The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Monday, March 31, 2003

AAAAAGH! Blogger ate my template! I'll rush to rebuild one ASAP, I swear!

Send me some e-mail here if you need to get a hold of me.

UPDATE: I think that it's fixed. On the other hand, everything else had been screwing up tonight. Losing my template to whatever-it-is that's been plaguing Blogger has a bright side: I finally dredged up the original template and cleaned out all the excess code. It should local a little more quickly than before. Let me know what you think of the mods, the use of different fonts, and the re-arranged sidebar. Thanks.
Following his unceremonious dumping by National Geographic Explorer and NBC, veteran war correspondent Peter Arnett has signed on -- for now -- with the Daily Mirror His first report from Baghdad for the left-leaning London tab is basically his take on his notorious appearance on Iraqi state television. Here's a snippet of his piece:
The right-wing media and politicians are looking for any opportunity to be critical of the reporters who are here, whatever their nationality. I made the misjudgment which gave them the opportunity to do so.

I gave an impromptu interview to Iraqi television feeling that after four months of interviewing hundreds of them it was only professional courtesy to give them a few comments.

That was my Waterloo - bang!...

Some reporters make judgements but that is not my style. I present both sides and report what I see with my own eyes.

I don't blame NBC for their decision because they came under great commercial pressure from the outside.

And I certainly don't believe the White House was responsible for my sacking.

But I want to tell the story as best as I can, which makes it so disappointing to be fired.
Walter Cronkite, who knows a thing or two about war reporting, was not terribly kind to Arnett in this New York Times op-ed piece.

Here's the front cover of the Daily Mirror heralding Arnett's debut with the paper

Arnett's appearance on Iraqi state television and subsequent sacking will be debated endlessly in journalistic circles over the coming weeks. Should he have given the Iraqi propganda machine the interview? Should it really be a firing offence? Stay tuned.
Vancouver Sun city columnist Pete McMartin is a duplicitous twit. Those of you who read this thing regularly know my opinion of the man's writings, but it just feels so good to say it. Since last fall's civic elections, he's taken it upon himself to be Vancouver city council's antagonist, using his space to slag a council for which he never had any use in the first place. McMartin, I should note, does not actually live in Vancouver but in the distant suburb of Tsawwassen, renowned for its isolationist mentality. His latest "outrage"? The city's struggle with allowing slot machines into the city. McMartin rails about how the city has trouble 'enabling' gamblers by possibly sticking with a long-standing ban on slots, while pressing forward with safe-injection sites. Something about his moralizing's got his dander up. My advice: if you want morality, go to church, buddy. Governing the city's no place for moral purity; I'll take a pragmatic government that isn't philosophically coherent, thanks. Unlike McMartin, who can go off to his sterile suburban fortress at the end of the day, I have to live with the city government's decisions, so for me, the city's decisions are something more than a philosophical treatise or some thought experiment.

Earth to McMartin: Vancouver voters decided -- no thanks to your ivory-tower advice -- in favour of safe-injection sites in the 2002 election. Larry Campbell, who promised to bring them in as soon as possible, got twice as many votes as Jennifer Clarke, whose position on the subject changed from day to day. Voters also made sure that every single one of the city council members were solidly in favour of safe injection sites. That's democracy in action. End of story, but you know how we Vancouverites need to have self-important gits from the suburbs constantly lecturing us silly little city children.

Second: The ban on slot machines in the City of Vancouver was approved in 1997 by a council that had not one member from the now-in-charge COPE party. McMartin acknowledges this, but still uses the policy to berate a council that not only had no part in drafting the policy, but that generally campaigned on taking a cautious apprach to gaming expansion -- as did their principal rivals in the conservative Non-Partisan Association. However, I'm confident that if the new council decides to allow slots as he suggests they should, he'll find some reason to criticize them over that -- probably for flip-flopping. And for some reason, the Sun will continue to sacrifice trees for his drivel...

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Dozens Mass at Pro-war Rally!

I thought that that would be a facetious headline describing this weekend's pro-war rally in Vancouver. It wasn't that far off the mark. A small crowd gathered at the south end of the Burrard Bridge, ostensibly to show support for the United States and the other members of the coalition in the war against Iraq. The crowd grew from about 50 at the start of the rally to a padded 200 at its peak. Speakers included local tax preparer David Ingram -- drumming up business -- and Chris Delaney, leader of a right-wing fringe political party.

Not all that impressive when you consider that there are 2.2 million people in the greater Vancouver area. Granted, most of the pro-war people aren't habitual public demonstrators like the anti-war camp, but that's still a really weak showing.The nearest pro-war rally was over in Calgary, so it's not as if there was a lot of competing demonstrations to distract the hawks of the Lower Mainland. Maybe they should have picked a different location than Kitsilano -- it's not exactly a hotbed of conservatism. Somewhere out in the Fraser Valley, the Vancouver analogue of Orange County, would've fit the bill if they wanted a better crowd.

I seem to recall that some political soulmates of the pro-war set were crowing about all the people that didn't show up to the world-wide anti-war protests some six weeks back. They were happily pointing out that 30 million or whatever the total crowd was around the world is but a mere fraction of the global population; that 750,000 in London is around one-twentieth of the area's population. Well, time to turn that "logic" around: 0.0091% of the people in and around Vancouver could be bothered to show up to support the war, or, if you like, here's the headline:

2,199,800 STAYED HOME!

Good God, this is fun!

It irks me that organizers of rallies in support for the war effort are reluctant to call themselves 'pro-war'. Why be shy, aside from the connotation that they might get off on armed conflict? It's exactly what they are -- people who favour this war; and, at least in Canada, those who wanted to see Canada support the war and want to cange the government's position. Instead, they cover up in terms like "pro-US", "pro-Coalition", and my favourite, "pro-freedom." Some have even taken to calling the anti-war protestors "anti-freedom," as if this particular war was in the name of 'freedom' at home. Please. Just come out and say it, awright?
Canadian quislings Freepers call for overthrow of duly elected Canadian government at yesterday's pro-war rally in Ottawa. I guess that some people have a hard time accepting the fact that they got their asses kicked fairly soundly in the 2000 federal election.
Hey, wait a second...

Today at a press briefing, U.S. General Tommy Franks announced, among other developments, that his forces had destroyed a "massive" terrorist training facility in northern Iraq near the Iranian border. Good news for those who beleive that Saddam Hussein harboured terrorist networks, right?

Maybe not. Have a look at this map of Iraq published on last August. The northern part of Iraq near the Iranian border is in Kurdish-controlled territory. I think it's best to stay tuned for more news on this one -- it might turn into a repeat of last week's find of a "huge" chemical weapons plant that wasn't. The map on the MSNBC report also shows that this place was in an area considerably removed from the part of Iraq under the Saddam government's rule.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Time to refute another right-wing lie

One legend that never seems to die in Canadian conservative circles: The Liberal government, through the country's broadcasting regulator, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), is keeping Rupert Murdoch's conservative Fox News Channel out of Canada. The "proof" that the conservatives usually present is that the governing Liberals would be so threatened by a right-wing 24-hours news channel that they have informally instructed the CRTC's commissioners to deny a licence for a Fox News channel in Canada. Corroborating evidence usually includes the ban on American direct-to-home satellite services -- although this ban is at the behest of Canadian cable companies and satellite systems fearful of competition from south of the border. Therefore, the evil Liberal government, which can also conveniently be blamed for El Nino, protectionist American lumber barons, the Asian currency crisis of 1997 and the resulting 'Asian Flu', lousy commodity prices, and so on, has kept conservative Canadians from their Bill O'Reilly fix.

Too bad that it just ain't so

In 2000, the CRTC announced that it was going to licence an unlimited number of digital cable and satellite channels. The old requirements for having solid business plans, content requirements, and even original programming were all but tossed out the window. New "Category 2" digital stations would fight it out in the rough-and-tumble market; none would have any protected programming turf, and each station would have to convince cable or satellite companies to carry them. It was a departure from the usual CRTC approach to broadcast licencing, but one that critics of excessive government regulation applauded.

On November 24, 2000, the CRTC announced that a total of 262 Category 2 licences for digital specialty channels had been approved -- including one to CanWest Global for a Fox News Channel Canada, that, like Rogers Media's MSNBC Canada, would basically be programming from an American news network brought to Canadians by a mostly-Canadian owner. CanWest Global has a close relationship with Fox Broadcasting; Global gets first crack at the Canadian rights for Fox entertainment programming and they are the company that brings Fox Sports World to Canada. This was another step in a long business relationship that dates back to the 1980's when Global was the first large Canadian broadcaster to bring shows from the then-nascent Fox television network to Canada -- and pay Fox for the privilege. Other new digital stations reflected the same sort of ties: Bell Globemedia, owner of the Canadian Discovery channel, got licences for Discovery specialty channels like Animal Planet. You can view the whole sordid list in Volume 134, Number 50 of the Canada Gazette (PDF)(text).

[I'll link to the decisions posted on the CRTC website once it comes back on line -- for some reason, the CRTC's server is down this weekend. Until then, you can check out Google's caches of the decisions.]

The channels that were approved that day have had mixed fates. Lone Star, BBC Canada, the National Geographic Channel, and TechTV are reportedly doing well, while others are struggling to stay afloat. Not every digital channel is carried on every cable or satellite system -- for example, MuchLoud is not available to Shaw Cable subscribers, but it's on the Bell ExpressVu satellite network. Other channels existed only on paper: a swath of regional news services never got off the drawing board. Neither, to my knowledge, did the Wine Television Network, various martial arts networks, parenting channels, the interesting-sounding Late Night Vidiots, and dozens of others. They never went to air because there weren't enough potential subscribers, or willing advertisers, or the cost of programming was too high. That's what happened to Fox News Canada: CanWest decided to shelve Fox News Canada due not to the hand of the government, but because their research showed that Fox News Canada wouldn't attract enough subscribers to turn a profit. With a bunch of other money-losing properties like the National Post and the troubled broadcast-print-Internet convergence project, the last thing that CanWest Global needs is another financial dog to help swell its $4-billion debt even further.

So, to summarize: it's the private sector, the free market, which decided against Fox News in Canada. Neither the commissioners of the CRTC, nor Heritage Minister Sheila Copps, nor even Prime Minister Jean Chrétien can take the blame. Ironic how the channel that Canadian free-market fundamentalists most want is the same channel that the Canadian private sector has, for now, decided against. Wonder if Canadian Fox Fans will lobby the government to intervene on their behalf?

The idea that conservative voices are shut out of the Canadian broadcasting spectrum is, to put it diplomatically, laughable. A quick run up and down the AM radio dial should be enough proof -- talk show hosts who aren't right-wing are the exception. I think that CFRB Toronto's Bill Carroll said that he stuffed envelopes for the Liberals or something similar during an election campaign, and CTV NewsNet anchor Ravi Baichwal sits in over at CFRB from time to time, but that's about it for talk show hosts that aren't screaming conservatives. Most of the rest of the crop of radio yakkers spend hours of airtime criticizing this government, often mercilessly so. That hasn't kept their stations from getting their licences renewed with little hassle. Think about it: if the Chrétien government had wanted to get dissenting voices off the air, stations like CFRA Ottawa (home to ultra-righties Lowell Green and Michael Harris), CJOB Winnipeg (Charles Adler, formerly home to the incomparable Peter Warren), QR77 in Calgary (Dave Rutherford -- need I say more?), and CKNW (Rafe Mair, Peter Warren, Stirling Faux) in Vancouver would have had their broadcasting licences pulled by now -- or have been told to get the right-wingers off the air or kiss that licence goodbye. Of course, if this had actually happened, it would be public knowledge very quickly.

On television, the Global television network's flagship public affairs program Global Sunday has been hosted first by the aforementioned Adler, now by Danielle Smith, a young conservative whose entire career has been spent at right-wing think tanks and in the conservative press. Global's "Last Word" commentary series has tended to feature a preponderance of right-leading pundits offering their opinions to Global National with Kevin Newman viewers. CTV's political weekly, Question Period, is co-hosted by Globe and Mail political scribe John Ibbitson. Even the supposedly screamingly leftist CBC -- a favourite target of CanWest Global's executives -- features conservative commentators on its panel discussions and its news reportage. Then again, conservative media critics think that having a socialist, a liberal, and a conservative commentator on a panel is unbalanced, and that not repeating Pentagon propaganda equates to an anti-war bias. You can't please some folks, I tells ya...

Friday, March 28, 2003

So the International Labour Organization has slapped around the government of British Columbia for violating international labour standards when the government re-wrote collective agreements and imposed contract settlements. I can't work up any enthusiasm, because the ILO is a toothless tiger like too many international governing bodies, and besides, this report is probably seen as good news by the more virulently anti-union types in the government...
15 Iraq stories the press has already bungled, from Editor & Publisher.

I see that this blog's been mentioned in's Weblog Central. Some thoughtful soul at a teensy-tiny division of a subsidiary of General Electrickery found my diatribe on the coverage of that chemical weapons plant in Iraq that wasn't -- and deemed it linkworthy! Cool!

If you were looking for some sort of warblog, you're probably in the wrong place. There are dozens of bloggers who are obsessively following the war in Iraq, and posting every reaction, story, and development. They also do it far better than I ever could -- so check them out. What's this blog about then? Well, I suppose that most of the war-related stuff has to do with the debate surrounding the war. I am in Canada, and this is still a hotly debated topic here -- follow the links on this blogs to Canadian op-ed pieces about the war and Canada's place in it; you'll soon see what I mean. There's also the question of how the press looks at the war. Or who's saying what at which rally. Or... fill in the blank.

Then again, there are also thoughts about politics in Canada and closer to my home in Vancouver, B.C. on this site, along with the requisite links to relevant news stories. Or just dumb stuff that I've found on the Web and thought that people who stumble by might find interesting. So I supposed that this is currently a political weblog that happens to be looking more at the war in Iraq for now, but whose editor is a little scatterbrained and it shows. Judge for yourself. Send praise or scorn. Send links to interesting articles. Send large sums in small bills. Or send nothing at all.

I suppose, though, that those of you coming here from MSNBC will not be terribly thrilled by future postings about the redistribution [re-districting in American parlance] of federal electoral districts in British Columbia, or notes from the City of Vancouver's pre-budget consultation forums. Well, I suppose that you can be glad that most mice have scroll wheels, and that browsers have 'back' buttons (and Opera has mouse gestures -- beat that, Microsoft!). Now that you've read this caveat, knock yourself silly. And enjoy.
No, Laurier LaPierre did not say "Screw the Americans!"

... to back up a bit, on Tuesday when another senator was making a speech about Russia's sales of arms to Iraq, Senator Laurier LaPierre interjected, "So did the Americans!" Now, putting aside the fact that the Americans didn't sell very many munitions to Hussein (if he had, then Husseim would be using M-60 talks instead of T-55's, and soldiers would be armed with M-16 rifles instead of AK-47's or locally built knockoffs) for a second, shouting "Screw the Americans!" in that contect would make little sense, even for a Parliamentarian. Independent observers of all political stripes have concluded from listenting to sound recordings that LaPierre did say what he claimed that he had -- although that wasn't enough for Canadian Alliance MP Jason Kenney, whose new role is apparently to attack anti-Americanism, real or imagined, by Liberal politicians. It's a role that the rabidly pro-American Kenney relishes, but he should have curbed his enthusiasm on this particular case.

Yesterday in Question Period, Kenney repeated the charge that LaPierre had screamed "Screw the Americans!" This earned him a rebuke from Prime Minister Chrétien, who pointed out that Kenney's acusations had no basis in fact. Chrétien suggested that Kenney should apologize to Sen. LaPierre in the House, and that until Kenney apologized for his false allegations, Chrétien would not answer any more of his questions. Score one for Chrétien -- albeit due more to his opponents' incompetence than Chrétien's own skill.
Canadian Troops Operating in Iraq

... the National Post did run the story today, that it did. The troops that are working inside Iraq are probably a half-dozen Canadian officers that are with the British Marines on what would normally be an unremarkable troop-exchange program. Of course, this raises interesting questions, ones that have been lingering since Prime Minister Chrétien announced that Canada would not participate in a war on Iraq. If Canadian soldiers on personnel exchange are operating in Iraq, is Canada effectively at war with Iraq, or are we not because Canada has no control over these officers duuring the troop exchange? Beats the bejeezus out of me. The anti-war New Democrats have asked the Speaker of the House to rule on whether the Prime Minsiter is in contempt of Parliamnet for telling the House that he would not commit troops to the war, when, in fact, some Canadian tropps are technicaly participating. At least the Speaker is a walking Parliamentary rulebook -- he had a subscription to Hansard (the official record of what was said in Parliament) when he was a teenager. And I thought that I was weird when I was in my teens...

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Try a little anti-Canadianism on for size...

Are you tired of the constant accusation that Canadians and their government are a bunch of sniveling anti-Americans? Actually, I don't really care what you think. Seems, though, that I'm not the only one who's a wee bit pissed off at the suggestions from some quarters that any disagreement with the poicies of the current U.S. administration equates to anti-Americanism. Dimitry Anastakis, who has spent his academic career studying the economic ties between the two countries, fires back. He suggests that those Canadian who scream Anti-Americanism are, in fact... Anti-Canadians! Ha ha!
...criticism of Canada has been so consistent and pointed by certain elements in this country that what might be termed a loose anti-Canadian party has emerged. The anti-Canadian party has its own newspapers, its own spokespeople, even its own party in the House of Commons.

The anti-Canadians simply don't like Canada because it is so unlike the U.S. in so many ways and lament the fact that we are not in lockstep with the U.S. on all aspects of our foreign and domestic policies...

The anti-Canadians are always looking for the worst, celebrating Canada's failures, whether real or perceived. The
National Post, the most virulent right-wing newspaper in Canadian history, is rife with anti-Canadianism. The paper's editorial policy has been described as "Canada sucks," never missing a chance to point out its "inadequacies"...

Try as it might, the
Post's search for a Canadian link to the 9/11 terrorist attacks did not yield any results...

[Alliance leader Stephen] Harper and his party are another bastion of anti-Canadianism.

Their toadyism toward America is only barely outmatched by their disdain for Canada.

Remember, Harper is a "national" leader who once said that "Canada appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status ..."
Calling a spade a spade? Sure -- but it does apply to most of the Canadian government's conservative critics.

Now, I have little doubt that there are many who criticize the government's decision to stay out of the Iraq invasion who honestly beleive that it was the right action, and that the case was there to invade Iraq now (while still preferring to regard North Korea as a 'regional threat). However, you can be pretty sure that most of the marchers at next week's sceduled "Rally for America" in Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square are from that contingent of Canadians who want Canada and its government policies to be much more like those of our southern neighbours, and who are less than pleased with the views of their fellow Canadians, and the governments that they elect.

Bonus for you Scrum readers out there: While he was working on his dissertation, Anastakis wrote some articles for the (apparently-defunct) -- here they are. I rather like this one about how the province of Alberta constantly complains about federal government policy -- then gets what it wants, and cries for more. It should give people in Alberta, and to a lesser extent, BC) pause to consider just how it is that they're seen in the rest of Canada.

One last thing: Another Toronto Star opinion piece, this one from Thomas Walkom, on why this war is America's and not Canada's -- and that while U.S. ambassador Paul Cellucci might suggest that America would rally to Canada's defence in a crisis, it has not so far except when America has faced the same threat.
Prince of Darkness Richard Perle has resigned his position as chair of the U.S. Defence Policy Board. Perle said that he didn't want controversy over his personal buiness dealings to distract froom the Pentagon's operations in Iraq...

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Warren Kinsella has a few choice words for American ambassador Paul Cellucci and his complaints about the Canadian government's refusal to commit troops to the war in Iraq, and a history lesson for the Ambassador to boot. Right on.

You learn something new every day -- I was unaware that Cellucci ran an automobile dealership before he entered public life. Great training for the diplomatic trade, I suppose. Feel free to insert smart-ass coment about Cellucci's previous occupation here.
Some more views on Canada's national obsession -- our country's relationship from the United States. One take on the Canadian psychic quandary is from the New York Times's Canadian correspondent Clifford Krauss; the other is Ikram Saeed's critique of the efforts of one Canadian to combat what some see as the "pervasive Anti-Americanism" in this country.

(hey, at least it's a topic that for all practical purposes never goes stale.)
I love this: an AP story about the Al-Jazeera English language site says that it has been intermittently unavailable due to attacks from hackers. My experience has been that the site is "almost always unavailable." I've tried that thing at almost any hour and I've never gotten through.
Apparently the governing Liberals debated today in caucus whether or not to censure or possibly expel U.S. ambassador Paul Cellucci over his comments yesterday about Canada's stance on Iraq. It's just as well that they decided to do nothing. Canada does not need to escalate this diplomatic dispute any further; we've got a Republican hack as the American government's representative here instead of a State Department veteran, and that's bad enough.
Fer gawd's sake, people, you're givin' me whiplash.

Polls seem to show that most Canadians support the Canadian government's handling of the Iraq crisis. The string of seeming flip-flops and contradiction on the subject of regime change in Iraq makes one wonder why the support is that high -- it's certainly not because of the style or presentation of the government's arguments. From today's Globe and Mail:
The federal government backtracked furiously yesterday, saying it does not necessarily support Washington's war objective of toppling Saddam Hussein.

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien disavowed Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham's remarks on Monday that Canada wants to see regime change in Baghdad.

"The question of changing of regime is not a policy that is acceptable under the United Nations charter," Mr. Chrétien said.

Mr. Graham changed his message from the previous day.

"No, Canada has never been in favour of regime change," Mr. Graham told reporters after a committee meeting on Parliament Hill.

On Monday, he said, "We as a government are supportive of the United States' desire to get rid of Saddam Hussein, to deal with the weapons-of-mass-destruction issue around the world. And we'll continue to work with the United States in terms of non-proliferation, in terms of the war on terrorism."
Uh, which one is it? There's no shame in saying that even though the government has not endorsed the war, it wants to see the back of the Hussein regime. It's perfectly possible to have been against the war because of the fact that the Canadian government does not believe that one nation should be the international arbiter and enforcer of which regimes shall be allowed to continue and which must fall, but to now take a position that is not neutral. Lysiane Gagnon said it so well in her column yesterday that Canada can still (and must) choose sides with honour.

In fact, the government could use the fact that the war is now on to say that it will pitch in to the humanitarian effort in Iraq after the fighting ends, and to the rebuilding of Iraq and helping to ensure that the next government of Iraq is one that is acceptable to the Iraqi people and not just to the Bushies. Given the United States' less than sterling record of installing governments in foreign counties -- the honourable exception of West Germany does not compensate for the likes of Pinochet, Noriega, that Hussein guy, and other less-than-luminaries -- it's a solid stance for Canadians to take. Don't knock our constitutional lawyers; once they've cleaned up in Afghanistan, on to Iraq!

I think that that's what the government has been trying to do, what with today's announcement of $100-million earmarked for Iraqi aid, but the message is so muddled that it'll be lost in the storm of controversy over Canada's stance on military intervention. What the hell is going on? This government has been masterful on making a modicum of sense to Canadians on most issues. Right now, it seems that Chrétien and company have settled for being less unacceptable to the Canadian public than the "America, right or wrong" rhetoric of the opposition Canadian Alliance, the absolute commitment to pacifism of the New Democrats, or the muddled Progressive Conservatives, a party that preached multilateralism six weeks ago but that has (mostly) gone into full hawk mode as the war neared.

Where's the Liberal spin machine to get the message out when you need it?
Either this guy has a spelling problem, or he's still pissed off at a congressman from Virginia... although I believe that only one congressman with that name made a stupid comment about "Jewish influence on U.S. foreign policy." So he's still got a singular-plural disagreement there.

(via Peter Jung at e-town)
For those of you wondering, I'm aware of the problems with the commenting system on this blog. For some reason, Microsoft Internet Explorer has been having troubles with BlogOut's bits of JavaScript and will not display the generated links to the comments. Opera 7 is running the scripts just fine 'n dandy, though. I've also noticed that BlogOut is not working for me in IE on Chris Taylor's Daily Blah, so I'm not sure if the problem is specific to my machine or to IE in general. Let me know if the comment links don't work on your side, or if you've got any ideas on how to fix this. Thanks.

UPDATE: The problem was with my browser set-up, not with the webpage, which explains why using IE was giving me grief, while Opera wasn't. If the truth be known, I prefer using Opera, but it doesn't work properly with Blogger, so you do what you gotta do.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

From the "We swear that we couldn't make this up" file, a group of Alberta separatists says that an independent (and landlocked?) Alberta should buy nuclear submarines in order to gain international clout. I kid you not. There seems to be two explanations for this: either an independent Alberta will annex the Northwest Territories (or maybe B.C.) so that they can get ocean access, or the subs will patrol the Bow and Saskatchewan Rivers for... what? Enemy jet-skis?
I like this one: Carleton University J-skool boss Chris Dornan opined on CPAC's Talk Politics that Canadian journalists in the Gulf region should have 'embedded'... with Al-Jazeera. His rationale? Al-Jazeera gets its eyes and ears into more places in Iraq and the region that any other news organization -- and that Canadian media should take advantage of the Qatari braodcaster's information-gathering ability, if not its presentation of the assembled information. Cute.
A Series of Headlines:

Ground forces approach Baghdad
ABC Online, Australia - 21 Mar 2003

Former senior Australian Army commander says coalition close to Baghdad
ABC Online, Australia - 22 Mar 2003

Troops approach Baghdad; missing GIs may be POWs
Billings Gazette, MT - 23 Mar 2003

Iraq Inflicts First Casualties As Troops Approach Baghdad
Quicken - 24 Mar 2003

US Forces Approach Baghdad
Voice of America - 25 Mar 2003

... although one SHOULD note than any progress from the Iraq-Kuwait border does mean that the troops are 'approaching' Baghdad in one sense of the word.
A little something to consider about U.S. ambassador Paul Cellucci's criticism of the Canadian government's stand in the war against Iraq: Cellucci is a career politician, not a diplomat by training. One should expect his remarks to be a bit more crude than those of a seasoned State Department man, and that's been the case. Last fall, Cellucci directly criticized Canada's relatively small defence spending. Even so, I think that his remarks were off base.

"There is no security threat to Canada that the United States would not be ready, willing and able to help with. There would be no debate, there would be no hesitation. We would be there for Canada -- part of our family."

A little problem, Paul: Can you kindly point out just when Iraq threatened war with the United States; that is, before the United States said that it would chenge the Iraqi regime? I'm not aware of any such threats, or of any Iraqi plan to lauch or back an invasion of the United States. Comparing the Iraq situation to a direct threat against Canada or the U.S. rings hollow in this observer's eyes.
Remember that supposed chemical weapons plant that American troops found at An Najaf in Iraq? Turns out that after two days, nothing has been found to show that the place was used to produce weaponry. I think I'll check the Fox News Channel web site to see if they've posted any sort of mea culpa for reporting that the site was a chemical weapons plant, as 'confirmed' to them by an anonymous senior Pentagon official.

18:48 PT: Nope, not a chance. Interesting to note that Fox's web site, parroting the administration's line (quelle surprise), has lumped in its Iraq section with existing "War on Terror" features.

Monday, March 24, 2003

More Homeland Stupidity Exposed!

In their rush to boycott all things French, some Americans have apparently taken to boycotting French's Mustard. This ranks right up there on the Homeland Stupidity Index with renaming French bread to Victory Bread (victory bread being an American concept, and most if not all French bread sold in the US being baked in those united states) and renaming French fries to Freedom Fries (fries, or 'frites' being a Belgian specialty). For those that are a little thick of skull, French's mustard is named after its creator, and the British company that makes the stuff has felt it necessary to remind consumers of this fact. Yikes.
Now that the notorious PacifiCat 'fast ferries' have finally been sold at auction for pennies on the dollar (about four pennies, to be exact), will the story finally die? Don't bet on it. The 'fastcats' were far over budget, a technical failure, and were ultimately liquidated at a huge loss. For the B.C. Liberal party, they're a perfect symbol of the previous New Democrat government's (which began the ferry project) incompetence. One way or another, the Libs will bring up the fast-cat failure sometime during the 2005 provincial election campaign.

On the other hand, the NDP and Libs could come to a gentlemens' agreement: if the Dippers don't harp on Gordon Campbell's drunk-driving conviction (a criminal offence in this country, though not in Hawaii where he was convicted), the Liberals won't holler about the fast cats. Given the political climate in British Columbia, I wouldn't bet on it.
Campbell's bill: US$913

That's the fine that B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell is looking at after his Maui court date over charges stemming from his January drunken driving escapade. Campbell was not present at the hearing; his lawyer entered a plea of no contest on his behalf.

In addition to the fines, Campbell must also undergo a 14-hour alcohol abuse assessment and another one for substance abuse. he will also have his B.C. driver's licence suspended for one year.
CBC News Editor-in-Chief Tony Burman fires back at suggestions that associates of Liberal leadership contender Paul Martin strong-armed him into pulling a story on Martin and the business practices of Canada Steamship Lines, the company that was until recently owned by Martin. Some excerpts of Burman's memo to CBC News staffers:
* The segment was originally scheduled for April 1, but was moved up two weeks because the issue was in the news. The Disclosure production team was working on it right up until a few hours before air and on the eve of a war.

* I screened the piece in late afternoon on the day of broadcast. In my judgment, it was rushed together too quickly and was not ready for air. It is a complicated story and I felt it needed more clarity. I didn't feel there would be a problem if we delayed it to the next edition of
Disclosure. This decision was shared by Julie Bristow, our Director of Current Affairs and Senior Director Don Knox.

* As reported in the newspapers, a few days earlier I got a call and an e-mail from
[former CBC Parliamentary Bureau Chief] Elly Alboim who frequently works with Paul Martin... There was nothing unusual or inappropriate in receiving this communication from Mr. Alboim. We are Canada's national public network. Our journalistic policy book is a public document. If any Canadian alleges that we are violating our own policy -while we are preparing a piece or after it has been broadcast - then it is my obligation as the CBC's Editor in Chief to take it seriously.

So to repeat: the piece was delayed because we felt it needed more work. There were no outside pressures involved in this decision.
You be the judge.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

The Chemical Weapons Plant Story:
Honest Confusion or Yellow Journalism?

On Sunday, the Jerusalem Post's Catherine Glick, who is embedded with a United States military unit, reported that US forces had found what appeared to be a chemical weapons plant at An Najaf, south of Baghdad. Her first report, which described a 'suspected' chemical weapons facility, set off a tizzy. Was this the first proof that Saddam Hussein actually had weapons of mass destruction, as opposed to the absence of proof that he didn't? For those who had claimed that Saddam had WMD, this was looking like vindication time. Even though Glick's report didn't say that it was a chemical weapons plant (and how would she be able to get another independent source to confirm this in her situation?), pro-war television and web pundits were ready to pounce. They could now shout out, "TOLD YA SO! You useful idiots wouldn't believe our President, and that you wanted proof! There it is -- now eat your crow!" to all those who didn't take the Bush administration's claims on faith.

Pretty soon, speculation fluttered across the 24-hour news channels that the Bushies and the warbloggers had gotten what they wanted. Then the big boost came: FOX News, that paragon of quality journalism, reported on air and on line that a "senior Pentagon official" had confirmed that the facility was, in fact, a chemical plant. The text report, as it originally appeared on the Fox News Channel web site, read:
'Huge' Chemical Weapons Plant Found in Iraq

A senior Pentagon official has confirmed to Fox News on Sunday that coalition forces have discovered a "huge" chemical weapons factory near the Iraqi city of An Najaf, which is situated some 225 miles south of Baghdad.

Coalition troops are also said to be holding the general in charge of the facility.

The Jerusalem Post ran a story earlier Sunday that was written by a journalist on-hand with the U.S. unit -- the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division - that took the plant.

The article states that one soldier was lightly wounded when a booby-trapped explosive was triggered as he was "clearing the sheet metal-lined chemical weapons production facility."
Huzzah! Hallelujah! Saddam has WMD, and the ostensible reason for the war -- to disarm the Hussein regime -- now had some basis in fact.

Or did it?

The only major news source that was reporting that this was an honest-to-goodness chemical weapons plant was Fox News Channel. Even the Times of London, also owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, was not running with the story. CNN was refusing to report that this site was a weapons factory, although it was reporting what any decent journalistic organization would: that the site was "suspicious." Agence France Presse's stories, in a nice trick to distance themselves from Fox's claims (and preserve their own reputation?), said only that Fox was confirming that the facility was real. Naturally, the BBC, with its stringent sourcing requirements, was not about to touch the story. So what we had here was a claim by one news source with a known right-wing bias, that promotes the Bush position and that has a fondness for bombast, and no other reputable news organization that was willing to confirm it. Dubious -- but not to those who didn't need independent confirmation, or who perhaps just wanted the story to be true.

The warbloggers spring into action, all right. Glenn Reynolds, the InstaPundit, grabbed on and posted what he thought to be links that confirmed the Fox story; in fact, the 'supporting' stories also mentioned that the plant at Najaf was only suspect -- not one confirmation. Little Green Footballs, one of the net's premier meeting places for the pro-war (and anti-Arab) set went wild, with hundreds of self-congratulatory posts in the few hours after the "story" broke. Same over at Right-Wing News, and a dozen or so other (mostly pro-war) web logs found in MIT's insidious Blogdex.

But what about the confirmation?

It hasn't come yet. While AFP continued to put cautiously worded stories out onto the wire, the warbloggers fumed, pontificated, and beat their chests. Unfortunately for them, Fox News has changed its story to say that the plant is An Najaf is "suspected" of being a chemical weapons plant. Sometime between 8:00 PT and 10:00 PM PT that evening, the web report was revised to read:
Coalition forces discovered Sunday a "huge" suspected chemical weapons factory near the Iraqi city of Najaf, some 90 miles south of Baghdad, a senior Pentagon official confirmed to Fox News.
Hmm. Not only is this place no longer confirmed to be a chemical weapons factory, but apparently An Najaf is 135 miles closer to Baghdad than it was that morning. Earth-shattering.

The fact that Fox put out this story is disturbing. One wonders if the editors at Fox News Channel and were letting their political biases get in the way of their editorial judgment. Would they run with this because they were confident that it would be confirmed as a chemical plant, and that Fox could then claim that it was the first to break the news? Perhaps Fox ran the story to stir up more pro-war and pro-Bush sentiment, in the fine tradition of the Hearst "yellow press." There is an echo of the telegraph that William Randolph Hearst once sent a reporter in Cuba in is efforts to whip up enthusiasm for the Spanish-American War: "You supply the pictures, I'll supply the war."

It makes one wonder if they've forgotten the hack's maxim, "If your mother says she loves you, check it out." Fox's decision to run this story seemingly without confirmation raises questions about its editorial policy, and of its guidelines for sourcing stories before they make it to air or to the web. After all, Fox's report contradicted every other major news outlet with their initial report, and the network later changed its story -- did the "senior Pentagon official" unconfirm this?

Whatever the reasons for Fox's handling of the story, sloppy work like this helps to cement Fox's reputation as a questionable news source -- as if the pervasive conservative opinion-mongers on the network’s programs, the hiring of Geraldo Rivera as a high-profile correspondent, and the preference for sensationalism over substance weren't enough.

So is this place in An Najaf a chemical weapon plant or not? The answer, for now, is: I don't know for certain, and just as one does not call someone accused of a crime a criminal, this rule applies as to this place, whatever it turns out to be. To report it as being a place as a chemical weapons factory is not responsible reporting. Then again, they don't call it the Faux News Channel for nothin'.

UPDATE: Associated Press reports that U.S. troops have found "no evidence" at the site:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. military investigators have found no evidence that chemical weapons have been made in recent years at a suspect chemical plant secured by U.S. troops in southern Iraq, a senior defense official said Tuesday.
Read the rest...

Quite what this means is beyond me. You'd think that American Idol would stay static at best...

(via Marc Weisblott at the weisblogg)
Pentagon To Journos: Toe The Line, Or Else?

Veteran BBC war correspondent Kate Adie claims that the Pentagon has threatened to fire on the satellite uplinks of independent (not 'embedded' with US or British forces) journalists reporting from Iraq. Adie, who was speaking to an Irish radio program, accused the Pentagon af an attitude "entirely hostile to the the free spread of information."
Patriot Missile Performs Its Job

... All right. That was just a little black humour on my part. However, the Raytheon Patriot anti-missile missile was originally developed as an anti-aircraft system and only in the lead-up to the first Gulf War was it adapted to take down tactical ballistic missiles. Its performace in Gulf War I was overstated -- all but perhaps one or two of the supposed "intercepts" in 1991 were actually Scuds disintegrating on re-entry. The combination of the crossing of the Patriot's trajectory with the remains of the Scud/al-Hussein missiles led to the false impression that the Patriots had taken down its target.
The Gulf War Two Drinking Game.

I gotta try this. However, my liver might not survive if I have to take a drink wherever White House flack Ari Fleischer tells another whopper, and two if he lies to Helen Thomas... or whenever Tariq Aziz's glasses get larger, or when Dubya quotes scripture, or somone at an anti-war protest is carrying a sign denouncing Saddam, or someone who dodged military service gets a hard-on for military force.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Oh, this is just lovely. Remember al-Qa'ida? The organization that was responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 is on the verge of having chemical and biological weapons capability. Marvelous.
I have no objection to the idea of a 'vomit-in', such as today's protest in San Francisco. However, the protestors might help their image if they made sure to bring a pressure washer to clean up the mess.

If this becomes popular, how much will Ipecac sales spike?
The most live shots from the front lines, the most correspondents embedded with US troops, but not a shred of impartiality

"Our hearts are with you and those at Fort Campbell, Kentucky" -- CNN anchor Aaron Brown to correspondent David Mattingly, who was reporting from a pro-war rally outside the U.S. army base. Speaking for the entire network, Aaron? Given CNN's slant, there's no question of that.
You should be embarrassed, Mike

Fraser Institute founder, right-wing stooge, and long-time political parasite Mike Walker proclaims his embarrassment in being Canadian because of the government's handling of the Iraq crisis in a National Post opinion piece. Well, Mike, you should be embarrassed about something, all right. You should be embarrassed that you have resorted to the truth-twisting and msinformation that you have in your writing.

Today, I am embarrassed to be a Canadian... I am embarrassed that the Prime Minister was accorded a standing ovation in Parliament by his party for having decided to let others take up Canada's cudgel in the war against terror.

You should be embarrassed that you actually believe that this action against Iraq has anything to do with the 'war against terror' that began on September 11, 2001. It was clear that when this war against terror was launched, that it would be against terrorist organizations of global reach such as al-Qaida. The Bush administration is using September 11th as a pretext for the invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein; however, they have failed to provide a link between Saddam Hussein's regime and the likes of al-Qaida in the way that they did with the former Taliban government of Afghanistan. You should be embarrassed that you have effectively thrown in your lot with the 51% of Americans who mistakenly believe that Saddam was behind the attacks of September 11, 2001.

I am embarrassed that my countrymen evidently believe more in the preservation of the UN than they do in the values the UN was created to preserve.

You should be embarrassed, Mike, for your silly, naive belief that the Canadian government places process at the UN above Pearsonian liberal values. Canadians have okayed the use of force without Security Council approval when the case has been compelling, and when the Security Council was not being responsive. Canada has not been shy to intervene when one state unilaterally invades another. Look at when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. Or the invasion of Korea. Canada would go to the defence of those countries with or without the UN -- because the evidence was there.

I am embarrassed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation which wears its antipathy for the war effort as a badge of honour.

The CBC has had the guts to show, and allow its audience to consider, differing points of view. The journalism at the CBC has been the sort of critical, impartial work that networks such as FOX News refuse to show. If not being a cheerleader is the same as antipathy, you must be taking your "philosophy" lessons from George W. Bush. Quite embarrassing to resprt to such intellectual duplicity.

I am embarrassed by Member of Parliament Carolyn Parrish who noted, "Damn Americans: Hate those bastards," and by the fact that while she was roundly criticized by even the left-wing Toronto Star, under our electoral system there isn't a "damn" thing we can do about her.

You can do exactly what any American displeased with his or her representative does: vote said embarrassing representative out of office. That is what the voters of Mississauga Centre can do come the next election if they so choose. I would like to rid the Canadian Parliament of the intellectually lazy Canadian Alliance MPs, whose stance to follow Washington's dictum without any consideration of whether to do so is in Canada's best interest, or whether or not the desires of the Bushies are compatible with Canadian values, is, to put it mildly, a source of embarrassment.

That, however, is not for me to decide. Stockwell Day, Jason Kenney, and Myron Thompson cannot even purport to speak for me, but I do from time to time feel a twinge of shame that some of my fellow Canadians would vote for them tomorrow.

I am embarrassed that MP Parrish is a moderate by comparison with left-wing MP Bill Blaikie who accused President Bush of "planning every minute of his life to kill as many Iraqi children as he can in the name of oil or whatever it is that's really on the agenda." I am embarrassed that I live in a country where such a tiny, spite-encrusted intellect could be elected to the nation's Parliament.

I'm embarassed that Canadians elected in 2000 over five dozen MPs whose leader, conservative ideologue Stephen Harper, screams "[I]f the Liberals are going to be cheering for Saddam Hussein then they should have the guts to say so." Is this babbling fool, relegated to using schoolyard insults in his attempts to criticize the government, really the best that Alberta, the nexus of Caandian neo-conservatism, has to offer? However, I'm pleased that a goodly number of the 25.5% of Canadian voters who voted for his party have switched preferences since that time. Warms me heart, that it does.

Like a very large and growing number of Canadian families, some of our children now reside in the United States. They are there because of the mutual interest reflected in the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and its provision for easy migration. I am embarrassed for them that their new neighbours might associate them with the Canada of Jean Chrétien.

Half of my family lives in the United States and can trace back its roots in America to the seventeenth century. I do not associate them with automatically with the ravings of the columnists on, nor do I automatically assume that they are on the same page as Geroge W. Bush's plans for a world where American dominance is unchallenged and unchallengeable. I extend this same courtesy to Americans who live in Canada, and to the people whom I meet on my trips to the United States. Walker should be embarrassed that he should characterize Americans as willing to automatically categorize their neighbours instead of dealing with them individually. How very prejudiced of him.

I am embarrassed that my U.S.-born grandson, and hundreds of thousands of grandchildren of other Canadians, will one day say: "Why did Canada take Saddam Hussein's side in the war against terror,"

This is not part of the war against terror. This is a war against Saddam Hussein, prosecuted by the Americans with the help a few friends-for-the-moment, the sort of coalition that those in charge of the United States want to have -- ones that come and go, and don't develop rules for the use of force that restrain member states.

Walker's argument is embarrassingly weak. Was the United States on the side of Hitler until December 7, 1941? Does anyone in Canada or the United Kingdom claim that? Well?

Walker should be embarrassed that he has written a poorly thought out and logic-twisting column. However, I have a solution for him: Leave your life in Canada, where you have earned a healthy living thanks to the generosity of your think-tank's patrons, and where the loose rules for charitable status allow your group, one that stinks of rank political advocacy, to offer tax receipts in return for political donations. Go find work as a mouthpiece for free-market fundamentalism in the country to the south, and put your money where your mouth is. You will not be missed outside the editorial boards of conservative media organs.
Just heard on CBC Newsworld: Steve Erwin reports from Washington that halfway to Baghdad, the American troops have found no sign of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction or evidence of their use. Some pro-Bush spinners are trying to claim that the firing of Scud missiles by Iraq constitutes the use of WMD -- this seems a stretch to this observer. No evidence exists that any of those SS-1 Scuds were equipped with any sort of chemical, biological, or radiological weapons, and if they were, you can be sure that the folks at the White House would be quite happy to tell you that WMDs were used. No word yet.

However, it seems that the US Department of Defense's Dictionary of Military and Assorted Terms has another definition:

weapons of mass destruction — Weapons that are capable of a high order of destruction and/or of being used in such a manner as to destroy large numbers of people. Weapons of mass destruction can be high explosives or nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological weapons, but exclude the means of transporting or propelling the weapon where such means is a
separable and divisible part of the weapon. Also called WMD.

By that same token, though, most if not all of the missiles and bombs -- especially the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) --being used by the US against Iraq would fall into that category. Further, the Scuds are a "means of transporting or propelling the weapon" as opposed to being the weapon themselves.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Is the Baghdad-based blogger known as 'Salam Pax', author of the notorious Dear_Raed, for real? Technology writer Paul Boutin thinks that Salam's probably the real deal.
Just arrived in my inbox: Two-thirds of Canadians approve of the Prime Minister's stickhandling of the Iraq Crisis -- or so says the latest Ipsos-Reid national poll, taken between March 18 and March 20. You can check out the gritty details from the link provided. Most notable finding: Albertans are more in line with the American position, and most likely to disapprove of Jean Chrétien's handling of the crisis in Iraq. What a shocker.
Formerly Satire, Now Reality

Back in 2001, The Onion ran a piece entitled, "Bush: 'Our Long Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over.'"
"We as a people must stand united, banding together to tear this nation in two," Bush said. "Much work lies ahead of us: The gap between the rich and the poor may be wide, be there's much more widening left to do. We must squander our nation's hard-won budget surplus on tax breaks for the wealthiest 15 percent. And, on the foreign front, we must find an enemy and defeat it."

"The insanity is over," Bush said. "After a long, dark night of peace and stability, the sun is finally rising again over America. We look forward to a bright new dawn not seen since the glory days of my dad."
Did it just get a little chilly in Hell? There is, I kid you not people, a column in a Sun tabloid that actually dares to say that Canada's decision not to support the invasion of Iraq was not anti-American. That the Canada-US friendship will endure. That Canada has earned the right to make up its own mind about international affairs. Stop the presses. Well, it's a little too late for that. Winnipeg Sun city scribe Tom Brodbeck's column that states that not only is he fine with Canada's decison, but that he's still proud to be a Canadian, has made it to the web and onto Winnipeggers' front porches. Read it while you can.
One more tidbit about CBC News: Disclosure pulling a scvheduled story on the business practices of Canada Steamship Lines, the company until recently owned by Paul Martin. I had speculated that there might have been the threat of a lawsuit over the story, but a comment was left on this website reading, "CSL story had been cleared by CBC lawyers. It was not killed for legal reasons." That's fair enough, and thank you, useful anonymous contributor. So does this mean that the story just needed more work?

Meanwhile, the Paul Martin campaign has sent supporters this tidbit about the CBC-CSL story through their e-propaganda service, NewsWatcher.
Some will see French President Jacques Chirac's call for the international community, not the US and UK, to have a central role in the rebuilding of Iraq as another cheap shot at the 'coalition of the willing'. That it may be. Certainly, that is how the France-bashers on both sides of the Atlantic, including in this country, will see it.

Chirac, whatever his motivations may be, has reasonable idea. The Iraqi people have been told for the last 12 years that it is the US and UK who have been the causes of their suffering, that the post-Gulf War sanctions that crippled Iraq's economy were the work of the Yanks. Is it true? Maybe. I'm not sure, but it the context of working with the Iraqi people after the overthrow of Saddam, it really doesn't matter. They believe it to be true, and they're not likely to trust countries that they believe to have screwed them over for as long as many Iraqis can remember. The majority of the country's population is under 25, and all they can remember is their country at war, and one must wonder what those Iraqis who can remember when the US was Iraq's friend think of the American government now. When one considers that, the case for having a UN-led reconstruction of Iraq, with prominent involvement of nations that the Iraqi people believe to be their friends, is a strong one.

It's certainly more likely to succeed than a new Iraqi regime designed, built, installed, and (initially) operated by the United States. That didn't work so well the last time it was tried -- it led to that fellow, whatsisnameagain.... right! Saddam Hussein!

Thursday, March 20, 2003

On Wednesday, I wrote that I'd heard Opposition leader Stephen Harper call for "regime change" in Canada during Question Period in the House of Commons. The Hansard shows that he didn't explicitly call for "regime change", but he did some close. Here's the statemnt in context, with some accompanying commentary. The exchage begins with Prime Minister Jean Chrétien answering a question from Harper about why the Iraq situation is different from the one in Kosovo in 1998...
Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I do not think at this moment it is the same situation because the question of when he committed genocide against the Kurds with chemical armament at one time, it was at the beginning of the 1990s.

I am going back. I said the United Nations has never debated the change of regime. Why not change the regime in North Korea? Why not change the regime elsewhere? We will never stop. The question is that--
[Rhetorical devices cut off by the 35-second limit placed on questions and answers during Question Period.]
The Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): All I can say about that kind of answer, Mr. Speaker, is we cannot change the regime here in Canada quickly enough. Yesterday the Prime Minister said--
"Regime change" has a loose definition. In its more benign form, it would mean replacing one government with another at a general election. However, in the context of the Iraq debate, those two words have been synonymous with the forcible overthrow of a government by a foreign power. Uh-oh. Dangerous ground, Steve.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh.
Mr. Stephen Harper: Well, the Liberal members want a change.
Sure, there are about 100 pro-Paul Martin MPs in the 169-member Liberal caucus who want to see the back of Prime Minister Chrétien. By this time next year, their man Martin will almost certainly be in power. Nice try.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh.
The Speaker: Order, please. I realize regime change is an important topic of discussion and one that generates some enthusiasm on every side but we have to be able to hear the question from the Leader of the Opposition.
How Speaker Peter Milliken manages to keep control of these yahoos while maintaining good humour and civility amazes me. Then again, I'm a hothead.
Mr. Stephen Harper: Mr. Speaker, I got that line from the member for LaSalle—Émard.
Really, Stephen, at that point it wouldn't matter if the Pope gave you that line. By bringing up something that, at this time, means the overthrow of a government and applying it to a democratically elected one, you've blown this question. You could make the most pertinent, incisive query, and...
The Prime Minister has said that Saddam is currently contained and that this containment is working. He knows that Saddam is contained by a quarter of a million allied troops, British, American and Australian, at his doorstep.

Does the Prime Minister really expect these troops to stay there indefinitely and if this strategy was working, why was his government not participating in it?

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, talking about change of regime, they did that in the opposition and they went from 25% to 9% in the popular vote.
... the PM will blow it off with a zinger about the Alliance's inability to act as a unified opposition to the government.

So what's the point of all this? In the odd cross between a high-stakes debating club and Weekend Update joke-off that is Question Period, you really do have to watch your words, lest your wily opponent get the better of you. This especialy applies to Harper, who with a little over 4 years in the House is a Parliamentary pup compared to the Prime Minister. This won't be the last that Harper hears of that line. You can bet your bottom dollar that the good people at the Liberal party will file that away for future use against Harper whenever they want to expose his undemocratic tendencies.

Just for fun ('cause I'm a jerk), here's another Alliance supporter asking for the Americans to come in and change the Canadian government. I think that it was tongue in cheek. I hope so...
The Globe and Mail reports that CBC News: Disclosure pulled their feature on Paul Martin and Canada Steamship Lines after a bit of arm-twisting by Martin's men, led by former CBC Ottawa bureau chief Elly Alboim. The CBC's official line was that the story was complicated and that it needed more work before it went to air. That's plausible, but it has the smell of the CBC not wanting to take any chances that there are any errors in this story -- and not just becasue it deals with the man who will likely be the next Prime Minister. The CBC is still smarting from being successfully sued over a 1996 the fifth estate report, costing the MotherCorp a seven figure sum (after legal fees) and a blow to its reputation...
There are more American "warbloggers" out there than I care to mention. Iraqi bloggers -- giving independent insights in English? Not too many there, but there's one that's still out there and still blogging: Salam Pax's Dear_Raed. Now that's different.

Salam also has his take on the Bushies' line that this war is about bringing "freedom and democracy" to Iraq.
What is bringing on this rant is the question that has been bugging for days now: how could “support democracy in Iraq” become to mean “bomb the hell out of Iraq”? why did it end up that democracy won’t happen unless we go thru war? Nobody minded an un-democratic Iraq for a very long time, now people have decided to bomb us to democracy? Well, thank you! how thoughtful.

The situation in Iraq could have been solved in other ways than what the world will be going thru the next couple of weeks. It can’t have been that impossible. Look at the northern parts of Iraq, that is a model that has worked quite well, why wasn’t anybody interested in doing that in the south. Just like the US/UK UN created a protected area there why couldn’t the model be tried in the south. It would have cut off the regimes arms and legs. And once the people see what they have been deprived off they will not be willing to go back, just ask any Iraqi from the Kurdish areas. Instead the world watched while after the war the Shias were crushed by Saddam’s army in a manner that really didn’t happen before the Gulf War. Does anyone else see the words (Iran/not in the US interest) floating or is it me hallucinating?...

Do support democracy in Iraq. But don’t equate it with war. What will happen is something that could/should have been avoided. Don’t expect me to wear a [I heart bush] t-shirt. Support democracy in Iraq not by bombing us to hell and then trying to build it up again (well that is going to happen any way) not by sending human shields (let’s be real the war is going to happen and Saddam will use you as hostages), but by keeping an eye on what will happen after the war.
That's one view from unofficial Iraq, posted four days ago.

Stay safe, Salam, and do whatever you can to keep those reports from Baghdad coming. And thank you.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Even the Globe and Mail's resident hawk, Marcus Gee, admits that the support provided to the Bushies by the 'coalition of the willing' is unimpressive compared to the 1990-91 coalition that responded to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
According to the U.S. State Department, there are about 15 countries, in addition to the publicly identified 'coalition of the willing,' who support the Bushies' position on removing Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. Canada is not one of them. This begs the question: how friggin' embarassed (or gutless) are these other 15 countries' governments? They support the Bushies, but aren't willing to own up to this. It speaks volumes about the Bush administration's utter inability to explain why they believe that it is now time to remove Hussein. Changing arguments as often as the Brits change their pop music idols didn't help -- was it about the September 11th terrorist attacks, disarming Saddam, humanitarianism, removing Saddam in favour of a U.S.-friendly regime (as outlined in a 1998 letter to Bill Clinton signed by the likes of Richard Perle, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Bob Zoellick, Richard Armitage), what?
Did I just hear this? Earlier in Question Period, Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper said, "We can't get regime change in Canada quickly enough," in one of his questions. Regime change? As in forcible removal of the government by a foreign power, as in what the United States about to do in Iraq? That's very democratic of you, Stevie. That sort of bafflegab is not uncommon from Alliance supporters ranting on USENET, but is it too much to ask the Leader of the Opposition to show at least a modicum of respect for Canada's electoral process -- even if his party and philosophy comes out on the losing end?

I think that I'll stick it in the file with Harper's ravings about how by declaring neutrality, Canada is cheering for Saddam. If Canada is now cheering for Saddam, was the United States cheering for Hitler for the first two years of the Second World War?

(I'll check the edited Hansard on the Parliamentary Internet site after it is posted later tonight or tomorrow morning. It's possible that mine own ears deceive me, but I don't think so...)
What the hell heppened to last night's CBC News: Disclosure? The broadcast was supposed to feature a critical look at how Canada Steamship Lines, the company owned (at least until last week) by former finaince minister and (likely) future Prime Minister Paul Martin, does business. Sometime yesterday evening, the show's web site was cleansed of all references to the CSL story.The CSL segment was replaced by an update on the fish farm situation in British Columbia -- an important story, to be sure, but not the look at the somewhat mysterious (because it is privately held) shipping company, and just what kind of practices its owner implicity condoned. Suspicious.

Conspiracy theorists will claim that it is the government interfering in the public broadcaster's operations, but that's unlikely. CBC types get very loud and very annoyed when there's even the slightest hint of government interference. In any case, the government is still under Jean Chrétien's control, and Chrétien wouldn't mind seeing a few more stories that don't reflect well on his old rival Paul Martin.

UPDATE: From the Disclosure web site:

*Unfortunately Disclosure’s story about Canada Steamship Lines did not air as planned March 18, 2003.
We regret not being able to let you know about the schedule change in advance and apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused.

The story will air on an upcoming edition of Disclosure. It is tentatively scheduled to be broadcast April 1, 2003 at 9:00pm (9:30NT).
So, Disclosure, what's the story behind why the CSL story didn't go to air on March 18?

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

France has been at the receiving end of bucket loads of commentary in recent days.

It is not France alone that wants more time for inspections. Germany wants more time for inspections; Russia wants more time for inspections; indeed, at no time have we signed up even the minimum necessary to carry a second resolution.

We delude ourselves if we think that the degree of international hostility is all the result of President Chirac.

The reality is that Britain is being asked to embark on a war without agreement in any of the international bodies of which we are a leading partner - not NATO, not the European Union and, now, not the Security Council.

To end up in such diplomatic weakness is a serious reverse.

Only a year ago, we and the United States were part of a coalition against terrorism that was wider and more diverse than I would ever have imagined possible.

Another refutation of the France-bashing commentariat's lies, extracted from Robin Cook's resignation speech in the British House of Commons., the website devoted to everything about the Progressive Conservative leadership race, will now provide a daily tally of the party's delegate selection meeting results, beginning sometime this week. Roughly 10% of the party's riding associations have chosen their delegates, with a flurry of meetings scheduled for the coming weeks. So far, the totals are:

Peter MacKay: 102
David Orchard: 96
Scott Brison: 41
Jim Prentice: 34
André Bachand: 3
Craig Chandler: 1
Heward Grafftey: 0
Undeclared: 8

Until now, the only way to get the delegate selection totals was from the weekly updates from the PC Party's main web site.
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien will be speaking to reporters at around noon ET / 9 AM PT following this morning's Cabinet meeting, and will probably clarify his statement that Canadian troops will not participate in an invasion of Iraq. If you're in Canada, you should be able to catch the action on CBC Newsworld or CTV NewsNet.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Yet another sign that an American invasion of Iraq is just days away: CNN war junkie Wolf Blitzer is in Kuwait this week. Coincidence?
I've just been reminded why the Canadian Alliance party disgusts me as much as it does. In response to Prime Minister Chrétien's statement in Parliament that Canada will not participate in an invasion of Iraq, Alliance leader Stephen Harper said, "[I]f the Liberals are going to be cheering for Saddam Hussein then they should have the guts to say so."

Need I say more?

Memo to Tits Harpoon: Canada is not supplying arms or troops to Saddam Hussein. Our government is in no way going to do anything to aid Saddam if the Americans invade Iraq. To my knowledge, the government is no fan of Saddam Hussein and has done nothing to prop up his government over the last 12 years since the first Gulf War. For Harper to insinuate that the Liberal government is cheering for Hussein is below even his party's usual cheap-shot standards. Canadians aren't dumb enough to fall for Harper's lies, and they're smart enough to punish his party at the ballot box for his disgraceful conduct.

Former Alliance strategist Rick Anderson was much more honest about the Canadian stance. He didn't say that the Canadian government supports Saddam, but he accurately lumped us in with the other nations, such as France and Germany, that do not support an invasion of Iraq to change its government -- at this time. Too bad his former party can't follow his lead.
Maddox presents an objective analysis:

Who would make a better President: George W. Bush or a box of Tic-Tacs?

He's also got a poll on this pressing question. So far, the Tic-Tacs are winning by a 4-1 margin...
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has told Parliament that Canada will not send troops into Iraq without a second UN Security Council resolution. In other words, he's finally hopped off the fence, about 6 hours before George W. Bush gives Saddam the ultimatum to leave Iraq or be invaded by the U.S., the U.K., and any other members of the coalition of the billing. Took ya long enough, Jean.

The announcement was greeted with applause from most of the House of Commons. Members of the opposition Canadian Alliance, otherwise known as the northern branch of the Republican Party, said that Canada should instead stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States.
GeoURL is a novel idea: an index of web sites by geographical location instead of the usual criteria. The idea is that surfers will be able to enter a set of coordinates, or a city, and see what web sites are produced, or whose subject is, within a given distance of that location -- as opposed to where their servers are located, which is how the 'net is usually 'mapped.'

Getting your site indexed at GeoURL takes a few unusual steps. You have to look up the geographic coordinates of your location, and then enter a couple of meta tags with your site's location so that GeoURL can index the site. This isn't all that difficult, and within a few minutes, your web creation is in the database and you can then see what sites on GeoURL are near you. So far, there aren't many sites listed but, with any luck and a little promotion, this will catch on. Here's their list of sites near Vancouver. For some reason, the GeoURL people have decided that their point of reference for Vancouver will be a spot somewhere around East 55th and Sophia, an unremarkable residential neighbourhood in South Vancouver. Why they chose that spot rather than City Hall, or a point in the central business district, or maybe the city's geographical centre is beyond me.

Another nitpick: the directory's accuracy is dependent on websites accurately submitting their geographical coordinates -- something that I got wrong on the first try (typo -- made a difference of about 3 miles). I've since fixed it, and now the list of sites nearest mine seems about right.

(via Derek K. Miller at
Conservatives often think of themselves as being better-educated in history than the ignorant liberals -- of which I am one. Maybe not. The National Review Online gang caught on to reader Josh Mercer's suggestion about renaming French bread in the same way that American conservatives have been getting rid of the word 'French' everywhere else:
What might work better is what we did during WWI. We renamed frankfurters to be Victory dogs, which then became hot dogs. Think about it: French bread = Victory bread, French toast = Victory toast, French fries = Victory fries, etc."
Wait a second -- Victory Bread? That's been taken, boys and girls! Surely the well-educated crew over at NRO should know that Victory Bread was an American World War I effort -- promoted by Herbert Hoover, no less! -- to conserve food resouces by using less wheat flour, sugar, and shortening to make the daily loaf. Substitute ingredients like cornmeal and rye were used to conserve flour. All this missed the conservative blogosphere, as the suggestion telegraphed from one rightie to another.

I've had my share of Victory Bread. The old Food Warehouse at 2nd and Commercial in East Vancouver used to sell the stuff at a reasonable price. I recall that it went well with bean soup and other such rationed wartime fare. It's a heavy, rustic loaf, and a forerunner of the ever-trendy multigrain. What it isn't is anything like French bread.

Now you may be asking why it took me a month to catch on to this error about the true nature of Victory Bread. My answer: How friggin' often do you think that I actually check out the NRO weblog? Give me a break! I was trying to look up the bakery that made the stuff that the Food Warehouse used to sell!
More 'France-Bashing', via Doug Adderly from The Republic: Slap France Upside The Head!

I have no idea whether that last site, the Foundation for a Patriotic America, is serious or a send-up of the Freepers and their ilk. If it's serious, it certainly is veering into self-parody.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

The folks over at TAPPED, institutional weblog of The American Prospect, notice that a New York Sun article on the spat between investigative journo Seymour Hersh and uberhawk Richard Perle (and Perle's pending lawsuit against Hersh over allegations that Perle has been positioning himself to personally profit from a war against Iraq) is little more than a platform for Perle and his buddies to sling mud at the internationally-respected Hersh. Shocking, I tell you! An article in a neoconservative media organ like the NY Sun being slanted and one-sided? Couldn't imagine it... Some of you bright readers might have noticed the byline on that Sun story: No, your eyes do not deceive you,.It really is a "news" article by former Canadian Alliance and Ontario Tory youth organizer Adam Daifallah, better known to Canadians as one of the handful of young activists trotted out by the Reform-Alliance in an attempt to convince Canadians that the party is not solely that of grumpy old white men, but also the party of grumpy old white men in training. Seems that Daifallah has found his calling -- working as a 'journalist' at one of the establishments that exists thanks to the patronage of wealthy conservatives. Good for him, I suppose.

Shit, why didn't I think of that? Maybe I ought to start cranking out uninspired right-wing fare under a nom de plume.
Good news for Vancouver residents: Vancouver city council has passed a motion to hold property tax increases at 3.9%, the rate of inflation, or less. There had been fears that the new city council, dominated by the left-leaning COPE party, would follow city staff's recommedation to increase taxes 5.5% in order to cover increased operating costs and new programs approved by the previous council in 2002. Finance Committee chair Tim Louis said that council will look at reallocating resources in order to make up the gap between the council's preference for a more modest tax hike and the City's funding needs.

A nice surprise, if a bit unexpected. Most Vancouver observers, especially conservative ones, doubted COPE's election campaign claim that it wanted to keep tax increases at or below the rate of inflation. Perhaps the COPEsters will prove the doubters wrong in the end. But then what will Vancouver Sun bitch 'n moan artist Pete McMartin have to complain about, given that he's decided to be the COPE council's media antagonist? Who the hell cares? He doesn't even in live in Vancouver, having long ago bolted the city for Tsawwassen, the Lower Mainland's very own Little Rhodesia. So I would tell him to go to hell -- but he already lives there.
Two weeks into the federal Tories' delegate selection process, and Nova Scotia MP Peter MacKay continues to lead all contenders in the race to succeed Joe Clark. As of last night, MacKay had 104 committed delegates of the 239 selected so far. Anti-free trade crusader David Orchard, regarded by many Tories as a tourist in the party, was in second with 71 delegates.

It's early days in the delegate selection process -- less that 10% of the riding associations have chosen delegates to the party's leadership convention. Still, this hasn't kept frontrunner MacKay from warning that a vote for anyone other than him might be a vote for the un-Torylike Orchard.

It's an interesting tactic, one often used in electiions by candidates trying to reach the "anything but [fill in the blank]" voter -- think of the appeals made in greater Vancouver by federal Liberals to NDPers (or is it the other way 'round?) to not split the vote and allow an Alliance candidate to win, or the same appeal by the CA to traditional Tory voters in rural and small-town Ontario. However, I'm not sure if MacKay's argument is all that well-founded. Unlike a general election, whoever takes the first vote doesn't automatically win. In the Tory party, that's even more true -- Brian Mulroney was second on the first ballot in '83, and Joe Clark was in third after the first ballot at the 1976 PC convention. Even if Orchard is in front after round one, that means nothing unless he's got a straight majority -- and that's doubly true in Orchard's case.

Most Tories that are backing other candidates would rather be catheterized with a garden hose than vote for Orchard and his left-of-centre platform. The same applies to the 1000 or so ex-officio delegates, most of whom are part of the Tory establishment, not (in the words of a local Tory) Orchard's cult of personality. In effect, if Orchard and Company are going to take over the Progressive Conservatives, they're going to have to take it on the first ballot, and they'll have to take about 65% of the 3100 or so delegates from constituency and campus associations in order to get a majority. Not likely.

Mike Wilson, an André Bachand supporter in the heart of the 905 belt, has been looking at the Tory leadership race on his blog (listed in that expanding roll on the sidebar) , and he's got a thought or two on why David Orchard doesn't fit in with today's Tories.

Well, maybe after this is all over, Orchard and his merry (?) band can go to their true home -- not the New Democrats, as Orchard is apparently persona non grata in Saskatchewan NDP quarters, but the Canadian Action Party, the economic nationalist fringe party founded by former cabinet minister Paul Hellyer.

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