Monday, January 29, 2007

WAR - Part 3: Something to Lose

There are winners and there are losers. It cannot be argued that conflict will inevitably cost something to both parties, they will both lose something in the deal, if only some humanity, a dire statement indeed, in the best of cases.

I have heard it said that the most dangerous man is that who has nothing to lose. I do agree with this statement with the only caveat that “nothing” should be defined a little more closely.

Nothing can mean a very great deal to some, and an actual nothing to others.

Let me pick on the subject du jour, and to make things simple, I am only showing a single perspective here:

Christianity holds life-on-earth as the dearest of values. In fact, so much so that suicide is a sin that will instantly send one to hell. So theoretically a Christian always has something to lose, by it’s very definition.

It is rather obvious then, that suicide-bombers, for example, don’t hold life-on-earth in particularly high regard. I don’t think I need to elaborate any further to make this point.

One party’s value can be very dramatically different from the next, and this mere difference yields an interesting attack strategy, does it not? Keep this in mind for a little bit.

This also screws our perspective of the warring factions. An atrocity is reprehensible only if the crime being committed matters to you, the observer. I have mentioned genocide as being a heinous act in a previous blog, again this is from my own, dare I say, Christian perspective. I cannot fathom anyone thinking that genocide is conscionable, but with the fuckup in Darfur among others, it is obvious that I am wrong on this point, and that genocide is quite acceptable to some.

Perspective or no, what is it that declares the winner of a war? This is another version of the same question to define success.

An easy answer is that the forces of evil are kept at bay. Yeah, right, but who was the evil? The attacker? Who’s to say who attacked first? Sometimes this is very clear-cut, but other times, not so much. Sometimes a party is simply baited into conflict, either by design (contemptible) or happenstance (friend of thy enemy).

I will use WW2 to demonstrate the point: Hilter was very clearly out to do serious harm, take over the world, etc. No question, and even the Germans admit that one, so it’s not just a case of the winners writing the history books.

The latter is a bit trickier, but again I draw from WW2. Japan was at war with China, who was being sold arms and provided mercenaries by their friend the United States. By measures, it could be argued that Japan and the U.S. were already at war for a while, albeit indirectly through China, by the time Pearl Harbor was attacked. So by this particular point of view, Japan didn’t really attack the U.S. first. I’m not saying Japan didn’t attack then-friend China first though!

Anyways, the forces of evil were kept at bay when the Allied forces won. Capitulation was had, treaties were signed, and so forth. Everyone lost a bit of humanity.

Note that we weren’t fighting for life per se, but rather quality thereof. We were fighting for freedom. Self-determination.


50 million dead on the Allied side, and 12 million casualties on the Axis side. By sheer numbers alone, in cost of life, the Axis was the clear winner. That’s a shocker isn’t it?

It is a shocking point of view, yet we wage war in precisely this manner, even today!

So obviously, cost-of-life, for example, has to be weighed against freedom and self-determination in gauging the outcome of that war. Our elected leaders estimated that the cost of 62 millions lives was worth the price for freedom. Keep this also in mind for a minute.

Now let’s take a look at a conflict a little closer to our timeframe.

Some friends and I were discussing air-travel and new security restrictions imposed by our governments. We all know why.

It’s the tip of a mean iceberg: It’s a small thing to keep the illusion that we are safe in the air, it’s a small thing for the security people to have files on everyone boarding an airplane, it’s a small thing to have a black list of people, it’s a small thing to have mandatory passports (which I’ve already discussed), it’s a small thing to have cameras installed everywhere, it’s a small thing to have bio-id systems (retinal scans, DNA, fingerprints, etc.), and finally it’s a small thing to invoke publication bans… Nineteen Eighty-Four is here, right now.

And the populace is wont to accept any number of not so subtle and very significant encroachments on personal freedom in the name of the illusion of security. Yet personal freedom is what we held very dearest some 60 years ago, to the tune of at least 62 million dead.

And today we have no less than self-inflicted outright dilapidation of freedom, with no end in sight. Furthermore there is no clear treaty that can be signed to stop that. And to cap it all off, we have a first-day-only count of 3000 civilian casualties.

A very wise and venerated American once said: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Back to our 2 tagged thoughts from earlier: know thy enemy and exploit his weakness and what is important enough to give up your life for. We remember right?

OK, so the question I have today, which can never be truly answered, is: Did al-Qaeda or Ousama or whoever, bait the free-world into a war with itself? Did they know we would knee-jerk our own selves into fucking up our own freedom?

Thereby freely handing over the win?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Lazy Q

Once again the mass media strikes with a lousy interpretation of statistics. This one is just too cute.

In today's paper I am chagrined to find out that Québec workers, apparently, work the least amount of hours of all the labour force in Canada. The numbers quoted by Statistics Canada demonstrate that we work roughly 2 hours a week, on the overall average, less than other Canadian provinces.

Being statistics, of course, they are subject to vast interpretation. With such a statement in boldface letters on the cover, the obvious qualifier of laziness comes to mind. In order to defend my own parish I am forced to wonder which question was asked in order to conjure up such damning numbers.

The newspaper article alludes to the fact that maybe they are talking about remunerated hours only and gives as sole example taking care of children to explain the rest of the time.

I submit other hypothesis, the first being income tax. Québec has the highest income tax rate probably of the free world. After a certain bracket, typically attained with overtime mind you, we are talking 50% taxation. Yes, that is half of your income gone into government coffers. So it stands to reason that after a certain threshold why would anyone be stupid enough to work for a half day's wage. Other than yours truly of course.

A second guess would be, depending on the question that was asked, that work hours might be present but not paid for, in effect a 40 hour week becomes 32.5 when an hour for lunch and a half hour for breaks are factored in. It’s obviously the same question all over Canada, but is it interpreted the same way?

On the other hand, maybe Québecers actually have it straight; since Québecers do not typically complain of overly long work weeks may be they have actually attained a more appropriate balance between their work life and their leisure time.

By the way, I reject wholesale the asinine conclusion in the papers that Québecers take more, or better, care of their children with those two hours than anywhere else. This is not only self-serving but is, in fact, downright insulting to other Canadians.

Or maybe, we are just a bunch of lazy louts… for 2 hours a week.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Your Papers If You Please

I have crossed many items of late that are worthy of my wrath, ahem, blogging, yeah that's it. I have been accumulating them on bits of paper, and quick notes on my machine. This morning even, as I brought in my newspapers, another jumped at me, leaping from the front page.

I'll tackle that one today.

Apparently, and this is a long time in coming, a passport will now be required and obligatory to land in the United States.

Oh boy! What news! Right…

To a long-time air-traveller, like myself, carrying a passport to go to other countries is a matter of course, and not something I ever gave a second thought about. In fact, I’ve had a passport of my own for my travels abroad since 1972. It is a defacto standard in my view, and always has been. If you fly, you have a passport! I am a more than a little puzzled as to why this hasn’t always been required, to be honest.

I find it rather presumptuous to even think that another country would accept your entry without some kind of official government sanctioned document identifying who the hell you are.

As much as I hold dear my freedom to walk around my own ‘hood with no papers, I certainly don’t expect any other country to abide by the same. I’m certainly glad when they do, I’m just not so arrogant as to expect it!

(Note that this freedom of walking around with no ID is being stripped from us here in Canada, by the way. I won’t get into why, well, not today.)

That was too easy, you see this coming don’t you?

What if I’m not going to the U.S.? What if the country I am trying to get to is beyond? What if they don’t require anything more than a driver’s licence or government ID? Or a heavy lump of cash and a bottle of liquor?

And the clincher: what if my airplane gets into some kind of mechanical trouble, or, heaven forbid, gets hijacked and is diverted to American soil? If I don’t have a passport I am screwed, am I not?

Sounds farfetched, doesn’t it? I can hear it now from the queen’s peanut gallery, “ah those silly Americans with their security, they are trying to make life miserable, blah, blah, godforsaken national security, blah, blah, get deported on a mishap, blah, blah.”

And I smile, that knowing smile.

I redirect us to the story of some doomed, and as-luck would have it American, hunters making their way to Alaska to partake of their yearly vacation. I’m going from memory again here, this was about a decade ago. Suffice to say, 4 grown men, flying from the contiguous U.S. up through Canadian airspace, with no intention of landing here at all, up to Alaska for some bear hunting.

Obviously they were packing heavy artillery, such as .375 H&H, .300 Weatherby Magnum, rifles & ammo. But low and behold, they were also carrying sidearms (those are pistols and revolvers for you non-gun savvy folks).

It is - in my opinion a little insane - but perfectly legal to hunt bear with a sidearm. There is an old joke in shooting circles that you want to hunt polar bear or grizzly, do it with a 6-shot revolver; the preferred method is 5 shots for the bear and the last one for you.

The general consensus is that a grizzly is just too stupid-mean to die and shooting it with any pistol is just going to piss it off.

(Note: one possible exception would be the proper use of .30-06 Contender, but that’s a whole other story.)

Anyway, back to our troublesome aircraft, which did in fact have to land in Canada for a short spell. Of course our hunters got detained for having sidearms without proper Canadian permits - which you cannot get, since hunting with sidearms is totally and completely illegal in Canada.

Regardless of their end destination, the laws and authorities make no allowances for mechanical failure, or weather, I forget. Our hunters were detained for the remainder of their vacation and beyond, and it took an act of God to get them back into their native country. And oh, by the way, all their gear was confiscated, never to be returned. Probably all got melted into paperweights as soon as it all got to the police station.

The joys of air travel.

So even fully documented, travelling over another country is liable to get you fucked over. It was by exception only that our hard-luck tourists didn’t garner 10 years in jail, which is the minimum sentence for their offence, according to 1976 firearms ownership laws.

So the peanut gallery from queen’s park may now proceed to shut the hell up.

The real question is: how can the (any?) authorities determine a legitimate mechanical failure from a disguised hijacking?

The real answer is: they can’t.

Self-serving case in point: I once asked a police officer what kind of car he drove on patrol, he couldn’t tell me. Thus unscientifically, and somewhat through syllogism I admit, I have nevertheless demonstrated that it is not of their purview to understand such simple matters as aircraft maintenance, either.

So once again, the snowjob is on, we are subject to political marketing to make us warm and fuzzy by announcing a so-called new, mandatory, piece of paper; which paper will still be used in a totally discretionary manner.

But, hey! We now feel a lot better about it, don’t we?