Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beauty pageant preserves culture of United Arab Emirates

Tamara Walid of Reuters reports from Dubai that one of the biggest and best beauty pageants in the Middle East is set to unfold in the United Arab Emirates. 150 contestants will compete every day for three days, with the top two winning luxury cars and the eight runners-up getting a sizeable number of petrodollars.

The contestants will be adorned with sparkling ornaments, but will otherwise parade totally unclothed -- just as Allah made them -- in front of the judges. The prettiest will be selected, based on general appearance, structure of the body, height, length of neck, and -- a critical factor -- the curve of their humps.

The competitors are, you see, camels. And not just any camels! Their owners must swear to the purity of their lineage and proprietorship. Camels that have been sullied by contact with infidels are disqualified.

In an effort to preserve the Emirates' cultural legacy, the government encourages camel rearing through funding and festivals where the desert animal is paraded for beauty, and sold in auctions. The festival also serves as a meeting point for the country's tribes. Tribesmen are paid by the government to rear camels and preserve a pure lineage of the country's breeds.

At the auction which follows the pageant, Gulf Arabs gather to place their bids or sell for the highest price on offer. Some camels could be sold for as much as 16 million dirhams ($4.36 million), said one participant.

The festival takes place three times a year in Ajman and Abu Dhabi. Said the event's executive director, Shalal Rzooqi al-Shimri, "With the festival, we want to encourage cultural tourism and preserve our heritage."

Cutting down the Jungle

Walt just chanced to hear an interview with a community planner who works for a city on the shore of one of the Great Lakes. She was talking about an "at-risk" neighbourhood in that city, which its residents call "the Jungle". It's a 65-acre slum, near an expressway, where for some reason there is a concentration of gang activity, drugs and gun crime.

One might ask why this is so. One might think that the type of housing -- social or "low-income housing" -- might have something to do with it. One would be wrong, or so this enlightened planner thinks. The problem, dear readers, is the architecture and design of the "community"!

There are too many alleys and dark corners. That's why people deal drugs there. The school playgrounds don't have jungle gyms [Did she really say that? ed.] or other equipment. That's why kids are afraid to go there. Many of the buildings are high-rises. That's why people pee in the elevators.

Now that we know the cause of the hooliganism and crime that besets the neighbourhood -- race has nothing to do with it, of course -- the solution is obvious. Tear down the buildings and start over!

Plant some trees. Cover the expressway. Encourage people to get out and walk more, especially after dark. Gentle reader, I kid you not. That's the plan to put an end to the perpetual rumble in the jungle.

But please tell me. Am I the only one experiencing cognitive dissonance here? Am I the only one who thinks something is outta whack? Can it be true that the residents of the Jungle have nothing to do with its problems?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nepotism and the N-word in southern Africa

From the Cape Times (a South African newspaper) comes a report that the exclusive and lucrative contract to sell FIFA's World Cup hospitality packages in Zimbabwe has been awarded to president Robert Mugabe's nephew, businessman and former Zanu PF MP Philip Chiyangwa, who is the subject of international sanctions.

Chiyangwa's business consortium is called the Native Investment Group (NIG). Walt wonders what they call t hose who belong to the group? Surely it couldn't be NIGgers? Noooo...

Although only 546 tickets to the World Cup had been bought in Zimbabwe by the beginning of February, and ticket prices are being slashed in South Africa to fill stadiums, Chiyangwa has claimed his NIG is doing boffo b.o. FIFA's hospitality packages -- including premium match tickets, catering, entertainment and travel packages with "dedicated hostesses" -- are managed internationally by Match Hospitality, which appoints regional agents and sub-agents such as NIG.

Match Hospitality is run by FIFA president Sepp Blatter's nephew Philippe Blatter, through his sports marketing company Infront. So it seems Africa is not so different from the ROTW after all. Connections mean a lot!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Oliphant labours, and brings forth...nothing

In July -- how quickly we forget -- we were enjoying the spectacle of a former prime minister of Canada, one Martin Lian Baloney, appearing before a commission of enquiry to explain why he pocketed $225,000 in case (or $300,000 if you accept the word of the donor) for doing, by Baloney's account, virtually nothing.

The Commissioner in charge of the proceedings was Jeffrey Oliphant, Associate Chief Justice of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench. Mr. Justice Oliphant was appointed to his position by ex-Prime Minister Mulroney's government, so of course he could be relied on to make a clear and objective judgment of the facts before him. He said he would do this in December.

December has come and gone -- how quickly we forget -- and there is no sign of any report from His Lordship. Rumour in Ottawa has it that there was not enough meat in the evidence to produce even a thin gruel.

Walt has already seen an early draft of the report; see "The Oliphant in the Room". Since that version will likely never see the light of day, Walt can now reveal the true winners of the epic battle -- the judge, the lawyers, and of course Mr. Baloney, who had a chance to present his self-serving version of the events for two days...all expenses paid by the Canadian taxpayer.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Got a wide-screen TV? Watch these Mike Duffy video clips

The buzz in Ottawa today is a new video featuring Senator Mike Puffy and washed-up sportswoman and Tory toady Nancy Greene Raine. A link to the original video has been sent by the Puffster to Conservative supporters [both of them? ed.] but for some reason not to Walt. However, ye olde ed. has located a version on YouTube, with a few captions added. You probably should watch this before eating.

We also found a great comment from Elizabeth May on Mike's journalistic integrity, before he got appointed to the Senate. Watching this video will show you -- and Ms. May will explain very clearly -- why Steve Harpoon appointed him.

And now let's see what Senator Duffy has to say for himself, post-appointment. Worst...Senate...appointment...EVER!

Dutch government falls over Afghanistan

The Netherlands has 1600 to 2000 troops in Afghanistan, depending on which news report you read. They went in as part of the NATO (read U.S.) mission in 2006 and were supposed to stay for two years. Like the Canadian effort, the Dutch engagement has been subject to "mission creep" and their soldiers are still there, with the big question being when and how to get them out.

Guess what? The Dutch government, which is a coalition, failed to agree on the answer. The Dutch prime minister wanted to extend the mission past the latest (August) deadline, but the deputy prime minister's party wouldn't agree. So the government has resigned, leaving a lot of unfinished business such as a new budget.

Popular opposition to the Netherlands' fighting in Afghanistan started high and has been increasing ever since. It will now likely be the main issue in parliamentary elections which will likely take place in the late spring.

The Dutch have lost 21 soldiers in Afghanistan, compared with 140 for Canada...so far.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Covering Haiti with rubber

LifeSite News reports that vital relief supplies destined for Haiti could not be offloaded because a storage facility was overloaded with a huge shipment of condoms. The condoms were estimated to occupy nearly 12,000 square feet in a 17,000 square foot warehouse. You couldn't make it up!

According to the report, the scenario of medical supply buildings in the developing world taken up mostly by condoms at the expense of true health care supplies is not new. When Canadian General Romeo Dallaire returned from Rwanda after the massacre there, he noted that military personnel referred to UN and other foreign aid as "covering the country with rubber."

Dallaire explained that tons of condoms and other contraceptives were being shipped to and distributed around the region in quantities far beyond what the population could use, and in place of much more needed food, medicine and other aid. Medical stores, he said, were filled with contraceptives and extremely short of any supplies to treat wounded Rwandans.

Earlier this week I asked an innocent question about Canadian Prime Minister Harper's visit to Haiti. What, I wondered, did Steve see that he didn't want to talk about, to the point where he refused to answer questions from the media who went along for the ride. Maybe now we have our answer. Even the P.M.'s blinkered vision couldn't miss a warehouse full of condoms!

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Africa...

Heading (in our thoughts) east through the Dark Continent, we come to Kenya, the politics and corruption of which is the subject of Michela Wrong's excellent book It's our turn to eat : the story of a Kenyan whistle-blower (New York, Fourth Estate, 2009).

Kenya's capital, Nairobi, is today ranked as one of the most dangerous capital cities in Africa, and that's saying something. In spite of hosting the headquarters of a number of UN agencies and NGOs, it is not a good place for foreigners to visit, let alone live and work. You wouldn't want to be a diplomat or professional do-gooder if it means living in Nairobi.

News has reached us of the kidnapping of a Canadian aid worker, grabbed in broad daylight on Wednesday after dropping his child off at school. This is just one incident in an epidemic of kidnapping which began last year. Most victims [not all? ed.] have been released after a ransom was paid by mobile telephone transfer. No-one ever said Africans couldn't make use of new technology!

About half of Kenyans live on less than $2 a day but there is also a thriving class of "eaters" (see Ms Wrong's book) and other criminals.

The percentage of Zimbabweans who live below the poverty line is probably higher. No-one knows for sure because Zimbabwe's Central Statistical Office gave up on trying to measure such things following the collapse of the Zimbabwean dollar last year. But Comrade Bob Mugabe's quest to destroy the economy by "empowering" himself and his cronies knows no end.

The latest, perhaps the last, nail in the coffin is the enactment of Statutory Instrument 21 of 2010, comprising the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment (General) Regulations, 2010. Under the regulations, all white-owned businesses will be required to give a 51% share of their enterprises to blacks, meaning "Bob's-your-uncle" and his cronies.

This odious new law does for the rest of the Zimbabwean economy what the infamous land grab which started in 2000 did for the agricultural sector. One of Zimbabwe's leading pundits, Eric Bloch, calls it a "death sentence". Mr. Bloch is one of only a handful of influential whites to have remained in Zimbabwe rather than deserting the sinking ship. Now, however, events seem to have overtaken his optimism. Click here to read his comments from this week's Zimbabwe Independent.

I also recommend "Zimbabwe: a nation with little to celebrate", written by Geoffrey York, the Globe & Mail 's man in Africa. He writes: "A year after a historic coalition government was formed, most Zimbabweans are in no mood to celebrate today's anniversary. Civil servants are on strike, reforms are stalled, farmers are under attack, and the autocratic Robert Mugabe still controls most of the levers of power."

Mr. York's column would appear to have been written before the latest "legalized" theft by the Zimbabwean government. Before he writes a follow-up, Mr. York should talk with Mr. Bloch.

Africa will always be Africa

It has been suggested that in recent blogs I have been a little hard on Africa, suggesting that the continent is beyond salvation...using that term in the secular, economic and political sense.

Words like "hopeless" and "going back to bush" do appear in my posts, along with scores of others suggesting that the poverty and chaos which marks today's Africa is the result of the ignorance, incompetence and corruption of Africans. In a nutshell, the suggestion is that Africans can't run a railroad...or an airline or a postal service or a government.

But does saying so make me a racist? I like to think of myself as a realist. I spent half a dozen years in Zimbabwe, a nation (in name, at least) going to hell in a handbasket. So I drew on my own experiences. But the bulk of the observations I shared with you were those of other writers who lived and worked in the Dark Continent. Every one of them was predisposed to be fair and forgiving, but couldn't escape the conclusions that (a) Africa is a mess, and (b) the chances of any improvement are slim at best.

This week brings news of yet another typically African coup, this time in Niger -- not to be confused with Nigeria. A gang of mutinous soldiers seized power on Thursday after capturing the President and cabinet in a violent coup. They were taken away to an unknown location in the aftermath of a gun battle that killed at least three people, and have not been heard from since.

The renegade troops have now installed in power a platoon commander, in keeping with a tradition which has sprung up in Liberia, Ghana, Uganda and other African countries. A spokesman for the plotters, wearing a military uniform and surrounded by soldiers, went on national television Thursday night to declare that Niger’s constitution was suspended and power was held by a group calling itself the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy.

Asking the people of Niger (those who had TV sets, at least) to stay calm, said the coup was a “patriotic action” to “save Niger and its population from poverty, deception and corruption.” These words were apparently taken from a script already presented in Liberia, Ghana, etc.

State radio was playing military music, as it did in previous military coups in the 1990s. This coup was the fourth, by most counts, since Niger obtained its independence from France. One wag commented that Africa is like an old LP record -- 33 1/3 revolutions per minute! In fact the average in Niger is roughly one every nine years.

I'll have some news from east and south Africa for you later.

Promoting same-sex marriage: the consequences

The latest jurisdiction to bow to pressure from the liberal ledia and the mighty gay lobby is the District of Columbia. Its government proposes not exactly to legalize "gay marriage", but to force all outsidse contractors working with the city to "recognize gay couples".

Picture it. "Hi, I'm here to read the water meter. Oh...I see you two have pink shirts and little moustaches and are engaged in a slobbering liplock. I guess you must be a gay couple. I recognize you!"

One of the contractors affected by the city's decree with be Catholic Charities, the social services arm of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. The archdiocese's website announced on Tuesday that its 80-year-old foster care programme ended February 1st, the day the city's latest contract expired.

"We regret that our efforts to avoid this outcome were not successful," Catholic Charities Chief Executive Officer Ed Orzechowski said in a statement quoted in the Washington Times. "Foster care has been an important ministry for us for many decades. We worked very hard to be able to continue to provide these services in the District."

The decision also puts an end to the involvement of the archdiocese in adoption services. So thousands of disadvantaged and orphan children in America's capital will lose an important source of help and support, all for the sake of political correctness and pandering to those who are actively promoting homosexuality.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fetuses learn languages before birth... So???

The pro-abortion lobby (yes, the ones who say they are "pro-choice" when they mean they're in favour of killing babies) would have us believe that the pieces of flesh which are removed from a woman's uterus during the abortion "procedure" are just that -- mere pieces of flesh, kind of like skin tags. "Let's just remove that unwanted piece of flesh so you can enjoy your life without the responsibilities of motherhoood."

A study published in Psychological Science recently confirms what the pro-lifers say. Rather than being just a type of cyst or tumour, the "thing" conceived within a woman is in reality a small but sentient human being, with faculties of hearing and even learning.

According to a report of the study in the Globe and Mail, newborns who were exposed to two languages while in the womb have already begun the process of bilingual acquisition. As if that's not enough, babies who are only days old are able to discriminate between the languages.

The study reveals that the origins of learning two languages lie so deep that they extend even to the prenatal period. In other words, a fetus has not just life but intellect, while still in the womb. Yet, even though we pay lip service to the right to life, he or she does not have the right to be born. Still we claim to be a logical and civilized society.

An attack on them is an attack on us! (Who's "them"?)

You may remember when Peter Kent was a bingo-caller [newsreader, surely. ed.] for TV network. Now his experience being able to stick to a script which someone else wrote is paying off in spades, as Junior Foreign Affairs Minister in the Canadian government. He plays Robin to Lawrence Cannon's Batman. [Don't go there. ed.]

Today he is doubtless waiting for a phone call summoning him to Steve Harpoon's office right sharpish to be dressed down for an interview he gave to Shalom Life, a magazine for the Jewish community, in case you didn't guess.

Kent appears to have got a bit ahead of the Tory plot to buy the Jewish vote at any cost plot. He suggested that in case of a military confrontation between Israel and, say, Iran, Canada would rush to Israel's defence! "An attack on Israel," he said, "would be considered an attack on Canada."

Wow! Strong stuff! The last time such sentiments were expressed in Canada, it was being said by the Colonel Blimps in Victoria and Rosedale and old soaks in Legion branches across the ROC. Of course they referred to Mother England, not Israel. Ah yes, ready aye ready! When the British lion is attacked, her cubs will rally to her defence!

But now it seems the Tory government's true allegiance belongs to the Chosen People who are occupying the Promised Land. According to Mr. Kent, "Prime Minister Harper has made it quite clear for some time now and has regularly stated that an attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada."

What both Harper and Kent will be regretting this morning is that Mr. Kent's statement appears to go much farther than Mr. Harper's previous pro-Israel comments. Could it be that they have in mind Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which says "an armed attack against one or more [parties] in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all." The only problem with that is that Israel isn't a member of NATO.

Mr. Kent told the Globe and Mail, “There is no military treaty but I think the Prime Minister's…commitment is quite clear: We don't pay lip service to our commitments to friends and allies.”
No "lip service" perhaps, but what about playing the skin flute?

What would be the benefit to the Conservatives in all but promising to send more Canadian men and women to be killed in a conflict in a faraway land which holds no gain or even interest for the majority of Canadians? Oh... wait... There is one minority group, a very rich and influential one too, which would be happy to hear Mr. Kent's brave words.

"Israel is not in any doubt…as to the degree of Canada's commitment," said the Junior Foreign Affairs Minister. Let's hope that if Canada is called on to back up its fighting words with some fighting actions, Mr. Kent will be called on to lead the charge.

Harper: doncha Haiti him?

In all the fuss and fanfare surrounding the opening of the Oleolympics, you may not have noticed that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper took a few moments off from basking in the B.C. sunshine to visit Haiti, the rat-hole down which millions of taxpayers' dollars are currently being pounded.

As nearly as Walt could see from the video clips, "Call me Steve" was not accompanied by his other half. Nor did Her Jeanness, the Governor-General of Canada, make the trip, even though the tour included her hometown. Possibly Canada's first ladies find walking through the squalor distasteful.

Walt still hasn't heard exactly how big a cheque the lovely and fragrant Ms. Jean wrote for Haitian earthquake relief, but one would think that the G-G would have liked to see for herself how the many dollars [perhaps even in the 10s. ed.] which she has doubtless contributed are being spent.

She won't find out from Mr. Harpoon. Our fearless leader refused to answer questions from the media as to what he had seen through his dark [rose-coloured, surely? ed.] glasses. Did he see looting? Did he see people fighting over the aid packages? Did he see filth and poverty? Did he see any rebuilding done? We shall never know.

What he did see, evidently, was the outstretched hand of Haiti's politicians, for he graciously pledged twelve million taxpayers' dollars to build...wait for it...new government offices. Ah yes, a palace for the president. Just what Haiti needs. Walt wonders how many shelters for the homeless could have been built for $12,000,000. Shame.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lenten sacrifice

I hope you're enjoying your pancakes and generally having a ball today, because tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.

I'm not licensed to preach so won't, but will remind you that Lent is not necessarily about giving up something, like ice cream. In fact a lot of people use Lent to try to give up bad habits or lose weight. As with all such plans, we might do it for 40 days, but afterwards we slip back into our old ways.

Lent is about making a sacrifice. You can do it by giving something up, but you can also do it in a positive way. You could sacrifice a few moments each day to say a little prayer, for instance grace at meals. You could go to church on a day when you don't have to, especially during Holy Week. You could give to the Church or to a charity such as Share Life which promotes Christian projects and Christian values. Any or all of the above would be good.

To all who believe, I wish a Holy Lent.

Monday, February 15, 2010

How much Americans know about Canada, Part 72

Fox... You know, the one who had that awful disease and was so courageous. And funny too, especially in that Back to Future movie! Yeah, he's the one who should have lit the Olympic flame. No doubt about it, at least in the mind (if you'll forgive the overstatement) of NBC.


video

Sainthood of Brother André to be recognized

For Catholics or other believers in Christ, a must-see in Montréal is the truly awe-inspiring Saint Joseph's Oratory, begun in 1904 as a small chapel in Mount Royal. Its founder was Alfred Bessette, who later became known as Brother André.

It's been some years since I was there, but on my last visit, you could still see Brother André's heart and many other relics of a good and holy man who was venerated by generations of worshippers. Over the decades people have come in their thousands to the Oratory, to ask Brother André to intercede for them with God and His Blessed Mother.

Some people scoff. But there can be no doubt that Brother André's compassion towards human suffering and his humble demeanour inspired thousands who came to the chapel believing in his powers and seeking healing. And they received it, as testify the countless crutches, prosthetic limbs and so on brought to the shrine by those who were helped.

Last October, the Church's Theological Commission for the Causes of Saints declared “scientifically unexplainable” at least one of the thousands of healing miracles attributed to Brother André. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, recognized the miracle in December, making possible Brother André's official canonization.

The dates for the canonization of Brother André and five other new saints will be revealed in an official decree after a meeting of cardinals at the Vatican this coming Friday.

It is all too evident that the Church does not hold the special place in the minds and lives of most
Québecois that She did before the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. The real "religion" of Québec now is the Canadiens! But for the millions of Québecois who still keep the Faith, the recognition of sainthood and "the communion of saints" is still important.

Brother André helped shape the religious beliefs of millions of Canadian Catholics, many of whom now pray that his canonization will spark a renewal of religious fervour and devotion.

Apartheid in Canadian: coming to an end?

How many of you, dear readers, have actually set foot on an Indian reserve? [That would be "reservation", for U.S. readers. ed.] You may have driven through, as you're hurtling along Highway 17 on the north shore of Lake Superior, but you didn't really see it, did you. What you see is just the occasional sub-standard house, the odd rusting car or pickup. It could be any impoversithed rural area.

Believe it or not, there are some reserves that are relatively prosperous, not much worse or better than an average Canadian town or suburb. If you've got oil under your reserve, you're probably doing OK. So also if your reserve has its own casino or if you're located close enough to the U.S. border to profit from, er, cross-border trade.

One such is the Kahnawake Mohawk reserve, near Montreal. Because of that proximity, they have easy access to a large job market and have become quite prosperous while benefiting from fiscal privileges granted to reserve residents.

"Reserve residents" -- there's the rub. Not a few white men and women have devised a simple but clever scheme for getting onto the reserve. By marrying an Indian, you get to be an honorary member of the band, so to speak, with all the rights and privileges that goes with Indian status.

Now the Kahnawake band council, alarmed at the number of palefaces in their midst, has given 26 non-Mohawks ten days to fold their tents, as it were, and leave the reserve. Most of them are non-native men living with Mohawk women. Indian men married to non-native women aren't being targetted, which suggests elements of racism and sexism in the new ethnic cleansing order.

Families will be broken up and husbands and fathers expelled from their homes, unless the women follow their partners off the reserve. But if they do so, they and their children will lose their family homes and their ancestral rights.

Does all this remind you of anything or any place you've heard of in the past? It reminds me of South Africa. For 45 years, that Nationalist government of that country had a formal system of separate development called "apartheid". Its aim was to have separate living areas for whites and the different black peoples who inhabited the country.

The South Africans went so far as to set up "native homelands" which had their own governments, even their own postage stamps, while remaining part of the larger republic. Canadian governments have been trying for a century to figure out how to resolve Indian land claims without having the guts to bite the bullet and give the Indians more land, rather than billions of dollars of taxpayers' cash.

The Mohawks of Kahnawake are being loudly condemned by the Doers of Good in our society for blatant racism [and sexism. ed.] for wanting to get the non-Indians off their reserve. The hypocrisy is breathtaking!

We tell the Indians they can have these small chunks of land to replace the billions of acres that they were conned out of by those who spoke with forked tongue. We tell them they can run their own local governments, make their own laws, even have their own police forces. Then we affect surprise when they want some say in who's going to live there!

Let me say it again. It is our natural condition, as humans, to want to mingle, socialize, associate and live with other people who are like ourselves! In Canada now, we are told we can't do that. We have to welcome whoever wants to be our neighbours, be they saints or scum of the earth. But the Indians got excepted from this forced multiculturalism. Now we tell them they can't discriminate against non-Indians because to do so would be to violate their "human rights".

To follow that, er, thought to its conclusion, what the federal government should do is dismantle the reserves altogether, open up the Indians' land for settlement by anyone [including real Indians? from India? ed.] and pretend that we're all one, big, happy, Canadian family.

Footnote: Don't take me to task to task for using the old-fashioned term "Indian" instead of "First Nations person" or "aboriginal" or whatever is p.c. these days. I heard a Kahnawake resident on the TV news and he called himself "Indian" so that's good enough for me.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

140

Cpl. Joshua Caleb Baker, RIP

Corporal Joshua Caleb Baker, a reservist with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, died in an explosion during a training exercise near Kandahar, Afghanistan, yesterday.

He was only 24 years of age.

Unpaternity suit

Agent 1 makes a rare appearance in Walt's e-mail box and forwards an interesting legal dispute from Germany.

In Stuttgart, a judge must decide on a case of honourable intentions, in a situation where a man hired his neighbour to get his wife pregnant.

Demetrius Soupolos, 29, and his former beauty queen wife, Traute, wanted a child badly. But Demetrius was told by a doctor that he was sterile.

So, after calming his wife's protest, Soupolos hired his neighbour, Frank Maus (pronounced "mouse"), 34, to impregnate Traute. Since Maus was already married and the father of two children [obviously more a man than a maus! ed.] and looked a lot like Soupolos to boot, the plan seemed good.

Soupolos paid Maus 2000 euros for the job. For three evenings a week for the next six months, Maus tried desperately, a total of 72 different times, to impregnate Traute.

When his own wife objected, Maus explained, "I don't like this any more than you. I'm simply doing it for the money. Try to understand!"

When Traute failed to get pregnant after six months, Soupolos was not so understanding, and insisted that Maus have a medical examination. The doctor's announcement that Maus was also sterile shocked everyone except Frau Maus, who was forced to confess that Maus was not the real father of their two children!

Now Soupolos is suing Maus for breach of congtract, in an effort to get his money back. Maus refuses to give it up because he said he did not guarantee conception, but only that he would give an honest effort.

Agent 1 doesn't provide a source for the report. Walt thinks it's inconceivable.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Are you a secret racist? Take this test!

Read "No racism in teen's death, officer says", from today's Toronto Star.

Now answer the following questions:
1. What colour do you think Duane Christian was?
2. What colour do you think Steve Darnley is?
Hint: You won't find the answer in the oh-so-PC Star article.

3. Drawing on the assumption you have just made -- c'mon, admit it! -- estimate, to the closest $1000, the amount that Duane Christian's family will recover in its $2-million lawsuit against the Special Investigations Unit.

4. Do you agree with the Star's frequent contention that the "black community" is "overpoliced" by the Toronto Police Service? Write your answer on the back of a postage stamp and send it to the Toronto Star, 1 Yonge Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5E 1E6 Canada.

Evil people

Central Ontario, indeed much of the country, has been horrified by the arrest this week of the commander of CFB Trenton -- Canada's largest airforce base -- on charges of murdering two women and raping two others.

And this may be just the beginning. Investigators are following the trail of Colonel Russell Williams around the country and around the world, looking for links to a number of cold cases, including the murder of another female member of the forces in Manitoba.

Col. Williams has yet to be tried, but has supposedly made some incriminating statements to the police, and may have led them to the latest victim's body. So let's assume that he did that of which he stands accused. The big question is, WHY?

No-one saw this coming. Read his biography and you can find nothing that shows a propensity or even an inclination for this sort of thing. It's unclear if the Armed Forces did any psychiatric evaluation or profiling before raising Col. Williams to his high position, but if they did, no red flags were raised.

Why did he do it?! Some people, perhaps his defence lawyers, may claim that he is or was mentally ill, not fully responsible for his actions. A lot of liberal thinkers would agree, on the theory that humans are inherently good, and only someone who is "sick" could tie women up, rape them and take "trophy pictures". But is that so?

Walt believes people are inherently BAD, the consequence of Original Sin. You don't have to teach a child to be bad. And is there one amongst us who hasn't thought of doing a bad thing -- like killing someone -- "if only..." And therein lies part of the answer.

Most of us don't commit the crimes we think about for fear of getting caught or going to hell or whatever. We are afraid to do it. But some of us, like Raskolnikov, say to ourselves "go for it" and do it to see if we can get away with it, or just to see what happens.

There is nothing wrong with these people except that they fail to control the evil within them. They give in to "the dark side" or, if you like, the Devil.

Some of them do it more than once. In the U.S.A., you have to commit murder twice to be deemed a serial killer. In Canada the rule seems to be three times. Then they call you a dangerous offender and lock you up for life...supposedly.

In an earlier time you might have been found to be possessed by the Devil and drowned or burned at the stake. But the reasoning is the same. "This person is irredeemably evil. Let our society be rid of him." Any flaw in this logic is hard to see.

Ma Bell wakes up at last

Agent 3 grew up (more or less) in southern Ontario in the days when the Bell Telephone Co. was the only telecommunications game in town. They provided very good telephone service -- no TV, no internet -- at reasonable rates. If there was a problem, you called the local operator who fixed it or sent someone out.

Then came the telecommunications explosion: the internet, cable TV, wireless, mobile phones and other electronic gizmos which are supposed to improve communications around the world and right around home. Unless, that is, you're trying to communicate with your service provider.

Gone are the days when you could dial "0" and talk to a real person, maybe even a neighbour. First we had the late unlamented Emily, an automaton who, although she didn't understand very well, at least spoke with a good North American accent. Then came outsourcing.

Having spent many years overseas before returning to Canada in the mid-90s, Agent 3 thought he could cope reasonably well with unfamiliar accents and vocabularies such as might be uttered by native speakers of Swahili, Chinese or even British English. But he hadn't recked with Bell's "service personnel" in India or the vicissitudes of "Indian English". (If you doubt there is such a thing, consult The Oxford Companion to the English Language.)

To avoid having an apoplectic fit, Agent 3 resorted to dialling "2" for service in French. That used to get you someone in Montréal who could be persuaded to switch to English. No more. The best ploy now, for internet service, is to chat online. If you can see on your screen what they're trying to say, usually you can figure it out.

The problem with the unintelligble accents of the Indians was getting so bad that other telecoms companies started to advertise "Canada-based service operators"!

You will understand Agent 3's reluctance, then, to sign on for Bell TV. Finally he did so, all the while dreading the day when he would have to make a service call. Last night the screen went black during the Canadiens game, so he had no choice but to pick up the phone and call 1-888-SKY-DISH. (Well, he might have tried trouble-shooting himself, but Agent 3 is a Luddite.)

Imagine Agent 3's surprise when the phone was answered on the second ring (after pressing "1" for service in English) by a pleasant-voiced young lady who spoke clear Canadian English! She got to the bottom of the problem quickly too, and walked 3 through the reset process in time to see the next goal.

Suitably impressed, Agent 3 asked the young lady if she was in Montreal or Toronto, only to be told that she was in Manila! How about that! So it seems that Ma Bell, never the first with the best, has finally figured out that there are alternatives to the cheapest outsourced workers.

Maybe they're paying the Filipinos a little more, but they'll reap the reward in customer satisfaction with the service experience. There's more to service than fixing the problem. As advertising guru David Ogilvy said, "the customer should get a first-class ride to his destination". It seems Ma Bell has at last listened to its customers' demands for just that!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Anglo-Catholic or Roman Catholic?

Walt started cheering, perhaps prematurely, when Pope Benedict XVI last fall announced the creation of ordinariates through which entire Anglican communities could leave the Church of England and come into communion with Rome.

In this way, Anglicans fed up with their sect's stance on such things as homosexuality and the "ordination" of women could return to the True Church and yet keep their distinctive English liturgy and present leaders.

The Pope's move has caused some consternation in the ranks of liberal "new church" Catholics, but even more amongst Anglican leaders (including the nominal head of the church, Queen Elizabeth II) who fear a mass exodus.

Now a leading Anglican bishop has dismissed the Holy Father’s decision as, in effect, a half measure. John Sentamu, the Anglican archbishop of York, said “If people genuinely realize that they want to be Roman Catholic, they should convert properly, and go through catechesis and be made proper Catholics.... If I was really, genuinely wanting to convert, I wouldn’t go into an ordinariate. I would actually go into catechesis and become a truly converted Roman Catholic and be accepted [as such].”

Indeed. To analogize with hockey or football, you can't join another team but keep wearing your old team's jersey. Either make a total commitment, with all that implies, or stay where you are.

Click here to read "Archbishop of York dismisses Pope's call for conversions to Roman Catholicism", in the online edition of the Telegraph.

Are Canadians up for a tea party?

On January 20th I wrote about the election of a Republican senator in Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy's old fiefdom, thanks in part to the burgeoning Tea Party movement. This week the movement -- it may be premature to call it a political party -- had a convention, at which Sarah Palin was the featured speaker.

The 2012 presidential wannabe gave a rousing speech, according to all reports, in which she poked rather a lot of fun at President Barack Obama’s failure to live up to his promises.
“A year later, how is all that hopey-changey stuff working out for you?” she asked, rhetorically. For those listening, indeed for millions of Americans, the answer is clearly: not too well. [Wouldn't an American say "Not too good?" ed.]

In today's Globe & Mail, John Ibbotson ponders what it would take to provoke Canadians to the sort of righteous indignation we see in the USA. He says that if prorogation of Parliament, a provincial premier going outside Canada for surgery and the federal government's covering up a brewing scandal in the Public Works Department won't do it, nothing will!

Here are two very cogent excerpts from Mr. Ibbotson's piece:

Canada and the United States are remarkably similar countries.... Yet politically, we are solitudes. Americans are perpetually in full-throated reaction to the status quo. Their grassroots abhorrence of the war in Iraq, the mismanagement of Katrina and the other follies of the Bush administration helped get Barack Obama elected President of the United States.
Now it would seem that an equally large, though very different, assembly of Americans is rallying in reaction to Mr. Obama’s statist interventions in the economy, his hopes to reform health care, his government’s projected deficits.

Yet here at home all is quiet.... For all our shared geography and history, Canadians are more Japanese than American. Or more German. Or Norwegian. We accommodate ourselves to the political reality we inhabit. Only the Americans are perpetually up in arms against the status quo. It makes for more unstable, more dysfunctional, but ultimately more democratic politics.

Walt would like to see a little more American indignation in the Canadian psyche and Canadian politics. "Not so bad, eh" is not good enough! Tea party, anyone?

Beyond the mountains, more mountains

"Beyond the mountains, more mountains" is a Haitian proverb. It is also the title of a book by Tracy Kidder about Paul Farmer, who, since last August, holds the unenviable post of UN deputy special envoy for Haiti.

According to an article by Jennifer Wells in the Toronto Star, Mr. Farmer has serious doubts about whether Haiti will ever rise from its position in the economic basement of the western hemisphere. Appearing before the UN Committee on Foreign Relations a couple of weeks ago, he asked "Does this catastrophe create a chance for all of us to have a sounder, more solidarity-based relationship with Haiti? Or is to to be yet another chapter in a jeremiad of suffering and abuse of power?"

My bet is on the latter. First of all, I don't understand what a "solidarity-based relationship" means. It sounds to me like yet another example of foreignaidspeak.

Secondly, as I wrote a couple of days ago, Haiti is fundamentally an African state which, by an accident of geography, just happens to have drifted into the Caribbean. As several writers have pointed out (see Walt, passim, ad nauseam), guilt-ridden white western nations have for decades been pouring aid into Africa, writing off debt and generally trying to be helpful. And their efforts have done more harm than good.

In his testimony, Farmer remarked that 85 per cent of donor monies gathered after the serial storms and hurricanes of 2008 remains undistributed. That's right! The Haitian government and NGOs already had more than enough financial resources to cope with the recent disaster.

Yet the majority of the Haiti's population still had to live on less than $2 a day. More than 70 per cent of the workforce remained unemployed. The 2010 earthquake has made things only a little worse. The additional money now being collected and the bales of clothing and containers of food being sent to that wretched nation will make things only a little better for a little time.

Then Haiti will be forgotten. It's yesterday's news. We've had the concert, passed the hat, wept on TV and said how much our thoughts and prayers go out to those poor suffering, people. The show's over; nothing more to see there.

How about if we just leave Haiti alone? Our well-meaning ministrations over the years have reduced the Haitians to a nation of beggars. But as a Ugandan proverb says, "Begged water does not quench the thirst."

What Haiti...and Africa...need is to develop a sense of self-reliance, a pull-ourselves-up-by-the-bootstraps will to work and will to live. The resources are there. Food aid is starting to rot on the docks. Instead of helping each other, Haitians are fighting with each other over the loot.

Let them look after each other, without our do-good intervention, and they will be better off for it. Perhaps they will even start to see opportunity in scaling the next mountain.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

In Canada, better to be a refugee than a pensioner

If you come to Canada as a refugee, here's what you get from the federal government:

A monthly pension of : $1,890.00 (to a single refugee -- more if they have dependents)
Plus: 580.00 in social assistance
A grand total of : $2,470.00 every month
x 12 months comes to $28,920.00 annual income.

By comparison, the old age pension of a senior citizen who has contributed to the development of our beautiful country for 40 or 50 years cannot exceed more than:
$1,012.00 per month Canada Pension and Guaranteed Income Supplement
x 12 months gives Canadian seniors a not-so-grand total of $12,144.00 annual income.

The difference? $16,776.00 per year

The lesson? In Canada it's better to be a refugee than a senior citizen!

Just by coincidence, last night Walt saw an episode of South Park in which the old folks [seniors, surely! ed.] revolt and take over the town to demand better treatment. But that's only fiction.
And only in the USA. Canadian seniors wouldn't protest the incredible nonsense of refugees getting more than they do...would they?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Weird way to drink milk?

Normal people have been drinking their milk out of jugs ever since ever since Eve introduced the concept to Cain and Abel. But some progressive [un-American! ed.] types have hit on the idea of selling, storing and serving their milk out of plastic bags!

In this video, Sheryl Ng explains how they get milk in her home in Ontario, Canada.
WARNING: This video contains material which may be offensive or disgusting to some viewers! At least that's the reported reaction of many American viewers: "Milk in a bag... ewwwwwww!"

Next time, Sheryl will discuss putting vinegar on french fries, or "chips" as they are known in Canada.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Haiti connection

For the first three days of this week we've been looking at Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles, by Richard Dowden. Mr. Dowden is a British journalist and has written for the Times, and the Economist. As the book tells you, he has spent many years travelling in and reporting on virtually every country of sub-Saharan Africa.

Dowden wants to be sympathetic to Africa and its people, but his conclusions are gloomy. Since independce, i.e. for the last half-century, Africa has declined into poverty and chaos, and the writer sees little hope of much improvement any time soon.

A reader has wondered about the relevance of this subject to today's news. Africa is not in the news at the moment. Somalis are killing each other. Comrade Bob Mugabe's regime continues to push white farmers off their land in Zimbabwe.

The president of South Africa has taken another wife (his 5th, by most counts) and admitted paternity of his 20th love child. (This is the same man who said in court that he was careful to take a shower after unprotected sex so he wouldn't get AIDS.) In other words, things are normal in Africa.

But there is a little bit of Africa in the western hemisphere which has been much in the news of late. That would be Haiti. Watch the video clips from the earthquake zone and note the similarity between the look of the place and the look and actions of the people.

Yes, Haiti is an African nation. The people are ethnically African, the descendants of slaves brought from Africa in the 18th century. Since Haiti was then a French colony, they did not have the admixture of Spanish that altered the ethnicity of their neighbours in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. They remain African.

Politically too, Haiti resembles Africa more than its Caribbean neighbours. The slaves revolted nearly two hundred years ago, expelled the French and established the western hemisphere's first republic. Since then there have been a succession of regimes, including dictatorships and one short-lived empire, not to mention the occasional invasion by America. In a word, western democracy has not exactly flourished in Haiti.

Visitors to Haiti before the earthquake could be forgiven for thinking they were in Africa. There was the same decay and disintegration, the same incompetence, the same corruption, the same slums and poverty...the same people.

Haiti was a mess, and that in spite of billions of dollars in foreign aid and the tireless efforts of thousands of white missionaries, aid workers and Doers of Good. Just like Africa.

Then came the earthquake, and now everyone's jumping on the Let's-Do-Something-For-Haiti bandwagon. Ah, the white man's burden -- perpetual guilt combined with a nagging fear that maybe the terrible racists are right after all.

Opening our hearts and wallets to the stricken Haitians (and those who will do well out of doing good) is very commendable. But do we really expect that when the dust settles and all the relief money has been spent, the situation of the Haitians who are left will be any better? Cyncial Walt says don't bet on it!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The reality of Africa: MY conclusion

Yesterday we looked at some facts and figures from Richard Dowden's Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles, showing how Asia has progressed since the end of the colonial era. On Monday we saw how, during the same 40-50 years, Africa has regressed.

The book is full of examples of Africa "going back to bush". It's actually quite a depressing read, especially for those who believe, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that we are all created equal. Here's Dowden's observation of a small west African country, a long-time British colony now suffering from the "benefits" of independence.

Sierra Leone seems to be turning away from modernity and retreating into the Iron Age. I had felt the same sensation in Uganda, in Congo, Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sudan, Ghana and even in some countries like Senegal and Kenya that had not suffered a complete political breakdown.

It is as if everything manufactured -- bricks, cars, engines, paper, plastic bottles, oil cans -- had been carried into Africa on a tide that is now retreating. The strange imports lie like rusting and rotting flotsam beached on an alien shore. Africa is strewn with buildings and machinery that were supposed to bring development but somehow got adapted or transformed into something else or now lie broken and useless in the sun.

And it is not just things. Sometimes the very nation states themselves, with their borders, flags, airlines, presidential palaces and government offices, seem to be disintegrating and dissolving.

I hear a wise old African saying with a polite smile: "Thank you for these things but they do not last long and they really are not suitable for Africa. It is better we rely on what we know, mud and wood, fire and a little smelted iron."

Exactly. Africa is going back to the iron age because that's all Africans know and that's what they are comfortable with. The problem with Africa, which The Economist called "the hopeless continent", is Africans!

Yes, yes, I know that'a a sweeping generalization, but that doesn't make it untrue. Nor does saying so make me a racist. I lived in Africa for six years and saw firsthand the effects of African ignorance, incompetence and corruption, as described in Mr. Dowden's wise, compassionate and understanding account.

Dowden is not a racist. I am not a racist. We are just realists. That is the way Africa is!

It has always been so. Travelling in Europe and Asia you see, in the architecture alone, evidence of civilizations and cultures which have subsisted for thousands of years. In sub-Saharan Africa there is virtually nothing.

Of course there's the odd exception, like the Great Zimbabwe ruins, which may have been built by Africans...or not. But until the Europeans came there was virtually no infrastructure, no written language, no government or social structures beyond the tribe or small "kingdom". African society before the advent of the white man was primitive.

What the white man did was to attempt to graft a skin of civilization over the raw body of African society. It didn't take. And now that the doctor is gone, the patient is rejecting the treatment, just as the "wise old African" says.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The reality of Africa, cont'd

Yesterday I gave you rather a long quote from Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles, describing how Africa had regressed in the post-colonial period. Now let's look at Richard Dowden's account of what happened in Asia at the same time.

By the end of the century, Asia had leapt ahead while Africa had gone backwards. Many Asian states started from a lower economic baseline than Africa in the early 1960s, but then made rapid progress in the 1980s with hi-tech industrialization policies implemented with rigid political, social and educational discipline.

Economic policies, technology, social organization and, above all, attitudes had changed. Within a couple of decades Asian countries were able to sustain increasing populations and offer them a future. More of their children survived, more families had clean running water and electricity, more were going to school, were learning to read and write and were able to find jobs when they left.

Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia and a new and mighty China began to become the world's manufacturers, making better and cheaper cars, textiles, ships, plastics, radios, toys and computers. Life got better for more people in Asia in the 1980s than at any other time in the history of human development.

The italics are mine, once again.

So...why the difference? Why did Asia succeed while Africa failed? My conclusions (if you haven't already guessed) tomorrow.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The reality of Africa

I'm reading yet another book on Africa, a continent and a subject that fascinates me endlessly. Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles, by Richard Dowden (PublicAffairs, New York, 2009) is a history, gazetteer and travelogue all rolled into one. It covers recent events -- the last couple of decades -- and the reasons therefor in most of sub-Saharan Africa.

Like most journalists of our time, Dowden, an Englishman, lays a lot of the blame for Africa's ills at the feet of the evil colonialists. How could the British, French, Portuguese, Belgians and others have the temerity to inflict upon the poor Africans roads, hospitals, power and water and the other evils of the civilized world?

That is the legacy left to Africa by the wicked imperialists. But what has happened to Africa since the British and others lost the will to govern and decamped in the 60s and 70s? At page 263 we read this:

According to the economic historian Angus Maddison, Europeans were only three times richer than Africans at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Today they are twenty times richer and the gap is getting wider. By 2000 Ireland's 4 million people, once among the world's poorest, produced more wealth than 200 million West Africans, including the mighty Nigerians with their abundance of oil and gas. The entire continent south of the Sahara, apart from South Africa, produced less than tiny Belgium.

The figures tell the story that the living standards of most Africans fell during the last three decades of the twentieth century. In 2008, on the UN Human Development Index, the world league tables that measure human well-being, African countries fill twenty-eight of the thirty bottom places for health, education and per capita wealth.

Some African countries are beginning to improve, but most Africans are still worse off than they were thirty years ago. By 2000 some 315 million Africans out of a total of about 770 million were living in absolute poverty. Only 15 per cent lived in "an environment considered minimally adequate for sustainable growth and development," says Paul Collier of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford.

According to the World Bank, it will take at least a decade of strict policies and sweat to achieve and maintain growth rates of more than 7 per cent. That is the target if Africa is to get back to the levels of prosperity that African countries enjoyed when the imperials powers left at the beginning of the 1960s.

The italics are mine. The conclusions are for you to draw. More on this tomorrow.