Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Toothless Avenger

The idea of an international court of justice is a comforting one in theory. But in practise it may achieve its purpose as a moral weapon in the international arsenal aiding the search of justice, more than a working tribunal whose findings can actually bring malfeasance to justice.

Take the International Criminal Court's naming of a Sudanese cabinet minister along with a top commander of pro-government militias as the first identified war-crimes suspects in the Darfur region's conflict as a case in point.

The court's 20-month investigation into the five-year-old conflict in Sudan's Darfur region that has claimed an estimated 450,000 lives is prime indication that the investigators are satisfied their evidence of direct ties between the government of Sudan and the marauding, murdering janjaweed militias points a finger of direct blame and responsibility.

The chief prosecutor of the UN-backed court identified Ahmed Haroun, now Sudan's minister of state for humanitarian affairs, if you can believe it, as having committed crimes against the civilian population of Darfur, in conjunction with Ali Kosheib, a "colonel of colonels" among the janjaweed.

The charges include persecution, torture, murder and rape. In all 51 charges of alleged crimes committed throughout an 8-month period were brought. The international court's authority is rejected by the government of Sudan, which in any event, refuses to hand over the suspects, completely dismissing the allegations as fabrications.

Pretty much in line with their protests against the international community's 'interference' in the internal affairs of the Sudanese government, in any event. It continues to insist it has no connection to the janjaweed and the conflict, in any case is low-impact, with 'only' 9,000 lives lost.

African tribes representing the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa were targeted by the government and the janjaweed in response to an insurgency. Court documents attest that Mr. Haroun had been appointed minister of state for the interior and tasked with securing Darfur. His job was to manage the recruitment of the janjaweed militia which eventually grew to a force numbering tens of thousands.

"The evidence shows that Ahmed Haroun provided funds from a budget that was unlimited and not publicly audited. The janjaweed were paid in cash, and Ahmed Haroun was seen travelling with well-guarded boxes." Mr. Haroun himself admitted in a public speech that he had been "given all the power and authority to kill or forgive in Darfur for the sake of peace and security".

Prosecutors say that in August 2003, Mr. Kosheib was at a meeting at which Mr. Haroun claimed that since fighters from the Fur tribe had joined the rebellion "all the Fur" people had become "booty" for the janjaweed.


The Universe Unfolding

The universe of mankind unfolds as it will, inexorably, inevitably. In its path describing in its own pictorial manner exactly what mankind is capable of. Mankind, born a tabula rasa, given opportunities to learn, to experiment, to observe and plan, to build upon the inventions of those gone before. Man the Thinker. So obviously capable, yet so tragically culpable. We're the brilliant, errant child who clings stubbornly to his own creative discoveries determined to continue his individual path. Some might think to oblivion.

Herewith some of the news unfolding on this day, Wednesday, February 28, 2007. We shall never re-visit this day. It will become one with the history of mankind that has preceded it. Does the evidence of this trajectory bring us any closer to understanding the universe of which we are an infinitesmally miniscule portion, or will it bring us closer to oblivion? Based on the clues we've liberally sprinkled behind us, it might appear we're dead determined to bring our history to a state of closure.

Today's exhibits to be brought before the jury:
  • Baghdad - State television yesterday reported that 18 boys were killed when a car bomb exploded in a park in Ramadi, and Iraqi and international officials were quick to deplore the slaughter. UNICEF, the UN's children's agency, issued a statemen saying "the loss of so many innocent children at play is unacceptable". (Oh, quite!)
  • Afghanistan - A suicide bomber detonated his explosives just outside the gates to the main U.S. air base in Afghanistan, killing as many as 23 people, showcasing insurgents' growing capabilities in advance of a widely expected spring offensive. (World-wide Islamism on its inexorable move forward)
  • The Hague - Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court yesterday named a Sudanese minister and a janjaweed militia leader as the first suspects to be tried for war crimes in the Darfur conflict. The pair was accused of 51 crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, torture and mass rape, as the stricken Sudanese region entered a fifth year of the civil war which has left more than 200,000 dead. (And we're still wringing our collective hands)
  • Greenland - Twenty years ago, waters along the east coast of Greenland above the Arctic Circle would have been choked with ice at this time of year. The new norm is a fringe of sea ice, disintegrating along the edges up and down the rugged coastline. Warming linked not only to retreating sea ice but the demise of the ice sheets on Greenland among the remotest places on earth, with a huge impact on the plane. If the ice melts completely global sea levels are expected to rise six to seven metres, displacing millions of people from Florida to Bangladesh to Tuktoyaktuk. (Tentatively attributable to global warming)
  • United States - Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore, a leading voice in the fight against global warming, is being called a hypocrite by a conservative group claiming his Nashville mansion uses too much energy. Mr. Gore's documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, won an Oscar for chronicling his campaign against global warming. The day following the award, the Tennessee Centre for Policy Research distributed a news release saying Mr. Gore was not doing enough to reduce his own consumption of electricity. Utility records show the Gore family paid an average monthly electric bill of about $1,200 U.S. for its 10,000-square-foot home. (Yet another inconvenient truth)
  • Poland - Jozefa Tracz devised an ingenious early earning system to save the Jewish family hidden in the attic: the 15-year-old played the piano in the living room banging hard on the keys every time a stranger entered her house in Nazi-occupied Poland. Her Chopin drowned out the voices of the fugitives upstairs. At a tearful reunion with one of the women she saved, Miriam Schmetterling said: They knew the risk they were taking. If someone had found out we were there, they would have been killed." (Highlighting the saintly few among us)
  • Paris - When Bingu Wa Mutharika, the president of Malawi, returned from a summit on Africa in France last week, he left behind a lasting impression of the poverty blighting his country. Calling for more international aid, he highlighted the problems facing a famine-ravaged society where the average monthly wage is just $47. His wife Ethel stayed in Paris a little longer than the official Malawi delegation, "We left the first lady in France because the president said she had to do her shopping", a government source told Malawi's Nyasa Times. Last seen, Malawi's first lady was filling her shopping bags in the designer boutiques and jewellery shops of Cannes, the millionaires' playground on the Cote d'Azur. (Despair!)
  • Moscow - Yesterday, Russia threw its weight behind a power-sharing deal reached between Hamas and Fatah on February 8 in Mecca. "We are pushing for all members of the international community to support this process and make it irreversible, including efforts to lift the blockade," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. At a separate news conference, however, Hamas's top leader, Khaled Mashaal struck a less conciliatory tone, saying the group was not ready to recognize Israel, desite earlier giving assurances Hamas would halt the missile attacks and other violence toward Israel. (Recognize a pattern?)
  • Gander, N.L. - A man accused of drowning his twin 3-year-old daughters as the Crown accused him of murdering the girls out of fear they would be taken by social srvices. "He didn't want his kids taken away by the social workers and given to his brother to raise." (Selfless parental love)
  • Somalia - Somali authorities have arrested six suspected pirates in the hijacking of a UN-chartered cargo ship delivering food aid. Four heavily armed pirates still had control of the vessel and were holding 12 crew members hostage, said the UN food agency. The ship, the MV Rozen, had been contracted to deliver aid to Somalia, where about one million people are suffering after a drought that hit the region last year. (Compassion there is none)
  • Sri Lanka - Rebels fired on Sri Lankan military helicopters carrying six foreign envoys yesterday, slightly wounding the U.S. and Italian ambassadors. Seven Sri Lankan security personnel were also hurt, but the envoys from Canada, France, Germany and Japan escaped without injury. (Oh dear, privileged dignitaries endangered; invoke the Geneva Convention!)
  • Italy - A Milan school teacher lost her job after slashing the tongue of a 7-year-old student with a pair of scissors to punish him for talking too much. Holding a pair of scissors in her hand, the 22-year-old supply teacher apparently told the boy, who was of North African origin, "stick out your tongue so I can cut it. That way you'll stop talking!" Then she slashed his tongue so badly he needed five stitches. (Children can be such a nuisance; in this instance I might recommend returning the compliment)
I rest my case. Members of the jury how do you find? Another chance!? You sure about that?


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Finally! More, Please?

Finally impinging on the consciousness of Iranians just how damaging the behaviour of their president Ahmadinejad is to the best interests of the country. No point asking why it's taken this long. But here, once again, there is the news out of Tehran that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may not be enjoying quite the public acclaim and adoration that he obviously believes is his due.

Not only are 'reformists', long opposed to him condemning this lunatic but conservatives also. His proudly incendiary rhetoric is wearing thin at home. It's long ago convinced the rest of the world that that huge country with its wonderful history isn't worth the time of day. And would not, indeed, be given the time of day if it weren't for the very real threat it offers to the world at large, as an administration gone completely insane with the glory of its own apocalyptic vision, rising out of the ashes to rule the world unhindered by any.

"Why are you speaking a language that causes a person to be ashamed?" wrote the reformist daily
Etemad-e-Melli. "You represent the voters of the great Iranian nation. Speak equal to the name and dignity of this nation." Alas, both the name and the dignity of the nation have been irretrievably besmirched by this self-promoting political charlatan. And his mentors the Ayatollahs bear a good deal of the blame.

"Our foreign policy must reflect the ancient Iranian civilization and rich Islamic culture of the Iranian nation. Therefore, diplomatic language and non-primitive policies must be part of a calculated combination to work" intoned the conservative daily
Resalat. Not a word, unfortunately, of the unseemliness of the leader of a country threatening to annihilate a neighbouring country.

They feel, however, that this man has spent entirely too much time and energy (our time and energy too) castigating the West, neglecting the imperatives as a leader to deal with the country's faltering economy. Yet nowhere is the suggestion made that the vast sums of money required to build reactors and produce enriched uranium could be put to better use shoring up that economy.

We can only hope they hurry things up a bit, ditch this poor excuse for a leader, sort things out for their sake and for that of the rest of the world.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Creating a New Society

Along the lines perhaps of a peculiar concept of living hell. Sunni versus Shia, they just refuse to acknowledge they have anything in common or, for that matter, anything to share between them. Say, for example, something as pedestrian, as banal as human lives. Bloodlust blinds them to anything but bitter determination to wipe one another out of existence.

So much for the pacification effects of brotherly love through religious observation. So much for respecting the high office of clerical responsibilities to a shared vision of Allah. It appears to be Allah's past emissaries here on earth, those who should have inherited a transitional throne of Messenger of God at fault, yet Allah looks down with patient understanding at the deadly preoccupations of his unruly flock.

Let them murder one another, and the world will be better for it is the thought that flits temptingly through one's mind. Unfortunately, there is the plight of all those other Iraqis, Sunnis and Shias who have no intention of taking up the battle, who wish nothing more than to be able to live in peace and security with their dependents, their families, ordinary Iraqis.

They're the real targets. The slaughter of Sunni on Shia, of Shia on Sunni is aimed directly at the defenceless, the innocent. In recognition of this those who could flee Iraq have long since gone; those with the wherewithal to leave, and those who fled as frightened refugees placing themselves at the mercy of their Muslim neighbours.

Just think of the brain drain. Sunnis have begun to target Shia intellectuals, colleges, not only Shia mosques. Think of it; fanatic Islamists who worship their compassionate and all-knowing god, target the mosques consecrated to his worship, but belonging to other tribes, not theirs. Now who will be left with the courage, the conviction and the intelligence to build a viable state should this internecine warfare ever abate?

"There were bodies everywhere", said the professor at the Baghdad Economy and Administration College after the blast which killed 40 students at the college. He refused to give his name. The college is part of another one, Mustansiriya University, itself hit by twin bombs last month that killed 70 people, mostly students.

Where is the end to it? When will the protagonists' desire for blood be slated?


The Occupiers - At It Again

Israeli police intercepted a suicide operation plot in Tel Aviv last week. One gathers there is a connection to that event and one that followed, when Israeli troops stormed into Nablus yesterday. The troops drove into Nablus centre in jeeps and armoured vehicles, further endearing themselves to the population. A curfew was imposed.

Retaliation against the incursion was predictable; Palestinians throwing rocks and cement blocks against their tormentors. In self defence, soldiers fired rubber bullets in the confrontations and used tear gas. In the resulting melee, 20 Palestinian civilians were taken to hospital with light wounds. Two soldiers were wounded slightly in the aftermath of an explosive charge.

"Israeli forces in Nablus are acting against a broad terrorist infrastructure in order to prevent terrorist activity originating from the city" went an army statement. And indeed it described discovering an explosives laboratory in Nablus, with a second laboratory containing a missile, pipe bombs and fertilizers used for explosives.

Several Nablus radio stations were temporarily taken over by the army for the purpose of broadcasting the names of wanted militants, should residents care to divulge their whereabouts and thus expose themselves to true retaliation. The wanted militants are members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, part of Fatah, and also Islamic Jihad.

Israel risks world censure again, for targeting an innocent Palestinian town. Just to show them who is really in charge. No other reason. In all likelihood, the army cooked up the story about a foiled terrorist attack, for justification for this miserable disruption of innocent peoples' lives.

Israel is simply so thrilled to practise its own spectacular brand of apartheid, it foments trouble where and when it can, just for the sheer joy of it.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Cautionary Tale

Yes, it's a cautionary tale. Another blogger hits the dust. No, I don't mean that poor young guy in Egypt sentenced to four years in prison for criticizing the state and Hosni Mubarek. That is, after all, a repressive society, one that doesn't extend rights and freedoms to its citizens and there are certain risks to bringing attention to one's political discontent in dictatorships.

No, this is different. Sure, it's still a tale of blogging, whereby a blogger brought attention to his views much beyond his expectations. He was being honest, and in a sense courageous too. It was his ethical outrage that did him in. He knew of what he spoke, after all. This is a man, an outdoors entrepreneur extraordinaire who had the respect and the keen listening ear of a whole lot of people.

He starred in cable television shows about big-game hunting in the western U.S., he had a top-rated weekly television program on the
Outdoor Channel. And he had a lifelong career with Outdoor Life magazine. He had corporate ties to the biggest names in gunmaking, including Remington Arms Co. He was often a highly respected spokesperson for the National Rifle Association.

Aye, and there's the rub. Remington has cut off all ties with Jim Zumbo now, he's on his own. Members of the National Rifle Association of which he has been a member for 40 years are out for blood. He transgressed. In a moment of personal ire he wrote that which he did. Frustration and anger over peoples' idiocies and stupidities sometimes has that effect on people.

And, it would seem, he is a reasonably intelligent man. How else could he possibly have constructed such an illuminated career for himself, so carefully and lovingly over the course of his lifetime with his passion for the out of doors? Gone, all gone. All come crashing down in the virtual blink of an eyebrow. That's all it takes, after all, for someone to access a popular blog like his on the
Outdoor Life website.

Imagine the incredulous gun worshippers reading a snippet like this: "Excuse me, maybe I'm a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity" Mr. Zumbo wrote indignantly. "I'll go further," he continued "and call them 'terrorist' rifles."
No kidding, he wrote that. He so very publicly criticized the use of military-style assault rifles by hunters. Aiming in particular at all those brave, manly hunters with prairie dogs in their sights.

Crow anyone? It's entirely possible they also shot at crows with these assault weapons. Now it's Mr. Zumbo eating crow. Humble pie. Apologizing mightily, abnegating himself completely. "I was tired and exhausted", he wrote, "and I should have gone to bed early."
But he didn't. He wrote what he honestly felt. Atta boy.

Now, NRA members in their thousands are calling the wrath of God down on this man's head. His television program is no more, his career with
Outdoor Life magazine has evaporated, his corporate ties with Remington Arms - terminated. No big surprise; the NRA pointed to his unfortunate career collapse as an example to anyone who might wish to challenge the right of Americans to own assault-type firearms.

The NRA even has the incredible audacity to address Congress directly by warning them, "Our folks fully understand tha their rights are at stake", letting it be known that the 'grassroots' passion that responded to and ruined Mr. Zumbo's life's work is a good indication that millions of people would "resist with an immense singular political will any attempts to create a new ban on semi-automatic firearms."

Because of his business alliance with Remington, NRA members began a boycott of that country's estimable wares. And the panicked company put out their chief executive front and centre to issue a personal appeal against such a boycott: "Rest assured that Remington not only does not support Mr. Zumbo's view, we totally disagree." Yes indeed.

Why, said Remington's CEO, "I proudly own ARs and support everyone's right to do so!"


Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

NATO countries wonder why their troops are in Afghanistan to aid that suffering country. Their leaders know why they're there, it's a matter of conscience, to respond to a plea for help, as well as for the very practical reason that if the west doesn't respond and leaves the country to wallow in the misery that the Taliban enforced and the war-lords gloried in post-Soviet invasion to the detriment of the people of Afghanistan the slow but steady march of global Islamofascism will advance beyond the painful toward the impossible to remedy.

The new Afghan parliament and the government in total is far from a perfect construct in this search to control the destiny of this country which has been occupied by one imperialist-minded country after another over the centuries. Afghanistan has proven itself to be wildly ungovernable in the past, its fierce warrior culture ensuring that the people would never readily submit to conquest. There is still no combined good will without the dreadful flaws of corruption within the government whose parliamentary members include dreaded war lords whose commission of crimes against the populace is unquestioned.

Now President Hamid Karzai is facing a truly untenable situation. Genuinely wishing to attain a secure future for his country and his people, and willing to go out of his way to address the issue of those half-committed former Taliban fighters by inviting them to join his government's quest for peace and order, to forgive their former transgressions, he obviously is not a man eager for revenge but rather one in search of accommodation.

Yet, when faced with the recent demonstrations in Kabul by supporters of the many mujahadeen militias and their warlords all clamouring for the government to extend an amnesty, forgiving the years of pillage, torture and murder each exacted on the factions of others he faces a true conundrum. And if the warlords prove to be successful in their demands such an amnesty bill would effectively place these human rights violators out of the reach of any meaningful accounting for their bloodthirsty actions.

The victims, the families of victims, will never experience anything remotely like seeing justice visited upon the warlords who murdered, raped and pillaged in their multi-factional civil war before the rise of the Taliban. It's widely assumed among western diplomats that Mr. Karzai will agree, however reluctantly to the demands, in an attempt to bring reconciliation to all the people of Afghanistan, and because he is still widely dependent on the good will and support of all factions.

"There is no room for an amnesty for war crimes under international law or the new constitution of Afghanistan,", said Aleem Siddique, a UN spokesman. "True reconciliation is only achieved when the voice of the victims is heard." Which is certainly true in a perfect world of ideal solutions, one which justice does demand, but in the convoluted world of Afghan in particular justice does not always readily prevail, not does it give itself to the kinds of solutions that tribally-recognized intercessions sometimes produce.

It certainly appears as though predicating solutions on a system of justice recognized in western countries - parliamentary democracies of long standing and traditions - do not and will not transfer well to countries long ruled under the customs of tribal justice and Islamic precepts. "The nation knows that the enemies of the bill are the enemies of Afghanistan. They don't want stability," Burhanuddin Rabban, a former Afghan president, told the rally. Spoken in those terms, is there a choice?

Another warlord, Said Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, whose fighters killed 800 civilians from the Shia Hazara minority in a single notorious incident in the Afshar district of Kabul in February 1993 now proclaims: "Whoever is against the mujahedeen is against Islam", carefully wrapping himself in the flag of his country under the protection of Allah. It is exactly this kind of reasoning that keeps tribal enmities alive since obviously Allah wills it so.

Afghan youths march through the streets of Kabul shouting "Death to the enemies of Afghanistan!" and "Death to America!". President Karzai needs the good will and the military strength of NATO, the willingness to help proferred in response to his ongoing pleas to western societies, but he also needs the support of his own people to ensure that his government remains in position to juggle demands on both sides.

The Taliban remain insurgent, collaboration with militant and Islamic-inspired youth is always assured, and the spectre of a successful Taliban campaign without the push-back of NATO is always uppermost in president Karzai's mind. Mullah Dadullah threatens ongoing suicidal attacks on NATO forces: "The suicide bombers are countless" he claims. "Hundreds of suicide bombers have registered; hundreds more behind them."

The leader of the Taliban chortles as he responds to the promise that NATO is prepared to bring additional troops into the troubled south of the country. "More troops means more will be killed, and that would make us happy; we're happy for them to come." And Mr. Karzai is also happy for an increased NATO presence; the current contingents remain hard pressed in their campaign to entirely roust the Taliban.

The ordinary Afghan urban citizen wants no part of any of this. All they want is stability and peace, the opportunity to pick up their lives and live in a well functioning state that will protect them and ensure the potential for a secure economic future. Karzai seeks to be his nation's healer, to promote the cause of peace and stability by offering forgiveness for past actions to Taliban followers and the war lords whose ferocious internecine battles crippled and weakened the country almost beyond redemption.

Not an enviable place for anyone to find themselves in; excuse the inexcusable bloodletting, or demand justice...


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Predatorily Crooked Microsoft Corporation

Outraged they are, and they won't have it, that their software is pirated and illegally used. They're the wealthiest corporation of their kind in the world, their founder the richest man on earth, yet they huff and puff their righteous anger that anyone would have the unmitigated nerve to descend to pirating their software.

Microsoft engages in such questionable corporate behaviour that they've been hauled before the courts time and again in the United States. Their predatory business practices geared to increasing already-imposing profits to ever more delerious heights knows no bounds. They will stoop to any low of sharp and edgy business to increase their market share and still forge on, never quite satisfied.

Microsoft software engineers craftily design intrusive software to ferret out the unwary who use pirated products and then place a well protected curse on those computer owners who knowingly and/or unknowingly make use of "unauthorized" software. A patch is installed on the offending computers, activated each time the computer is turned on, stingingly advising the user that they may be "a victim of software counterfeiting".

And kindly, so very generously offering to "authenticate" the software in question. This process of authentication is a bullying and deliberate method of further enhancing this corporation's bottom line. Anyone buying a second-hand computer better be certain one way or another they've also bought a legitimate copy of the software, otherwise don't ask for security updates on line.

Patches stealthily sought elsewhere on the Internet in the hopes of disabling Microsoft's irritatingly grafted patch fail, as the patch itself contains a defense mechanism whose purpose it is to completely deactivate the potential inbedded in the Microsoft-disabling patch. This is the most aggressive type of blackmail imaginable. And there's no recourse.

You have the option of purchasing a clearance on line through Microsoft Corporation's generous offer. Or you can live with the intimidating, irritating, nuisance of the constant patch reminders informing you that you're either a) a thief, or b) a patsy. Take your pick. And this is entirely legal; the software is patent-protected.

That's why I'm hoping that Microsoft's intention to appeal the judgement brought down on behalf of Alcatel-Lucent against Microsoft pirating their patent by infringing on their digital music technology without permission, to the tune of a cool $1.52 billion will fail. Evidently Microsoft, arrogant as always, feels it's perfectly proper and makes good business sense for it to make free of use technology patented to others.

This recent federal jury judgement in Washingon represents the largest patent ruling on record. This highlights the crooked audaciousness of this predatorily-engaged corporation wedded to the idea that it's quite all right for them to infringe on other companies' patents, while they hound the living daylights out of small businesses and individual computer owners.

This MP3 dispute between Alcatel-Lucent, defending its patent against Windows Media represents two corporate giants locked in battle, with one representing the guilt of corporate transgression, while the other defends its lawful entitlements. Whereas Microsoft Corporation exerts its powerful Internet hand to hound the defenceless as though its defence of piracy is high-minded and in the interests of fair business play.

They cannot possibly hurt their reputation in any event, since there's no reputation left to rescue from the dungeon of disrepute; well earned at that.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Bloggers of the World

Bloggers, they're everywhere, enjoying the Internet version of free speech. And who can resist the temptation to sound off, give advice, your opinion, censure, scream and holler your disgust and distrust at the state of the world and the idiots who make all the decisions on behalf of the rest of us. Bloggers are legion, and they are us, every one of us.

But Big Brother is watching. Intently. It's a kind of pathology on a double scale. Bloggers have a need to vent, to screech their outrage at the world, and those against whom we rail have a need to spy, search out what has been written for all the world to see, revealing them for the bigots, the bullies, the liers and haters, the slanderers, the social deviants that they are.

Just think about the guy, pissed off about working conditions in a sweat shop or, say, the local hardware or deli (make that Home Depot and MacDonald's) and thinking he's safe, he can say anything he wants to, no one will know, unless he directs them to the site and they can have a good laugh at his revenge, small though it is, along with him.

But there are eyes everywhere, and people catch on pretty swiftly. Which explains why that guy just got fired, and the incautious lawyer in the law firm he detests won't get anywhere in the company now, and the guy who didn't get any satisfaction trying to deal with some bureaucratic nitwit in a big company is now being sued by them.

That's kind of one end of the scale, and let's face it, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on over again. The darker side of this little exercise in free expression, venting, spite, call it what you will, is the kind of oversight that even Orwell couldn't foresee. Now here's a court in Alexandria sentencing an anti-government blogger to four years in prison.

That's downright painful. All the more so as his parents, conservative Muslims, have disowned him, his father stating he should be punished with the death sentence. In other words, Egypt's courts are more lenient than the Muslim populace, and that's kind of a downer.

Kareem Amer, 23, formerly a student at the Islamic institute of al-Azhar, wrote scathingly of his alma mater, his society, his religion and his president. He received 3 years' imprisonment on charges of contempt of religion, with another year thrown in for good measure for defaming President Hosni Mubarek.

Henceforth, the state says with this cautionary tale, mouth your views in private, in a blacked-out room, whispering words to yourself as you go quietly insane. Mr. Amer will now have ample opportunity to do just that. Along with others currently awaiting trial and judgement for similar Internet activities deemed criminally prosecutable.

Egypt's is an authoritarian regime, a gentle dictatorship for the good of the people, by a paternalistically-loving leader where freedom of expression was never considered good for anyone's health to begin with. Now the debate has been joined on the limits of religious/political expression in the Arab world.

Bloggers of the world unite. For if sheer force of numbers could avail against the forces of evil intolerance and immoderate religious beliefs would we not all be far better off? This showdown has been two years in the making, while Amer tongue-lashed government and religious institutions, accusing clerics of advocating terrorism and stifling progress.

Sounds to me as though he should have been awarded a medal for fearless advocation of badly needed change, a leap into the world of the present.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

India's Dreadful Failings

Hugely populous India's economy is booming. Her production and transport infrastructure, foreign exchange reserves, immense resources and political stability are helping India to lead the charge into the 21st century and beyond. Along with China whose demographic, skilled labour force and ability to under-price competitors with its finished goods has other countries' entrepreneurs wringing their hands in dismay.

India's middle class is growing, along with China's. Her economy has accelerated by over 8% a year since 2003, hitting $4 trillion (in purchasing power parity) last year. Over double the economy of the entire continent of Africa. But there's something wrong within this burgeoning economic giant. While India is not lacking the funds to do more, its government spends a mere one percent of GDP on health care.

As a comparison, both Canada and the U.S. spend over 40% of their GDP on health care for their populations. The problem appears to be that no one really cares about anyone else. In India, it appears to be a matter of 'me first' and who gives a damn about those in need. India historically, culturally, is a huge population-diverse country with a rigid caste system. Though there are now laws imposed to outlaw the ages-old system of caste discrimination it is still widely practised.

Middle class and upper-middle class citizens simply do not see the masses of hungry beggars on the streets of their cities. It is as though they do not exist, and if they're not seen and they don't exist, then there's no problem. Almost 46% of children in India under the age of three suffer from malnutrition, compared with about 35% in sub-Saharan Africa. Compared with only 8% in China, whose rampant economic performance is spurring India's on.

Levels of anemia have risen within India, rather than fallen as the country enriches itself. Some 56% of women and fully 79% of children under three suffer from the disorder, and there is only negligible progress in child immunization levels. In the country of 1.1 people, about half are assailed by poverty, lack of shelter, hunger and inexcusable neglect.

Child malnourishment levels in India surpass that of Ethiopia's children. They're on a par with those of Eritrea and Burkina Faso, several of the poorest countries on earth. UNICEF's representative for child development and nutrition in India says that the country's inaction on this issue will compromise the world's target goals of halving global poverty and hunger by 2015.

This is the country that fondly labels itself the largest democracy in the world. This is also a class-ridden society that will not look its own best interest squarely on, relegating millions of its people to a live of privation and early death. This is a country in love with its own success, where high-tech has enraptured the country's expectations for the future.

It's amazing that a country so rich in tradition, human resources and pride, let alone its immense resources (absent the tradition of the rape of Empire) has its priorities so sadly askew.

This is a country where compassion is strangely absent from its public face. There will be no way forward until there's the will to honour their humanity.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Oh, Oh! The Pain Of It!

New trends are hard to beat. People grasp at these explicatory life-savers and cling to them as though their lives depend on them. And sometimes they do. Like the person who kills but throws himself on the mercy of the courts because of a deprived childhood. Like the person who murdered their spouse because they could no longer tolerate the abuse. Like the person who steals because he has a habit that required sustenance-renewal. Like the drug trafficker because well, he's got to make a living too.

We extend compassion toward all. Someone was raised in an impoverished household, was abused as a child, then goes on to celebrate adulthood by wreaking havoc on society, and the foxy lawyer wrings sympathy from the jury which then refuses to submit a finding of guilt. No one has any natural moral or ethical compass to guide them out of the quagmire of ill-doing. People cannot look around them and feel responsible for their positions within the larger society. Whatever goes wrong is always someone else's fault.

And incarcerated felons now can sue prison guards, even the prison system or the local government that oversees the prison if he thinks he can prove his civil rights have been trampled. That he hasn't received his meals sufficiently heated, that he hasn't been permitted conjugal visits as required, that tools essential to the craft he's been learning in prison have been removed from his jail-cell possession; you name it.

Now here's the latest; a man in White Plains New York recently fired by IBM for visiting an adult chat room at work. He's suing the company for a cool $5M. Not his fault, he is addicted to the Internet and doesn't deserve to be treated like an outcast. His is a disease, an unfortunate social disease which requires sympathy and treatment, not censure.

James Pacenza, fully 58 years of acquired wisdom, claims he visits chat rooms in an effort to treat the traumatic stress he's suffered as a result of an incident in 1969 when he witnessed the death of his best friend during a patrol in Vietnam. That very same stress also caused him to become a "sex addict, and with the development of the Internet, an Internet addict".

"Plaintiff was discharged by IBM because he visited an Internet chat room for a sexual experience during work after he had been previously warned," IBM claims. The company says its policy against surfing sexual websites is clear, claiming Mr. Pacenza was informed he could lose his job, after an incident that occurred four months earlier.

Mr. Pacenza claims age discrimination contributed to IBM's actions. IBM said sexual behaviour disorders are excluded from the disabilities act and they denied the allegation of age discrimination. But Mr. Pacenza knows better, he knows the strings to pull to wrench the hearts of sympathetic jurors.

Yes! He claims protection now, under the Americans with Disabilities Act.


As The World Turns

It's heartening to acknowledge how much the world has progressed over time. Medical science has gifted us with longer life-spans. Technological progress in so many areas of life; travel, communication, food production, industrial production and distribution of goods enhance our lifestyles. All countries in all areas of the world are able to communicate more directly with one another, to effect trade and cultural-exchange agreements.

Every area of science has expanded our understanding of the physical world around us and our place within the greater scheme of things as the single species whose machinations manipulate the environment. In so doing we begin to understand how our activities are inimical to the globe and the well-being of all other living creatures. Science, we hope, will lead us out of the dilemma we find ourselves in.

We have great cause to celebrate, and at the same time to realize that in some areas, at some times, in some geographies progress is fighting a rear-guard action that threatens to haul society back to an earlier era. We are, if anything, a determined breed of beings, willing to struggle to achieve progress to advance toward new horizons. And sometimes there are news items that come from various sources that render us speechless with disbelief.
  • Banjul, Gambia - From the pockets of his billowing white robe, Gambia's president pulls out a plastic container, closes his eyes in prayer and rubs a green herbal paste onto the ribcage of the patient, a concoction he claims is a cure for AIDS. He then orders the thin man to swallow a bitter yellow drink, followed by two bananas. "Whatever you do, there are bound to be skeptics, but I can tell you my method is foolproof," President Yahya Jammeh told an Associated Press reporter, surrounded by bodyguards in his presidential compound. "Mine is not an argument, mine is a proof. It's a declaration. I can cure AIDS and Iwill." Mr. Jammeh held up the Koran, pointing it at each of the patients: "In the name of Allah, in three to 30 days you will all be cured," he said.
  • The claim of a cure has prompted comparisons to the South African minister of health who won international ridicule last year for suggesting that a diet of garlic, beet root and lemon juice is more effective than anti-retroviral drugs. South African President Thabo Mbeko has been accused of not addressing the epidemic; his government did not provide AIDS drugs until a lawsuit by AIDS activists forced it to in 2002.
  • Islamabad, Pakistan - An Islamic fundamentalist shot and killed a female Pakistani minister yesterday because of her refusal to wear a Muslim veil. Police said the bearded attacker had singled out the prominent women's rights activist in the belief that females should not be in politics. Zilla Huma Usman, 35, the Punjab provincial minister for social welfare and a supporter of President Pervez Musharraf, was shot as she prepared to address a public gathering in the town of Gujranwala. As party members threw rose petals at her, the gunman shot her in the head, police said.
  • Tehran, Iran - Iran's president yesterday demanded that western countries halt their nuclear programs, as the hours ticked by on a new international deadline for Tehran to stop enriching uranium. The United Nations Security Council has given Iran until today to halt this sensitive process, which can produce the material essential for making a nuclear bomb. Mr. Ahmadinejad said it was "no problem" for Iran to stop enriching uranium, but said: "Justice demands that those who want to hold talks with us shut down their nuclear fuel cycle program, too. Then we can hold dialogue in a fair atmosphere."
  • London, England - Closed-circuit TV footage of one of the alleged July 21 bombers fleeing from London disguised in a burqa a day after the failed attacks was shown to a jury yesterday. The six-foot-two-inch figure of Yassin Omar, dressed from head to toe in a black burqa, could be seen with a white handbag over his left arm as he made his way with a woman to a London bus station. A day earlier, Mr. Omar is alleged to have tried to set off a homemade hydrogen peroxide bomb at a London subway station. He was arrested on July 27 in a dawn raid on a house in Birmingham.
  • Harare, Zimbabwe - Robert Mugabe celebrates his 83rd birthday today as his supporters prepare a cake-and-fizzy-drinks party in the central city of Gweru. His ruling Zanu-PF party has been deducting money from public servants' wages and bullying near-bankrupt businesses for donations to raise the 300 million Zimbabwean dollars (about $1.4M Cdn) to pay for the celebration. Together with hundreds of Mr. Mugabe's rich and powerful cronies attendees are expected to hear a long address from the Most Consistent and Authentic Revolutionary Leader - his official title. The cost of the party would supply 300 AIDS sufferers with anti-retroviral drugs for a year in a country where a tenth of sufferers have access to drugs.
  • El Salvador - Three Salvadoran legislators, including a scion of one of the country's leading right-wing families were kidnapped and slain during a trip to neighbouring Guatemala and their bodies set ablaze, officials said yesterday. The congressional deputies were all members of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance and were killed Monday night along with a fourth person, their driver, as they paid an official visit to Guatemala City. Their charred bodies and gutted vehicle were found on a farm outside the city. "The scene is Dante-esque," said a spokesman for Salvadoran president, Tony Saca.
  • New York, U.S.A. - Judy Gratton of Cortland, New York, yesterday was sentenced to 15 years in prison for starving her five-year-old handicapped son, who weighed just 15 pounds when he was found in a playpen infested with cockroaches and lice.
  • Toronto, Canada - The number of badly behaved youths in Canada has quadrupled since the 1950s, largely due to the spread of negative values on television and the Internet and in video games and movies, a retired sociologist from York University says. Anne-Marie Ambert, author of a study released yesterday by the Ottawa-based Vanier Institute of the Family, says young people today are four times more likely than they were 50 years ago to engage in a range of negative and anti-social acts.
Do we rest our case or do we just buckle down and try harder?


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Desperately Forgiving

Rwanda, that sad torn-asunder country of tribal rivalry is still slowly and painfully picking the living thorns out of its raw flesh. It's a long process, on the way to healing the national identity. Not likely to succeed within this generation, perhaps not even beyond succeeding generations. How do people reconcile themselves to the living memory, even the dim reality as time goes on that once-trusted neighbours could bring themselves to visit the horror of mass murder one upon the other?

Tribalism is like that. It enhances the worst possible affects of human nature. Our suspicion of the other, our felt moral and social superiority over the other, our mistrust, wariness, rejection of the other tribe. Ancient tribal memories are as though etched upon the subconsciousness of each of us. In some societies now far removed from tribal angst and hatred, filtered through the liberating effects of enlightenment these situations don't erupt.

In others, where economic deprivation and constant health- and life-struggles to survive in an social atmosphere inclement to inclusion and true equality, opportunity is always rife for re-ignition of old hostilities. Then the familiar face of a neighbour whose tradition and ethnic culture is different than yours can appear to be threatening to you and yours under the impetus of political manipulation.

Now the government of Rwanda has made a decision to step up the release of genocidal-suspect detainees, in an effort to re-absorb them back into their communities. One might think this to be a move rife with the danger that the victims might take revenge into their own hands, the courts and laws of the land having failed, and the experiment would be destined for failure. Human nature being what it is.

For to release into the general population detainees whose murderous activities have been documented and witnessed seems to run counter to human nature, representing a delirious ideal, far from reality. To release mass murderers into society is to invite vigilante responses from the populace. One might imagine.

On the other hand, experience on the ground in Rwanda has demonstrated otherwise. In that it is not the freed killers whose lives are in danger, but rather their victims, the witnesses to their atrocities. Survivors' groups estimate that some 20 genocide survivors yearly have been killed since 2005.

A case in point is that of Innocent Habinshuti whose own mother - a Tutsi who had married a Hutu and who had fled to safety in Tanzania in escaping the genocide protested his return to his eastern Rwandan village. "He had learned to kill too well, he should never have come back here", said Seciose Mukarwigema.

As a 6-year-old, Frederic Murasira had been hiding in the grasses of Lake Mugersera while Mr. Habinshuti's gang killed his entire family. After his re-entry to village life a disagreement drove Mr. Habinshuti to attack Mr. Murasira with a machete, and while he chopped the man into little pieces, the Hutu neighbours looked the other way. "No one did anything", said Mr. Habinshuti's tearful mother.

Yet more than 60,000 detainees have now been released, representing 50% of the total. "All the guilty ones - on both sides - are not in prison, and so if the military leave again, it will be difficult", understated Sibomana Jean d'Amour, a Hutu villager.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Defensive or Just Plain Offensive? Neither: Implacably Dense

So we had Fatah and Hamas slugging it out in a deadly show of one-upsmanship. Each out-struggling one the other to create the hierarchy each felt reflected their true place in the Palestinian Authority and the 'hearts and minds' of the long-suffering Palestinian people. Who knew they were each so anxious to represent the well-being of the Palestinians that they were ready to kill to prove it. Even if the people whose lives they whisked off to paradise were those of unwary Palestinians.

So what comes first, securing a place of their very own for the Palestinian population, or playing Big Guy against their Big Boy? The militias, comprised of men suffering from adolescent un-inhibitions desperate to play big-time war games do what they do best. And the politicians manipulate the population and use their effectively-ineffective tribal gangs to prove just how very serious they are. About providing for the Palestinians? Uh, not exactly, first we have to fix the administrative hierarchy.

Let's see now, what's the order of business here? Western soft-hearts have funded the Palestinian refugee camps and the PA for over a half-century. Oh sure, Arab countries have thrown in a few offhanded shekels here and there, too. All those billions of dollars, what have they succeeded in allowing other than the people to live unfulfilled, grievance-ridden, angst-driven lives - neither here nor there. Their Muslim neighbours unwilling to absorb them, but oh so eager to perpetuate certain myths ad nauseum have created a monster.

This is a monster determined to eat itself slowly, first the tail, then a large gulp and a bit of the body follows, but then a hiccough and the body is ejected, the tail too, and it must begin the endless process again and time again. Solutions have been identified and agreements have been tenuously reached, only to be pulled back from completion time and again. No end of blame in sight. No sign of self-respect or responsibility for self anywhere in sight.

And the newly-agreed-upon agreement to disagree that was forged in good fellowship in Saudi Arabia? Good news! The antagonists have agreed to stop trying to kill each other and just incidentally other Palestinians who have the great misfortune of getting in the way. And the administration of the PA, how does that stand, since because of that little problem of Hamas' intransigence over the slight matter of Israel's existence foreign aid has been absent?

Ah, there's the double horn of that particular dilemma. How to sweet-talk and reinstate remuneration, badly-needed operating funds that all the good will of their Muslim brethren hasn't been able to compensate for. Philanthropy isn't really big in the Middle East. Well, the deal they struck was solely to stop them from equal-opportunity murder-and-mayhem. Whew! that's done, now on to dealing with the Quartet who remain obdurately stupid about the safety and security of Israel.

"The American and Israeli interference aim to destroy the basic principles and the basis of the Palestinian cause" huffs Mr. Haniyeh, who adds it will not dissuade him from continuing to embrace Hamas' implacable opposition to Israel's existence.


Cultural Psychoses

It isn't all that difficult to point to established cultural, ethnic, religious or political trends assumed for one reason or another that identify those who belong to that particular tribe, ethnic group or religion. In the case of Palestinians and the Arab community diverse as it is, it sometimes identifies as a mass psychosis. As though it has become Manifest Destiny to pursue a certain path, not deviating from it, even when experience teaches that it has become inimical to the well-being to the adherent.

There seems to be a subliminal, tribal/cultural psychosis of an entire people unwilling to lift themselves out of a kind of deadly torpor represented visibly by a sense of victimhood leading to denial of responsibility then determination to avenge themselves and a deadly hatred settles in, an implacable resistance to facing reality. Tribal/cultural/religious revenge remains uppermost in mind, obscuring the need to secure a future for their children.

Devotion to a medieval mindset becomes construed as a search to restore the collective 'honour'. People become fatally devoted to their incorrigible and chosen path leading to self-destructive impulses. Impulses which render them deadly to themselves as well as to others toward whom their fatal enmity is directed. Impulses that leave them immune to reasonable introspection.

Intransigently determined in their beliefs, unprepared to co-habit as equal co-dwellers in an ancient landscape, clinging to outraged notions of victimhood and dreaming, forever dreaming of revenge. Is there any other group more wedded to victimhood and revenge? Little wonder: they're mercilessly victimized by their purported leaders, devoted to seeking their revenge upon the interloper, their perceived enemy, Israel.

Effectively marking the progress of civilization in the Middle East.

A loutish thug like the PLO's Arafat and his minions loot the PA treasury rather than implementing badly-needed civil infrastructure as a necessary prelude to forming an independent State. These are funds given to the Palestinian people and held in trust by the Palestinian Authority which agents felt perfectly free to dispose of them as they wished, transporting funds to personal Swiss bank accounts.

And though many Palestinians recognized the PA authorities for the uncaring, corrupt looters that they were, they had no one else to turn to. Enter Hamas, self-acknowledged Islamist hard-liners, but terrorist-inclined as they are, devoted to the cause of the Palestinians, they avowed. And began to prove their method by restraining their madness and channelling energy into establishing health clinics, schools, social support agencies for the people.

The Palestinians, more given to secular administration, saw themselves fit and ready to accept a more direct Islamic presence in their lives through Hamas' administration of the PA and in gratitude for their exhibition of values so unlike that of the Fatah-ruled PA, voted one into power, the other into limbo. So where are the real liberators of Palestinian impoverishment?

Are they represented by the futile and crooked efforts of Fatah, the so-called 'moderates' among the political elite, or the 'honest' Hamas, intransigently wedded to the destruction of the State of Israel? Some choice the Palestinians have, to accept the wholesale sacking of their acquired collective wealth from Western sources, or that of a jihadist-driven fundamentalist group eager to annihilate a neighbour.

The moral compass built into a peaceful version of Islam gone badly awry. Because the self-declared-and-fondly-embraced status of victimhood is justification for deadly brutality. Because destruction and mass murder is validation of grievance.


Misunderstood Islam

The peaceful face of Islam is being demonstrated yet again in various parts of this troubled globe.
  • In Thailand, for example, at least 28 bombs exploded in what appears to be a well co-ordinated attack on parts of southern Thailand struggling against a Muslim insurgency. Three people were killed and over fifty were wounded. The bombings targeted hotels, karaoke bars, power grids and commercial sites in the country's southernmost provinces, the only part of predominantly Buddhist Thailand with Muslim majorities. Two public schools were also torched.
  • In Baghdad, Iraq, a double car bombing ripped through a crowded Baghdad market yesterday, killing at least 63 people and wounding more than 130 in a nose-thumbing at the new U.S.-led security operation. "Where is the security plans?" wailed distraught relatives crowded outside the Iraqi capital's Kindi Hospital, as fleets of ambulances and civilian trucks ferried the dead and dying into an overworked emergency room.
  • In Russia, a bomb exploded inside a McDonald's restaurant in central St. Petersburg, injuring six people. No doubt the Kremlin will soon point the finger of blame at Chechnyen rebels.
  • In Somalia a car explosion killed four people as three others, including a police officer, were gunned down in surging violence in the wake of the toppling of the Islamist movement. Police said the four travelling in the car were all killed when their vehicle exploded in Mogadishu's Tawfiq neighbourhood.
  • A train travelling to Pakistan caught fire early today in northern India, killing at least 53 people. An explosive device was discovered near the tracks, according to the general manager of the railway. Fire engulfed two cars of the Samjhauta Express, one of two trains linking India and Pakistan.
  • Palestinians and Muslims all over the world have condemned Israeli archaelogical excavations and repair work undertaken at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Judaism's holiest site, close to the Al Aqsa mosque, claiming the work deliberately endangers the foundations of Islam's third holiest site. The violent protests by Muslim worshippers seen earlier at the site has not yet been repeated.
  • Speaking from Gaza, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas faults the position of Israel and the U.S. in their unwillingness to come to the bargaining table, despite Hamas's implacable opposition to the Jewish state's existence, and its determination to demolish Israel's presence in the Middle East.
The big question here is does Islam understand itself? Muslims can claim membership in the highest echelons of education, science, medicine and the humanities, yet the great bulk of Muslims suffer from a form of religious illiteracy, a lack of moral reflection to fully understand what the Koran demands of them as responsible members of society at large. Muslim intellectuals who do dare to speak out in defiance of prevailing fundamental utterances that set Islam apart and against other religions and cultures are often threatened and marginalized.

In the currently-accepted vision of Islam as interpreted by too many clerics, Islam has become an institutional defence of suspicion, grievance, hatred and revenge. The medieval world view of Islam's place in the world prevails, where a sense of religious superiority over all other religions is a commonplace acceptance. At that time in ancient history co-existence and the concept of equality was never an issue in a Muslim-dominated atmosphere.

We live in a different world, with far different approaches to religion, culture, traditions, and the acceptability of religion as a driving force for good in the greater scheme of enlighted civil life. In various religions God exhorts people to help themselves become better people. To be a better person is to be fully aware of one's place in society, to offer equality, to value inclusiveness and diversity, to accept others as one would also hope to be accepted. God, it is often said, helps those who help themselves.

Or, as the Koran says (Koran 13:11) "God will not change the condition of a people until they change it themselves".


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Gently Chiding Jews

Something that looks suspiciously like anti-Semitism rears its head. Again. Not that anyone was really looking for it. But there it is. A Polish member of the European Parliament, father no less of Roman Giertych, the Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister was issuing a public lesson on the perfidy in society of the Jewish presence.

Jews, he would have it, deliberately ghettoize themselves, no one demands it of them, no governments plan to set them apart from other citizens, they take it upon themselves to remain aloof because of the "civilization of programmed separateness, of programmed differentiation from the surrounding communities...Jews form the the ghettos themselves. It was only Hitler's Germany that created the concept of forced separation."

(Handily overlooking the fact that German Jews were the most integrated, the most absorbed, the most proud of being German first, Jews second, of any Jewish populations in the diaspora. Because of their German-first identification they found it particularly difficult to understand why they were being singled out, ghettoized, and finally exterminated, along with all the Jewish-first populations of the rest of Europe.)

Then there is Canada where in every major city there are much-celebrated 'ghettos' of Italians, Portuguese, Chinese, Lebanese, Vietnamese among many others who find comfort in living together with others who share their cultural, historical, traditional and religious beliefs, while at the same time adhering to the larger political, cultural and legal core values of the country. Here we call it pluralism, a mosaic of ethnicities. And Canada honours these groups.

But it's not the physical separation that is his real agenda, which the rest of his tirade reveals: "Jews are not pioneers, but migrate from poorer communities to settle among the other civilizations, preferably among the rich." Such delicate slander. This man, Maciej Giertych, is a member of the ultra-Roman Catholic League of Polish Families party, currently led by his son.

His tract, entitled "Civilizations at War in Europe" claims "integration, middle ground and the 'melting pot' are not possible" in Europe. Most of the continent should retain "the Latin civilization". A spokesman for the European Commission was unequivocal in his rejection on behalf of the Commission, that it "condemns any manifestations of anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia".

The Commission might want to look into the fact that the tract uses the European Parliament's official logo, presumably to lend it an air of authority and respectability. Evidently, the diatribe was not confined to the place of despicable Jews in society but also took aim at the Muslim world's "despotism", adding that "few Muslims know the Koran".

Mr. Giertych, evidently adds misogynistic beliefs to his rather lengthy list of hates, feeling that modern Western civilization has handed over too much in expectations for women in daily life in the home, in abject surrender to women's liberation.

A man for all seasons.


The Savagery of Sacred Hatred

There they go again. Condemning innocents to lives of misery. In the name of Allah. Devout Muslims are taught to believe that the governments of the West are determined to undermine Islamic holy teaching and the precepts of the Koran for no other reason than their hatred for Muslims. How else to effectively convince ordinary Muslims that the West has evil intentions against them than to have their clerics tell them so?

To protect Muslims against the pernicious plans of the West, Islamic militants have persuaded parents of children in tribal regions of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan that innoculations against poliomyelitis is truly representative of another, vicious plan to reduce Muslim populations. The polio immunization is not that at all, but rather a method whereby their children will become sterilized, infertile, unable to reproduce at adulthood.

Fundamentalist Islamists have succeeded to the extent that parents of 24,000 children have refused to allow health workers to vaccinate their children. Fanatical mullahs encourage this belief to ensure that worried and confused parents will see this as an evil plot to harm their children and by extension their own futures.

This message of indoctrination against medical intervention to save their children from the effects of polio has been announced on local radio stations and from the loudspeakers of area mosques. The World Health Organization has recorded a slow but steady increase in the incidence of polio in Pakistan and foresees a potential spread of the disease, not only locally, but further abroad.

Dr. Abdul Ghani, chief surgeon at the main hospital in the area was killed and three guards wounded by a remote-controlled bomb as he was returning to Khar, after attending a tribal gathering in promotion of vaccination. Those who murdered the doctor made good use of technologically-advanced weaponry to warn off further attempts to innoculate the children.

The medical science of prevention through innoculation has escaped their warped minds as an effective way to ensure whole lives for vulnerable children in the region. They cannot see beyond their irrational suspicion and hatred of anything not Muslim-derived or -inspired.

This is the savagery of Islamist hatred.


Oh, Say Can You See

Really. Think about it. Can you really see it? A network, an economic/political/defence network comprised of all of North America. Working for the good of the continent. And, by extension, of course, the good of the world. After all, what's good for North America has got to be good for the rest of the world. Right? Well, if we're talking trade and a tripartite trade protectionism pact between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico it might very well be to the detriment of the rest of the world; the developing world in particular.

Actually, much as is happening now, with our motherhood statements coming from here and there and everywhere (think EU) where primary production in particular receives hefty subsidies, so the developing world economies can't even get that proverbial toe in the door before it slams shut. But that's life and in all matters trade and economics it's every country for itself. Exactly! So why does that healthy elephant to the south of Canada want to link its economy ever more bindingly with its neighbours?

We've got our antennae up. But imagine, here we are suspicious of America's basic good nature and eager willingness to enrich Canada and Mexico in lock-step with her own economy... But look here - we're not the only ones. In fact it would appear that our hesitation and suspension of belief is as nothing in comparison to the way that Americans themselves have reacted to these quiet but high-powered talks between the three countries.

It's formally been termed the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) and represents a vision to harmonize all three countries' economic and security provisions. The accord, if such it can be termed, is looking at joint agreement and cooperation (harmonization) with respect to issues such as immigration, terrorism-watch, drug-safety and consumer-protection legislation. The purpose being to "build a safer, more secure and economically dynamic North America".

In fact, for the present, all it represents is skullduggery in the sense that these negotiations currently taking place, or conversations, or suggestions of ways and means are back-room deals with no real legitimacy in government-to-government talks. And why is that? Simply because all three countries recognized beforehand the public hue and cry that would be aroused by the public revelation of the existence of such discussions. And little wonder.

Canada and Mexico know what it's like to try to deal with the elephant-next-door. No one trumps the U.S. Congress, not even when you've signed a legally-binding deal which can be brought before an international tribunal for an objective appraisal that comes down in favour of the two little mice-next-door. All three governments have issued placatory statements assuring protesters from within their own countries that this is all above-board and for the moment, exploratory, and no agreement would be arrived at that would challenge the sovereinty of any of the countries involved.

But doesn't it make one chuckle, doesn't it make one's heart leap with glee to realize that alarm bells are ringing within the great USA itself. There some are terming this a 'treasonous' deal certain to flood the United States with illegal aliens (from Mexico, natch) and terrorists (from Canada, needless to say). Open borders, here we come! Well, not quite, but that's an interpretation, one that drives many U.S. lawmakers into panic mode, evidently.

Representative Virgil Goode (gotta love that name!) who has brought aboard six other legislators has tabled two resolutions opposing the deal in the U.S. House of Representatives: "The deal will weaken the sovereignty of the U.S. It will create a North American Union" similar to the European model, he warns.

Hey, "socialist Canada and corrupt Mexico" have U.S. patriots slavering with indignation. It's all right to tolerate them as neighbours, but hell, incorporate their future with ours? Conspiracy theorists in the U.S. are having a hallucinatin' ball, blaming a "cabal of elite globalists" for threatening the security of the United States. Evidently evil Canada and Mexico have a secret agenda to destroy the sacred U.S. Constitution.

You go, fellas! You may be doing us all a favour, virtuous Good Vigil.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Those Juvenile Delinquents - At It Again

There they go again. We think we're living in a real world of adults worrying about all the things that can possibly go wrong with our plans to globally advance societal interests, to ward off the deleterious effects of our neglect toward the environment, trying to come to terms with diverse religious misunderstandings, living up to our responsibilities toward less developed nations, and just generally resolving to be decent world citizens.

But here are these neighbourhood kids, bullies who just don't seem to understand that if they keep behaving in the manner they've grown accustomed to, they'll never achieve adulthood, just keep making the rest of us infuriatingly frustrated with the efforts required to keep them from one another's territories, those rough little street toughs that they are.

Playing at their bloody silly tit-for-tat games of one-upsmanship. Each side doing their best to irritate the neighbours, ringing doorbells, bashing in car windshields, setting firecrackers on doorsteps. Can you believe it? Adults behaving like juveniles in arrested development. Maybe we're all taking these matters entirely too seriously; they're all spoiled brats, after all.

There's the United States in Iraq, discovering post-hasty-invasion that they're in another part of the world, one whose customs, traditions, religion/s, animosities they don't really fathom, and trying to impose their expectations onto an unwilling population, outraged at the other gang's presence in their territory. That's life for you. Now, this hyperactive, hyper-technical invader is discovering that they're not invincible, and they're worried.

Worried, for example, about how to keep explaining back home about all those mortal casualties that keep popping up and shipped back home. Perplexed by the loss of expensive helicopters to an enemy that isn't supposed to have the ability and technical devices to detonate them out of their airspace. So, it's the neighbours' unwarranted interference that's at fault.

Gee, isn't that what neighbours do; get involved to help those living next to them in the hopes that when the bad boys come around to their home turf the ones they helped with extend their helping hand? Even if, under normal circumstances they hate their guts? So the U.S. is accusing Iran of supplying advanced weaponry to Iraqi insurgents.

It isn't at all odd that antagonists detest one another, is it? Reflective of human nature, after all. Roving gangs of ill-doers aren't particularly welcome in anyone's neighbourhood, all the more so when they're far from their home base, and then they're double-intruders, doubly unwelcome, bringing with them all the nasty habits of an alien society in the view of the put-upon society.

Ha, ha, the joke's on who? A war of words? Well, that can't be too awful, words wound, but they don't kill, right? But then things can get kind of nasty too, don't forget that. Then where's the joke? Still, how about this for symbolic gamesmanship? Revolutionary Guards Grounds Forces Chief Nur Ali Shushkari claiming that Iranian commandos engraved the Revolutionary Guard's emblem on the side of a U.S. naval vessel undetected.

After all, they're in Iran's territory, the Persian Gulf, throwing their weight around. Evidently the Iranian commandos used a submarine to approach the vessel. And, one imagines, everyone aboard the U.S. ship was drinking beer, doing popcorn in the microwave, reading comics, playing poker on the Internet. Guys will be guys. Hey, fooled you, didn't we? You're not so tough after all, are you? Tweaked your nose without your even blinking an eyelash.

Careful now, don't keep celebrating too loudly. There's always the danger of upsetting your adversary and he'll resort to the same stupid tactics, only more so. Which is why Iran is now crying that the U.S. is behind a booby-trapped car that blew up a bus belonging to Iran's Revolutionary Guards killing 11 people; which is to say Revolutionary Guards.

Jundollah (God's Soldiers: why is it in the MidEast that God has so many militias all eager to do His will, killing all those others who also worship Him?) has claimed responsibility, but Iran knows who is really behind these shenanigans. This counterpunch to Iran's little naval stunt stung sufficiently to cause the death of eleven Revolutionary Guards and injury to some 31 others. Coming so soon after the revelation of the stunt, Iran is suspicious.

To the extent that an Iranian official claims the attack was unequivocally carried out by a U.S.-backed group "based on evidence gathered", and five suspects were arrested. "A group which has been on the spotlight of U.S. media propaganda was responsible for the blast," the official said, whatever that means.

He appears to have more confidence than President Bush who admits his administration has no definitive proof: "I can say with certainty that the Quds Force, a part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated IEDs (improvised explosive devices) that have harmed our troops," the president said at a White House news conference.

What's the next little trick in the arsenal? Headache coming on.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

In My Canada?

No doubt about it - this is present-day 21st century Canada that has been found deficient in its protection of our most precious resource, our children. The recently-released United Nations report ranking the well-being of children in the more industrialized wealthy countries of the world has given us some pretty uncomfortable statistics and comparisons. They're sobering in that they're disturbing to our sense of self.

We think of ourselves as caring and compassionate, we celebrate our freedoms and our security, our collective wealth as a nation. All of our public, civic institutions are examined and carefully corrected when found wanting to ensure that all of our citizens have access to the services required in a well-functioning democracy. We boast of our universal medicare, our hospital systems, our education systems, and we are proud.

Yes, we do cautiously acknowledge that we are not perfect, but, we say, we're trying to be as close to perfect as humanly possible. It seems, perforce, we give lip service to the quality of our overall lives. Yes, we have a booming economy, we have great natural resources to fall back upon; potable water, clean air, plentiful food supplies. We have a wealth of well-educated people, a strong work force, good relations with our neighbours.

Which is why it is so puzzling when we see people living in the streets of the great cities of this great nation. Which is why it's difficult to connect the dots from our national economic health to the travails of the working poor, our tradition of hereditary welfare families, our inability to absorb and make use of the skills of immigrant-professionals. Why does this country have such problems?

Why do almost 14% of this nation's children live in poverty? Why are there families with inadequate housing for whom regular visits to our now-institutionalized food banks are a must if they are to be able to feed their children? Why are there so many families with strong incomes more wedded to the concept of material acquisition than the obligation to care for their infants themselves rather than shop them out to day-care providers?

And the United Nations report points out that Canada ranks 12th on a list of 21 of the world's advantaged countries in the health and well being of our children, bringing us to a tie position with the less economically-advantaged country of Greece. Sweden and the Netherlands rated first and second, respectively.

Surprisingly enough British and American children are ranked among the worst off in the industrialized world at 20th and 21st, respectively. Isn't that absolutely amazing? Is that not utterly disgusting?

As for Canada, our children come in second in education, sixth for material well-being, recognizing our self-acknowledged failings. When it came to how young people viewed themselves subjectively on the status of their well-being we were 15th; behaviour and risks, 17th; peer and family relationships, 18th. In the 13th rank for health and safety.

It was additionally pointed out that 13.6 Canadian households live on incomes under half of what is recognized as the median family income in Canada. Nine other advanced countries have reduced their critically low-income households to 10%. So why, with all our wealth and the industry of our people, do we do so badly in support of our children?

The report suggests that wealth in and of itself does not guarantee a high ranking since many countries whose GDP lagged far behind the wealthier ones scored significantly ahead of the economically advanced countries. One can only suppose their responsibility criteria are held to a higher level of accountability.

Is it the will to surrender ourselves to the need to protect and promote our children's well-being that eludes us? Don't we know that to ignore the needs of our most vulnerable is to reduce our humanity, and the opportunities for Canada to advance in measures far more meaningful than GDP?

This is a message to the government to go right back to the drawing board. This is a signal for caring Canadians to direct their care where it's most needed.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Aw, Give the Guy the Benefit of the Doubt...!

He's a guy! I know, his faithful parishioners saw him as a man of God; he was their trusted pastor for the past decade after all. Likely the most trusted individual in the town of Ripon, California was Randall Radic, religious extraordinaire. He knew his scriptures, he observed his obligations to his parish, to his flock; he volunteered as a youth swim coach at the local pool, after all.

How were they supposed to know the real Randall Radic, after all! A man with a chequered past as a morally upright religious leader? Doesn't anyone do background integrity checks on these guys? A serial womanizer, it doesn't appear he preyed on parish women although if that had occurred it will doubtless be revealed, unless as a result of full disclosure of his fiscal villainy no women will come forward to reveal themselves as silly goats.

His earlier life, to be revealed through an already-commissioned memoir included no fewer than eight 'fiancees', and two former wives. This man thinks big. "You may think that a priest who commits fraud is beyond redemption but I know the passage of scripture which would negate this," his Web site claims. See, his god obviously knows all about human fallibility and forgives him, why won't his parishioners, why won't the law?

All he did, after all, was forge signatures to gain ownership of the parsonage where he lived rent free. And then took out $200,000 in loans against the property. He's a bad-ass cleric, that's what. Oh, that's not the whole story? He what? He sold the First Congregational Church right out from under the noses of his loyal parishioners? Get out!
Maybe God told him to?

There's a photograph of him puffing a cigar, enjoying a wine glass of ambrosia, and hovering below his photograph an angelic female form clad in nothing but high heels, looking out a window; presumably toward the heavens. The site is a promotional for his tell-all book. "He's a larger-than-life personality" claims Deanna Dahisad of
Emphemera Bound.

Well with some of his ill-gotten gains from the church building sale price of $525,000 Mr. Radic bought himself a new black BMW, told parishioners he was resigning and motored out to Colorado. For his pains he was charged with several felonies and faced up to 16 months' incarceration. But this guys' guy wastes no opportunities and has learned well that God helps those who help themselves.

While in prison he extended toward a fellow inmate a kindly clerical ear, no doubt promising redemption to a registered sex offender accused of yet another crime in Ripon. This sterling citizen was accused of the murder of a 46-year-old woman whose body hadn't been recovered although her vehicle was found in a place incriminating her murderer.

Clever clever Mr. Radic will assist for the prosecution in testifying against the murderer - as the recipient of 'inside' information - in exchange for the lifting of his own sentence.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Settling Scores - Setting Priorities

The bad boy of the African Union is at it again, setting priorities, looking out for the well-being of his people, bearing the burden of leadership, setting an enviable example for other members of the AU, some of whom are doing their best to capitalize on his successes and even making great strides in outdoing him.

Now that the score has been settled and white Zimbabwean farmers have been put out of business, their once-fertile land lying fallow, their enterprising farm workers unemployed and huge segments of the population crying out for food, he rests on his laurels. Like any proud ruler of a deserving country he doesn't see himself engaging in false modesty and will accept a party to celebrate his birthday.

Inflation has gone from serious to rampant to critical. Fully 180,000 civil servants whose salaries were trebled in January to keep up with the cost of living now demand another increase of no less than 400 percent. That munificent raise would translate to the equivalent of one dollar a day in earnings. An increase whose value, due to the galloping inflation rate, will be wiped out within four months.

Those are the lucky ones, the people who actually have paying jobs. President Robert Mugabe rules triumphant over Zimbabwe - once an African cornucopia of food production, a food exporter - now teetering on the edge of total collapse. Prices double every 30 days in the country and food prices are believed to be rising even more steeply and speedily than the general inflationary rate.

The economy lies in ruins, but Mr. Mugabe's point has been made; Zimbabweans will not tolerate interference from the white world. That the farmers whose lands were wrested away from them for the noble purpose of allocating the land back to the "people", that those farmers who happened to be murdered in the process were also Zimbabweans who loved their country and honoured their love for it by making it an agrarian success, is rather irrelevent, just one of those nuisance bits of data.

But enough of grumping about unfortunate byproducts of social/cultural triumphs. A propitious event lingers on the horizon, soon to become reality. Emmanuel Fundira, chairman of the 21st February Movement (no he's no sycophantic slave, he's one savvy social climber very aware that adulation will get him everywhere) has announced that his committee is "looking for 300 million zimbabwe dollars ($1.2US).

Ah, a national celebration in honour of Zimbabwe's sterling success in providing for its people, in ensuring that this once-proud nation is again standing tall, prosperous and forward-looking. Well...kind of. February 21, it would appear, is the date that Mr. Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front has traditionally thrown a massive party attended by thousands of party loyalists and diplomats.

None other need attend. February 21 marks the celebration of yet another recognition that this very glorious leader of his nation turns 83. Enough cannot possibly be said for the joy and jubilation being felt at this very moment by thousands upon thousands of food-deprived Zimbabweans and the zeal with which they will empty their pockets of spare change to assist in the raising of these celebratory funds.

For it is ordinary Zimbabweans who struggle daily to cope with the effects of poverty, becoming accustomed to this rather new state of their being in this great country from whom the required funds are to be extracted. The country's treasury, after all, is in a rather depleted state. Zimbabweans are being ordered to dig deep to mark this great event - deep into their own pockets.

One cannot adequately, from this remove, appreciate the deep and abiding love the people of Zimbabwe owe and feel toward their leader.

Party on, Zimbabwe.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Progress? Progress...!

What a lovely thing to know, how utterly heartening. Does this mean, perforce, that the immovable can be moved after all? Sheikh Abdullah Nimr Darwish, the founder of the Islamic Movement in Israel, appearing before the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, taking place in Jerusalem actually permitted his mouth to form words of rejection.

Not, on this occasion, rejection of Israel and its place in the geography of Islamic chauvinism, but rejection of the Holocaust denial issuing from the mouth of Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This is monumental. This is beyond marvellous. Israel can certainly do business with this man. In fact, those present representing the Jewish cause were beside themselves with joy. And with good reason. Penetration at last.

"Tell all who deny the Holocaust to ask the Germans what they did or did not do." Thus said the worthy Sheikh Darwish, taking away the breath of his rapt listeners. Of course he also remonstrated with those same listeners, accusing them of "not understanding Muslims or their concerns" and he may be right. In all likelihood, he is right. It is rather difficult, in the light of history, ancient and current to 'understand Muslims'. But we're trying. I think we're trying.

It is rather trying, truth to tell. How does one understand Muslims? On the face of the evidence shoved into the horrified faces of victims of Muslim violence? Or by the word of peace and goodwill that faithful Muslims and their clerics avow? Do we doubt their sincerity when they protest only when they fear their interests are being denied, when we think their mass protests, often turned violent, could be put to good use in denying the horror visited upon others in the name of their religion...?

"Why are you trying to distance yourselves from Muslims as if they were the devil?" he asked. And that deserves a response. In the case of Israel there is likely plenty of room to give thought to his plea, for that is what it amounts to. In appearing before such a forum, taking the case for his people, his culture, his religion, his rightful concerns to those who should muse upon them in the interests of progress, he demonstrates his honesty.

But when he equates Muslim/Palestinian needs being overlooked by Israel's refusal to support the Saudi-enhanced peace initiative between two terrorist militias whose political arms Israel must come to the bargaining table with to engage in peace talks, he is being rather naive. Trust a jihadist-Islamist cabal whose stated up-front interest is in the removal of the State of Israel and restoration in its place of a Palestinian State? What is there to trust?

Sheikh Darwish had opened his speech by the admission that it was not an easy decision for him to arrive at, to speak before the forum. The potential back-lash from his religious colleagues across the Muslim world worried him. But, he said, he decided to present himself and his case "out of duty to God". Obviously, a man to be trusted, a good man, a man one would wish to have stand beside one for the goodness in his heart.

Anti-Semitic texts and statements throughout the Muslim world don't truly express the true spirit of Islam, he said. "I know that many of you have read very dark and harsh texts. The people who wrote them have no right to sign off on them in the name of Islam. These are interpretations and not the words of the Prophet." Well, we knew that, didn't we? It's just refreshing, a relief to hear those words from one such as he.

Attention, he went on, shouldn't be paid to Holocaust-deniers because "it only gives them something to do. Do you think I suffer less than you when I hear statements by Ahmadinejad or Bin Ladin?" he asked. Bitterly, he said the Arab world is now supportive of the recognition of Israel, but it is the Jews who are in denial, unwilling to accept tacit recognition, insistent on having the words spelled out, writ large, not to be denied.

Yes, yes, yes. Say it loud, say it clearly, write it down concisely, carefully for posterity.


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