So long Harriet

June 23, 2006

Harriet the Tortoise

From the BBC:

Harriet the tortoise dies at 175

Harriet the tortoise, one of the world's oldest known creatures, has died in Australia aged about 175.

. . . "She had a very fairly acute heart attack and thankfully passed away quietly overnight," Dr Hangar said. 

 . . . Some people believe that Harriet was studied by British naturalist Charles Darwin.  Darwin took several young Giant Galapagos tortoises back to London after his epic voyage on board HMS Beagle.

DNA testing has suggested the giant creature was born around 1830, a few years before Darwin visited the Galapagos archipelago in 1835.

However, Harriet belonged to a sub-species of tortoise only found on an island that Darwin never visited.

At the time of her 175th birthday party, Harriet weighed 150kg (23 stone) and was roughly the size of a dinner table.

She was the star attraction at the Australia Zoo on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

Her keepers put her longevity down to a stress-free life.

That's how I'd like to go, at 175 and quietly in my sleep. 


These are not the WMD you’re looking for

June 22, 2006

WMD found in Iraq as reported over at Fox News:

"We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons," Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said in a quickly called press conference late Wednesday afternoon.

Reading from a declassified portion of a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center, a Defense Department intelligence unit, Santorum said: "Since 2003, coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent. Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq's pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist."

But . . .

Asked why the Bush administration, if it had known about the information since April or earlier, didn't advertise it, [Senator] Hoekstra conjectured that the president has been forward-looking and concentrating on the development of a secure government in Iraq.

Offering the official administration response to FOX News, a senior Defense Department official pointed out that the chemical weapons were not in useable conditions.

"This does not reflect a capacity that was built up after 1991," the official said, adding the munitions "are not the WMDs this country and the rest of the world believed Iraq had, and not the WMDs for which this country went to war."

Passing this off as 'WMD found in Iraq' is just silly.  So what's with the press conference?  I think this is just crudely played politics on the Senators' part.

Besides, EVERYONE knows that Saddam's WMD were spirited over the Syrian border in the weeks before the Coalition invasion.

‘The Americans (A Canadian’s Opinion)’

June 21, 2006

Two recent articles help to dismantle the myth of the 'ugly American'.  The first article about US charitable giving can be found here.

American Giving 

The second article, on politeness, can be found at the Readers' Digest website here.

World of Courtesy: Ranking of 35 Cities

Below is a ranking of the most courteous to the least courteous — 35 major cities included in RD's Global Courtesy Test.

New York USA 80%
Toronto Canada 70
São Paulo Brazil 68

European identity is defined -in contrast to popular impressions of the American approach- by their emphasis on building compassionate societies.  Canadian identity, in a small part, is defined by being seen in the eyes of the world as the polite 'anti-American'.  These false stereotypes are rife in Europe and Canada.  America is more racist, their healthcare system is worse, violent crimes is much worse, we are 'peacekeepers' the Americans' are 'warmongers' . . .

Regardless of the facts, many non-Americans sit watching the evening news or reading their local papers and thinking, not how can our societies improve, but rather thank goodness that we're not America because they are so [insert negative adjective here].

Many years ago, the great Gordon Sinclair read an excellent commentary piece called The Americans (A Canadian's Opinion) over the airwaves at CFRB 1010 Radio

It's still important today because it reminds us of America's strengths and the good that it does in the world.  If we continue to define ourselves in contrast to America, it's important that we have a balanced perspective on the true character of the United States of America. 

Here is The Americans (A Canadian's Opinion) in its entirety:

The United States dollar took another pounding on German, French and British exchanges this morning, hitting the lowest point ever known in West Germany. It has declined there by 41% since 1971 and this Canadian thinks it is time to speak up for the Americans as the most generous and possibly the least-appreciated people in all the world.

As long as sixty years ago, when I first started to read newspapers, I read of floods on the Yellow River and the Yangtse. Well, Who rushed in with men and money to help? The Americans did, that's who.

They have helped control floods on the Nile, the Amazon, the Ganges and the Niger. Today, the rich bottom land of the Mississippi is under water and no foreign land has sent a dollar to help. Germany, Japan and, to a lesser extent, Britain and Italy, were lifted out of the debris of war by the Americans who poured in billions of dollars and forgave other billions in debts. None of those countries is today paying even the interest on its remaining debts to the United States.

When the franc was in danger of collapsing in 1956, it was the Americans who propped it up and their reward was to be insulted and swindled on the streets of Paris. And I was there. I saw that.

When distant cities are hit by earthquakes, it is the United States that hurries into help… Managua Nicaragua is one of the most recent examples. So far this spring, 59 American communities have been flattened by tornadoes. Nobody has helped.

The Marshall Plan… the Truman Policy… all pumped billions upon billions of dollars into discouraged countries. And now, newspapers in those countries are writing about the decadent war-mongering Americans.

I'd like to see one of those countries that is gloating over the erosion of the United States dollar build its own airplanes.

Come on… let's hear it! Does any other country in the world have a plane to equal the Boeing Jumbo Jet, the Lockheed Tristar or the Douglas 10? If so, why don't they fly them? Why do all international lines except Russia fly American planes? Why does no other land on earth even consider putting a man or a woman on the moon?

You talk about Japanese technocracy and you get radios. You talk about German technocracy and you get automobiles. You talk about American technocracy and you find men on the moon, not once, but several times … and safely home again. You talk about scandals and the Americans put theirs right in the store window for everybody to look at. Even the draft dodgers are not pursued and hounded. They are right here on our streets in Toronto, most of them… unless they are breaking Canadian laws… are getting American dollars from Ma and Pa at home to spend here.

When the Americans get out of this bind… as they will… who could blame them if they said 'the hell with the rest of the world'. Let someone else buy the bonds, let someone else build or repair foreign dams or design foreign buildings that won't shake apart in earthquakes.

When the railways of France, Germany and India were breaking down through age, it was the Americans who rebuilt them. When the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central went broke, nobody loaned them an old caboose. Both of them are still broke. I can name to you 5,000 times when the Americans raced to the help of other people in trouble.

Can you name to me even one time when someone else raced to the Americans in trouble? I don't think there was outside help even during the San Francisco earthquake.

Our neighbours have faced it alone and I am one Canadian who is damned tired of hearing them kicked around. They will come out of this thing with their flag high. And when they do, they are entitled to thumb their noses at the lands that are gloating over their present troubles.

I hope Canada is not one of these. But there are many smug, self-righteous Canadians. And finally, the American Red Cross was told at its 48th Annual meeting in New Orleans this morning that it was broke.

This year's disasters… with the year less than half-over… has taken it all and nobody… but nobody… has helped. 

Well, technology has progressed and the places struck by disasters are new, but Mr. Sinclair's sentiments still hold true.


Liberal senators read very slowly

June 20, 2006

If true, this is appalling. 

As reported in the Ottawa Citizen, via NealeNews:

Liberal senators appear to be threatening to hold up the Conservatives' accountability bill because its proposed $1,000 limitation on political donations would create problems for their party's fundraising and leadership convention this fall, the government Senate leader says.

. . . The House of Commons is expected to sit until midnight every day this week in order to approve the ethics package, which Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said is his government's top priority, before the House breaks for the summer.

It's expected the bill will be sent to the Senate for its consideration tomorrow.

. . . But an unapologetic Senator Sharon Carstairs, the Liberal critic for the bill, said yesterday that two to four months may be required to properly examine the complex and wide-sweeping legislation, adding she thinks there "are a number of amendments that need to be made."

If Liberal Senators tie up this legislation until after their leadership convention, it would be one of the most cynical, partisan and anti-democratic moves in recent Canadian history . . . and that's saying a lot. 

If the Liberals saw this as a problem then they shouldn't have inflicted such a protracted leadership race on their party and the country.

Of course they could take a page from Joe Volpe's fundraising book.  Schools go back three full months before their leadership convention.

Time for another Aegis test?

June 20, 2006

Drudge is running an interesting headline: 'Will the US Intercept?"  It leads to this AFP article over at Breitbart:

US warns North Korea against 'provocative' missile launch

. . . the United States has limited missile defenses but would not say whether it intends to use them against a North Korean missile launch.

However, he pointedly used the term "launch" rather than "test" to describe the North Korean preparations and said Pyongyang's intentions were not clear. . . .

Reuters notes that:

. . . North Korea has poured liquid fuel into the missile propellant built in the missile launching pad. It is at the finishing stage before launching" but the South Korean government did not know if fueling was completed, he said.

Experts say if the missile is not launched 48 hours after fueling, the fuel will start to break down and damage the missile.

Well, it looks like we'll know within two days.  I don't know very much about US ship-based missile defence capatibilites, but it would be great if they could shoot this one out of the sky.

I blame the ‘victims’

June 18, 2006

From the opinion section of the Los Angeles Times:

. . . Sex-change operations, vacations to the Dominican Republic and wild nights at strip clubs were all bought on the government’s [taxpayers’] dime by both con artists and legitimate victims of Hurricane Katrina. But try to keep that knee from jerking — although FEMA’s oversight was lacking, wasted money is an inevitable byproduct of providing rapid emergency assistance.

. . . The 16% of improper expenditures is indeed high for a federal aid program . . .

It’s easy, and necessary, to criticize FEMA’s across-the-board incompetence in responding to the largest displacement of Americans since the Civil War. But obsessing about the spending habits of refugees comes perilously close to blaming the victim.

I’m not above blaming any Government for mismanagement.  However, allowing these fraudsters off the hook isn’t the answer.  

I think reports of fraudulent spending should cause a sufficient ‘knee-jerk reaction’ on behalf of the public to give these ‘victims’ a swift kick in the ass.  Shameful.

The suspense is . . . zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

June 18, 2006

The Montreal Gazette covers the second Liberal leadership debate.

Harper steals spotlight at Liberal debate

One man dominated the second Liberal leadership debate yesterday, yet he wasn't anywhere near the event, nor is he even a Liberal.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper – attacked repeatedly by the 11 candidates vying to lead the federal Liberals – loomed like a bogeyman over the two-hour discussions in a New Brunswick gymnasium.

. . . And so it went for more than two hours, with all of the candidates, including Carolyn Bennett, Stephane Dion, Hedy Fry, Joe Volpe, Gerard Kennedy and Bob Rae taking swipes at the Conservatives.

. . . Yesterday's meeting is the last official Liberal debate until the fall, when the candidates reconvene for further public debate before the leadership convention in Montreal Nov. 29 to Dec. 3.

I know that politics slows down for the summer, but holy crap!  I had no idea that the Liberals had scheduled such a lengthy leadership contest. 

Either the Liberals will be forced to the polls without a leader or they face the prospect of another 5 and a half months of wasted energy -and money- tearing each other apart.  At which point, the winner will have to face a rested, fully funded and prime-ministerial Stephen Harper in the next election.

Interesting strategy guys.  All I can say is keep up the good work!