Monday, July 31, 2006

Mulroney for UN chief

Kofi Annan’s intemperate labelling of an Israeli bombardment that hit a UN post in south Lebanon last week as “apparently deliberate” – before he had even been briefed – is just another straw (Rwanda, Oil-for-Fraud) on the long-ago broken camel’s back of Annan’s credibility. And it firms up an item that should be added to the Conservatives’ majority government checklist: get Brian Mulroney in as Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Mulroney, as has been said only half in jest, has every major dictator on speed dial. He still maintains unsurpassed business and political connections worldwide. As Secretary-General, he would have the respect of the nations who do the heavy lifting and pay the bills, the skills to flatter the nuttier regimes, and the negotiating ability to convince all parties they will get something out of a deal.

If a majority were to be achieved while George W. Bush is still in office, Mulroney’s appointment would likely enjoy the enthusiastic support of the US. The Bushies’ naming of John Bolton as their UN ambassador, and the diplomatic tongue-lashings that Bolton has been delivering at the UN, suggest that the Bush administration does not view the UN as entirely useless, merely misdirected and mismanaged.

By coincidence, Mulroney’s eldest son, Canadian Idol host Ben Mulroney, has just been appointed a national ambassador for UNICEF Canada. Or maybe it’s not a coincidence.

It must be noted that Mulroney’s name has come up for the job before, in October of 1991. This was when Mulroney was barely three years into his second majority mandate, but one year after the GST was implemented and the Meech Lake Accord collapsed. After several days of fevered Toronto Star headlines, Sheila Copps’ demand that he resign, and one round of voting, Mulroney withdrew his name from contention. Boutros-Boutros Ghali of Egypt emerged the winner.

An Angus Reid-Southam News poll taken at that time suggested that 56 per cent of Canadians thought Mulroney should accept the job if it were offered to him, but this may have been more reflective of Mulroney’s unpopularity than Canadians’ enthusiasm for his diplomatic skills. The New Yorker magazine later reported that Mulroney had been actively seeking the job as a suitable exit from politics, but Mulroney denied it.

Underreported Stories Dept: Oil-for-Fraud

Even before the Middle East blew up again, and the words “proportionate” and “civilian” took on their new Orwellian meanings, the United Nations’ Oil-for-Food scandal had been severely underreported. Given recent events, it will likely pass quietly into the impressive annals of UN corruption and incompetence.

But it should not go without mention that a few weeks ago a major figure in the scandal was convicted in a Manhattan court room, try as the New York Times did to downplay it.

The New York Observer had an intriguing piece on the Times passing on covering the Manhattan (i.e. nearby) trial of UN Oil-for-Food bagman Tongsun Park. From a monetary standpoint alone, the scandal dwarfs AdScam.

Our own Western Standard is to be commended for its attention to this story, having done several stories on the scandal (nearly two dozen articles at their website refer to Oil-for-Food), including a lengthy Kevin Libin piece on the involvement of Power Corp. and Maurice Strong, lifelong UN groupie and Kyoto midwife.

Good news, however: in the future, the Times can blame their diminishing news hole for failing to cover fraud and chicanery at the UN, and other inconvenient stories that run counter to their anti-Bush administration viewpoint.

Some excerpts from the Observer story:

The story had everything: secret agents, political intrigue, personal betrayal and cash. Lots and lots of cash.

Yet, for all that, a remarkable trial that ended last week in a Manhattan courtroom—a proceeding that implicated figures in the highest echelons of international politics—was barely mentioned in the major American press. If it weren’t for the journalistic wing of the conservative movement, outlets like the National Review Online and The New York Sun, it might not have been covered at all.

Take the events of last Thursday, for example. After two weeks of testimony, a jury took only a few hours to convict a South Korean national, Tongsun Park, of acting as an unregistered agent of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The conspiracy of which he was a part ran for 10 years, ending in late 2002, and helped one of the world’s worst regimes maintain its grip on power.

But The New York Times did not assign a reporter to his trial, its total coverage amounting to a brief wire report on the day following Mr. Park’s conviction. Of the other major national dailies, The Washington Post ran a single news-brief item, the Los Angeles Times not a word.

. . . . .

The episodes described during the trial involve the U.N.’s present as well as its past.

Maurice Strong was current Secretary General Kofi Annan’s special envoy to North Korea until the oil-for-food scandal began to lap around his feet last year.

Fresh details about a check for almost $1 million that Mr. Strong was given by Mr. Park emerged at the trial. The court also heard evidence that Mr. Park covered Mr. Strong’s private office expenses for several years.

Mr. Strong, like Mr. Boutros-Ghali, denies any wrongdoing. But, at the least, it is odd that people at the very highest level of the U.N. enjoyed such a close relationship with Mr. Park.

. . . . .

Mr. Avni, declining to “name names,” also recalled a conversation he said he’d had with a Times reporter some months back:

“I said to him, ‘We are covering the U.N. much more aggressively than you are.’ And he said, ‘Right, but we are covering the Bush administration much more aggressively than you are.’ We find faults where we are looking for faults, and they want to find faults where they are looking for faults.”

Claudia Rosett, a former member of The Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial board, is now a freelance journalist who has become an authority on the oil-for-food scandal. She blogged the Park trial for National Review Online. She contended that emphasis on the ideological affiliations of the media that have covered the story most effectively is, ultimately, detrimental—because it can too easily divert attention from the scandal itself.

“The criticisms we’ve been hearing about the U.N. would have no traction if they were not grounded in fact,” she said. “The reason this has become a scandal is that the accusations have been proven true.”

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Bottom story of the day*

Another hot exclusive from People magazine, who also brought us the Star Jones "I feel like I was fired" story.

*With apologies to the Wall Street Journal Online's Best of the Web Today.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Another Fiberal backbencher with hoof-in-mouth disease

Dalton McGuinty’s backbench is stirring up memories of the old Reform and Canadian Alliance caucuses, which during the summer months saw regular eruptions of infighting and ill-advised public comments. (Until Harper took over in 2002 and introduced the party to the concepts of focus and discipline.)

“I believe the Harper government, which receives its foreign policy from David Frum direct from George Bush, should apologize to the Canadian people for their support of the collective punishment of people first in Gaza and now in Lebanon,” he [Ottawa Liberal MPP Phil McNeely] said in an e-mail obtained by the Citizen. “As an elected member of Parliament I cannot believe that the democratically elected members of Hamas have been captured and imprisoned by this rogue state.”

In an interview with the Citizen yesterday morning, Mr. McNeely stood by the comments in the e-mail. He is so upset about the death and destruction going on in Lebanon that he had to speak out, he said.
--MPP calls Israel ‘rogue’ state, Ottawa Citizen, July 20

This comes on the heels of Thornhill MPP Mario Racco’s musings on the have-or-have-not Maritimes the other day:

Liberal MPP Mario Racco (Thornhill) told the Toronto Star that an Ontario NDP proposal to cap gas prices as is done in the Maritimes and Newfoundland is poor public policy.

Racco went further, saying it would be unwise for Ontario to follow the lead of the poorest region in Canada. “Tell me something, what’s the economic status of the Maritimes? Are they `have’ provinces or `have-not’ provinces? How is their economy doing? Why is it that Ontario has been doing much better than them?” he said. “The past performance would suggest to me their (the Maritime provinces’) approach hasn’t been as effective as it has been in Ontario. Why would we rely on their system?”
--Toronto Star, July 19

Premier Pinocchio immediately distanced himself from the comments of both MPPs – and he was already in Charlottetown.

New Fiberal logo promoting same-sex polygamy?

It looks like John Tory’s fight against Dalton McGuinty’s latest screw-up – redesigning the Ontario logo – is gaining traction. The Star reports today that Tory’s website,, has received 2,800 complaints about the logo:

Tory launched the site,, after the Toronto Star disclosed on June 23 the province had quietly replaced the traditional T-shaped trillium logo with an A-shaped flower — panned as resembling an aerial view of three men in a hot tub.

The controversial new design, which is similar to the trillium that appears in the dot on the “i” in the Ontario Liberal Party’s logo, was done by Bensimon Byrne at a cost of $219,000.

Bensimon Byrne is the same ad firm that did the party’s 2003 election advertising.

Tory noted that the familiar rendition of the province’s official flower dates back to former PC premier John Robarts’ administration in 1964. [The year I was born – now I’m REALLY mad! Next thing you know, Pontiac will stop making the Star Chief my parents bought the same year. What do you mean they already did?]

“Dalton McGuinty took a historic icon of Ontario and changed it without even consulting the taxpayers,” [Tory] said.

Government Services Minister Gerry Phillips has said the change was made to update the province’s brand and make it seem more “contemporary.”

Yup, when I think hip and contemporary, I naturally think of Liberal warhorse Gerry Phillips (who, as Minister of Paper Clips, has to carry the can for the Premier’s office on this one), tourism minister Jim “yes that’s my real hair, why do you ask?” Bradley, and Minister of Cement-Pouring and Ribbon-Cutting David “Flounder” Caplan.

But on closer examination, I have realized that, contrary to my first post on this topic, the logo is not merely the latest Liberal attempt to wipe out Canadian symbols (a la the flag, the three branches of the military, the royal coat of arms, etc.), nor another Liberal gambit aimed at equating its own partisan interests with those of the citizenry, but instead a subtle promotion of same-sex polygamy.

Wait, let me explain.

Some have said, as the Star reports today, that the logo looks like an overhead view of three people in a hot tub. It is clear from the V-shaped figures that these are male body-builders. Now what kind of a body builder gets in a tub with two other guys? The gay kind, that’s who.

So the redesign is not just about making the Liberal party synonymous with Ontario, or destroying a Canadian symbol, or helping their favourite ad agency, it’s apparently a subliminal advertisement for gay polygamy.

I’m just sayin’.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bill Graham: building a bridge to a terrorist century

In the 1996 US presidential election, Bill Clinton’s re-election slogan was “building a bridge to the 21st century.” Like most campaign slogans, it was designed to inspire and veil at the same time.

Ten years later, we have the Liberal Party of Canada which, though leaderless, has lost not a dram of its well-honed sense of moral superiority, coating a tasty combination of delusion and toasted nuts (but I'm not going to talk about Dan McTeague today). It too has seen fit to invoke the handy bridge metaphor, though coming from its interim leader, in whose riding a short span to the island airport remains a bridge too far, the metaphor is a poor fit. But that is the least of Bill Graham's rhetorical problems:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper must move away from his hard-line position on the Middle East crisis in favor* of one which enables Canada to maintain its historic role as a bridge builder in the region, Liberal Leader Bill Graham said today.

“We're very concerned about Mr. Harper's change in Canada’s traditional position of working with all sides in the Middle East for long-term peace by being able to work with all sides of the conflict to bring them together and in a dialogue,” Mr. Graham said. “Canada has always been able to act as an intermediary, but we can only serve in that capacity if both our comportment and our actions enable us to play that role.”

Mr. Graham urged Prime Minister Harper to look to the G-8 communique as a starting point for a balanced approach to help all parties in the region come together.
--Liberal party website

* Note to Liberal communications tools: you can set Microsoft Word to Canadian English by going to the “Tools” menu and selecting Language, then Set Language. Select "English (Canada)."

Graham’s evoking of Canada as a “bridge builder,” while urging “dialogue” and a “balanced approach” are vague – and deliberately so – concepts that tiptoe around the rather fundamental questions of: building a bridge -- between whom? Dialogue – with whom? Balanced approach – between what?

The history of the region would suggest the answer is: building a bridge to, and dialogue with, terrorists determined to destroy Israel, five years after it has exited south Lebanon and after it evicted its own citizens from Gaza in the hopes that enough Palestinians preferred land, prosperity and normalcy to refugee camps, squalor and blowing up their own children. The fact that they apparently do not helps explain the reported 80% approval among Israelis for the current military action. What dialogue can there be with people who care more about destroying Israel than any other political goal? What balance can there be between Israel existing and not existing?

And by “all sides in the Middle East,” does Graham mean to include Hezbollah’s sugar daddy Iran, which imprisoned and murdered Canadian journalist Zara Khazemi, then sent the official believed responsible for her death to the recent conference of the UN’s new “we really mean it this time” human rights body?

Graham’s view is not only offside from reality; it is offside from the usual defenders (or at least silent bystanders) of attacks on Israel. Even the Arab League and Saudi Arabia have condemned Hezbollah for the attacks and kidnappings that started the current conflict.

There have been some stunningly naïve arguments offered in defense of Hezbollah, focussing on its charitable and so-called educational activities. I guess people still need to be reminded that Hitler ended inflation, and Mussolini made the trains run on time. I think the Hitler Youth also got a few wayward boys off the streets.

After 27 years of terrorism, it is disheartening to see that so many people still seem to think that treating terrorists as legitimate spokespersons for legitimate grievances is a fruitful tactic. As Osama bin Laden has famously written, the meagre response of the West toward incidents such as the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, the first World Trade Centre bombing in 1993, Somalia, the USS Cole, Khobar Towers, etc. convinced him that the West did not have the will to fight.

Terrorists cannot be co-opted, legitimized or dialogued with, because they believe that to negotiate is to capitulate. Anwar Sadat of Egypt made peace with Israel. His reward was an assassin’s bullet.

Bill Graham’s Pollyanna euphemisms only reinforce the argument that, while his rhetoric may be scarcely a decade old, the clock in the Liberal Party’s foreign policy Delorean is permanently set to 1956.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Yes, he is Canadian

“But a positive note: Is Stephen Harper an hombre or what? Are we sure he’s a Canadian? I mean, an elected one — and one elected prime minister at that?”

That’s National Review managing editor Jay Nordlinger’s observation on Stephen Harper, especially as compared to Chirac and Putin (yes, a rather low bar, but nevertheless).

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Nikola Tesla: the man who put the AC in AC/DC

Given that the Toronto Star is among my favourite whipping posts, it feels odd to commend them, but they deserve a nod for Tyler Hamilton’s feature on Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla. It appeared in the Star’s business section yesterday, the 150th anniversary of Tesla’s birth (go to and search “Tesla”).

Hamilton tiptoes around Tesla’s ethnicity, describing him as a Croatian-born Serb. Just to be clear: Tesla was the son of a Serbian Orthodox priest, born in a heavily-Serb area of what is now the independent state of Croatia. But to be fair, Tesla never had much interest in the centuries-old ethnic tensions of the Balkans, and is reported to have said that he was ""equally proud of my Serb origin and my Croatian homeland."

However neither this fact, nor their attempts to ethnically cleanse Croatia of ethnic Serbs, have stopped Croatia from trying to adopt Tesla as its own:

“I am happy that we are here today to celebrate Tesla, a Serb, a son of Croatia and a citizen of the world,” Croatian President Stipe Mesic said.

He spoke at a ceremony held just near the house where the scientist, an ethnic Serb, was born in 1856 in the south-central village of Smiljan while Croatia was a part of the old Austro-Hungarian empire.

But an Associated Press story published by the Buffalo News notes the lack of electricity around Tesla’s birthplace, and suggests something else is afoot:

The crowning irony for war-battered Croatia is that hundreds of villages around Smiljan, his [Tesla’s] native town, have no electricity.

“If Tesla rose from the dead, he wouldn’t believe it,” said Marija Batinic, 50, who lives near Smiljan and believes that the heavily Serb region of central Croatia is being deprived of electricity because of ethnic discrimination.

One reason for Tesla’s transformation from nonperson to national hero in Croatia is the European Union, which wants the country to show gestures of reconciliation toward its Serbs as a condition for joining the prosperous club of democracies.

The government has spent $8.75 million turning Tesla’s house into a museum, and the presidents of Croatia and Serbia will come together Monday to dedicate it on the anniversary of his birth. A new statue of Tesla was unveiled Friday in Zagreb, the Croatian capital, and two more are planned.

Croatia’s Serbian minority, about 12 percent of the population of 4.5 million before the war, is down to 3 percent, many of them in the villages around Smiljan in central Croatia.

The government denies discrimination, blaming the power shortage on a lack of funds. It has promised to restore electricity to about 300 villages when it can get the money.

From the Star story:
He died alone, poor and a little nutty — the Croatian-born ethnic Serb genius whose innovations had a profound impact on development of the modern-day electrical grid.

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Nikola Tesla, who grew famous in the late 1800s for his public battles with inventor Thomas Edison during the “War of Currents.”

Tesla, at 28, emigrated to the United States in 1884, a time when Edison was aggressively promoting the concept of direct-current power generation. But Edison’s invention had major limitations. The “DC” power stations he was building had to be located in the centre of industry, since the direct current Edison was producing could only travel a kilometre in any direction.

Only 18 central power stations based on DC existed in the United States at that time, and about 370 smaller stations were located within factories. Tesla’s vision was to liberate this electricity through the use of alternating current, or AC, systems, which make it possible to efficiently transmit power over hundreds of kilometres at high voltages.

“He knew down the road, when industry develops, that there would be large amounts of power required to be transferred from one place to another,” says Mike Radan, a Serbian-born Canadian and electrical engineer who worked 35 years at the former Ontario Hydro. “Edison felt threatened.”

But Tesla, on his own an inept businessman, was no match for Edison. It took the support and foresight of American entrepreneur George Westinghouse and his Westinghouse Electric Corp. to push the “AC” concept forward — and to ultimately defeat Edison’s active fight against the AC movement and his aggressive public relations campaign promoting the deadly nature of alternating current.

In the end, Tesla and his AC inventions won the currents war after the Niagara Falls Power Co. and the Canadian Niagara Power Co. embraced the technology for an unprecedented power project at Niagara Falls, which was dependent on Tesla’s “polyphase” AC systems and patents. Westinghouse was chosen to lead construction of the massive hydro stations.


Yesterday, the Niagara Parks Commission unveiled a Tesla monument in recognition of his contributions to the region and the world of electricity. The Professional Engineers of Ontario have also declared 2006 to be the year of Tesla.


Tesla, who never married, died alone in 1943 of heart failure at 86. But his name lives on. This fall rock idol David Bowie will play Tesla in a movie called The Prestige, which will also star Michael Caine and Hugh Jackman.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

MP mortgage story silent on McGuinty subsidy

Today’s Toronto Star reports MP Garth Turner’s claim that MPs may be able to apply their $75-per-day meal subsidy toward a mortgage if they purchase a home in Ottawa (sorry, no link: the Star’s links never work for me, but you can go to and find the story on the “Canada” page):

A GTA Conservative MP is calling for the immediate end to a little-known perk that allows MPs to put their $75 daily meal allowance towards their mortgage on an Ottawa residence.

Turner said that, as it stands, an MP can decide to buy a house in Ottawa, rather than rent. (Those who rent are entitled to accommodation and related living expenses of up to $24,000 a year, recently increased from $20,000.) If the house is eventually sold at a profit, the MP pockets the difference, even though taxpayers’ dollars enabled the politician to buy the home.

“I can get my $75 cheque delivered to my office, I can save them up and once a month I can put them against my mortgage.”

The author of the story is GTA Bureau Chief Richard Brennan, late of the Star's Queen’s Park bureau, who would be familiar with the fact that in 2004 the Ontario Liberal party purchased a house in Toronto for Dalton McGuinty to live in. There is no mention in today’s story of the fact that McGuinty hands his approximately $1,460-per-month MPP housing allowance over to the Ontario Liberal party as “rent” on the Rosedale house.

As I posted on my blog in May, the purchase price of the house was $995,000 and a $1,000,000 mortgage in favour of Scotiabank is registered against it. I estimated that the monthly carrying costs for the house would be close to $7,000, including a mortgage payment of $5,845.90 (assuming 5% interest and a 25-year amortization). All the documents are posted here.

To date, the Star has published little detail about McGuinty’s housecapades, revealing only that the house’s price was “in the high six figures” and that the party would accept his monthly housing allowance as adequate rent.

A search of the Star’s archives using the terms McGuinty, house or home, and mortgage, reveals no articles mentioning the payment of the Ontario Liberal party’s mortgage with McGuinty’s MPP allowance.

If an MP were to claim the meal subsidy for 20 days out of a month, that would translate into $1,500, roughly equivalent to what McGuinty is handing the Ontario Liberal party every month.

In fairness, it could be argued that there is a difference between a housing allowance going to pay a mortgage, and a meal allowance going to pay a mortgage. But I am puzzled by the Star’s two-and-a-half-year silence on McGuinty subsidizing a mortgage with his allowance, while trumpeting only the theoretical possibility that MPs might subsidize a mortgage with theirs.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Hands out of my pocket, hands out of my pocket . . .

Price of my Second Cup “small” coffee (which used to be called a “regular”) last week: $1.66

Price of my Second Cup coffee today: $1.64.

A government that I worked to elect keeping a promise: priceless.

(But at which Tim’s does Reg get an extra-large coffee for the same price?)

Lorne Gunter rhapsodizes at length about the meaning of it all in today’s National Post:

What thrilled me was the principle of it -- for once, a federal government was keeping less of my money rather than grasping for more.

I have grown so tired of the assumption within government that just because they print the money it all belongs to them and those of us who earn it should be grateful for whatever fraction they permit us to keep.

Those who favour massive social programs believe themselves to possess a heightened sense of social responsibility, and have convinced themselves they know so much better how to spend our money then we do.

They have no particular right to our money, no matter how high-minded their goals for it.


I know the GST rollback is piddling -- hardly worth all my excitement. Still, it marks a change in philosophy about who's in charge, whose rights are paramount -- those of government or individual citizens.

We’ve seen tax cuts before. The Mike Harris government in Ontario significantly reduced personal income taxes (30% in its first term; 20% its second – but I believe the McGuinty Fiberals clawed back part of the 20%).

Unfortunately, the Ontario Tories were succeeded by a government that imposed the largest personal income tax hike in Ontario history and has broken 50-plus election promises, yet is still hovering between 35% and 40% in the polls. I remain hopeful that a change in philosophy is happening (or, as Trailer Park Boy Ricky would say “I’m not a pessimist, I’m an optometrist”). But, as I like to say, only time will tell.

I didn’t know Cheech and Chong owned a courier company . . .

Elections Canada has confirmation that the Marijuana Party's [2005 fiscal] return has been sent by courier and is in transit.
--“Registered Political Parties Submit 2005 Fiscal Returns,” Elections Canada news release, July 1, 2006