Monday, July 24, 2006

Friday Night Light

Georgian Bay sunset, from the dock of some good friends who hosted us for the weekend.

Friday, July 21, 2006

This is the first and last time I'll say this but...

a classy move by Shelbourne.

Big congrats to Cork City for their win in the European Cup preliminaries and let's hope for good things against Red Star Belgrade.

Liberals begin choosing Federal candidates

A good move by Bill Graham but he should have made a better one - get the process moving for all ridings so they are ready to go at any time - something that would make Harper pause before throwing around threats of confidence motions.

Graham said doing some but not all would preserve the Leader's role in selecting candidates, when apart from basic screening (which cost the Tories one of their BC candidates last time) LPC HQ should stop imposing candidates on ridings entirely.

In the particular case of Vancouver-Kingsway, local Liberals had Emerson imposed on them by Paul Martin, he was elevated to cabinet immediately but then defected to Harper's cabinet this year. It's time they got to pick their own guy or gal. I suspect one part of the Liberals thinking is that without a prospective candidate to focus on, the rage against Emerson might wane - not to the point of retaining the seat but in terms of national attention-getting.

The incumbents remain protected, including other parachutists like Dosanjh.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Did Charest get something extra or did Harper forget to ask?

Jean Charest visited France today and received an offer of assistance in the evacuation of Lebanese-Canadians from President Chirac. Since Stephen Harper's last stop before Larnaca was Paris, how did this offer not take place then? While the offer is of course most welcome, how can this be diplomatically proper on the part of the French? The BQ must be doing handstands.

Meanwhile Dalton McGuinty was talking equalisation with Pat Binns. I wonder was it Ontario equalisation money that funded the new Quebec office in Munich...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Permanence and commitment

The Secretary of State for External Affairs of Canada requests, in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may necessary.

This La Presse article (Google Translate) has caused a certain amount of stir in the blogosphere.

On Vues d'ici, a blog I recently started reading regularly for its perceptive commentary especially with respect to equalisation, a post lambasted the report that permanent residents of Canada were to be denied evacuation by the Government of Canada's relief effort. The writer noted that her husband, a British permanent resident, could be stuck in Lebanon while she was evacuated. James Bow proceeded to make a similar point on his blog, having previously detailed the grief his wife got while becoming a permanent resident in the first place.

There's only one problem - the La Presse article indicates (twice) that accompanied permanent residents are evacuated with their Canadian citizen family members. It is unaccompanied PRs who are not.

Much of the outrage on this subject proceeds on a false premise - that permanent residents, with the exception of the right to vote, have "the same rights and responsibilities as Canadian citizens". This is especially because, you know, Canadians are all about the rights of others and there's no such thing as different classes of Canadians. Well, the problem is that's just not so.

Many point out that PRs pay taxes to the Feds and thus are owed extraction. As a permanent resident myself who is waiting for the three year citizenship qualification period to expire I can testify that just because you pay $2000 in fees to come to Canada is no protection against being screwed by Ottawa so being a taxpayer isn't any different.

There are several ways that PRs are differently treated, not the least of which is the prioritisation of citizens for federal public service jobs unless no citizen can be recruited. Among other things, PRs must reside in Canada two years out of every five and are liable to deportation if convicted of serious offences (although given the success of convicted murderers in beating deportation orders in court I guess that one's not so scary). I have no argument with any of these restrictions by the way. There are even differences between Canadian citizens - the Caledonia crisis has reopened for Ontarians matters of differential treatment of First Nations citizens and non-First Nations citizens & residents.

When you apply for citizenship you make a commitment to Canada as a nation (not least via the $100 fee to apply...) When the process is completed you make that commitment publicly before your fellow citizens:
I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.
Having done this you can now claim a Canadian Passport which bears the inscription at the top of this post.

Unlike the blogging ranters of left and right I would compromise. The existing policy of the Government of Canada is correct - citizens first, but families must not be separated during evacuation. I don't give a damn, unlike some Tory and Liberal MPs, whether those citizens are resident in Lebanon and thus not paying Canadian taxes - citizenship is for life, end of story. It is the commitment that should be respected rather than the money.

When all accompanied PRs and citizens are evacuated (about 50,000 or so!), Lebanese PRs should be taken, given that their country is in no condition to help them, but only in the case of clear humanitarian need should non-Canadian PRs be taken. Their countries of origin retain primary responsibility for their welfare and it is not for Canada to let them off the hook. It's glib to say "we can't be decided who does and doesn't go" but the existing evacuees are already being streamed - it's not first come first served.

By contrast, the US will only take one non-citizen with a US dependent and levies fees on the evacuees... yeah Canada's such an awful country...

A question of capability

Massive operations are currently underway to extract thousands of foreign citizens from Lebanon as Israel continues operations against anything they left standing from the previous week. The screeching from Montreal regarding a perceived failure of the Canadian Government to extract citizens with sufficient speed is getting really annoying, not because of the families concern (absolutely valid) but because the media makes no effort to make clear the differential difficulty Canada faces in comparison to other involved nations, instead having fun by taking Peter McKay to the woodshed as Peter Mansbridge did the other night.

They also in the main leave the impression that every country is having an easy time getting their people out, when it's not true (Detroit Free Press) (The Guardian) and the CBC did report from Cyprus last night that the French had to leave 300 on the quayside because their time window to get the ship away unharmed ran out and once they got to Larnaca Port the narrow quay made disembarkation a zoo. Let's spell it out:

Assets in the Meditterranean:
Italy - almost the entire country
France - Toulon naval base
United States - the Sixth Fleet in Italy and a marine unit in the Red Sea
UK - HMS Illustrious which was in Gibraltar with helicopters embarked aboard and the RAF base at Akrotiri in Cyprus.
Canada - nothing of significance.

Distance:
Beirut to Montreal :8713 km.
Beirut to Naples: 2028km.

Citizens involved (taken from various news reports):
Italy 1,000
Germany 1,100
France 14,000-20,000
UK 22,000
US 25,000
Canada up to 50,000, of which 30,000 have registered a departure request with Foreign Affairs.

For a country the size of Canada by population to undertake an extraction of this size is a formidable task and the sniping from the press peanut gallery, who one would expect a better perspective from than bloggers, should stop unless they themselves publish what they would have done given the state of Canadian military airlift, the absence of any Canadian naval assets in the area to protect the evacuation ferries, any understandable reluctance on the part of a Canadian Government to tell its citizens "you'll be safe in Syria" given Maher Arar's treatment and the lack of "take up from trade" arrangements where Canadian air carriers could simply be directed rather than chartered to undertake flights to Cyprus and Turkey.

It should also be noted that while Cyprus is a holiday destination with decent transport infrastructure, an influx of this sort will undoubtedly strain that relatively small (and divided at that) country.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

What is the virtue of a proportional response?

A question posed by Martin Sheen in his TV role as the President of the United States. Israel answered that question, correctly long ago - there is no virtue in meeting an attack on your territory with anything other than overwhelming, punitive force sufficent to dissuade future attacks.

While I would oppose many Israeli security policies, in which Islamic state would you have seen the courts override the executive on humanitarian grounds, such as with their decision on the Concrete Curtain? The pullout from Gaza was widely predicted never to happen because Israel wouldn't stand up to its extremists - yet the landgrab settlements there have been removed.

The proportional response from Hamas was to kidnap soldiers from the Israeli side of the fence. The proportional response from Hezbollah was to continue firing missiles into northern Israel - the fact that their missiles can reach Israeli soil at all being because (a) Israel complied with the negotiated settlement and pulled out of their "security zone" in south Lebanon, (b) Lebanon did not live up to their side of the agreement by taking control right down to the border and (c) the UN and their UNIFIL presence in South Lebanon appear to have done damn all about it, illustrating clearly that the UN instinct to stand by and watch prevalent in their involvements in Bosnia has not gone away, nor has the toleration of ordnance from both the Israeli and Lebanese sides to go screaming over the heads of UNIFIL troops stationed on the Blue Line without repercussion.

Here's what the UN said about the security situation in the six months to January 2006:
Further Secretary-General’s report on UNIFIL was dated 18 January 2006, in which he recommended to extend the Force’s mandate for a further six months, until 31 July 2006.

Describing the political and security environment as still fragile, the Secretary-General pointed particularly to the November 2005 Hizbollah attack, which had led to a heavy exchange of fire with IDF. He also warned that the rocket firing incidents by unidentified armed elements of August and December had significant potential for military escalation. Persistent Israeli air incursions into Lebanese airspace also disrupted the fragile calm.

“The serious breaches of the ceasefire underlined yet again the urgent need for the Government of Lebanon to act and extend its full authority throughout the south down to the Blue Line”, the Secretary-General said. He was encouraged by Lebanon’s commitment to hold perpetrators of the attacks responsible to avoid their recurrence, and he welcomed new steps for coordination between the Government and UNIFIL, however, he stressed that “more needs to be done”.

Here's an interesting tidbit - Jacques Chirac has condemned Israel's operations against Lebanon. Look up the UN's UNIFIL website and see the nationality of the current force Commanding Officer. If Chirac was serious about the situation in Lebanon he would be reinforcing his general right now rather than indulging in handwringing.

It is unacceptable for any member of the United Nations to harbour elements which are firing ordnance across its border and still claim nothing to do with it and to do nothing about it - the UN authorised the invasion of Afghanistan even though there was far less direct linkage than that, never mind the two Hezbollah ministers in the Lebanese cabinet. Lebanon chose the possibility of being rounded on militarily by Hezbollah rather than prohibit their attacks on Israel. In doing so their national infrastructure cannot be regarded as separate from Hezbollah.

Frankly I don't think it matters a damn if Iran or Syria are providing arms - if Lebanon precluded use of offensive operations those weapons wouldn't be of the slightest use. Fix that, fix much of the problem. You don't see this kind of carry-on in Jordan or Egypt or Syria itself.

The problem with a proportional response is that there are still very few Israelis and a very small state of Israel compared to their neighbours - it has not easy to see why they will not suffer to be whittled away especially in opposition to a culture in the countries that surround them which routinely murders its youth by indoctrinating homicide-by-suicide. It is difficult to abide by the norms of international law when the other side refuses to deal with you under that law even to acknowledgement of your existence.

An interesting final note - the anti-ship missile Hezbollah fired at the Israeli navy, impacting the American built INS Hanit, was first thought to be a drone then an Iranian supplied Silkworm. However, now it is thought to be a C-802. However, the Silkworm and the C-802 are manufactured in China, something I have not yet seen mentioned in press reports. I hope the Chinese, in the interests of de-escalating the conflict, are asking their customers (the Iranians) how it got to Beirut.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Lotus Notes on a USB stick - first beta reviews

Declan Lynch reviews "Nomad", an implementation of Notes 7.0.2 on a USB memory stick. Chris Miller adds some comments too. It takes 340Mb but with 1Gb sticks becoming common another iteration or so will mean even very large local replicas should be feasible. Combine that with VPN and IP softphones and maybe the dream of "your desk wherever you are" will be possible without lugging around a laptop from place to place but achievable even from internet kiosks.

Seen at edbrill.com.

Going a-plundering in Serie A?

United Rant has a round up of possible transfer targets if the big names in Italian football face demotion due to the alleged match fixing. Sadly under the Glazer regime we are only likely to be disappointed but it's nice to dream.

Food glorious (and inglorious) food.

Some Irish food is excellent. Other Irish food makes you wonder if all your taste buds went on strike at once. Sandra relates a recent experience which reminds everyone that no matter how much "Ireland has improved" boiling food items to within an inch of their lives "hasn't gone away you know".

As for me, I'm looking forward to a revisit to "Pearl River" on Princes Street in Cork for traditional Irish "chicken with green peppers and black bean sauce and chips" and if a second visit is possible "chicken with ginger, spring onions and chips". God I'm hungry just thinking about it and it's nearly three months away still when I used to be there most Friday nights of my seven years living downtown. I have yet to see anything close to it in Toronto but then you don't pay that kind of money here either.

Lennox's fish and chips was something I used to torment my brother with when he lived in Dublin, ironically he now lives back in Cork and I see Lennox's a lot less now than he did then. Over here in Toronto the Olde Yorke on Laird Avenue in Leaside is good but in a different class - Lennox's is for the chips you get on the way to Musgrave Park for a Friday night Celtic League match, the Olde Yorke is more geared to a sit down. Incidentally I haven't a clue why people get so hot and bothered about Penrose's on Mount Pleasant - small portions and ridiculous opening hours. What you get does taste good I'll grant you.

If I can squeeze in a trip to Amicus that would make the hat-trick.

[update - Nicole has just pointed out the place on Mount Pleasant is not "Pearson's". Obviously had a bit of brain cramp]

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Forgotten why we still need the CBC?

With the advent of the Tories back to Federal government, one of the guns expected to be turned on supposed bastions of Liberalism within that organisation was thought to be aimed at the CBC. Private broadcasting can do just as well, we're told.

Well, if you thought so too, today's evening news might give you pause. These were taken from various broadcasts from 7pm EST onwards in different timezones (courtesy of my digital cable box)

Global top story - painted Canadians waving flags celebrating the victory of another country in a soccer match
CityNews top story - painted Canadians waving flags celebrating the victory of another country in a soccer match
CTV News top story - painted Canadians waving flags celebrating the victory of another country in a soccer match, second story about the discovery of a "kitten mill"

CBC News top story - the death of Corporal Anthony Joseph Boneca in Afghanistan.

Of course, this display of priorities, while appealing to those who actually value the sacrifices made by Canadians in Afghanistan, will probably still have drawn ire from the PMO - who keep worrying about "failing the Dover test".

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Get a new job with the Feds, have a free trip to Ottawa

Apparently anyone who joins the Federal Government service for more than six months is brought to Ottawa for a mandatory two-day orientation session by the Canada School of Public Service. Treasury Board pays $750 for each attendee and the costs of hotels etc. The policy which replaced a previous Continuous Learning policy was adopted by Treasury Board on January 1st this year.

The participating Federal departments are listed on the CSPS website along with a course overview. I realise the Feds need to train their people, some would say more than they do right now, but it doesn't necessarily have to mean traipsing around Ottawa right after hiring - surely the course content could at least be brought out to regional centres.

Combining this with Garth Turner's broadside against the parliamentary allowance towards the mortgages of MPs, the elimination of waste seems to have slipped out of Mr Harper's vaunted priorities.

Hat-tip: the Politic via Ontario Blogs

Rooney gets two match ban

Just a quick follow up on a previous post. Remember Rooney's "accidental stamp" which "only got a red card because Ronaldo stuck his interfering head in"?

FIFA have taken a different view, and now Rooney will miss the first two England qualifying games for Euro2008.

Small time City

No, not that "city" , the City of Toronto (though it's equally true of the former). The Star reports that the City's Budget Advisory Committee wants to make the Toronto Zoo charge more for visitors who can't produce ID verifying that they live in the City, so visitors from other parts of the GTA as well as tourists from other parts of Canada or internationally would pay a surcharge of $2 ($21 instead of $19). This wheeze was proposed by Joe Mihevc, who will face former Mayor John Sewell in the upcoming ward election.

The City is always moaning that tourist numbers are down but now they come up with this notion which will discourage tourists from visiting once, as will inevitably happen, other City owned attractions are told to do likewise. $12 million dollars is not small change to keep the Zoo going but there's a lot of fat that could be trimmed from City disbursements before you got that far. $2 is not much more to pay but it's the principle - it makes Toronto look like cheap, and not in a good way.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

It takes more than billions to buy the Canadian Forces

Apparently there's a reason the media, camped on the road outside by order of the Prime Minister's Office, had such a good view of the return of deceased Canadian Forces personnel from Afghanistan as they did. Some of their colleagues stationed at CFB Trenton moved equipment that would have otherwise blocked the view. Meanwhile the Ontario Provincial Police provided traffic control. Harper failed the "Trenton test" - the CF and the OPP passed with flying colours.

Meanwhile Lt-Gen. Andrew Leslie, the new Chief of the Army, had a very impressive interview with Craig Oliver on CTV this morning. Answering Oliver's quotations from a London thinktank with "when I was in Kabul" and "when the Croatians were coming at me with main battle tanks" showed this still relatively young officer has seen enough to know the challenges his subordinates will face executing the tasks Canada will expect in the next few years. Particularly tricky is the question of opium - they are damned if they eradicate, impoverishing the locals and enraging those they supply into attacking them, and damned if they leave it alone and are then accused of abetting the addiction of those in Western countries at the end of the heroin pipeline.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Argentina 98, Portugal 06 - nothing's changed

Another Manchester United player sent off for kicking during an England match - but then eight years ago Rooney was 12 years old so maybe the lesson was lost on him. At any rate, at least he will start the season fit which is after all what United supporters (even English ones) tend to value over England's needs. One wonders if he will be booed as Beckham was, and receive the same loyalty from the United support (who sang "Argentina" to the rage of the In-gur-land chavs at various away grounds).

One can only hope that Cristiano Ronaldo, who with his agent is appears to be playing games with a candidate for the presidency of Real Madrid, does actually leave - although I have to admit I thought the initial reports were just the usual throwing names around.

Unlike Beckham, four years remain on Ronaldo's contract so financially United are less likely to get as comprehensive outwitted as they were with the Beckham deal. Nonetheless even if the report in Marca blows over, it's hard to see after his gamesmanship on Rooney how the two are going to get on and in such a contest United will almost certainly pick Rooney. Even if every penny from Ronaldo went to paying the Glazers' mountain of debt - better than than keep someone who has acted as he has. The club stuck by him 100% when he was arrested on a rape charge right through to its dismissal - nice to see what that loyalty earned the club. Jonathan Northcroft in the Sunday Times:
There has never been the slightest doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo is a prodigiously gifted footballer. But yesterday, and not for the first time, you had to question whether he is a man.
Quite.

Perhaps the reality of this will lead to United seeing sense on cutting van Nistelrooy loose - whose criticism of Ronaldo was ironically part of his troubles this year at United - especially since the offers for RVN are hardly in the top dollar range.

Nice to see Owen Hargreaves finally come good (he received the man of the match award) - however, whenever he falls from grace he will become "Canadian" rather than "English" in the media, just as Graham Poll was "transformed from English to British" when demoted by FIFA.

Happy birthday Canada

You're 139 years old but every prime minister says you're a young country. I didn't decide to do anything special this year, and certainly nothing as special as last year. If an alien landed in Toronto especially near College Street or St. Clair Avenue it might be hard pressed to figure out what country it was in given the number of cars with Italian or Portuguese flags, never mind the English and Brazilian ones, given that it's World Cup time (haven't seen a French car flag yet).

So since those people are busy, I'll put up this one right here.


[from the website of the National Flag of Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage]

That dang Court ain't stacked enough yet, Mr Bush

As a non-lawyer, reading a dense judgement riven with partial joinings and multiple dissents such as this week's 185 page Hamdan versus Rumsfeld from the United States Supreme Court, it is difficult to make sense of the legal appropriateness of the 5-3 decision, with Justice Kennedy siding with the majority and Chief Justice Roberts abstaining due to involvement in previous Court of Appeals proceedings. I can only go with my gut instinct which is to agree with Justice Breyer's comments:
Congress has not issued the Executive a “blank check.” [...] Indeed, Congress has denied the President the legislative authority to create military commissions of the kind at issue here. Nothing prevents the President from returning to Congress to seek the authority he believes necessary.

Where, as here, no emergency prevents consultation with Congress, judicial insistence upon that consultation does not weaken our Nation’s ability to deal with danger. To the contrary, that insistence strengthens the Nation’s ability to determine—through democratic means—how best to do so. The Constitution places its faith in those democratic means. Our Court today simply does the same.
The New York Times (free rego required) writes on the most recent session, noting that it is may be more accurate to call this session the "Kennedy Court", given that Justice's likelihood of being in the majority in close votes but not exclusively to the left or right - denying the "blank check" conservatives hoped from the appointments of Roberts and Alito. Future decisions will be closer still as the conflicts from Appeals Courts which required the recusals of Alito or Roberts are dealt with or are refused a hearing.

Internet Explorer 7 beta 3 released

I had a brief look at beta 2 when it was released but having read some reviews of Beta 3 I decided to take a chance on my PC and install it there. My reaction is that while IE7-b3 is a significant improvement from IE6, existing IE6 users may be perturbed that the address bar is on top and apparently immovable and that the command ribbon can't be relocated either. Corporate users who like to minimise change may not be enthused.

Firefox users will note that Microsoft has finally introduced tabs but without their own bar, leaving a minor amount of screen width for tabs. IE7's big win however seems to be the font smoothing - I use a CRT and the fonts displayed in IE7 are pleasant on the eye compared to their Firefox equivalent.

It's not enough to get me to switch, but it's a big wake-up call to Mozilla that Microsoft have a browser that people who never used Firefox may never feel like switching from - especially if the anti-phishing measures and the revised security actually work.