Friday, March 27, 2009

All the things you can do if you're Immigration Minister

So it turns out that you can do a lot of things if you're the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Konservative Immigration minister Jason Kenney has been having a blast this last month. The first thing he did in early March was to proudly announce that he was going to terminate language-training contracts with the Canadian Arab Federation because they publicly opposed his political views.

"Here we have in Canada, someone who, until the end of this month at least, was receiving public subsidies from my department, who says ... these organizations that are essentially anti-Semitic and seek the destruction of Israel ... should be able to operate in Canada," Kenney said.
Actually, the CAF was not recieving any "subsidy" but a contract from Citizenship and Immigration to offer language training to newcomers - many of whom are not Arabs. Kenney's decision, however, is strangely coincidental with some harsh criticism he received from the CAF's president, but never mind that. I have no information that the CAF supports any policy regarding what organizations should or should not be allowed to operate in Canada, but even if they did, so what?

Just one of the worrisome implications of Kenney's statement is that once an organization is on the list of banned organizations, discussion of its place there ist stark verboten, as the Germans say. If that's true, then the only way for an organization to get its name off the list is for the Government of the day to take the initiative and do it - any organization that calls for a change to the list is going to be blacklisted, because obviously, they support the terrorists.

The second thing you can apparently do if you're Immigration Minister is override your department's decision if they decide to, for "security" reasons, ban someone from coming into the country. In the case of George Galloway, whom the ministry ostensibly found to be a "security threat," Kenney unsurprisingly refused, with his spokesman saying "we don't want him to pee on our carpet."

Ostensibly, Kenney and co. are afraid that Galloway's visit to Canada will entail him holding fundraisers for Hamas, or meeting in darkened rooms with Al-Qaeda sleeper agents, or perhaps accepting brown envelopes full of cash which he will then FedEx to various organizations whose names are engraved on the aforementioned List.

Evidently, no one at Immigration has heard of the wire transfer.

More likely they are afraid that Galloway will do something that makes embarassing headlines for neoconservatives everywhere.

For instance, there was that time that the US Congress, strangely unaware of all the Canadian government's security "intelligence" on Mr. Galloway, invited him to a hearing.

Or there was that time he savaged the SkyNews anchor for her biased reporting of the war in Lebanon:

And then there were his many encounters with erstwhile Trotskyite turned atheist neocon, Christopher Hitchens:

. . .but enough of that.

Obviously, Mr. Galloway only poses a "security" risk if by "security" you mean the political fortunes of Kenney's ideological fellow travellers.

Now whom do we find defending this reprehensible attack on freedom of speech? None other than the odious Ezra Levant, himself a self-styled champion of unrestricted expression:
George Galloway, the pro-terrorist MP from the United Kingdom, has been denied entry to Canada on security grounds. I suspect it has to do with his track record of providing financial assistance to terrorist groups like Hamas, which is listed as a criminal organization in Canada. It would not surprise me if CSIS determined that Galloway's visit would have had fundraising or recruiting spin-offs for Hamas or other terrorist groups. I'm sure Galloway himself would boast of those activities. (UPDATE: I am advised that, in fact, his planned speaking engagement at a Toronto church was to raise funds for Hamas.)
Aha! So it was a Hamas fundraiser! Hosted by a Church, no less! Well where is this church?! Let's close that place down too! Obviously it is breaking the law no less than Mr. Galloway.

Now. . . let's see FOUND IT!

How exactly do Levant, or the thousands of other conservative bloggers who are spreading this nonsense know that it is a Hamas fundraiser? Well, the truth is that they don't - they just made it up, because I'm pretty sure that the Metropolitan United Church did not circulate a flyer saying "George Galloway: From Gaza to Kandahar. Admission $5. All Proceeds to Hamas."

Levant is, like most of his bedwetting ilk, disingenuous in his love of free speech.

Neither he, nor Jason Kenney, have anything on George Galloway, other than his criticism of their shared love of violent imperialism.

The question nobody has asked, however, is why non-state actors qualify for the list of "terrorist" organizations, when state actors strangely do not.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Any person who's in Gaza is a terrorist"

This was a really fascinating discussion from some IDF officers who were in Gaza or in the skies above it during the recent assault on the Strip . The men who participate in the discussion are to be commended for their honesty, and their attempts to rein in some of the carnage that their men and, more importantly, their superiors were intent on inflicting. The article is quite long, and deserves to be read in full by anyone who wants to understand the mentality of the IDF and the view that Zionists in situ have of Palestinians.

'Shooting and Crying'

. . .

Aviv: "I am squad commander of a company that is still in training, from the Givati Brigade. We went into a neighborhood in the southern part of Gaza City. Altogether, this is a special experience. In the course of the training, you wait for the day you will go into Gaza, and in the end it isn't really like they say it is. It's more like, you come, you take over a house, you kick the tenants out and you move in. We stayed in a house for something like a week.

"Toward the end of the operation there was a plan to go into a very densely populated area inside Gaza City itself. In the briefings they started to talk to us about orders for opening fire inside the city, because as you know they used a huge amount of firepower and killed a huge number of people along the way, so that we wouldn't get hurt and they wouldn't fire on us.

"At first the specified action was to go into a house. We were supposed to go in with an armored personnel carrier called an Achzarit [literally, Cruel] to burst through the lower door, to start shooting inside and then ... I call this murder ... in effect, we were supposed to go up floor by floor, and any person we identified - we were supposed to shoot. I initially asked myself: Where is the logic in this?

"From above they said it was permissible, because anyone who remained in the sector and inside Gaza City was in effect condemned, a terrorist, because they hadn't fled. I didn't really understand: On the one hand they don't really have anywhere to flee to, but on the other hand they're telling us they hadn't fled so it's their fault ... This also scared me a bit. I tried to exert some influence, insofar as is possible from within my subordinate position, to change this. In the end the specification involved going into a house, operating megaphones and telling [the tenants]: 'Come on, everyone get out, you have five minutes, leave the house, anyone who doesn't get out gets killed.'

"I went to our soldiers and said, 'The order has changed. We go into the house, they have five minutes to escape, we check each person who goes out individually to see that he has no weapons, and then we start going into the house floor by floor to clean it out ... This means going into the house, opening fire at everything that moves , throwing a grenade, all those things. And then there was a very annoying moment. One of my soldiers came to me and asked, 'Why?' I said, 'What isn't clear? We don't want to kill innocent civilians.' He goes, 'Yeah? Anyone who's in there is a terrorist, that's a known fact.' I said, 'Do you think the people there will really run away? No one will run away.' He says, 'That's clear,' and then his buddies join in: 'We need to murder any person who's in there. Yeah, any person who's in Gaza is a terrorist,' and all the other things that they stuff our heads with, in the media.

"And then I try to explain to the guy that not everyone who is in there is a terrorist, and that after he kills, say, three children and four mothers, we'll go upstairs and kill another 20 or so people. And in the end it turns out that [there are] eight floors times five apartments on a floor - something like a minimum of 40 or 50 families that you murder. I tried to explain why we had to let them leave, and only then go into the houses. It didn't really help. This is really frustrating, to see that they understand that inside Gaza you are allowed to do anything you want, to break down doors of houses for no reason other than it's cool.

"You do not get the impression from the officers that there is any logic to it, but they won't say anything. To write 'death to the Arabs' on the walls, to take family pictures and spit on them, just because you can. I think this is the main thing in understanding how much the IDF has fallen in the realm of ethics, really. It's what I'll remember the most."

"One of our officers, a company commander, saw someone coming on some road, a woman, an old woman. She was walking along pretty far away, but close enough so you could take out someone you saw there. If she were suspicious, not suspicious - I don't know. In the end, he sent people up to the roof, to take her out with their weapons. From the description of this story, I simply felt it was murder in cold blood."

Zamir: "I don't understand. Why did he shoot her?"

Aviv: "That's what is so nice, supposedly, about Gaza: You see a person on a road, walking along a path. He doesn't have to be with a weapon, you don't have to identify him with anything and you can just shoot him. With us it was an old woman, on whom I didn't see any weapon. The order was to take the person out, that woman, the moment you see her."

Zvi: "Aviv's descriptions are accurate, but it's possible to understand where this is coming from. And that woman, you don't know whether she's ... She wasn't supposed to be there, because there were announcements and there were bombings. Logic says she shouldn't be there. The way you describe it, as murder in cold blood, that isn't right. It's known that they have lookouts and that sort of thing."

Gilad: "Even before we went in, the battalion commander made it clear to everyone that a very important lesson from the Second Lebanon War was the way the IDF goes in - with a lot of fire. The intention was to protect soldiers' lives by means of firepower. In the operation the IDF's losses really were light and the price was that a lot of Palestinians got killed."
. . .

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The Death of Solitude

Human solitude is dying.

"Every time I dropped this cell phone I would pick it up, hoping that it was broken, and every time I was disappointed." I said this to the dismay of the person who had insisted I borrow it - with completely good intentions, I might add.

Human solitude is dying. When was the last time that you can remember spending a full 24 hours, or even 12 hours in the absence of anyone else? When was the last time you threw down your Blackberry, your cell phone, your laptop, your pager, your PDA, your carrier pigeon, and every other method of communication, and allowed yourself to be alone?

When was the last time you left the city, left civilization, and went out alone into the woods, the prairie, the desert, the savannah, the tundra and didn't return for hours?

For those of you who are regular hikers, the answer very well might be "yesterday," especially if you live in Canada and you've had good weather recently. I'm not a regular hiker, and neither are most of the people I know. Neither are most of the self-declared environmentalists I know, myself included. We're intent on saving God's green Earth, but not to keen to experience it on our own.

"On your own," is important, not because it represents some kind of rugged individualism, but because it is so rare these days. We are never truly alone these days, as human beings create newer and more intrusive ways of contacting one another. In 1995, how many of your day-to-day acquaintances owned their own cell phone? In 2005, how many of your friends didn't? That's an unprecedented change. As cities expand, other places - places that are not cities - necessarily contract. There is less space to be alone in, and what is left is less accessible to the average person.

As I sit here typing away on my laptop, with its wireless internet connection, some of you might be thinking "now isn't he quite the hypocrite!" The answer is partly "yes," as the last time I recall being so alone and out of contact with humanity, and so in contact with the rest of Life (with a decidedly capital "L") would be at least a year ago. I am, however, not suggesting that we all renounce electronic gizmos and run off to the jungle, to live as hermits in rabbit-skin underwear. The telephone and the computer are useful inventions, and human beings are social animals. They just shouldn't become the focus of our lives; we should be able to live without them. We should be capable of being by ourselves.

Now many of you are probably thinking "Here goes another one, trying to make us feel bad for not spending enough time outdoors."

You'd be right. I am doing that. The important thing, however, is that you do it alone, and for an instant, be alone with your own thoughts, and not only ressucitate, but cherish that solitude.

That is the example of sages and prophets who came centuries before us, and it is one that - I suspect - we are quickly forgetting.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Best Frakkin' Show on T.V.

. . . airs its last episode this week.

I don't really watch a lot of movies or TV, but this is one show I'm excited about!

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Reality aside . . .

. . . Robert Spencer is totally right!

From that perspective, the arguments of Peters and D’Souza, and the many others who have said essentially the same thing, founder primarily upon one central fact: there are no armed Jewish or Christian groups anywhere in the world today who are committing acts of violence and justifying them by referring to these texts. Indeed, throughout history, these texts have never been taken as divine commands that either must be or may be put into practice by believers in a new age. All these passages, after all, are descriptive, not prescriptive. They nowhere command believers to imitate this behavior, or to believe under any circumstances that God wishes them to act as his instruments of judgment in any situation today.
Not acting in the name of any particular religion

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Merchants of dinga-dinga-Death

Arms manufacturer Rafael recently produced this horrendous promotional video to boost sales at an Indian air show. Wired Magazine picked it up, dubbing it "most atrocious defense video of all time."

Those of you who are unfamiliar with the arms trade are probably not aware of just how common this nonsense is. Weapons systems are products, and they are bought by human beings. Consequently, whether you are marketing targeting pods or toothpaste, the gimmicks are the same.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Stupid, stupid, stupid

Well, it looks like the Iranians, along with Hamas, are sending their sympathies to Sudanese president Omar El-Bashir, whose arrest warrant was issued earlier this year, following his indictment in July 2008.

This is a stupid, stupid, stupid move. Iran, a country rich with its own oil wealth, with no need for standing amongst the Arabs, and no reason to spite the ICC (and plenty of reasons to cheer for it), is behaving in an unfathomably stupid manner. Hamas, whose power is confined to the beaten and bloodied Gaza strip, has nothing to gain from relations with El-Bashir's government either, besides a bad reputation.

If El-Bashir had really done nothing wrong, his response to the ICC arrest warrant should have been simple: Send a representative to the ICC, and plead innocent, while keeping himself as far away from the Hague as possible. If the court refused to hear the case in the presence of his surrogate, the situation would have been defused, and he could have blamed the court for the failure of the process. If he were found guilty, he still could have stayed away. If he were acquitted, he could trumpet his victory.

In this last case, the cause of a functioning system of public international law, with an enforcement mechanism, would also have been served as the fairness of the process, having reached its first acquittal, would have been proven.

Unfortunately, El-Bashir is not concerned about a functioning system of public international law, except in the very limited sense that he himself is, almost without a doubt, a war criminal, if not for Darfur, then for the civil war in southern Sudan.

It is sad that any other international actor would even consider taking his side.

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"Constructive Criticism . . .

. . . is defined as 'Suggestions for improvement, with accompanying justifications, which may include additions, substitutions, or deletions, where "deletion" may include deletion of the entire enterprise itself' . . ."
-- A Certain Very Wise Man.

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