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May 30, 2004

Rare personal post

Few readers of this blog know I am the father of two toddlers who keep me busy for most of the day. My belief is that information about families, recreation, amusing links, what I had for lunch, and especially children and cats make for boring reading, so I try to keep this blog free of such fluff. But just this once, to satisfy the curiosity of those who really should be thinking of more important things, I'll post a picture of Talia and Max. But never again. I promise.

Sometimes, I even let them out.

The Marines as diplomats

There's a great comment on a post over at Tim Blair's that I have to put up in it's entirety. The topic is about those that supported the war in Iraq who are now doubting it for one reason or another. He has an interesting interpretation of what the Americans are doing that I haven't read elsewhere.

I'm not only still a hawk, in your terms, I'm one of the few who is gratified by the way the war is going, and the only thing I don't like is that people are abandoning Bush for doing it right.

The function of this battle -- and it's a battle, perhaps a campaign, not a war -- is not to provide the Marines and the Airborne with more battle ribbons, nor is it to make American troops look ferocious, nor is it to make America look good. The function of the battle in Iraq is to produce an Iraq that's a real, working country with a polity and an economy, instead of a rump-end of the Ottoman Empire arbitrarily whacked off by British surveyors and diplomats.

The Iraqis have to do that themselves. Not because we don't want to, but because we can't -- it's as close to a physical impossibility as sociology ever can be.

If we give the Iraqis the "security" they want and need, we're stuck. We become, in fact, the New Ba'ath, more indulgent and with nicer policies but still the ones who are running things, and having to keep it up forever. Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day -- and comes back tomorrow for another one.

Details differ, but if you look at Iraq the way I (and Wretchard the Cat) do, the policy is consistent: bash the uprisings and simultaneously recruit, form, and train Iraqi forces until the uprisings are little enough for the Iraqis to smash. Fallujah is an American triumph. So is Najaf -- not because American forces defeated the "insurgents" but because they did not: the Iraqis did. And the most important part of it is that there are Iraqis looking at one another with amazed expressions and saying, "By Allah the wise and merciful, we can do this!" The second most important thing is that the resulting solution, however tenuous, is an Iraqi solution in terms of Iraqi society, instead of being imposed by an outside force on its terms without any really deep understanding of the society it's nailed on top of. We don't want to be the ones who defeat the "insurgents." What we want to do is hold the Iraqis' coats while they defeat the insurgents.

Bush is OK, and he can handle his enemies, but God (Allah to Zeus, take your pick) help him get past his supposed supporters, especially the ones who think it would have been cool for the Marines or the 82nd Airborne to go through Fallujah like a Taco Supreme through Michael Moore, and that the Army should have flattened every mosque in Najaf and massacred the survivors -- and bitch that the Administration is being "soft on the Islamics" because that didn't happen.

Get a f*ing clue. The Marines say, "every Marine a rifleman." All that's happening is that they're adding a qualification: "...and diplomat," and by available evidence they're better at it than anybody in the Corps Diplomatique Terrestrienne concession down Foggy Bottom. Just because it doesn't mean they get to stack dead enemies like cordwood and post the photos on the net doesn't mean they didn't win. And abandoning Bush because his tactics don't always result in mondo explosions and blood running in the streets is f*ing contemptible. Among other things it says the Leftists are right about you. Bunch of murderous imperialists who get all huffy when Feerless Leeder isn't murderous or imperialist enough for you.

Regards,
Ric Locke

There's lots of other insightful comments (as well as a few dumbass ones) on the thread as well.

Martin promises to keep his promises

PM Paul has been notified by his handlers that the snowstorm of wild promises he's been at the center of for so long may be starting to affect his credibility. He moved decisively yesterday to break that perception, by promising to resign if he doesn't keep his promises.

Hey, it worked for me! I trust him now just as much as I ever did.

UPDATE: Andrew Coyne notes Movable Type could have written this post for me. I really have to take the time to read the documentation.

May 29, 2004

Now this is interesting...

The Ottawa Sun is alleging that Joe Clark made a backroom deal with the Liberals to allow him to keep his seat in the 2000 election. In return, he helped Anne McLellan hold on in her Calgary riding. There's not much evidence offered in the story, so it may just be a lot of hot air, but it'll be interesting to see what's behind it.

It might even offer a clue as to why Joe was so willing to go to bat for the Liberals this election -- that is, if the offer of a Senate appointment wasn't enough...

May 28, 2004

A man and his hole

I've always admired those that are able to indulge in some bizarre obsession despite the frowning disapproval of their spouse, friends, or law enforcement agencies. This is such a story.

Lileks on hypocrisy

Lileks has a great bleat today on the hypocrisy of those hoping for failure in Iraq:

If anyone thinks Europe is “three or four more times as democratic as America” he is living in a dream world. A world where Russia lectures us about treatment of Muslim detainees, France is a model of nation-building, the Patriot act muzzles the press, and China is deeply concerned about the sovereignty of conquered nations.
Read the whole thing -- even the bit about his daughter having a shopping cart fall on her...

May 27, 2004

The other danger of biased media coverage

I don't think there's any doubt that the media is obsessed with Abu Ghraib. While the abuse was a terrible thing, the coverage of these childishly cruel stunts has been greater than anything since the first moon landing. And not being content to just lead the news with any minor update to the story, the media is even inserting Abu Ghraib into stories that have nothing to do with it. Best of the Web is running a series on these strange sightings, calling it the "press corps' porn addiction".

And the rest of the news from Iraq is similarly negative. The spin put on every story -- even stories that should be considered good news, like the negotiated end to fighting in Najaf -- is that Iraq is drifting out of control, that the Americans have whacked a hornets' nest with a stick and will suffer the consequences.

A number of commentators (such as Mort Kondracke) have worried that this constant drumbeat of despair will sap the will of the coalition, lead to a withdrawal, and leave Iraq to be ripped apart by goons like Sadr. It's a real danger.

The rationale for this negative slant to coverage is depressingly obvious. In war, the only story a modern reporter is familiar with is Vietnam. So they all follow the script as if the ending is already determined. Throw into the mix a President that rubs the press the wrong way and you have the recipe for the amplification of the bad news, and the ignoring of the good. (And yes, there is good news.)

But there's another danger of this biased news coverage that I haven't heard much talk about, possibly because it's more likely to change the attitudes of the supporters of the war, rather than just support the conclusions of the detractors. If the media doesn't start showing a more friendly face of the Muslim world, there's a danger we'll lose any empathy we have with them and will be more likely to regard them simply as the enemy.

Listen to the words of this Iraqi man chosen for a quote by Reuters:

Bush is a scorpion. He is a liar. He is sneaky, making all kinds of promises when he just wants to control Iraq.
And here's the view of the Iraqi people on today's ceasefire, as reported by the Telegraph:
Mohammed Al-Sadri, 23, a former construction worker who has fought for a month against the Americans, said: "I would prefer to keep fighting. The occupiers are still in Iraq. My friends have been martyred and the cause is not yet won. But I will follow Sadr's orders."

Arshed, also 23, a political science student and militiaman, said: "We want victory or martyrdom and we will fight if ordered. They have tanks and helicopters, but we have our faith." On the road to Kufa, the mood was still tense. Iraqi policemen pointed out a sandbagged American sniper position. "They tried to shoot a child yesterday," one said.

I'm sure any reader of news from the Middle East is familiar with this image of the "Arab Street". Angry, seething, unapproachable, and alien. That's the only view we get of the Muslim world, and it washes over us, day after day.

But it's a false one. Most of the people in the Middle East want the same things everyone wants: peace, security, opportunity, and a comfortable life for them and their family. Ali at Iraq the Model explains:

Despite some alleged "Fatwas" and few speeches about “red lines”, most of the political AND religious leaders were calling for withdrawal of *all* armed forces and militias from the holy cities. No one called for jihad, and no one blamed the Americans, except for Sadr followers. There were almost no anti-American demonstrations regarding this issue, at least not any significant ones.

If one is to believe the media and the Arab leaders and Muslim clerics, the only conclusions that can be drawn from such a situation, is that there are no Iraqis in Iraq. The only Iraqis who seem to exist and “care about the Iraqi people” live outside Iraq! I can name in this respect, in addition to the above; the western media, the French, German and Russian governments and the “pacifists”. Otherwise why aren’t the Iraqis going out to the streets in hundreds of thousands to protest against their "oppressors"!?

I guess there are only few answers to this question. It’s either that the majority of Iraqis don’t feel there’s such huge violation that needs to be protested against, or that they are more interested in their daily lives; their jobs and the future of their children than whining about buildings that as holy as they are to them, can not match their care about their jobs and children’s future.

The constant images of people howling for blood makes this hard to remember. But it is so important to remember.

The ironic thing is that the reporters in Iraq that feed this bile into our collective consciousness feel they are on the side of the Iraqi people. They view these few fanatics as legitimate voices of dissent from an oppressed people. Their more sensible audience knows this is not true -- but will they be sensible enough to maintain their empathy for ordinary Iraqis? I hope so.

The dangers of Photoshop

It could happen to you.

(Thanks to Rene.)

Aw. Looks like someone was starting to get worried about bandwidth charges and put up a password block. To make it up to you I offer Panda Golf.

You like cats?

Then you must go to this page, and keep hitting the next cat link. I'm not sure why, but after about ten of them I was laughing harder than I had in years. Really. I'll have to get Squeak, Samba, and Pico in there sometime...

2 kids X 2 legs = trouble

Max is now a walker -- or should I say a lurcher. He has abandoned his previous preferred method of getting around and now gets up on his feet when he has to get somewhere. It happened very quickly; a couple of days ago he just got up from his hands and knees and started to go, never looking back. But he's not graceful. He's stiff and shuffling and his arms are still locked in a rigid, uncomfortable position. He walks like a miniature Frankenstein monster.

But he enjoys his new freedom and now spends a lot of time walking back and forth with a big smile on his face and making his funny sound of the week, "Lolloollollolloollolloollo..."

Talia meanwhile has gotten faster and more agile. She doesn't fall down much at all and navigates through the cluttered play area with ease. She's making a funny new sound of her own, which really astonished me when I first heard it. It's a really strange noise and goes something like this, "Gloi-gloi-tloi-ui-oi-glui-OI-GLOI-TUI-GLOO-GLOI!" She gets quite loud with it. It's hilarious.

But they're both making progress with language, Talia ahead of Max, as usual. It's hard to make out what they're saying sometimes, as they often drop the last sounds on their words. And I think I've solved the mystery as to why neither of them have said Max's name, or anything even close to it. It's because he already has a name: Da-da (with the second syllable stressed slightly). Michelle is not as convinced, but I've played a naming game with Talia, where she will point to herself and say her name, point to me and say, "Papa", and point to Max and say, "Da-da." Max says, "Da-da" quite a bit, just as Talia went through a phase when she said her name frequently. He most often says it when he wants something, just as Talia will say her name when she points at something she wants. I'll be interested in how this develops.

Here's a shot of the two of them with a new toy borrowed from the local toy library:

May 26, 2004

Pinocchio Paul

It's hard for a regular person to tell two lies in one sentence, but Paul Martin -- drawing on the experience of his years of 'public service' -- managed to lay down two whoppers in one breath. Speaking on the topic of his 1995 cuts in health care transfer payments, he said:

The fact is that we had to do that, and I don't back down from that one bit. If we had not taken the action that we did in 1995, we would be Argentina today.
The first lie is that Canada could have had a economic collapse similar to the one that recently devastated Argentina. His implication being that Argentina's troubles were caused by out-of-control social spending. That may be the common perception, but Martin, as Canada'a Finance Minister during Argentina's meltdown, must know it's not true. Argentina's problems were due to an unsustainable peg of the peso to the American dollar, and the borrowing that was necessary to support it. A ruthless slashing of government entitlements would have, if anything, only delayed the inevitable.

Martin's other lie is that he actually cut heath care spending. In reality, all he did was change the level of government that was paying the bills. The hard choices of what to do were faced by the provincial governments. Some borrowed to make up the difference, while others made difficult cuts. But Paul Martin should not be claiming credit for the heavy lifting of others.

May 25, 2004

Andrew Coyne is back

Andrew Coyne has turned up after almost a month's absence. But there's no apologies for those who lost sleep worrying about him, or thanks for the the faithful who held the candlelight vigils. Pretty shabby return from the dead, if you ask me.

May 24, 2004

Oh, that's the plan...

Finally revealed, the truth of President Bush's plans for world domination:

I believe President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld's thinking goes along these lines:

The American population is growing about 0.92 percent a year; 66.7 percent of that very same population is between the ages of 15 and 64 and these same people are having about 14 babies a year per 1,000. At this rate, we need to greatly reduce the male half of the population.

Without the males, females will slow down and, in some cases, stop breeding. This will move us in the direction of a more controllable number of people, mostly weak women. By sending large quantities of men to fight this war in Iraq that we've cooked up, we can eliminate many of the stronger ones.

The children who lose fathers in this war, especially the boys who won't have a father's guidance, will succumb to depression and have possible suicidal tendencies. The surviving female children will be hardened by losses and by their mothers who turn bitter and tough. We'll give these children one great thing to hold onto and strive toward, an absolute sense of patriotism; not just faith in our country, but unshakable faith in our president and other leaders since we are in fact guided by God himself.

We will make machines out of these children, willing to die for any course we decide to lay out for them. We will keep some of the weaker ones in the factories to build our weapons and machines for our continued plan of world domination.

I never would have believed it, but there are people out there that make Michael Moore's view of the world seem rational.

(from Best of the Web Today)

Reuters again

Check out this paragraph from a Reuters dispatch:

Bush, who initially shunned the United Nations, is now relying heavily on the world body to set up the caretaker government, and expects U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to name the country's interim leaders within the month.
I seem to remember Bush speaking at the UN in September 2002, telling them:
The United States helped found the United Nations. We want the United Nations to be effective, and respectful, and successful. We want the resolutions of the world's most important multilateral body to be enforced. And right now those resolutions are being unilaterally subverted by the Iraqi regime. Our partnership of nations can meet the test before us, by making clear what we now expect of the Iraqi regime.

(...)

My nation will work with the U.N. Security Council to meet our common challenge. If Iraq's regime defies us again, the world must move deliberately, decisively to hold Iraq to account. We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions. But the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced -- the just demands of peace and security will be met -- or action will be unavoidable. And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power.

And so began months of effort to try to raise the UN out of its apathetic inertia. The US hasn't shunned the UN, The UN has shunned the US.

This is one the many tiny inaccuracies that are scattered through much of Reuters coverage. Just a little jab at the US, nothing important, but the cumulative effect of all these little jabs has a large effect on the casual and unquestioning news reader.

The state of the Liberal party

Colby Cosh has a good piece up today on what the Liberal party has evolved into:

Do you know a lot of small businessmen, tradesmen, physicians, or farmers who vote Liberal? Study the party’s candidates, and notice how, when the Grits get hold of someone who has attained anything at all in the private sector, like Ken Dryden, they can barely restrain their bladders.

In the mass, the Liberal corps is a undifferentiated gang of teachers, lawyers, “activists,” “consultants,” and ethnic “community leaders,” seasoned with a few jumped-up backwoods mayors and former Liberal staffers eager to play boss. Even the ones who have some sort of business background normally bear the oddball stamps of Liberality. The ideal Liberal candidate would be someone who learned the stern truths of private business (by running his uncle’s confectionery in Moosonee for six months) before earning a doctorate in International Meddlesomeness Studies and chairing a Multicultural Friendship Planning Commission on Environmental Sensitivity.

What? Yes, I know the Conservative candidate I'm supporting is a 'jumped-up backwoods mayor', what's your point?

May 23, 2004

Is that everyone?

If you're the head of some special interest group, election time must seem like Christmas. In the last two months, Paul and his 'team' have flown across the country dropping 8 billion dollars worth of presents for the good little boys and girls.

Is it enough? Did they get enough boodle to the right people? Did they manage to dull the edge of the resentment against them enough to avoid being skewered? We'll see.

But I'm guessing they're in big trouble. The world that lives outside the community banquets, fundraising drives and cultural centres can see right through this transparent strategy. The Canadian people have been pretty sleepy for the past few years, letting the Liberals get away with these games with nothing more than a shrug. But I think they're waking up now and might be a little grumpy.

I'm going to be working on the campaign for the Conservative candidate in the Pontiac, Judy Grant. I'll be managing the website (no, I didn't design it) from my high-tech nerve center as I juggle my children and my blog. Should be fun.

Can a Conservative win in Quebec? Maybe. This riding is one of the few that have a majority anglo population. It's rural, and was always Tory until Hurricane Kim struck the PCs. The Liberal incumbent was thrown out for some nobody that -- I don't know -- pulled a thorn out of Paul Martin's paw or something. I worked on the last Alliance campaign in this riding and everything is much more professional this time. We have some real money to work with and are getting some support from the top.

This time we'll have a real fight.

May 22, 2004

Liberal signs going up?

Looks like this is the big weekend all Paul's pork has been leading up to. I just spotted three sign guys with a truck full of big shiny Liberal signs working at a high-traffic intersection. The sign wasn't up yet, but they look like they know something the rest of us don't.

UPDATE: Yep, there's signs up everywhere now. I guess it's on.

A bounty on Kofi

You may have heard that Osama bin Laden put a Bounty on Kofi Annan's head. You'd think the security at the UN would be a little better.

Kofi really only deserves Snickers.

(from Ben Hammersley via Samizdata.)

May 20, 2004

Mango girl and monkey boy

Some more pictures. Why? Because I can.

The first is Talia with a mango. She really loves her mango. She carried it around for an hour today.

Can you see her as the first female NFL quarterback?

And then we have Max climbing the furniture. He can only walk a few steps on his own, but he can scale the couch in ten seconds. He was obsessed with doing this for about an hour today, scrambling up as soon as my back was turned.

Yasser Arafat has a website

From Debbye, I learn of Yasser Arafat's website. It gives you a chance to learn about his humanitarian side:

The President cares for all humanitarian issues including women and children. He strives to ensure a better life for the family, society and all humanity.

Of the main humanitarian activities are: -

  • Adopts martyrs' children
  • Sets up orphanages
  • Cares for the Palestinian woman and fosters her role at all levels.
  • Supports human rights’ issues.
  • Supports environment issues, H.E. formulated a special ministry for this purpose for Environmental Affairs to pursue such issues.
  • Reassures his friends, comrades and activists of liberation in the whole world, in every occasion and he initiates to visit them.
  • Renounces tyranny and occupation.
Right...

And where's the blog?

Comings and goings

Paul Jané at Frozen in Montreal and Bob Tarantino at Let It Bleed are back from their holidays and posting rapidly to make up for their absence. Tim Blair has ended his month-long hiatus after only 6 days, and is also laying down some good stuff.

Andrew Coyne is still missing, however. Over three weeks now, and he didn't even leave a note saying he'd be away. The only clue that he's even alive is those mysterious columns that appear twice a week in the National Post. In the comments section of his last post -- some fluff about hockey -- a strange internet phenomena is occuring. Loyal readers are engaged in a cargo-cult like ritual of pleading, rationalizing, and dreaming of his return. There's well over a hundred comments now. I can't wait to see how this turns out: will their faith be rewarded?

You must become one with your spoon...

Spoon training began today. Spoon use does not come naturally, and requires dedication and inner peace to master. As my students' spoon sensei, I first concentrated on the two fundamentals of the spoon: the bigger end goes in your mouth, and don't whack your sibling with a spoon, especially when it's loaded.

May 19, 2004

Moore of the same

The vast right-wing conspiracy has sprung into action to counter the startling 'revelations' that everyman Mike Moore has unearthed. Actually, they've just sort of sauntered into action -- there's no big challenge in debunking this stuff. Tim Blair has a list of some of the opening salvos and adds some shots of his own. Best Line:

Little surprise that most of Mike’s causes end up destroyed. Hand him a cute little pet cause and he’ll hug it and pat it and squeeze it and hug it and ... oops. Dead.
But he missed this piece from the Wall Street Journal that describes some of the subtle techniques the great artist uses to make his points:
He uses the manipulations he so successfully employed in earlier movies. In one such scene, the voice of President Bush announces the beginning of the Iraq war as footage supposedly shows prewar Baghdad sometime in March. The viewer sees a happy couple at a wedding, children at a playground and other urban bliss. Ah, life must have been idyllic under the butcher of Baghdad. Just when the president announces the bombardment of "selective targets," a little girl is going down a slide. In case the audience didn't get it, Mr. Moore shows gruesome pictures of injured and dead Iraqis. Elsewhere he shows the charred bodies of U.S. soldiers being further mutilated by an angry mob. Yes, war is terrible, these pictures tell us, but they add nothing to the dispute over whether this war was justified.
What I don't get is how the artistic types that attended the Cannes screening of this propaganda could give Moore a twenty minute ovation. I mean, I don't like Paul Martin or John Kerry. But could I even watch a two-hour-long character assassination of them, much less applaud it when it was done? No. I'm pretty sure of it. Even if it was of as loathsome a character as Jacques Chirac, I would probably feel some sympathy for the bastard and be angry at the film maker for trying to manipulate me with a one-sided story. Such jubilation for such hatred -- I just really don't understand.

UPDATE: Could I watch a two hour movie trashing Michael Moore? Well, maybe. But Michael Moore Hates America is not just about Mikey:

Contrary to its title, Michael Moore Hates America isn’t a hatchet job on the filmmaker. It’s a journey across the nation where we meet celebrities, scholars and average folks alike, all of whom are living the American Dream and proving that America is a great place to be! In the process, we’ll look at Michael Moore’s claims about the country, its people, and our way of life.
Could be interesting.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Apparently Mike Moore has decided to bravely stand against the forces opposing him (What forces? You haven't seen any forces, have you? Me neither...) and said he will release his tremendously important movie even if it requires an act of civil disobediance. I think he's a little confused, because there's been no legal barrier made to his movie being shown, a company just decided they didn't want to distribute it -- over a year ago. But Mikey, like Svend, loves being a martyr so now he's acting all Martin Luther King, Jr. Okay, whatever. But some internet pranksters thought maybe he has a point and have decided to help him get his movie seen. They've suggested he release his movie for free on the internet and are asking him to respond. Mike? Are you there? Mike?

There's a petition you can sign to help persuade him.

I'm mow-tivated

Okay, okay, I guess it's about time to mow my 'lawn'.

And this is one of the good spots...

Quotes from Paul

"I really think Canada should get over to Iraq as quickly as possible." (Paul Martin, North Bay Nugget, April 30, 2003)
The Conservatives have created a website containing choice, out-of-context quotes from PM Paul and his 'team' to counter choice, out-of-context quotes the Liberals are promoting by Stephen Harper. Let the election begin!

Half the story

Israel generally suffers from the same biased reporting that the US gets in Iraq. When there's a successful suicide attack there may be a sympathetic story, but generally the media is hostile to Israel and focuses on the plight of the Palestinians. This takes the form of complaining about the security fence and slanted coverage of incursions on terrorist bases.

This graph, from Joshua Harvey, gives a clearer picture of what is going on than you could get from listening to the CBC for a year. Israel, a democracy with the same values of pluralism and decency that Canada supposedly holds, is under siege. It's only when they decided to fight back that the successful attacks have abated. But note that the attempts at destruction have not...

From Sagacs's World I Know.

Hypocrite

My spelling is terrible. To improve it, rather than using a spell-checker when I'm not sure about a word, I look it up in the dictionary. Under 'hypocrite', I was not surprised to find a picture of George Soros looking all serious and internationalist. Soros, who has always been a huge backer of meddling in the affairs of various messed-up nations (including the non-sactioned-by-the-UN bombing campaign of Serbia), gives this explanation for his fanatical opposition to the project in Iraq:

When the weapons of mass destruction could not be found, President Bush fell back on the justification of liberating Iraq from a heinous dictator and introducing democracy. That is indeed a noble cause, which could have justified the invasion if the president had made a case for it. But that was not the case that President Bush had presented to Congress, and presumably, Congress would not have endorsed it.
In other words, motives count more than deeds. Way to care about the suffering people of Iraq, George.

There's more hypocrisy in the link above, in which Matt Welch reviews three books by some of the big internationist players of the 90s'. Welch tries to figure out why they are so down on Iraq, when they were so quick to use or excuse force for their own goals. The only reason he can see is -- Bush, and his perceived refusal to grovel to the entrenched internationalist 'club'. Hypocrites all.

May 18, 2004

To develop the North

I went up to Iqaluit last year with Mama, Max and Talia, and we're beginning discussions to go back up again. I can't say I really enjoyed the time we spent there, but Mama says it pays well and that's good enough for me. Iqaluit is depressing because it's essentially a welfare city. All economic activity is driven by government handouts and the salaries of those providing government services to the rapidly growing population. There's a tiny tourism industry and a number of artists that provide pieces for the Inuit art shops in downtown Ottawa and airports across the country, but no other industry.

But I have a solution that will give a kick-start to the economy of the North. Paul Martin still has almost a week before he calls the election; a few million dollars directed to this initiative will help him win those crucial Northern seats.

The solution? Penguins. The North needs penguins.

As most Canadians know, there are no penguins in the Arctic. But there could be -- I don't see how the conditions there are that different from the Antarctic. Penguins could be imported from the South Pole and seeded throughout the North, in much the same way that rabbits were introduced to Australia. If you look at what they did for that previously worthless bit of real estate, you can imagine the benefits the North would gain from penguins.

First, people like penguins. They're one of those animals that have a strong presence in the popular imagination. Just as Kenya has lions* to drive its tourism industry, the North would benefit from penguins. Going to Antarctica is a long trip just to see some flightless birds, but Iqaluit is only 4 hours away from most of the East coast. And Penguins are pretty dumb and won't run away from tourists like other Arctic wildlife.

Second, penguins are good to eat. Well -- I don't know for sure about that, but they look like they'd be pretty good. Specialty restaurants in Canada have recently taken to serving Arctic food like caribou and arctic char. Penguin would fit in well on these types of menus. And if it was cleverly marketed (and it did taste good), perhaps restaurants in the US and Europe would start serving it as well.

And there are other benefits that would no doubt arise arise as penguins established a foothold in the North. Penguin guano is a valuable fertilizer. Their skins are extremely durable and waterproof. And Inuit artists could carve something other than polar bears and seals.

The only objections to this plan would come from environmentalists and animal rights activists. The environmentalists are killjoys who hate having anything change, and the animal rights nuts hate seeing cute critters turned into food. It's surprising how many people listen to them. But when their priorities conflict with the needs of the aboriginal people in Canada, the aboriginals win. This is political reality -- I think we could do this.

You know, I started writing this as a joke, but I think I've convinced myself that it's a good idea. A flashy Power Point presentation in front of the right people and this thing's got legs.

Remember where you heard about it first.

Just Imagine

* Warning: link leads to a flash animation with a song that will get stuck in your head until you're forced to blow your brains out.

The Lesson Not Learned, Part IV

Back when I was writing at Moving Target, I would occasionally write about The Lesson, which goes like this:

Economics consists of looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequence of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.
It's from a fine book by Henry Hazlitt called Economics in One Lesson. Though written in the 50's, the bad government policies he describes and shows the folly of will be familiar to observers today. In the Lesson Not Learned series I write about some examples of government-inspired economic folly.

Today's example comes from France, where the government has finally announced (registration required) that the 35-hour work-week is a failure:

In an interview in yesterday's Le Figaro, the finance minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, said that the 35-hour week had lumbered the state with £10 billion a year in additional social charges and that it had demoralised millions of workers.

"The Socialists made a decision which is not compatible with our responsibilities to Europe," he said. He suggested a system whereby those who wanted to stay on the 35-hour week could do so, but those who wanted to work and earn more had greater latitude.

The idea that preventing people from working more that 35 hours in a week would lower unemployment is based on the lump of work fallacy -- that there is only so much work to do, and so by limiting the amount people work, you better 'share' that fixed amount of work. But the quantity of work isn't fixed; the work available in an economy is more analagous to the amount of work available in your home. There's always something more to be done, but it's a matter of balance between the priority of the job and the cost in time and money that determines what gets completed.

Hobbling the labour force does not increase employment. Most tasks are not of the industrial-age variety where a worker is a cog in the machine and can be replaced by any other worker. Most tasks are done by people with the opportunity, skills, and availability to do them. Limit availability and you decrease productivity.

So has France learned The Lesson? Not a chance; governments never learn.

In addition to easing France's restrictive labour laws, M Sarkozy is also pursuing an economic nationalism, pressing for changes to European Union rules so that governments can support big companies at times of distress and help to give them a competitive advantage against global rivals.
It took them seven years to figure out the damage caused by restricting people's right to work. How long will it take them to realize the folly of propping up inefficient companies with taxpayers money?

May 15, 2004

A memory test

Back in the 16th century, there was a famous actor, Charles Macklin, who claimed he could recite anything after reading it once. The dramatist Samuel Foot challenged him with this passage, which Macklin failed at completely.

So she went into the garden to cut a cabbage leaf to make an apple pie, and at the same time a great she-bear came running up the street and popped its head into the shop. "What! No soap?" So she died, and she -- very imprudently -- married the barber. And there were present the Picinninies, the Jobjillies, the Grayulies, and the grand Panjandrum, himself with the little button atop, and they all fell to playing the game of catch-as-catch-can till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots.

May 14, 2004

One last swipe at the media

Okay, I'm not going to turn this blog into a cranky condemnation of the news industry, but this story is just too typical of the problem. Reuters story on today's developments in Najaf is so blatantly biased. Take a look, it begins:

U.S. forces intensified their war against Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr Friday, sending tanks into Najaf's vast cemetery to blast guerrilla positions among its ancient tombs for the first time.

Explosions and gunfire rocked the city for hours and there was fighting around the main police station, less than a mile from some of the holiest Shi'ite shrines.

Note the term, "their war", implying that the US started it. Note that the description leads the reader to believe that a reckless, savage assault is underway with little regard to the surroundings: "sending tanks" to "blast" "ancient tombs".
At least seven U.S. tanks thrust deep into the cemetery, a city within a city covering several square kilometers (miles) where Shi'ites from all over the world wish to be buried within sight of Najaf's sacred shrines.
Those Americans! Insulting Shi'ites from all over the world! Let's hear what they have to say:
U.S. commanders say they will try not to encroach on holy sites, including the Imam Ali shrine where Sadr has taken sanctuary.

"We describe the holy city as the shrine and the cemetery and today we took some mortar fire from the cemetery and we acted against the mortar fire, very precisely, in and out," Major General Martin Dempsey, commander of U.S. forces in the area, told CNN.

He did not explain why tanks were sent into the cemetery on Friday when mortar attacks from it occur daily.

I guess Reuters thinks there's nothing wrong with a mortar attack every day. If it's against Americans.

The story is about the fighting in Najaf, but they cleverly manage to work in the Abu Ghraib story:

U.S. helicopters dropped leaflets urging militiamen to give up a day after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made a flying visit to Iraq as Washington tried to contain the prisoner abuse scandal.

Rumsfeld said the scandal would not wreck America's mission when he made a surprise visit to Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison where U.S. troops abused and sexually humiliated Iraqis.

The affair has shredded U.S. credibility among Iraqis. Some now question whether U.S. rule is much better than that of Saddam Hussein, who had thousands tortured at Abu Ghraib.

US credibility is now "shredded" says Al-Reuters, and this 'some' fellow -- who seems to show up when the reporter (who would not think of editorializing) wants to editorialize -- says the US is perhaps not better than Saddam's regime. It's in the news, it must be so!

And just in case you might still not be ready to head down to the nearest US government office to burn their flag, this 'news' article closes with this bit of propaganda, which has been known for a couple of days:

The father of beheaded American civilian Nick Berg added to the pressure on Bush after an Islamist Web site said al Qaeda militants in Iraq executed his son in revenge for the abuses.

"My son died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. This administration did this," Michael Berg said.

Don't blame the cowardly monsters who killed an idealistic young man in cold blood, blame Bush.

This is just such a horrible, twisted report. And I didn't find out about it at some like-minded blog, I just came upon it on the Google news site when I was looking for something else. This is the everyday story that's being told. And it frightens and sickens me.

A message to the CBC from an Iraqi

I think the best source for good news about Iraq can be found on the many Iraqi blogs. I spent a bit of time poking around them last night and got a completely different view of what's happening than what you'd learn immersed in the CBC universe. Ali from Iraq the Model has a message for the CBC and the rest of the cup-half-empty crew:

Please, all those who care about the poor Iraqis and want to save them from the brutality of the American invaders and who want to prevent the Americans from stealing our fortune; meaning Bin laden, Zagrawi and their followers, Arab and Muslim tyrants, our good friend monsieur Dominique de Villepin, all the pacifists of the world, the major media, and in short, all those who hate America and obviously love Iraq: Get your s**t together and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT or else one or two years from now Iraq will be…a prosperous country, and then we will never forgive you for letting us down when we needed you!
A call to action! You can count on the CBC, Ali...

May 13, 2004

Perspective

Mark Steyn:

"Just look at the way US army reservist Lynndie England holds the leash of the naked, bearded Iraqi," writes Robert Fisk, famed Middle East correspondent of the London Independent.

"Take a close look at the leather strap, the pain on the prisoner's face. No sadistic movie could outdo the damage of this image. In September 2001, the planes smashed into the buildings; today, Lynndie smashes to pieces our entire morality with just one tug on the leash."

Hmm. Sounds like Fiskie's the one straining at the leash here. You can practically hear him panting. Down, boy.

I did hear him panting. I had the pleasure of listening to CBC radio last night and he was the guest on Dispatches. From what I heard, the CBC was airing non-stop coverage of Abu Ghraib last night. First As It Happens ran a few guests gleefully extrapolating the crimes in Abu Ghraib to be 'most likely' just the tip of the iceberg of what the criminal American military is doing around the world (without, of course, providing any evidence). Then Fisky was introduced to put the icing on the cake. What a vile, nasty creature he is. Hatred of the US just oozes out of everything he says, and the host just egged him on. Conspiracy theories were trotted out, straw men were constructed and efficiently dispatched, and through it all they couldn't conceal their pleasure that they had caught a significant failure by the US.

This is what has giving this story it's momentum. Throughout the past year, there has been the most desperate scramble to make some of the copious amounts of shit they've thrown stick to the project in Iraq. But it hasn't been working too well. But now there's some traction -- time to gun the motor!

Perspective. It's important to remember that these abuses were being investigated before the press got wind of it. This is not the policy of the United States. And it is being treated seriously and the guilty will be punished. I'm shocked and angered by what happened but the world is full of petty men abusing their power.

But what breaks my heart -- and it really does -- is the contempt in the voices that claim to bring the world to us. The lack of balance and objectivity is blatant. There is an idealistic project underway to create a truly democratic and peaceful land where once there was only fear and oppression. It's a huge and difficult undertaking, there will be many stumbles on the way, and it may even fail in the long run. The difficulties and stumbles must be covered. But it's a positive thing on the whole, and we deserve to have the positive aspects covered as well. "But", I can imagine the executives of our public broadcaster saying, "you don't expect us to broadcast American propaganda?" No, I expect you to cover the truth.

May 12, 2004

Does the Gore Curse extend to the movies?

Al Gore wants everybody to see the upcoming disaster flick The Day After Tomorrow. Even he admits the movie is implausable, but he and his friends at MoveOn see global warming as an issue they can use to land a few blows on Bush -- so who cares about realism?

Gore has been the touch of death for Howard Dean and the left-wing radio network Air America. Can he turn $125 million of 20th Century Fox's money into dust too? Somehow I think a leaflet campaign by MoveOn isn't going to encourage the typical popcorn crowd. Summer movies are usually well-advised not to be preachy, and by tying the movie to an anti-Bush fringe movement they'll be alienating half their potential audience. It should be interesting to see what happens; it opens May 28.

I know I won't be there. I'd rather go see Soul Plane that weekend.

May 11, 2004

What do we have a Parliament for?

I was just thinking a bit more about that $100,000,000 of our money that PM Paul just splashed out to earn the admiration of the international do-gooder crowd -- can he do that? Can he just pull the money out, hand it over, then turn around to bask in the applause? And what about all that other money that he's been pulling out of his magic duffel bag and sprinkling all over as he skips across the country? Isn't there some sort of mechanism by which these expenses can get scrutinized by represenatives of the citizens of this country? And if not, why do we bother with this charade of Parliament? Why don't we just elect a dictator every four years to make all the government's decisions? All that flashy show with the Mace and the Speaker of the House and the Honourable Member from Somewhere-You-Never-Heard-Of insults our intelligence.

The two types of appeasement

I'm a little late in linking to this, but Victor Hanson has a great piece up on Opinion Journal. He gives an overview of how the policy of appeasement towards Islamic terrorism over the last twenty-five years has led only to more violence and destruction. It's a long piece, but it analyzes the most serious problem our civilization is facing with remarkable clarity. I know some of my very few regular readers are against the war in Iraq and don't think anything can be solved with military force. Well, I challenge you to read this article and take another look at things.

There's another kind of appeasement that's not as dangerous to our civilization but can wreck political careers -- and that's appeasement of the media. I think the best example is from a press conference by Kim Campbell given during the election in which the Progressive Conservative party was destroyed. She had been badgered by reporters concerning the costs of new helicopters ordered by her predecessor, and in front of the press, she caved in and tried to negotiate a new deal that might be acceptable to them. She was through after that moment.

George W. Bush has been facing similar pressure from the press regarding the future of Donald Rumsfeld and how he should make amends for the prisoner abuse scandal. After he groveled a bit, the pressure only got louder. He stood his ground yesterday and gave his solid support to his Secretary of Defense. He also stated firmly that he is not going to look for a way to sneak out of Iraq. The job is going to be finished. Look for the indignant demands from the press to abate.

Appeasement never works. It it only whets your enemies' appetites.

A day in the life, part III

Posting has been weak to non-existent lately, I know. (But at least I'm posting more often than the missing Andrew Coyne.) These guys of mine take up plenty of time, and what time is free I prefer to spend engaged in combat with other pathetic nerds from around the world. This will eventually change, but for now enjoy the third installment of my 'day in the life' series. Lots of pictures of happy little children to tide you over until I get my priorities straightened out. (Also check out part I and part II.)


5:15 Max lets out a brief cry. He quickly goes back to sleep, but the cats recognise this as the 'time to get up' signal and start purring, kneading and rubbing their heads against us. Thanks, Max.

6:00 Mama gets up to have her shower. Max is making the occasional noise but is mostly quiet. I try to grab a couple more moments of sleep.

6:15 I give in to Max's more frequent squawks and get up. I change Max (fairly large solid poopie), dress him and bring him downstairs. He's in a pretty good mood. He whacked his ear pretty hard last night climbing (and falling from) the coffee table, but it looks a lot better this morning.

6:30 Mama gets Talia up and dresses her while I make my coffee and breakfast for the little eating machines.

6:40 Breakfast for babies -- pap and applesauce and Cheerios and pear and milk. They have a really huge breakfast. I ask Max if his ear is better today and Talia looks at me and grabs her ears. She's much more social during mealtime and listens closely to whatever I say. Max is oblivious to all but the next spoonful of food.

7:10 Mama heads out for work. Time for Teletubbies! They're programmed for this now -- after breakfast they get to go downstairs to watch large, colourful, and vaguely childlike creatures talk baby-talk and hug each other. As soon as they're finished eating, they start getting excited. "Ta-Ta," Max says, "Ta-Ta." They're rigid with expectation as I walk them downstairs. Talia particularly enjoys watching it:


8:40 Enough Tubbie-time, upstairs for some playing on the carpet. I've been helping Max learn to walk, setting him on two feet and urging him forward. He really loves this time, but I can't neglect Talia. She putters around and brings things over to me, and sometimes just bowls me over with a hug. It's fun.

9:25 Time for a nap. Talia gets a change (ooky brown poopie). I get a chance to eat some generic imitation Corn Pops.

9:40 I think about all the things I have to do, and feel guilty about my neglected blog. Only one thing will rid me of these feelings -- I rush to the computer in the basement and join in a pitched battle with combatants from around the world. This time it's on the jungle planet Torlan. Voice communication is a vital part of the game. If you have a microphone connected to your computer you can actually talk to your teammates. After I repair someones hovercraft, I hear a man with a Jamaican accent say, "Cheers, mate." The internet is cool.

10:40 Max starts crying, up and changed again (smaller dark brown goopy poopie). Talia is still sleeping but I get her up.

10:50 It's a pretty nice day so I take them outside. We can either go on the back deck which is easier on me because it's enclosed and I don't have to watch them as carefully, or go out front where they can really get in trouble. We go out front. Max takes some time out from eating the driveway to torment Squeak with a stick.

Talia tries to escape, but I intercept her. There will be no escape from this camp!

11:45 I take them back in and start making lunch. I sit them in their high chairs with some Cheerios to keep them busy during the preparations. I'd taken their shoes off when they came inside, and when I bring the food over I find they've both also taken their socks off and are waving them around. Silly guys! Our lunch music is a selection of surf songs featuring Dick Dale, Los Straitjackets, and The Bomboras. They eat baby pasta with a delicious and nutritious sauce I made in enormous quantities a few days ago, accompanied by bananas, bread and some wonderful Gouda their Oma brought back from Holland. When they feed themselves they still haven't figured out how to get the food in their mouths without inserting their entire hand.

12:30 We enjoy some more play time on the floor. It's going to be nap time soon so I don't take them outside. They have fun knocking down the tower I try to build.

12:40 I notice Talia is stinky. I take her up for a change and find a runny yellow and orange poopy.

12:50 Max is looking cute lying on the floor. I turn around to reach for the camera and this somehow triggers a mini temper tantrum. He's been doing this a bit lately and I'm a bit worried. But I ignore him and let him wear himself out while I play with Talia. He's calm again in a few minutes.

1:10 Sometimes I like to see how much Talia understands. We have a toy birdhouse with four soft little 'birdies' that fit inside. I hold one to her and ask her to find the others. She looks around and starts rummaging through the toys to find them. She finds one and walks over and puts it in the house. So cute.

1:40 Time for another nap. They are fine with this, and I let them climb the stairs to their bedroom. No battles for me this break, I've got a couple of things to do.

2:20 Mama comes home from work. I hand her her martini as she plops into her armchair. "What a day!", she says.

2:40 Max and Talia are up. Max had a poopy, but I can't tell you what kind because Mama was the one that changed him. Use your imagination. They get some rolling on the floor with Mama time as Papa does the dishes. Looking over from behind the counter I noticed there was a major disagreement over who should get to swing the stuffed panda bear around, but Mama managed to defuse the situation.

3:05 Snack time! They have yogourt and bananas and milk. Ummm um!

3:25 Mama takes them for a walk in the stroller. Papa stays home to work a bit on this piece and clean up a bit more.

5:00 Dinner time. Mama feeds them dal with rice and pear for dessert. They eat quickly and business-like. Afterwards, Mama entertains them by tickling their feet.

5:30 More playtime on the floor. I was getting the recycling together when I decided to make a pillow out of one of the recycling bags. This instantly became the best toy ever for Max and Talia. They had so much fun playing with it they even forgot to fight over it. The fun lasted all of ten minutes until Talia took a bite out of it. But we'll always have the memories.

A note from the lawyers:

WARNING: Plastic bags can be dangerous. They should not be used as toys. To avoid danger of suffocation, keep plastic bags away from babies and children.

Later, Talia comes to mooch apple off me when I'm trying to have a snack. Max is busy trying to figure out how to get in the CD drawers.

6:30 It's bathtime. Mama takes Max to the bathroom and gets him undressed. While Mama is doing this I wait with Talia in our bedroom. We play the ka-bomf game, which involves throwing your head back and landing with a ka-bomf on the soft bed. She's much better at it than I am.

Mama or Papa don't get in the tub with them anymore; it's just them and all their toys. But they have fun anyways.

7:10 Bedtime. We quickly flip through Goodnight Gorilla, take a look Snoozers, and spent quite a bit of time looking at a picture book from Unicef, which has a cute alien playing with the children of all of the world (except the United States). They drink their milk and get put in their cribs.

Good night Max!

Good night Talia!

7:20 I make a horrible dinner. It was pasta with a creamy lemon sauce, but I wasn't paying attention as I made it (I was surfing the net -- naughty, naughty) and burnt the garlic and overcooked the pasta. Sorry sweetie.

7:40 We watch a movie as we eat, House of Sand and Fog. I really had a bad reaction to this movie. It's creates a very interesting situation and then destroys it with a manipulative Hollywood ending. It reminded me of In the Bedroom, which did the same thing.

10:30 Finally in bed. I had a hard time sleeping because of that stupid movie. I'm just too sensitive I guess.

Other people's money

It takes a great leader to give away $100,000,000 of other people's money to make himself look important on the world's stage. But that's what PM Paul did when he offered the money to the World Health Organization's "3 by 5" program, which had been scrounging around for the dough. Was it a good investment? Of course! It earned the him the endorsement of political kingmaker Bono, who said, "Wow. A politician who doesn't break his promises. This is real leadership, I hope Canadians will know what this means in the rest of the world." You just can't buy that kind of publicity. No wait -- I guess you can.

It would be very cynical to suggest that this internationalist posturing has anything to do with the upcoming election, so I won't.

May 08, 2004

Van Helsing is here!

Well I said I'd be there when Van Helsing opened, and so I was. At the first show on the first day, my movie fanatic buddy and I were front and center ready to suck up $160 million dollars worth of Hollywood nonsense. So? Any good?

It's not that bad. But it's not very good either. It's a silly movie that's at least partially aware that it's silly. But sometimes it tries to reach for that dark, gothic, serious, thing and is completely incapable of making the jump. All the characters are capable of very impressive jumps however, leaping across chasms, swinging on ropes and climbing walls.

Van Helsing is some kind of supernatural James Bond, working for a mysterious intelligence agency working in the basement of the Vatican. He gets briefed by 'M' on his next job, then gets nifty retro gadgets for his mission from 'Q', who is conscripted to come along to play the important role of comic relief. Another important role is 'the babe', played by some starlet with a nice rack. She also gets to wear tight pants and high-heeled boots which demonstrate that she's an actress with range. Completing the action movie standard quartet is the villain, Dracula, who looks identical to Gary Oldman -- though curiously, not to Gary Oldman's Dracula.

The plot is indecipherable. You've probably seen it before. They must get the sacred staff from the keeper of the temple before the second full moon, while preventing the villain from connecting the force matrix to the keymaster's only child who carries the magic ring who has vanished leaving only a clue tattooed on the underside of the hero's foot. Or something. I can't remember. But there's plenty of swooping shots over expensive sets, and people in elaborate costumes jumping and swinging. (Lots and lots of swinging! If you like swinging, this is the movie you've been waiting for.) It's not at all scary, not at all suspenseful, and didn't have any action sequences that were at all memorable. But still I sort of enjoyed it. But I'd never want to watch it again. Never.

May 05, 2004

Free Mikey's Movie!

I loathe Michael Moore. This is because of his unique mix of arrogance, deceitfulness and condescension, combined with being flat-out wrong about just about everything. The latest 'movie' he hoped to unleash in the summer -- which was going to reveal the terrible 'truth' about George W. Bush -- has been given a pass by Disney, forcing him to find another distributor.

I'm kinda disappointed with this. I was hoping the movie would come out to great fanfare and then flop with all but the already converted. After all, what truth could it reveal? Moore is incapable of research, relying mainly on internet slander and innuendo for his exposés. I'm sure most of the movie is muck dredged up from the fevered imaginations of the looney left, narrated over evocative images and with ominous music playing in the background. Yawn. I bet even the nominally left-wing press would rip it to shreds.

But now it's been 'censored'. (Of course real censorship would be having the government preventing its release, not a business making a decision on what they choose to promote, but hey, why be realistic when you can be indignant instead?) Obviously the dark forces of the Bush administration forced Disney's hands. It's now a 'dangerous', 'edgy' movie that will somehow manage to see the light of day despite the neo-fascist government that that rules the United States. People might want to go see it. It could even be a hit! Hey, do ya think...

UPDATE: Whaddya know?

May 04, 2004

Oh no! Look out for Max!

Max has finally got around to getting up on his legs. But he seems to feel that his arms must be fully extended when he walks and that he must charge whatever adult happens to be nearby while wearing that big goofy grin. I foresee plenty of bumps and bruises for him in the next month...

Once Max gets a grip on you, it's very difficult to disengage...