbling up natural resources. Carl Mortished in The Times Online reports on the shopping spree:
This is the moment that China has been waiting for - global financial mayhem, commodity price weakness, governments in disarray and a war chest of $2trillion in foreign currency reserves. Recession has not distracted the officials who manage China's sovereign wealth funds. Half of China's oil is imported and the need will rise to two thirds by 2020. This is the time to buy cheap reserves of oil, gas, copper and iron ore and they are busy scooping up every spare tonne, ounce, barrel within reach.

In February China propped up the finances of Russia's debt-burdened oil exporters with $25billion in loans secured against 20 years of oil exports. China is promised 300,000 barrels per day and included in the deal is a new pipeline that will deliver crude to China's northern refineries. In the same week, China agreed a similar credit-for-oil deal with Brazil under which Petrobras, the Brazilian state oil company, would receive $10billion in loans in return for delivery of up to 100,000 barrels a day to Sinopec and 60,000 barrels per day to PetroChina.
Every day, by increments, the real power of the world shifts to the east.

Taliban Spreading: Pakistani Army Play Pinochle in Barracks

The ridiculous theatre continues as the US pay $2 billion in military a year to Pakistan to fight the Taliban, and they in turn, pretend to. Even Time magazine is writing sarcastic headlines: Pakistan Pushes Back Against the Taliban. But How Far?
Pressed by Washington and by public opinion in Pakistan, the government made clear in negotiations with the Taliban that it could not tolerate them extending their authority beyond Swat - and the militants staged their photo-opportunity withdrawal. But, as TIME reported earlier this week, scores of fighters remained visible in the valley. "After the government's repeated warnings, only a symbolic withdrawal was made," said Gen. Abbas. The militants simply scaled down their visible presence and removed their checkpoints, but continued to recruit locals to be sent for training in Swat.
This is one of the great scams of all time.

Great Ezra Levant Interview

Ezra at his best on a CBC radio interview. If you want to understand the Canadian and Provincial Human Rights Commissions farce clearly, listen to this. Scroll to Part 2.

via: Ezra Levant

A Failure to be Happy About

The Yankees are finding out that charging $2500 for seats to a baseball game isn't a huge seller.
Twelve days after opening their new stadium, the Yankees on Tuesday bowed to the sour economy and the specter of empty seats by slashing in half some of their top-end, $2,500-a-game prices.


But back then, still two weeks before the home opener, [Hank] Steinbrenner could not have anticipated the empty swaths of blue seats that were supposed to be filled with people willing to pay $500, $600, $850, $1,250 or $2,500 a game for a premium seat.

Steinbrenner announced the new ticket policy in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. Neither he nor Levine was available to comment on the new policy. Nor was Lonn Trost, the team’s chief operating officer and the Yankee executive most identified with the initial ticket strategy.
$2500 to see a single baseball game. I don't know if this would have worked, even if the economy didn't go bust.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Alarm Bells In Europe

A surprisingly candid and hard hitting op-ed by Bruce Bawer in the Wall Street Journal. Heirs to Fortuyn?

Yet instead of encouraging these immigrants to integrate and become part of their new societies, Western Europe's governments have allowed them to form self-segregating parallel societies run more or less according to Shariah. Many of the residents of these patriarchal enclaves subsist on government benefits, speak the language of their adopted country poorly or not at all, despise pluralistic democracy, look forward to Europe's incorporation into the House of Islam, and support—at least in spirit—terrorism against the West. A 2006 Sunday Telegraph poll, for example, showed that 40% of British Muslims wanted Shariah in Britain, 14% approved of attacks on Danish embassies in retribution for the famous Mohammed cartoons, 13% supported violence against those who insulted Islam, and 20% sympathized with the July 2005 London bombers.

Too often, such attitudes find their way into practice. Ubiquitous youth gangs, contemptuous of infidels, have made European cities increasingly dangerous for non-Muslims—especially women, Jews and gays. In 2001, 65% of rapes in Norway were committed by what the country's police call "non-Western" men—a category consisting overwhelmingly of Muslims, who make up just 2% of that country's population. In 2005, 82% of crimes in Copenhagen were committed by members of immigrant groups, the majority of them Muslims.

Non-Muslims aren't the only targets of Muslim violence. A mountain of evidence suggests that the rates of domestic abuse in these enclaves are astronomical. In Germany, reports Der Spiegel, "a disproportionately high percentage of women who flee to women's shelters are Muslim"; in 2006, 56% of the women at Norwegian shelters were of foreign origin; Deborah Scroggins wrote in The Nation in 2005 that "Muslims make up only 5.5 percent of the Dutch population, but they account for more than half the women in battered women's shelters." Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-Dutch advocate for democracy and women's rights, would no doubt say far more than half: When she was working with women in Dutch shelters, she writes, "there were hardly any white women" in them, "only women from Morocco, from Turkey, from Afghanistan—Muslim countries—alongside some Hindu women from Surinam." When she and filmmaker Theo van Gogh tried to highlight the mistreatment of women under Islam in the 2004 film "Submission: Part I," he was killed by a young Muslim extremist.


The past few decades in Europe have made three things crystal-clear. First, social-democratic welfare systems work best, to the extent they do work, in ethnically and culturally homogeneous (and preferably small) nations whose citizens, viewing one another as members of an extended family, are loath to exploit government provisions for the needy. Second, the best way to destroy such welfare systems is to take in large numbers of immigrants from poor, oppressive and corruption-ridden societies, whose rule of the road is to grab everything you can get your hands on. And third, the system will be wiped out even faster if many of those immigrants are fundamentalist Muslims who view bankrupting the West as a contribution to jihad. Add to all this the growing power of an unelected European Union bureaucracy that has encouraged Muslim immigration and taken steps to punish criticism of it—criminalizing "incitement of racism, xenophobia or hatred against a racial, ethnic or religious group" in 2007, for example—and you can start to understand why Western Europeans who prize their freedoms are resisting the so-called leadership of their see-no-evil elites.

Read the whole thing. A very important article on many levels.

Personal Responsibility Watch

Seriously, who reads this and approves? Man sues Quebec lottery for letting him gamble

Kent Glowinski says the Quebec lottery society, which owns and operates Quebec casinos, should be held liable for continuing to let him into the casino.

Glowinski says he spent $80,000 playing blackjack at the casino until he stopped gambling last year.

"We acknowledge compulsive gambling and pathological gambling exists, but then (people argue) 'well, it's all about personal responsibility. You chose to come in here'," he said.

"(But) it goes right down to: What is pathological gambling? It is an uncontrollable urge to bet. Uncontrollable."

Sorry buddy, but it is controllable. Stop wasting everybody's time.

Boondoggle Building Off to a Bad Start

The unecessary, expensive, ugly blight on the waterfront, otherwise known Vancouver Convention Centre has been flooded. (CBC)
A water leak at Vancouver's new convention centre has flooded two levels of the mammoth building, damaging the flooring and forcing 1,000 delegates of a Public Service Alliance of Canada convention out onto the street.

The PSAC convention was supposed to be just the second event at the new convention centre, but just before the annual meeting kicked off Monday morning, the delegates got an unwelcome surprise.


The Vancouver Convention Centre was opened earlier this month at a cost of nearly $900 million, and is slated to be the main international press centre and broadcast facility during the upcoming 2010 Winter Games in February.

Good thing it was only the PSAC who were inconvenienced, since they spend their lives doing that to us. Probably a few bureaucrats in there that signed off on this monster.

Beeston Disingenuous

Former Blue Jays president is "shocked' at allegations that Roger Clemens took steroids when he was with the team. New dirt being dished on Clemens

Blue Jays interim CEO Paul Beeston, who was president of the club at the time, remembers Clemens only as "a tremendous person" and says he had no inkling of possible steroid use.

Asked yesterday if he was shocked, Beeston replied, "Yeah, to be honest with you."

The guy was 10-13 in 1996, his last year in Boston. He was washed up. (His last three seasons for the Sox were sluggish with a 39-40 record.) I remember thinking the Jays got suckered for signing him, based on his past glories. He suddenly turns it around. At 34 and 35 wins two consecutive Cy Young awards. (Overall record 41-13) And Beeston is shocked that he was taking performance enhancing drugs. Please.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hitchens: Disgrace and Incompetence at the CIA

I've been waiting to see what Christopher Hitchens was going to say about the torture memos. He comes out punching in Slate.

Here is a seldom-mentioned reason why the CIA might go crazy in this way, to the point where even the FBI and other agencies were cripplingly (for us) reluctant to cooperate with it. On 9/11, according to Bob Woodward, George Tenet audibly hoped that the suicide-murderers of al-Qaida were not connected to the shady-looking pupils at those flight schools in the Midwest. The schools, that is to say, about which only the CIA knew! In other words, and not for the first time, the CIA (which disbelieved the evidence of Saddam's plan to attack Kuwait in 1990 and continually excused him as a "secularist") had left us defenseless and ignorant. Unprofessional and hysterical methods of interrogation, therefore, were unleashed in part to overcompensate for—and to cover up—a general lack of professionalism at every level of the agency from the top down. The case for closing and padlocking Langley and starting all over again with an attempt at a serious national intelligence body becomes more persuasive by the day.


... But if this emergency rule-bending is then institutionalized, and kept a secret from Congress and the courts and the voters, and becomes a regular bureaucratic practice known only to an unelected and unaccountable few, then you have created a secret state within the state and are well on the road to becoming a banana republic. The next stage, very often, is that certain inconveniently damaged secret prisoners have to be made to "disappear," as in the death-squad regimes of Latin America in the days when the CIA ruled that roost as well. I am very much afraid that this will be the next awful disclosure we read about.

Definitely read the whole thing. I think Hitchens had the one of the most salient point after 9-11: Why wasn't anybody in the intelligence community fired? Reading this now in 2009, the situation has festered to a point where the country has almost lost control of the CIA by the democratic government. How many more disgraces are to come?

Red Sox Steals Home

Is there a more exciting play in baseball? Visions of Jackie Robinson. Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury this past weekend.

This Was Easy To Predict

The Endless War continues on. Reports the New York Times: Exceptions to Iraq Deadline Are Proposed

BAGHDAD — The United States and Iraq will begin negotiating possible exceptions to the June 30 deadline for withdrawing American combat troops from Iraqi cities, focusing on the troubled northern city of Mosul, according to military officials. Some parts of Baghdad also will still have combat troops.

Everywhere else, the withdrawal of United States combat troops from all Iraqi cities and towns is on schedule to finish by the June 30 deadline, and in many cases even earlier. But because of the level of insurgent activity in Mosul, United States and Iraqi military officials will meet Monday to decide whether to consider the city an exception to the deadline in the Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA, between the countries.

It will be a miracle if Obama manages to withdraw the US from Iraq. There will be a million excuses such as this to keep them there. It will take guts for Obama to live up to his promise, something we haven't seen from him yet.

Nation Building Ideal Almost Lost

Pulling out of Afghanistan is gaining support on the right. Here's Diana West in at the ultra-neo-conservative Townhall: Let Afghanistan Go
I decided to ask someone with real military experience how we could fend off jihad without further digging ourselves into Central Asia. I called up retired Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, one of the few top military leaders who talks on the record, to ask for his strategy recommendation for Afghanistan.

"Basically, let it go," he said.

Let Afghanistan go -- music to my ears, particularly given the source is no Hate-America-First professor or Moveon-dot-org-nik, but a lifelong patriotic conservative warrior. "There's nothing to win there," he explained, engaging in an all-too-exotic display of common sense. "What do you get for it? What's the return? Well, the return's all negative for the United States."

Obama is making a huge mistake by continuing this war. I thought he was supposed to bring "change"?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

PJ O'Rourke: The Ditch Carp of Democracy

Enjoyable as always, PJ has a column in an Aussie newspaper. (here)

When charming leftists stick their nose into things they don't understand they become ratchet-jawed purveyors of monkey-doodle and baked wind. They are piddlers upon merit, beggars at the door of accomplishment, thieves of livelihood, envy coddling tax lice applauding themselves for giving away other people's money. They are the lap dogs of the poly sci-class, returning to the vomit of collectivism. They are pig herders tending that sow-who-eats-her-young, the welfare state. They are muck-dwelling bottom-feeders growing fat on the worries and disappointments of the electorate. They are the ditch carp of democracy.

We Don't Like It: But the Taliban are Popular in Pakistan

With the Taliban creeping up on Islamabad, the world is becoming concerned that Pakistan will be taken over by Islamic extremists. I wrote a few days ago that nobody in the main stream media reports as to whether the Taliban are popular or not. It seems that with everything I read, the angle of the story is like a zombie movie scenario where the Taliban are multiplying by contagion to the unwitting, and unwilling populace.

Google makes things easy and I came upon this article from the Guardian. The Taliban and Islamic Law are popular in the "tribal" areas.
Though there is strong support for better female access to health and education, there was profound reluctance among the largely male survey respondents to empower women more generally, with 67% supporting "honour killings". Over 50% of those polled believed Islamic law brought peace to the region and only 3.6%considered the Taliban to be terrorists.

This is appalling, but not surprising. The western, liberal lifestyle is rejected over there. Let's stop acting disingenuous.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


German compound word for a 'face that should be slapped'. I can't watch Meet the Press with this guy.

A Big Day on the Sports Calendar

NFL junkies get a taste today with the Draft. I'll also be flicking back to three hockey games. The decline of western civilization is going to have to go on without me blogging about it today.

UPDATE: The Detroit Lions picked Georgia QB Matt Stafford as the #1. According to Peter King he's already signed a 6 year, $72 million dollar contract. The Ford family owns the Lions. This is why Ford make crappy cars and lose billions of dollars every year. They are STOOPID!

Film Noir

Was watching late, late night Double Indemnity. It started it all, and is as good as it gets. In this clip: I love how Fred MacMurray thinks he's controlling the situation.

Friday, April 24, 2009

What the...?

February 2009: budgetary surplus of $0.8 billion

There was a budgetary surplus of $0.8 billion in February 2009, compared to a surplus of $3.0 billion in February 2008. Budgetary revenues were down $2.7 billion, or 11.9 per cent, from February 2008, largely reflecting lower corporate income tax and goods and services tax (GST) revenues. Program expenses decreased by $0.1 billion, or 0.6 per cent, compared to February 2008, largely reflecting lower operating expenses of departments and agencies. Public debt charges decreased by $0.4 billion compared to February 2008.
I'm shocked and pleasantly surprised.

via: Small Dead Animals

Just When I Thought I was Out.....

They pull me back in!


That's not your money!

The trustee attempting to unravel Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme is threatening legal action in a bid to recover a whopping $735 million from investors who unwittingly made money off the swindle.

Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee of Madoff's defunct firm, sent letters this month to 223 investors ordering them to return money they withdrew before the $64 billion scheme collapsed, The Wall Street Journal reported today on its Web site.


In the letter, Picard said he wants the money to be divided evenly among all the victims.

But lawyers representing some of those investors expressed dismay over the letters - saying they plan to challenge their legality.

It Didn't Take Long for the "C" Word to Pop Up

With news of a possible inquiry into the use of torture during the Bush administration, I was waiting for the right-wing to say: This is the criminialization of politics! It didn't take long:
Huge Hewitt: Now I introduced Ed Meese at a Heritage luncheon a couple of hours ago at the Century Plaza Hotel, and when I did that, I paused for a moment to reflect on what a radical break the Obama direction is with American history. When Reagan arrives, he doesn’t attempt to criminalize what Carter did. When W. arrives, he doesn’t attempt to criminalize what Bill Clinton did. It, in fact, he stressed continuity, did not want to look into why we were not ready for 9/11, et cetera, et cetera. This is very different, Mark Steyn, and it’s perilous. The criminalization of past political differences is something that, Mark, the Royalists and the Roundheads for years, but not America.

Mark Steyn: Right. Yeah, well in the modern era, it’s South Africa after apartheid, or Czechoslovakia after communism. And for some reason, Obama seems attracted to that model rather than simply saying well, we had an election in a two party system, in a continuous Constitutional republic that’s been doing this for two and a third centuries now, and this time instead of Party A winning, Party B winning. He could look at it like that. But as you say, the left has chosen to criminalize politics. It’s not enough to say well, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have a different view of this than we do. That’s not enough. It’s not enough. They’ve got to actually say no, it’s beyond that. Dick Cheney’s opinion, and George W. Bush’s opinion are criminal. And they have to be criminalized. And I think this is horribly damaging. This is horribly damaging in the most basic sense to political stability and to the functioning of a two party system.
The remaining apologists used to say the same thing about the treatment of Nixon.

Note: They didn't mention the legal proceedings against Clinton while he was in office.

The question if course, is did they break the law? Not their politics. Had they have gotten legislation through that lifted the ban on torture, then they are not criminal. But they didn't do that, and played a game a semantics with what officially constitutes torture.

The Glibness of Al Gore

Al Gore is testifying before Congress about a Global Warming Bill. Apparently, it's a good one, among other things:
Gore said the legislation would simultaneously solve the problems of the climate, economy and national security.
So that's it then Al? Is that all it can do?

Mortal Threat? Taliban Winning Pakistan Civil War

This is not how the Afghanistan campaign was supposed to work. The Taliban haven't been defeated and are taking over the neighbouring nuclear armed Pakistan.

Pakistan on verge of collapse
The capital of Pakistan was under threat last night after Taliban fighters threatened to overrun the volatile country and came within 60 miles of Islamabad.

It is feared the state is on the brink of collapse as Taliban fighters get closer to the nuclear powers of the country.

As violence broke out in the north-west corner of the country, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Pakistan posed a 'mortal threat' to the world.

I can't stand the coverage of this war. In the hope of de-legitimizing the Taliban, nobody is reporting whether they have popular support or not. What is the Pakistani army doing? Sitting on their ass, because they quietly support and arm the Taliban? Do they plan to fight? I can't figure it out, because the media won't say.

For goodness sakes, what does this mean? If it's a mortal threat to the world as Hillary says, why don't they explain what is going on?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Bard

April 23 is recognized as Shakespeare's birthday, back in 1564. (Nobody is 100% sure of the exact day.) In honour of the great man, I present a clip from Henry V. The French have a little joke prepared for the young English King, that does not go down very well. Here's Kenneth Branagh playing tight lipped rage.

The Olde Firm

Ontario is the New Quebec

Canada prepared to offer auto giants $6-billion in financing
The governments of Canada and Ontario are in advanced negotiations to provide unprecedented bankruptcy financing for the Canadian operations of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC.

According to people familiar with the matter, federal and provincial officials are in the final stages of discussions with the U.S. Treasury and senior auto executives toward a contribution of as much as $6-billion (U.S.) for unique cross-border financing that would see GM and Chrysler through the initial phases of creditor protection.
This vote buying boondoggle disgusts me. We're paying a bankrupt, foreign companies billions to keep producing crappy cars in Ontario, built by financially unsupportable, unskilled labour. Talk about pissing money down the drain. Throwing good money, after bad. Pardon me, while I take a few aspirin and lie down.

Ontario is the new Quebec.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Collapsing Life of Lenny Dykstra

ESPN has an incredible article by Mike Fish, on ex-Met and Phillies' great Lenny Dykstra. His business dealings can only be described as pathological. This is a gripping read. It's not an ESPN puff piece. There's too many parts to excerpt, so I won't bother. (Read the whole thing here.)

"Cops Can Take Your Stuff"

That is the name of a disturbing article in the Winnipeg Sun by Mindell Jacobs.
To the surprise of at least one legal expert, the Supreme Court of Canada last week unanimously gave the provinces incredible powers to seize assets allegedly connected to crime.

For a country that has gained the reputation, whether deserved or not, of protecting the rights of the accused over the rights of victims, it's quite an about-face.


But the police have to persuade a judge that, on a balance of probabilities, the vehicle is connected to crime. And that's much easier to show than providing evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that someone is guilty of a crime.

In other words, if the police want your car, house, money or any other assets, they can get away with it without even arresting you as long as they convince a judge something doesn't smell right. No conviction necessary.

"It's kind of scary," says Gallant, an expert in proceeds of crime, who never thought Canada would embrace such wide-ranging legislation.

While the goal -- going after assets associated with crimes like drug trafficking -- is laudatory, it's an awful lot of leeway to give the government, she says.

Once again, count me surprised at developments in Canadian Law.

Nasty Election Ad

I want Campbell and the BC Liberals win the provincial election because the alternative is the horrible NDP. Still, you have to chuckle at this ad. Credit where credit is due.

Explanation here.

Self Importance at the CBC

I'm not surprised at all to find out that the CBC has been blowing tax payer funded money on luxuries.

CBC's ritzy retreats

CBC's top executives spent more than $60,000 over six months holding meetings in luxury hotels and resorts and expensing such items as sparkling wine and limousine rides.

Documents released under Access to Information show the CBC spent at least $61,500 on nine meetings between January and June 2006.

The meetings were held according to CBC/Radio-Canada guidelines, CBC spokesman Marco Dube wrote in an e-mail. When face-to-face meetings are required, "off-site meetings are usually better to avoid disruptions."

Stays in expensive resorts topped the bill. More than $21,600 was spent sending 21 CBC and Radio-Canada human resources managers and senior executives to the ritzy Chateau Beauvallon in Mont-Tremblant, Que., for two days. The limo costs alone for one vice-president amounted to $1,009.94.

The sense of entitlement is ingrained in these people. They need a wake up call.

Hat tip: Pat who says: Another reason to hate the CBC.

Firestorm Brewing About Possible Torture Inquiry: Time to Slow Down

Major publications are reporting of support for a possible inquiry into the use of torture, that was approved by the previous administration. This is huge. The Daily Salt Shaker pleads caution.

The New York Times reports:

WASHINGTON — President Obama left the door open Tuesday to creating a bipartisan commission that would investigate the Bush administration’s use of harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects, and did not rule out action by the Justice Department against those who fashioned the legal rationale for those techniques.


But under intense pressure from Democrats on Capitol Hill and human rights organizations to investigate, the president suggested Tuesday that he would not stand in the way of a full inquiry into what he has called “a dark and painful chapter” in the nation’s history.


In an indication of the crosscurrents the president has faced in dealing with the issue, his own national intelligence director said in an internal memo last week that the now-banned interrogation methods had produced valuable information, contrary to the White House view that they had not been effective.

“High-value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the Al Qaeda organization that was attacking this country,”
Dennis C. Blair, the intelligence director, wrote to his staff last Thursday as the previously secret memos were released.


Bush administration veterans, starting with former Vice President
Dick Cheney, have argued that the harsh methods helped prevent terrorist attacks. In an interview Monday on Fox News, Mr. Cheney called for the Obama White House to release additional memos that he said showed that the techniques were useful.

“There are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity,” he said. “They have not been declassified.”

I'm going to plead humility here and say that I don't believe that an inquiry is the right thing to do at this time. There's still two ground wars going on, as well as the ongoing covert action against shifting/stateless terrorists. It's not time for a public shaming in the face of the enemy. Too much, too soon.

In the light of the terrorist attacks on 9-11, my crystal ball tells me public opinion will have less sympathy for terrorist scum that got waterboarded than top American officials who were desperate to prevent another attack. Torture is wrong, it should be stopped, it never should have happened. I agree. But, should we put an ex-President on the dock? (Because, that's what it will come to.) Think about the ramifications.

One can't help but think this is a cynical exercise by Obama to distract attention from the economy.

Now is not the time.

UPDATE: Congress would also have to answer, including Nancy Pelosi:

Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who in 2002 was the ranking Democrat on the House committee, has said in public statements that she recalls being briefed on the methods, including waterboarding. She insists, however, that the lawmakers were told only that the C.I.A. believed the methods were legal — not that they were going to be used.

By contrast, the ranking Republican on the House committee at the time, Porter
J. Goss
of Florida, who later served as C.I.A. director, recalls a clear message that the methods would be used.

“We were briefed, and we certainly understood what C.I.A. was doing,” Mr. Goss said in an interview. “Not only was there no objection, there was actually concern about whether the agency was doing enough.”

That makes me think an inquiry will never happen. Not while Pelosi is Speaker of the House.

via: Andrew Sullivan

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Canucks Advance to Round Two

A beautiful goal by Burrows for the OT winner.

Downtown there was cheering and horns honking. It wasn't crazy, but it's only the 1st round.
UPDATE: As the bars emptied, it got much noisier. Good fun.

They're Making a Movie Out of Moneyball?

Apparently so:

Moneyball will be directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, the Oakland A's GM who spun an above-par ball-team from a sub-par budget. Martin will play Paul DePodesta, a stats whiz who helps Beane devise his winning formula.

The film is an adaptation of Michael Lewis' book,
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. It will - and here's where it gets really good - reportedly also star real-life former players such as David Justice, Lenny Dykstra and Daryl Strawberry.
In the climactic final scene, Billy Beane will break out his calculator and figure out that an obscure, overweight catcher from the University of Oklamhoma will be the A's first pick in the draft based on his On Base Percentage.

I loved the book, but I can't see this as a film.

Easterbrook on the AIG Fiasco

It's not often you get the clearest financial writing from a football column, but Greg Easterbrook segues into the AIG fiasco in Tuesday Morning Quarterback today. (The link is for the entire column, scroll down to the sub headline: Regrettably, TMQ was Right About Something to find the entire AIG commentary.)
On the big outrage, of the $172 billion taxpayer-funded giveaway, we now know much of it used to cover credit-default swap debts AIG refused to honor. Large amounts went to foreign banks, such as Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale of France. AIG simply handed over payment in full, without negotiating. When AIG was days from insolvency, it should have said to Deutsche Bank and others, "If we go bankrupt, you will stand in line with all the other creditors at the bankruptcy court and be lucky to get 10 cents on the dollar. Would you accept 50 cents on the dollar to settle instead?" Negotiating with creditors to avert bankruptcy is a standard business tactic; General Motors and Chrysler have been doing this for the past few months. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, a year ago Merrill Lynch was owed credit-default swap payments by an insurer called XL Capital, and after negotiations, Merrill accepted 13 cents on the dollar.

But instead of negotiating a reduction of debt, AIG simply immediately handed over full value. After all, the money was coming from taxpayers' pockets, and when has anyone cared how much taxpayer money is wasted? Goldman Sachs was the largest single recipient of AIG's paid-in-full taxpayer-funded gift, receiving $13 billion. Merry Christmas! And now we learn that [CEO Edward] Liddy owns at least $3 million worth of Goldman Sachs stock -- whose price was shored up by the paid-in-full taxpayer gift. AIG's tax-funded gift to Goldman Sachs couldn't possibly have had anything to do with Liddy's stock, could it? The worst sin is that the Washington muckety-mucks running the tax-money giveaway team did not require AIG to negotiate down its counter-party obligations. Bernanke and Henry Paulson, who approved AIG's actions last fall, deserve to be run out of town on a rail for their irresponsibility in management of public funds. Meanwhile, can anyone imagine that if a French or Germany insurer owed money to an American bank, that the French or German governments would ever pay one single centime or pfennig, let alone cover the entire debt immediately?

Crime Syndicates Running Somali Piracy

The Independent has a fascinating article about the filthy lucre in modern piracy. Syndicates control it and it reminds me of S.P.E.C.T.R.E from James Bond novels. (Read the full article here)
The security company Idarat Maritime, which specialises in maritime protection, is working with leading Lloyd's underwriters to formulate safeguards for shippers. Christopher Ledger, a former Royal Marine officer and a director of the firm, said: "There is evidence that syndicates based in the Gulf – some in Dubai – play a significant role in the piracy which is taking place off the African coast. There are huge amounts of money involved and this gives the syndicates access to increasingly sophisticated means of moving money as well as access to modern technology in carrying out the hijackings. This is an international problem and the shipping companies need to ensure that their crews learn how to deal with it."

Investigators have discovered that the pirate gangs are exploiting information available to the shipping industry to plan their attacks. Front organisations are believed to have signed up to the Lloyd's List ship movement database, and sources such as Jane's Intelligence, to ascertain protective measures being undertaken by the shippers. In addition they have bought equipment to monitor radio traffic.

A few well-funded pirate syndicates have experimented with a "stealth" paint such as AR 1, invented by a German scientist living in the UAE, which is credited with making boats difficult to spot via the long-range radar of cargo liners.

It is not clear whether the use of the paint has been effective in helping hijackings, but its use, say the security companies, shows that the pirates are seeking out advanced technology and have the means to acquire it.

Andrew Mwangura, a piracy expert in the Kenyan port of Mombasa, says the gun-wielding Somalis who are fighting and dying in the hijackings are the just the front men of larger syndicates. "They are just the small fish. The big sharks operate out of places like Dubai, Nairobi and Mombasa," he said.

It's articles like this that make me fear the collapse of newspapers. This is fantastic journalism. Bloggers don't have the reach, nor the resources to pull this off. Kudos to The Independent.

The Best Western

Clint Eastwood reminisces on starring in the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns:
Originally Leone wanted the cowboy star Rory Calhoun for the title role, but settled for the 34-year-old Eastwood. "Because I was cheap," he laughs. "Sergio spoke very little English, and I didn't speak any Italian at that time. So we got together with an interpreter when I reached Rome. And through the interpreter – plus a lot of hand signals – we kind of got the idea." For the part of the Stranger, later dubbed by savvy American marketeers as "The Man with No Name", Leone trusted Eastwood to sort out his own wardrobe, and he duly arrived on set with a selection of hats and ponchos. "I also went out and bought a bunch of cigars that I thought would look good in a Western," he recalls. "I had no idea they'd taste so vile! But I brought those along with me and I gave them to props and we cut them all up. They were long cigars, called Virginia. I made a slew of them that I carried around in my pocket: different lengths to match up with different scenes."
To me, there's no question the The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is the greatest western ever.

I could never get into the older John Wayne/Gary Cooper films. The old timers talk about High Noon. It was a good movie but the shootout at the end was ridiculous. Gary Cooper is shot at 4000 times and never gets hit, while his single hip shots from a revolver take out individual bad guys. Grace Kelly even laughably joins the action.

No, give me Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name. (Blondie!) The anti-hero, opportunist, who is looking to make a buck. To me that represents the freedom and nihilism of the old west.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tyson Freakshow Continues

Adam Corolla's podcasts usually require a four beer minimum to listen to, but I had to tune into this bizzarre interview with Mike Tyson and Tyson documentary director James Toback. Corolla attempts to compliment Tyson on his boxing, which annoys the mad man. He also asks Tyson what he's going to do for money, and it gets tense. Toback, the documentary director compares the mind of Mike Tyson to Gaugin and Van Gogh. It makes for a strange 25 minutes of listening.

The Lost Tomb of Antony and Cleopatra

She shall be buried by her Antony:
No grave upon the earth shall clip in it
A pair so famous.

- Caesar Augustus, Act V, scene ii Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra

Coins, mummies and statues point to Cleopatra tomb

Zahi Hawass showed off the ancient treasures to journalists during a tour of a 2,000-year-old temple to the god Osiris, where they were found. He believes the site near the Mediterranean Sea contains the tomb of the doomed lovers that has been shrouded in mystery for so long.

"In my opinion, if this tomb is found, it will be one of the most important discoveries of the 21st century because of the love between Cleopatra and Mark Antony, and because of the sad story of their death," he said.

Senior US Interrogator: Torture Doesn't Work

The Daily Beast interviews a former senior US interrogator in Iraq: (read)

As the senior interrogator in Iraq for a task force charged with hunting down Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the former Al Qaida leader and mass murderer, I listened time and time again to captured foreign fighters cite the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo as their main reason for coming to Iraq to fight. Consider that 90 percent of the suicide bombers in Iraq are these foreign fighters and you can easily conclude that we have lost hundreds, if not thousands, of American lives because of our policy of torture and abuse. But that’s only the past.

Somewhere in the world there are other young Muslims who have joined Al Qaida because we tortured and abused prisoners. These men will certainly carry out future attacks against Americans, either in Iraq, Afghanistan, or possibly even here. And that’s not to mention numerous other Muslims who support Al Qaida, either financially or in other ways, because they are outraged that the United States tortured and abused Muslim prisoners.

In addition, torture and abuse has made us less safe because detainees are less likely to cooperate during interrogations if they don’t trust us. I know from having conducted hundreds of interrogations of high ranking Al Qaida members and supervising more than one thousand, that when a captured Al Qaida member sees us live up to our stated principles they are more willing to negotiate and cooperate with us. When we torture or abuse them, it hardens their resolve and reaffirms why they picked up arms.

If this person is legit, then I defer to his expertise. The argument here is whether torture is an effective technique. Obviously it isn't. When photos and evidence surfaced that the Japanese were torturing Allied soldiers, that stiffened our resolve to beat them. So why wouldn't it be the same for other people? Similarly, the Western Allies had an easier time near the end of WWII because the Germans were willing to surrender to them. They fought to the death against the Soviets, knowing that they were doomed if captured.

I've been hearing/reading many opinions that we're being too soft. These are guys that wouldn't blink to cut your head off. Their tortures make waterboarding feel like hugging Santa Claus. True enough. But that makes them the barbarians. It's a motivating tool for us. Beheading Nick Berg on camera made me mad as hell. People supported the war on terror because those extremists were so clearly the bad guys.

If the torture techniques hurt the cause, then you have no choice but to stop. We already knew this. That's the reason they were made illegal in the first place. It doesn't make us soft. It makes us smart.

UPDATE: I don't want to beat this issue to death. (No pun intended.) But here is John McCain's opinion. He doesn't agree that the memos should have been released, but makes it clear what his stance is on waterboarding and torture. Who out there can argue with him?

Hockey as it Should Be

I'm somewhat of a hockey agnostic these days. I tune in for playoffs only, and even then, not wholeheartedly. But, I've been enjoying the Pittsburgh v. Philly series. Both teams hate each other's guts and play an exciting style. Sunday's game featured great plays on offense and defense, bone crunching hits and fights. It's more than enough to keep me tuning in. In contrast, I watched my home team Canucks go up 3-0 on their series and had to fight off falling asleep on the couch.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Iggy Over-Compensates

It's pretty rich for a man in his sixties, who has lived virtually his entire adult life living abroad, to write a book about Canada called True Patriot Love. He's so patriotic, he moved back to Canada as a senior citizen!

Seriously though, who would read this? Even die hard Liberals. Maclean's reviews it:
Ignatieff proposes patriotism as the sustaining motif in this grand lineage that reaches down to him. On one level this is merely a convenient way to package campaign fodder for a man who, after all, hopes the next federal election will make him prime minister.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Send Aid Money To Somalia?

Ralph Peters has some thoughts on recent foreign policy decisions from the Obama Administration. O'S FOREIGN FOLLIES

Our president was reluctant to authorize deadly force. Against pirates, for God's sake. Then, 24 hours after the Obama White House declared "Mission Accomplished," Somali pirates attacked another US-flagged ship.

This time, the pirates used rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns -- serious firepower.

Our response? The White House didn't send our Navy after the pirates. We're content that the attack was unsuccessful, with just some combat damage to our ship. Live and let live, folks.

Then, on Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced her solution to piracy: Send your tax dollars to Somalia in foreign aid.

That's rewarding criminality. It's tribute money. We're not asking for trouble. We're on our knees begging for it.

I'm going to be away from the keyboard most of the weekend. Have a good one!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Bush Torture Memos

This is not pretty. The US has published four secret memos detailing legal justification for the Bush-era CIA interrogation programme.
Three of the documents were written in May 2005 by the then acting head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), Stephen Bradbury. They gave legal support for the combined use of various coercive techniques, and concluded that the CIA's methods were not "cruel, inhuman or degrading" under international law.

The fourth document, dating from 1 August 2002, was written by OLC lawyer John Yoo and signed by his colleague Jay Bybee.

It contained legal authorisation for a list of specific harsh interrogation techniques, including pushing detainees against a wall, facial slaps, cramped confinement, stress positions and sleep deprivation.

The memo also authorises the use of "waterboarding", or simulated drowning, and the placing of a detainee into a confined space with an insect.

Announcing the publication of the memos, Mr Obama said: "I believe that exceptional circumstances surround these memos and require their release.

"Withholding these memos would only serve to deny facts that have been in the public domain for some time," he explained.

But he also gave an assurance that "those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice... will not be subject to prosecution."


Critics of the Bush administration's interrogation programme say the memos provide evidence that many of the methods amount to torture under US and international law.

It does appear that they were breaking the law, and knowingly. I confess that I was caught up in the emotions of 9-11, like many people. Apologists sold the ticking clock theory: If a prisoner had information about an imminent attack, shouldn't we use every means possible to obtain that information and put a stop to it before it's too late? This is a powerful argument, and I certainly bought it. BUT, how many situations are actually like this? Reading some of these examples are people who didn't have knowledge of attacks and were sordidly tortured over several months.

Illegal is illegal. When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke we were told it was a bunch of rogue soldiers, who were acting on their own volition. (Which I believed at the time.) Obviously, that wasn't the case. Orders came down from the Oval Office. They were breaking the law and covering up. Whatever their justification, the administration was in the wrong.

Ultimately, if you're preaching freedom, democracy, human rights, rule of law to the Muslim world, you lose your credibility when you act in this manner.

UPDATE: It seems a lot of people on the right are trivializing waterboarding, as merely being splashed by water. Christopher Hitchens subjected himself to it and wrote about it: Believe Me, It's Torture

UPDATE II: I think Paul Wells has the pithiest account in Maclean's
He points out that the State Department routinely decries as torture the very practices he and his colleagues are busy justifying, but only when other countries do it. And then he says it’s only torture if other countries do it.
The memos are a huge smoking gun that they knew they were doing wrong. I wonder if there will be legal action?

UPDATE III: The US World War II tribunals convicted Japanese camp officials and guards for waterboarding prisoners. From the Washington Post:
Here's the testimony of two Americans imprisoned by the Japanese:

They would lash me to a stretcher then prop me up against a table with my head down. They would then pour about two gallons of water from a pitcher into my nose and mouth until I lost consciousness.

And from the second prisoner: They laid me out on a stretcher and strapped me on. The stretcher was then stood on end with my head almost touching the floor and my feet in the air. . . . They then began pouring water over my face and at times it was almost impossible for me to breathe without sucking in water.

As a result of such accounts, a number of Japanese prison-camp officers and guards were convicted of torture that clearly violated the laws of war.

The Race For Victimhood

With the contruction of the The Canadian Museum for Human Rights underway, controversy has already begun. We should have seen this coming:
Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, was worried gay and lesbian human rights would be ignored because the group was "totally omitted" from the museum's promotional materials.

(Helen Kennedy and Egale, you'll recall, were the ones who objected to Hockey Night in Canada airing the term "pansification" that Mike Milbury used to describe new anti-fighting initiatives. It was considered homophobic. Appallingly, HNIC caved in and Milbury is not allowed to use the word anymore. This gives you an idea of the kind of people we're dealing with.)

There were more groups lining up for victimhood as well.
"It needs to be inclusive and equitable. If it focuses disproportionate attention to some cases over other cases, then what it is actually teaching us is that there is a hierarchy of human suffering, and that some human suffering is more important than other cases of human suffering; and on that basis, the museum would not be teaching us anything about human rights, it would be teaching us about racism," Kafieh said.

It's the Oprahfication of our culture. It's a contest between groups for who is the biggest victim. The prize for victimhood is political capital.

Pirate Bay Sunk

The entertainment industry is hitting back at "illegal" downloading, as Pirate Bay founders were sentenced to jail:

Experts believe the ruling could be the first step towards ending illegal downloading, which has cost music and film companies billions of dollars in lost revenue.

Founders Peter Sunde and Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, along with two other employees Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundström, were sentenced to a year in jail after being found guilty in a Swedish court of making 33 copyright-protected files accessible for illegal downloading on the website


Defence lawyers had argued the men should be acquitted because The Pirate Bay does not host any copyright-protected material. Instead, it provides a forum for its users to download content through so-called torrent files. The technology allows users to transfer parts of a large file from several different users, increasing download speeds.

But the court found the defendants guilty of helping users commit copyright violations "by providing a website with ... sophisticated search functions, simple download and storage capabilities, and through the tracker linked to the website".

It's a shame that the "torrent" defense did not hold up. It seems here that the judge took a leap of faith, and just over-rode the technicality. It didn't help that the men called it Pirate Bay, and took pride at thumbing their noses at the corporate big shots.

We'll see what that means for downloading. Probably just another momentary interruption, before it continues on as before.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tony Clement Talks Tough With CAW

I love hearing this: Ottawa willing to let GM, Chrysler collapse
When asked whether he would be willing to let Chrysler Canada Inc. or General Motors of Canada Ltd. go bankrupt if the unions do not agree to cut costs, Mr. Clement replied: “We have to examine every possibility.”

“I don't think it is in the interest of the Canadian public to have continued funding to a company if there is no deal with their union and if there is no outside investor, or no outside partner in the case of Fiat,” he said. “Those were our conditions.... So if you're asking me whether I'm willing to funnel Canadian government money, taxpayer money, when we do not have an acceptable plan on a go-forward basis, I cannot do that. I don't think it would be responsible.”

CAW president Ken Lewenza has called Fiat's proposal to cut labour costs at Chrysler Canada by $19 an hour an “unreasonable” demand and has said it is “not going to happen,” arguing the CAW is competitive with unionized environments in the United States.
CAW are so shameless. They refuse to negotiate down. Having a cut wage, is better than having no wage. It makes me hope these fat cats go bust and collapse. Ye shall reap, what ye sow. I think the Tories are reading public opinion on this one properly.

John Madden Retires From Broadcasting

At age 73 the legendary broadcaster is hanging it up.

I grew up watching Madden and Summeral covering the NFC on CBS. They were the best team ever. I credit Madden with helping turn me into a football fanatic. He was brilliant at explaining blocking and defensive schemes, insider knowledge that a civilian doesn't have access too.

As the #1 crew for CBS (and later Fox) Madden and Summeral did all the big games. For a generation of people those voices were as much a part of the game as the action on the field.

My complaint would be Madden over-hyping stars and over-emphasizing successful teams. The NFC Championship in 1991, featured the NY Giants at San Francisco. The 49ers had already won two Superbowls in a row, and were expected to go for three. They had superstars like Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. It was as if the Giants weren't even playing. He never mentioned them. It was a close, tense game. (In my opinion, the greatest football game ever played.) The action never interrupted Madden's praise for the 49ers. The Giants, knowing they didn't have to many chances, played a risky game. Bill Parcells gambled on a 4th and 2 early in the fourth quarter and didn't make it. Madden said over and over and over: "Oh, the Giants are going to regret going for it there. That kind of thing will haunt you. You can't give San Francisco good field position, they will kill you for it." etc. The Giants ended up winning in the dying seconds, and Madden seemed disappointed. For such a great game, Madden ended up being a detractor to the enjoyment of it.

Atlanta Falcons fans can accuse him of doing the same thing in their huge upset over Minnesota in the 1998 NFC Championship.

That said, he will be missed. Football will not be the same. He definitely made it fun to watch.

UPDATE: Here's a youtube of highlights for that great 1991 Giants v. 49ers game, narrated by Alec Baldwin for America's Game. (It says 1990, because that was the season. It was actually January, 1991.) It includes Leonard Marshall's famous and devastating hit on Joe Montana. No Madden voice here, but great viewing.

Fresh New Nation Building in Afghanistan

Canadian Forces have a new strategy. It's described with corporate buzz words and bureaucratese. Forces plan to defeat Taliban town by town
The innovative approach is to start in the town of Deh-EBagh in Dand District, where the Taliban recently launched a major attack. Afghan-led, the strategy is to involve targeted Canadian aid, technical assistance, and mentoring within a security bubble established by Afghan and Canadian forces.

Mentoring. That's one buzz word I can't stand. Corporations no longer do a review or assessment to see whether you deserve a bonus for the year, but they now "mentor" you. It's meant to put a positive spin on the situation but ends up coming across as condescending.

But seriously, we're in a war here. I don't think General Patton ever talked about "mentoring" the Germans.

"We want this to be absolutely tangible to the 800 or 1,000 people in that community," said Brigadier-General Jon Vance, who commands Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

"We develop the district in governance and R & D [reconstruction and development], and re-establish the social, political and economic fabric of a town in a district, and then another town, and another and another."

Listen to the general. He sounds like the Premier of PEI talking about repairing bridges.
The project, which will, over time, be expanded to include many more communities across Kandahar province, is designed to show Afghans what they can do in a secure environment, and to push out the insurgents who threaten the communities and use them as a base of operations.

This is sounding very long term. Have they forgotten that we are ending our commitment over there in 2011?

Does nation building work as a strategy? The situation has gotten worse, despite all the money and effort. It depresses me that we just keep trying harder. The article mentions that the Canadian initiative bears resemblance to the "Hearts and Minds" campaign by the Americans in Vietnam. And that one worked out well for them.

Time to Bug Out: The Growing Case For Isolationism

It's looking like there is a good argument to pull out of the Middle East all together. In the next little while, I want to make the case for it in writing. I'm going to start by taking six quotes, from articles that I have posted about on the Daily Salt Shaker in the last week or so, to get a flavor of some of the difficulties:

Pakistan, perhaps of the most concern, has some 12,000 madrasas, many of which are Saudi-funded. Wahhabism provides not only the breeding ground on which Islamist terrorism flourishes, but it also threatens to overshadow other, more moderate traditions within Islam.
-Foreign Policy

The victory, such as it is, will be short-lived. I'm increasingly convinced that Afghanistan's problem lies deeper than a recalcitrant Taliban or a gutless central government. It's a problem so profound that for the first time I have to ask: Should our troops just get out?
- Irshad Manji is "terrifying" for her to wander the malls in Dubai because Filipino maids or nannies always sneak away from the family they are with and beg her for help. "They say – 'Please, I am being held prisoner, they don't let me call home, they make me work every waking hour seven days a week.'
- The Independent

By going to Ankara on his knees, he gave his seal of approval to a pungently anti-American Islamist government bent on overturning Mustapha Kemal's legacy of the separation of mosque and state.
-Ralph Peters

The Obama administration will ask Congress for another $83.4 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the end of September, Democratic congressional sources said Thursday.

Canadian officials contacted the Afghan government Tuesday to express concern about controversial new legislation that would reportedly allow men to rape their wives.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

NHL Playoff Season Starts

Great commercial!

Fox News' Idea of Quality Broadcasting

31 seconds of the best of Glenn Beck. Cable news really is in the gutter.

Our Friends the Saudis

Foreign Policy wonders what a world without the Saudis would look like:

But when it comes to the third element -- Wahhabism -- a world without the Saudi regime is hardly an upsetting thought. Years after the September 11 attacks, the kingdom is still a center of ideological indoctrination, incitement, and terrorist financing. "If I could somehow snap my fingers and cut off the funding from one country, it would be Saudi Arabia," Stuart Levey, U.S. Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, told ABC News in 2007. Thanks to the kingdom's policies, countless young boys are brainwashed to hate Christians, Jews, and other "infidels" in Saudi-funded madrasas from Bangladesh, to Bosnia and Herzegovina, to Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Spain, and even in the United States. Pakistan, perhaps of the most concern, has some 12,000 madrasas, many of which are Saudi-funded. Wahhabism provides not only the breeding ground on which Islamist terrorism flourishes, but it also threatens to overshadow other, more moderate traditions within Islam. As Lawrence Wright described in The Looming Tower, with a little over 1 percent of the world's Muslim population, the Saudi Wahhabis support 90 percent of the entire faith's expenses, radicalizing many bastions of moderate Islam beyond recognition.

Despite all that, because of the kingdom's chokehold over the global economy, Washington has had to accept its abysmal human rights record, its treatment of women and non-Muslims as second-class citizens, its brutal attitude toward gays, and its financial support for radical Islamist institutions. Without the Saudi state, the veneer of political correctness that has characterized the U.S. attitude toward Wahhabism would quickly dissolve, and the United States would be free to fight back against radical Islam openly and decisively. Such a world might not be free of terrorism, but at least it would spare Americans the indignity of paying for both sides in the war on radical Islam, classifying 28 pages in the congressional report that dealt with Saudi Arabia's role in the September 11 attacks, and watching one U.S. president after another, Democrat and Republican alike, bend a knee before a human rights-abusing tyrant.

We think the alliance with Pakistan is troubled. Saudi Arabia is even more so. It's the epicentre of jihad, but on paper is the key US ally in the Arab world.

Iggy Not Reading the Liberal Playbook

Whoops, Michael Ignatieff thinks we ought to raise taxes:
Federal taxes will have to rise to pay off Canada's burgeoning deficit, but not at the expense of economic recovery, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said Tuesday.

The Conservative Party quickly jumped on Mr. Ignatieff's comments, highlighting them at the top of their website.

“We will have to raise taxes,” but not at the expense of hurting the recovery from this recession, Mr. Ignatieff, on a four-day tour of Southwestern Ontario, told a meeting of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce.

“An honest politician” cannot exclude a tax hike as an option, Mr. Ignatieff said in response to a question from Cambridge, Ont., business leader John Bell, who wanted to known when the federal debt will be paid back.

The Liberal playbook says you promise to lower taxes, then wait until after you are elected to raise them. Silly boy.

The back peddling started pretty quickly though:
Michael O'Shaughnessy, Mr. Ignatieff's press secretary, said later that the party has “no plan and no desire to raise taxes” in a recession.

Hat tip: Pat

The Mulroney Inquiry (Yawn)

I guess we going to have a day to day, detailed account in the Canadian media? I couldn't care less and I have a feeling most people don't either. Perhaps a summary of the findings when it's all over would be interesting, but that's it. In the mean time, spare me.

Nanny State Imposing Classes, Fines on Parents for Child's School Behaviour

Absurdity reaches a new height in the UK. The Daily Telegraph reports on new legislation regarding your children's behaviour. Parents to be hit with penalties if children misbehave at school

They can apply to courts for a "parenting contract" requiring mothers and fathers of wayward pupils to take parenting classes - with fines of up to £1,000 if they fail to attend.

Under laws - first announced in legislation in 2007 - parents can also be hit with penalties of £50 if their children are found in a public place without justification in the first five days of an exclusion. The fine will rise to £100 if it is unpaid within 28 days.

Parents must also be interviewed by headteachers before their child is allowed back into school, outlining the standards expected of pupils.

In the past, it has been feared head teachers were reluctant to take such hard-line action for fear of souring relations with parents.

"Parenting class." My God. Can you imagine? Some board of education, leftist type teaching a class to you, against your will, on how to raise your kids? Oh boy!

Lucky they didn't have this in my day, in Canada. My parents would have had to declare bankruptcy, with all the fines I would have generated.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Climate Change "Deniers" Seen as Enemies

The man-made climate change absolutists at the Guardian are ratcheting up their demonization of people who don't agree with them. Here they have a slideshow of "top deniers" faces on cards, like the US Army did for Saddam's henchmen during the Iraq War. If environmentalism is the new religion, then the Guardian is accusing these people of blasphemy. That's not science. I realize it's meant to be a joke, but it creeps me out. (See the whole show here.)

Irshad Manji No Longer Believes in the Afghan Mission

Reading this piece by Irshad Manji caught me by surprise. One of the great voices of women's rights in the Islamic world thinks it may be too difficult to reform Afghanistan:
There was a time when I believed. With every fibre of my feminist Muslim being, I believed in our Afghanistan mission. No longer.

On Sunday, the Taliban assassinated another Afghan women's rights activist. It happened only days after the world learned of yet one more anti-female statute that Afghan President Hamid Karzai had signed into law. Critics accused him of caving in to warlords ahead of the coming elections. Only when Western voices amplified the protests of liberal Afghans did Mr. Karzai put the law "under review." Human-rights advocates called it a triumph.

The victory, such as it is, will be short-lived. I'm increasingly convinced that Afghanistan's problem lies deeper than a recalcitrant Taliban or a gutless central government. It's a problem so profound that for the first time I have to ask: Should our troops just get out?

When somebody as optimistic as Manji thinks reform is impossible, then we have to conclude that she's right.

This leaves us only one reason to be in Afghanistan: To ensure that they don't build a base for world wide terrorism. This certainly is important but becomes moot when they have these bases right next door in Pakistan.

Why do we continue this mission over there when it's not working?

National Post Calls for the End of Equalization Payments

Three cheers for the National Post today who published an editorial calling for the end of the equalization payment scam:
That leaves Quebec, which will get $8-billion in equalization this year, almost 60% of the total. Though Quebec politicians would protest loudly at any threat to this jackpot, anyone visiting Quebec would be hard-pressed to find justification for the lavish outlay. Whether in terms of schools, universities, health care, social services, industry, culture or business, Quebec is as advanced and sophisticated a society as exists in Canada, having prospered mightily in recent years. Yet it continues to receive massive annual payments from other provinces, even as its noisy nationalists proclaim themselves a "nation," fully capable of handling their own affairs.

The situation no longer makes sense, and the longer it is allowed to drag on the more damaging and politically divisive it will become. Politically docile as they have been trained to be, Ontario residents are unlikely to quietly accept a continued annual outflow of billions of dollars to other provinces while their own services suffer and unemployment approaches double digits. Alberta, despite its image as the land of plenty, will struggle to meet its own needs until another oil boom comes along. Neither province should be expected to keep running deficits to finance programs in other provinces that long ago caught up to their own.

We need more of this kind of talk in Canada. Quebec lives off the fruits of the rest of Canada's labor, and feels entitled to it. To show their appreciation, they elect a separatist party to the majority of their federal seats in every election since 1993. People are finally starting to wake up to the scam. Desperate times do create opportunities. When money is tight, people start watching where their dollars go.

On that note, I hope the National Post survives as a newspaper. You'd never see this kind of idea in the Globe and Mail, and certainly not the Star.

Nothing to See Here Folks! Move Along!

A major police shakedown for suspected terrorist activities for an alleged bombing campaign in Manchester, England. The Daily Telegraph:

The bomb squad has been called in at a block of flats being searched in relation to an alleged Easter bombing campaign against shopping centres in Manchester.

Homes were evacuated at lunchtime on Monday around the decrepit block at Highgate Street, in the Edge Hill area of Liverpool.

The Army Bomb Disposal Unit was called in to support officers from the North West Counter Terrorism Unit who have been conducting searches at the address since Wednesday.

So what's the problem? It takes the second last sentence of the article to get a hint.
They had intercepted information leading them to suspect a group of students from Pakistan were close to launching attacks.
Hmmm... What could this be about, that they aren't mentioning? A war by no name, perhaps?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Opening Up Cuba

I never understood why the Americans let the travel restrictions stand for as long as they did, but it appears that they are lifting it. Can Cuba cope with an onslaught of Americans?

HAVANA – A push in Congress to do away with U.S. travel bans on Cuba could set off a flood of American visitors to the long-forbidden island.

But many wonder if a country where foreigners have long complained about lousy food, sluggish service and iffy infrastructure is ready for an onslaught of Americans unseen since the days of Meyer Lansky and Al Capone.

This will be the end of communism on the island, in my opinion. How are average Cubans going to stand for it, with a massive influx of Americans spending big money? By isolating Cuba, the Americans helped Castro (and his brother) keep his power.

Cuba could very easily regain its old popularity. If they opened up the casinos, why would anybody go to the desert in Las Vegas, when you could go to a beautiful tropical isle?

The Dark Side of Dubai

Here's a gripping read from The Independent about life in Dubai. I've known several people who have worked there, and have heard mixed reviews about it. In this panoramic article, reporter Johann Hari breaks it open and exposes the rotten core. I read the article with healthy skepticism, but one can't help but be appalled. (read the full article here)

As soon as he arrived at Dubai airport, his passport was taken from him by his construction company. He has not seen it since. He was told brusquely that from now on he would be working 14-hour days in the desert heat – where western tourists are advised not to stay outside for even five minutes in summer, when it hits 55 degrees – for 500 dirhams a month (£90), less than a quarter of the wage he was promised. If you don't like it, the company told him, go home. "But how can I go home? You have my passport, and I have no money for the ticket," he said. "Well, then you'd better get to work," they replied.

Sahinal was in a panic. His family back home – his son, daughter, wife and parents – were waiting for money, excited that their boy had finally made it. But he was going to have to work for more than two years just to pay for the cost of getting here – and all to earn less than he did in Bangladesh.


Sahinal could well die out here. A British man who used to work on construction projects told me: "There's a huge number of suicides in the camps and on the construction sites, but they're not reported. They're described as 'accidents'." Even then, their families aren't free: they simply inherit the debts. A Human Rights Watch study found there is a "cover-up of the true extent" of deaths from heat exhaustion, overwork and suicide, but the Indian consulate registered 971 deaths of their nationals in 2005 alone. After this figure was leaked, the consulates were told to stop counting


And today? Sheikh Mohammed turned Dubai into Creditopolis, a city built entirely on debt. Dubai owes 107 percent of its entire GDP. It would be bust already, if the neighbouring oil-soaked state of Abu Dhabi hadn't pulled out its chequebook. Mohammed says this will constrict freedom even further. "Now Abu Dhabi calls the tunes – and they are much more conservative and restrictive than even Dubai. Freedom here will diminish every day." Already, new media laws have been drafted forbidding the press to report on anything that could "damage" Dubai or "its economy". Is this why the newspapers are giving away glossy supplements talking about "encouraging economic indicators"?


It is an open secret that once you hire a maid, you have absolute power over her. You take her passport – everyone does; you decide when to pay her, and when – if ever – she can take a break; and you decide who she talks to. She speaks no Arabic. She cannot escape.

In a Burger King, a Filipino girl tells me it is "terrifying" for her to wander the malls in Dubai because Filipino maids or nannies always sneak away from the family they are with and beg her for help. "They say – 'Please, I am being held prisoner, they don't let me call home, they make me work every waking hour seven days a week.' At first I would say – my God, I will tell the consulate, where are you staying? But they never know their address, and the consulate isn't interested. I avoid them now. I keep thinking about a woman who told me she hadn't eaten any fruit in four years. They think I have power because I can walk around on my own, but I'm powerless."

He Hadn't Flown Since the Disaster Over Macho Grande

A passenger successfully lands a plane in Florida after the pilot died.

No report whether the control tower instructed him to "keep the nose up man!" upon landing.

Advice to Obama: Ike Knew How to End a War

The New York Times writer Jean Edward Smith conjures up a historical precedent for a president to put an end to a armed conflict. In 1953 Eisenhower brokered peace in Korea.
Eisenhower rejected the argument. “If Mr. Dulles and all his sophisticated advisers really mean that they cannot talk peace seriously, then I’m in the wrong pew,” he told an aide afterward. “Now either we cut out all this fooling around and make a serious bid for peace — or we forget the whole thing.”


In bringing peace to Korea — a peace that has endured for over fifty years — Eisenhower asserted his personal authority as commander in chief. Perhaps only a five-star general could ignore his party’s old guard and overrule the country’s national security establishment, almost all of whom believed that military victory in Korea was essential. But Ike was an experienced card player. He could recognize a losing hand when he saw it, and he knew when to fold his cards. Only President Obama knows what he saw in Iraq, and only he can decide whether his hand should be folded.

It will take serious determination and willpower for Obama to end the commitment in Iraq.(And hopefully, Afghanistan some day.) He will face massive opposition to a pull out, and frankly, he's not showing that he has the fortitude to do it.

Note: What's not mentioned in the NYT article is that Eisenhower, through third party diplomatic channels threatened to use atomic bombs on the Chinese if they didn't seriously negotiate to end to the war*. (*p. 276 The Invincible Quest, by Conrad Black)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Why Can't We Do a Better Job Fighting Pirates?

Mark Steyn makes some sense of how these piddling Somali pirates manage to get away with these major high jackings:

It's also a low-risk [task for the pirates] one. Once upon a time we killed and captured pirates. Today, it's all more complicated. Attorney General Eric Holder has declined to say whether the kidnappers of the American captain will be "brought to justice" by the U.S. "I'm not sure exactly what would happen next," declares the chief law-enforcement official of the world's superpower. But some things we can say for certain. Obviously, if the United States Navy hanged some eye-patched, peg-legged blackguard from the yardarm or made him walk the plank, pious senators would rise to denounce an America that no longer lived up to its highest ideals, and the network talking-heads would argue that Plankgate was recruiting more and more young men to the pirates' cause, and judges would rule that pirates were entitled to the protections of the U.S. Constitution and that their peg legs had to be replaced by high-tech prosthetic limbs at taxpayer expense.

Meanwhile, the Royal Navy, which over the centuries did more than anyone to rid the civilized world of the menace of piracy, now declines even to risk capturing their Somali successors, having been advised by Her Majesty's Government that, under the European Human Rights Act, any pirate taken into custody would be entitled to claim refugee status in the United Kingdom and live on welfare for the rest of his life. I doubt "Pirates of the Caribbean" would have cleaned up at the box office if the big finale had shown Geoffrey Rush and his crew of scurvy sea dogs settling down in council flats in Manchester and going down to the pub for a couple of jiggers of rum washed down to cries of "Aaaaargh, shiver me benefits check, lad." From "Avast, me hearties!" to a vast welfare scam is not progress.

If the ships plying the waters of that region would carry a few Gatling guns, with orders to shoot to kill any motorboat that gets within a certain range, I believe the piracy problem would evaporate. However, as Steyn points out, there are all kinds of legal complications western nations have imposed on themselves.

I can also imagine a situation where one of the Somali pirates had Canadian citizenship and got killed the Toronto Star, CBC and the NDP would be screaming about the injustice of it all. (A la Khadr.) It's clear that our western societies have become too soft.

UPDATE: Good news the American Captain was rescued from the pirates

An American ship captain was freed unharmed Sunday and three of his captors were killed in a daring rescue by U.S. Navy Seals that ended a five-day standoff between the world's most powerful Navy and Somali pirates in a lifeboat far off the Horn of Africa.

Capt. Richard Phillips was in "imminent danger" of being killed before U.S. Special Operations forces shot the pirates in an operation personally approved by President Barack Obama, U.S. officials said.