Saturday, January 31, 2009

On bigotry and buses

Canadian atheists are launching a transit campaign like the one started in Britain and copied in Spain and the United States. Buses will carry advertising suggesting that there is probably no God, so just enjoy the life we have now. In short, stop fussing about the supposed one in the hereafter. The point of the adverts is to simply cause people to think about the concept of God and any religious notions they may harbour. It is also to give more prominence to atheism, a creed which has been kept in the closet or under the stairs for centuries.

Christians are bewildered by what they see as “in your face” efforts by atheists, their organizations (yes, they do have organizations – I’ll bet you didn’t know that) and their prominent spokespeople to let the world know they exist and that they have something to say. Christians have never before been faced with organized atheism in a liberal-democracy.

But true to form, the instant reaction of Christian spokespeople is to resort to censorship, since burning heretics at the stake is no longer fashionable (damn!), as reported in the Globe and Mail.

Upon hearing that the Toronto Transit Commission had approved the atheist ads, Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, which fought against the legalization of same-sex marriages, said his group has not decided whether it will formally complain about the ads once they appear.

"On the surface, I'm all for free speech. ... However, though, these are attack ads," Dr. McVety, president of Canada Christian College in Toronto, said in an interview yesterday.

"These ads are not saying what the atheists believe, they are attacking what other people believe," he said. "And if you look at the dictionary definition for ... bigot, that's exactly what it is, to be intolerant of someone else's belief system."

There is no doubt that Mr. McVety will complain to the TTC, notwithstanding his "thinking about it" posture. Naturally, if Mr. McVety can make the case for bigotry, then he may succeed in causing the TTC to review and rescind its decision.

These ads state exactly what atheists believe if one adopts the position of the world’s best known atheist, Richard Dawkins, author of The God Deception. He says that there is a possibility that God exists, but that the probability that there is a God is very low. Furthermore, if bigotry is attacking a belief rather than a person who holds that belief, then McVety is guilty of exactly the same thing he is complaining about.

It is perfectly reasonable to attack a belief, but it is not reasonable to attack a person simply because he or she holds a certain belief. Everybody is entitled to believe any old nonsense they want and to express their views about beliefs.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Canadians bring down airliner

The truth has finally emerged about that airliner that crashed into the Hudson River a couple of weeks ago. Canadians were at fault. These two suspicious characters were seen lurking around the runway shortly before the plane took off.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dutch issue new instructions regarding asylum seekers

While surfing the Net, I came across this English translation of new instructions issued by the government of the Netherlands to its frontline immigration officials.

January 26, 2009


As a consequence of the recent decision by the Court of Appeals to order the public prosecutor to ignore its own decision that no reasonable case exists against M.P. Geert Wilders and to proceed with a prosecution against him for causing Muslims to cry, new priorities regarding asylum refugees have now been implemented.

Henceforth, all asylum applicants professing to be adherents to the religion of Islam and whose named country of oppression is the United States of America, Canada, or Australia (the preferred countries), shall be given priority and fast-tracked for refugee status.

In interviewing such applicants it is imperative that the admitting officer, with reasonable certainty, determine that the applicant has been resident in one or more of the preferred countries for at least ten years prior to his/her application date. This will ensure that the applicant has been subjected to at least two or more election cycles.

The 100 points system for admission as a refugee remains unchanged, but some of the points are now awarded as follows:

50 points are awarded for being resident for 10 years or more in the preferred countries

10 points are awarded if the applicant can show evidence of having made a formal complaint about insults to Islam, either individually or as part of a larger organization, to a human rights tribunal in the preferred countries and caused a formal hearing of the complaint to be initiated.

10 points are awarded if the complaint failed before the human rights tribunal.

10 points are deducted if the human rights complaint succeeded and the complainant received a damages award.

10 points are awarded if the applicant refused to participate in any way, including voting, in a Federal, State/Provincial, or Municipal election for religious reasons.

10 points are deducted if the applicant did participate in a civic election in spite of religious convictions.

10 points are awarded if the applicant flouted the laws or the social norms of the preferred countries and engaged in or permitted one or more of these practices:

a) polygamy;
b) female genital mutilation;
c) marching in a parade in support of Hamas and Hezbollah and calling for the downfall of western civilization, as well as bad things to be visited upon Jews, Christians, members of other religions, Infidels, and homosexuals;
d) honour killings of females;
e) beating female spouses.

10 points are awarded if the applicant can establish that he/she anonymously threatened a reform-minded Muslim with retribution.

20 points are awarded if the threats caused the reform-minded Muslim to shut up.

10 points are awarded if the applicant was unable to secure residence in a Muslim-only enclave.

10 points are deducted if there is evidence that such residency occurred.

5 points are awarded if the applicant can show satisfactory evidence that he or she sought medical help to deal with the psychological trauma inflicted by having to live within the rules of a liberal-democracy that elevate kaffirs and other dhimmis to equal status with Muslims.

10 points are awarded if the applicant can show that he or she actively worked to have the Sharia law implemented in the legal systems of the preferred countries.

All other point awards and deductions shall remain unchanged.

Note: Officers need to be sensitive to the situation of the applicant and understand that he or she is fleeing from an intolerable situation in a liberal-democracy and is seeking a compatible and compliant country of western heritage where the proper status of Islam will be fully respected, dhimmis and kaffirs will be properly suppressed, and the applicant will be free of any intrusion of the principles, practices, laws, rules, customs and other nonsense associated with liberal-democracies. Since the Netherlands has now become Europe’s obvious primary destination for these kinds of applicants, the government is intending to budget in the next budgetary cycle for more resources and staff to handle the increased influx of applicants from the preferred countries.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Poe's law

Now here is another one under the category of “you are never too old to learn new stuff”, although I am sure any twenty-something year-olds reading this will laugh their heads off. I am comforted in the fact that I don’t believe my blog is likely read by that demographic.

A few days ago I read a column in the Toronto Sun by broadcaster and journalist, Michael Coren, in which he made the monumentally stupid observation (he is prone to such pronouncements) that, without exception, all the atheists he has debated are unhappy people. I know of only one atheist that he has repeatedly debated, and since I work with the guy, I know he is not unhappy. But, even if he were, what does that mean?

A short time later, while surfing the Internet, I came across the cartoon at the top of this page. The coincidence was too much and I thought, “Ha. That is a message that I should blog about the relative happiness and unhappiness of atheists.”

However, I began to read the comments of the viewers of that website and somebody said: “Poe’s law”. Being a curious sort, and never having heard of Poe’s law, I decided to run that one down.

Poe’s Law, named after Nathan Poe, who wrote on a Christian website, “Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that someone won't mistake for the real thing.” It has become an Internet phenomenon. When people are debating on-line some piece of writing, the first one to determine that it is not genuine and is a satire calls “Poe’s Law” and gets bragging rights for unearthing the deception. It’s a contest.

So the question remains, is the cartoon above a genuine religious cartoon or an instance of Poe’s Law?

To see other examples, go to this site.

Friday, January 23, 2009

In defense of a culture

Geert Wilders is a Dutch nationalist. He is also the leader of a right-of-centre party in the Netherlands that represents about 15% of the popular vote. Here is some background on him.

He doesn’t care for the EU and he doesn’t like the impact of Islam on Europe and the Netherlands in particular. Wilders is very outspoken about these things and as a result he has 24 hour police protection because of death threats. In the Netherlands, when one challenges Islam, the resulting death threats are taken seriously. A Dutch filmmaker died at the hands of an Islamic religious fanatic and another member of the Dutch parliament, who was associated with the filmmaker, fled to the United States where she is under police protection.

But the government of the Netherlands considers those who openly question the political, cultural and economic value of having mass immigration from Muslim countries to be “troublemakers”. The government likes to shut up troublemakers. So, Wilders will now be charged under some Dutch law for inciting hatred against Muslims because he produced and distributed a short documentary film, Fitna, on the excessive violence fostered in the name of Islam.

The problem is, as I have written before in this blog, Wilders did not say anything against Muslims. His focus is the religion, which he correctly identifies as an authoritarian political ideology with a deity attached to it. In effect, the Dutch government is trying him for “criminal blasphemy” under the guise of vague “self-esteem” laws that we are all too unfortunately familiar with here in Canada.

One wonders what they teach in European schools.

Europe was formed in opposition to Islam, when Charlemagne made a deal with the Pope and united the Frankish tribes in the 9th century CE. Islamic armies had invaded the Iberian Peninsula a century before that and were pushing into what is now France in an effort to encircle the remnants of the eastern Roman Empire centred in Constantinople. Charlemagne drove them out of France and closed that border to Islam for good, and, in the process, started a distinct European culture which has lasted for more than a 1,000 years.

Wilders is defending that culture. The Dutch government is intent on destroying it.

My late father went to war 60 years ago and helped to liberate the Netherlands from another authoritarian ideology. He nearly lost his life there twice.

Let us hope the Dutch will learn to liberate themselves this time and no Canadians will have to risk themselves to save Europeans.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The more the Presidents change, the more the rhetoric remains the same

This evening I picked my wife up from work and as we drove home she asked me if I had watched the inauguration of Barack Obama on television. When I responded in the negative she was surprised. She went on about the historical moment when a black man gets the top job, etc.

I thought about my indifference and I suppose it gets down to two things. The first is that the more things are hyped the more suspicious I become of the substance. I am a person who prefers the steak to the sizzle.

We went down this same road in Canada in 1968 when Pierre Elliott Trudeau won the election – all the same razzle-dazzle, all the same over inflated rhetoric about how he was going to change things for the better, etc., etc.

Four years later we wondered what the shouting had been about. The media were still fascinated by him, but all the things that everybody said he would do seemed quaintly naïve.

He was going to curb the Quebec separatists – they became stronger and organized a political party that won the Quebec election. He was going to make us self-sufficient in energy and ended up alienating western Canada so badly that it resulted in the fracturing of the federal conservative party and wrecked healthy democracy in this country for 15 years. He made his name as the former Justice Minister by amending antiquated divorce, marriage and sexual laws and was portrayed as a hip liberal reformer. However, as Prime Minister, he declared the War Measures Act in effect and suspended civil liberties in Canada, rounding up and detaining a rag-tag bunch of lefty socialists in Montreal – measures that a hard-ass like Dick Cheney could only have wet dreams about.

The second thing is that I have spent my life working in and around politics and politicians. I have done everything in politics there is to do except run for public office (and I turned down two opportunities to do that). One of the liabilities of such a resume is that I have listened to more than my share of political speeches. Further, I have written many of them. They bore me. Well, maybe not the ones I write, but all the others.

I turned on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to see what he would do with the inauguration spectacle. He had a hilarious bit in which he played portions of Obama’s speech that were nearly exact replicas of Bush’s rhetoric. No surprise.

It’s what they do that counts, never what they say they are going to do.

Why I will not be jumping up and down and shedding tears of joy over Obama's inaugaration

Today is quite the day. People in the United States and Canada, as well as elsewhere in the world, are celebrating the end of the terms of the 43rd U.S. President and the beginning of the first term of the 44th, Barack Hussein Obama. To me, this will just be another day. Don't get me wrong, I wish him well and hope he is the most successful President that ever occupied the White House. I sincerely hope he can do all the things the faithful think he can do: walk on water, stop oceans from rising, heal the divide, bring world peace, etc., etc. But I am a realist. And the thing that makes me a realist is the realization that how we in the west think about the world is very different from how other people think about it. Obama does not have a rich resume on the international front.

Just as an example of what I am writing about, consider these excepts from the January 16 sermon by Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, chairman of Iran's Guardian Council, aired on Iranian television:

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati: "God bless the President of Venezuela, who enthusiastically and courageously expelled the Israeli ambassador. Shame on the useless Arab rulers who, unlike Venezuela - which is not even an Islamic country - have not severed political ties [with Israel]. Does this cost you anything? Are you afraid of America? You should be afraid, because you lack faith and courage, and your peoples have no respect for you. So why shouldn’t you be afraid? You fear for your positions. You should be afraid.

"But come and join your people. In every country, the people are ready... Of course, the worst are Saudi Arabia and Egypt, because they are the great regional powers.

"When a demonstration took place somewhere in Saudi Arabia, it was silenced. They do not give people room to breathe there. At least in Egypt, there were some [demonstrations], but even there, silence rules. Sometimes we see [Mubarak] obeying America, and sometimes, we see that he is an ally of Israel.

"What is left for the people to do? They should fear the day when the people’s revolution, the rage of God, and the rage of the people grab them by their clothes and drag them down to collapse." [...]

"People Are Truly Amazed When They Watch a President [Obama]... Saying: 'My Only Concern is to Find a Dog For My Daughter'"

"The world is on a steep decline towards collapse. People are truly amazed when they watch a president [Obama] laughing and saying: 'My only concern is to find a dog for my daughter.' Phooey on you and those who voted for you! Is this how it should be? A president is not ashamed to be thinking about a dog, rather than about [the Israeli] foreign minister? This is how it is - they want to rule the world."

"Every Time I See That Woman’s [Livni's] Face, I Wish Somebody Would 'Waste' a Bullet On Her"

"On the other hand, every time I see that woman’s face, I wish somebody would 'waste' a bullet on her. I watched her say... First, she goes and shakes hands with the Egyptian president. Shame on him for shaking a woman’s hand - especially an enemy.


"I hope that the day will come - as conveyed in a message by our dear leader - when we all celebrate the victory of Hamas in Jerusalem, God willing."

Livini is Israel's Foreign Minister.

Tough to heal a divide with a cleric speaking for the religion of peace who thinks like Jannati.

Thanks to memri for the quotation.

You are never too old to learn new things

In my January 18 posting I commented on my surprise at seeing a black and reddish-brown fuzzy caterpillar crossing my path in middle of January. I asked if anyone knew the species. An alert reader (my son) informed me that it is a Banded Wooly Bear, which is the larvae of an Isabella Tiger Moth.

Apparently, these little guys stay in the caterpillar stage all winter and only go into the pupa and adult stage in the spring. They produce some kind of an internal anti-freeze that allows them to survive the cold of winter -- they should synthesize this stuff and sell it to everybody who lives above the 49th parallel.

There is a legend about how this caterpillar predicts the severity of the winter by the width of its bands. Of course, according to Al Gore, by now this thing would simply be the Wooly Bear and would have lost it bands. It is also the object of some festivals in the United States:

The annual Woollybear Festival occurs each October in Vermilion, Ohio. The family event, started in 1973, features a woolly bear costume contest in which kids, even pets, are dressed up as various renditions of the woolly bear caterpillar.

There also is an annual Woolly Worm Festival that occurs in Beattyville, Kentucky. It started in 1987, and features many food booths, live music, a "Woolly Worm Race" in which people race the Woolly Bear caterpillar up vertical strings.

There is also an annual Woolly Worm Festival that occurs in Banner Elk, NC. It began in 1977 and celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2007. The festival includes booths with crafts, food, and races. The winning Woolly Worm predicts the winter weather for the following winter.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the information on the festivals.

It's always something

What I like about reading the news everyday is the surprises I often find. Things unknown before or a little out of the ordinary.

Today I learned that outgoing President Bush has left a personal note to incoming President Obama in the top drawer of the desk in the Oval Office. This was a practice that started with Ronald Reagan who left one for his successor, and presidents have been doing it ever since. Of, course the mainstream media would have you believe that these are "welcome to the office and good luck" notes.

Don't be fooled for a minute. These notes are to advise the incoming guy that there really are pieces of a crashed alien spaceship and alien remains cryogenically frozen in Area 51, and that the staff on site serves a really good lunch if the President wants to visit.

On another topic, a couple of years ago there was huge flap in Canada over the fact that a Canadian Muslim guy named Maher Arar, who was connecting on a flight through New York was picked up by the Americans and rendered to Syria where he was tortured for a year as a potential terrorist. On returning to Canada, after much ado, we paid this guy $10.5 million for his pain and suffering. However, we could not persuade our American cousins to remove his name from their "no-fly" list, and we couldn't figure out why.

It turns out that our other favourite Canadian terrorist, Omar Khadr, who has been languishing in a jail in Guantanamo, awaiting a trial that should never take place, had identified Arar from a photograph in 2002 as somebody he had seen at an al-Qaida terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. Khadr said he never met Arar in Canada. Arar was living in Ottawa and Khadr was living in Toronto.

All very curious, said the cat.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A child's new year's wish

This is a picture from a pro-Hamas "peace" rally in Melbourne, Australia, on January 18. Sweet little thing. Probably doesn't have a clue what the sign means, but, give her 15 more years and her burqua-clad mother's guidance, she'll get it.

Statement by Minister of Immigration on recent Hamas and Hezbollah rallies

One of the shocking things I have noticed that is a change in the character of the streets of our cities is the marches in support or denunciation of participants in international conflicts. Once people marched for peace. Now they march for hate.

I picked up this quotation by the federal Minister, Jason Kenny, from Ezra Levant's website. Levant, who is Calgary-based, has been commenting about Hezbollah-Hamas supporters regularly showing up in a Jewish neighbourhood in front of a Jewish-owned mall in Calgary. He compares the experience to that of the Jews in Germany when the Ernest Rhom's brownshirts first marched into Jewish neighbourhoods in German cities. According to Levant, Jews who live in the neighbourhood where these marches are being conducted by outsiders are cautioned by the police that they will be charged if they cause the marchers to become violent.

Jason Kenny:

The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, today issued the following statement regarding displays of hatred and violence at recent protests across Canada:

“Like many Canadians, I am deeply concerned about allegations of the incitement to hatred and violence at recent protests across Canada.”

“It is shocking to think that flags of banned terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah are being flown in the streets of Canadian cities. The ideals these terrorist organizations preach are abhorrent to the fundamental values of the Canadian people and of all civilized peoples: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

“The open incitement of hatred has absolutely no place in Canadian society. We offer our condolences to all innocent victims of armed conflict and to those affected by repeated acts of terror. We remain vigilant in upholding fundamental Canadian values.”

The Government of Canada lists Hezbollah and Hamas as banned terrorist organizations under the provisions of Canada’s Criminal Code."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Winter in Canada and strange sights

There was a story in today's Toronto Star about feral cat colonies in Toronto and how they can easily survive the winter. This brought to mind something very strange that I witnessed two weeks ago.

I live in southern Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Ontario. In the second week in January there was a bit of a thaw when the temperature rose a few degrees above freezing and much of the snow melted away. I was walking my dog near the lake on a waterfront trail, on a day that was mild and sunny. Crossing the asphalt path in front of me was a caterpillar. It had a black head and tail and was kind of browny organge in the middle portion, and it was fuzzy. I have seen these before in my backyard, but always in the summer. I couldn't believe I was seeing one in the middle of January.

I have tried to identify this species on the Internet with no success. If anybody who reads this knows the name of the insect, I would appreciate hearing from you.

And yet another look at proportionality

One of Canada's best columnists has some historical insight into proportionality.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Proportional response

Here is a perfect example of what I was musing about in my last post. The writer of this piece is Michael Byers, a far left, and in my opinion, a hair short of being classified as a wingnut, university professor from lotusland (B.C.). Maybe it's something in the water on the west coast.

He writes often on the subject of war and what I have gleaned from reading him is that his operational bias (we all have one) is that war itself is a crime. He sent a letter to the International Court in the Hague asking that Canada be investigated for war crimes in Afghanistan.

Now war is a terrible thing and ought not to be initiated lightly. As one famous American General put it, "It is a good thing war is so terrible, else we may become overly fond of it." But the action is not itself a crime.

We find Byers waxing on about "proportionality" and how Israel is not practicing that because: the IDF is shelling and bombing in densely populated districts; the IDF is using white phosphorus shells; the IDF has hit deliberately U.N. assets; the IDF does not consider the possibility of civilian casulties when it strikes. He also dismisses the years of rocketing of Israel, contenting himself with only the attacks that have occurred since the end of the ceasefire.

If Byers wrote the rules of war in accordance with foregoing, Israel would have no defence.

What Byers doesn't say is that there is no evidence that white phosphorus has been used on human targets -- believe me, if it had, we would certainly have heard about it by now. Israel says it uses it to illuminate targets. One would think that a guy who is passionate about proportionality would endorse such a use rather than decry it, since accurate targeting would clearly reduce the possibility of civilian casulties.

Byers does not consider the new, smart weaponry used by Israel, that can look through walls of buildings and that can take out a building without seriously damaging the nearby structures. He sucks and blows at the same time: the IDF is so good at targeting that it can murder U.N. personnel; and, at the same time they are so careless with their bombing and shelling that they kill civilians indiscriminately. Well, which is it?

Byers might be surprised to learn that soldiers die from something called "friendly fire", an accident of war in which your own troops are killed by you. The fact is that once a war is launched people who ought not to get killed will. Some factors simply cannot be controlled to the precision that Byers advocates -- war is not a video game.

George Jonas says proportionality means what it takes to stop the rockets and mortars falling on Israel. In short, the right to self-defence means the right to stop the enemy from attacking you and if that proves to be bloody rather than neat and precise, then so be it.

Anything less is not a right of self-defence.

Given the population density of Gaza, it is remarkable that the death toll for Gazas after more then 3 weeks of sustained fighting is only about 1,000. By comparison, the United States invaded and occupied Iraq in 2003 and the campaign took 19 days. In that period, 9,200 combatants were killed and 7,300 civilians lost their lives.

I don't believe Israel is going over the top here and if the U.N. doesn't want to risk its personnel, it should get the hell out of Gaza until the shooting stops. It does that in other hotspots in the world.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A few thoughts relative to Israel and Hamas and why Israeli tactics work

Israel hinted this morning that its military action against Hamas may soon be winding down. So, before it fades from the headlines, I thought I would venture a few thoughts and questions.

Smuggling tunnels

These seem to be as much a focus of Israeli military action as rocket sites and individual Hamas leaders. Since the only other country bordering Gaza is Egypt one must assume these tunnels go under the wall that Egypt built to keep out the Palestinians. The treaty between Israel and Egypt requires Egypt to patrol and keep that border secure, specifically to prevent weapons from entering Gaza. Clearly, either Egyptian officials are incompetent, or are being bribed to look the other way, or they are actively complicit in aiding the Palestinians in acquiring rockets and other munitions. Why does no one ever point a finger at Egypt and its responsibiities?

Proportional response

This hoary proposition raised its head during the Hezbollah battle in 2006 and we have heard it occasionally in this one. The allegation is that Israel is over the top in responding to Hamas's repeated rocket barrages. These have been going on for years and I have heard various figures, 5,500 or 6,500 such attacks. I wish someone making this accusation would actually follow it up with examples of what would be considered a proportional response: an equal number of killings, an equal number of rocket attacks (with appropriate pro rata adjustments for the accuracy of the Israeli rockets), or what. People should be banned from using this expression until they can explain clearly what it means in reference to Israel's wars.

Collective punishment

We are repeatedly assured that Israel is guilty of collectively punishing the Palestinians for the sins of Hamas. Without getting into the obvious issues of an enemy that hides itself amongst the non-combatants and the problem posed by considering the election results that brought Hamas to power (80% voted for Hamas), one wonders why no reflection is ever made of the impact of terrorist activity perpetrated by organizations like Hamas, aided and abetted by those who support them, but are not of them.

When suicide bombers blow themselves up on buses, subways, aircraft, and in buildings, shopping areas, restaurants, night clubs, etc., they are inflicting collective punishment on the larger society that is victimized by such activity. Airline travel is a horror show today mainly because of Palestinian collective punishment (highjackings) in the 1970s. The cost of the Olympic games is about double because of the requirement to keep Israeli atheletes safe so that there are no repeats of the collective punishment dished out by Palestinians at the 1972 games in Munich. When the head of the Canadian Islamic Congress decrees that every Israeli citizen over the age of 18 is a legitimate target for murder by Palestinians he is talking about collective punishment.

Hezbollah's so-called victory

The conventional wisdom is that Hezbollah came out the winner in the 33 day war with Israel in 2006. It won only in the sense that it was not destroyed. Israel lost only because it set unwinnable goals for itself at the beginning and had to change course part way through. The fact is that Hezbollah was handed a terrible beating by Israel. It lost about one-third of its trained fighters.

What military organization in the world could effectively carry on a war with losses of 33% of its soldiers in the first 30 days? That would would be the equivalent of the United States losing 500,000 soldiers in its invasion of Iraq (it only committed 150,000 to that venture). Total U.S. losses in three and one-half years of combat in WWII amounted to 400,000.

This is why we have only seen a couple feeble attempts by perhaps rogue elements in Hezbollah to attack Israel this time out. Hezbollah certainly has the fire power, but it doesn't have the will.

Some of my friends like to argue with me that Israel's tactic don't work. Well, they worked to forge peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and they have now caused Hezbollah to have second thoughts about taking on the Jewish state.

Within the limiting context of what peace is achievable in the Middle East, I would say they work.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I guess I just got my answer

In my December 29 posting I raised the question of how long it would be until Hezbollah began to mix it up with Israel. It took them just 10 days from when I asked. The Toronto Star story reports that the Lebanese government is looking to see who did this -- like it doesn't know!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The comfortable pulpit of a public service union leader

Can there be any better evidence of the fat and complacency that infects a union leadership than the example set by Sid Ryan, the President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Ontario? He is fed, housed and clothed on the backs of the membership dues paid by more than 200,000 public service employees, who might, if given the choice -- which, by Ontario law, they are not -- find a better use for some of the dues they pay to that union.

Mr. Ryan is back in the news declaring CUPE’s opposition to the state of Israel. He is initiating a resolution with the union executive that would call upon post-secondary academic institutions in Ontario to shun Israeli academics unless those Israelis are on record as condemning the war being waged by their country against Hamas. This is not his first outing into the politics of the Middle East. When Israel was battling Hezbollah in Lebanon, Ryan got CUPE to pass a resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli goods and services.

The remarkable thing this time, however, is that this comes during the worst worldwide recession this country has faced since the Dirty Thirties. Everywhere, businesses are laying-off workers, union or otherwise, but especially union. Elsewhere, there are dark hints that unions might have to roll back gains they have made in the past few years.

You would think that a union leader should be sticking to his knitting at a time ofgreat economic and employment peril and would be issuing statements that would give comfort to his membership. The last thing you would expect is to find the media full of stories and interviews with a union leader who is occupying his time fretting about an intractable political dilemma thousands of miles away that has little direct impact on Canada and no impact on the individual dues-paying members of the union.

Now, we all understand that unions do more than just ensuring job security, benefits and wages for their members. They get involved in social policies and politics. For the most part, this is not unreasonable. Union support for universal health, universal education, and universal pension plans, minimum wages and minimum severances are all things that have legitimacy because they also enhance the living standards of the union membership. But how do banning goods and services and academics from Israel provide advantage to CUPE union members?

Why would Ryan feel so comfortable in stepping out in this fashion from his proper role of looking after his union membership?

Part of the answer I have already given. His standard of living is ensured by a law requiring the compulsory payment of union dues. Secondly, only a small number of union members ever involve themselves in the politics of the union. Union leaders tend to be big frogs in small ponds. Thirdly, this is a public service union – meaning it represents civil servants. The last time Ontario suffered a debilitating recession, nobody in the Ontario public service got laid off, although they did have to take some unpaid days, so Ryan’s membership is pretty well secured without his involvement.

Perhaps the next time CUPE elections role around, union members will ask some searching questions about what Ryan’s Israel hobby horse has to do with the members’ welfare. Perhaps the members should be asking for a reduction in dues comparable to the time/money wasted by Ryan and his associates dabbling in Middle Eastern wars.