Thursday, June 22, 2006

Elections in DR Congo

The people of Congo are preparing for their upcoming elections. There has been lot of debate about whether democracy can provide the most stable government in developing countries with troubled pasts. But after years of colonial rule, kleptocracy and incompetent leaders, I think it's fair to say that the Congolese have given the alternatives a chance. No one is pretending that the move toward democracy is going to be easy, the polling alone will be a challenge:

...[the ballots] will be distributed to Congo's 10 provinces by U.N. planes, then taken to polling stations by car or bicycle, by boat down the Congo River or on foot. Some of the 53,000 polling stations are so remote that election workers will have to walk for 10 days down jungle paths to deliver the ballots.
But it is a step forward. And for many Congolese, it is the first time in their lives that they have had reason to be hopeful for the future of their nation.

I'm sure CTV will pick up Coronation St.

A new Senate report has recommended that the CBC revert to a commercial-free format, with taxpayers making up the loss in revenue. The reason? In its current format the CBC is attempting to provide programming that appeals to Canadians. If it were to receive more public funding, it could stop worrying about its audience and make more programming that appealed to television critics and those who work for the CBC, Canadians who really matter.

It is 2006, Canadians have more media choices than ever before (and would have more if we got rid of the CRTC). The idea that we need the government to provide us with news and entertainment is ridiculous. It sounds to me like it is time for a new specialty channel that will cater to the needs of those people who want the quality programming that the CBC would offer if only they didn't have to worry about chasing the ratings. They can pay for it out of their own pockets, like everyone else does.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Saddam is Hungry

The thing about hunger strikes is that they really only work when people don't want you to die. Maybe it's just me, but non-violent resistance doesn't seem as meaningful when you are on trial for genocide.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I believe you Omar

I subscribe to a number of Sudan news alerts. At least a few times each week for the past couple of months, I have received messages that the Sudanese government has announced that they will not allow U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur. It is true that I tend to doubt the word of genocidal regimes, but when genocidal regimes are saying that they won't allow anyone to come in and stop the killing, I give them the benefit of the doubt and take them at their word.

I just received a news alert from CNN that al-Bashir has stated once again - "his strongest rejection yet" - that he won't allow U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur:

"This shall never take place," al-Bashir said of the U.N. deployment. "These are colonial forces, and we will not accept colonial forces coming into the country."
Since the president of Sudan has accused the United Nations of being a colonial body, I think it is fair to say that he is never ever going to allow U.N. troops into his country. Since the Security Council is not going to send troops without Sudanese permission, it is (long past) time to stop pretending that there is anything that they can do. Nations who oppose genocide need to step up and act outside the U.N. Sovereignty has no meaning when you're slaughtering your own citizens.

Politics at the World Cup

Watching the Ghana-Czech Republic match on Saturday we were all a little perplexed when one of the Ghanaian players pulled out an Israeli flag at the end. Was he taking a stand against the fact that Israel is considered Europe for FIFA purposes? Is he an Ghanaian Jew? Has the Zionist Occupation Government expanded its reach to football?

Marty-loo was on the case and has just sent me this article. It seems John Pantsil plays for Hapoel Tel Aviv and was just thanking his Israeli fans who were there to support him. How nice. No big deal right? Well, the Ghanaian Football Association doesn't seem to think so. They have issued an apology saying that he didn't mean to take sides in the Palestinian-Israeli dispute and that he is "naive" and "unaware of international politics". Because not hating Israel is a political statement that Ghana does not feel comfortable making (why couldn't Ghana have been in Iran's group?).

While we're on the topic of being naive when it comes to international affairs, is it really appropriate to apologise for displaying the Israeli flag when playing in Germany? "We apologise for seeming to be pro-Israel, we understand you have had some problems with the Jews in the past."

Update: It seems that the Zionist Occupation Government has reached the World Cup. There was outrage in Egypt about Pantsil's display of the flag. The Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram knows that there is more to the flag display than mere gratitude to Israeli fans:

“The real reason,” sports analyst Hassan el-Mestekawi wrote, stems from the fact that many Ghanaian players go through football training camps set up by an Israeli coach who “discovered the treasure of African talent, and abused the poverty of the continent’s children” with the ultimate goal of selling them off to European clubs.

“The training program for these children starts every morning with a salute to the Israeli flag,” Mestekawi claimed.

And then the Israelis connived their way in to the European Zone so that they would never make it to the World Cup. Those Zionists sure are devious!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Isn't there an order for these things?

Charges are expected to be filed in the International Criminal Court against people responsible for the attrocities in Darfur.

Now, call me old fashioned, but isn't it traditional to at least attempt to put a stop to a criminal's behaviour before you start to prosecute? Just a thought.

In Praise of The Atlantic

This month's Atlantic finally arrived in my mailbox today. I have been eagerly anticipating this issue, with everyone talking about the timely cover article on al-Zarqawi by Mary Anne Weaver (even though I did not love her book on Pakistan) . I thought about reading that article on-line, but there is something to be said for being able to curl up with a good magazine. The truth is that I always eagerly anticipate the arrival of The Atlantic (this is the summer double issue, so now I have to wait two months for another). It is, for me, the perfect magazine. They can do no wrong. Whereas everyone else complained bitterly when they largely abandoned short fiction last year, I was very happy with the decision as it was the only section that I consistently skipped. Similarly, when they moved their editorial offices from Boston to Washington, DC, I was delighted (for them, seriously, no one should ever have to live in Boston).

How can one not love a magazine with book reviews by Christopher Hitchens, obituaries by Mark Steyn and reporting by men like Mark Bowden (Guests of the Ayatollah was great and I would never have thought to read it were it not excerpted in the Atlantic), Robert D. Kaplan and (until he jumped ship to Vanity Fair recently), William Langewiesche? Politics, foreign affairs, culture and art, it's all there.

I will confess to being a bit of a magazine junkie, but while I enjoy The New Yorker and the Economist, they sometimes receive only a quick scan, most months I barely touch Vanity Fair (although William Langewiesche's arrival may change that) and Foreign Affairs always is always received with a sense that I will never find the time to get through it. But the arrival of the Atlantic always fills me with nothing but a sense of joy and anticipation of what this month's issue will bring.

Anyway, enough of this pointless rambling. I have some reading to do.

Germany v. Poland

People tend to be surprised that I am in any way interested in the World Cup, given my dislike of all sport (with the possible exception of slalom kayaking). But, I love a world event. And being able to cheer on one country over another is so much fun for me that I am willing to watch grown men kick a ball around a pitch for an hour and a half.

I have no special insights into the game (although I have noticed that far too much attention is given to ball possession, if anything I'd say teams do better when they have less possession), but I pick my teams based on my feelings about the nation. So, for example, I was cheering for Iran the other day, because I feel nothing for Mexico but have a certain fondness for the Iranian people and have dreams of their victory bringing the mullocracy crumbling down. Angola v. Portugal? Obviously you cheer for the former colony rather than their colonial masters. Argentina v. Cote D'Ivoire? Well, the Ivoirians aren't a bunch of filthy cheats have had a tough time lately and you want good things for them.

But today's Poland v. Germany match is a tough one. If I base it on their histories (from the pre-Napoleonic era to the modern day), I should very clearly be cheering for the Poles. And yet strangely, I find myself supporting the Germans. I can't explain it rationally but I just want them to win. I tell myself that it's because I'll be in Berlin in a few weeks and the Germans will be in such good spirits if they won at home. But I know this can't really be true because: a) Even if they beat the Poles today, their odds of winning the whole thing are still not great and b) I have never in my life cared if other people are in good spirits.

So I have no idea why I feel this way. But go Germany, go!

Update: Germany 1 - 0 Poland.

"German supersub Neuville breaks Poland's hearts in stoppage time". I feel guilty enough already, but they have to rub it in!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Our Islamist Friends in Mogadishu

Residents of Mogadishu are saying that the Islamist militia that has taken control of the city have been closing cinemas that have been showing World Cup matches.

Their spokesman has responded that they are only closing cinemas that are showing movies made by the infidels in Hollywood and Bollywood.

Well that's alright then. And here I was worried that the world was going to stand by while crazed Taliban-like militias took control in Somalia.

I particularly like the evenhanded tone in which this article is written, giving the Islamists the opportunity to defend themselves against accusations that they were denying Somalis the right to watch sports when really they are only denying them the right to watch movies (for now). God bless the Beeb.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Canada? High profile case? Do I hear publication ban?

Well, who didn't see this coming a mile off? A justice of the peace has imposed a publication ban on the proceedings against the Toronto terrorism suspects.

I appreciate that there may be issues of national security which may need to be considered (although that does not appear to be what motivated it), but a blanket publication ban seems unnecessary. I'm not sure at what point it was decided that there is no need for transparency in our justice system. It seems that any time there is a case in this country that might actually receive some public scrutiny, the courts decide that we won't get the opportunity. The public and the media has been far too tolerant of this limit on free speech in the past. This trial is too important to be held behind closed doors. Canadians must demand that the courts be publicly accountable, it is the only way to ensure that the system is functioning as it should.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Just over half an hour until the World Cup starts. For those of you stuck at work today, they're live blogging the first match over at World Cup Blog.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

It's Time to Put Larry out to Pasture

Last week Larry King interviewed Anderson Cooper. At one point, while discussing his brother's suicide, he cut Anderson off mid-sentence to ask him if, when his brother jumped out of a window, he landed on the pavement, on an awning or on top of a car.

Tonight he was interviewing Nick Berg's father about the death of al-Zarqawi. He asked him if he ever received his son's remains. Mr. Berg was visibly upset by the topic, but Larry just kept pressing.

Seriously, what is wrong with this man? At first I thought maybe he was just showing a complete and utter lack of tact, but now I wonder. Either Larry King is the most incompetent (possibly senile) interviewer on this planet or he is a cruel son of a bitch. Either way, it's time for CNN to get rid of him.

Learning From Past Mistakes

Apparently, officials in the American government think that the covert C.I.A. operations in Somalia failed.

If only there had been another failed state from which they could have learned this lesson, maybe a Muslim nation in which the C.I.A. supported warlords who fought one another for the support of a population that still had strong tribal ties. But where on earth would you find another place like that?

And Man Is He Pissed That There Were No Virgins Waiting

Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi has been killed in Iraq.

No, this won't end the violence in Iraq, but it is very good news nonetheless.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The 90s are back to haunt us again

The next time someone gets all nostalgic for the 1990s, please do me a favour and punch them in face. We are led to believe that they were a better time, the Cold War had ended, we weren't yet living under the threat of terrorism, the economy was doing well, there were record surpluses (nothing warms my heart quite like governments turning profits) and it was the golden age of the United Nations. All of which is great, if you happen to be partial to fairy tales. Because the 1990s that I recall were an absolutely horrific decade, filled with genocide, civil wars, the ignored threat of terrorism and failed or failing states.

Which brings us to.... Somalia. Remember it? The country on the Horn of Africa with no functioning government since 1991. The West decided to get involved in the early 1990s, but then we learned the hard way that it takes more than food aid to solve a nation's problems, went home and pretended that Somalia never existed in the first place. Funny thing is, despite our best efforts to erase the memory of failed states, they have a nasty habit of reminding us that they exist.

Yesterday, an Islamic militia took control of Mogadishu. People are already making comparisons to the Taliban. Now, as little faith as have in humanity, I would like to believe that we're not actually stupid enough to sit idly by while they let Al Qaeda set up training camps in Somalia (though really there is no historical foundation for this belief). But clearly the threat posed by this new development cannot be ignored.

Perhaps we could take this as further evidence of the fact that, while the costs of being involved in the world are high, the costs of sitting by while states fall apart are potentially much higher.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

(Failed) Terrorists Arrested in Toronto

As I am sure you have heard by now, 17 people have been arrested in the GTA on suspicion of plotting terrorists attacks.

Thankfully, law enforcement efforts managed to capture these men before they were able to harm anyone. Hopefully, this will help Canadians to understand that the threat from Islamist terror is real.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Having your genitals mutilated is bad for your health

A new study has found that female genital mutilation (or as the New York Times article so delicately puts it "genital cutting") is dangerous and significantly increases the risks of childbirth for both mother and child.

According to the president of the International Women's Health Coalition: "This should greatly help advocates overcome arguments that genital mutilation is an untouchable cultural practice." Really? Are the same people who think it is okay to remove a girl's clitoris and sew up her labia without the benefit of anathesia or sterile instruments, all in order to protect her virtue, really going to be swayed by medical evidence?

Why do we have to be so politically correct about this issue? If your culture believes that it is necessary to mutilate a girl's body so that she not only derives no pleasure from sex, but that it also becomes torturously painful, then your culture is wrong. Not all societies are equal, those that recognize that women are human beings, with the same rights as men, are superior. Sadly for the young girls who live in these societies, the women's movement has largely abandoned them. For some reason whenever women's rights comes into conflict with traditional cultural practices, culture wins out. Afterall, there are bigger issues to contend with. Somewhere on Bay Street right now, while your life goes on as normal, a rich, well-educated woman could be hitting a glass ceiling!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Personally, I hold George Clooney Responsible for the Genocide

An opinion piece by Alan Kuperman in the New York Times puts some of the blame for the genocide in Sudan on the shoulders of the Save Darfur movement. You see, if the anti-genocide crowd hadn't been so hell bent on supporting the rebels then they would have given in a long time ago and the government in Khartoum wouldn't have had to massacre innocent people. Kuperman believes that, having signed a peace treaty, the Sudanese government should now be allowed to deal with the rebels as they see fit (as long as the observe the laws of war).

There are so many problems with this arguement that I don't quite know where to begin. First of all, I don't think that (as Kuperman suggests) the rebels in Darfur have been portrayed in the West as "freedom fighters". That would be to suggest that there are large numbers of people out there discussing the situation in Sudan as a political one. For the most part, the Save Darfur movement has not discussed resolving the political crisis in Darfur, but simply stopping the Sudanese government from slaughtering their own people. This could have occured without conceding a single rebel demand.

Which brings me to my second concern: Kuperman talks about genocide as though it were a legitimate tactic in war. What else was the Sudanese government to do? A rebel movement developed among the black population in Darfur, this was a threat to the Sudanese government and they had to do what was necessary to protect themselves. If women were systematically raped along the way, well that was just a matter of the Sudanese defending their sovereign rights.

The political situation in Darfur is a complicated one, and I don't presume to have all the answers. However, I do know that there is not a single situation in the history of the world where it was necessary for a government to turn armed militias on their own people knowing that they would be indiscriminantly massacred. No, the rebels are not innocent and their own human rights record should receive full scrutinity and the guilty should be brought to justice. But in order for a state to deserve the recognition of the right to sovereignty it must at least make an effort to protect the lives of its citizens. Not only did Sudan fail to protect the people of Darfur, it targeted them for murder. I remain unconvinced that a child in Darfur should have to die simply because a group that claims to represent her has irresponsible leadership. But then again, I've always been a bit of an idealist.