Saturday, 16 September 2006

Time to pressure Musharraf

Ali at Eteraz is calling us all to pressure President Musharraf of Pakistan. You may be familiar with the current sorry state of women's rights in Pakistan. To give you an idea, if a woman who was raped does not have three to four male witnesses to corroborate her story, she herself will be charged with adultery. A blind girl was convicted because she was unable to identify her assailant. The Women's Protection Act would go a long way to addressing these injustices. Ali is asking us to email President Musharraf, in whose hands the fate of the bill now rests. I have done so myself. He provides a sample text and more details if you would like inspiration or further information.

RCMP nervous about O'Connor report

Justice O'Connor's report on the Maher Arar affair is due out on Monday. The Toronto Star reports that the RCMP is bracing for criticism of the way they passed information on to American authorities without proper analysis, but that they are likely to plead inexperience.
With this context, some observers are wondering if the government will respond to O'Connor's report by saying that the RCMP may have been inexperienced in the early days post-9/11 and mistakes were made, but improvements have already been implemented.

That was the reaction back in 2004 with the release of an internal RCMP report that found the force ill-equipped to deal with terrorism investigations.

"Post-9/11 was a different time (from) where we are now. Everything has changed," RCMP spokesperson Insp. Tim Cogan told the Star at the time. "We're in a different world today than we were then. ... A lot of progress has been made after this historically unprecedented event."

Well, at least they aren't trying to justify it.

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Friday, 15 September 2006

Gleanings from the blogosphere, Sep. 15

The Anchoress delivers an inspiring eulogy to Oriana Fallaci, who "embodied all that leftism was", and a blistering attack on Rosie O'Donnell who embodies "all it has become". If any of you are wondering "Why Rosie?" this is in response to her assertion on The View that "radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam." She was roundly applauded, although the other hosts, to do them credit, refused to buy it. The Anchoress does a good job of tearing apart that assertion, so I'll leave it to her. Although I will add that Rosie jumped from one sentence to the other from "radical Christianity" to the bombing of innocents in Iraq, as if there were a direct, causal relationship.

When you need a break from weighty issues, Bits and Pieces will serve you up humourous, whimsical or just awe-inspiring tidbits from all over the Net. Today's offerings include Fork Art, a trip through the universe, and "One Little Mistake":
A woman, standing nude, looks in the bedroom mirror and says to her husband, "I feel horrible, I look fat and ugly. Pay me a compliment".

The husband replies, "Your eyesight's damn near perfect".

He never heard the shot.

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The banning of super skinny models

Steve Janke, Angry in the Great White North has a great post up about the ban of super-thin models at a recent fashion show in Spain. Unfortunately, his site has faulty software for accepting comments and they often don't get through. I lost patience with trying, but I would still like to comment, so here is my response to Steve.
I would prefer the fashion industry to do its own policing, but seeing as it is one of the most corrupt, women-abusive industries around, I wouldn't hold my breath. Maybe you're right and governments should be stepping in. One of the legitimate functions of government after all is the protection of its citizens, both from external threats and internal abuse.

For all your lack of interest in the fashion world - which I share, woman or no - you've done a good job of hitting a few nails on the head. Yes, the designers do prefer women that look like teen-age boys, because that is what corresponds to their own preferences and because of the practical considerations you mentioned. They have, for the most part, never shown the slightest interest in designing for real women. Fashion design is about being an artist, with all its attendant baggage of ego and self-indulgence, not about meeting any reasonable needs.

Have you ever seen the reports about the fashion agencies assuring parents that their teen-age daughters would be properly chaperoned while working in Milan and other European centres, while those self-same chaperones were introducing the girls to drugs and literally pimping them out as high-price call girls? This has been the subject of more than one exposé, but seeing as I saw them on TV some time ago, I can't link to them here.

The industry stinks to high heaven.

Daddy blogs

Who knew? There is such a thing as a Daddy Blog. Of course, if you stop and think about it, it makes perfect sense. There are probably blogs for just about everything. But I am the kind of person who hasn't stopped to think about a lot of things, so it surprised me.

Following the breadcrumbs left by a recent commenter, I found myself in Total Depravity, which defies its name and turns out to be a wonderful little blog about being a daddy, with everything from personal anecdotes - told with a deft touch - to poetry to the bizarre. I mean, what would YOU do if it was your dad who told you to jump off a bridge?

The blogroll is entitled Blogfathers (groan) with one of the listees sporting the wonderful name of A Family Runs Through It.

I was at a student party a number of years ago (OK, so it was a LOT of years ago) where one of the young men caught my eye. He'd taken the hosts' baby and was cradling the sleeping child on his shoulder, even as he carried on animated discussions with the other students. I was very impressed.

I'll let you guess the end of the story. There's something about a guy who really likes kids...

It's nice to know that beer commercials do not tell the entire story. These Daddy blogs show another side of men, one we should probably see more often.

Thursday, 14 September 2006

Gleanings from the blogosphere, Sep. 14

William Weston at the Gruntled Center cites a British study that showed a stark difference in the number of parental break-ups after the birth of a child, depending on the marital status.
Married couples divorcing: 6%
Cohabiting couples breaking up: 32%
"Closely involved" fathers disappearing: 74%
It would appear that marriage is more than a piece of paper... Hat tip to Booker Rising.

Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters is talking about how Nasrallah's stock has sunk considerably in Lebanon and the Arab world. I can only hope that he's absolutely right.

Aisha who has taken over for Ali at Eteraz shows herself to be more than up to the task. Today, she meditates on atheism as a religion, the Koran as a historical document or the Word of God and religions as social constructs. I can't say that I agree with everything she says, but she has good things to say and she says them well. And they are well worth meditating on.

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Amnesty accuses Hezbollah

Amnesty International, after blasting Israel, is now accusing Hezbollah of war crimes because of its targetting of civilians with Katyusha rockets. Hezbollah, it will come as no surprise, does not agree and claims that they were just responding to Israeli attacks. Now, maybe my memory is fuzzy, but it seems to me that they had been lobbing Katyushas at Israel for quite some time before war broke out, so this argument seems disingenuous at best. Or, in plainer English, they're lying.
Amnesty is preparing another report studying whether Hezbollah contributed to civilian deaths in Lebanon by hiding among civilians, Nicole Choueiry, a spokesman for Amnesty in Britain, said.

High time. The use of human shields is utterly despicable, and I can't understand why there hasn't been a greater outcry over it. Well, actually, I can, but it makes me a little ill.

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Wednesday, 13 September 2006

Gleanings from the blogosphere, Sep. 13

Aisha at Eteraz has a great post on What the Infidel Did Today. I particularly like the sex strike called by the wives and girlfriends of Colombian gangsters. Now if we could just see a similar movement in the hip hop and rap world...

Dave Schuler at The Glittering Eye finds the extremism evident in far too many blogs to be unrealistic.
People seem to be advocating mindlessly extreme positions as the minimally acceptable policy. Only a pure market health care system is acceptable. Only a totally socialized health care system is acceptable. Abolish the minimum wage. Double the minimum wage. Nuke all Arabs. There is no terrorist threat. Nothing is Bush’s fault. Everything is Bush’s fault. 9/11 changed everything. 9/11 changed nothing.

He observes that in real life, workable approaches are neither burning hot nor bitterly cold. Hard to get a crowd roaring with that kind of approach, but he's absolutely right.

Michael J. Totten publishes a lengthy interview he conducted with Major Tal Lev-Ram, Spokesman for the IDF Southern Command. It dates from June, but it's still interesting. What I found most striking was the Palestinians' use, not only of human shields, but young teenagers for planting charges, moving weapons.
"It’s a problem," he said. "Sometimes we see resistance. But it’s difficult to judge from our perspective. We see a lot of cases where Katyusha or Qassam rockets are fired from within populated areas. More than that, they came up with a system that was based on the fear that we would find the exact location of the rocket launchers. So they place the launchers with a timer. And ten, eleven, and twelve year old children come and take the launcher away afterwards. Often we’re faced with fourteen or fifteen year old youth who come, armed, and place charges along the fence. When we see them, even when we see that they are armed, if they are only fourteen or fifteen we only shoot to scare them. We don’t actually fire at them. Of course, only if there is no immediate danger to our forces."


"About a month and a half ago," he said, "another event that shows you the dilemma here: Two terrorists with an RPG tried to shoot a tank. We shot back. In the same house the mother of them, and a cousin, were in the same house. They fired five meters away from where the mother and cousin were standing. The Palestinian headline said that a mother and child were killed. The child was twenty two years old. And he was a member of Hamas. So, I am not happy about the mother. But, this is my right. You know? In the houses of Hamas militants, and all the other terrorist organizations, there are storages of weaponry. That’s because in the past we would avoid attacking houses with families. Which raises the question: Sometimes we as the IDF care more about the families and the children than he who would put them in danger. In a house, let’s say of three floors, a whole floor may be used as a storage."

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Talking to the Taliban

Susan Riley in today's Ottawa Citizen:
There is probably a significant constituency of Canadians who agree with Layton that ... peace will not be achieved without talking to the Taliban ...

I am slack-jawed. Talking to the Taliban??? These are the guys who made their women ride in buses with the windows covered, who beat them if their shoes made too much noise in the home, who pulled out the eyelashes of little girls if they grew too long, and Riley wants to TALK to them? Has there ever been the slightest reason to believe that rationality had any hold on them whatsoever? Is there even the tiniest bit of historical evidence that negotiations with them could accomplish anything of worth?

And I thought I led a sheltered life!

Ms. Riley desperately needs to understand that there are people in this world who can never be negotiated into reasonability. You do not negotiate with an armed sociopath, unless it is terms of surrender. And even then you keep the finger firmly on the trigger until he's safely in custody. There were never any happy endings in negotiations with Stalin or Hitler. And there can be none with the Taliban. They have no concept whatsoever of playing nice or growing up to become responsible members of society.

Cancers have to go. You can debate ways and means, but accommodation is not a viable option.

If Ms. Riley is right, and the majority of Canadians agree with that statement (which I have trouble believing), then God help us.

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Human rights in Canada

Dennis O'Connor's report into the Maher Arar affair should be released on Monday, and two other men who, like Arar, suffered torture in Syrian prisons are hoping for vindication also.

Warren Allmand, a Liberal cabinet minister in the 1970s and 80s who now heads the Montreal-based International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, said the key question in all the cases is whether Canada knowingly participated in the "out-sourced torture" of its citizens.

"It is not merely a question of whether there was negligence (but) whether these shameful incidents were carried out deliberately," said Allmand.

"What does all this say about the rule of law in Canada? Can officials and intelligence officers suspend the law and the Constitution to suit their own purposes?"

We must not fall into the trap of considering this to be a political issue pitting the left against the right. The Anti-terrorist Act was passed by a Liberal government and has not been seriously challenged by the Conservatives; "extraordinary rendition" first saw the light of day under Bill Clinton and has been extensively used under Bush's administration. There is blame and shame enough for everybody.

The issues here transcend political affilitation and empty-headed posturing. They are vital to conserving our liberal democracies and people from both ends of the political spectrum and points in between should be united in calling for an end to this kind of blatant injustice.

Please, contact your MP, Prime Minister, Senator, Congressman, President or anyone else with a voice in this matter and express your concern.

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Women's rights vs. fathers' rights

John Burgess at Crossroads Arabia recently posted concerning women's medical status in Saudi Arabia. In the case cited, a woman in labour needed a Caesarian, but her husband had signed papers disallowing the procedure, even if it meant death for his child. The Saudi doctor involved managed to persuade the husband to change his mind, but he was shaken. He also came to the conclusion that the ultimate decision in cases like that should be left in the hands of the mother. It's awfully hard to argue with a conclusion like that (although any number of Wahhabis probably would) and I'm certainly not going to be the one to do it.

One of the commenters though brought up an excellent point:
However, in the West, we have many issues to the other extreme. Men are not consulted regarding abortions. Also, many women have given up children for adoption without the man’s knowledge, or consultation. Custody for men was also rarely given, despite circumstances.

Justice is rarely found at extremes and these are the two extremes: when women have no say and when men have no say.

In any properly functioning system, authority and responsibility must go hand in hand. You cannot strip someone of any authority and at the same time impose responsibility on them, or vice versa. If we are going to strip men of any say in what happens to their children, we must also absolve them of all responsibility too.

Not that I would advocate doing so. A balanced approach, that recognizes the rights and responsibilities of all three people involved in the birth of a child, is the ideal. Most couple probably find this balance all on their own - I know that this was the case in our home. But the courts must often make decisions when couples haven't been able to resolve these issues on their own, and the lawmakers in Western countries should be looking for a better balance when it comes to the rights and responsibilities of fathers.

Tuesday, 12 September 2006

Padded cell vs. open road

Open letter to MP John Baird and Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Dear Sirs,

The Anti-terrorism Act is coming up for review. This law was passed hastily in the aftermath of 9/11 and contains some of the most alarming provisions ever enacted in a Canadian Parliament.

I have been impressed by the level-headedness and willingness to act according to principle that your government has demonstrated. Could you please use both in retooling this act?

Security certificates and the extremely broad wording limiting freedom of the press are especially troubling, as they dangerously undermine the foundational values of a free society. Allowing this legislation to be reintroduced in its present form would leave a legacy of open doors for legally sanctioned despotism. While you may have no intention of abusing the possibilities of this highly regressive act (although one could argue that any use at all is abuse), you cannot guarantee the actions of your successors.

I am confident that there are ways to protect our society from terrorism without sacrificing our most fundamental principles: freedom of speech, presumption of innocence and open trials.

I for one, am willing to accept some measure of risk in protecting these principles. Padded cells may be safe and even comfortable, but I prefer the risk of the open road.

On a related note, I believe it is high time that charges against Juliet O'Neill were dropped. This was a shameful move by the previous government and it dishonours you to allow it to continue.


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Frequencies in our ears

Staunch non-Catholic though I am (my apologies to all my fine Catholic friends, but conversion is just not on the agenda), I sometimes find truly valuable things coming out of the mouth of the Pope. This snippet from a recent sermon (hat tip to the Anchoress) resonated with me, first because I had posted along a similar line a while ago, and secondly because I've been struggling a bit with the frequencies in my own ears.

There is a hard-of-hearing towards God which we suffer from in this age. We simply cannot hear Him anymore - there are too many other frequencies in our ears. What is said about Him seems pre-scientific, no longer fitting for our time. With this hard-of-hearing, or even deafness, towards God we naturally lose our ability to speak with and to Him. Because of that, we lack a decisive perceptive faculty. Our internal senses are threatening to die off. With this loss in perception the radius of our relation to reality is drastically and dangerously curtailed.

I think we are all in desperate need of silence. It is as necessary to our well-being as food, water, and clean air.

Be still, and know that I am God. - Psalm 46:10

Monday, 11 September 2006

Gleanings from the blogosphere, Sep. 11

The Weekend Fisher at Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength is talking about how one man seeks to love the world by giving away wheelchairs.

Pat at Stubborn Facts is singing the praises of the Electoral College and asserting that democracy does not mean majority rule all the time. Being contrarian and thought-provoking again, are you Pat?

John Burgess at Crossroads Arabia gives an impressive list of reasons why he's cautiously optimistic about the liberalization occuring in Saudi Arabia since 9/11.

Are we really honouring the heroes?

We have made men proud of most vices, but not of cowardice. Whenever we have almost succeeded in doing, so, the Enemy permits a war or an earthquake or some other calamity, and at once courage becomes so obviously lovely and important even in human eyes that all our work is undone, and there is still one vice of which they feel genuine shame.
Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Matthew 10:39

On September 11, 2001, many people lost their lives. And some people gave them. This is not to say that those who lost their lives were necessarily cowards, or died as such. But they had no say at all in the matter of whether or not they lost their lives, and precious little in how they lost them. For them we grieve, huddled in pain at cemeteries and memorials.

Others looked death in the eye and overcame it, through their courage and through their ability to see values greater than their own comfort and even survival. For them we grieve also, but with our shoulders straight and our heads high.

For whatever state of decadence Western society may find itself in, we have not entirely lost the ability to recognize and honour heroism and selflessness. This does us proud.

To what extent though, will we be able to incorporate these ideals into our individual and corporate lives? Can we together find a greater goal than our comfort and pleasure? The signs, coming as they do from a very complex and textured society, are complex and multi-faceted, but overall, I am not encouraged.

If we are to truly honour the heroes of 9/11, remembering them is not enough. We must, to one degree or another, follow in their footsteps. For this to happen, I fear it will require further and greater blows to wake us from our torpeur, if it is not already too late.

Gleanings from the blogosphere, Sep. 10

Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters analyzes the new agreement between Saudi Arabia and the US to quintuple the number of Saudi students attending American universities. He admits it looks pretty bad at first and second blush, but that it could have great benefits for both Saudi Arabia and the West if the risks are managed carefully. He is cautiously optimistic.

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