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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

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With all of the conflicted reporting which characterized the media coverage of the Iraq War it was often hard to see the individual soldiers who fought so bravely and so well. Here is a link to an account of the last stand of Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith. I hope he gets the Medal of Honor; but he is already a hero. He leaves a wife and two children. There should be a place to send contributions. I don't know of one. But there should.

An M-113 armored personnel carrier moved into the compound and knocked down a gate at the far side, only to come under heavy fire from Special Republican Guard forces. A mortar round landed on top of the M-113, wounding three of the four crew members. Seconds later, a rocket-propelled grenade hit the vehicle in the side. At the same time, Iraqis climbed into the guard tower and began firing down at the U.S. soldiers with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons.

"They had occupied the tower that we planned to use to guard the EPW [enemy prisoner of war] cage," said 1st Sgt. Timothy Campbell, 35, of Bethel, Ohio, the senior noncommissioned officer of Bravo Company. "So now they had us in the cage, basically. The only place out was the hole we put in the wall and the gate where they were firing from."

Smith and Campbell rushed to help evacuate the wounded, one of whom had to be carried on a stretcher. Another M-113 was then hit by a grenade, and Campbell helped evacuate its four crew members. As he was doing so, Smith got a hand grenade from a Scout vehicle, ran up to the wall by the gate and threw the grenade over the wall to help cover the evacuation.

Then Smith jumped into the M-113 and started to back it across the courtyard to a more central position where he could fire at the guard tower.

The M-113's machine gun was damaged, but Smith told Campbell he could make it work. Campbell sent two soldiers to help him, one to drive the M-113 and the other to feed Smith ammunition. Smith told them to stay down while he fired at the tower, the gate and a place along a wall where the Iraqis were trying to climb over.

"They were trying to gain control [of the courtyard] to kill engineers, who were the biggest threat to them," Campbell said. If successful, "they would be unimpeded. They had the terrain. They had the proper size and type of weapons to defeat all the targets around there. . . . So they would have . . . created chaos, and they could have done quite a bit of damage."
link washington post

Read the whole thing.

Hockey Eh

I am not a hockey fan. Except every ten years when the hapless Vancouver Canucks make it past the quarter finals. Then I begin to get interested. Last time there was one element missing - Colby Cosh's Hockey blog. This is what hockey writing is supposed to be. Opinionated, knowledgeable and funny.

The game was decided in OT by a high-sticking call against Filip Kuba--a fair cop, as he clearly got his stick blade up in Bertuzzi's face, but it was unclear why it was a double minor, since Bertuzzi showed no sign of being cut. There was blood on the towel, but I've always suspected that trainers may keep pre-blooded towels on hand for such occasions; and besides, the blood was red like a human's, which means it couldn't possibly have come from Bertuzzi. Q.E.D.
link colby cosh


American Jihad

David Murray, a special assistant in the US Office of National Drug Control came to Vancouver to put the boots into marijuana decriminalization and safe injection sites,

"This is a critical juncture for Canada," said Murray, who flew to Vancouver for a day of meetings with local police, health groups, municipal politicians, and media to talk about U.S. and Canadian drug policy.

He said the decriminalization initiative "is a matter we look upon with some concern and some regret."

Murray emphasized it's up to Canadians to make their own decisions, but he warned that if Canada decriminalizes marijuana, as Prime Minister Jean Chretien said publicly for the first time this week that his government will do, the existing harmony between the two countries will be ruptured.

"I think the loss of the mutual cooperative partnership we've had with Canadians regarding our borders, regarding the integrity of the hemisphere, regarding our commerce, regarding the implications of trade and value to ourselves, the loss of that would be something truly to be regretted," said Murray, who repeatedly referred to the "unintended consequences" the new drug policies would bring.

"We would have no choice but to respond. My impression is the first concern is what is coming in to our country. How do we examine, how do we understand and how do we try to prevent the flood of illicit substances that we currently cooperatively try to manage with Canadian contribution?
link vancouver sun

As it happens I am in the middle of reading Eric Schlosser's extremely depressing Reefer Madness. Schlosser details the stupidities of the American War on Drugs assault on marijuana use. Tens of thousands of Americans are in federal prison doing hard time for minor marijuana offences. People are given life sentences with no possibility of parole for cultivation offences.

The harshness of the penalties has done nothing at all to reduce marijuana use in the US. If anything pot use is increasing and users are younger and younger. So why are the americans so intent on putting their kids in jail?

Largely it is an ideological issue. The conservative right in America, back in the Regan era, decided that there had to be a line drawn about drug use. It was pretty clear that there was very little headway being made dealing with cocaine, the price of which has actually been falling despite two decades of interdiction, so the War on Drugs opened a second front against pot.

Schlosser gives the details. The fact is that the same strategy of plea bargains, forfeitures, stings and long stretch conspiracy charges has been used to try to stamp out the demon weed. With the same success as previous attempts to eliminate booze or erradicate cocaine.

Mr. Murray suggests that if Canada goes its own way on pot there will be consequences. And, for the first year or two there will. Not that US Customs is in the habit of turning a blind eye to pot now. But the border will tighten.

So what? Canada's drug policy is heading in a more humane and more libertarian direction. We have decided that the cost of creating pot criminals is not worth it. Though I don't have any time at all for pot - even being in the same room puts me to sleep - I have no doubt decriminalization is the right policy for a civil society to adopt. If it adds ten minute to the border line up that is a cost which we'll be able to bear.

The Minsk Option

Debka Files is more oftenwrong than right; but they also have a way of getting things half right. So this....

However, according to our information, the deposed ruler and his sons were carried to safety in Minsk in late March aboard two chartered airliners. This week, the Polish news agency PAP sent a team of reporters to the Belarus capital to check on this account. They quote Natalia Pietkiewicz, spokesperson at President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s bureau, as evading a direct reply when asked if the former Iraqi ruler was in the country. She said: ?We have no information that Saddam Hussein is in Belarus.? This is a long way from a flat denial.
link debka

Debka notes that Bush is zero for two in the headman hunt; zero for three if you count Mullah Omar. Which may or may not matter very much. It would be satisfying to have bin Laden, it is more satisfying to have a radical reduction in the total number of terrorist operations world wide and the relentless pursuit of the Al Qaeda who are still at large.

Saddam Writes??

Likely a hoax, but is there anyone left, Arab or not, who cares?

Dubai: An Arabic newspaper said yesterday it had received a handwritten letter signed by Saddam Hussein in which he urges the Iraqi people to resist US troops that took over Iraq and ousted his regime earlier this month....

The one-page message contains a reference to "betrayals" that led to the US military victory, an appeal to Iraqis to cast aside any differences, and a warning that US-installed leaders will not bring them freedom.

Does this mean we get a missive every birthday...Where is Baghdad Bob when you need him?

Jihad for Jesus

When I first saw this on Kathy's Relapsed Catholic blog I assumed it was a bit of delightful Christian mockery.

In an effort to broaden their international appeal, Campus Crusade for Christ, the venerable evangelism organization founded by Bill and Vonette Bright 52 years ago, has changed its name to Campus Jihad for Christ.
"When the ministry started in 1951, 'crusade' was a bold, evocative word," says Campus Jihad spokesman Tony Ulkes. "Now it has negative overtones and kind of a fifteenth-century ring to it, particularly in Europe and the Middle East, where we're expanding. But 'jihad' is considered by young people to be new and fresh, and it means virtually the same thing as 'crusade'. So we're changing with the times."
But some observers call the change a sure way to alienate their core constituency.
"This is a grave miscalculation," says church history professor Timothy Wilds of the University of Florida, Miami. "I'm not sure they'll win any more converts, and it's quite possible they'll anger a lot of long-time supporters."
The impetus for the change came as the ministry found it increasingly difficult to set up debates with Muslim groups on university campuses because of the 'crusade' moniker. And students recently introduced to the ministry often assumed it was started after September 11, 2001, in response to terrorism.
The name changes will flow down the employee chart. Campus ministers will now be called campus mujahideen, or holy warriors. Regional directors will be known as fedayeen Christ. Fedayeen means "one who sacrifices himself for a cause" in Arabic.
"With no disrespect meant to Mohammed, we'd like students to join the true jihad ? the jihad of Christ," says Ulkes.
The change will also solve a small but consistent problem: the inevitable handful of students who joined the group thinking it was the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medievalist group which holds fairs and festivals in the spirit of Olde England.
"We're all happy to be rid of the 'crusade' label," says Ulkes. "This is a new day for us." ?
link lark news

What are these people smoking?

Leave aside the fact it will offend even moderate Muslims who understand jihad as an inward struggle for faith rather than a call to religious war; it offends mild old Anglican me.

The Church militant is an ugly thing made all the uglier by this sort of cultural and religious ignorance. If this is what the Campus Crudasers for Christ have got to stoop to to stay in the ball game it might be time to call it a day.


German second thoughts

While not in the same league as the French, the Germans managed to make asses out of themselves over Iraq. the San Francisco Chronicle reports on some of the reasons why:

Television's role in molding public opinion was underscored by a recent survey of youngsters at a Meunster high school who had taken part in anti- American peace marches.

None knew where Iraq is located geographically. Nor did any of them know anything about Hussein's brutal regime. All said they got their information about "the American barbarity" from German media reports -- chiefly those of ARD and ZDF.
link san fancisco chronicle

Much the same can likely be said of the British, Canadian and Australian antis. And, no doubt, it will.

You want us to what?

The old Russian general gave his head a shake....Let me get this straight.....

In announcing this new plan, they gave lip-service to the idea that this is not intended as a challenge to NATO, but it's obviously a clear attempt to try to create an alternative. (Especially since there's every reason to believe that France's role in NATO is about to involuntarily become insignificant.) It's just that right now there aren't any substantial number of troops available to assign to this new military command.

But never fear! Paris is on the case, and has a solution. Europe needs an independent military which is capable of "counterbalancing" the US, but doesn't want to pay for it. Europe needs a nation which actually has a force large enough to be credible, which can become a partner in Europe's defense so as to protect Europe from American aggression. (Which is to say, Europe needs a new free ride.)

In short, Europe needs Russia to come in to Western Europe and save it from America.

Which is why French defense minister Michèle Alliot-Marie is in Moscow right now, trying to talk up the idea. Russia can supply the troops, France can supply the commanders and the wisdom. Western Europe will finally be liberated from oppressive and cruel American military occupation through the agency of the friendly and solicitous Russian Army.

I do rather wonder just how this idea is going to play in places like Prague and Warsaw and Bucharest, who have a somewhat different opinion of the Russians than the French evidently have.
link denbeste

"Nyet. I say nyet." the old Russian general said as he heard the clever French plan. "We have seen what you do to your allies. We are not crazy. Nyet."

Democracy and Theology? Not a happy mix

Anti-democratic forces led by Shi'ite clerics loyal to Iran quickly filled the void left by the sudden collapse of Ba'ath Party overlords. They have already pre-empted U.S. efforts to democratize Iraq with free elections. The made-in-Iran election slogan: "Vote Koran or vote America + Israel." Anyone who votes for America under the ayatollahs' game plan will be a pagan-Christian heathen. link washington times

The game plan in Iraq calls for something like a democracy as quickly as possible. Which is all about process and not about content.

What is also needed is a way of ensuring that democracy is not immediately hijacked to ensure the dominance of the Shi'ite clergy.

One possible solution is to create a federal model in which issues of religious practice - but not law - are left at the state level. With luck, by keeping religion local there is a chance that the national democracy will have a chance to become strong enough to hold its own with the Islamists of whatever sect. But it will have to be done fast and there will have to be real power devolved to the state level. And there is a good argument for dividing the south into a couple of states simply to difuse the potential Shi'ite problem for the central government.

In addition, there should be some provision for super majorities for things like constitutional change. While one man - and woman thank you - one vote is great for counting it does not determine what counts.

A Long, Slow War

A top operative of Al Qaeda suspected of playing crucial roles in both the bombing of the American destroyer Cole in 2000 and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was captured in Pakistan on Tuesday along with five other terrorist suspects, American officials said today.

Walid Ba'Attash, a Saudi citizen of Yemeni descent who was captured in Karachi by the Pakistani authorities, is the highest-ranking Qaeda leader to be taken into custody since Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the terrorist network's chief of operations, was captured on March 2, American officials said. link nyt

It is taking a while but the breaking of Al Qaeda proceeds.

Interestingly there is no mention, as there was with the capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, of any electronica in Ba'Attash's possession. Either there was none or, and this is more likely, there was better control on the Pakistani foks so that the CIA et al would have more time to use what there was before the rest of the network was able to respond.

The elimination of Al Qaeda as an effective force is the one critical mission of the Bush administration and the West. The rest, including the hostage rescue of the Iraqi population, are important; but the danger posed by bin Laden and his gang is far more significant than the threat posed by Iraq on its own.

There is still a long way to go and many more vicious zealots to be sent to a kennel on Cuba. But the corner seems to be turned.

Drinking the Kool-aid

And if you wished to take pity on Tariq Aziz, you could have found abundant evidence here of his common humanity. One thing is for certain about the collapse of Saddam's regime: they didn't see it coming.

Saddam himself contrived to leave $650 million in a shed, and Aziz was also overwhelmed by the suddenness of his extinction. There were children's exercise books, poignant efforts at English comprehension and algebra. There was a broken ping-pong bat, and an Arabic edition of Risk, the game of high-stakes diplomacy. There were dental X-rays, and a doctor's certificate warning that his son, Riaf Tariq Aziz, had about twice the high-risk level of fat in his bloodstream.

And if you wanted proof that he was a cultivated man, there were signs of that, too. Among the charred rubbish in one bedroom was some sheet music in Russian, and shredded works by Flaubert and Dostoevsky, in the old Penguin Classics edition. link the telegraph

I wonder how many of the top Saddamite had the slightest idea what they were up against.

I doubt very many simply because I rather suspect that much of the American high command was pretty convinced that the go light, go fast strategy was risky at best, foolhardy and ideologically driven at worse. And if the Pentagon didn't quite buy General Franks' plan it is a pretty good bet Tariq Aziz didn't either.

A Vast Chasm of Sense

via authentic liberal

As Victor Davis Hanson noted recently, a vast chasm of sense has been opened between teachers and taught, preachers and preached-at, people who make the films and people who see them, people who write books and people who read them, those who produce news and those who consume it. This calls into question a guiding belief of the culture: that power resides in the mouth of the bullhorn, if not in the barrels of guns. It is possible that people are not, after all, very malleable. It is possible that in the past, when "opinion leaders" tracked more closely with public opinion, that they were reflecting the public's ideas, and not leading it.

It is possible, too, that people can recognize swill when they see it, and learn to discount claims that run counter to what they experience. Films keep showing the suburbs as hellholes, and people keep living in suburbs. They know that this country, while far from ideal, is, by real world standards, extremely successful. They know that Iraq is not Vietnam, that George W. Bush is not Lyndon B. Johnson, and that Basra is not My Lai. link front page/Noemie Emery

While I disagree with Emery's conclusion, that the high ground of the media is not actually worth having, I think she is on to something by pointing out that the people are no longer buying into what the elites are saying.

We actually have seen this in Canada on several occasion. "There is an anger in the land" intoned Keith Spicer as he wandered about trying to figure out what to do about the constitution. Every so often there is full on disbelief: Meech Lake, the last referendum in Quebec, the current non-position on Iraq. The disconnect is there and it is getting bigger.

Mainly it happens when people think for themselves and have some access to power. Or at least the capacity to amplify what power they have. The internet lets that happen.

Cowboys and Culture

According to Iraqi artist interviewed on CBC radio today, `American system: cowboy. Iraqi system: culture. There is a long distance between them.' `Culture', indeed: the murder of a quarter million people by a vicious totalitarian regime. When will Westerners wake up to the fact that in the relationship between Arabs and Westerners, it is the Arabs who are racist. link authentic liberal

Of course you have to hand it to the CBC: who else would think of finding an Iraqi artist
about geopolitics. I suspect that is the last Iraqi they could find whose face is not on a card who is willing to call George Bush a cowboy. Surely it would have been easier, and just as informative, to interview a French man.


Riding the Tiger

via Instapundit

Orson Scott Card writes a really fascinating column on what might happen if everything in iraq goes just right.

In summary he suggests the Arab world as a whole would be galvanise by a strong, democratic and Islamic Iraq. But then he goes on to ask what that would actually mean to American and, more generally, Western interests.

Do you think they'll be our friends?

Well, think carefully back to your American history class. Just how long did our close friendship with France last after they made our revolution possible? A while.

But democracies have incredibly short memories. This new, powerful, democratic Iraq will not be our puppet.

He goes on to suggest that a resurgent Iraq could easily unite the Arab world and begin to pursue some form of the Arab dream. Which is? Card hedges.

My sense is the dream depends on whether it is more democratic or more Islamic. If the latter then a well lead Iraq will be a serious problem for a number of the Arab nations which surround it and then on out into the rest of the Middle East.

Even a democratic Iraq will likely be problematic purely because, to be elected, politicians will have to appease some pretty fundamentalist voters. (Turkey is instructive in this respect - as is the Likud coalition in Israel.)

It is quite possible to have an illiberal democracy. Pakistan's fundamentalist voters have, in a number of provinces, created rather nasty little Islamofascist mini states who owe rather more allegiance to the Taliban and bin Laden than they do to the happy idealism of Locke.

Creating a liberal democracy is what would be ideal. But liberalism is rather more difficult to implement than voting procedures. It is a habit of mind which says discuss, don't shoot. It is a civil society in which you can disagree and dissent without losing your job or your life. It is a tough trick to pull off in the post-enlightenment West. A liberal Muslim state is pretty far fetched.

But a liberal Arab state is more plausible. The distinction between the Islamists and the Arabs is often ignored. While virtually all Arabs are Muslim, only a minority are Islamist in the sense of supporting the imposition of the full, barbaric simplicity of the shira. Encouraging liberal secularism, the separation of mosque and state, the notion of civil rather than Koranic solutions are all potentially ways of ensuring that the state of Iraq is both democratic and, at least, not hostile to the West for religious reasons.

Quagmire Now!

Journalists displayed an alarming lack of scepticism during the recent three-week quagmire in Iraq (the one that didn't kill 500,000 civilians, provoke mass Islamic uprisings, or witness street warfare in Baghdad). Take the story of the Iraqi peasant who supposedly shot down an Apache helicopter with his ancient Czech-made rifle. Despite US denials, many happily accepted the Iraqi government's version of events; perhaps they were influenced by Robert Fisk, The Independent's anti-Israel, anti-US foreign correspondent, who is worshipped by many in Australia (Hi, Phillip Adams!) and who totally fell for the fanciful rifle tale. The Sydney Morning Herald's Richard Ackland was among the duped. So, to a degree, was The Australian Financial Review's Brian Toohey.

But it never happened. Last week, the BBC reported: "The elderly Iraqi farmer who, according to Baghdad officials, literally shot his way to fame by downing a state-of-the-art US Apache helicopter with an old carbine has flatly denied he had anything to do with the crash." This about-face has not been widely reported. Don't journalists believe him? link ninemsn

Mainly I like the notion of a three week quagmire.

Mugabe's Youth Brigades

Chirac pal Robert Mugabe has managed to come up with a plan to ensure the dirty work gets done without staining the hands of the official police or army.

With few prospects, he says he joined the bombers because he was promised land and a job in the Army. All the boys in his area over 16, he says, were told they could join and be rewarded, or resist and be beaten. Henry joined, but the land and the jobs never materialized.

For months, the trainees lived in a tent near a secondary school, going through boot-camp-style training. They ran, jumped, and learned to handle guns and spears. The training was conducted under the watchful eye of military officers.

Later, they were given uniforms and were deployed to harass opposition supporters and man food lines. They prevented anyone without a ruling-party card from buying food. In a country where more than 7 million were said to be at risk of starvation recently, food was as powerful a weapon as a gun.

Twenty-two-year-old Luscious, the oldest of the Johannesburg group, stutters heavily when he speaks; it's a problem, his friends say, that increases when he is angry or emotional. Stumbling over the words, he says he burned houses, watched while children were raped, and shot a white farmer. But he says it was the alcohol and drugs, not him, that did these things. link christian science monitor

There is no question the Mugabe regime must go; the only issue is whether the Africans will take care of the problem on their own or wait for the rest of the world to come up to speed. Given this, further on in the article, the Africans seem about as capable as the Arabs of keeping their house in order,

Officially, South Africa says Zimbabwe is on the mend and continues to protect its neighbor from international censure. Last week, with the backing of other African and Asian countries, South Africa stopped the United Nations Human Rights Commission from condemning Zimbabwe for human rights violations.

You've got Mail

The instant message reads, in part:

"It appears that you are offering copyrighted music to others from your computer. Distributing or downloading copyrighted music on the Internet without permission from the copyright owner is ILLEGAL?. When you break the law, you risk legal penalties. There is a simple way to avoid that risk: DON'T STEAL MUSIC, either by offering it to others to copy or downloading it on a 'file-sharing' system like this.

"When you offer music on these systems, you are not anonymous, and you can easily be identified. You also may have unlocked and exposed your computer and your private files to anyone on the Internet. Don't take these chances. Disable the share feature or uninstall your 'file-sharing' software." link wired

This message is going out to Grokster and Morpheus users. While I suspect it will be widely ignored it suggests the desperation of the recording industry. The idea of legal penalties is a joke. There are millions of file sharers and it is out of the question to toss them in jail or even sue them individually. Moreover it is not obvious why leaving a bunch of songs in a shared fold is illegal. In the US it is possible that downloading the songs violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; but simply leaving songs in a shared folder which may have come from your own CD collection is not obviously a violation of copyright.

The RIAA seems to want to enlist consumers as copyright protectors. "Oh no, you cannot borrow my CD. By purchasing this CD I have entered into a contractual relationship with the recording company and the artist to preserve their intellectual property rights." Yeah, right.

Cheque is in the Mail

George Galloway yesterday launched an appeal to fund his high court libel battle against two newspapers that claimed he received money from Saddam Hussein's regime. link guardian

I know I will be rushing to send Galloway a pound....I'm sure the rest of the world will too.

A Pattern?

The president's rhetoric simply doesn't match his own reality. On April 9, for good measure, the president nominated Bill Pryor, Alabama attorney general, to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Pryor is a strong defender of anti-sodomy laws, wrote an amicus brief defending the Texas law for the Supreme Court, fought for the discriminatory Colorado law that was struck down by the Supreme Court in Romer vs Evans, and has associated homosexual relationships with "prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia (if the child should credibly claim to be 'willing)." Does president Bush believe that Pryor is "an inclusive man?" Or will he and his defenders keep saying they don't even have to answer that question? link andrew sullivan

Two words: John Ashcroft.


Steyn Rocks

You don't have to agree (though I do) with George Jonas that the UN is a fully fledged member of the axis of evil to recognize that there's little point in going to war to install yet another branch office of UNSCAM. If the problem is America's image in the Arab world, in what way does it help to confine the Stars and Stripes brand to unpleasant things like bombs while insisting all the nice post-war reconstructive stuff be clearly labelled with the UN flag? If the answer is that that's the price you pay for healing the rift with Old Europe, that presupposes Old Europe is interested in healing it. Tony Blair may be keen, but the Continentals have different agendas. Will the Belgian government approve the complaint against Tommy Franks for "genocide"? The petition accuses the General of "inaction in the face of hospital pillaging," which apparently meets the Belgian definition of genocide. Unlike the deaths of over three million people, which is the lowball figure for those who've died in the current civil war in the Congo -- or, as I still like to think of it, the Belgian Congo.

The Congo's civil war is everything the NIONists (Not In Our Name) claimed Bush's war would be: There were more civilian deaths in a few hours in Ituri province last week than in the entire Iraq campaign; while the blowhards at Oxfam and co -- the Big Consciences lobby -- insist on pretending that Iraq is a humanitarian disaster, there's an actual humanitarian disaster going on in the Congo, complete with millions of children dead from disease and malnutrition. While the lefties warned that Ariel Sharon would use the cover of the Iraq war to slaughter the Palestinians, the Congolese are being slaughtered, and you don't need any cover. Because nobody cares. Because no arrogant Americans or sinister Zionists are involved. link national post</a>

Mark Steyn is one of the few reasons to keep reading the National Post. Here he is setting up the argument that the UN is hopeless at nation building, reckless of the liberties of the people who it is asked to protect and often so deferential to the wishes of the ostensible government - usually a pack of thieves - of the nations it is involved with that it is more than willing to sacrifice the good of the people of a nation for the goodwill of the ruling elite of that same nation.

Implicitly he is also making a hearty argument for neo-colonialism. Which, in the case of a number of basket case nations, may be just what is needed.

Site Update

I have not been updating the website from which this blog actually springs. Having a few minutes today I have posted interviews with Keith Maillard and Lenny Hu as well as reviews of First Drafts by Jack Granatstein and Norman Hillman and Acting the Giddy Goat by Mike Tanner.

Read and enjoy!

The Third Front

The French/German Axis of weasels has fired the first formal shot in the post-Iraq world. Meeting in Brussels the Four, including militarily mighty Luxembourg and brave little Belguim, filled the air with platitudes and embarked upon the happy idea of an EU rapid deployment force. (Which, one assumes, would never deploy without full Security Council approval except where French national interests were directly threatened.)

This salon d'refuse, through spokesman Chirac, offered this happy bit of Euro wisdom,

Chirac stated clearly the group's long-term aims again today when he observed that a partnership with the United States implies equality, "otherwise there cannot be a partnership."

Chirac also noted the EU must be ready to demonstrate its ambitions, stressing pointedly that the bloc must be able to undertake tasks for the United Nations without recourse to NATO assets -- or the U.S. approval that would imply. link radio free europe

The idea of equality is interesting. Equal partners would, presumably, be able to field equal forces. Not very likely when the American defence budget is several times that of the fatuous four's. C'est le vie.

Sacred Texts

I am doing notes for an article on whether we need schools at all and if so what for. Today's NYT has a review of a book, The Language Police
by Diane Ravitch.

In it she argues that the politicization of the text book selection process by both the left and the right in the United States. Here are a few of the forbidden topics and themes:

¶Mickey Mouse and Stuart Little (because mice, along with rats, roaches, snakes and lice, are considered to be upsetting to children).

¶Stories or pictures showing a mother cooking dinner for her children, or a black family living in a city neighborhood (because such images are thought to purvey gender or racial stereotypes).

¶Dinosaurs (because they suggest the controversial subject of evolution).

¶Tales set in jungles, forests, mountains or by the sea (because such settings are believed to display "a regional bias").

¶Narratives involving angry, loud-mouthed characters, quarreling parents or disobedient children (because such emotions are not "uplifting").

Owls are out because some cultures associate them with death. Mentions of birthdays are to be avoided because some children do not have birthday parties. Images or descriptions of a mother showing shock or fear are to be replaced by depictions of both parents "expressing the same facial emotions."

Mentions of cakes, candy, doughnuts, french fries and coffee should be dropped in favor of references to more healthful foods like cooked beans, yogurt and enriched whole-grain breads. And of course words like brotherhood, fraternity, heroine, snowman, swarthy, crazy, senile and polo are banned because they could be upsetting to women, to certain ethnic groups, to people with mental disabilities, old people or, it would seem, to people who do not play polo. link new york times

Along with being very silly, this sort of value censorship leads to kids being entirely disconnected to what they are reading and learning in schools. As the reviewer puts it,

In trying to promote such ideal worlds, censors on the right and left often end up demanding texts that are not realistic, as any child, exposed to television, pop music and the daily hubbub of real life can plainly see. When it comes to the teaching of literature, it can reduce the ambiguities and complexities of art into simplistic social and political messages; it can result in the rejection of classic texts and good writing in favor of boring works, calculated to offend and stimulate no one; and it can result in the selection of works deemed "relevant" to students, instead of works that might broaden their outlook and introduce them to new worlds.

One of the arguments I am running in my article is that schools have been asked to take on social tasks for which they are entirely unequiped. Which leads to a great deal of wasted class time and a narrowing of perspective. I have not got around to looking at textbooks but I suspect, even in Canada, there has been a good deal of politically motivated dumbing down.

Cutting Cancon TV

Jeffrey Simpson wrote in Friday's Globe and Mail about John Manley's decision to cut 25 million dollars from the Canadian Television Fund's 100 million dollar a year budget.

He suggests that 25 million is a drop in the bucket and that there was no justification for this sort of cut.

And he laments the shows which have had to be turned down:

The perverse effects of the $25-million cut are already embarrassingly apparent. The CTF has had to turn down a bunch of popular shows, including This Hour Has 22 Minutes, the Canadian equivalent of Saturday Night Live. How perverse, then, is it that Saturday Night Live can be seen across Canada on a Canadian network (Global), whereas This Hour Has 22 Minutes might die? link globe and mail

My sense is that the CTF was, in fact, a indirect subsidy to CBC television's bloated and talentless television production program. In effect topping up indirectly what the government had cut directly. Manley saw through this and could not see any reason for it to continue, or to continue on such a lavish scale.

Now, a really radical suggestion would be to privatize CBC television's broadcast facilities and separate them from the production of any entertainment or sports programming. Instead the now private company could put on whatever programming it wanted - within the Cancon rules - and pay the producers directly. I would suggest splitting it into regional parcels with no single media company allowed to hold more than one region. News would be part of the cost of doing business in that region and there would be a national kitty to finance a national and international news gathering operation.

But, if you really wanted an interesting national broadcaster - appoint the now free from responsibility Moses Znaimer President with full operational and executive power. The howls would be heard throughout the chattering classes in the Annex; but people would start watching CBC television again.

Murdoch Library at Auction

Four years after Iris Murdoch’s death, her husband is selling the nearly 1,000 books collected and annotated by the late author over six decades, auctioneers said Monday. link globe and mail

One of the main reasons I want to get a house on Galiano is to put a final library together. I have bought, sold, lost in divorce and generally misplaced a couple of thousand books over the years and I want at least some of them back.

The idea of the library of a woman of Murdoch's philosophical and literary interests is striking. It would be a working diagram of one of the finer minds of the century. Incomplete, but a trove for any biographer. It would be wonderful if someone or some institution bought the whole thing and housed it properly.

Good News in Zimbabwe?

Chirac buddy and food for votes innovator Robert Mugabe may be ready to australian broadcasting corporation


Apples and Nodes

The ongoing litigation about file sharing is heading for the Supreme Court of the United States, one way or another. The decision in Verizon -

that the court has affirmed the right of the music industry to go after individuals, and Internet service providers such as Verizon must hand over the names of pirates, the music industry lawyers can target the owners of these "supernodes," which, when shut down, will bring song-swapping to a crawl, said one expert. link wapo

is potentially devastating for the American
file sharing world. But so long as there are nations which do not have the Digital Millennium Copyright Act there will be lots of supernodes beyond the jurisdiction of the American courts. More to the point, as personal computers become more and more server like in their function and functionality, the number of computers which have the technical capacity to act as super nodes will increase geometrically. The networks may be slowed but will hardly collapse.

The second decision in the Morpheus/Grokster case at the district Court level affirmed the idea that the providers of a technology cannot be held liable for the use of that technology for copyright infringement even where the possibility of such infringement is implicit in the technology. There is a wonderfully ironic precedent from the Supreme Court of the United States which held this was the case in Sony Betamax.

Once these cases have been appealed it is a dandy bet that they will go to the Supreme Court. Particularily the Verizon case where the relatively novel question of the existence of a privacy right for Internet usage arises.

The Apple announcement of its music site is pretty interesting simply because this is the first time anyone with the slightest clue about computers and their users has tried to sell music on line. Just for American Mac OS10 folks for the moment but it may be coming to a PC near you very soon. (I suspect .99 per song is still a little more than most people are willing to pay...depends on the titles and the artists available and how seamless the experience actually is.)

More Evidence Chretien's strategy is working

One of the many reasons for Chretien and Our Lady Peace's non-policy on Iraq was the fear that there might be terrorist fallout. Well, looks like they were right.

A crew member of an Egyptian merchant ship has died in northern Brazil, almost certainly from anthrax, after opening a suitcase suspected of containing the substance which he was taking to Canada.....

Castro said Ibrahim had been given the suitcase in Cairo by an unidentified person and was due to deliver it to somebody in Canada. But he doubted Ibrahim knew what the content of the bag was otherwise he most likely would not have opened it. link yahoo

I have no doubt the geniuses at CIIS and in the PCO will conclude that the anthraz was only coming to Canada for transfer to the United States; but, hey, an infidel is an infidel.

Those Jolly Gauls

Continuing his quest to really, really piss off America Dominique de Villepin, France's Foreign Minister, dropped in on the happy go lucky crew in Iran to see if he could find another repressive regime to offer France's good offices to. Those offices are a little vacant in the wake of the defeat of her former client Iraq.

The Iranians, who are having a bit of trouble keeping the kids in line, welcomed de Villepin and understood immediately that he was recruiting allies for France's great crusade - or should I say jihad - against the Great Satan.

"One of the objectives of the de Villepin visit to the region
is gaining support of Iran, Turkey and Jordan for future regional
cooperation in the face of U.S. hegemony," pointed out the daily.
"Following the U.S. military success in Iraq and the opposition of
French officials to the U.S. operations in that country, the French
know that they will have to be resigned to the loss of their interests
in Baghdad," the editorial said. link irana

As Charles over at Little Green Footballs suggests "there’s going to be much more incriminating stuff discovered in Iraq, and they know it" as a possible motive. I don't think he's wrong; but there is more too it than that.

The French have been forced to realize that their own role in world affairs is about to be radically downsized. They have lost whatever influence they may have had in America, their policy on Iraq was unsuccessful, the United Nations where they have a first power veto no matter what their third power status has been sidelined and, in the EU, Blair's influence is waxing as Chirac's falls into decline. Opposing American "hegemony" is the last twitch of the Gaullist fantasy that France actually matters in world politics.

The illusion of French power arose in the closing days of world War II where DeGaulle masmetropolisterfully managed to insinuinate himself and his largely nonages army and resistance organization into the Allies planning. For the past fifty years that illusion was largely unchallenged by a backward third world and a complacent America. Especially during the Cold War it was helpful to maintain France's status as a Great Power simply as a balance to Russia. Now France's pretensions are no longer helpful.

And, more to the point, France demographically and economically, can no longer seriously compete. It has a rapidly aging population, its population growth is being fuelled by Muslim immigration, it relies on the Middle East for 60% of its energy imports which amount to 95% of its oil consumption and its industrial base is eroding.

For the moment de Villepin is annoying in the same way that a fly annoys an elephant. At some point the elephant swats the fly and the irritation is gone.


Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

In a rare interview, Mr. Nabavi, a close adviser to President Khatami, told "Le Monde" that the American strategy for the region "doesn't stop to the doors of Baghdad". According to Mr. Nabavi, it exists in Washington, "an Iran project" that is in the process of being implemented", a project that is "not necessarily a military one." In his office situated at the old Marble Palace, in the south of Tehran, that also includes the Majles, of which he assures the vice-presidency, Mr. Nabavi speaks of his concern facing the Americans.

"Evidently, I am afraid!" he exclaims. "How would I not be afraid of an America armed to the teeth and who demonstrated in Iraq its total disdain of respect for the sovereignty of the States? Yes, I am afraid. The Americans are apparently able do whatever they like; no matter the United Nations or even the Western public opinion". "The only and somewhat acceptable argument to the eyes of the western intellectuals justifying a hostile action against a country is the instauration of democracy", Mr. Nabavi said. It is for it, according to him, "that the best defense of Iran against the Americans would be to reinforce its democracy in order to deprive them of their arguments".

Interrogated on the voices calling for "the American interference", Mr. Nabavi declares: "It is obvious that it is the result of our mistake. The fact that people prefer a foreign invasion to living in the Islamic Republic is only the sign of our failure. We have not been able to fulfill the people's democratic aspirations and it is normal that they are disappointed". If one admits that the Iraqis are delighted with Saddam Hoseyn's end, one must also think about the possibility that maybe, the Iranians would celebrate at the end of the Islamic Republic as well". link Le Monde

Glen Reynolds says Heh
which is probably all this story needs.

The rot at the center has been evident for years. Now, with pressure from students and the middle class, Iranian clerics are beginning to realize time and likely Allah are not on their side.

With Iraq likely to boom in the next five years and Afaghanistan at least not in the clutches of the mullahs, enlightment may arrive in Terhan faster than any one expects.