Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Winged Billions

The nations give, the kleptocrats taketh away. How dreadfully unusual.

That those in high political places see opportunities for themselves in the generous funding that emanates from wealthy nations proffering aid to the disadvantaged nations of the world, in a spirit of genuine brotherhood aided and abetted by pangs of guilt. The countries of the West, those very countries which managed to become 'civilized' while others still savagely beset one another harbour the heartache of regret for past misdemeanors.

When they were lustily and greedily occupying third-world countries and exploiting the natural resources for their own enrichment while sometimes brutally, sometimes paternalistically administering the affairs of those countries as their personal resource-treasuries, they considered themselves entitled to do so. Now, in retrospect, they bemoan their previous state of errant empire building and declare themselves everlastingly guilty of abuse of human rights.

To assuage collective consciences, the wealthy countries of the world have been busying themselves sending along vast sums of money to enable their poor cousins, left with the heritage of governance, civil infrastructure, social welfare and jurisprudence, to administer themselves to the very best of their abilities. Alas, the very best of their abilities appear to have succumbed to reverencing tribal animosities.

In some of those formerly exploited colonial countries the success of building upon the framework of democratic governance, civil service and infrastructure, state security and legal systems has led to success; in so many others it has been truncated, becoming a weak facsimile of the original, a pretense, a macabre shield against the truth of failure to build a functioning society.

Very little of those international funds dribble their way down to the people who need it. As evidenced in improved health care, child and maternal health, literacy, employment opportunities, civil administrations - all dreadfully lacking. Those who hold power in autocratic quasi-democratic countries permit very little to flow down to staunch the tide of poverty and disease. Even in South Africa, Nelson Mandela laments that very fact.

The West simply cannot stand the blame hurled at it by its formerly exploited colonies. Wincing, it turns its pockets inside out and drains its treasuries to plow billions after billions into failed economies and state institutions led by inept and corrupt leaders who prey on their own people. And why should Afghanistan be any different, after all? Even while Canada and other NATO countries have invested vast wealth into the country, there is little to show.

There are ample opportunities for ramp ceremonies, where young people representing the NATO and UN-allied military under ISAF, do their utmost to meet the challenges of battling an insurgency that in no way resembles a regular armed force, but which strikes where and when it can, silently, covertly, deadly. And where a corrupt administration threatens to make peace with its enemy the Taliban, while urging foreign countries to give even more.

Now, the unsurprising but still meddlesome revelation that billions in cash representing foreign-aid funding for humanitarian needs in the country keeps flowing out of the country, enriching those very corrupt government officials that the Afghan population deplores and detests. The money, packed neatly in suitcases, even stacked on pallets, is flown to Dubai.

Customs records are meticulously maintained for this is considered an entirely legal procedure. Senior politicians and other officials on their way to Dubai can more casually smuggle out unregistered sums of cash; those using a VIP lane at Kabul airport simply bypass the checks. The Afghan Ministry of Finance itself estimates $9-million daily to be flying out of the country.

Kabul airport's chief customs officer explains helpfully that his staff bows to pressure to allow cash through when they discover smuggling to be taking place. When, he explained, a pile of millions of dollars was being sent en route to Dubai, undeclared, "there was lots of pressure from my higher ups. It came from very, very senior people. They told me there was an arrangement with the central bank and told me to let it go."

The Islamic 'honour' system of money transference across the globe is effected here through the use of couriers, part of the hawala money transfer network. Thus, there is honour in smuggling money received through international aid transfers meant to build health clinics, schools, courthouses, and to offer medical and social services to the Afghan people.

Moreover, President Karzai is still busy on his very particular mission to palaver with the Taliban, to offer them governance-sharing opportunities. While on the one hand, insisting that Afghanistan is in dire need of the protective presence of NATO to defend the country and its people from the Taliban, he designs a future allied with them.

An aspiration that fits very nicely into Pakistan's plans too, as it happens. The Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, always engaged closely with the Taliban and indeed intertwined with them - despite its urgent denials of same when faced with accusations by the west - has been helpful in arranging meetings with leaders of the insurgency networks.

All of which sinister plots are utterly false, since both the Afghan and the Pakistan governments deny there is any credibility in those (well verified) claims.

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Casting Blame

These things do happen. Matters getting out of hand. The best laid plans and all that. There is a spirit of bonhomie, and then suddenly, everything collapses because of some unforeseen incident, as a result of a lapse of diplomatic niceties. One cannot, after all, extend warmth and companionship on the one hand, and consolidate it with a slap in the face. But it does happen. And when it does, there are unfortunate consequences.

Take, for example, the incident that took place in Israel, with the visit of American Vice-President Joe Biden. With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doing his utmost to assure Mr. Biden that Israel was fully cognizant of the strictures that the United States' administration was placing on its ambitions to ensure that the aspirations of the Palestinian Authority not be cast asunder by any unfortunate moves.

All was sweetness and light, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, until the Israeli media came out with the revelation that the Israeli government intended to proceed with building in east Jerusalem. Not then and there, but these were future plans, and had long since been cast for processing; this was simply an ill-timed revelation in the media of work already scheduled to proceed. Bad timing.

Even though the Palestinian Authority at the very same time was blessing and celebrating Palestinian "martyrs" whose martyrdom was achieved at the cost of the lives of Israeli citizens, at the very time that the United States was vigorously pursuing the PA to halt its support for terrorist activities, and Mr. Biden selectively chose to overlook that little item.

It was his insulted reaction to the news of routine public works scheduling - seen as an affront to him personally as the signal representative of President Barack Obama, who brooks no dissent from those whose dependence upon him and the largess of the United States- that was later manifested in public rebukes and very public indignities visited upon a later-visiting PM Netanyahu, in Washington.

Stern, strict, confrontational, and demanding.

Now take the situation where friendly ties were being burnished heralding a new era of trust and understanding between the United States and Russia, two long-time adversaries on the world stage, but needing to come together in a spirit of amity for the well-being of the Globe, and the necessity to halt nuclear proliferation. At the G8 and G20 meetings in Canada, Presidents Medvedev and Obama were open and friendly.

During President Dmitri Medvedev's visit to Washington he was wined and dined and friendlied by President Obama to the nth degree. And then, oh dear, a diplomatic faux pas. The revelations that the long-term presence of no fewer than eleven Russian spies on American soil had been uncovered. Espionage, that very dirty word. A scandal.

Suddenly the warmth threatens to cool down.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made light of the zeal of the American security agents unveiling their meticulous work in unravelling the presence and activities of the Russian spies who had lived, thrived, and infiltrated the U.S. establishment for the purpose of securing vital data to be funnelled back to their handlers. Didn't happen.

Barking up the wrong tree, fellas.

Anger there may be, but it is on gentle sizzle, and seems destined to remain at that level, until it fizzles out. As long as no other embarrassing and untoward undercover activities are revealed to the detriment of both sides. President Barack Obama did not receive a dressing down by either the Russian President nor the Prime Minister. Although the Russian press are having a go at it.

There is much to gain in letting this matter fade into the distance. There is much to lose in either side feigning umbrage and outrage. For, as the editor of one Russian news website commented, "After all this is the only successful avenue in his [Obama's] foreign policy."

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

False Identities

Germany feels out of sorts, finding Chinese spies have infiltrated the country, intent on discovering the whereabouts of Falun Gong practitioners in the country. On the very eve of Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to China, an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and diplomatic disarray erupts. Well, it's fairly well known that most countries engage in espionage of one kind or another, be it for industrial secrets, or political or military reasons; in this instance it is for social/ideological/political reasons.

It is awkward, and things will straighten out.

After all, the heads of the two countries just met in complete amity in Toronto, during the G8 and G20 summits, didn't they? Where good fellowship prevailed, in an atmosphere of collegiality and determination to solve the ills of the world, did they not? It is also where U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev discussed matters of mutual interest, and were seen smiling broadly and warmly at one another in published photographs.

And it is true that when world leaders meet, they view one another as human beings, individuals. Friendships are established and trust is built. They feel, through meeting one another in the flesh, even for relatively short periods of time, a certain closeness in the heights of their powerful executive positions, as equals.

Each operates from the thin air of their political aeries and when they meet as heads of state, it is no accident those meetings are termed "summits".

So it is extremely awkward and fiendishly difficult politically when the security agencies of their various national establishments come head to head with malfeasance from one to the other. That is, embedded secret agents are somehow revealed, their cover blown, as the saying goes and their real identities revealed, causing umbrage in one country and embarrassment in the other.

Russian spies discovered to be operating in the United States, tch-tch.

As though the very idea of such an event is inconceivable, as though the United States does not now have and always has had, its own spy agents ensconced within Russia, quietly and with determination, executing his or her own espionage-related directives from the CIA. However, having been found out, and having been followed for a period of time to establish the required evidence through which the presence of the spies is validated and an order for their expulsion obtained, they are outed.

And, as with Israel equipping its agents out on dangerous missions, with identities and passports of other countries, representing individuals whose background has been created for that very purpose, occasionally taking on the persona of an actual person, or some who have died, so too did these Russian agents fake their original and nationality.

As Canadians! Oh my, such consternation from among the Canadians whose names and backgrounds have been compromised...
"You were sent to USA for long-term service trip. Your education, bank accounts, car, house, etc. All these serve one goal: fulfill your main mission, i.e. to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US and send intels [intelligence reports] to C [SVR headquarters]."
Are we, ignorant of details, but titillated by presumptions, to imagine that the embedded agents became so comfortable with their assumed identities that they simply felt like staying and becoming the people whose existence they emulated, deciding to default from their original purpose and intent and just meld into the society they'd become part of, delivering no useful intelligence to their political masters?
"The targets of the FBI's investigation include covert SVR agents who assume false identities, and who are living in the United States on long-term 'deep-cover' assignments. These Russian secret agents work to hide all connections between themselves and Russia, even as they act at the direction and under the control of the SVR; these secret agents are typically called 'illegals'."
'Illegals'; yes, we assumed as much. But thanks very much for the explanation. This will, without doubt, be playing at a theatre near you, before too long. Watch for it.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

That Summer Camp Experience

It would be so very interesting to read the reactions of anti-Israel groups so anxious to reveal to the world at large their contempt for Israel and their brave support of Palestinians in Gaza, their solidarity with Hamas controlling Gaza, were they to read the latest news coming out of the Strip. Not that minds set in stone with respect to their dearly-held beliefs would take much notice of such news in any event. Any news that paints Hamas in the smudgy light of unreason and totalitarianism does not sit well with a mindset acclimated to believing otherwise.

But there the news is, available to anyone for whom it might be of interest. After all, the well-being of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children living in Gaza is involved. There is the little matter of the humanitarian UN-mission in Gaza and its summer camps installed there for the purpose of giving Palestinian children the child-friendly experience of summer holidays, a carefree summertime environment.

In May, the UN children's camp program suffered a bit of a set-back when the largest of the camps was set afire and a note left threatening to kill the UN Relief and Works Agency head in Gaza. This is the same UNRWA head who so very often comes across as anti-Israel; in fact anti-Semitic, but then such sentiments are often quietly cloaked in the larger picture of an agonized humanitarian working on behalf of an embattled population. Victimized by Hamas, and as a result targeted by a country which takes exception to being the recipients of armed attacks by Hamas.

And now there's been a second children's camp attack. Fatah officials were convinced, at the time of the May attack, that Hamas operatives were involved. Hamas, needless to say, denies any such thing. Yet Hamas is not inordinately fond of the UN's children's camps' agenda, and they have set up their own, alternative camps, which reflect the Hamas agenda. Inclusive of propaganda of a quite incendiary nature, teaching children to hate 'the enemy' and building future support for their annihilation-of-Israel mandate.

On this second occasion, masked gunmen expressed their fanatical Islamist Salafist disgust at the presence of Western-oriented camps designed to help children have fun in the summer sun, with swimming and sports, and art activities planned to give them an experience approximating a normal childhood. The attackers tied up and beat the camp guards before setting fire to chairs, tables, tents and other summer fun-in-the-sun appurtenances.

UNRWA's Gaza director, John Ging, understandably is less than thrilled with the attack on the camp. "This is another example of the growing levels of extremism in Gaza and further evidence, if that were needed, of the urgency to change the circumstances on the ground." The urgency to change the circumstances would not reflect a need to remove Hamas by any means possible, or to urge it to find peace with Israel. Rather, it would reflect Mr. Ging's apprehension that Israel's blockade of Gaza, meant to protect Israel from Hamas's threat to remove it from the geography, must undergo a change of some kind.

Fling open all the crossings. Israel has ample experience with what occurs when crossings are opened. They become a direct and violent threat to Israelis with violently predatory Palestinians seeking every opportunity to demonstrate their hatred for the Jewish state and its Jewish inhabitants. There are more than enough threats from within Israel itself, with the presence, among Israeli-Arabs, of individuals intent on bringing harm to Jews. Vigilance has its limits; the security of Israel and its inhabitants is always uppermost in the minds of its government, and it can stretch only so far, and no further.

Separation of the antagonists is a necessity, to secure the safety of those who are targeted. The ideas of John Ging and others who represent the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees always seem to give short shrift to the security needs of Israel; the fact that Jews are targets of hate and violence does not seem quite to impinge on the consciousness of UN types. Nor does it ever seem to occur to them how peculiar it is that an entire population has, in the most supine manner conceivable, lent themselves to the status of 'homeless' and 'refugees', hugely dependent on foreign largess rather than their own independent spirit.

Palestinian 'refugees' have traded their pride and honour for the title of pitiable 'refugees', when time has given them ample opportunity to demonstrate that those who govern them have the will and the capacity to erect civil structures reflective of a civil society, one that takes the opportunities life offers and makes the most of them. Where enterprise and the potential to conduct a meaningful lifestyle, growing businesses and employing people, and building a viable state is demonstrably desirable and possible.

Shedding the mantle of 'refugee', and proudly taking on that of a people determined to aspire to a worthwhile future. Rather than nursing an aged grievance and refusing to surrender the sense of themselves as helpless victims, as ill-done-by and uprooted by a vicious conspiracy to deprive them of their heritage and geography. Because sharing that geography was never seen to be in their interest, and no more does it at the present time. Reflected by the rejection on countless occasions, of accepting Israel's presence and moving on from there, to build their own state by accepting peace.

UNRWA operates over a thousand summer camps, for a quarter-million Gaza children. Hamas too, operates summer camps and they focus on teaching the Koran and the philosophy behind their purpose. Central to their philosophy, for any that might not imagine it, is inciting hatred of Israel, complemented by paramilitary training. About one hundred thousand children from Gaza attend these Hamas-run summer camps. And, as Hamas is the ruling authority in Gaza, it 'responded' to the attack on the UN's summer camp. For which prompt action after the fact, Mr. Ging complimented Hamas, just as he had formerly, after the May attack.

Mr. Ging obviously cannot conceive of any reason why Hamas or any other terror-inclined group would take umbrage at the UNRWA curriculum and Western-oriented education process. Teaching young children art and theatre arts, and giving them the opportunity to play organized sports is obviously not reflective of a more relevant teaching opportunity, one that might involve the correct handling of firearms, for example, and teaching military drills, related to the vital importance in Islam, of jihad. But Mr. Ging has vowed to see that the camp is repaired and that summer camp experiences offered to children from Gaza by the UN is not impaired.

Perhaps Canadian 'pro-Palestinian' activists are aware that compared to other Salafi-Muslim groups which consider Hamas 'moderate' in their mandate and inclination, Hamas has its own detractors from within the fundamentalist Arab-Muslim jihadist tribes. On the other hand, Hamas too, has been urging Palestinians in Gaza to observe more strict Islamic rules on mode of dress, on rejecting Western-style films, art, music and those Internet cafes and restaurants that do not confine themselves strictly to Islam's strict face of demeanor and public attire.

On the other hand, even if they did become more knowledgeable about the nuances of the rising tide of Islamist fanaticism, it would only spur those Canadians who so vociferously espouse their support for same, and rejection of all that Israel represents in mirror-reflection of their own country's democratic values and system of legal human rights guarantees, to find ever more reasons to admire the fundamentals of Islam.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fascist, Theistic, Communist: Difference?

Ideological extremes symbolize by their very nature the very worst that collective humankind can achieve. In the guise of creating a better world, a society more attuned to the collective needs of people, where everyone is equal and equally entitled theoretically, and which, in reality turns out to be a world of extreme repression and inhumanity, we have states like Burma, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and those simply edging toward their accomplishments, and doing very well at it indeed. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Venezuela. Not to mention the outstanding African countries of Zimbabwe, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen.

These core countries' overwhelming hatred of the very existence of free and democratic countries whose open distaste for all that the repressed ones represent in the scope of their human-rights-abusing exploitation of their people, form a bloc of aggressive antagonists to human rights. Yet they are obsessed with claiming that they and their ideologies of repression represent human rights-observance, while those of the West are the repressive, threatening nations. Iran delights in claiming the West is demonic in its intent to destroy humanity.

Hugo Chavez is hosting Syria's Bashar Assad, both strong allies of Iran and North Korea. Chavez crows that Latin America and the Arab world are prepared to play a "key role in freeing the world, by struggling against "Imperialism, capitalism, and neo-liberal hegemony that today threatens the survival of the human race." All is not lost, however, as Chavez further states: "But one day the genocidal state of Israel will be put in its place and let's hope that a really democratic state emerges there, with which we can share a path and ideas."

That would, of course, come to reality with the Jewish presence expunged, the state given a name alteration, and the millions of 'refugee' Palestinians return. Israel, Chavez asserts "...has become the assassin arm of the United States; no one can doubt it. It is a threat to all of us. Not just to you but to us as well. A threat to the countries who fight for their freedom", according to Reuters news agency. For his part, Assad had high praise for Chavez, for "supporting just causes both in Latin America, our region and throughout the world."

A mutual admiration society of the first order. Whose agenda hides behind a transparent shield of turning the message of the free West and the democratic order of nations inside-out and upside-down, handily shifting the mantle of a responsible world order onto the slumped shoulders of their failed governance. Here is the risible convergence of a theocratic order intent on restoring itself to a former glory of world control through universally-imposed Islamic Sharia, and a staunch Marxist agenda, embracing as brothers in a fascistic celebration of mutual aspirations.

And North Korea, another great good friend of those who aspire to rescue the world from the domination of the West? Well, North Korea, indifferent to feedings its hugely indigent population, has spared no expense to acquire weapons of mass destruction. It has biological agents like anthrax, botulism and mnemonic plague stored for future use, along with chemical agents like mustard gas, phosgene, and sarin to be deployed at the most convenient time.

And if that's not enough, how about nuclear warheads? It is reputed to have between two and eight small nuclear bombs. "Small" in the parlance of today's armaments industry is relative; those small payloads represent bombs of the intensity of those that the U.S. dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima during WWII, and the horrendous effects of those devices are legendary, the huge loss of life and the utter flattening of those cities.

North Korea's Taepodong-2 missile, its most powerful, although it has many others as well, is capable of launching a nuclear warhead to reach Europe, much of the U.S. and Australia. And North Korea, just a nudge here, in case anyone has forgotten, is ruled by a cunning lunatic. He and his regime know nothing but warfare, and threaten to impose it at any provocation, even if the provocation emanates from them, outwardly.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

"Immensely Gratifying"

It hardly seemed possible that Lord Black of Crossharbour would be seen as a felon. That one day he would stand in an American court charged with criminal offences that would garner him a six-+year incarceration in a U.S. federal prison. This was a man who knew his way around. Had friends in high places. Was highly respected in some circles and derided in others as a too-sharp businessman. But he was judged and found guilty of the charges brought against him.

Not all the charges. There were 17 counts of criminal conduct, including racketeering, money laundering and tax evasion. The trial took three months where the prosecution and the defence brought forward evidence and made their arguments to the judge and jury. Thirteen of the original 17 charges were considered by the jury. And he was acquitted on nine of the thirteen, found guilty of four. Then sentenced to six and a half years in Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Florida.

Where his wife, living in their Florida mansion, could visit him comfortably and conveniently. During his trial, Conrad Black was impulsively upbeat, confident, brash, certain he would be cleared of all charges brought against him. And his colleagues. He was disappointed and taken aback at the betrayal of one of his closest friends and business partners, who shortened his own sentence by testifying against Lord Black.

This is a man who continually aspired. He aspired to buy and own businesses, and he sold them, sometimes not in very congenial circumstances. And he had a love affair with the newspaper business. At one time representing as one of the largest newspaper-holding interests in North America. And he started a new, Canadian national newspaper that became the very best in the country, with a stable of reporters and columnists second to none, expressing mostly conservative, but occasionally also liberal views.

It must have been utterly devastating for this proud and pompous man to understand finally that the American justice system was intent on putting him away, out of society, for over six years of his life. In the U.S. system, not much time off for good behaviour. And here's the thing of it. Conrad Black is no intellectual slouch. He is amazingly good with language and his elegance and capability is evident to anyone who reads his writings.

Is there anyone who has never read something this man has written? Scholarly biographies, newspaper articles, letters-to-the-editor, opinion pieces. And emails. He responds, from his prison cell, to each and every email that anyone sends to him. Generously, effusively, kindly, he disputes, corrects, or agrees with strangers who take umbrage at his conclusions, or who congratulate him for the clarity of his understanding.

And while a less optimistic, less determined, less gifted and intelligent individual might have crawled into dedicated obscurity while locked away in a prison cell, he instead chose to communicate, to continue writing, to explain himself, and to gift the reading world with his beliefs and his perceptions. He has done far more than that. Aside from involving himself in ongoing self-imposed writing tasks, preparing additional manuscripts for publication, he has shared his writing knowledge and expertise.

While in prison he has undertaken to teach writing classes. He claims that his surroundings and the structure in which he is held, and its administration is one he can appreciate; it is no dungeon, it does represent a somewhat enlightened prison atmosphere. Lord Black sees his fellow inmates as little different in character and personality than those he is aware of and acquainted with, in the outside world. He is held in some esteem by the prison population who appreciate his teaching efforts on their behalf.

Surely, with the finding of the Supreme Court of the United States that ruled in favour of his appeal to set aside his three fraud convictions under the 'honest services fraud statute', it may be further acknowledged that the two and a half years of incarceration he has already served is more than adequate to represent the remaining charges. He poses no threat to society, unless his unambiguous self-confidence itself is seen as an affront to society.

The common perception is that he has more than earned his freedom from a sentence that he has never recognized as just and legitimate. Although none might have thought of him in quite this way, pre-incarceration, Lord Black is the very personification of a free spirit. It is past time for him to be given his freedom.

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Friday, June 25, 2010


How horribly disappointed the Liberals and the NDP must feel right about now. The Conservative-led government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is welcoming heads of state to the country to take part in the G8 and G20 summits. They would feel far more comfortable if Canada were represented by a more, well, liberal government. A government that was better suited and better placed to present as a true representative of Canada and the people of Canada.

A government say, that was humble enough to apologize to the families of the victims of the Air Canada tragedy. A government that would be able to apologize to aboriginal Canadians for the cold paternalism of a previous administration that took children from their homes to grow them into Canadians through institutionalizing them. A government that grieved over the unfair and racist treatment of Chinese- and Japanese-Canadian citizens.

Funny thing, that. Although there was ample opportunity through prolonged years of Liberal rule, it took a Conservative government to do these things. And to meet the Dalai Lama. And to inform countries like China and Iran and North Korea that their repulsive, repressive, human-rights-denying administrations had no reason to anticipate respect from Canada. Canada, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has consolidated support and friendship for those deserving of it.

Every tactic that a febrile and embittered antagonist could imagine has been attempted by these two opposition parties - aided and abetted by a federal party whose activities are paid by the taxpayer, yet is intent on destroying confederation - to destroy the reputation of a governing party that has proved itself adept at governing in the best interests of the country and its people. Denunciations and hysterics and juvenile finger-pointing have been the hallmark of this session of Parliament.

And now that the two summits are upon us, and foreign leaders are arriving in the country whose safety and security has been assured to the best of the abilities of a law-abiding, democratic country which has had to plan and to pay almost a billion dollars for that security, damned if the opposition hasn't been delivered of a painful message. None other than the bulldog of the federal budget has delivered his verdict of all-clear on the summit spending front.

Moreover, Kevin Page has honourably taken the initiative to compliment this government on its 'relative transparency' about the $1-billion security price tag. Taking pains to describe the reluctance of other G8-hosting countries of the free world, to delineate and describe similar costing details. So much for screaming about 'lack of transparency' on the summit security costs; this government has been open and above-board, and the cost is not out of whack with the needs.

"It is the PBO's (Parliamentary Budget Office) observation that the government of Canada has been relatively transparent with regards to the planned 'total' costs of the summits. PBO's research of publicly available information indicates that no other host country has provided 'total' security costs to this level of detail." Stick that in your craw, and chew, slowly, methodically and with attention to those black feathers, please do.

This is the cost of internationalism. This is the cost of the world stage. This is the cost of recommending a signal and desperately required initiative to be added to the agenda, and to add value to the responsibilities and capabilities of the countries whose wealth represents collectively 85% of the world's total. An additional commitment to the Canada-led maternal and child health program, topping up what already exists.

To reduce the death toll of a half-million women living in undeveloped countries, during childbirth; to reduce substantially the deaths of nine million children under five years of age, dying annually from starvation and the debilitating effects of malnutrition leaving them unable to fight off the ravages of avoidable disease. Roughly $30-billion of new money is what this will take. A lot of arm-wrestling and confidence-building will be required.

At a time when the wealthy industrialized countries of the world have good reason to fret about their still inconclusive financial recovery. At the very time when those countries are also involved in a costly war. And when their national debts have swelled impossibly huge, as a result of a collective agreement to battle the global economic downturn with massive stimulus programs that they must now be weaned off. Hoping that their domestic recovery will soon take over.

At the very time when it has been revealed that for many countries of the G20 consumer confidence has stagnated. These world-class summits of the wealthy countries of the world have their work cut out for them. Topics like the global environment, economy, conflict, nuclear safety, poverty, energy are certain to strain the best laid plans of mice and men.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

That War

How soon we forget. Truth to tell it is not those who have experienced the hideous misery of war, a conflagration of partner-countries at ideological war against one another; one the aggressor the other the defender, and in the process millions of their populations dying whose memory lapses. They recall, and they shudder, and they fear repetition, and they walk softly and sleep uneasily.

It is their offspring, the children born well after the fact for whom the dread memories of their parents and grandparents are history. Dead history. Events that occurred once and simply will not again. Because their sunny aspirations for themselves have no room for apprehension. What happened, happened. The future will have none of it. This is a device, a coping device that assists human beings to survive.

So even while North Korea's defiant troglodyte of a leader waxes effusive about his country's military might while his people starve through lack of nutrition and opportunity, and the country's resources are plowed into more technologically advanced missile systems and the refinement of nuclear warheads, young South Koreans feel nothing to be amiss.

This is, after all, what they've always lived with. The understanding that they are singularly fortunate to be South Koreans, and North Koreans are unfortunate to live where they do, oppressed by a dictator who is also a primping thespian on the world stage of absurdity linked with danger. That North Korea's military deliberately shot a South Korean vessel, disabling it and killing 46 seamen in the process is unfortunate.

It is also a signal act of war, one that other countries would promptly respond to, in like kind, intent on delivering the message that their countrymen's lives have value and their sovereignty is not to be tampered with. But China urges caution, and China prefers non-confrontation, and China hesitates to rein in its puppet too strongly, lest it too suffer the backlash of extreme embarrassment.

And South Korea, which has the backing of Japan and the United States and that of the United Nations, which wrings its hands over the 'unfortunate' incident, restrains itself as it must. The Cheonan is not exactly dispensable, nor was its crew, but this must be put behind them, for the time being. Peace at almost any cost. As for the younger generation of South Koreans?

"I don't believe that North Korea is a threat. I read the articles in the newspapers, but I don't buy it." And South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak is held in somewhat lower esteem because of his offended reaction to the deaths of 46 seamen and the sinking of the Cheonan. For young South Koreans see no need in 'confrontation'. "Most of the younger generation has a similar opinion; that North Korea is a political issue, not a security issue."

The older generation? "I worry about the younger generation because they don't think North Korea has done anything wrong... they don't know about the war. My generation really knows it, and expects that the war could be possible again."

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"100 Times"

There, that's prideful ownership of responsibility of actions taken as a result of commitment. Guilty not once, but by a factor of one hundred. And what will you do about it? Read the malefactor his rights and proceed to hold trial. But if he has admitted guilt, and proudly so, why bother with a trial? The evidence is there, and more than augmented by an admission of guilt, so simply sentence the man. It's on the agenda; wait for October.
"I want to plead guilty 100 times because, unless the U.S. pulls out of Afghanistan and Iraq, until they stop drone strikes in Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen, and stop attacking Muslim lands, we will attack the U.S. and be out to get them."
That's pretty unequivocal, isn't it? Yet another American citizen brimming with loathing for the country that gave him haven. The great American way of life, its democratic values and justice system, its transformative opportunities, allowing people to arrive at its shores from countries whose ideologies and totalitarian rulers produce a harrowing existence for its peoples, rejected. By those whose incendiary hatred transform the country to a threat against repressive regimes.

Regimes whose people chafe under exploitative and abusive conditions, but whose hold on people is fully supported by a brand of fanaticism linked to religious intolerance and bigotry against others, culminating in violent jihadist proxies spreading terror globally. Among those of their co-religionists who are deemed to be insufficiently orthodox to the faith, and among those of the world community who reject Islam as a faith representing their interests.

Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad believes in his righteous, God-approving, God-sent mission to destroy the United States. At the very least to sow terror within its population, by destroying as many of its citizens as he could. To his personal misfortune, the training he received in Pakistan by the Pakistani Taliban whom his own father's cadres had helped train and arm, was not sufficient to overcome his own personal clumsiness.

Pakistan, the major breeding ground of Wahhabi-style fundamentalist Islam, continues to train and send out jihadis throughout the world. They pop up in Europe, in North America, in Africa and Muslim countries as well. In response to the global call to Muslims to take up the work of Allah, to destroy the infidel, the Jew and contemptible apostates. This man, yet another naturalized American citizen, brought his loathing and contempt to the battle, and failed.

There are many more standing ready and able and determined to take up where he left off.

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Chronicles of a Super-Statesman

No doubt whatever - Barack Obama, as President of the United States, inherited responsibility for an extremely, troubled, fractious, dysfunctional world. And he set his jaw and resolutely set about to bring order, justice and peace where none existed. Using his formidably persuasive elocution skills, he vowed he could, and would, simply "do it" because he must. The Hosannas rang out loud and clear, because finally America and the world at large were delivered of a political Messiah bridging not only colour and ethnicity, but religion and ideology.

And then, dammit reality set in. It does, you know.

Pre-presidency, Barack Obama vowed he would end the insurgency in Afghanistan, if he had to bomb Pakistan's border to do it. And he did it, he really did. And he sent in a promised 'surge', hauling battalions out of Iraq and forwarding them to Afghanistan because that would be the ticket to success. No one informed him beforehand, that there would be an equal surge from the insurgents, more than matching the U.S. forces, creating chaos and too many sacrifices.

And suddenly, the war in Afghanistan as it is being fought by NATO allies, encouraged by the United Nations, hugely dependent on supporting countries increasingly uneasy with the way the 'war' is proceeding, fed up with bleeding their armed forces raw and their treasuries blank, are having second thoughts. Including the U.S., since it has forewarned the Taliban that post-2011, it will be all clear.

The backlash has been, too sad to tell, America's shining armoured knight, General Stanley McChrystal, chafing under the parameters set for him by amateurs professing to know far more than he, the supreme professional, almost ready to throw in the towel. It is a sad and mournful thing when a country's principal executive orders its military commander to perform in a manner he sees fit to achieve success, rather than consult with, and take advice from that general, instead of his own closet advisers.

General McChrystal will have ample opportunity to explain to President Obama precisely how and why he is 'disappointed' in decisions that have been made without benefit of knowledge of the full picture as it pertains to Afghanistan, making his duty toward his country and his obligation toward an international force exceedingly difficult to the verge of quite simply unpredictable veering toward impossible.

And Rham Emanuel, who is 'tired' of battling the 'idealism' of the White House presidential advisers is packing his bag, another fed up stalwart in the current administration, on the verge of departure. This Congressional veteran, known for his hard bargaining, but his ability to compromise, has experienced some severe disagreements with President Obama's close advisers, themselves averse to the Chief of Staff.

Wait, there's more, how about the stinging new sanctions brought to bear on Iran, for its nuclear intransigence? Well, finally, the U.S. is beginning to bring in more stringent consequences for those who do business with Iran. And this highly successful move to isolate and bind the country financially has succeeded in eliciting an admission (boast) from its president that the country now has sufficient material for two nuclear bombs. And four more new nuclear installations on the way.

Then there's the health care fiasco, with half of the American public so uncertain about the new initiatives that they speak of their president, his policies and advisers, in unbelievably scorching verbiage of scornful disappointment and disdain. Where, despite all the diplomatic expenditures in beseeching the Democrats themselves to support the President's health care bill, there were more than enough hold-outs to create unseemly fractiousness within the party. Rahm's fault.

So, then, on to the president's calm and brotherly outreach to the international Muslim community, assuring it gravely and with the greatest of respect, that there exists no cause for suspicion between it and the American administration. A hushed expectation greeted that overture. And the Arab and Muslim worlds waited to see what would transpire. What transpired is the reality of ongoing attempts to attack the United States by disaffected fundamentalist Islamists.

Most of whom carried American citizenship. All of whom loathed whatever it is that the United States stands for, its proud traditions and heritage, its culture and its democratic inheritance, and above all, its intolerable hubris, augmented by its stature as the single remaining world power, and its capitalistic influence on the world economy. A degraded society, one whose religion is decidedly inferior to that of Islam. A terrorist country, to whom the only response could be that of effecting terror through jihad unleashed upon it.

Then there is the little misfortune of a huge oil gusher out of the Gulf of Mexico, and an exasperated president attempting to get a handle on so many diverse and needful events and misfortunes, from the country's growing national debt, to huge unemployment figures, and a slumping economy just edging out of depression, pointing a finger of blame at an immense international corporate entity with its home base in Great Britain. Relations between the U.S. and G.B. have intensified toward tense.

This is the world that the President of the United States negotiates his way through and about, from negotiating urgently with Russia and China about North Korea and Iran, Israel and Sudan through the United Nations, and trying to balance its sagging fortunes and reputation. The heartening element of the equation is not whether this very particular, very gifted, very ideological-left president will survive his experience, but that the United States most certainly will.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Just ... Musing

This really is a scientific-research, theoretical-potential break-through for Canada. Having a theoretical physicist of the elevated status of Stephen Hawking taking up a new research position in Waterloo, at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. That is impressive, big-time scientific-academic stuff. Breathtaking, in fact, in its potential. That a subject of such immense significance would be studied right here in Canada, by the world's leading cosmologist.
"Why popular fancy should seize me, a scientist dealing in abstract things and happy if left alone, is one of those manifestations of mass psychology that are beyond me. I think it is terrible that this should be so and I suffer more than anybody can imagine." Albert Einstein
The public awe and adulation directed toward Stephen Hawking for the mysterious working of a mind able to conceive of abstract imaginings beyond the understanding of all but a handful of the world's geniuses immersed in the close studies of science as it relates to molecular studies, astrophysical, physics, and engineering does not, however, appear to deter Mr. Hawking; he copes well indeed.

Aside from his amazing brain, he is also a study in emotional ingratitude, in having left his first wife (and children) who supported him faithfully during the long early years of his physical decline, suffering from motor neuron syndrome that has locked his body into a motionless prison, leaving his mind free to surmise and analyze and theorize.

The wife of the man who designed his voice box, (enabling him to communicate his theories as a quantum mechanic engaged in cosmology, putting forth brave new theories based on an intense and deep knowledge) and who as a professional nurse cared for him, then became his second wife also betrayed her husband. Emotional betrayals do not mark the moral convictions of a man of high principle.

His personal failings aside, his professional qualifications and triumphs in intellectual discoveries ensured he was well regarded in the world of astronomy, particle physics and quantum mechanics. Those in awe of his monumental brain power attribute to him monumental abilities. His theories and conclusions have been built on a succession of earlier intellectual-theoretical findings, from Galileo and Newton to Einstein.

Human knowledge of the physical world around us and our place within it owes everything to the groundwork and intellectual break-throughs pioneered by scientific minds that predated Stephen Hawking. Just as humankind's incredible leaps forward in technological advancement began with the discovery of the taming of fire and the uses of flints and ores, the world's scientists leap forward on the discoveries of their predecessors.

Professor Hawking must have impressed upon himself, for some reason best known to himself, that the RIM-funded Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics presents a unique opportunity to progress in his search for new theories that would help to explain the vast, often nameless mysteries of the universe. Leaving Cambridge's prestigious and grand hallowed halls of academe as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, for Waterloo, Ontario, might appear as a descent to some.

But Professor Hawking seems to feel that the funding he was unable to access at Cambridge is now available to him here in Canada, in modest, but beautiful Waterloo, Ontario. Thanks to a billionaire whose own brilliant forays into the fields of computer technology and communications earned him the vast riches that now enable him to further the international fortunes of pure scientific enquiry.

From exploding stars, to collapsars, to black holes that swallow everything through the sheer magnetism of their powerful attractive qualities, but which leak radiation that will eventually cause them to disappear - and then what in the universe happens to all the matter that those hungry black holes have swallowed? we, the public, cannot even begin to guess at the discoveries that may emerge, well beyond our basic brain-power to grasp.

One thing many people may, however, grasp: how much in the realm of science fiction of a rather tarnished variety it seems for a brilliant scientist like Professor Hawking to argue his position that mankind should refrain from its obsession with contacting aliens. Believing, it would appear, that any such aliens might prove to be hostile and dangerous; indeed, inimical to our prolonged existence
."I assert that the cosmic religious experience is the strongest and noblest driving force behind scientific research ... the only deeply religious people of our largely materialistic age are the earnest men of research." Albert Einstein

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Strong-Arming BP

State intervention of the kind that was seen in the United States last week, with President Barack Obama forcefully stating that his government will guarantee that the environmental disaster visited upon the coastal waters of the United States from the Gulf of Mexico oil gusher will be fully paid for by BP goes well beyond what generally occurs in countries of the West. In Russia, in Zimbabwe, in Venezuela, the kind of aggressive belligerence displayed has occurred in the past, and will doubtless occur again.

The difference is that the questionable lawfulness of a country nationalizing or revoking rights and agreements of international corporations that have heavily invested in those countries, and what has occurred in the United States with the Gulf disaster, diverge, as a clear symptom of a government that has been embarrassed, and which refuses to take responsibility for its own inadequate and inept handling of critical environmental safeguard. Covering its proverbial ass, as it were.

All the more embarrassing when this is the very government that insisted its environmental conscience would lead America to clean up its lax and wasteful energy outputs, and which, furthermore, intended to lead the country away from its reliance on cheap energy, equating that with oil and gas consumed by the nation and imported from countries with dire human rights records, and which, for the most part, are no friends of the United States.

A grim-faced President Obama bemoaned his country's oil habit, the importation of which comes to a staggering $1-billion daily. That is $1-billion that the United States sends abroad to countries from which emanate threats to world stability. And there's a catch-22 to that situation in that, without that $1-billion expenditure, the production capability of the United States, valued an awful lot higher, would come to a staggering halt. The symbiosis is what concerns the U.S.

Everything in the modern world is dependent on the energy supply. From heating and cooling, to transport and manufacturing, the world is entirely and completely dependent on a conventionally-dwindling energy supply. An alternative is available; to produce and consume less, to alter our 21st-Century mode of living, but this is one singularly unattractive to most. Even President Obama doesn't seriously contemplate slowing down the U.S. production engine.

He does, however, seek other alternatives, and they are solar, nuclear, wind, water-sourced and other not-yet imagined methods of energy production. Science has yet to get its creative juices flowing in that direction, although talk of greening energy sources has captured the imaginations of countries world-wide. In an ever-food-hungry world it makes no sense at all to divert crops to bio-fuels. In the process unduly utilizing other resources, like water, to end up with alternate energy.

President Obama's blasting of his own government's Minerals Management Service, as corrupted and improperly regulated doesn't pass the smell test, since this is after all, his own bailiwick, a government body tasked with very particular, some would even say, exacting responsibilities. And when those 'responsibilities' have been watered down, it is usually because some high-functioning government entity has guided it to that direction.

Obviously, President Obama doesn't quite buy into the ultimate responsibility claim that the buck stops at his desk in the Oval Office. In encouraging the House energy and commerce subcommittee to paint BP as black and bleak as possible, U.S. legislators are attempting to insist the corporation is only interested in 'cutting corners' to hoist its bottom line. And while that may be true to some great degree, it also reflects government's position. When tenders are put out it's the most 'efficient', and 'cost-effective' that get the nod. Greed is a two-way street.

Cutting corners, doing vital things on the cheap, gambling that the 'impossible' simply will not materialize, is taking a gamble on critical issues that should never be entertained. But they are, simply because both governments and corporations are run by human beings and human beings are notoriously fallible. As careless as BP appears to have been in overlooking issues it should have been on top of, it simply reflected the attitude of the government agency it worked with.

Which itself reflected the attitude of the government representing the needs of the taxpayers and the internal corporate interests that sustain the economy. And by shoving BP into the corner of ultimate responsibility, by making it grovel anxiously and unctuously to seek the pardon of those its carelessness has harmed, while giving the government a clean slate of responsibility, an object lesson is being taught to the energy industry.

One that government should be aware of; that the very industry it is so heavily reliant upon may, in future, be a little shy in future of imperilling themselves should anything go awry, and they are left holding the bag, on the cusp of seeing their stock market shares crash, their investors and stock-holders' expectations dashed, their very future as a functioning, global corporate interest in jeopardy.

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"If Israel Is Lost..."

Opinion: ‘If Israel Goes Down, We All Go Down‘
by José María Aznar Op-Ed: If Israel Goes, We All Go

The following op-ed, by the former Prime Minister of Spain, originally appeared in The London Times.

For far too long now it has been unfashionable in Europe to speak up for Israel. In the wake of the recent incident on board a ship full of anti-Israeli activists in the Mediterranean, it is hard to think of a more unpopular cause to champion. In an ideal world, the assault by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara would not have ended up with nine dead and a score wounded. In an ideal world, the soldiers would have been peacefully welcomed on to the ship. In an ideal world, no state, let alone a recent ally of Israel such as Turkey, would have sponsored and organized a flotilla whose sole purpose was to create an impossible situation for Israel: making it choose between giving up its security policy and the naval blockade, or risking the wrath of the world.

In our dealings with Israel, we must blow away the red mists of anger that too often cloud our judgment. A reasonable and balanced approach should encapsulate the following realities: first, the state of Israel was created by a decision of the UN. Its legitimacy, therefore, should not be in question. Israel is a nation with deeply rooted democratic institutions. It is a dynamic and open society that has repeatedly excelled in culture, science and technology.

Second, owing to its roots, history, and values, Israel is a fully fledged Western nation. Indeed, it is a normal Western nation, but one confronted by abnormal circumstances.

Uniquely in the West, it is the only democracy whose very existence has been questioned since its inception. In the first instance, it was attacked by its neighbors using the conventional weapons of war. Then it faced terrorism culminating in wave after wave of suicide attacks. Now, at the behest of radical Islamists and their sympathizers, it faces a campaign of delegitimisation through international law and diplomacy.

Sixty-two years after its creation, Israel is still fighting for its very survival. Punished with missiles raining from north and south, threatened with destruction by an Iran aiming to acquire nuclear weapons and pressed upon by friend and foe, Israel, it seems, is never to have a moment’s peace.

For years, the focus of Western attention has understandably been on the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. But if Israel is in danger today and the whole region is slipping towards a worryingly problematic future, it is not due to the lack of understanding between the parties on how to solve this conflict. The parameters of any prospective peace agreement are clear, however difficult it may seem for the two sides to make the final push for a settlement.

Radical Islamism is the real threat

The real threats to regional stability, however, are to be found in the rise of a radical Islamism which sees Israel’s destruction as the fulfillment of its religious destiny and, simultaneously in the case of Iran, as an expression of its ambitions for regional hegemony. Both phenomena are threats that affect not only Israel, but also the wider West and the world at large.

The core of the problem lies in the ambiguous and often erroneous manner in which too many Western countries are now reacting to this situation. It is easy to blame Israel for all the evils in the Middle East. Some even act and talk as if a new understanding with the Muslim world could be achieved if only we were prepared to sacrifice the Jewish state on the altar. This would be folly.

Israel is our first line of defense in a turbulent region that is constantly at risk of descending into chaos; a region vital to our energy security owing to our overdependence on Middle Eastern oil; a region that forms the front line in the fight against extremism. If Israel goes down, we all go down. To defend Israel’s right to exist in peace, within secure borders, requires a degree of moral and strategic clarity that too often seems to have disappeared in Europe. The United States shows worrying signs of heading in the same direction.

The West is going through a period of confusion over the shape of the world’s future. To a great extent, this confusion is caused by a kind of masochistic self-doubt over our own identity; by the rule of political correctness; by a multiculturalism that forces us to our knees before others; and by a secularism which, irony of ironies, blinds us even when we are confronted by jihadis promoting the most fanatical incarnation of their faith. To abandon Israel to its fate, at this moment of all moments, would merely serve to illustrate how far we have sunk and how inexorable our decline now appears.

This cannot be allowed to happen. Motivated by the need to rebuild our own Western values, expressing deep concern about the wave of aggression against Israel, and mindful that Israel’s strength is our strength and Israel’s weakness is our weakness, I have decided to promote a new Friends of Israel initiative with the help of some prominent people, including David Trimble, Andrew Roberts, John Bolton, Alejandro Toledo (the former President of Peru), Marcello Pera (philosopher and former President of the Italian Senate), Fiamma Nirenstein (the Italian author and politician), the financier Robert Agostinelli and the Catholic intellectual George Weigel.

It is not our intention to defend any specific policy or any particular Israeli government. The sponsors of this initiative are certain to disagree at times with decisions taken by Jerusalem. We are democrats, and we believe in diversity.

What binds us, however, is our unyielding support for Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself. For Western countries to side with those who question Israel’s legitimacy, for them to play games in international bodies with Israel’s vital security issues, for them to appease those who oppose Western values rather than robustly to stand up in defense of those values, is not only a grave moral mistake, but a strategic error of the first magnitude.

Israel is a fundamental part of the West. The West is what it is thanks to its Judeo-Christian roots. If the Jewish element of those roots is upturned and Israel is lost, then we are lost too. Whether we like it or not, our fate is inextricably intertwined.

José María Aznar was prime minister of Spain between 1996 and 2004.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Disappointing Russia

Well, you just cannot please everyone all the time. And as it happens, no one appears able to please Russia even some of the time. Russia is quite conflicted, actually. It wishes to retain robust relations with the rest of the world, and it is quite pleased with itself over its almost-super-power status, its re-assertion on the world stage of late, post-Soviet-Union-collapse. Not every country has a politician of of Vladimir Putin. Although France is in the running.

Anyway, Russia was prevailed upon to cast its vote, along with (another reluctant player) China, France, England and the United States (five permanent members of the UN Security Council) plus Germany, to enact a fourth set of sanctions against nuclear-depraved Iran. Iran's intention to build-like-an-energizer-bunny, one nuclear installation after another, without legal collaboration of the IAEA, oddly worries the world.

I mean, let's get real here, a country with the largest proven gas field in the world, with oodles of oil running out of its geography doesn't need another energy source, does it? Now, it would be a good internal business move to take some of the proceeds of its fossil fuel sales to invest in finishing facilities, so it wouldn't have to be so reliant on accessing the finished product from outside processors, but that's not Iran's way.

Nope. Iran has fallen madly in love with the idea of nuclear reactors. To produce medical isotopes, of course. It's on a sneer-off course with Canada whose own isotope-producing reactor was in repair-mothballed condition for over a year and which country produced a lion's share of the world's isotopes. Canada and Iran, you see, are daintily in opposition to one another. Canada unfairly characterizing Iran as a human-rights oppressor.

When the entire world knows that Iran is a peace-loving country with nothing but good intentions toward all other nations of the world. Whereas Canada is a human-rights-abusing country of the first dimension. And Canada, damn their black souls, supports the right of Israel to exist upon land sanctified by Allah for Islam. Off on a tangent, are we? Well, back to Iran's nuclear plans, shall we?

Patience, all will be revealed, and truth to tell, all is interwoven in the entire narrative. Moscow, you see, considers the additional sanctions that the European Union will be placing on investment in Iran's oil and gas fields unfair, unjustifiable and unneeded. This kind of miserable alliance between the EU and the U.S. is not to be countenanced, and Russia considers it "unacceptable".

To the extent that the West risks losing Russian support in its efforts to bring sanity to Iran's suspected weaponry nuclearization plans. "We are extremely disappointed that neither the United States nor the European Union is heeding our calls to refrain from such steps", sniffed Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister. That makes, one might safely assume, for a matched pair, since the EU and U.S. have been losing patience with Russia's reluctance to rein in Iran's nuclear aspirations.

Perhaps this is a wily attempt on Russia's part to finally proclaim that they're pulling out of the sanctions. Prepared to release the new-generation rocket launchers and other armaments contracted to supply to The Islamic Republic of Iran, their great good friends. Against Israel's pleas, but then who listens to Israel's pleas anyway? Certainly not the Revolutionary Guard Corps.

So does Russia have a point in its pointed objections to the U.S. Treasury imposing sanctions on some Iranian banks, companies and etcetera? Well, cue Iran. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "You showed bad temper, reneged on your promise and again resorted to devilish manners", he accused France and Russia. Did they cringe in embarrassment? Well, just to teach them a lesson in manners, Iran has now decided it will build four new nuclear reactors.

There, lesson learned?

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Israel's Existential Right

Former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar announced recently that he planned to promote a new initiative which would defend Israel's right to exist, as "if Israel goes down, we all go down," the former premier wrote in London newspaper The Times on Thursday.

"Israel is our first line of defense in a turbulent region that is constantly at risk of descending into chaos," Aznar wrote, adding that "to abandon Israel to its fate, at this moment of all moments, would merely serve to illustrate how far we have sunk and how inexorable our decline now appears."

The Friends for Israel initiative will include prominent European politicians and academics such as Irish Nobel Prize laureate David Trimble (Irish Nobel Prize laureate and a panel member in Israel's internal investigation into the Gaza flotilla raid), Andrew Roberts (British hostorian) John Bolton (former United States Ambassador to the United Nations), Alejandro Toledo (the former President of Peru), Marcello Pera (philosopher and former President of the Italian Senate), Fiamma Nirenstein (the Italian author and politician), the financier Robert Agostinelli and the Catholic intellectual George Weigel, Aznar wrote in The Times.

Spain and Israel established diplomatic relations in 1975, however the ties between the two countries have not always been strong. In 2006, following the Second Lebanon War, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero accused Israel of "abusive force" which Israel strongly condemned.

Israel's envoy to Spain said at the time that the two countries' relations had been damaged after the Spanish prime minister's speech, during which he wore a Palestinian scarf. Spain's Jewish community accused Zapatero of being anti-Semitic, however tensions have since eased.

"In the wake of the recent incident on board a ship full of anti-Israeli activists in the Mediterranean, it is hard to think of a more unpopular cause to champion." Aznar wrote of his initiative which aims to support Israel despite the onslaught of criticism over a recent Israeli raid on a Freedom Flotilla headed to Gaza, in which nine activists were killed. " In an ideal world, no state, let alone a recent ally of Israel such as Turkey, would have sponsored and organized a flotilla whose sole purpose was to create an impossible situation for Israel: making it choose between giving up its security policy and the naval blockade, or risking the wrath of the world."

Aznar went on to state that Israel's right to exist should not be questioned as it was established by a United Nations decision, and added that as a nation with "deeply rooted democratic institutions," Israel is the only Western country that exists under constant threat of attack, whether it be from its neighboring countries or Iran.

"The real threats to regional stability," Azner wrote, "are to be found in the rise of a radical Islamism which sees Israel’s destruction as the fulfillment of its religious destiny and, simultaneously in the case of Iran, as an expression of its ambitions for regional hegemony. Both phenomena are threats that affect not only Israel, but also the wider West and the world at large."

Azner stressed, however, that the initiative would not defend any specific Israeli policies, but rather "what binds us is our unyielding support for Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself."

The former Spanish premier ended his opinion by highlighting Israel's central role in defining the West and said that "the West is what it is thanks to its Judeo-Christian roots. If the Jewish element of those roots is upturned and Israel is lost, then we are lost too. Whether we like it or not, our fate is inextricably intertwined."

Published by Haaretz, June 18, 2010

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Thursday, June 17, 2010


Is there such a condition as Islamophobia? There is, in fact, a widespread and growing incidence of Muslim states succumbing to a severe viral agent of fanaticism overtaking what has been a sometimes reasonable balance of theocratic-based states that have lived in relative peace with their non-Muslim neighbour-states. A growing incidence of rigidly-controlling Islamism with hostile overtones directed toward non-Muslim states.

Above all, rigidly-theistic-driven states that have furnished non-state militias acting as their proxies, with training, with arms, and with a purpose. As national entities it is not seen as diplomatically politic to outright declare hostile intent against their adversary-states, and instead well armed and trained militias responding to the orders of the state which controls them have done the dirty work, viciously transgressing upon others.

Which doesn't even begin to describe the funding of madrases, both within Muslim states and abroad, in western democracies which in the genuine generosity of spirit and accommodation that exemplifies their liberal-democratic values, allow them to operate with impunity, undermining by their fundamentalist teaching the very democracies which accept their presence.

And in the process, spawning a tide of violent jihadists sworn to uphold the primary values of Islam, to spread Islamic ideals and values and scorn for the weak and degraded societies of the West, ripe for jihad to overtake their own traditions, culture and societal mores.

Alert and concerned individuals who decry the advent of this new militaristic assault by terror groups acting in the name of Islam, and warning western democracies of their slow descent into the grip of another kind of jihad, which intrigues for shariah law and a creeping immigrant population which begins to swamp the host country with an imported culture inimical to non-Muslim values, are characterized as bigots.

And the 57 member Organization of the Islamic Conference urgently stresses the need for the United Nations freedom-of-religion investigator to become more involved in combating "Islamophobia", which they contend, has reared its ugly head worldwide. Any criticism of Islam or violent jihad linked to Islam, or creeping shariah law, or the growing prevalence of 'honour' killings is seen as anti-Islam.

Muslim countries are growing increasingly militantly fundamentalist, enacting more stringent laws against homosexuals, political dissenters, 'improperly-clad' women, and non-Muslims. Apostates, those who leave Islam for other religions are now increasingly facing a penalty of death. Religions other than Islam may not be practised openly in Muslim countries. Freedoms taken for granted in western democracies are shut down.

Whereas in the West, there is freedom of religion, of assembly, of expression, of individuality. Yet with all this background activity of a world having to be on constant alert for attacks by Islamist terror groups while balancing the nuances of political correctness toward Muslims within their society, the OIC stridently accuses the West of Islamophobia.

A charge that many human-rights groups feel is meant to lead to special "protections" for Muslim countries in their growing totalitarian theocracies, in their rigid interpretation of Koranic precepts leading to acceptance of their minority human-rights persecutions.

Perhaps the collective western democracies should consider approaching the United Nations to accuse Islamic states of agitating through their proxy militias and madrases-charged terror groups for a global conspiracy toward a re-enacted Caliphate, for a return to the glory of Islam's once-global outreach.

With amenable countries like Cuba, Russia and China helping the OIC to form a vital voting bloc, the action sought to have the freedom-of-religion investigator root out "Islamophobia" may indeed be approved, while nothing whatever will be done to keep a check on the increasing incidence of Islamist governments placing the well-being and independence of western democracies in peril.

Iran, one of the delegates of the OIC impressing on the United Nations the need to battle the scourge of "Islamophobia", has announced its intention to build an additional four nuclear reactors, thumbing its nose once again at the international safeguards regime and the fourth set of sanctions imposed upon it by the Security Council.

The western democracies' Humpty Dumpty got shoved off the wall its was complacently seated upon, and the shattered pieces haven't been able to form a working alliance to protect their very own freedoms and future. How utterly tragic.

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"The victims of Bloody Sunday have been vindicated, and the parachute regiment has been disgraced. Their medals of honour have to be removed."
The families of Northern Ireland protesters, unarmed and expressing their collective opinion in the streets of Londonderry, who were brutally murdered by British soldiers who used live ammunition to suppress what they may have felt was an impending riot, finally find their family members' actions vindicated. They were exercising freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom to express their opinion about the government they found fault with.

An enquiry that took twelve long years to come to a conclusion, and that cost $280 million to do that, interviewing over 900 witnesses, and producing a report than ran to five thousand pages relating to a miserable attack on innocent people by a British parachute regiment which concocted a story of having been first attacked by the demonstrators, tells the story. That story being that the deaths of 14 innocent people were covered up for far too long.

People who marched for their civil rights, were silenced when they should have been respected and heeded. That violence gave birth to the resistance the country soon found itself facing in the activism of the notorious Irish Republican Army, who thereafter viewed Great Britain as their enemy. Roman Catholic republicans brought "the Troubles" to the attention of the world at large, in a demonstration of religious and sectarian violence that seemed non-stoppable.

There was no provocation at the demonstration, other than heckling and demands from Northern Ireland to London, to respect them and their wishes. Without warning the British paratroopers opened fire and shot whoever was unfortunate enough to be in harm's way, even while trying to escape the slaughter. The IRA was always spoken of in hushed tones of fear, their hunting down and their murder of Protestants seen as despicable and a horror.

Revenge is a fearful element in human relationships. Where the emotions overtake reason and a hard cruelty of purpose defrays empathy to non-existence. Thousands of people died needlessly because a patrician and unalert and unsympathetic government would not stoop so low as to negotiate with those of its Northern Ireland province who felt ill done by. Diplomacy was the least that might have been expected; deadly force never anticipated.

People are relieved that their story has finally been told. The truth really does make us free.

"What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable... there is no point in trying to soften or equivocate what is in this report", conceded Britain's new prime minister. "On behalf of the government, and indeed our country, I am deeply sorry."

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

There's The Rub

A grim-faced U.S. President Barack Obama talked to his constituents from the Oval Office about "the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now", repeating what presidents have said mechanically for the past 40 years, since reality was brought home during the 1973 Arab oil embargo. Despite which oil dependency has grown implacably, and no one can visualize life without fossil fuel dependence.

Which hasn't stopped the general public from demanding that their governments do something about the situation, connected largely to concerns about carbon dioxide emissions spewing into the atmosphere and degrading the environment. A whopping percentage of people on two continents insist that government 'do something' to limit air pollution. Just do it, please, and make corporations limit their emissions of greenhouse gases.

An equal percentage of the public is confoundingly averse to altering their mode of lifestyle, since it is rather comfortable and we do enjoy living in the manner to which we have become accustomed. That large percentage is unequivocally opposed to raised taxes on electricity and gasoline, and to a reduction imposed upon them of their consumption of same.

This is, after all, human nature; what we will not put up with and what we demand for ourselves are not necessarily a match made in environmental heaven.

President Obama, however is serious about this. One can tell that he is. That set jaw, for one thing, the frown on his handsome face. His impeccable appearance. And the fact that the family photographs of his wife and daughters sitting on his desk face the cameras. He anchors the frame, but they book-end him. Isn't that classic? This is a stern, uncompromising man of family values and ethical decision-making. What he decides has clout, and it echoes world-wide.

What has occurred with the misfortune in the Gulf of Mexico is a symbolic of failure; of not moving more efficiently and determinedly to accept clean-energy alternatives to fossil fuels. "The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now."

There he goes, talking the talk, but is he walking the walk? In the sense that he is reassuring U.S. voters, assuredly.

He has BP's feet to the fire. They are the culprits. The government agency that is tasked to oversight, to ensuring safety is held out by him to have been in collusion with the oil industry and he has appointed a new trustworthy overseer, to replace the new trusty overseer he had previously appointed. Does the buck stop with him? It most certainly does.

Did he not place a moratorium on further deep-water drilling until this nightmare is behind him? (Did he ensure that this nightmare could never surface?) Ill-timed news keeps cropping up. New estimates of the amount of oil spewing into the ocean, now up to 60,000 barrels of oil a day; considerably more than the 5,000 confidently asserted initially.

Even nature is conspiring to complicate matters; a lightning strike firing a tanker so BP had to halt pumping oil into the drill ship for 5 hours until the fire was extinguished. Details, bloody details. "Because there has never been a leak of this size at this depth, stopping it has tested the limits of human technology", explains President Obama.

See, the academic-minded find teaching moments at all times of stress and duress. In the process easily disposing of personal responsibility in favour of pointing out the error in judgement of those 'responsible' for the travesty of harvesting fossil fuels from the depths of the ocean floor with no back-up safety mechanisms in place, because there was no requirement for them to do just that. Oops.

President Obama holds BP entirely responsible. He has the power and the strength and the censure of Congress behind him. Congress is well aware that last year BP reaped $27.7-billion in cash profit. President Obama has demanded that BP set aside funding for future liabilities before paying out shareholder dividends. BP, after high-level consideration, has agreed to a fund of $20-billion to be placed in escrow and controlled by an outside, neutral body.

Congress knows, moreover that the five companies drilling in the area have spent $20-million each on safety, accident prevention and spill-response research and development, while shelling out $39-billion in exploration for new gas and oil potentials. In the process pulling in $289-billion in profit over the past three years of operation. Not exactly confidence-building, looking at those numbers and the commitment inherent in them.
"For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America's century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires."
Well, solar power, wind power and other alternate energy sources are in their infancy. But they are all more costly than gas and oil, and less reliable; storage is a problem and there are many imponderables involved, the most strenuously compelling being the match-up between alternate energy availability matching energy output in modern societies. Nuclear, coal?

Too, too depressing.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Reflections On "Reflections"

That superannuated spokesman for Latin America at it again, spreading his malicious version of reality to converge with the general atmosphere of condemning Israel for the unspeakable crime of defending itself from vicious assaults against its mere presence as a Jewish state surrounded by hostile countries within the Middle East. That demented elder statesman, no longer a statesman but most certainly elderly and quite demented, turns fiction into fact and delusion into truth.

Characterizing Israel and the Jews within the country as akin to the malign forces of fascism that almost succeeded in eradicating them from existence. Not merely hateful statements but statements sizzling with a mordant echo of gas chambers and the well-oiled orchestration of anti-Semitism choreographed into the triumph of the Holocaust. As though, having experienced the unspeakable agony of mass extermination, Jews would be eager to practise it upon others.

But there is verbose and tedious Fidel Castro, Cuba's gift to the world at large, expostulating a perversion of reality in grim concert with that so venomously and without demur by the United Nations, brought by Syria, Turkey, Iran and their cronies to the UN's Human Rights Council, courtesy of Cuba's 'diplomats'. The spittle was barely dried from his pen before Cuba forwarded Castro's refined 'reflections' to foreign missions in Geneva.

For some peculiar reason, Israel has the indelible impression that were it to leave an investigation into the the Gaza-bound flotilla of ships - which Israel's naval command intercepted and which was transformed into a world-wide humanitarian cause celebre by Turkish thugs intent on turning a 'peace' mission into a violent confrontation - to the United Nations, the result would be a biased conclusion faulting Israel.

Israel has announced, in consultation with the United States, its own internal probe into the ill-fated attempt to breach the sea blockade of Gaza. That very blockade which a country embattled by hostile forces surrounding it - and in particular Iran's two proxy terror militias eager to assemble greater stores of armaments with which to attack it - is held as a deliberate act to impoverish and starve Palestinian Gazans.

Despite that more than ample provisions, inclusive of food, medicines, commodities of all kinds are regularly trucked into Gaza through land border crossings. Despite that Hamas, through its control of myriad underground smuggling tunnels has been able to smuggle into Gaza countless armaments, inclusive of rockets, along with vehicles and large appliances which the poor people of Gaza, living on the avails of foreign welfare are able to take advantage of.

The make-up of Israel's internal probe into the raid on the Turkish ship and the resulting violent chaos that left nine Turks dead and IDF naval personnel severely wounded, is of such a nature that it guarantees a truth-reliable outcome. Of the five individuals involved in the probe, two are foreign observers. One, Canada's former chief military prosecutor, and the second, Northern Ireland's former first minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

As the UN Security Council called for a "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards", the enquiry set up by Israel should be more than capable of fulfilling those parameters.

Castro's statement that "The hatred felt by the state of Israel against the Palestinians is such that they would not hesitate to send the one and a half million men, women and children of that country to the crematoria...", in fact resonates in direct contradiction to reality, where the existential threat against Israel has been stated and re-stated to the extent that the statement should be reversed to read:
"The hatred felt by the Palestinian representatives against the state of Israel is such that they would not hesitate to send the six million Jewish men, women and children of that country to the crematoria..."
But then, reality and falsehoods appear to be interchangeable in reflection of the regard in which the State of Israel and Jews wherever they exist are held.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

The Modus Operandi

"Jews want to present themselves to the world as if they have rights, but, in fact, they are foreign bacteria - a microbe unparalleled in this world. May He annihilate this filthy people who have neither religion nor conscience." Abdallah Jarbu, Hamas Deputy Minister of Religion
This is Islam, the religion of peace and good fellowship. And these are words spoken by a 'minister of religion' representing Hamas, the political entity that rules the Gaza Strip under Sharia law. Reflecting the Islam that teaches its followers that their obligation to their religion is to pursue jihad. And while millions of the world's Muslims pursue a jihad of the mind and soul, to make themselves more worthy of their religious obligations, millions more of the world's Muslims believe in another kind of jihad, that compels the world's infidels to recognize and to honour Islam.

Among those millions who believe that it is their duty to pursue a mission to spread Islamic thought and worship to the world at large, there are those who embrace violent jihad as their contribution to the virtues of the Islamic ideal. After all, from its inception this is the very manner in which Islam managed to insinuate itself within the consciousness of aggressively warring tribal units, pitting clan against clan, through bloody conquest. This is a tradition which is honoured and emulated to the present day.

And, despite proof issued on a daily basis of the intention of international jihadists whose activities plague the world, from China to India, the Middle East to Europe, North America to Africa, the democratic world of Western nations simply refuse to credit the realities that beset them. Instead, they concern themselves with the civil niceties of extending opportunities and equality to the benefit of Muslims migrating to their shores in search of a better life. That better life excludes the embrace of Western democratic realities, while accepting as their just due the benefits that fall to them through entrance to Western countries.

Although migrating Muslims seek shelter in countries other than their original home countries to found their communities in isolation of the greater social, cultural, religious and political inhabitants of their adopted countries, they will defend all Islamic ideals, shunning as degraded and unworthy those of the indigenous social compact. The single common enemy of Muslim communities is the very religion and its adherents from which Islam was extracted.

Universally, the Muslim umma appears in accord with its suspicion of Jews and Israel.

And they have plenty of company. Among Europeans and South Americans and North Americans among whom there appears to be an almost instinctive abhorrence of Jews. The impolite issue of anti-Semitism rears its ugly head as it has done throughout the history of world Jewry, in a boomerang effect related to the world economy, and struggles that erupt between countries. There is always a free-for-all on Jewish slander and a general degrading of the Jewish experience.

Latterly, the world has turned with disfavour upon Israel because of its purported occupation of the Palestinian Territories. The road blockades through which Palestinians must move so that the purpose of their passage can be verified and checked is held up as an example of Apartheid. As is the protective wall erected for the purpose of shutting out suicide attackers. And the blockade of goods and commodities entering the Gaza Strip since the entrenchment of the terror group Hamas has earned Israel the contempt and condemnation of the world.

An extraordinary situation, given that most countries striving to protect their territory from declared intentions to destroy it, clarified mightily by the ongoing lobbing of missiles across borders, along with any country's requirement to protect its people from suicide attacks, would be supported by the outside world. Israel is held to a vastly different standard, one that makes no practical sense, and one that does not reflect fairness or justice, but one that is imposed nonetheless.

While those who seek to destroy Israel and who slander its good name - and who fulminate their disgust with it, and who dedicate deadly plans to wreak havoc within the country portray it as the aggressor and they as the victims - they are rewarded by support from an international community that sees Israel as disproportionately self-protective. Lies and calumnies that clear sight and intelligence should identify, are taken as truth where Israel is concerned.

The suffering Palestinians, seen by the world as they prefer to be identified, as poor refugees, take as their due international aid funding, remaining content to present as welfare recipients incapable of struggling against their fate as dispossessed, even while they occupy land that is their own, and deny opportunities open to them to become fully independent and operationally functional. The West Bank Palestinians have begun to thrive economically, yet still from their ranks erupt those who run murderously amok, killing Israelis.

Within the Gaza Strip whose population now submits to a fanatical type of Islam increasingly favoured within the world of Islam, humanitarian aid ensures that Palestinians in Gaza have available to them medicines, food and commodities required for daily living. Much of their utilities are supplied from Israel. But the Palestinians exist for the most part on international welfare; employment is scarce because no one is interested in investing in job-producing factories in such an unstable environment.

Hamas unconditionally refuses to accommodate itself to the reality that Israel's existence in the Middle East is beyond contest, a legal country dedicated to the well-being of its Jewish population by mandate of the United Nations; the only country in the world actually created by unanimous consent of the Security Council. As long as Hamas is content to speak of Israel and of Jews in language pioneered by Nazi Germany to consolidate its viciously antagonistic position, the situation for Gazan Palestinians will not change.

The humanitarian flotillas comprised of dedicated human-rights activists so engaged with their sense of righteous indignation over the plight of the Palestinians, who remain deliberately ignorant of the plight of Israel, will effectively alter nothing. Israel has the legal, universal right of self-protection in the very real face of an existential threat, from a number of sources, including Hamas's state mentor, Iran.

The situation in the Middle East has served to re-energize the world's closet anti-Semites who insist that in criticizing and demonizing Israel they are merely exercising their right to form the alliances that best serve their humanitarian impulses. Even the best-intended human rights activists lending themselves to the blockade-and-embargo-breaking enterprise of the flotilla must be aware of the political-ideological underpinnings of the agenda.

It strains intelligent credulity that the 'activists' with no agenda but to rescue Gazan Palestinians from their existence of state-enacted, punishing poverty would have had no iota of a suspicion that they were being groomed as dupes for the larger purpose of Islamist-entities, from terror groups to state-sponsored mischief, to act as a civilian cover for a militant purpose.

This is, after all, the normative modus operandi of terror groups like Hezbollah and Hamas who fire off missiles against Israel from within the crowded civilian enclaves of 'refugee camps', inviting responses that will harm the civilians to ensure the world responds with horrified censure against Israel.

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Mentors and Proteges

The powerful have always had their proteges, those whom they protect even though they are loathsome, troublesome and prone to making even their mentors embarrassed by their stupidity. Their unctuous deference to those who protect them despite their personal pitiful state of incapacity ensures their longevity as long as that protection continues to be reliably anticipated.

It surely does defy logic why those in power who generally are capable of a good measure of reasoned judgement cleave to their role of protector of the clearly undeserving.

Russia and Iran, for example, have had a long relationship. Latterly it has been a mutually beneficial relationship, with Iran's crude oil product ensuring Russia's attention to the Islamist Republic's requests. Oil does count for a great deal in this energy-hungry and -conscious world. Psychologically, there must be a great deal more to the issues involved than merely seeking energy-sufficiency through a questionable alliance with a deranged national administration.

But there it is: Russia is prepared to sell to a clearly militant and aggressively and violently-engaged theocracy advanced weaponry, even while it is clear to the entire world that Iran has a virulently vicious agenda of aspiring to regional dominance. Let alone its stated intention to destroy another country existing in the Middle East. With which country Russia also has relations, problematic and confrontational and conflicted at times.

Russia has been agreeable, in exchange for the energy resources it craves, to assisting the Islamic Republic of Iran with technical expertise in building nuclear installations. Just as the Kremlin has been agreeable to selling Iran new-and-advanced-technology weapons systems. Which Moscow is well aware is meant to be used for truly disturbing purposes.

Russia is engaged in its own violent struggle against neighbouring Islamist countries and the terror groups they spawn.

Yet Russia does not seem to relate those who oppose its sovereignty and threaten its security with the situation that relates to Iran's intention to impose itself upon the Middle East as the supreme arbiter of Islamism, nor does Iran's support for and relationship with terror groups like Hezbollah and Hamas concern the Kremlin unduly, despite its own ongoing worries about attacks from very similar terror groups.

And then there is China, that immense conglomeration of geography and populations, and its own very unsavoury relations with countries like Myanmar, Sudan and North Korea and Iran. China favours countries within its hemisphere which are, like itself, inclined to reclusiveness, secrecy, domination, and incidentally which can supply it with a reliable source of fossil fuels. South Korea is not as needily attractive to China as North Korea appears, unsurprisingly.

Politics and ideology are the obvious touchstones there. So China urges level-headedness on South Korea; that it is incumbent on that country to simply absorb yet another virtual act of war from its belligerent neighbour, rather than to react as any other country might, in defence of its territory and its people. As one of a handful of mediators between the two countries, China is concerned with smooth sailing, clash avoidance.

North Korea's military may unleash upon its neighbour a deadly missile to sink a naval vessel at the loss of 46 South Korean sailors, but "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il has the affection of China, who will look askance at any violent reaction from South Korea to the deadly attack by North Korea. This truly is power politics.

The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council find unanimity difficult to achieve.

Little wonder that Iran and North Korea bedevil the world community's sense of global security. The nuclear cat is out of the bag and in the possession of demented national leaders. Whose activities are protected, if not outright spurred on by their mentors. This represents an obviously increasingly unstable world community.

And the solution?

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