Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I may not like what you watch but I will defend your right to watch it

A guy named Andy Selepak has written one of those censorship columns in CFP that I find odd. He entitled it Charlie Sheen's Toxic Humour on CBS.

His complaint is that a situation comedy called Two and a half men is obscene or at least morally depraved. He wants his readers to petition the FCC about it. He watched an episode in which the characters, one of whom is played by Charlie Sheen, joked about kinky sex things they did when they were younger. Selepak says he turned the show off before it ended, in disgust. Aside from rambling on in an ad hominem segue about what a moral degenerate Sheen is in his personal life, and linking him to his brother and father, who champion leftist causes that annoy Selepak, his other appeal was to "think of the children".

So Selepak doesn't like jokes about kinky sex on TV.

So why did Selepak watch this thing in the first place? Why was Selepak rendered incapable of hitting the next channel button on his remote button when he first recognized he was in a moral place not to his liking, or simply turning off the TV? Why do his children stay up after 9:00 p.m. when the raunchier fare is offered on the tube? Why does he ignore pre-program warnings about content? Why does he not first read reviews of television shows before turning them on? Why does he not have parental controls programmed into his TV to prevent children (and perhaps himself) from being exposed to something he does not like? In short, why does he pretend he is some helpless victim of immoral CBS comedy shows?

We will never know because he never considered and addressed any of these questions in his greater quest to tell the FCC what you should not be allowed to watch.

Just for the record: I turned this show on once a year or so ago, watched it for about 15 minutes, and didn't find it so much crude as simply lame comedy -- no entertainment value. I have never watched it since.

But I will defend your right to watch it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Israel and Genocide

חדשות NRG - A Homemade Genocide: "There are those that claim that Arab and Muslim states are immune from criticism, because they are not democratic, but Israel is more worthy of criticism because it has democratic pretences. Claims like this are Orientalism at its worst. The covert assumption is that the Arabs and the Muslims are the retarded child of the world. They are allowed. It is not only Orientalism. It is racism.

The Arabs and the Muslims are not children and they are not retarded. Many Arabs and Muslims know this and write about it. They know that only an end to the self-deception and a taking of responsibility will lead to change. They know that as long as the west treats them as unequal and irresponsible it is lending a hand not only to a racist attitude, but also, and mainly, to a continuation of their mass murder.

The genocide that Israel is not committing, that is completely libelous, hides the real genocide, the silenced genocide that Arabs and Muslims are committing mainly against themselves. The libel has to stop so as to look at reality. It is in the interest of the Arabs and the Muslims. Israel pays in image. They pay in blood. If there is any morality left in the world, this should be in the interest of whoever has a remaining drop of it in him. And should it happen, it will be small news for Israel, and great news, far greater news, for Arabs and Muslims."

This is the epilogue from a long piece by an Israeli journalist, Ben Dror Yemini, published on the Internet at this website.

It expresses a viewpoint that I have held for some time: the liberal-leftists who condemn Israel and praise the Palestinians, who condemn the Americans but ignore the Arab responsibility in the Muslim versus Muslim civil war raging in Iraq, think the Arabs and Muslims are childlike. I believe that they do not understand that such a view of Muslims and Arabs is racist.

With respect to the rest of Mr. Yemini's article, he has assembled, from a number of public sources, a catalogue of war deaths in the past 60 years. He invites us to compare the record over the same period of time, particularly the Muslim record and that of European powers, with Israel's, and asks us why Israel should be saddled with accusations of genocide when one looks at the "proportionate" picture. Leftist-liberals love that word proportion -- if only they would actually undertake the exercise instead of predertiming the outcome.

I will give you a summary of his statistics, but first a word about them. He gives ranges because obviously it is very difficult to determine exact numbers of deaths under war condition and the public sources differ (for a recent example, the U.N. now claims 36,000 Iraqis died last year as a result of the civil war, but the government of Iraq only claims 22,000). I have used the higher end of the scale because I believe there are always more victims of war than the official counts.

Israel: over its 60 years of life, the state has fought several wars with neighbours and suffered two insurgencies called Intafadas. The total number of Muslims killed by Israelis in this period is 60,000.

Algeria: France killed around 1,000,000 Muslims. Muslims killing other Muslims since independence amounts to another 100,000.

Sudan: Muslims have killed about 3,000,000 other Muslims, Christians and animists. The killing continues unabated.

Afghanistan: Russians killed 1,500,000 Muslims, and civil wars (Muslims versus Muslims) since have claimed another 1,000,000. The war continues.

Somalia: Muslims have killed 500,000 other Muslims. The war continues.

Bangladesh: Muslims from Pakistan killed 2,000,000 Muslims in this country.

Indonesia: Muslims killed 400,000 alleged communists and another 200,000 East Timorese.

Iraq: During Saddam's reign, including the war with Iran and Kuwait, 2,000,000 Iraqis died, and nearly 1,000,000 Iranians died. After Saddam about 200,000 Iraqis have died, including around 40,000 resulting from the American led invasion. The Muslim versus muslim killing continues as an ever increasing pace.

Lebanon: 130,000 people died in two civil wars between Muslims and Christians, including 18,000 killed by Israelis.

Yemen: Muslims killed muslims to the tune of 150,000 during civil wars and thousands have since died in riots.

Jordan: Former King Hussein killed 25,000 Palestinians.

Chad: With a population 50% Muslim, so far 30,000 have died in civil war.

Kosovo: 10,000 Muslims killed in ethnic cleansing.

Tajikistan: Civil war claimed 50,000.

Syria: Hafez Assad killed 20,000 Muslims in one city.

Iran: Thousands died in the revolution, about 10,000 of whom were Kurds.

Turkey: 20,000 Kurds killed.

Uganda: Idi Amin claimed to be Muslim and 300,000 Ugandans died.

So the next time you hear somebody going on about how Israel is the most dangerous nation and engages in genocide, or you see, hear or read one of those Muslim happy face stories (i.e., Islam is a religion of love and peace, the Koran forbids Muslims to kill each other, etc.) keep these stats in mind and do the "proportional math."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Canadian ambivalence to Afghanistan mission

Now here is a possible explanation for the ambivalence Canadians feel about the military mission in Afghanistan.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The more things change, the more they stay the same

A number of people have been comparing President George W. Bush to Abraham Lincoln. On the Daily Show last night, news clips showed pundits referring to George Bush's changing of generals to deal with Iraq in the same light as Lincoln firing generals until he got one that could win the Civil War.

On that basis, I think a closer comparison could be made between Bush and Adolph Hitler. I hasten to add that I am not about to launch into one of those "evil men" comparisons because I do not consider Bush an evil man. Indeed, I am not yet convinced there is such a thing as evil, but that is the subject for a future posting.

My comparison starts with the fact that both Bush and Hitler were (I'll use the past tense here to describe both simply to shorten the number of words) the "commanders in chief" of their respective militaries, both had very limited military experience (and not in senior ranks), both were politicians,and both ignored the advice of their existing and most knowledgeable generals and favoured those who echoed their own thoughts. Hitler lost the war in Europe and Bush lost the peace in Iraq.

The new strategy will bear no better results than the old.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Is Canada Ready?

If you would like a little relief from the Al Gore version of what global warming means, take a look at a site called "Is Canada Ready". There are some nifty charts and graphics and the cyclical theory of ice ages is simply explained here.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Salute to The Onion

One of the best places for satire on the Internet is The Onion, at this website Its current offering (January 5) is a round up of George Bush stories in 2006. One of the funniest ones, in my opinion, is this one:

Voice Of God Revealed To Be Cheney On Intercom

WASHINGTON, DC—Telephone logs recorded by the National Security Agency and obtained by Congress as part of an ongoing investigation suggest that the vice president may have used the Oval Office intercom system to address President Bush at crucial moments, giving categorical directives in a voice the president believed to be that of God.

While journalists and presidential historians had long noted Bush's deep faith and Cheney's powerful influence in the White House, few had drawn a direct correlation between the two until Tuesday, when transcripts of meetings that took place in March and April of 2002 became available.

In a transcript of an intercom exchange recorded in March 2002, a voice positively identified as the vice president's identifies himself as "the Lord thy God" and promotes the invasion of Iraq, as well as the use of torture in prisoner interrogations.

A close examination of Bush's public statements and Secret Service time logs tracking the vice president reveals a consistent pattern, one which links Bush's belief that he had received word from God with Cheney's use of the White House's telephone-based intercom system.

Officials privately acknowledged that there is reason to believe that the vice president, as God, urged Bush to sign legislation benefiting oil companies in 2005.

"There's a lot of religious zeal in the West Wing," said a former White House staffer who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "It's possible that the vice president has taken advantage of that to fast-track certain administration objectives."

An ex-Treasury Department official and longtime friend of Cheney was asked to comment on the vice president's possible subterfuge. "I don't know. I certainly don't think it's something [Cheney] planned," he said. "I do know that Mr. Bush was unfamiliar with a phone-based intercom, and I suppose it is possible that Dick took advantage of that."

A highly placed NSA official who has reviewed the information released Tuesday said Cheney masked his clipped monotone, employing a deeper, booming voice.

Said the NSA source: "It sounded as though the speaker, who identified himself as God, stood away from the intercom to create an echo effect."

On Capitol Hill, sources are expressing surprise that Cheney, a vice president with more influence than any other in U.S. history, would have resorted to such deception.

"The vice president has a lot of sway in this administration," said a former White House aide. "But perhaps when President Bush was particularly resolute and resistant to mortal persuasion, the vice president chose to quickly resolve disputes in his favor with a half-decent God impression."

For many, the revelation explains Bush's confusion in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"I was very surprised by the president's slow response in New Orleans," political commentator Bill Kristol said. "The president told me that he was praying every day in his office, but had received no reply. I had no idea what he meant, but of course, it all makes sense now."

At the time of Katrina, Cheney was on a fly-fishing trip, from which he returned on Sept. 1.

According to highly placed White House sources, Bush's senior advisers are trying to shield the president from the news. Aides are concerned that too harsh an awakening might shake Bush's faith, which has been a central part of his life for nearly 20 years.

"It's hard to tell the leader of the free world that he has been the butt of an elaborate and long-term ruse," a former staffer said. "Maybe it would be easier to take if it came from Cheney's God voice."

« The Onion | December 7, 2005

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Hussein and the utopians and realists

There two kinds of people. There are utopians who envision the world they would like to see and there are realists who take the world as they find it. There are far fewer utopians than realists, but both have their place. Without utopians there would little initiative to change for the better. Without realists we would have no benchmark by which to judge the wishes and advice of the utopians.

The flaw in utopians is that they often overreach and assume that lofty goals can quickly be reached. They dismiss history and human nature as irrelevancies. They assume that, if properly articulated, their “reasonable” proposals for change will be instantly recognized as right. They overlook the impact of small “p” politics (whose ox will be gored by these ideas) and the overpowering effect emotion can have on reason.

The flaw in realists is that they can be too conservative and try to avoid change. Indeed, most experts who have studied the subject will tell you that avoidance of change is a very natural human characteristic.

So where is this leading?

There are some utopians who decry the trial and execution of Saddam Hussein for a number of reasons.

Hussein as a future witness

They believe that if Hussein had been kept alive he would have been a valuable witness in some as yet speculative future prosecution against unknown Americans and Brits, and possibly against Bush and Blair.

Realists will tell you that, while it is possible that these two may face some civil lawsuits when they step out of office, it is most unlikely that there will some international endorsed reckoning in the criminal sense for these leaders. The world power structure hasn’t changed that much. Remember that these same utopians are the ones who are claiming that the international bodies are being usurped or emasculated by the Bushes and the Blairs. Their successors are not going change that equation,

Hussein didn’t get a fair trial

Secondly, they say Hussein did not get a fair trial. It is important to distinguish between substance and procedure. In criminal prosecutions, procedure trumps all. No matter how strong the evidence is against a criminal, if the procedure is screwed up then our system (North American) might well put that person back on the street to offend again. This often leads to a hue and cry from people saying justice was not served because of a legal technicality. What this tells us is that the public’s perception of justice is different from that of lawyers and judges. Justice requires appropriate punishment for wrongdoers. The justice administered by the legal system only metes out punishment when the system is first followed scrupulously.

Realists will tell you that this justice system works within the accepted boundaries of a liberal democracy, administered by a national government. It also works fairly well for dealing with society’s nobodies. Different considerations come into play when the person in the prisoner’s dock is a head of state, when the country in question does not have our legal traditions, and when the conditions of war are applied, particularly where the head of state has been captured by enemy occupiers who are trying to pacify the country. Such niceties as “Miranda” warnings in the United States, Habeas Corpus in Canada, and “preservation of the chain of evidence”, as examples of our procedural requirements, may not be available or applicable in the circumstances I just outlined. There may be others.

Many of the commentators on the fairness of Hussein’s trial say that, although it fell short of certain standards of procedure, on balance, the outcome was justified by the quality and the weight of the evidence against him. They did not feel there was such an egregious breach of trial procedure that his conviction would be unsupportable. In short, public justice was served.

Here is an extract from a legal scholar’s review of the written judgment of the Iraqi Court of Appeal:

Observations on the Dujail Trial Opinion

The Tribunal’s findings of fact are extremely detailed. The Opinion explains why the testimony of certain witnesses was believed and why others were not. It indicates that hearsay testimony was not given much weight; nor was Saddam’s various admissions. The Opinion describes each piece of documentary evidence, and details the steps undertaken to authenticate the signatures of Saddam Hussein and the other defendants on these documents. And it explains that all of the documents considered by the Tribunal were given to the Defense 45 days before the start of the trial. Reading the Dujail Opinion, one can only conclude that Saddam and the other defendants were convicted on the strength of their own records, much like the Nazis were at Nuremberg.

The Tribunal’s legal analysis explains the theory of criminal responsibility applicable to each defendant and fully examines each of the defendant’s possible legal defenses. From the point of view of establishing a noteworthy legal precedent, two points stand out in the Dujail Opinion.

First, Saddam’s main defense was that as a leader, he was entitled to take action against a town that had tried to assassinate him and was populated by insurgents and terrorists allied with Iran at a time when Iraq and Iran were at war. The Opinion details why the actions taken against the town of Dujail and its inhabitants “was not necessary to stop an immediate and imminent danger” and how the actions were disproportionate to the threat. In this way, the Opinion makes clear that there is a line to be drawn in every country’s fight against terrorism, and that Saddam and the other defendants crossed that line.

For the full analysis and other detailed information, go to this website

Hussein’s trial was manipulated by the Americans

This isn’t so much a utopian thing as it is an anti-American expression. In fact, it is pretty easy to argue that, far from being able to manipulate anything in Iraq, including this trial, the Americans have totally lost control. There is a civil war being waged by Iraqis and it is neither one the Americans want nor one they can stop. It is not in America’s interest to see this continue.

Some people maintain that the U.S. imposed America’s criminal procedure on Iraq. They must not have read the May, 2005 Amnesty International brief on this subject. Here is an extract:

National law which applied prior to the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government remains in force today, unless amended by new legislation. Article 17 of the Tribunal Statute states that subject to the provisions of Statute and the Rules:
"the general principles of criminal law applicable in connection with the prosecution and trial of any accused person shall be those contained:
i) in Iraqi criminal law as at July 17, 1968 (as embodied in The Baghdadi Criminal Code of 1919) for those offenses committed between July 17, 1968 and December 14, 1969;
ii) in Law Number 111 of 1969 (the Iraqi Criminal Code), as it was as of December 15, 1969, without regard to any amendments made thereafter, for those offenses committed between December 15, 1969 and May 1, 2003; and
iii) and in Law Number 23 of 1971 (the Iraqi Criminal Procedure Law)."

AI was complaining that the Iraqi legal code would be utilized in Hussein’s trial and AI believed it was not up to snuff by International standards. Amnesty International is one of the favourite organizations of utopians.

What the Americans did do was give the Iraqis training in legal and judicial procedure. What the Iraqis judges then did was to follow their own practices and ignore the American advice. See the November 6, 2006 in the New York Times, by Judith Preston.

Hussein should have been tried in the International Court

Along with the United Nations the AI is another favourite organization of utopians. And it has shown itself to be the equal of the UN in its ineptitude in the one real case it tried against another murdering head of state, Slobodan Milosevec.
Why utopians think that this judicial body is somehow better able to deal out justice than an Iraqi court escapes me. Surely, common notions of justice suggest that a criminal should be tried by his or her peers when the crimes have been committed within the jurisdiction of the parties, when that country shows a willingness to conduct a trial (unlike Serbia). Hussein was an Iraqi. He murdered Iraqis. He was being tried in an Iraqi court, prosecuted and defended by Iraqi lawyers, and judged by Iraqi judges. The Iraqi people should have some right to bring one of their own to justice.

The real reason utopians want to have the IC take over is because they want to see the western international community put on trial. They want George Bush and Tony Blair dragged into court to explain themselves (preferably to be charged and tried themselves). This would be the real “show trial” and kangaroo court. In such a circus, Hussein would be a sideshow and justice for Iraqis harmed by him would be a forgotten issue.

There is an old saying in law, “justice delayed is justice denied.” In Ontario, a few years ago, the backlogs in the courts was so bad, the judges began to throw cases out of court that were more than two years old, no matter how serious the charges nor how meritorious the case was against the accused.
I doubt any of Milosevec’s victims felt that justice was done when his trial dragged on for 4 years, with no end in sight, and fizzled out when he died in jail, never having reached a verdict. And one the reasons it crawled on forever was because prosecutors were trying to prove every single criminal accusation made against the defendant in his entire career as a dictator. The Iraqis wisely brought only a couple of easily proved charges against Hussein.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

A Niagara of outrage over one Iraqi

Read the front pages of newspapers and the editorial pages and there is an enormousf outpouring about the death of one Iraqi; namely, Saddam Hussein. According to many, his execution was engineered as part of a conspiracy to prevent him from ever testifying at a future trial that would incriminate members of the American government in his crimes. For some his trial was nothing more than a "kangaroo court." For others, it was the death penalty that brought out the angst. One blogger said Hussein was "murdered." Even one right wing newspaper huffed and puffed about the "circus" surrounding his hanging -- he was apparently entitled to dignity in dying.

Murder is the taking of an innocent life without lawful cause.

When O.J Simpson was acquitted of the charge of murdering his wife and her friend, almost nobody believed that outcome. But the case against Simpson was always based on circumstantial evidence. Not so with the evidence incriminating Hussein. Do any of these people shouting injustice really believe that if trial circumstances were different Hussein had a better than even chance of walking away from it as an "innocent" man? There was no innocence about this guy, the evidence against him was virtually insurmountable.

Now look deeper into your newspapers for another article on deaths in Iraq. What's that? You can't find it? Let me help you out. The Iraqi government reported today that 13,896 "other Iraqis" were murdered in 2006. According to the United Nations, the figure for the year, just to the end of October, 2006, is actually 26,782. Hundreds of bodies show up in all parts of Baghdad, blindfolded, handcuffed, and mutilitated before death. These killings are the work of Iraqis of one Islamic branch battling the Iraqis of another branch of Islam.

If you are going to spend your emotional capital on murders in Iraq, this is what you should be outraged about. Nobody in the western world pays attention to these murders because Americans aren't directly responsible for them. These ordinary Iraqis truly are the innocents and don't deserve such a fate. Where was the dignity in their deaths?

Don't waste your time mourning the likes of Saddam Hussein.