Wednesday, December 06, 2006

How will we cope without daddy's money?

One would think that a broad-based coalition of more than 700 member groups, fighting for women's equality for nearly 30 years, would have a strong enough base to support itself financially instead of whinging to government for sustenance.

Member groups of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women can afford to make pins, posters and postcards to protest the government about their funding, but are apparently unable think up ways to finance their continued administration without government assistance.

The proceeds from their button sales will not go to help women and their fight for equality, but to fund continued protests against funding cuts. Clever use of resources, eh?

The biggest problem with Status of Women groups is that they believe they are the one true way with the divine right to determine women's interests, when in reality, they neither reflect nor represent the vast majority of women. Their vision of choice for women is never about real choice, but about quieting the voices of those who disagree with them.

I'm always suspicious of people who want to talk about 'women's issues' as though childcare and violence are the exclusive concern of women, and as though there is a Communal Women's Mind that advises us on all matters 'feminine'. And, it dismisses all the men who share our concerns, whatever they might be.

The NAC and its member groups claim to want equality, but their representatives hold themselves out as less than equal by being incapable of meeting challenges with creative ideas rather than silly slogans and protests.

If they are as 'needed' as they believe, then private and corporate funding is as accessible to them as to any other group in need of donations. Why do they find it so difficult to prove their worth and solicit and obtain funds from outside government?

When they can do that, then they deserve to be taken seriously.


Dion shouldn't be so selfish

Were he ever to become Prime Minister of Canada, Stephane Dion would likely serve Canada loyally. Despite his dual citizenship, Dion is hardly likely to side with France on matters that go against our national interest, but given that Quebec, the Liberals and France tend to hold similar positions on many political matters, it's unlikely that Dion's loyalty would ever be tested anyway.

But that isn't the issue.

The question should not be whether Stephane Dion can be loyal to Canada while he holds dual citizenship with France, the question should be -- if Stephane Dion is not expected to renounce his French citizenship while coveting the highest office in the land, what kind of precident does that set for future political aspirants whose dual citizenship is with a less 'friendly' or perhaps a hostile nation?

Dion's attitude is one of self-interest, a hallmark of Liberal rule.

Ask yourself how the Liberals would react if a Conservative leader had dual Canadian/US citizenship regardless of the circumstances by which it were acquired.

No situation is isolated. This controversy is bound to come up again in the future as more and more people hold dual citizenship and at least some are likely to enter politics.

If Dion is not expected to renounce his French citizenship as part of his journey toward the PMO, then how could we demand anyone renounce foreign citizenship, even if their alternative citizenship is with a beligerant nation?

Dion's resistance to discussing the matter is troubling. He obviously doesn't have the ability to think outside himself, and he hasn't the foresight to envision how this might play out in the future when it is no longer about him.

This is disappointing, but not surprising in a Liberal leader.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dion's citizenship -- answer please??

I've been trying to find out, but haven't yet -- the news reports say he has dual citizenship because his mother is Paris-born. Was this automatic at the time of his birth or did he actively pursue it?

I wonder if dual citizenship was available to the children of Brits who came to Canada in those days, or just to the French? I don't actually remember dual citizenship being available to anyone until recently.

If he sought it out, I would like to know when.

I only wonder, because it is implied that French citizenship was never his choice, but that it just fell on him by accident of birth. He has said nothing to counter this. Actually, he seems somewhat uncomfortable talking about it. Testy even.

Anyone who knows the answer -- please post. I find it hard to form a fair opinion without that detail.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Climate Change? Ask France

The French environment minister is 'shocked' that Canada has 'abandoned' Kyoto targets.

Put aside that Ambrose insists that we're still 'committed' to Kyoto -- because that's irrelevant.

During much of recent history, France has danced with the devil while haughtily dishing out self-serving advice to other nations about everything.

The UN has decided to accept the science that says carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are responsible for global warming, climate change and extreme weather patterns around the world. Okay, maybe. I wonder though, if nuclear bombs detonated under the ocean might also have contributed to climate change -- just a wee bit.

As recently as 1995, France still conducted nuclear testing. France carried out 176 test blasts at the Mururoa and neighboring Fangataufa atolls from 1966 to 1995 despite world-wide condemnation. Even the US (a more likely target of a nulear attack with arguable more reason to 'need' testing) stopped testing three years earlier, after the tensions of the Cold War had abated.

Perhaps France believes their nuclear testing was environmentally friendly. Maybe they believe their overt and deliberate acts of environmental vandalism were okay because France's faux pas don't stink.

Canada's honesty is refreshing. Unlike previous governments who thought if they kept talking, no one would notice their lack of action, the Conservatives have set out our starting point. They're telling us where we are -- and where we are is right at the very beginning of working on something that should have been in the works since it was negotiated back in 1997. That isn't passing-the-buck, it isn't playing the blame-game -- it's accepting the facts that were handed them on election day. It isn't where Canadians would like us to be, but it is the reality. Pretending that we can reduce emissions to 1990 levels would be a lie. It might pacify the masses like previous governments chose to do when they had no plan of action, but the Conservative strategy seems to be to play it straight. We can't do it.

France needs to stop looking outward to see demons -- otherwise they might become smug.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Out of the mouths of knaves

"We would have had -- had they not messed it up! -- things actually happening by 2008, " John Godfrey said. "Secondly, she's wrong, that we didn't have a plan."

"It's just not fair," he sniffled. "We could have done great things if we'd had more time and here they are on the world stage saying they won't let us use Kyoto to divide the country . . . and we thought we'd found a new way. . . a way to stick it to Alberta and please Quebec while making Ontario think we actually gave a damn about something other than power -- political power of course, not wind power -- only dorks care about wind power. Hell, wind can't vote, can it? No, of course that's convicted felons. Well, she should just shut up or I'm going to hold my breath -- right here, right now. And you can't stop me. I'll turn blue and die and it will be all Rona's fault."

The reliable, honest, upright and scrupulous Kofi Annan has deep and troubling concerns:

Although he didn't mention any country by name, outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called on voters to punish politicians who fail to fight for the environment. "I think the population and the voters should take the lead to let them know they consider climate change seriously and that there may be a political cost," he said. He painted the climate change issue as one of the world's most pressing problems. "Climate change is not just an environmental issue, as too many people still believe. It is an all-encompassing threat," he said.

"Personally, I think if we all just worry about the climate, we will be able to forget about trivialities like genocide and rogue terrorist states," Annan added, checking his watch. "We need to concentrate on the things we can't control, so we won't have to deal with the things that we could control if there wasn't so much darn money coming our way that are blinded by the graft." Annan pounded his fist on the table. "There is no greater way to avoid scandal and controversy. Divert attention and keep talking. It's our motto at the UN and it is the key to my family's great success and good fortune."

Both men feel certain that someone out there takes them seriously and neither sees the ineffective, scandal-ridden natures of their respective organizations as an issue in their personal credibility, but both men admit they make more sense when they aren't talking.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It's an award I can live with

"The majority of Canadians are firmly and strongly behind living up to our Kyoto obligations," said John Godfrey, the Liberal environment critic.
Says who?

Where were the Liberals on the environment these past many years --- doing nothing -- nothing that is except chanting 'we are committed to Kyoto' and hoping the mantra would stick. Well, I am firmly and strongly against giving money in the form of credits, to other countries whose environmental records suck more than ours does.

Developing countries, like India and China are exempt from Kyoto -- so while Canada could chose to break its economy for quick compliance to a treaty is supposed to reverse our emissions to the levels of nearly 20 years ago-- these major polluters can continue to spew with impunity -- in fact they can increase their emissions of greenhouse gases without guilt and without censure because they are not subject to penalties or even targets.

How do you like that? These are two vast countries, both with surging economies and populations larger than all of the rest of the world combined. The consumption levels and emissions levels are only likely to grow because there are no restraints in place to control them -- but WE should take steps to potentially devastate the booming economy out west because???

Well, there's the rub -- there is no reason. The most we could do is be a good example to the developing nations, because no matter how much or little we emit or consume, our puny output is not enough to affect world levels of carbon monoxide one way or another -- especially while countries like China and India have no expectations placed on them at all.

Don't get started about the US and all they consume and emit - and their refusal on Kyoto -- the US has enough environmental watchdogs and agencies that at least there are homegrown targets. China and India are kind of lacking in the area of environmental lobbying.

So long as developing countries have no expectation of having to reach a position of compliance with Kyoto and while they are not forced by their own populations to take control of their greenhouse emissions, Canada has no choice balance fiscal concerns with reasonable targets that will actually affect the air we breathe.

If they want to call us fossils for our apporach to climate change -- I can live with that. Better to be a fossil, than to delude ourselves that Kyoto is doable or can make a difference -- and then pay millions for the privilege of the pretense.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Do you hear what I hear . . .

What colour is this: BROWN.

If you're like most adults, you got it wrong. Our adult minds are programmed to read information. Our senses tend to take the back seat when competing with our learned thought processes.

Keep that in mind as you read a poem I've written to mark events in parliament. It might take a minute to work out the rhythm, but I'm fairly sure there is one. (Don't worry, I haven't quit my day job.)


Conditional sentences for kid porn on the net,
new sponsorship charges, won’t deal with that yet.
North Korea, Darfur, who really cares?
Belinda’s been wronged, what else compares?

The matter’s decided, but we won’t let it be
not with that mean-talking man roaming free.
Mr. Speaker must listen, then listen again
until those terrible words are etched in his brain.

"You already have her," the man might have remarked
And we Liberals just know he meant that she barked.
We remember his gesture to her empty chair
and the cruel implication that a doggie sits there.

The bad man denies ever saying those words
but Liberal MPs know what they heard.
To the trivial world, we’ll remain blind
while we shoulder this burden for all female-kind.

"He’s a liar, a sexist, a dishonourable lout!
We know what we know, we heard that man shout!
Ruin any career! Blacken anyone’s name!
It’s in defence of all women – not political gain.

You'll listen, and listen and listen some more.
The words at the bottom will help you be sure.
If the sound was inscrutable the first time -- well then,
just be sure that you play it -- again, and again.

Keep reading the captions right there on your screen;
reread it and listen, you'll know what we mean.
Listen while reading – those same words you will hear
Don't worry, your eyes won't play tricks on your ear.

Accused of a gesture and a meaning implied
and if that's not enough, we'll prove that he lied.
We’ve printed the words, so you’ll hear that it’s true
If you just keep on reading it, you’ll hear it too.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Not the Medium -- the Malice

Yesterday in the comment section of Garth Turner's blog, I wrote:
Garth, if you were any more full of yourself, you'd explode.
Well, I think he has -- at least his brain.

In his latest blog entry 'The chasm', St. Garth of Petulance expounds upon his ejection from the Tory caucus. One would have thought there was no glowing cliche left for him to use about himself, no singley-held principled stance not yet exhausted by his already endless exposition on all things Garth. One would have been wrong.

St. Garth portrays himself as champion of populism and martyr to the cause of 'freedom'. The lone Conservative MP with principles and conviction, Garth speaks of his heroic staring down of "the we-know-best PMO which now has an icy grip over establishment politics".

He blames the chasm between the Conservatives and himself to the Party's anachronistic nature and his own digital accumen. He uses the progressive momentum of the Internet to symbolize his own advanced stage of intellectual evolution and an analogy of rigid men 'in suits' to represent the Stephen Harper government and its puppet MPs.

From the beginning, when Garth spoke out against the Emerson appointment, he has characterized himself as a lone voice of ethical conscience within a party of mindless or mercenary followers and now he blames the Internet for his downfall. He seriously thinks Stephen Harper's disapproval of a modern method of communication is why he was turfed. Delusional.

Think about it.

It's your first day in a new job and you say publically on your celebrity blog that your boss has behaved unethically and that anyone who doesn't agree with you is unprincipled. How long do you keep your job?

Back in February, Garth acted like the press sought him out, as though his criticizm of Harper on his blog played no part in their seeking his opinion. For a time, Garth Turner was the name on all lips -- a man of honour, falling on his sword for the sake of integrity. And since this is precisely how Garth speaks and writes about himself, the publicity he received as reward for his brave stance acted as an inducement to sustain the image and engage in further acts of disrespect.

Note that I use the word 'disrespect'.

Throughout his blog there are various claims of moral superiority, most of which tend to imply his colleagues are morally inferior. There are smatterings of denigrating terms, like 'homophobe' and 'hats and horses' colleagues, etc. His blog oozes with pious righteousness and contempt for those who fail to adopt his point of view. Dissent doesn't have to be disrespectful or dismissive or derisive, but Garth Turner has taken smug sanctimony to its limits.

Disagreement within parties is hardly new. There are bound to be differences of opinion about direction and policy in any group larger than one -- but Garth still can't see that it wasn't his opinions, or even the medium he used to express them -- it was the whole tone of his blog and the divisive nature of his commentary.

When the cabinet appointments were announced, these are some of the things he said:
First, I pledge to remember every day that my job is not to serve the party or the prime minister, but rather the people who sent me here.
. . . why I wanted to return to Ottawa. It was not to be a minister with a limo, but, as I exlained, to try and empower elected people more, to make them relevant and free, so the voters would also become more empowered.

***These first two statements imply that he is the only Conservative MP to feel this way.
By the time I got to Parliament Hill, I was infused with the spirit of a new era in government, stated on the belief that we would see freedom reign in the Chamber and that the days of subjugation of MPs by the prime minister's office were numbered. . .

***Here he tackles his boss head on.
Everybody who makes up the government should be elected. They should be elected as members of the party that forms the government. Anybody who switches parties should go back to the people. To do otherwise is to place politicians above the people . . .

***He makes a pronouncement and anyone who disagrees doesn't care for democracy, just power.
But my comments were deemed not helpful, even though I chose them carefully and pulled some punches, suggesting Minister Emerson be given a little time before deciding on whether or not to get elected as a Tory.

***I've only pulled the stuff from his blog. His interviews were equally provocative. It is provocative because Turner presumes his own reaction to the appointment is the only legitimate one and given more time, even the unprincipled Mr. Emerson will see the errors of his ways.
I was just hoping that this time I would not be asked to choose -- between party and principle. I chose principle. My deepest loyalty is to what I believe . . . The Minister may decide not to take the heat. . . But he should still have the conviction to get elected a member of the team he chose. The same team I chose, and fought like a warrior to join . . . hopefully he will decide that's the right course of action.
I will try, at first, to get my government to champion these causes. If it does not, I will champion them myself. How will that happen? Well, just watch me.

***Between party and principle? The arrogance is astonishing.
Bold and defiant, yes, but also reckless and insulting. Turner could have disagreed with his boss and party without questioning their integrity and showing disdain. He could have said:

People are aware that I believe an MP should go back to the people should he decide to switch parties. In Canadian history, this has not been the established practice, and while I personally would want to do that were I in Mr. Emerson's position, our system of government elects a person, not a party. Mr. Emerson is the MP for Vancouver Kingsway regardless of what party affiliation he holds. He is under no obligation to resign his seat and I doubt the Prime Minister is going to change over a hundred years of precedent.

Mr. Harper did not support anti-floor crossing legislation when his party was on the other side of the equation last year, nor did he demand a byelection. He has been consistent in his views and I respect that. Not one Liberal supported a bill to limit floor crossing that was presented to Parliament just last fall. Perhaps in the next sitting of the House, if I, or someone else puts forward a bill setting out conditions for such a move, some Liberals might be inclined to support it now. At least we'd see if their current attitude is because it's happened to them, or if they are truly committed to a change in the practice.

There is room for dissent and diversity within the Conservative party, but when a demagogue persists in antagonizing his co-workers, the result will be tension and distrust. Turner's Emerson reaction was the first in a series of overtly hostile acts that placed Garth Turner on the outs -- not just with the PMO but with his fellow Conservative MPs -- the same people he hoped pass along to, the ideas and goals of the interested souls who communicate with him electronically. They should listen to a man who sees them through the prism of contempt?

A blog that waxes romantic about its own author is narcissistic tripe. It might have remained harmless self-promotion had Garth not made his attitute towards his colleagues so apparent.

It isn't the medium that brought him down, it wasn't even the message -- it was the malice towards the Garth-proclaimed 'homophobes' and the rural 'hats-and-horses' crowd. When you have that much contempt for so many parliamentarians and so many Canadians, it's bound to bite you in the ass eventually -- especially if you post it on your blog.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

He used WHAT word?

Today in the House, Belinda asked for an apology from Peter MacKay:

“Mr. Speaker yesterday during question period the minister of foreign affairs used a very inappropriate word to describe me.”
Anyone hearing this would assume that MacKay had stood in the House of Commons and called her a bitch. He wouldn't have been far off the mark, but the accusation against MacKay is that he said -- 'You've already got her.' There's a distict difference between implying she's a bitch and actually calling her one.

Belinda says that this kind of thing will have a 'chilling' effect on women who think about entering politics:

“It goes beyond this. It is really, I think, a reflection of the character and of the attitude of this government towards women. The fact that no one would take responsibility for this kind of a comment today, I think shows that,” she told reporters.
When a woman is a fully grown up person, capable of holding her own in the public eye, speaking up for herself, handling pressure and standing up to criticism -- then this sort of incident won't have a 'chilling effect' on her desire to enter into politics. The huffy response of Belinda & her shrill, patronizing chorus demonstrate that Liberals think that women need coddling. Hardly a progressive attitude.

The Liberal leadership debate actually opened with the 'great-eight' warbling about the need for more women in politics. There was even the suggestion of targets -- a certain number of women fielded as candidates in the next election. Seems they have little faith in women to take charge of their own destinies -- so like everything else, they want to engineer it.

They just don't get it -- whenever they take offense at a verbal slam directed at a woman, they demean women. By huffing and puffing they're making out that our frail souls and tender confidence can't handle pressure.

We are not so weak that we can't defend ourselves, and most of us don't identify with the Stronachs of this world, so there's little worry we'd think MacKay was taking a jab at all women in the person of Belinda. This was not about what Peter or conservatives think of women, it's about what one guy thinks of his ex -- and it's not even that -- it's about rude comments in the House of Commons which are given and gotten by everyone. Making it about gender might make a more interesting news story, but if they are really concerned about 'civility' in the House, they'll decry all incidents of rudeness -- not just the ones by men toward women.

Why did no one rush to Ken Dryden's rescue last year, when Rona Ambrose called him an 'old, white man'? Could it be because the Liberals believe men are capable of defending themselves? What does that say about their opinion of women?


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Dissent and Derision

Various members of the media attribute Garth Turner's 'suspension' to his willingness to speak out against the party or party policy:

There is little evidence that the allegations against Turner are anything more than a trumped-up excuse to get rid of an MP who says what he thinks.

In the simplest sense Don Martin is right -- Garth's outspoken attitude is the trouble, but Martin's suggesting that the trouble is with the Conservatives rather than with Garth. He seems to think they're making a pre-emptive strike and removing Garth before Rona Ambrose's environmental message is released, so that whatever Garth says to hammer that message will seem like sour grapes rather than the brave voice of reasoned thought, speaking out against the Harper-power structure.

That might be true if Garth could be taken seriously, but from the very first caucus meeting Turner has proved himself to be a buffoon. I wrote a post back in February -- St. Garth -- Patron Saint of the Petulant and Self-Righteous. You' ll find the actual blog posts from the days following tend to destroy his 'caucus confidentiality' credibility straight from the get-go. Where Don Martin seems to think the party is worried about Turner leaking or reacting to policy secrets, these first few posts show him betraying the more personal aspects of the meetings --and it's that sort of gossipy, ill-considered, prattling which most of his caucus must find obnoxious and unacceptable.

Take this example from February:

February 7, 2006 -- We had national caucus this morning. I cannot tell you what was said (well I could, but I won't), because caucus only really works when people know it's private (. . .) I knew there would be MPs in there pissed at not having made cabinet, and showing it in their body language (and there were). . . . I knew that my coming back here after being away for 13 years, walking in to a party once again in power might irritate others who toiled for years in opposition (and that happened, too.)

This was the day after Cabinet was announcements. Garth says he can't divulge caucus business, and then goes on to give two examples of conflict within caucus. The man can't be trusted. How free will caucus members feel to express themselves with Garth present, knowing that he's posted about concerns they spoke of privately?

I don't follow Turner's blog because I find it such a swaggering mass of self-aggrandizing pap, but his blog post after the recent Montreal shooting were so bizarrely insensitive and derisive that I read it. Garth used the tragedy to question the priorities of his rural caucus-mates and suggested that they put the rights of duck hunters ahead of the safety of the community:
And we won’t get near the problem if some of my hats-and-horses colleagues continue to lament over farmers and duck hunters who want to blow holes in birds and animals for the simple joy of it.
This puerile simplification of two serious issues is precisely what makes Garth a detriment to the party -- not because he disagrees with come of his colleagues on the merits of gun-control, but because he expressed his disagreement using insulting and provokative language intended to portray a segment of our society as consumed with violent blood-lust.

Turner remains unrepentant. In a post which seeks to explain his perception of the divisions between rural and urban Canadians, instead of trying to make amends or smooth things over, he seeks to amplify his US vs THEM version of citizenship and party membership:
The brand of Conservativism that I have called hats-and-horses is based on three elements, it seems: (a) Rural values, agrarian experience and rugged individualism, (b) A well-defined moral code based on deeply-held core religious beliefs and, (c) the indomitable and self-possessed spirit of the West, as once embodied by the Reform Party. The marriage of these themes defines the new Conservative Party, and the sheer strength of them was enough to swamp the influence of the other legacy party, Progressive Conservative. The reality, depth and strength of this was not entirely clear until that blessed day when the new Conservative Party won government. (. . .) My refusal to play the role requested of me will, I am sure, lead to my political demise. But each day I am an MP will be spent answering to the voters and taxpayers first, and my political master second. (...) And this brings me back to the hats-and-horses (them) versus the “infa-red” (actually, that should be ‘infra-red’), which is me. More sparks.
To the HAH gang my message is simple: You need politicians like me to remind you that lots of the country’s voters do not shoot ducks, criticize gays, till the land, avoid Toronto or go to church. But they’re still good and decent people, raising families the best they can, often in changing environments rife with challenges, and building Canada. They need champions, too, and not just ones with red ties and blouses.

With the possibility of an election in the next eight to ten months, the Conservatives don't need a self-proclaimed analyst to apportion traits and characteristics to this group and that. Turner is an isolating bigot at a time when unity is important -- not unanimity -- but at least public politeness. Turner has a poor opinion of many fellow party members and he wears this contempt like a mantle and then writes as though the rural constituency of this country and the party has somehow offended him and needs to be put back in its place.

Garth Turner isn't worth the trouble. Rather than holding his own government to account, Turner's specialty was alienating people -- no wonder his caucus-mates wanted him out -- his outspokenness was never meant to influence change or facilitate communication -- it was meant to inflame emotions and inflate his ego. One negative person can blight the confidence and enthusiasm of an entire group -- Garth Turner seems like the kind of guy who could suck the life out of a room just by walking in. No one needs that.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Terence Finlay is a coward

Terence Finlay is the former Anglican archbishop of Toronto. This past June, he performed a marriage for a lesbian couple.

The Anglican church is divided on the issue of same-sex blessings --- let alone actual marriages, but Finlay's personal connection to the couple superceded his commitment to his church and his obligation to uphold the decision of the most recent synod, which put off a decision on same-sex unions and maintained a moratorium on same-sex blessings.

Courageous, no?


A brave man would have taken a stand when it meant something. A brave man would have announced his remarkable philosophical transformation regarding homosexuality before acting on it. (Finlay fired a priest in 1991 for being in a gay union, and in 2004, shortly before he retired, he reprimanded a priest for . . . you guessed it . . . performing a same-sex blessing).

Finlay took his stand when it conveniently cost him nothing. He is retired, so he can't be fired. His pension can't be revoked for an act that occured after his years of service (and likely couldn't have been even if he'd had felt strongly enough to perform a marriage/blessing prior to his retirement). And, although his actions undoubtedly carry symbolic weight, he is no longer in a position where he will have to take direct heat from members of his communion.

The only consequence for his choice to turn his back on his fellow Anglicans is that his license to perform marriages has been revoked --- until the end of 2006. Tragedy. He must be suffering.

Even Anglicans who support same-sex unions should be angry that Finlay chose to flout the decisions of synod and to do it weakly, timidly, and secretly, without personal sacrifice and without conviction.

His selfish actions only serve to exacerbate tensions in an already troubled faith community. Some will see Finlay as being a 'leader' in a cause. The timing of Finlay's ethical evolution suggests weakness, either a weakness of character that held him back from acting on, or even acknowledging his conversion to same-sex advocate or a lack of confidence in the doctrinal and spiritual validity and righteousness of his actions.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Fred V. Morrone

Ferdinand Morrone was a husband, a father, and a grandfather. He was sixty-three years old when he was murdered by Islamic terrorists in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

In interviews given after his death, his wife Linda, remembered him as a man who lived his job but managed to live his family life as well.

Morrone held a bachelor's degree in political science from Stockton State College and a master's in public administration from Rider University. His first job in law enforcement was with the Franklin Township Police Department, and he joined the New Jersey State Police in 1963. He had a reputation as a driven investigator and retired from the force a lieutenant colonel.

On the morning of September 11th 2001 Freddie was miles away from the WTC, but Morrone, who was Superintendent of Police for the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, left the safety of his office in Jersey City and rushed to midtown Manhattan the moment he heard that a plane had crashed into the north tower.

No one who knew him was surprized that Freddie Morrone would jump right in, taking command of the rescue operation. Witnesses last put him on the 45th floor, heading upward, as he encouraged the employees on their way down.

Morrone spent most of his career as a New Jersey State Trooper. One of his last assignments as a State Trooper was assisting the FBI in the investigation of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

By the time he became head of the Port Authority three years later, Morrone, along with good friend Noel Cunningham, had been quietly campaigning for stricter maritime security measures. The two were worried about a group of Islamic radicals called "al Qaeda". As the memory of the 1993 attack faded in the minds of Americans, and while no further attacks took place on US soil, calls for greater security went unheard.

The Port Authority has 1,300 officers who patrol bridges, tunnels, airports, a bus terminal, marine terminals and the PATH rail system. The force is the 26th largest police department in the nation. Morrone is credited initiativing many improvements in security and efficiency within the Authority, most of which were the result of his concerns about terrorism. He created a residential training program at the Port Authority Police Academy. He toughened training standards for new recruits. He helped create the International School for Airport and Seaport Security, and implemented a program for training officers to use portable heart defibrillators. Morrone established bike patrols at airports, a scuba team, a Commercial Vehicle Inspection Unit, an Airborne Services Unit and a Motorcycle Unit.

His family has said in media interviews that Freddie was just learning to relax a little and play some golf. Beyond the job, they knew Mr.Morrone a guy who tried to get to 6:30 a.m. mass as often as he could, a man who demanded the most of himself while showing understanding for the frailties of others, a man who thought outside his own needs in order to fill the needs of family, friends or employees. He was quick to listen and deliberate in action.

Freddie Morrone's life and selfless actions on September 11th have been memorialized in tributes and awards.

The IAASP's Fred Morrone Education Fund

The New Jersey State Law Enforcement Purple Heart

A high-speed ferry was Christened in his name, in honour of the 36 Port Authority officers who died on 9/11.

The tributes to the dead of September 11, and the stories of the survivors, tell of men and women who achieved, who accomplished great and good things, who worked and succeeded. They are people whose lives did, and continue to make a positive difference in the world.

The hijackers didn't realize that it isn't how a person dies that makes him a hero or gives blessings, it's how a person lives. People like Freddie Morrone knew that, and lived it.

To read more tributes to victims of 9/11, visit:


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bill 208: Protection or pacifier?

I've taken some heat for my suggestion that Alberta's Bill 208 should die.

Like most of you, I believe neither the Charter, nor the Civil Marriage Act will protect people who do not accept same-sex marriage -- but if these won't protect the rights of those who disagree -- I fail to see how some new law is going to do the trick. This law reiterates the protections laid out in the Civil Marriage Act -- which makes it redundant:

11.1 No person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under this or any law of Alberta, solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Bill of Rights, or the expression or exercise of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.

Compare to Civil Marriage Act:

3.1 For greater certainty, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.
And, while this bill might give comfort to those who seek its protection, but it is unlikely to give the protection it promises -- which makes it futile.

A couple of commenters say that the Civil Marriage Act seeks to protect only clergy, but I don't read that. Bill 208 explicitly seeks to protect clergy and marriage commissioners, but the Civil Marriage Act mentions only 'person(s)'. It will take a challenge and a judge to make 'person' mean anything but 'living human being' -- although we know how easily that can happen.

The Alberta bill goes on to make changes to two other Acts -- one identifying clergy and marriage councillors specifically, and another identifying teachers and students specifically. Most people believe that this bill is forward thinking and will prevent lawsuits and other punitive action against teachers/students/clergy/marriage commissioners. I respectfully disagree. Specifically identifying these particular people as 'protected' weakens the meaning of the word 'person' in the first clause. If all persons are protected from punitive action when they exercise their right to freedom of religion, conscience, belief, expression, etc. -- why does Bill 208 feel it necessary to identify specific persons for more emphatic protection -- if 'person' is an all-inclusive term, breaking it down into subgroups in order to grant particular protection is either redunant, or assumes that 'person' doesn't include all people -- and then we have to worry -- by identifying specific groups does that mean all other 'persons' are excluded from this protection? Kind of muddies the waters, doesn't it?

One commenter says that marriage commissioners in Newfloundland have already been fired for refusing to perform same-sex marriages and I find that disturbing -- Have they sought legal advice or filed a complaint with a Human Rights Commission? I would hope so. I doubt it will help, but it's important not to let these things pass.

I'm well aware of the Brockie case and the Christopher Kempling case mentioned by different commenters, and I think Alberta Girl summed it up well in my comments section:
Gay activists will not stop until they have forced their will, through the courts, on this country. Even if Bill 208 passed, (which by the way the majority of Albertans believe should pass), gay activists would take it to the courts until those whose values do not accept the gay lifestyle are forced to perform unions(marriages), teach about the gay lifestyle. They will not rest until they have psuedo acceptance of their lifestyle. I say psuedo acceptance because are you really accepted if you had to force someone to accept you and your lifestyle? Me thinks not?
Last spring when the SSM debate was still raging, I argued vociferously against it. My opinions haven't changed. I have no illusions about the Charter, or the Civil Marriage Act. I am not against Bill 208 in principle, but I am against creating a false sense of security.

My post was not a disagreement with 208, it was simply a lament at its futility.

If anyone is interested, I've written extensively on same-sex marriage and the potential ramifications:

The myth of the moderate (May 24, 2005)

Same-sex marriage debate in 7 parts (ONE) (TWO) (THREE) (FOUR) (FIVE) (SIX) (SEVEN)
(May 25, 2005)

Sounds good on paper (May 26, 2005)

As C-38 heads towards law (June 22, 2005)

Response to commenters (June 23, 2005)

Religious bigotry (June 26, 2005)

Public funding, public rules? (June 27, 2005)

Are any rights sacrosanct? (July 13, 2005)

How did we get here? (July 15, 2005)

Same-sex rights, the RC Church and the UN (July 16, 2005)

It's all about sex (July 25, 2005)

Two tier democracy (December 19, 2005)

Whose values are these anyway? (January 14, 2006)

Activist judges-- never! (January 19, 2006)

Expressing my views . . . (January 21, 2006)


Monday, August 28, 2006

Bill 208 should die

Alberta's Bill 208 seeks to prevent people who hold certain jobs (teachers, clergy, marriage commissioners) from being penalized for acting on their conscience regarding same-sex marriage.
At a protest rally on Friday, gay activist Julie Lloyd said:

"This bill would make it open season on gay and lesbian Albertans. What this bill does is strip back basic human rights protection.'
That, of course, is hysterical nonsense -- but still, the bill shouldn't pass.

I don't recall anyone having being fired or sanctioned for not performing a same-sex marriage and I don't believe anyone has been fired or penalized for having refused to teach on the subject of same-sex marriage. So far, so good.

It is scary that the Alberta Legislature feels the need to present a bill that would protect dissenters. Dissent should be protected under the Charter, shouldn't it? Our freedom of religion and conscience are entrenched in that document, aren't they? But still we feel uncertain that disagreement with certain laws and government policy will be protected.

I guess it's the often intolerant rhetoric of the heterophobes and the religiophobes that provokes people into feeling that this kind of legislation is necessary:

Opponents rallied on the steps of the legislature Friday to say the bill would enshrine in law the dehumanization of gays similar to what blacks once endured in the United States and South Africa.

Opponents label the legislation a malignant tumour.

“This will do nothing more than create a widespread moral panic in which gay and lesbian issues are seen as a moral contagion,” said Kris Wells, who works in educational policy studies at University of Alberta.

Ms. Lloyd said clergy already have the right not to go against their beliefs to perform same-sex marriages. She said the bill only helps civil marriage commissioners deny service “because of intolerant beliefs.”

She said the bill, if passed, would allow employers to fire gays and let landlords evict gay tenants with impunity “because they're exercising a belief against same-sex marriage.”
Nevermind that the last statement is irrationally extreme -- these kinds of statements are ferociously anti-freedom, anti-self-expression, and suggest that there is only one opinion allowed in this country, and only belief system that can be used in public. Bill 208 might have brought those opinions to the newspapers this time, but these rigid attitudes are always there, festering and being fostered within our academic institutions.

The Charter says that we have freedom of religion and we have freedom of expression. Same-sex marriage is legal, but as of yet, there is no law imposing agreement with same-sex marriage -- in fact, section 3.1 of the Civil Marriage Act says:

Freedom of conscience and religion and expression of beliefs
3.1 For greater certainty, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.
The Charter doesn't give us freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression "except" when it comes to same-sex partnerships-- there is no 'except'. The limitations that exist in the Charter are not to our freedoms, but to governmental interference with them.
And, just so we wouldn't be worried that our government was rejigging a centuries-old, universally established element of a sacred institution to conform to the radical mindset of 21st century 'liberal' elites -- parliament put in the above clause. No section of the Civil Marriage Act imposes the belief in its correctness -- only its legality.

Let Bill 208 die.
If the Civil Marriage Act is applied as written, protection for dissenters exists federally.
If ever the "freedom of conscience and religion and expression of beliefs" clause is ever challenged, and if the Charter is for real and for the protection of everybody, Bill 208 is redundant.

People who insist that beliefs should be legislated or that religion should be checked at the door of public sector jobs are the epitome of intolerance. Rather than give them more reason to name-call, vilify and proselytize about those who disagree with them, let's see how the existing legislation and our hallowed Charter fare.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Kevin Weekes

As summer recedes, I've been trying to put serious things aside. The kids and I have been going to movies, playing outside -- just revelling in the fine weather and a rare bit of free time together.

This is my son with
New York Rangers' goalie Kevin Weekes, who was signing autographs at National Sports in Scarborough this afternoon.

It's kind of fun to be thinking about hockey season just around the corner -- although I'm not really looking forward to the kids going back to school.

Kevin was very funny and obliging with everyone who wanted to take photos and asked for multiple autographs. The kids and I are planning our annual visit to the EX this coming week, but for my son, I think meeting Kevin Weekes will be the highlight of his summer.

 Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Marchers message wasn't 'Peace'

This demonstration took place in Britain over the weekend. Police estimate over 20,000 people attended (organizers put the number at 100,000.)

Apparently, they're "ALL HIZBULLAH" now.
One wonders if those holding those signs understand the nature of the cause they're endorsing.

The URLs on the sign lead you to the Islamic Human Rights Commission and Innovative Minds, an anti-Zionist / anti-(US) imperialism organization.

On their website, the IHRC calls for:
and supports the national demonstration this coming Saturday (5th August) calling for an unconditional and immediate Israeli ceasefire in Lebanon and Gaza, as well as an end to US and British support for Israel’s terror.
Note that a ceasefire is only demanded of Israel -- apparently Hezbollah can continue bombing till all the Jews are dead.

This demonstration follows one held July 22 which was called:
Demonstration Against Israeli atrocities in Lebanon and Palestine
I suppose this one was in anticipation of the 'massacres' which had yet to occur.
StopWar called it the International Day of Action Against Israeli Aggression. These rallies were held in cities around the world and across Canada.

At this weekend's demonstration, Stop the War spokesman John Rees said:
"Their (the British government's) silence is permitting mass murder in Lebanon by the Israeli forces. Look at the casualties: it's eight to one".
The gut reaction to that ratio is to imagine David (Hezbollah) vs Goliath (Israel) but the reality is that it's only Israel's restraint that has kept the ratio so low. If Israel fought the way Hezbollah does, by targeting civilians, the death toll would be in the tens of thousands and the ratio would reflect that.

The ratio would be more even too, if Hezbollah protected Lebanese civilians, instead of hiding amongst them.

If ratios of deaths are the issue, then why aren't these protesters demanding that Lebanon and Hezbollah start protecting their civilian populations, instead of using them as tools of propaganda?

Similar demonstrations took place here in Canada:
Some carried placards in support of Hezbollah and the group's leader Hassan Nasrallah, and others chanted "Vive Hezbollah."
These demonstration could have simply called for peace. They didn't. Their demands for a ceasefire could have been directed toward both Israel and Hezbollah. They weren't.
Instead it called for a unilateral ceasefire. This wasn't an anti-war march, it was a call for Israel to surrender and leave its fate to an intractible enemy. How comforting for Hezbollah to know that many in the west support their cause.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

On one condition . . .

Speaking without irony I'm sure, a Hezbollah Minister serving in the Lebanese government says that his terrorist wing will abide by the proposed UN resolution on the condition that Israel withdraw all its troops from Lebanon.
"We will abide by it on condition that no Israeli soldier remains inside Lebanese land. If they stay, we will not abide by it," Mohammed Fneish said when asked whether Hezbollah would stop fighting under a U.N. resolution calling for a cease-fire or a cessation of hostilities.
I suppose that means they're planning on returning the kidnapped Israeli soldiers to ensure that 'no Israeli soldier remains inside Lebanese land.'

I'm sure France will be pleased that its push for diplomacy has moved this mountain.


Hezbollah are people too

Sometimes I find its easier to respond to certain comments on the front page. If you've been following, kevvyd takes exception to the use of the word 'evil' to describe Hezbullah. He says:

To me, what I call "evil" says as much about me as it does about the creature /object/behaviour that I have decried, therefore the term is itself is too subjective to be really useful.
Later in the comment secition of my post, kevvyd quotes me, emphasizing my use of the word 'belief' when I call Hezbullah evil -- as though believing is a no-no in a political discussion, rather than the basis of one. Everything we state on these blogs represents our beliefs. Opinion pieces on blogs mean we recognise that our understanding world events is not an exact science -- but if were to refrain from posting our beliefs we would be news aggregators parroting stale information.

Calling them evil might make you feel better and might even make it easier to do evil things to them in return, but ultimately that just produces more evil.
It doesn't make me feel better to say Hezbullah is evil, it simply means I'm being honest and not allowing myself to cajoled into couching my words in warm-and-fuzzy terms like 'fundamental reasons' and 'root causes' or pretending that these viscious thugs have been driven to this by something that Israel has done (other than existing).

Do you really believe that good and evil are merely in the eye of the beholder? Do you seriously think that sort of moral relativity and ethical equivalency are helpful?

Why are people so afraid of the word 'evil'? Is it because it conjures up religious imagery? kevvyd has said that he objects because the word is subjective, but all judgements are subjective -- it's when we make them relative that makes them useless -- subjectivity is the object of commentary.

Evil is pure immorality (cruelty, violence, ruthless, savagery, depravity, absence of sympathy). It isn't by accident, or without forethought. Evil is repetative, sustained immorality by choice with no positive or constructive goal -- and therein, to my mind, lies the difference between Israel and the terrorists. One can judge whether Israel has a moral right to respond to assaults-- some people believe that all violence, even in self-defence is wrong -- but I think most people would also say they can identify with, and understand the use of violence in response to violence when the underlying motivation of the response is not simply an expression of hatred.

I don't have difficulty with the use of the word evil when describing Hizbollah or Hamas. They and their ilk are violence personified. They initiate, they don't respond. They attack, they don't defend. They are aggressors, not victims. Their aspirations can only succeed when Israel ceases to exist -- not even because they want the land, or because of some long ago perceived injustices -- there is no reason -- just blind hatred and a desire to see Israel gone. That is their purpose and they are proud of it and I won't pretend they and their actions are as you put it: "simply a tactic, it is a method of organizing and waging war - no more evil than that."

Kevvyd went on to say:
Furthermore, the retaliatory attacks by Israel on civilians and infrastructure in Lebanon has created more Hezbollah than existed before -people will rally when facing an outside invader
Hezbollah is the aggressor, the instigator, the ignitor -- the outside invader -- for six years since Israel withrew from the buffer-zone that provided some protection against attacks, Hezbollah has been randomly launching rockets into Israel's towns and cities.

It is the Israelis who have finally rallied against the relentless and unpredictable attacks launched from the very territory they held for nearly two decades in order to prevent this sort of assault. Their withdrawl from Lebanon was on the understanding that Hezbollah would be disarmed and the government would take control of the southern territory -- not only did that not happen -- Hezbollah is officially part of Lebanese government, and the Lebanese PM Siniora's ceasefire plan includes the same old promises -- and the possible 'integration' of the radicals from Hezbollah into the regular Lebanese army.

A negotiated settlement would be nice, but based on history it won't be honoured by Hezbollah. There will be more concessions required of Israel, and Hamas and Hezbollah will continue to pick at old wounds to see what festers. Israel's aim is to defend itself and prevent future attacks -- but the 'invasion' is not an invasion to grasp territory or resources -- it is to push back an armed militia whose proximity to the border presents no other choice. The Syrian backed conditions for cease fire open up another front where Hezbullah or some other terrorist organisation can set up a staging-ground and start launching their missles for a new and yet to be determined reason.

As kevvyd suggested earlier, Hezbollah might have some mundane nationalistic goals like borders or territory -- but their main objective is not peace, which is why when the present crisis is over, Hezbollah and Hamas will announce new problems to blame Israel for and more excuses to renew terrorist attacks targeting Israeli civilians.

If their aims are mundane and nationalistic, and terror is just a tactic of war -- then Hezbollah and Hamas truly are evil. Rather than build up their societies, they have chosen to create havoc in another -- what is more evil than destroying your own people, body and soul, in an endless and ruthless attempt to destroy someone else?


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

That elusive and mystical 'middle ground'

Kevvyd is a thoughtful liberal blogger who wonders at the reaction of some bloggers on the right, to photographic proof of Hezbollah fighters in residential areas.
I mean, why is this news - we know that is the way terrorists operate. So why do some bloggers feel the need to wave this as if it is some kind of victory in an argument? Is it supposed to convince me somehow that killing more civilians is the answer to the problem? (...) I think that most of us on the peaceful middle ground side and those on the bomb Hezbollah into the earth side want the same thing in the end - an end to killings in Israel and Lebanon and the long-term establishment of peace. It's not like when I write that I think a military solution to this problem is untenable and unlikely to work that I'm really saying "go Hezbollah!" (...) Is that how I'm being heard on the right?
I guess what some of us are hearing is that you peaceful middle grounders feel it's best for Israel to ignore Hizbollah's munition installations when they are within civilian areas.

Given that Hizbollah consistently and deliberately operates within civilian populations -- to the point that their fighters dress in civilian garb -- are those who condemn Israel for civilian deaths suggesting that Israel should simply ignore Hizbollah and allow them to amass arms and launch missles at Israeli civilian targets with impunity?

People on the peaceful middle ground side insist that isn't what they mean, but if Hizbollah hides in neighbourhoods and they believe that Israel should avoid targeting neighbourhoods -- what exactly do they mean?

It is a fiction that there is some magical 'middle ground' ---that if Israel tried hard enough -- it could click its heels and end the annihilative aims of Hizbollah and its fighters. Such a place as middle ground doesn't exist. Impartiality is evil in the face of evil. It opens the door and keeps the door wedged open for fear of stating the truth -- at no time, in no way can Hizbollah ever be 'right' or 'okay' or even tolerated. Some ideologies are wrong. To suggest negotiation or compromise is to give a terrorist group legitimacy.

The peaceful middle ground side relies on words like 'compromise', 'negotiation', and 'neutrality'. It suggests that with enough concessions (by Israel, because Hizbollah is making none), Hizbollah will miraculouslly become a sane, rational entity and abandon its toxic ambitions.

But this isn't a war about a bit of territory as Hizbollah is now trying to pretend. Some farmland that is now a wasteland and which never belonged to Lebanon in the first place, is neither the catalyst to war, nor the key to peace. This is a war about the very existence of Israel. Those who see it as less than all-or-nothing are ignoring history. The Arab-Israeli wars of the past 60 years have been about the destruction of Israel -- the only reason that doesn't seem apparent is because Israel has won. As Golda Meir said of Israel: We don't thrive on military acts. We do them because we have to, and thank God we are efficient.

There can be no compromise with the goal that Hizbollah harbours. The fact that their munitions seem unequal to the task of destroying Israel doesn't negate the threat -- they're not only fighting with weapons, they're fighting with lies and strategies that feed the peaceful middle grounders in the West and they're fighting with the souls of men who don't fear death, but welcome it when it comes in pursuit of the destruction of Israel and Jews.

Neutrality is a diplomatic term -- it's meant to imply a goal of peace, and yet when applied to the Middle East it ignores truth. There can't be peace without truth -- the truth is Hizbollah does not want peace. So long as one side in a dispute does not want a peaceful resolution -- the other side can reason, bargain, compromise, and negotiate but peace will never be achieved. To ask Israel to be the sole player in the 'peace process' is just plain stupid.

Even those of us on the bomb Hizbollah into the ground side aren't suggesting that 'killing more civilians' is the answer -- but neither is ignoring Hizbollah and allowing its aggression to go unfettered. It seems that the peaceful middle ground crowd is fantasizing that we live in a world where there are easy answers when dealing with psychopaths. If there were workable alternatives to bombing Hizbollah strongholds while not risking Israeli lives, surely someone would have thought of one by now.

A unilateral ceasefire is suicide. When you tell Israel to stand down, and you know Hizbollah is going to continue to be armed by Syria and Iran while it digs in and maintains its positions in civilian populations and continue its rocket attacks -- you are in fact saying 'Go Hizbollah'. Maybe you aren't meaning to, but you are.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Gratitude & compassion

Peter Remple, Darcey and I have been taken to task by balbulican at Stageleft for our criticism of the Canadians evacuating Lebabon.

balbulican says that he doesn't blame the government given the circumstances but:
But I am sickened by the viciousness of the smug, small minded “Canadians” who feel compelled to pass judgement on fellow citizens who are exhausted, terrified, disoriented, and uprooted. I don’t care what your political or religious affiliation is: you don’t help people who are in trouble so that you can bask in their gratitude. You help them because they need help. Their response under extreme stress is irrelevant.
Listen, critics: I understand it’s difficult to have much compassion for people when the toughest thing you’ve had to deal with in your life is a hangnail or a slow internet connection. But at least have the decency to keep your mouths shut and refrain from broadcasting your narrow-minded nastiness to the world. You’re embarassing the Canadians who support the rescue - not for the praise or the thanks - but because it needs to be done for our fellow citizens.
I won't speak for Darcey or Peter -- I know they can speak for themselves well enough.

In these two paragraphs, a man who knows nothing of me or my life has accused me of being smug, compassionless, narrow-minded and vicious because I dared suggest that people who were leaving a war zone in a boat and not a bodybag should be grateful -- not to the Canadian people, not to the Canadian government -- but grateful to be alive -- grateful that the fates, providence, God, Allah, good fortune, luck, karma -- conspired to bring about the circumstances that meant they had a place to evacuate to, and a means to do so.

Our government has gone above and beyond the call --as have other governments the world over, but my suggestion that the evacuees should be grateful never even implied that their gratitude should be for the expense, or the time, or the logistics, or the manhours involved in bringing them home -- but rather, just for the very fact of being alive.

Maybe I'm small-minded for thinking that a crowded, stinky boat is better than the coffins that will carry home Al-Akhrass family.

Maybe I'm vicious for thinking that the twenty hours it took to be processed and transported to Cyprus is a better fate than the unknown months of war that face the family and friends many of these evacuees left behind.

Maybe I lack compassion for thinking a person should be grateful for leaving the uncertainty and violence in Lebanon, even if the journey to peace and freedom is slow and bumpy.

There is no smugness in what I've said. I've never been to a country being ravaged by war and I'm already grateful to have been so blessed.

How dare someone say that I'm "embarassing the Canadians who support the rescue" --I'm one of those Canadians who supports the rescue.

Pardon me for thinking that these fortunate Canadians might spare a thought for the family that won't be coming home and for the countless people in Lebanon who don't have the benefit of alternate citizenship.

Sometimes the best way to cope with an unpleasant situation is to remember that someone else has it worse -- that's compassion and it's the first step to gratitude.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Whining their way home

Our military was left in such a state by our previous government that we couldn't even transport our own troops overseas, we had to hitch a ride with the Americans --and yet some of those who are being rescued from a war zone can't understand why they have to wait for help -- why the conditions are not First Class.

One angry evacuee said that on the five hour trip to Cyprus, the first wave of Canadian refugees had to face unpleasant conditions. There was "no food, no A/C, people had to sleep on the floor. People were vomitting -- we were treated like animals."

Well, I can think of 8 Canadians who would gladly trade places with them. Too bad they're dead.

Quit your whining and be glad that in this day and age all the governments of the world have decided to use this flare up to establish the precident of fully aiding and organizing an evacuation of all of their citizens from a crisis zone instead of just providing travel information and advisories.

Be thankful you're alive and that your governments care enough to help you stay that way.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Taking sides on the Middle East

A commenter on my previous post suggests that I've only looked at one side of the coin when discussing the current Middle East crisis. Kevvyd says that both Israel and I have failed to make a distinction between Lebanon and Hizbollah. On his own page, kevvyd links to my 'Compare Israel' post and says:
The idea is that I might not have the right to comment on Israeli actions because I have never been in the shoes of an Israeli citizen, living under the threat of an attack at all times. It is obvious that this is both a dodge and true at the same time. It's a dodge because the same people that write this will in the same paragraph write that they want Israel to totally destroy Hamas and Hezbollah, which if my reading comprehension is correct, is also commenting on the situation.
I really, really hate my words being misrepresented. Disagree with me all you want, but don't assign your own meaning to things I've said.

To clarify, I never said that I want Israel to 'destroy' anyone or anything. I simply said that when comparing how Israel responded to the assault on its territory by an armed militia, the comparison shouldn't be made with the armed militia, but with other nation-states more similar to Israel. Making a distinction between Hizbollah and Lebanon is to some degree like differentiating between WWII era Germans and the Nazis. It works on a cerebral level, but not on a practical one. It's a sad reality that makes me glad to be over here and not one of the Israeli decision-makers.

I also never said that anyone who doesn't live in the area shouldn't be criticizing or commenting on the crisis. I simply suggested that when we pontificate (as bloggers are apt to do) we should remember that we do so from the luxury of a safe distance (both in terms of geography and experience). Never did I suggest that only those who take Israel's side should be allowed to comment.

kevvyd admits he would be scared etc. if he were an Israeli, then flips the coin:

Naturally, those that pose these questions of us Israel-critics (for want of a better term) seem unlikely to flip the question around and ask how they would feel if they were Palestinian. It's a useful exercise - try it. Since I'm good at following my own lead, I'll take that one on, too.

If I was Palestinian, I might be the second or third generation living in a refugee settlement without power and little or no water. I would likely have no job and come from a family in which no one has ever had a job. I very probably would know or be related to someone killed by Israeli shelling or rockets. (Body counts vary, but a rough estimate for the number dead during the recent Intifadah are about 3500 Palestinian and 1000 Israeli.) What's more, in all likelihood, I would have little or no hope of ever seeing any change in the situation for me or my kids. I'd be angry, scared, and hopeless. I might be angry at my government enough to do something aside from tossing protest votes at Hamas, but when the only alternative offers more of the same (with a smiling American stamp of approval), that is unlikely. It's more likely that if this world offers no solace I might make plans instead for the next one. And when those proffering the next world speak in the language of 72 virgins (or white grapes), I might just listen. (For what it's worth, I'd be a pretty churlish dead guy if it turned out to be grapes. I would haunt mosques. Unless they were really, really good grapes.)

Kevvyd implies that those who identify with Israel, do so because we have not tried to identify with its adversaries. Because his post is in response to mine, I can only suppose kevvyd means me.

Neither of my posts on Israel are meant to be unsympathetic to the plight of the average Lebanese, but my guess is that most people in the West, except for the most hardened souls, already do sympathize with them. But in my opinion, it's Israel's actions that require special understanding precisely because in comparison with its neighbours, Israel seems so much more powerful, more affluent, more organized, more civilized, more capable and therefore more open for criticism for its re-actions, than its neighbours are when they incite those reactions.

Critics tend to look on Israel as having an advantage because it is a modern state and they assign blame to Israel because its unfortunate neighbours are victim/underdogs -- as though somehow Israel's success is a result of, or to blame for, the failures of its Arab neighbours. I don't see any of the Arab states or territories as victims of Israel, I see them as victims of themselves and of each other. And while my post was primarily about the current crisis, I'll respond and say that I do pity the Palestinians, but not because they are 'victims' of Israel -- but because they are victims of their parents' and grandparents' hatred.

Rather than build up their own society, Palestinian leaders have tried for 60 years to destroy Israel. Blame checkpoints and humiliation, but remember -- those things wouldn't exist if terror weren't an everyday, ongoing, relentless threat to Israeli citizens.

Blame lack of electricity, and housing -- but don't blame Israel alone for those conditions. Remember that the territories where modern-day Palestinians have lived in squalor in refugee camps for 50 odd years, were not independent nations robbed of infrastructure by Israel --they belonged to Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, and are the remnants of the war their own Arab nations started and which Israel had the audacity to win. Millions of dollars in aid haven't helped their situation -- not because Israel hasn't allowed it -- but because the leadership has been too busy lining its pockets and stirring up resentment to be bothered trying to establish a better life for its people.

The Palestinian failure to create a viable society, is its own failure and that of its fellow Arabs/Muslims who put their hatred of Israel and Jews ahead of their people. The Arabs of the Middle East chose to let Palestine fester for 60 years. It was allowed to do so by the three nations that lost those lands to Israel, because doing so lent itself to creating more animosity toward Israel, and yet another excuse for its destruction. Those nations are the ones you should look to for WHY the Palestinians live in such deplorable conditions -- those three are responsible --- first for launching wars of annihilation, and later and still, for their failure to accommodate and assist their own civilian populations left behind in lands held by Israel when their quests for its annihilation failed.

Ask yourself if Israel would be a threat to the region if there were no threat to Israel. Israel's goal has been to exist in peace. That's why it has succeeded in building infrastructure, democracy and a viable social order while its neighbours have failed. And it is why if I were Palestinian, I believe that by now I'd be starting to look to my own society's leaders and aim my vitriol at them.


Comparing Israel fairly

War in the Middle East is a minor inconvenience to most of us in North America. A rise in the price of gas is about as profoundly as we are affected. We have no stake in this conflict unless we have some familial connection to the region.

It's easy to sit back from the comfort of our privileged world and espouse on a situation that we can't imagine and will likely never experience but we do it, I suppose in an attempt to make sense of it all.

As I've wandered around reading opinions on this current crisis I've been surprised by the stupid analogies I've seen which seek to condemn Israel for it's response to the kidnappings and breach of its border.

Amongst the stupidest are: fighting a gnat with a hand grenade & attacking an ant with a hammer

Those who indulge in such inane comparisons might consider: fighting fire with fire or better still, a fight for one's life. These seem more accurate and still don't imply correct action on the part of the Israelis, but also don't understate the devastation that is being caused by Hizbollah.

It is disingenuous to compare the State of Israel with Hizbollah and pretend that a giant is swatting a fly. It is unfair to suggest that because of its superior equipment, infrastructure etc. that Israel should not respond or should respond weakly, to an overt act of war. The more realistic comparison would be made between Israel and every other country in the world -- what would the international expectations be of say . . . Germany . . . or Italy . . . or Japan . . . or Russia . . . or France . . . or China . . . or Canada --- if a terrorist organization, which had governmental recognition/ approval from its host country -- were to slip beneath the border between any of these sovereign nations and an unfriendly adjoining nation and murder and abduct military personnel?

What if diplomacy with this unfriendly nation had never worked in the past?
What if despite security concerns, you'd removed troops from their side of the border in good faith several years previous, but still could not guarantee the safety of your citizens because the terrorist organisation had been using that same area since your withdrawal, to launch attacks deliberately targeting civilians?
What if you offered to cease fire in the present crisis if your soldiers were returned but your offer was rebuffed?

There's much more to it, I know. I know Israel holds prisoners that Hizbollah and others dispute are terrorists. I know that Israel's superior firepower has meant more civilian casualties on the side of the Lebanese. I also know that some people will always see Israel as wrong (or right) and vice versa.

But we on the opposite side of the world who are thinking of these things should remember that of those seven nations mentioned above, only one has never invaded another country/initiated a war through beligerant action/joined forces with another nation to initiate war.

None of the above countries has ever responded to an act of war by another nation/faction within a nation, by turning the other cheek.

All but one of those nations have colonized, occupied or otherwise imposed themselves on a sovereign country and at least three continue to do so to this day.

All but one of these nations has used its superior military to suppress the goals of a nation under its control --- either currently or within the last 60 years.

None of these nations has ever willingly returned territory it gained through war -- particularly in those instances when they did not initiate the war.

Compare these nations to Israel because that is a more reasonable comparison. And remember, Canada is the only exception on the list -- and even Canada, provoked by the Yanks when they came north in 1812, didn't try to talk things out. We used all means at our disposal to fight because they breached our border. Our goal back then was not to thwart annihilation, only annexation and yet still we responded to an act of war, with war.

Even if people persist in drawing comparisons between Israel and its enemies, Israel still compares favourably, if only because of it's ultimate goals -- peace and co-existence with its neighbours. The fact that Israel is surrounded by countries/factions whose ambitions are diametrically opposed to those goals, puts Israel in a unique disadvantage -- a show of force draws criticism from Europe and the UN; a show of weakness emboldens those who pose the threat.

Israel is faced with a choice between criticism, and continued, perhaps escalating assaults and threats against its citizens. There is no such thing as 'doing the right' thing in war -- to Israel, there is capitulation and there is survival. It is easy not to see it in those terms from the comfort of our livingrooms.


(edited for spelling thanks to 'grammar nazi' ;> )