Friday, September 29, 2006

Seeing red

Babble on.

Dundas Square. Ninety minutes from now. A sea of red in support of the troops.

The bigger the crowd, the bigger the cheer Canadian soldiers will hear.

Afghanistan is a long way away. But at Yonge-Dundas Square today at noon, a lot of people will let our troops know that we care.

And they will hear us.

AM 640 and CFRB 1010 radio stations will both carry the program live to our troops in the field.

That's right Toronto, thanks to modern technology, our support will be dropped right into the war zone. Our message will be taken directly to our soldiers in the field. We will talk directly to them.

I'll be there, and I hope you will too.

Babble off.

Update: I've put up a couple of photos over at The Torch.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Things are moving along swimmingly

Babble on.

Canada does not lack the talent to compete with other nations at the Olympics, winter or summer. In any event, the talent pool tends to be related more to population than anything else - the rest is exposure and development - and so worrying about talent isn't too productive. What we have lacked, up until fairly recently, is organization and focus. Unlike talent, organization and focus can be improved through...well...organization and focus. The point is, we can actually improve it with a little effort.

The Own the Podium program for the winter games has already borne fruit, and now Alex Baumann has been repatriated to lead the Road to Excellence initiative, a similar program for the summer games.

Some top athletes can't pass on what made them successful. Some can only do it on a tactical level, and not a strategic or systemic one. Baumann isn't one of them.

In 1991, Baumann moved to Australia to pursue graduate studies at the University of Queensland. Following his academic career, he was appointed as the Manager of Sport Programs for the Queensland Academy of Sport in 1996. He then held various positions with the Queensland Government before becoming Chief Executive Officer of Queensland Swimming in 1999. In 2002, he assumed the role of Executive Director for the Queensland Academy of Sport where he was responsible for overseeing sport programs, athlete and coach support services, regional services, the Centre of Excellence for Applied Sport Science Research and business services in order to ensure that Australian athletes had the best resources necessary for attaining high-performance goals.

"The appointment of Alex Baumann to lead the Road To Excellence initiative is a major shot in the arm for the Canadian summer sport system," said Swimming Canada Chief Executive Officer and National Coach Pierre Lafontaine. "Having worked with Alex in Australia, I am confident in saying that no individual will bring about as much focus, dedication, passion and commitment to the position as Alex. He is one of the top high-performance strategists in the world and we are very lucky to have his guidance and leadership in developing and executing this plan."

Not that the good folks at the COC need my advice, but I can't think of a better choice - inspirational for Canadians because of his personal performance and iconic athletic status, and proven organizationally for leading a prominent and successful high-performance sporting body. Hopefully the days of never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity are done and gone. This is a good sign for Canadian athletics.

Babble off.

Friday, September 22, 2006


Babble on.

The Liberal Party of Canada lacks any sort of class whatsoever these days.

There were many notables in the Commons for his speech and some notable no-shows. Former Prime Minister Paul Martin, for example, was not in the House — even though both he and former Prime Minister Chretien were praised by Karzai for their commitment to Afghanistan. In fact, there were more than a dozen Liberal MPs — and perhaps as many two dozen — who were absent for the speech. This is all the more odd because it was the Liberals, of course, who first sent Canadian troops into Afghanistan. By comparison, I did not see an empty seat among the Conservative, BQ, or NDP benches.

Martin didn't even bother to show up? The mind boggles...I'm just flabbergasted. Tell me again why this man should be allowed to continue collecting a paycheque on the taxpayers dime?

Pearson must be spinning in his grave. What a disgrace.

Babble off.

All the depth of a parking-lot puddle

Babble on.

Rosie DiManno's column in today's Toronto Star is worth reading for this line alone:

But elsewhere, be it Darfur or Haiti — or whatever bright object of humanitarian need might captivate the likes of Jack Layton — would lose its thrall, you can bet on it, as soon as Canadian troops started dying there, too. (Babbler's italics)

Apparently DiManno's not the only one unimpressed by Taliban Jack! and his adamant refusal to accept the realities of rebuilding a peaceful and independent Afghanistan, when the glib and easy alternative is to exclaim "Support our troops! Bring them home!" to ego-feeding applause from his domestic political base.

Hamid Karzai - you know, the elected leader of Afghanistan who has publicly thanked Canada a number of times for sending soldiers to his country to help stabilize and reconstruct a civil society there - isn't even answering Layton's correspondence (ht: The Cornerbrook Doppelganger).

NDP Leader Jack Layton has made several requests for a meeting with the Afghan leader - and has had no reply.

Well, when Jack! is spouting the drivel that follows, it's no wonder Karzai doesn't want to waste his time sharing fake smiles over stale donuts with the man.

“This mission is completely out of whack,” Layton said.

“By investing so heavily in the war effort in the south, it’s depriving Afghanistan from the investments in humanitarian aid and in reconstruction that are required elsewhere in the country.”

So...what, Layton? Are we supposed to abandon the southern provinces to barbarism? Or is some other nation supposed to have its sons and daughters trudge and bleed and fight in the dirt of Kandahar to pacify the region before we arrive bright-faced and bushy-tailed ready to dig wells and build schools? Which nation should shoulder that burden? Someone's going to have to, because the Afghans themselves can't yet. That's why Karzai continues to request our support, you posturing, facetious dilettante. Any wonder why he won't allow you to waste his precious time?

As Christie Blatchford has noted, this man is clever enough to know that the CF is doing the heavy-work required to allow the humanitarian and reconstruction projects to take root. That he chooses to deliberately ignore that fact for crass political gain speaks volumes about his character.

Or lack thereof, to be more accurate.

Babble off.

Update: Stephen Taylor notes that the ass doesn't fall far from the hole:

In 1937, Tommy Douglas said the following before Parliament:

"Against whom are we arming? What potential aggressor is more aggressive today? Oh, I know that bogeymen have been trotted out in this chamber. It has been suggested that it might be Italy, it might be Germany, it might be Japan."

It might be congenital.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Babble on.

Correspondent JMH sent this "Navy recruiting ad" along by e-mail. You'll need your speakers on, and depending upon where you work, you might need to listen at home.

Needless to say, JMH is an army guy.

Of course, my navy buddies got a kick out of it too - military humour tends towards the dark and the sharp, and no offense is intended or taken when it tends this way, because it always has.

Babble off.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The real issue hardly registers

Babble on.

Skippy's on a roll these days, and I can't find much I disagree with in this stand-out post on gun control and the Dawson College tragedy:

The real issue here is not whether a long gun registry is required, or whether a long gun registry is useless. The weapon in question, as it turns out, is not a long gun, a fact which snuck in the back door in the middle of this bunfight and made fools of the participants.

The weapon in question is a restricted firearm. As with a pistol, this weapon needed to be registered regardless of the long gun registry. And the information released so far suggests that it was, in fact, registered, which means -- if it was registered to the shooter -- that the shooter, a bona fide nutcase, passed all the background checks required to obtain it, and register it.

It's all too easy to use such an emotionally compelling incident to bludgeon a political or ideological opponent. I fall victim to that temptation from time to time myself.

But if we're to have any hope of effectively addressing this issue at all, we need to resist that temptation and ask the questions that will best help us prevent another senseless tragedy, and not just the questions that will make our opponents squirm the most.

As Skippy puts it, it's time for the grown-ups to talk.

Babble off.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Stand easy

Babble on.

RIP, Philip Cowie, husband and father, naval officer, rugby player, and mentor.

I knew Phil for only three years from '89 to '92, while attending RMC, but how long you knew Phil had nothing to do with how much he inspired you. He was a man, in the noblest sense of the word, and for a boy striving to become a man at the time, his character and presence was a beacon.

One story among my memories of Phil stands out among the rest.

It was rugby season in the fall of '91 at RMC, and Phil was just coming back from his first bout with cancer, not yet fully recovered. The cadets from West Point were coming to Kingston, and Phil wanted to play, if he could. I gladly gave up my spot in the lineup.

There was a fierce wind that day, and for some reason, the normally hard-running USMA team were kicking the ball deep as often as they could. Phil at fullback ran under under every single kick and stood up under the punishing tackles he knew were coming until support could arrive. He didn't drop a ball, he didn't let a single man past him, he kicked the ball miles in the air, and he inspired the rest of the team around him.

He couldn't have weighed more than 160lbs at the time - not a lot for a man with his six-feet-plus athletic frame, and probably fifty pounds off his prime - but he didn't shepherd his strength or pace himself. He went all out right from the opening whistle.

Those of us on the sidelines knew we were seeing something special, and when we weren't cheering ourselves hoarse with encouragement, we were holding our collective breath. You could see the superhuman effort he was putting forth and how much this performance was costing him, etched grimly on his face. He just wouldn't quit, wouldn't back down, wouldn't accept anything from himself other than his very best. It was leadership by example, distilled and pure.

At the half, visibly exhausted, Phil asked me to take over for him. Whatever he had set out to prove to himself that day, he had done it. I had played rugby for years, and I was never as nervous going into a game as I was that day, trying to fill shoes the size of a boat. But after his example, how could you not step up?

As I write this, I realize it sounds silly making so much of what, at the end of the day, was just a game. All I can say is that something about how he played, and practiced, and coached; about how he doled out scolding with nothing more than a disapproving look and encouragement with a grin and a clap on the shoulder; about how he held himself and...LIVED, I guess, simply showed everyone around him how to be better themselves. Not just at rugby, mind you, but at anything they chose.

I've never forgotten that episode, or dozens of others involving him, because Phil Cowie inspired me like few others in my life ever have, and the memory of him inspires me still. He was larger-than-life, and he will be truly missed.

Babble off.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Tanks very much for the primer, son

Babble on.

Over at The Torch, Wonderdog, who has some experience operating from the inside of the armoured behemoth we call the Leopard C2, has written an excellent primer on the proposed deployment of that weapon to Afghanistan.

Debunking the Globe & Mail's sloppy and dishonest reporting on this story would require more typing than I'm willing to do. Suffice to say that the total number of the 2000-plus Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan who will be buttoned up in those fifteen Leopards will be ... 60.

That should put all the cheering and hand-wringing into perspective.

Let's be clear. What the government is sending -- if the proposal is approved -- is the Leopard C2 tank. The Leopard is operated by a crew of four (driver, gunner, loader and crew commander). It does not carry troops, and is not a substitute for the LAV III. Its frontal armour is essentially impervious to RPGs and other mere pop-guns, but this is not to say that it is invulnerable. The side and rear armour is thinner, and a roadside bomb could easily render a Leo immobile by damaging tracks or suspension. If that were to happen, and an ARV was unavailable, the crew could be forced to destroy the tank in place -- not something you'd like to see, if you only had 15 of them.

[Zipper]head on over and read the rest.

Zipperhead. Are you listening, son? I'm talking about a tanker. That's a joke, son, a joke. Stand up next time, son, I say stand up - they're going right over your head. /Foghorn Leghorn

Babble off.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Now who's wearing the pants, baby!

Babble on.

Well, if the winning ticket isn't the one sitting folded in my wallet, I guess it might as well go to these deserving souls:

The eight women, who are civilian staff members at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa in eastern Ontario, bought the ticket that had the winning numbers for Friday's Super 7 lottery.

The jackpot divides to about $650,000 for each of them.


All eight wore T-shirts emblazoned with yellow ribbons signalling support for the soldiers.

The women, who range in age from 24 to 55, work for the Normandy Officers Mess and learned of their good fortune on Saturday after one of them looked up the numbers on the internet.

All but one of the women is a military spouse and two of their husbands are among the more than 2,000 Canadians now serving in Afghanistan.

The women said their husbands didn't believe them at first when they told them of the win on the telephone.

Hoo-ahh, ladies. Six hundred and fifty K goes a long, long way in Pet.

Babble off.

Cross-posted to The Torch.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Ignorance trumps knowledge on volume alone

Babble on.

In each of the past four years, this anniversary has left me with different thoughts and emotions, like my subconscious needs to choose a theme. This year, the strongest of those is curiosity, combined with all-too-familiar frustration. Specifically, as I reflect today upon the events of September 11th, 2001 and the subsequent shift in geopolitics precipitated by that event, I keep coming back to Russia.

I'd guess that Russia had more and better intelligence from inside Afghanistan than any other major power in the world on September 10th, 2001. I'm wondering how much they would have shared with the Western powers on September 10th, and how much they started to share on September 12th. I wonder how active they've been in influencing first, U.S. efforts, and second, NATO efforts in the country. They've undoubtedly provided intelligence support to Western nations, but I wonder how useful and reliable that intelligence has been, and I wonder what they've held back. I'm curious about what the West disregarded and what it heeded, and whether lessons have been learned about how to best utilize Russia's purported help.

If that story has been told, I sure can't find it. My guess is that, even within the intelligence organs of the West privy to Russian cooperation, the story isn't a complete and coherent one. Leadership often requires that hard decisions be made on incomplete information, but how can we refine our efforts if we don't even know what we're doing right and wrong - what we know and what we don't?

The discouraging thing is that Russia's influence upon in this great conflict is such a small part of what we don't know - about that day, about the events leading up to it, and about our efforts and those of the enemy subsequent to it. I'd guess that today I'm focused on such a sliver of 9/11 because it's practically impossible to focus on everything about that day. You have to pick something within it, or the magnitude of the problem can overwhelm you.

Who knows what about whom and whether they really know what they think they know, not to mention whether anyone trusts what anyone else knows, let alone trusts their own information, is a confusing tangle of uncertainties. In order to even make a start, you have to pick something out of the mess, and concentrate upon it. But if you focus too tightly upon a particular aspect with no vision of the whole, your lack of context hobbles the entire effort anyhow. What a frustrating game intelligence can be.

Especially when real people die, and remind us that national security intelligence is not a game at all.


RIP, Bernard Mascarenhas, a former colleague, and a human face on a tragedy that would have defied my comprehesion without a personal dimension to anchor it. My condolences on this terrible anniversary to his friends and family.

Babble off.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Stuff that isn't political

Babble on.

I once complained over a beer to Bob Tarantino that the hardest thing about blogging for me was thinking up clever titles to posts. He replied that he'd given up on that and was simply pulling quotes from his links instead. I'm beginning to think that's not a bad idea, given my complete blank on this post.

At least the title's descriptive, if not even close to clever. Ah well, you get what you pay for, etc.


My darling Litlbit and I saw some Jay Strongwater pieces at Harrods in London, and coveted them greedily right away. If I had a tip jar, I'd be begging you to hit it now, since this stuff is way out of our budget. Way out. The truly crappy aspect of this is that it's carried in only three stores in three cities across Canada: Vancouver, Montreal, and...wait for it...Winnipeg. Yes, that Winnipeg. Not a single shop in T.O. where we can go to drool over the stuff. I mean, Winnipeg? WTF?


About a month ago, one of my brothers asked if he could take my five-year-old Boo to a movie, which I thought was a great idea. All of us, including Boo, thought that Over The Hedge would be a perfect choice, and so after installing the car seat in my brother's car, off they went. As it turns out, they missed the showing, and my brother called me to see if he could take Boo to another flick - Superman Returns. I hadn't seen the movie at that point, but my brother had, and I told him I'd trust his judgement. He replied that he didn't think there was anything inappropriate in the film, but that he wasn't generally familiar with what might or might not be OK for a five-year-old. So instead of checking it out myself first, I told him I trusted his judgement, and they went to the Superman movie.

After seeing it myself a couple of weeks later, I realized it really wasn't appropriate for Boo - not my brother's fault at all, mind you, but mine. Part of the problem was that I had no idea where I would have turned to see if the movie was appropriate. Another of my brothers provided that answer: Kids In Mind.

The purpose of is to provide parents and other adults with objective and complete information about a film's content so that they can decide, based on their own value system, whether they should watch a movie with or without their kids.

It's like a food labeling system which tells you what a food item contains. That's it. We make no judgments about what is good or bad or anything else. Indeed, we do not "condemn," "critique" or "criticize" movies. And we don't "praise" or "recommend" movies either. We advance no "beliefs" and we do not "preach" anything. We are not affiliated with any political party, any cultural or religious group, or any ideology. The only thing we advocate is responsible, engaged parenting.

If one reads our reviews one will often find many instances where our descriptions are so detailed they seem absurd. But we'd rather err on the side of comprehensiveness. It's up to parents to decide which details are useful to them and their family, and which ones they consider fatuous.

What an excellent idea, and only a dozen years old, or so. Smack me with a clue-bat. I need to stay with the tour.


It's too bad she's decided that she needs to out-skank the rest of the field to compete, because Christina Aguilera can flat-out sing. I know, I know, not a particularly sophisticated music consumer, am I? Well, I like to think that musically I know a hawk from a handsaw most of the time - but sometimes a song is just plain catchy. Ain't No Other Man fits that category. It's got a nice beat, and my kids dance to it. Sometimes, that's good enough.

Try watching the live version as well. I'm partial to funky big bands.


As always, your mileage may vary.

Babble off.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Bringing up the average

Babble on.

Whether he intends it or not, David Akin is bringing up the average level of quality and integrity in Canadian journalism, one small action at a time.

Yesterday, he explained in detail how he covered the recent deaths of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, with respect:

I'm a TV reporter [see the profile for details]. Just as I wouldn't presume that one CF member's behaviours and attitudes are typical of all CF members, I trust you'll recognize that all journalists behave and act in different ways. Here's my story.

I was assigned to Petawawa yesterday...

The kicker? His explanation was posted at - where you should read the entire comments thread.

Media accountability, responsibility, sensitivity, and professionalism. That's the way it should be done.

Babble off.