Friday, April 22, 2005

Connecting the dots: Oil-for-food trail points north

A lot of people here in the U.S. were disappointed (at least) when Canada refused to join us in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Some revelations over the past several months seem to indicate that the real reason for Canada's reluctance had little to do with its opposition to military intervention and a lot to do with Canadian business interests... in particular, one company with close ties to both former Prime Minister Jean Chretien and current (at least for now) PM Paul Martin.
By all accounts, the Power Corp. is a rather low-key outfit, unusual for a company that was credited with $16 billion (Cdn) in earnings last year. Its holdings, according to the Western Standard, span a wide range of interests, including publishing, defense and financial services. It also once owned the shipping company now owned by PM Martin's family. In fact, Martin is a former Power Corp. executive.
Also, Chretien's daughter married into the Desmarais family, the dominant family in the Power Corp.
As for the rest of the dots...
* One of the Power Corp.'s investments, a France-based bank, is one of the key players in the Oil-For-Food scandal now enveloping the United Nations.
* Two U.N. officials mentioned in more recent reports as having potential ties to Oil-For-Food are Canadians -- Maurice Strong, a former Power Corp. executive, and Louise Frechette, a career diplomat and a potential U.N. Secretary-General of the future, according to the Western Standard reporting of April 18.
The nature of Power Corp.'s involvement in Oil-For-Food may be innocent; it may not. That will be for the Oil-for-Food investigators to determine. At the least, it would be embarrassing that Canada -- a nation which had a reputation for supporting human rights efforts -- would be so opposed to clearly liberating the human rights of the Iraqis, including the millions tortured and killed under the Saddam Hussein regime.
Therefore, it seems as if Canada's refusal to join Iraqi Freedom may have been driven by motivations other than purity.
If that is indeed the case, it's going to be damned difficult to look at our northern neighbors the same way.
UPDATE: Thanks to Angry in the Great White North (, there is more evidence to support this theory -- Saddan Insane invested a million bucks in a company owned by ... Canadian PM Paul Martin.

Sources: (includes links to other CFP stories)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

No more MNF on free TV

Monday Night Football is about to be no more... at least, on over-the-air channels.
The 2005 season will be the swan song for MNF on ABC. In 2006, you better have cable or satellite, because MNF is going to ESPN. (There is one exception. When a local team is involved, ABC stations in the market will be allowed to carry the game, such as they do now on other ESPN nights.)
It's probably long overdue.
Monday Night Football was born at a time when cable TV was in areas only where you couldn't get a decent signal off an antenna. No ESPN, no MTV, no CNN. My kids marvel at stories about their parents' childhood, when the only choices you had were ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS.
The producers and folks who worked with the NFL to set the schedule always seemed to have better-than-average games on the Monday night card. And there was always the interesting interplay between the bombastic Howard Cosell and the exaggerated folksiness of Dandy Don Meredith.
Times changed. So did the cast of characters, now Al Michaels and John "Wham! Bam!" (but no 'thank you, ma'am') Madden. 'Tis a pity, but Michaels has become somewhat of a caricature of himself, a pity considering the utter brilliance of his call in the Miracle on Ice game.
"Do you believe in miracles? (pause) Yes!" Then silence. He knew he didn't have to say a word. The sound from Lake Placid and the images of the U.S.A. celebration said it all. Michaels doesn't have that appreciation of silence any more, from what I've heard lately.
Madden, too, has become somewhat of a parody of himself. He's still pretty informative, but we've heard 98.6 percent of it before.
As it is, when ESPN takes over Monday nights, it appears that Michaels and Madden won't get the call. It will go to the ESPN Sunday night crew of play-by-play voice Mike Patrick with class clown Paul Maguire and class know-it-all Joe Theismann. Patrick's pretty good, but I'd rather hear him teamed with anybody but those two. Maguire has his moments when he's pretty good; Theismann has his moments, but none of them are good. I keep thinking of a riff from an old Stealers Wheel song. "Clown to the left of me, joker to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle."
Anyway, prepare to say farewell to Monday Night Football on over-the-air TV.
"Turn out the lights, the party's over, they say that all good things must end..." Any regular MNF viewer from the early days probably has that lyric embedded in his/her brain.
How appropriate.

On Benedict XVI

After Pope John Paul II passed, our parish priest offered his thoughts on the then-impending conclave.
His advice was something like this: "The Holy Spirit has already selected the new Pope. Pray that the cardinals will be able to discern him."
Now, we pray that the cardinals did indeed discern correctly, that Joseph Ratzinger, German veteran of the Curia, was indeed the anointed one.
I imagine Benedict XVI would even forgive the Daily Kos his foul-mouthed diatribe of this afternoon, though I admit I find it much harder to do so and refuse to make it easy for you to find it.
What we do know is that Benedict XVI has been a doctrinal conservative, much as John Paul II was. This does not sit well with a lot of people in the rarefied air of the "liberal" world.
What they forget is that religion is not a democratic process. The faithful do not get a vote on what they want their church to believe in. You can work on the peripherals, but the core of the faith is not a debatable topic.
For example, I believe the day will come... perhaps not for some time... when priests will be allowed to be married. (They already are in rare circumstances, such as when a married Protestant minister converts to Catholicism, or in some Eastern rites, if a man is married prior to entering the priesthood, he may remain so.) It may take longer, but perhaps in a couple of centuries, women may be ordained. It's not going to happen tomorrow.
We may at some point even see a relaxation of the ban on the use of condoms, which are not certified means of contraception, because of their strong effectiveness in preventing the spread of disease. (An aside -- a fellow I once worked with on a summer job used to joke that one of the first things he received on his wedding day was an apology from the "rubber company." This, of course, was back in the day when guys would do the right thing and marry the ladies they impregnated.) But to expect the church to suddenly change course on abortion? It's not going to happen. It would undermine the church's commitment to the culture of life.
Benedict XVI enters a world significantly different than the one that John Paul II encountered when he began his papacy. The threats to religious freedom come not from Marxist-Leninist dictatorships, but from ostensibly free nations in the civilized (?) West. (See my earlier post on Bishop Henry - )
Wish him Godspeed as he begins his journey.

UPDATE: For a take prior to the vote from one of my favorite writers, go to...

Whale update

The beluga whale that went up the Delaware River almost to Trenton, N.J., last week has apparently gone back to sea.
Underwater sources say the whale found New Jersey to be "too much like Quebec."

Desperation sets in

Our Canadian friends are witnessing the unraveling of their government.
The desperate Liberals took the rare step of cancelling Wednesday's Opposition Day
in Parliament.
From the Canadian Press dispatch on the Canoe Web site:

OTTAWA (CP) - A minority Liberal government teetering on the verge of collapse moved to wrest control Monday over the timing of its own demise.
The Liberals choked off an opposition attempt to control the timetable for possibly bringing down the government. They postponed a so-called parliamentary opposition day on Wednesday in a move foes called a desperate attempt to retain power.
The Conservatives hinted they would no longer help the Liberal government remain afloat.
"When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is frankly when it's rapidly losing its moral authority to govern," said Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.
The Tories were preparing to use one of their allotted opposition days on Wednesday to arm themselves with a potent political tool.
They tabled a motion which would have allowed opposition parties to set the timing of future opposition days - and by extension the timing of a confidence vote that could bring down the government.
But just moments before a six o'clock deadline Monday, Liberal House Leader Tony Valeri rose in the Commons to cancel Wednesday's opposition day. Valeri was in such a hurry that he leaped up to interrupt a Tory who was speaking in mid-sentence.
He pointed out that the government must still guarantee six more opposition days - there have already been two - before the Commons rises at the end of June. But he refused to reveal his intentions.
According to the report, the Fiberals could in fact push the Opposition Days back to the end of June, then end Parliament's session two weeks early -- before any of the Opposition Days could be held.
Silencing the opposition, anyone?
It could well be that the latest discussions in Parliament takes scandalous behavior right into Paul Martin's back yard.
This Canadian Press report comes from the Toronto Star Web site:
OTTAWA - Paul Martin took a personal interest as finance minister in federal contracts that went to a firm with close political ties to him, says a disgruntled Liberal back-roomer.
Warren Kinsella, a former cabinet aide, told a Commons committee today that Martin had to know the Finance Department was making end runs around cabinet contracting guidelines in some of the work it awarded to Earnscliffe Strategy Group in the 1990s.
"In my opinion Mr. Martin was aware of the situation," said Kinsella, who served at the time as an aide to then-public works minister David Dingwall. "He knew of the problems with regard to contracts."
On one occasion, said Kinsella, Martin even tried to phone him at home to complain that a particular Earnscliffe deal had been blocked by political infighting.
"He was leaving messages . . . demanding to speak to me," said Kinsella.
"I did not return his calls, which I think made him madder."
Yes, Mr. Kinsella is a long-time ally of Jean Chretien, the former prime minister whose government perpetrated Adscam.
Does it appear that the Liberals are going into self-destructo mode? Is Mr. Kinsella acting in a way that would discredit the Martin wing of the party?
Could it just be that the jig is up?
Well, it could be. Except that Jack Layton basically laid out the terms of the bribe that would keep the Fibs in power... a smaller corporate tax cut and money for (his home province of) Ontario (gee whiz - they've got the power, and they're gonna get the $$$ too!).
You may wager that within 72 hours, the Fibs will deliver both of Layton's demands on a silver platter -- or find themselves on the short end of a no-confidence vote.
Knowing the situation, though, I'd recommend a bet on the Fibs delivering.
Free Canada!

The trouble with contemporary liberalism

One of the great riddles of liberalism is how it went so wrong.
There was a time when liberalism was noble and honest and genuinely concerned with the whole of humanity. It wasn't all that long ago, either, in the historical sense.
Liberalism responded with the idealism of the New Deal in the wake of the Great Depression. While not perfect, it did provide a lot of honest opportunity at a time when it was rare.
Liberalism in the U.S. propelled the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.
Liberalism first raised questions about the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Yes, some of it went way over the top, but the conduct of that war by the Johnson administration was a Constitutional abomination.
How did liberalism of then turn into the liberalism of now?
Hereinafter, I will use the terms "contemporary liberal" and "contemporary liberalism" to describe the current state of affairs, as expressed politically by the dominant wing of the U.S. Democratic Party and in Canada first by the ruling Liberal Party, but also by the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Quebecois.
Contemporary liberalism convinced itself that it was the font of all moral rectitude because of its stands on civil rights and Vietnam. It then assumed the belief that anything else it supported was morally right and that those who disagreed were morally inferior. Basically, it began to believe its press clippings, an always delusional approach.
This delusion also emerged from a phenomenon that David Lebedoff explored in an Esquire article in the late 1970s that evolved into a book, "The New Elite." That book is in itself a spiritual kin of a 1960s tome whose name I cannot begin to recall. Lebedoff's New Elite believed itself to have a 20th (and subsequent) Century equivalent of the Divine Right of Kings. The best and the brightest, and all that stuff.
As time progressed, contemporary liberalism separated itself more and more from the rest of us, wrapping itself in a larger and larger self-indulgence.
This has reached a point where its primary issues are those which deal not with the future of all, but the self-indulgent wants of this New Elite.
Our schools, especially those in our urban centers, are failing large majorities of their students? Can't change that... the New Elite atop the educational bureaucracies (both in administration and in teacher union leadership) is more interested in preserving its rather comfortable status than in really trying to make changes that would benefit all.
But we can't touch abortion. Not one bit. Several columnists in my area wrote after President Bush was re-elected that the right to unlimited access to abortion was at risk. What struck me as odd was that it was about the first thing these columnists mentioned. Certainly, a Bush presidency brings its baggage, but ranking abortion rights worthy of first mention? What's wrong with this picture?
Also, it should be noted that sexual harassment has become a major worry in corporate North America. And, if you're accused, you're guilty until proven innocent... and you can never prove yourself innocent... unless you're Bill Clinton.
Now, the debate over same-sex couples' status is an issue as well. The heck with centuries of tradition, says contemporary liberalism; we must allow same-sex couples to marry.
The past is irrelevant to contemporary liberalism. The future? There does not appear to be much concern.
It is quite rare in the continuum of history that a civilization has established itself without strong anchors in its predecessors. Contemporary liberalism has developed a case of selective amnesia about the past. It selects, and urges us to do likewise, to forget about the past.
And, as Santayana so wisely observed, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Do you really want to return to the days of Stalin and Hitler?

Whale update

Well, well.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the whale that's been hanging around the Delaware River has enough poison in it to be qualified in Canada as toxic waste.
Shipping toxic waste across the border without a permit. Isn't that some kind of crime?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Hard to believe, Harry

As you all know, Johnnie Cochran, the lawyer who got O.J. off, recently passed away.
He was in the waiting area, in anticipation of being called to meet St. Peter, when Terri Schiavo came in. Then, Pope John Paul II came in.
You get some time in the waiting area; after all, St. Peter is only one angel and he's got a lot of people to process.
But St. John called John Paul II, then called Terri Schiavo. Johnnie was wondering when he was going to get his chance.
Finally, St. John called out: "Mr. Cochran. Mr. Johnnie Cochran."
Cochran stepped forward and was led to meet St. Peter at the gates.
"Mr. Cochran, have a seat," St. Peter said as he turned to his computer and made a few keystrokes. "Thank you for your patience."
"I didn't know you had computers here," Cochran said.
"Yes, we've had them for years. It's awfully tiring for our clerks to have to write all those names and then carry the information over. Besides, we were losing papers left and right. Anyway, I apologize for the delay."
"It's worth the wait to get into Heaven," said Cochran.
"Well, Mr. Cochran, you're going to have to wait a little longer."
"Why is that?"
"We looked into your record. It's really pretty good, but there is one thing for which you'll have to do some penance."
Cochran stared straight ahead. "What might that be?"
"It seems you defended a gentleman, name of Simpson, who killed his wife and a delivery boy. Because of your representation, Mr. Simpson was acquitted."
"Wait," Cochran said. "I wasn't the only lawyer there defending him. And how do you know that he did it?"
"We know, Mr. Cochran, we know. We also know that you said, 'If it doesn't fit, you must acquit.' "
Cochran smiled. "That was a good line," he said.
"It was, but its success is going to cost you some time in purgatory," St. Peter declared.
"How much?"
"Well, usually God is pretty straightforward about this. He pretty much knows right away. But he felt that, since you had done some good in your time on earth, he would ask Solomon for his opinion. Solomon can be a ditherer at times, and he did take his time with this one.
"So, Mr. Cochran, your time in purgatory will end only when Mr. Simpson confesses or dies."
St. Jude takes Mr. Cochran over to the purgatory area.
"He'll never confess," Mr. Cochran moaned. "And he's probably going to live another 25 years, at least."
"Mr. Cochran," St. Jude said, "I know you're not that familiar with the Catholic tradition. But you're talking to the right person, if you want. I am, after all, the patron saint of lost causes."

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Frustrated 101

It's a mid-April weekend.
In addition to washing the boss's car and mowing the lawn, I should be tracking the approach to one of my most favorite times of the year... the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Instead, I'm really suffering through hockey withdrawal.
Almost no games on TV here. I'm left with the odd trip to an AHL game or an ECHL game.
And I blame, first and foremost, Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the NHL, for my current painful state.
Yes, players are overpaid. In many cases, they are grossly overpaid. But the mismanagement of the league is a major reason for its decline.
First off, the league's talent is too diluted. Too rapid of an expansion means too many guys who are really marginal major leaguers have regular jobs. That means that coaches -- who are under pressure to win NOW -- have to adopt increasingly more defensive systems because not enough of their players have the creativity and offensive skills to be able to win by outscoring people.
Second, there are teams in places where they don't belong. Their struggles should have come as no surprise at all. You don't allow a team to move into a market where it is the seventh (!!) ticket on the priority list for the average sports fan. That's Carolina, where in winter, North Carolina, Duke and N.C. State basketball rules (men's first, then women's). Hockey is next. You don't leave a city where hockey rules (Winnipeg) for a city where ice occurs only in freezers (Phoenix).
Third, the sport is poorly marketed on the league level. Come on, you've got some great talent out there, but it's not being sold. Jarome Iginla in Calgary is by all accounts a genuinely nice guy, and I've seen him play. He's a monster talent. Who knows about him? Guys who can sell the game and can still play, like Brett Hull (even at 8,000 years old) and Jeremy Roenick (at about 7,000) are assets who aren't utilized at all. Bettman was supposed to be the marketer who took the NHL to NBA status. Hasn't happened. Hasn't come close to happening. It's gone in reverse, in fact.
Finally, you don't build your product by withholding it for a year. You've lost a lot of the casual fans, and some of us diehards are beginning to rethink our positions.
The Frozen Four (the NCAA hockey championships) helped a little bit. Maybe our local cable outfit will put some Phantoms hockey on during the AHL playoffs.
But, Mr. Bettman, you owe me -- and a lot of other folks like me -- more than a smirking apology.
You owe us the best hockey in the world.
I, for one, don't think you can deliver the goods any more.