Tuesday, August 31, 2010
The underground Catholics must meet in secret, for fear of being arrested and imprisoned...or worse. Their churches -- the buildings which survived the Cultural Revolution -- have been handed over to the CPCA or closed altogether. So also their shrines, which may still exist but are off limits to the faithful.
Rome has been pussyfooting around the issue. Led by the Vatican's left-leaning Secretary of State, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, the Holy See has been trying to find some way to reconcile with the "official" church.
New bishops have been consecrated with the consent of the Communist government. Some say those who accept their mitres from Rome and Beijing are no more than collaborators with one of the most repressive and autocratic régimes on earth.
Meanwhile, the old bishops are dying ... or being killed off. On August 28th John Yang Shudao, Bishop of Fuzhou, died at the age of 91, as the result of a crippling stroke.
Bishop Yang had been imprisoned by the Communists in 1955, released in 1981, but later sentenced to a new 3-year term, after his 1987 consecration as a bishop. He had been held for shorter terms at least twice since 2000. In all, he spent more than 28 years in Communist prisons.
His death poses a new test for the level of cooperation between the “official” Catholics recognized by the Beijing régime and the underground Church loyal to the Holy See. About two-third of the Catholics in the Fuzhou diocese adhere to the underground church.
Bishop Yang’s funeral is scheduled for September 1st, and government officials are reportedly working to "assert control", lest a massive public demonstration reveal the CPCA for the fraud that it is.
To celebrate this anniversary, Agent 46 has sent along a transcript of a little conversation in the surgery of a large metropolitan hospital. Five surgeons are talking...
The first says, "I like to see accountants on my operating table, because when you open them up, everything inside is numbered. "
The second responds, "Yeah, but you should try electricians. Everything inside of them is colour coded."
The third weighs in with, "No, I really think librarians are the best, because everything inside of them is in alphabetical order."
The fourth chimes in, "You know, I like construction workers. Those guys always understand when you have a few parts left over."
But the fifth shuts them all up when he observes, "You're all wrong. Politicians are the easiest to operate on. There's no guts, no heart, no balls, no brains, and no spine -- and the
head and the ass are interchangeable!"
Monday, August 30, 2010
We don't have the usual Defence Department photo of yet another Canadian soldier who died in Afghanistan. This is Corporal Brian Pinksen, who was injured in an IED blast last week, and succumbed to his injuries at a hospital in Germany today.
I'm also sorry not to be able to tell you Cpl. Pinksen's age. He looks young, doesn't he. Most of them are young -- young lives wasted in "Operation Enduring Freedom". No, I'm not making that up.
That's 152 so far...and still counting. Canadians only hear about these casualties when they die. The Defence Department doesn't publish the number or names of those wounded, many of whom will never have anything like a normal life again. We aren't told about them because, well, you know...looks bad in the papers and damages the government's standings in the polls.
For those who want a bit of help keeping score, check out http://www.icasualties.org/ for the latest body counts from Iraq and Afghanistan. You'll find the Canadians listed under "other".
Footnote: The picture of Cpl. Pinksen is from his Facebook page.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Apparently what we witnessed earlier this week was the end of "Operation Iraqi Freedom" -- I'm not making that up -- which was the "combat operation" in which 1000s of Americans (and Iraqis) died. So the troops who left, shouting "We won! We won!" were combat troops. With me so far?
Well, it seems there are still 1000s of American troops in Iraq. On September 1st they begin a new mission, "Operation New Dawn". That is a training mission. The troops are there to give "advice and assistance", dontcha see.
Does that mean they won't engage in combat? Errr...no. They are armed and may use their weapons if fired on...or threatened...or whatever. Does that seem not right to you? Remember Vietnam. Our "military advisors" did a lot of fighting, and not a whole lot of advising because after awhile there wasn't anyone to advise. Just us.
What strikes me as odd is that Iraq is beginning to look like Vietnam in reverse. We send in combat troops, fight for seven years or so -- longer than WWII -- then declare victory and send the combat troops home...or maybe to Afghanistan. Then we send in the advisors.
Can you tell the difference between a soldier who fights and a soldier who advises? I wouldn't think so. They wear the same uniforms, carry the same weapons, salute the same flag. I wouldn't think the Taliban or the Shiites or other Iraqis will be able to tell the difference either -- worse luck for our side.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
International phone cards advertise rates of about 10 cents a minute for calls to Sri Lanka. Assume 490 refugees talking for half an hour each. That would be 14,700 minutes, at a cost of just under $1500.
Canadian taxpayers who feel their money could have been better spent are invited to contact the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism [No kidding, that really is his title. ed.], the Honourable Jason Kenney, to voice their opinion.
Mr. Kenney's e-mail address is Kenney.J@parl.gc.ca. The phone number at his Calgary riding office is (403) 225-3480. If you're still stuck in the 80s, the fax number is (403) 225-3504. Mr. Kenney prefers to be spoken to in English and please remember, the profanity filter is ON.
Footnote: For those who haven't been paying attention, "LTTE" is the acronym for the banned terrorist organization aka the Tamil Tigers. You're welcome.
The official told the BBC the Taliban plan "to conduct attacks against foreigners participating in the ongoing flood relief operations in Pakistan." He (or she) added that "provincial ministers in Islamabad" may be at risk.
The warning comes as thousands flee their homes in southern coastal areas as floods sweep down from the north. The UN says more than 17 million people have been affected by the monsoon floods, and about 1.2 million homes have been destroyed.
Some five million Pakistanis have no shelter, and urgently need tents or plastic sheeting to protect them from the sun. But do they want our help? Apparently not.
Walt wonders who the "senior official could be". Just by coincidence this morning's Globe and Mail quotes Rajiv Shah, a senior administrator of USAID, as saying that Pakistan will have to demonstrate it can spend relief funds transparently and well if it wants more help in rebuilding after its massive floods.
There are concerns, he said, about how the foreign aid money will be spent by the government, which has a reputation (well-deserved, in my view) for inefficiency and corruption. You read it here first!
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
"Finished the book. It should be must reading. It is a riveting account of a truly exceptional human betrayed by his own country, the army, military and civilian leaders.
"This disgusting episode would have died except for the Tillman family."
Walt comments: This is so often the case. The pundits -- the "wise men" whose columns and articles shape our opinions -- rely on what they hear from officials, "inside sources" and each other.
They don't often hear real stories from real people, so they don't find out what's really going on in places like Armpitistan. It takes ordinary people, like the Tillman family, to keep speaking the truth they know first-hand -- even when they're told to be quiet.
If there's someone out there who has a story that hasn't been told, something that the nation needs to know, please tell someone. You can write to an ombudsman, but civil servants like that are toothless fart-catchers for the government, so don't hold your breath waiting for justice.
Tell someone who cares! Tell a "muckraking journalist". Tell a friend. Tell anyone who's not part of the power structure. Start a blog. Use the social media. Get the truth out there where the rest of us can see it! Don't let the "powers that be" silence you.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
So said Canadian Senator Colin Kenny on Tuesday. He was expressing the sentiments of a majority of Canadians, according to recent polls. People have realized that it was a mistake -- putting it mildly -- to send our soldiers to "help" those who don't want to be helped.
Even former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, whose government committed Canadian troops to pacify the Americans after declining to get into the Iraq quagmire, is reported to have campaigned against the extension of the mission, when it came before Parliament under "Call Me Steve" Harper.
The sentiment is the same in the U.S.A. The American public, having been duped by the Bushmen into thinking that if you were in Iraq you had to be in Afghanistan too, has finally seen the illogic of that proposition. USA Today reported last Monday the results of a Gallup poll which showed that “Support for Obama's management of the war fell to 36%, down from 48% in a February poll. Now, a record 43% also say it was a mistake to go to war there after the terrorist attacks in 2001."
The increasing unpopularity of the Armpitistan war has contributed to the lowest approval ratings of Obama's presidency. Believe it or not, more Americans (39%) support the Great Black Hope's handling of the economy than the war. And this was before the ignominious retreat from Iraq!
Only 41% of those surveyed approved of the way Obama is handling his job. That's the prez's lowest rating in the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll since he took office. But Obama's no dummy, right? Only a fool would stay on the burning deck while the ship is sinking. Right? Errr...maybe the ship isn't actually on fire yet. Let's see what happens at the mid-term elections.
FOOTNOTE: Smile for the day:
Q. What's the difference between war and peace?
A. You can't have a good war!
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Only 17% of those polled thought the Tamils should be accepted into Canada as political refugees. So what the government of "Call Me Steve" Harper has done is bow to the wishes of the vocal minority.
That minority includes, of course, the many Tamils and other Sri Lankans, Indians and Pakistanis already in Toronto. Many of them are voters, after all!
And let's not forget the liberal media, determined as they are to be politically correct, even when public opinion in their own "comments" and "talk back" columns is running 5 or 10 to 1 against their editorial opinion.
Click here to watch a video clip from Sun TV, featuring commentary by Ezra Levant. Mr. Levant feels that the "notwithstanding clause" in the Canadian constitution should be invoked to suspend for, say, five years, the "rights" of bogus refugee claimants under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Even Pierre-Elliot Trudeau, whose vision of a café-au-lait Canada full of Liberal voters is responsible for this mess, foresaw that situations might arise in which "rights" have to give way to the best interests of the majority. This is one such situation.
What's needed now is for Mr. Harpoon's government to grow a set and do what the majority of Canadians think must be done.
Did anyone notice, by the way, that the last Americans left Baghdad before dawn? Kind of spoiled the victory parade.
You know what? Maybe it wasn't such a glorious victory after all. This opinion is hinted at by award-winning author Jon Krakauer, in a new book, Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, which just came out this week. I've got my name on the reserve list at the local public library.
From the preview review in The Huffington Post:
Krakauer's book...uncovers the intricate -- and, at times, outrageous -- conspiracy surrounding the death of American solider and former football star Pat Tillman. In April 2004 Tillman died by friendly fire in Afghanistan. The Bush Administration, Krakauer alleges, skewed this truth by awarding the former NFL player a Silver Star.
"The Silver Star was presented -- the story about Taliban charging the hill was concocted -- to avoid revealing to the American people that this was friendly fire," Krakauer said on The Colbert Report on Thursday.
Colbert asked: "Why talk about this?"
In an impassioned response, Krakauer railed, "How do you repay someone like Tillman? Who -- out of a sense of duty and patriotism -- he joined the army, and the guy's in the army.
The army itself hijacked his honor. How do you reconcile that?"
I couldn't locate the Colbert interview clip for you, but you can watch a similar but more serious conversation between Mr. Krakauer and Charlie Rose here.
I'll give you a mini-review and comments as soon as I can get my hands on the book. For now I'll just say, look out for more of the same when the full story of Afghanistan is finally told.
FOOTNOTE: A couple of days ago, Walt asked who won and who lost in Iraq? Patrick Graham, writing in today's Globe and Mail says everybody lost and nobody won. Click here to read his excellent analysis of the confusion, lies, fear and death.
Mr. Thomas is not so sure. The Krazai order, he writes, will create a dangerous power vacuum. It "will cost lives, deter foreigners from working in Afghanistan and set back the drawdown of international troops." How this will play out is explained in the article. Read it and you'll see why Agent 17 (who gave Walt the lead) calls Afghanistan a "cesspool".
Meanwhile, senior officers of the Dutch armed forces have been meeting with their Canadian counterparts to explain how you get out of Armpitistan without totally pissing off the Americans. Apparently withdrawal requires a lot of strategic planning, the most delicate part of which seems to be letting the U.S. forces know you're going, and reminding them to surge into the breach.
Fortunately for all concerned, now that Barry O'bama has declared victory in Iraq, there will be plenty of cannon fodder [experienced military personnel, surely! ed.] to be sent west.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Jennifer was on Regis and Kelly, talking about a recent photo shoot for Harper's Bazaar in which she tried to strike a pose similar to that of Barbra Streisand in an old pic. When R&K said it must be kind of fun to do things like that, Jennifer said, "It's what I do for a living, like a r_____."
To find out what word the blank represents, watch the clip from ABC News. Human rights groups and other Forces for Good and Progress in the community are predictably outraged.
So now you can add "r_____" to your list of "bad words". I'd say "God help us", but someone would probably complain about my putting religion into the story. Good grief...
It also reminds us of the frailty of man...and woman. I used to think I'd be a thing of beauty and a boy forever, but it seems you can't beat the clock.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Meanwhile, the Obama war continues. Crazy Karzai says the "private security forces" -- read "mercenaries" -- must be out of his country within four months. That would leave... let's see... the Afghan National So-called Army, and... and... American troops?
UPDATE: Aug. 21
Walt asked who won and who lost? Patrick Graham, writing in today's Globe and Mail says everybody lost and nobody won. Click here to read his excellent analysis of the confusion, lies, fear and death.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Before I answer, let me say that I can think of six worse epithets that I've heard hurled at people of the coloured persuasion. For a list, send a self-addressed stamped envelope. I can also think of "bad words" used to describe people of virtually every race, ethnicity and religion. One could compile a pretty large dictionary of such slang or derogatory terms. But that doesn't mean those words should be absolutely proscribed.
The question is whether a word like "nigger" can or should be used in public speech. It seems that depends on who's using it, and in what context. I didn't hear Dr. Laura's radio show, but understand she was asking why it's OK for black people to use the N-word talking to or about each other, but not OK for whites to so refer to blacks.
I understand that. A dentist of Italian extraction [Have mercy! ed.] told me he didn't mind if another Italian called him a "wop", but he wouldn't be responsible for any damage to my teeth if I did it.
So I accept that it would be impolite for someone of my hue to utter the N-word from a public platform. That would include a radio program, except perhaps in the context of an etymological discussion. Even George Wallace learned that lesson, and by 1968 had forced himself to say "nigrah".
But now I ask, if the N-word is truly politically incorrect, is there a politically correct term that I can use to speak of...errrr...persons of colour? Over the years, the following words and phrases have all been held up to me as acceptable:
Negro, coloured (or "colored", if you like), black, African, Afro-American (or "Afro-Canadian"), African-American (presumably someone who immigrated from Africa), and, yes, person (especially woman) of colour.
I've also been told that the same words and phrases are not (or are no longer) acceptable.
Yes, yes, I know that in an ideal world we should never have any reason to describe people with reference to their colour or lack thereof. (Hello, fellow paleface!) The brotherhood of man and all that...
But this is not an ideal world. So if anyone can enlighten me [Please!!! No more!!! ed.] as to what's OK this month, I promise to use that term and only that term...until the fashion changes again.
The forces of Goodness and Political Correctness have won again. Dr. Laura Schlessinger's 30-year career in talk radio is ending in December, all because she used the Forbidden Word on the air recently.
Forbidden word? Wat dat? We're talking about a word even worse than the F-word -- everyone uses that now -- and the C-word, used occasionally (even in print) in Britain. We are talking about a word which is so powerful, so offensive, so evil, that it can't be said and can't be printed, even in quotes...unless you're black. Then it's OK.
I refer, of course, to the dreaded "N-word", now referred to obliquely as "a racial slur". Only people of colour can say that, in an affectionate way, about each other. I remember a line near the end of Blazing Saddles in which one character calls the black hero "Yo shifty niggah!"
We should have seen this coming. I also remember dialogue from M*A*S*H (the movie, not the TV show) in which a black football player says to his teammate, "He [a white guy] called me a nigger!"
His buddy says, "Well, you call him one right back!"
"Call him a nigger?!"
"Noooo... say something bad to him."
(I'm quoting from memory. Please don't e-mail me if I don't have it down pat.)
The point is, white folks can't talk about black folks like that. The word has become unspeakable, literally. And the First Amendment be damned. So watch yo mouf, honky!
Monday, August 16, 2010
The latter consideration pretty much lets out the U.S.A., which gets tougher on illegals by the day...especially if you try to enter via Arizona! But there are other countries, adjacent to the U.S.A., which are more welcoming.
One of them is the Bahamas, one of Walt's favourite vacation destinations. You can just about swim to the Bahamas from Haiti, so when the earthquake stuck, that's pretty much what a lot of Haitians did. Drinking heavily of the milk of human kindness, the Bahamian government temporarily halted roundups of "undocumented aliens" -- mostly Haitians -- following the big shake.
Seven months later, the Bahamas Immigration Department is warning any illegal migrants in the islands to go home or be subject to arrest and immediate deportation. The free ride is over.
And unlike another neighbour of the U.S. which has also received thousands of dispossessed Haitians -- that would be Canada -- illegals have no right to appeal, no taxpayer-funded lawyers to stretch out the process for years while the illegals disappear.
The Bahamian government said today that they are compelled to resume immigration enforcement, because the number of Haitians trying to enter illegally has actually been increasing over the last six months, this in spite of the millions of dollars in foreign aid pumped into Haiti to make it a little more fit to live in. (See WWW passim, ad nauseam.)
Canada has ignored the many Haitians who have crossed its porous border with the U.S.A. Right now they have a more pressing problem -- the arrival of hundreds of Tamil boat people, including suspected Tamil Tiger terrorists.
Flash back to October 2009 when the MV Ocean Lady arrived in British Columbia, disgorging 76 men who looked rustier than the ship. These Sri Lankans were arrested, but released when they hollered "Refugee! refugee!" Their claims are still "pending" and many of them have melted into the huge Tamil diaspora in Toronto.
At the time, the government of "Call me Steve" Harper, feeling the outrage of public opinion, said that kind of queue-jumping wasn't the Canadian way, dontcha know, and they would act immediately to make sure it didn't happen again. LMAO.
Apparently the Ocean Lady was kind of a test, for about three months ago the Thai-registered MV Sun Sea left Sri Lanka with a human cargo nearly seven times larger, most of whom had paid around $40,000 for passage to a sucker country.
They tried Australia, which told them they could put ashore at Christmas Island. Christmas Island has become Australia's holding camp for boat people. Conditions there are said to be so bad that those housed there wish they'd never left home.
Next the Sun Sea eyed the U.S.A., but realized that America actually has a navy and a coast guard which might...err...blow the boat out of the water. So of course they changed course for Canada.
The Canadian government had roughly two months' notice that they were coming. Vic Toews, Harper's public safety sheepdog [Which is it? ed.], said on Thursday, “While our government believes in offering protection to genuine refugees, it is imperative that we prevent supporters and members of a criminal or terrorist organization from abusing Canada’s refugee system.”
So what action was taken to keep the ship from entering Canadian waters? None. Was any effort made to keep the ship from docking? No. Were the 490 Tamils still alive arrested? Well...err...not exactly. They have been housed in "holding facilities", or sent to hospital, given food and of course legal aid, all at Canadian taxpayers' expense.
Welcome to Canada! Make yourselves at home! And congratulations on your cleverness in choosing to come to Canada by boat without bothering to ask if it was OK.
Now the Canadian government says it has intelligence [Really??!! ed.] that there are two more boatloads of refugees about to leave Sri Lanka, to follow their countrymen to the land of milk and honey [and chumps, surely. ed.]
Mr. Toews says the federal government of which he is a part will act immediately to prevent the ships from setting sail, because once they're on the high seas we have to take them, because of an obligation in international law. What action, exactly, is Canada going to take? Answer comes there none.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: Knowing when to come in out of the rain; Why the early bird gets the worm; Life isn't always fair; and maybe it was my fault.
Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).
His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.
It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.
Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.
Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.
He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers;
I Know My Rights
I Want It Now
Someone Else Is To Blame
I'm A Victim
Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.
This has been kicking around the Internet since 2007 (according to http://www.snopes.com/) and originally appeared in the Indianapolis Star. It is the work of one Lori Borgman, and you can read the original here.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
The answer may be found in a private briefing provided for the House Foreign Affairs Committee by the State and Defense Departments on March 9, 1983.
South and Southwest Asia is a region of critical strategic importance to the United States, presently threatened by Soviet expansionism. We are committed to the search for peace and stability within the region and to the safeguarding of the supply of oil critical to the U.S. and Western security.
Source: Passage to Peshawar by Richard Reeves, p. 196. Emphasis mine.
It's about the oil, stupid! In Walt's humble opinion, the U.S.A. has three options:
1) Decrease its consumption of oil and petroleum products. Some countries (Eire, Canada) have placed severe restrictions on the use of plastic bags for groceries. Will the US do so? Will we give up our love affair with SUVs and stretch Hummers that get about 2 mpg? Not likely.
2) Continue its struggle -- OK, let's call it the war that it is -- to control Afghanistan and the neighbouring countries. That means continuing to prop up the corrupt and incompetent governments of those countries. And it's a losing battle.
3) Find other, more secure sources of oil. China, which has similar problems and interests, isn't wasting lives and money in the Middle East. Instead they are buying up oilfields in Africa, Asia, even in Canada, as fast as they can. Yet American tree-huggers are telling Barry O'bama we should stop importing oil from Canada's tar sands because it's "dirty". As if Middle Eastern oil is clean! The only difference is the nature of the dirt.
Hello, Washington!!! Could we please have some truth-telling and common sense about oil? Please? Mid-term elections are coming. People are playing attention.
Think of an unpopular and corrupt administration in a Third World country, unabashedly violating human rights, and you find the United States patronizing it. Think of a government with a strong anti-American posture and you find the masses rallying behind it....
The great pity of it is that the people of American as individuals and in small groups are as fair and decent as they ever were. They are better educated and better able to articulate the higher values of humankind than their preceding generations.
During the last four decades they made perceptible progress in their country towards integration of black people, extending social security systems, securing extension of rights for women.... They have perhaps the freest press in the world...yet for a large part of the world the freedom of Americans in America spells misery and oppression and poverty.
In the first line quoted, Mr. Hasan was speaking of his own country. Pakistan has been a military dictatorship or an unelected quasi-civilian government for most of its history. Mr. Hasan wrote in 1982. 28 years later only the names and faces of the rulers have changed. That is one reason why the free countries of the world have been slow to offer flood relief.
Mr. Hasan's essay was quoted by Richard Reeves in "How We Pick Our Friends", Chapter 14 of Passage to Peshawar, 1984, New York, Simon and Schuster.
Friday, August 13, 2010
The UN says $310 milliion is needed, down from $450 million reported yesterday. Of that, under $100 million has been collected, with about another $30 million pledged.
That compares rather poorly with the billion dollars in aid has been pledged to Haiti. (But see my recent post saying that less than half the help pledged has yet to arrive.) International do-gooding experts are trying to figure out why.
Among the theories being considered is "bad attitudes to Pakistan" engendered by links to terrorism or corruption. Could it be that someone has been reading Walt's blog? Or possibly the hundreds of reports recently leaked through Wikileaks. [Update: Wikileaks head honcho says more are on the way. ed.]
Some even suggest Pakistan's own handling of the disaster has done little to instill confidence foreign aid would be put to good use. You read it here first!
Molly Kinder, a Pakistan aid expert with the Washington-based Center for Global Development, suggests the lack of celebrity involvement may be a factor. She told AP, "I haven't exactly seen Lady Gaga go on Oprah to pledge donations to Pakistan's flood victims."
A UN spokesperson in Pakistan has a more macabre explanation. "Unfortunately, sometimes a segment of the public only looks at the death toll," Maurizio Giuliano told AP, noting that only around 1,500 people have lost their lives in the Pakistan floods so far. Efforts are under way to get the body count up into the catastrophe range.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Here you can learn what to do if you ever get caught without a corkscrew. Just open the bottle of wine with your shoe. Seriously!!!!! Just watch. (It's in French but one picture is worth a thousand words.)
Cautionary note from Walt: This doesn't work with a screw-top bottle. I have to go and clean up now...
So, I said, perhaps the best thing to do is nothing. Let the people of ravaged and impoverished countries like Haiti pull themselves up by their bootstraps...or not. For that, I was predictably accused of being callous and insensitive, not to mention racist. "How can you just pass by on the other side of the road?", someone wrote.
OK, let's look at the latest disaster, the once-in-a-lifetime flooding in Pakistan, and reconsider.
Yes, there are hundreds of thousands who need shelter, food, water and medicine. The Globe and Mail quotes Mohammad Ali (not that one -- a bread maker) as saying, "The government...should provide clean water and clean food to the people.... Ramadan has arrived, but we see no sign of the government giving us any of these things."
What about the Red Cross then? Errrr...no. The Red Cross won't be allowed in because it's Christian, or at least not Islamic. The Muslim equivalent, the Red Crescent, is either unwilling or incapable of helping. (Muslims are notorious for being unable to unite in a common cause, whether military, political or humanitarian.)
Other charities and NGOs could help, but Pakistanis look to their repressive and authoritarian government, which says it doesn't have the resources. So we westerners say, we can send you tents, food, medicine, water purification systems -- all kinds of help. But nooooo... the Pakistani government is asking for money!
Ah yes, the elusive spondulix. Cold hard cash, the authorities say, is easier to get to Pakistan quickly. And we can use it, they say, to buy the things our poor people need so badly.
Walt says...wait a minute! If the tents, blankets and what-have-you are available locally, why does the government of Pakistan not just buy them? No money? Just requisition them, and pay later. Governments have the power and, arguably, the moral right to do that, for the relief of the afflicted.
But nooooo... the Pakistani government wants our dollars, and plenty of them. "Keep Pakistan green! Send American money!" There's a reason for that.
In 1984 Richard Reeves, an American journalist, wrote Passage to Peshawar, an investigation into the problems besetting Pakistan at that time.
One such was the vexed question of how to provide for the thousands of Afghan "refugees" flooding into Pakistan's Northwest province. Here is what he says about the humanitarian aid being given to Pakistan at that time.
"Corruption was pervasive in the refugee program.... It was basically a skimming operation. Army officers and officials were taking a cut of everything along the way. Food, clothing and drugs intended for refugees were in every bazaar, often being sold from the original WFP or UNHCR boxes.
"There was fatigued bitterness about that among foreign relief officials. But the Pakistanis were determined not to do things 'the Western way'. And the Westerners hadn't figured out a Pakistani way: a lot of them weren't sure there was a Pakistani way. Humanitarian work bred a certain cynicism."
Was it really a quarter of a century ago? Sounds just like yesterday...or today! The lesson is, send a blanket if you like, although even that may wind up on sale in the bazaar. Just don't send money!
And surely as the sun rises in the east, the big numbers were followed by appeals for big money. The United Nations is calling on the rest of the world to pony up $459 million (one TV report said "half a billion" -- a nice round number) in aid for the poor people of Pakistan, the victims of the month.
As an aside, no-one seems to be paying much attention to the flooding and landslides in northwestern China. There too over 1000 have been killed and hundreds of thousands have had their lives "disrupted". But the Chinese haven't held out their begging bowl.
Even if they did, we all know the Chinese are rich. They can look after themselves. And they're not our allies in the War Against Terrorism, so who cares about them.
Yesterday Haiti. Today Pakistan. Tomorrow...who knows. But there will be another disaster somewhere before the end of the year, and we will hear once again anguished pleas to help the poor people of wherever.
Perhaps we shouldn't get quite so excited about these things. Has it occurred to anyone (other than Walt) that these events, devastating though they are, are part of God's plan for this evil world? Or, for the atheists and agnostics, perhaps it's just the natural order of things.
Consider the Biblical story of the Great Flood. It surely describes an inundation such as we are now seeing in that same part of the world. Of course the writer spoke of the waters covering the entire world, because the area around him was all the world he knew. An illiterate Pakistani might describe this week's events the same way.
The Bible says there was a reason for the flood, namely God's displeasure at what we humans had done with the world He created. In modern terms, it was God's way of doing a little housecleaning, like hosing down His driveway.
Silviculturists tell us that forest fires are necessary to destroy dead and decaying vegetation so as to permit new growth. In the same way, it could be that floods, landslides, earthquakes and the like are God's way of thinning out the excess population and cleansing the land of some of the pollution -- like the slums of Port-au-Prince and Karachi -- that we wretched humans inflict on it.
Does that mean we shouldn't send aid? When the Red Cross or Oxfam ask, should we turn a deaf ear? Answer in next post.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
So says the British national tourist agency, in guidelines published this week to help the hosts deal with visitors to the 2012 Olympics, which will be held in London.
According to the Associated Press report, the advice says Canadian tourists are likely to be quite annoyed about being mistaken for Americans. The guide urges workers to keep an eye out for maple leaf pins or badges on tourists' clothing.
Here's the rest of the British guide to getting along with Canadians. Walt publishes this as a service to all the American (and other) tourists who may be visiting Canada and find themselves a tad perplexed by the manners of those crazy Canucks.
Social practices – not laws – govern many types of behaviour in Canada. Some traditions are well established and are politely but firmly enforced.
• Lining up, or queuing: People normally line up or queue according to the principle of ‘first-come, first-served.’ They will be angry if you push ahead in a line-up instead of waiting your turn.
• Not smoking in private homes: Most Canadians do not smoke.
• When you are in people’s homes, you should always ask their permission to smoke. However this may be different in Quebec.
• Being on time: You should always arrive on time. People who are often late may be fired from their jobs or suspended from school. Many Canadians will not wait more than 10-15 minutes for someone at a business meeting. For social events, it is expected that you will arrive within half an hour of the stated time.
• Respect for the environment: Canadians respect the natural environment and expect people to avoid littering.
• Bargaining: Bargaining for a better price is not common in Canada, but there are some exceptions. People who sell things privately may also bargain.
• Smart shopping: Stores compete on price with one another to attract customers. Note: the price marked on goods in stores does not include taxes, which add from 7-15% to the cost of an item, depending on the province.
• Shaking hands: It is customary that you always shake hands at a first-time meeting and always in business situations.
• First names: Canadians are always on a first name basis; especially in social situations and informal business environments.
• Not Americans: The Canadian visitor to Britain is not an American... and don't you forget it!
Footnote: Canadians have their own money too. It's called "dollars" but it comes in different colours. Oh yeah, there's no dollar bill. You get coins with strange names -- loonies and toonies. The loonies look like gold, but they aren't.
11 ways to annoy an American (for Canadians)
1. Talk really slowly, enunciating every syllable.
2. Refer to the United States as "the eleventh province".
3. Frisk them for weapons.
4. Intentionally mispronounce rapper Jay-Z's name "Jay-Zed".
5. Flash them your Health Card.
6. "Maple syrup or grits? Yeah, there's a tough choice."
7. Tell them they couldn't possibly be American; they're not obese enough.
8. When in conversation, ask them to repeat themselves, saying, "I'm sorry ,I just can't understand your accent".
9. "The next 'Bachelor' is Canadian. Now you'll see how a real man deals with the ladies".
10.When they commend your politeness, tell them to eff off.
11."New York? Where is that exactly?"
Walt doesn't discriminate. He leaves no group unoffended!
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
This prejudice is so deeply rooted in Indian society that thousands of newborn girls are abandoned -- left to die -- by their parents every year. Just today the body of a newborn girl was found floating in a plastic bag in a suburb of Bangalore, the capital of the Karnataka state.
That's what happens, all to often, to the girl children who are born. Because of the same gender prejudice, the Indian government has reported that more than 10 million girls are now "missing" because of sex-selection abortions. Although sex-selection abortion is illegal, unrestricted access to abortion makes it easy for parents to disguise their motivation for the procedure.
This unconscionable practice is also known in Indian communities in the U.S.A., Canada and Europe. Wherever abortion is freely available, there are always those who will use it to avoid having "unwanted" children, no matter the reasons for not wanting them.
Agent 59 was, until retirement, a FA for a large international airline. She never tired of telling Walt how stupid and horrible many of the passengers were. "Pigs in space", she called them.
Now, with the ever-increasing frustrations of air travel -- endless security checks, smaller seats [bigger pax? ed.], no food -- passengers are getting more surly day by day. And who do they take it out on? The FAs!
Yesterday Steven Slater couldn't take it any more. Before the plane had reached the gate, a passesnger stood up to get his luggage out of the overhead bin. Slater told him to sit down. The passenger defied the FA and pulled his bag out of the bin, striking Slater on the head.
Slater asked for an apology and the passenger cursed him. You could call it an "air rage" incident, except that the plane was on the ground. Something inside Slater snapped! He got on the intercom, let loose a "string of invective" -- the Times doesn't give us a transcript -- then pulled the lever that activates the emergency-evacuation chute.
Stopping only to grab a beer from the service cart, Slater slid down the chute, the exiting not only the plane, but, Walt supposes, his career.
He was arrested at his home in Queens, a few miles from the airport, and charged with felony counts of criminal mischief and reckless endangerment. "The authorities" just don't have any sense of humour these days.
The Times doesn't report the reaction of the other passengers, but I, for one, would have applauded. In today's world, it seems, there is no courtesy or consideration for others, only "me first". Steven Slater, at least, won't have to deal with that for a while.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Egbert "Eggy" Sousé (pronounced Soo-SAY) said that if Jean wanted to the Exalted High Potentate, he (Sousé) couldn't see why not, considering that there had been precedents [presidents? ed.] in other countries, including the good ole U.S. of A.
Eggy pointed to the Philippines, where movie star Joseph "Erap" Estrada was elected and lasted a couple of years before being impeached for corruption.
In the Indian state of Tamil Nadu former Bollywood star "iron lady super wonder woman Jayalalithaa Jayaram" served as Chief Minister for a while, and still leads the official opposition. Closer to home we have Ahhnold in California, which also produced Pat Brown...and of course Ronnie Regan.
So if the Haitians want to elect a hiphop "artist" who speaks English rather than the local Créole, and may not have spent enough time in the country to qualify for the office, why not?
Agent 3, being a legal beagle, liked the appeal to precedent, but pointed out some interesting facts about M. Jean's background. One of his (Jean's) dubious qualifications for the job is that he was (until two days ago) founder and director of a charity which has been raising money to help the poor people of Haiti dispossessed by the big quake.
- Amount of money raised so far = $9,000,000
- Amount spent (subject to audit) = $1,500,000 (includes fees paid to M. Jean)
- Balance being held somewhere = $7,500,000
- Amount allegedly owing by M. Jean to the IRS for back taxes = $2,100,000
- Who's in charge of the money now? = not known
Stay tuned for further developments as Haiti gets set to vote!
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Haiti has been independent, in name at least, since 1804, when it threw off the yoke of French colonialism. The population of Haiti, predominantly slaves imported from Africa, defeated French troops, ending a long fight for independence and emancipation. Haiti became only the second independent republic in the western hemisphere, the first being the USA.
The slave rebellion resulted in the death of 100,000 blacks and 24,000 of 40,000 white colonists. Significantly, the revolution unleashed a massive multiracial exodus. French and Créole colonists fled along with the slaves they still held, as did numerous free coloured people, some of whom were also slaveholders who took their slaves with them.
That left Haiti an essentially African country which just happens to be on the wrong side of the Atlantic. In its 200-plus years of existence, Haiti has been led -- or misled -- by a very African succession of "big men": kings, presidents, even an emperor or two.
Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, a Latin American country. In the article I referred to yesterday, The Economist points out that one difference between the two countries is that Haiai has seen just two democratic handovers of power, compared with a dozen (being generous in use of the term) next door.
Which is to say that one of Haiti's fundamental problems is a dire dearth of political leadership. It is not so absurd as it might seem, then, to suggest that hiphop "artist" Wyclef Jean could be suitable to be Haiti's next president. He couldn't do much worse than his predecessors.
It's also worth noting that not all of the French colonies in the Caribbean thought they were capable of running their own show. Guadelupe and Martinique remain French possessions to this day, although they are now legally regarded not as colonies but as "overseas departments" of metropolitan France. Unlike Haiti, the two islands are peaceful and relatively prosperous.
So too is the independent Dominican Republic. It's not exactly rolling in pesos, but it's patently better off than the republic on the western part of Hispaniola. Visitors who've seen both at the same time say it's like two different worlds on one small island.
To sum up, I don't believe the Haitians were or are or ever will be capable of governing themselves in an honest and competent manner, hence my pessimism. All the foreign aid and expressions of goodwill in the world aren't going to bring them to the status quo ante, let alone the average standard of living of other Caribbean nations.
So what is to be done? In a word, nothing. We first-world taxpayers have given Haiti billions of dollars in aid and support, the larger part of which has been unused or wasted. See yesterday's post for some discouraging statistics. Giving more isn't going to help.
Walt says, leave them alone. Let them pull themselves up by their own bootstraps...or not. Either they will survive, like Ghana, or become a failed state, like Somalia. The Haitians' future is in their hands, not ours.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
The author argues that by giving a man a fish when you should be teaching him to catch his own fish, you reduce him to the status of a dependent, and push him deeper into a cycle of poverty which is difficult to break. The same argument has been made many times before and since.
Look now at Haiti. More than half a year after the earthquake, it's still the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, in spite of the infusion (or at least the promise) of billions of dollars in foreign aid and the efforts, volunteer or (well) paid, of those who are "trying to help those who cannot help themselves".
This week The Economist reports on the state of the aid effort and the plight of Haiti today. Here are some numbers to think about.
- Only a tiny fraction of the $5.3 billion in promised aid has materialised.
- The $1.15 billion committed by President Obama is still held up in Congress.
- Over 1 million Haitians are packed into 1300 tent cities in the Port-au-Prince area, and
- The tent cities are actually growing, as people who fled into the countryside come to the city looking for handouts.
- Less than 5% of the 20 million cubic metres of debris from the quake has been cleared, although the majority of able-bodied men in the tent cities are not working.
- The Haitian government has declared more than 100,000 buildings habitable, and
- Another 60,000 could be safely repaired, but
- Many of the homeless remain in the camps, hoping to be given not just shelter but title to a piece of land with it.
- 23,000 portable shelters are available; only 1/3 of them have been erected.
Had enough? The Economist says, "Foreigners are getting impatient. [US senator] Richard Lugar wrote last week that René Préval, Haiti's president, had 'demonstrated marginal capacity to lead his country's reconstruction.' He added that Mr. Préval's 'actions do not suggest a departure from the self-destructive political behaviour that has kept Haiti the poorest country in the hemisphere.'"
But Sen. Lugar should take heart. Help is on the way! There's going to be a presidential election in Haiti in November, and a leading candidate is none other than Haitian-American hiphop "artist" Wyclef Jean. [Do da bro be a cousin of Canada's Governor-General? ed.] Walt kids you not. See today's Jackson Sun. That's what Haiti needs...not more of my tax dollars.
It might be said that Walt rarely has anything good to say about the concept. That's because there isn't much good to be said.
It's not too sweeping a generalization to say that the majority of foreign aid projects are designed and run by western governments, funded by western taxpayers, with the main (although rarely stated) objective of making white people feel less guilty about their self-perceived neglect or mistreatment of darker people back in the bad old days of imperialism.
Walt has just finished Travels in Nepal: the Sequestered Kingdom, by Charlie Pye-Smith.* Although based on observations made a quarter-century ago, Mr. Pye-Smith's disturbing questions and comments are just as valid now as then.
A point the author makes in the final chapter, "Help and Hindrance", is that grandiose aid projects which are neither necessary nor helpful are not always imposed on the aid-receiving countries because westerners think "They need this." Quite often the aid which is given is a response to a request for help in dealing with some disaster or crisis, which is all too often made out to be greater than it really is.
"Among those keenest to promote the idea of imminent disaster have been the Nepalese government and various aid agencies.... As far as [the government] is concerned, the more gloomy the prognosis for the country, the greater the amount of money which flows in in the form of aid.
"A big problem requires a big solution, which requires big money. Even if a project fails to solve the perceived problem, those whose duty it is to see it through will benefit financially from it."
That, according to Mr. Pye-Smith, was the syndrome prevailing in Nepal in the 80s. In our next post, we'll look at Haiti today.
* Penguin, 1990
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
10. Your boss always yelling, "I wanna see your ass in here by 8:00!"
9. You can take advantage of the computer monitor radiation to work on your tan.
8. You won't be able to chip in for office fundraising because your wallet is in your pants.
7. The creepy guys from quality control won't be able to look down your blouse.
6. You'll be able to see if it's really like that dream you keep having.
5. With a little help from the office Muzak, you'll be able to add "exotic dancer" to your résumé.
4. People will stop stealing your pens when they see where you keep them.
3. It will divert attention from the fact you wewre late arriving for work.
2. "Bad hair day" will have a whole new meaning.
And here's No. 1...
No-one will steal your chair!
* Canadian Association of Labour Media
But there are objective standards of right and wrong, according to the teachings of Holy Mother Church. True, the Church doesn't talk about these things as much as She used to. You don't hear many priests of the mainstream (i.e. post-Vatican II) church preaching homilies on hellfire and damnation. Perhaps that's because too many of them have sins of their own to answer for, not just in the next world but this.
But there's one diocesan priest in Texas who is still talking about the laws of the Church and the Laws of God. And not just from the pulpit. Yesterday Father Michael Rodriguez published a column in the El Paso Times in which he strongly denounces homosexual activity and abortion. Here are some excerpts.
"Every single Catholic, out of fidelity to charity and truth, has the absolute duty to oppose (1) the murder of unborn babies, and (2) any and all government attempts to legalize homosexual union.
“Any Catholic who supports homosexual acts is, by definition, committing a mortal sin, and placing himself/herself outside of communion with the Roman Catholic Church." In other words, a person who, for example, supports gay marriage, excommunicates himself or herself.
Father Rodriguez continues, "Furthermore, a Catholic would be guilty of a most grievous sin of omission if he/she neglected to actively oppose the homosexual agenda, which thrives on deception and conceals its wicked horns under the guises of ‘equal rights,’ ‘tolerance,’ ‘who am I to judge?,’ etc."
"I urge all of the Catholic faithful to treat homosexuals with love, understanding, and respect. At the same time, never forget that genuine love demands that we seek, above all, the salvation of souls. Homosexual acts lead to the damnation of souls."
"Abortion and homosexual acts are unequivocally intrinsic moral evils. And friends, this objective truth doesn't depend on the opinion of the majority. Frighteningly, if the majority chooses to deny the objective moral order, then we will all suffer the pestiferous consequences."
I have emphasized the last sentence, thinking of how surprised we all seemed to be when the AIDS pandemic swept the world. We can't say we weren't warned.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
That discretion is the better part of valour is an old cliche, [and the joke about Dutch courage is ancient. ed.] but it seems to me that it's a wise man -- or nation -- that knows enough to get out of a fight you can't possibly win. When you've dug yourself into a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging!
The Netherlands, along with Canada, Britain and Denmark, led the way into southern Afghanistan in mid-2006 as part of NATO's controversial expansion. Since then, Dutch troops have been patrolling Uruzgan, a mountainous province that is rather quiet compared with Kandahar and Helmand, where the Canadians and British are dying. Now the USA will take responsibility for Uruzgan, along with soldiers from the great military powers of Australia, Slovakia and Singapore.
Canadian Press has an interesting comment from Maj-Gen. Lewis Mackenzie (ret'd.), who called the Dutch withdrawal "democracy in action". Since General Mackenzie is not known to stray very far from the Tory party line -- indeed he is rumoured to be looking to become an MP -- we can assume his fearless leader, Stephen Harpoon, is getting set to play the public opinion card as a rationale for not extending the Canadian mission beyond next July.
What bothers me is that it took the Dutch to demonstrate that it's OK to admit to a big mistake and back off. That's real courage.
Well, who am I to call John Baird a liar? A big girl's blouse disguising himself as the schoolyard bully, maybe, but not a liar.
On the other hand, there's this video which appeared recently on YouTube. Posted by a British man, the clip shows two women boarding an Air Canada flight in Montréal recently, without being asked to remove their burqas so their faces could be checked against their passports. The man seen in the video hands over passports for the group, and the women go through without showing their faces.
According to Canadian Press, Baird "called the situation 'deeply disturbing' and said such actions pose 'a serious threat to the security of the air travelling public.'"
So what is Joan doing about it? Errrr... looking into it, don'tcha know. So that's all right then.