Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mike Duffy's Ethical Charter

Mike Duffy's Monday's speech to Senate was a real eye-popper. Mr Duffy informed the chamber that he had hailed from a hospital where was undergoing cardiac tests. "My doctors say the stress of this proceeding is toxic to my heart", he said in his update on the particulars of the conspiracy aganst him by his former friends. 

Hmmm.....  Just exactly who do you think you are kidding, Senator ? 

      I assume Mr Duffy suffers from a common problem among politicians which can be defined as the inability to gauge how far one can go with utter bunk before he or she can be called out on it.  That will-to-blindness prevents him from seeing that blaming his heart condition on an attempt to defame him is just too bizzare given the convincing evidence of immodesty in his lifestyle.  And how can one call  the PMO solution to one's reading of Senate trough rules "a monstrous consipracy", if one is a willing participant in it ?  How can Mike Duffy triumphantly wave a second cheque as proof of Harper government's fraudulent duplicity if the cheque is made out to him (again) ?   Does that make Mike Duffy a victim ? 

     No, it doesn't. He has blindly blown the whistle on himself !  The Nigel Wright's faux pas belongs to the low level, tolerable corruption, found in any government, and in my reading of the Senate mini-scandals, it has preoccupied the media simply because the established outlets are desperate to find something comparable in size with Harper to the sponsorship swill that sank the Liberals.  To that end, Mike Duffy's claiming his PEI house while staying in Ottawa, Pamela Wallin's charging the Senate on questionable travel, and Bev Oeda's orange juice expense, will have to do, given that Mr Clean from Alberta has been notoriously unwilling to get mixed up in the bigger schemes. So, Mike Duffy can help in upsizing the scandal he himself wrought. 

     Assuming he is telling the truth,  had Senator Duffy had a sense of integrity , he would have refused point blank to be implicated in a pathetic coverup concocted by the PMO. If he had evidence that what he claimed was ok by the Senate rules, he would have said 'no' to Nigel Wright.  He did not have anything to hide. So why to repay anything ?  Why would he have agreed to a stupid, self-incriminating ploy, if his claims sheet was clean ?  The tale just simply does not make any sense. By accepting the PMO hush money, Mike Duffy more or less agreed to stain his senatorial reputation. He pleaded guilty to a crime he did not commit to get his partners to pay for it.  And that is about all there is to the affair.  He could not keep his nose clean. He has become a part of the conspiracy he himself called "monstrous" and should be kicked out of the Senate.  

Sunday, September 29, 2013


    Mark Steyn knows whereof he speaks.  The Right's funny man (and his insights into the foibles of the Left are truly hilarious) often gets his facts right, which is refreshing these days when willingness to stay true to reality strains most commentators and politicos beyond their capacity. The phenom that first drew notice with president Reagan who at times cast events from his motion pictures into history, has become sort of a sport nowadays.  After the heap of factual gaffes from Joe Biden, it hardly is worthy of mention that Ted Cruz placed Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler (to which Cruz compared the GOP handling of the president's Health Reform) in the forties.  No, Ted, the Munich Agreement was signed in 1938. 

   It is then to Steyn's credit that he distinguishes politically between Europe and North America when assessing the merits of national health policy.  In his latest op-ed Steyn bores into Europeans and "progressive" Americans (progressive in quotes)  for  rag[ing] at the immorality of the U.S. medical system (no quotes around immorality).  Well, not all Europeans would be given to rage, but as a group they would surely deplore the U.S. not recognizing universal access to affordable medical care, if not as a fundamental human right, then simply as a hallmark of a modern Judeo-Christian civilization. Truly, Europeans of no political stripe would feel comfortable with this particular American exceptionalism.  To them national health is not a question of political beliefs or social justice but one of cultural hygiene.  This is about who we are. We don't look at sickness and decrepitude and see bona fide commercial opportunities.

But speak to a true GOP patriot, or Mark Steyn, about virtues of a profit motive in dispensing health care and you may as well be talking to a Saudi cleric about the conjugal fitness of a nine-year old schoolgirl.  There will be something missing in the viewpoint, some essential insight that says, no, this cannot be right today, even if it may have been tolerable before. Why is America opposing universal, simple, national Health Care one-hundred and thirty years after Bismarck ?  Glad you asked because it's the wrong question.  The question should be, who in America opposes that ?  The answer of course is, first it is those who make big money from commercialized medicine as it is today. Who else ?  Those who will act as their advocates (for some of that money,  of course).  Who else ? Those who can be persuaded by the ones who benefit from the status quo and their selfless campaigners,  that the prospective users of health care benefit from paying way too much for what is provided to them. That's about it, folks.  Everyone else must be, pace Steyn, an un-American alien or a liberal stooge. 

And yet the case against the commercial health insurance is fairly simple to understand.  It is, frankly speaking, an institutionalized robbery. There can never be fair market value in the provision of health services, because the effects are imponderable.  When you insure a house, a vehicle, family jewellery, the object is specific and the covered losses are specific.  You don't cover a workshop machinery wholesale against general, non-specific breakdowns.  There is no point of doing that since most of the hardware will break down sooner or later and the accumulated premiums need to assure the insurer a return on investment. The insurer would have to plot claims losses over indefinite service life of the machines, and the risk of their breaking down rises exponentially as the workshop ages. This would make the premiums too high in the early years of the coverage to compensate for the latter years.  The insurance scheme would not be attractive for the buyer if there were scores of insured parties coming into the picture, subsidizing the older workshops, without guarantee of return if the party goes out of business.  It is, as Steyn says of Social Security, a Ponzi scheme. (He of course liberally overlooks the small detail that no Charlie Ponzi is actually stealing from Social Security).  As long as you, the insurer, can build up clientele, you are ok. As soon as the workshops start to break down, they no longer present a viable risk. Statistically, they will continue to break down with an ever-increasing frequency. If you don't get enough healthy workshops to pay for the sick ones, you are out of business. 

If health insurance is a commercial contract then a gas station holdup is a commercial contract. You empty the cash register; the robber lets you live. Fair exchange, isn't it ? What's a few bucks compared to human life ?   Whoa, the market economist will protest:  a business transaction assumes a voluntary exchange. How could a holdup be fair business if one side is forced to transact by threats against their life ?  Good observation, I say, and one that directly addresses commercial health services.   So, what is voluntary about health insurance ?  Do you want to pay us, ma'am, or would you prefer to kick the bucket ?  It's up to you, hey, no pressure.  How about not insuring your kid ?  Hey, don't get all worked up about it !  It is clearly a commercial option if your kid has just had a bone-marrow transplant operation. Your premiums are going to go through the roof !  Think it over !

Yes, the element of fraud is built deeply into the medical insurance business. People who need medical insurance the most are by definition the least attractive customers to the providers.  Neither side actually wants to transact business over anyone's health. A person with a pre-existing condition knows his buying insurance only hastens his bankruptcy (which of course would make him eligible for Medicaid) and an insurer knows that such a person does not ask him to be a an "insurer" but a benefactor.  Both parties will have a built-in interest to defraud the other, by misrepresenting on the one hand, the state of one's health,  and on the other, the benefits of the policy. 

Steyn becomes laughable when he affects that a National Health Care system is impossible in the USA logistically because it is a country of over three hundred million. Really ? 

I am entirely ok with the assessment that Obamacare is a dud that lacks the thing that Obama lacks: strength of conviction.  It will be a bureaucratic nightmare, no doubt. It will be a confusing Byzantine labyrinth, full of loopholes. People and companies will be forced into exchanges that are inferior to plans they have today.  Steyn has the right gut feeling about this.  Where we differ is that I believe that the the hope for a true health care reform in the US was destroyed the moment the president abandoned the public health insurance option. A single-payer system is the way to go, and a robust national health policy probably cannot be effected without it.  The government-run insurance, competing with private providers, is a much simpler and much more effective tool, doing what governments around the world have been doing for decades and in a number of areas other than health care. Setting minimum standards, modus operandi, ensuring funding through income tax, or payroll tax provisions.  All this of course is doable in a country that figured out how to put people on the moon.  One cannot get rid of government bureaucracy but one can right-size it. A government-run national health service in this regard would be much easier to administer (and police) than multi-tiered government subsidies, a myriad of local "marketplaces" and co-ops, state-run programs, Medicaid and Medicare. No, the problem with Obamacare is not that National Health Plans are too complicated for a country like the US as Steyn argues.  It is simply that you cannot effect a health reform in the US  if you are willing to underwrite a political compromise that surrenders its most effective tools.  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thinking the Unthinkable about the Ghouta Massacre

You have to hand it to the Russians. They will not take 'yes' for an answer and they will not take cover, or admit that the deal they made with Assad makes them allies with a mass murderer.  It seems that Lavrov and Putin are hellbent on discrediting the "evidence" pinning the dreadful August attack in Ghouta on Assad's military.  Just exactly what you would not expect them to do if the balance of facts was really tipped the way the mainstream US media outlets are unanimous in saying it is - against Assad. And the reason why no TV panel or newspaper op-ed analyze with probity the likelihood  (even as a possibility) that the anti-Assad freedom fighters perpetrated the war's most revolting massacre, is not because it is impossible, since it plainly is possible, but because it is unthinkable. It is unthinkable to admit that the US was complicit in such a heinous deed. Unfortunately, the logic of the situation exludes the middle: it was either Russia or the USA whose proxies in the war wasted the lives of over fourteen hundred civilians and four hundred children to pursue their military and political ends in the war. It was either Russia or the USA who were ultimately responsible for a cold-blooded mass murder. It is clear that the Russians don't like that accusing finger pointed at them one bit.  

Yesterday, the deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov returned from Damascus with a new dossier given to him by the Syrians  ostensibly implicating the rebels in the atrocity.  This would add to their factual database, the existence of which as is not known to people who only follow the western media, includes samples of 'homemade' sarin bombs used by the rebels and collected by Russian experts in Khan al-Assal, earlier this year.  Despite litanies and protestations to the contrary, it could have very well been the FSA or any of the jihad groups who orchestrated and executed the attack.
The arguments for the Russian advance are clear and easy to follow:

1) It would have been strategically irrational for Assad to resort to large-scale chemical attack on an urban area: Almost everyone on both sides is agreed on this one.  The timing of the attack could not have been more improbable, given that since spring Assad and his Hezbollah and Iranian allies have been on the offensive and winning strategically important territory.  To risk an American intervention (to which president Obama pledged himself in December 2012 by issuing a 'red line' for the use of chemial weapons) would have been, as the surgeons say, counter indicative. It certainly would not have to help Assad any to launch (or to allow to launch) a mass attack targetting civilians at this particular juncture.  Western analysts attempted to talk around this issue by saying that it might have not been an action approved my the high command, or that it was an impulsive act by Assad's brother Maher, known for his ruthlessness. Still, even if such action is clearly a possibility it does not answer the argument satisfactorily.  The Japanese were known to resort to "banzai" suicide attacks in hopeless situations. They were not known to launch them during offensive operations.  The military effect of using gas unsystematically in attacks on an urban area where the positions of the adversary forces were largely would not have offset the risks and this certainly seemed to be the case, given the reported cases of dozens of poison Assad troops penetrating into the area.

2) Despite disingenuous assurances of the pro-rebel politicos and pundits,  the rebels have chemical weapons and used them elsewhere: The Russians claim to have proof that the rebels used "homemade" sarin-based munitions which do not originated from Assad's stockpiles.  It is assumed that Russia, as an ally would have been given the formula of the government munitions.  But it is not only the Russians who have made such a claim. Significantly, Carla del Ponte, a UN inspector said there were some strong (even if as yet inconclusive) indications that the rebels used sarin. The former Swiss prosecutor for war crimes in Yugoslavia can hardly be accused of championing Russian allies among war-crime perpetrators.  She is well remembered for her zeal in going after the Serbian war criminals, real and imaginary.  And of course, it's the rebels themselves who are making shambles of the claims of their chemical warfare innocence, made on their behalf.  They proudly display their chemical know-how and operational fitness on Youtube videos (here, here and here).

3) The UN report released on Monday (9/16/2013) does not do much if anything to dispel the suspicion: The Russians may be very clever in their disdain of the UN report on the use of chemical weapons in East Ghouta but it may be just they are seeing that while it nominally eschews "assigning blame" it actually does just that.  The decision, taken ahead of time, not to analyze the components to identify positively the origin of the munitions, seems to have been taken with the express intent to blame the Assad's army on a simple finding that sarin was used.  Mind you, even if they were positively identified, it would not remove the suspicion that the attack was staged, given the length of the conflict, porous borders and as many as twenty thousands foreign nationals involved, massive defections from Assad's military and the real possibility that scores of among military objects overrun was a chemical weapons depot. From an exchange between Russia's envoy at the UN and the head of the investigation, Ake Sellstrom, it has emerged that the weapons fired into the area were sophisticated missiles dispersing the payload prior to hitting ground.  Pace Samantha Power, this  is a smoking gun in Assad's hand but a level-headed assessment of such a finding would be that it could also be a sophisticated, planned military operation with either captured stock, or stock  imported into the country from elsewhere. The idea to restrict the UN mandate to a simple binary finding and then to use incomplete technical data of the finding for politically motivated conjectures, does not speak well of a sense of integrity.   The UN report actually does not shed any light on a slew of important issues most importantly if sarin was the only toxic material used, and was all of it delivered by a single method via single source, i.e. missiles.  Knowing this is crucially important, as evidently chemical agents were used by both sides, and in this case then the attack itself may have been "spoofed", or its scale purposly extended by planting toxic chemicals in civilian areas by means other than bombardment.

4) Is there evidence of staging on the videos coming out of East Ghouta on the day of the attack ?:  There is no doubt that the horrific images of victims of mass chemical weapons on the whole depict real people and the effects of poisoning.  The problem is that at dozens of videos have emerged within hours from areas which were supposedly highly toxic, and were - by the evidence of the videos themselves -  lethal to life not protected against the effect of sarin. The implication of the video evidence is that if it was not orchestrated, dozens of people became aware independently or by communication with each other that a large scale chemical attack was launched against their neghbouhoods, determined which areas were affected, procured the necessary protection to go into these places (gas masks and suits), went into the targeted neighbourhoods, and removed the very sick, bringing scores of them to hospitals where people took the videos of convulsed bodies, and posted the footage on the internet...all of that within two or three hours.  The improbability of this happening must be appreciated.  In terms of human psychology, the shock following such a horrendeous calamity, and the fear of a toxic gas spreading would have overwhelmed the place, initially . However there is no evidence of this on the first videos; they seemed to have been taken with professional detachment, showing chaotic situations such as one would expect. But what one would not expect on them are samaritans handling the very sick themselves being unprotected or not adequately protected.  If these people were actually relatives of the victims bringing them for medical care, how did they achieve immunity from the effects of sarin ?  Some of the scenes will likely have been staged and cut into scenes of the brutal effects of actual poisoning. 

5) Large scale massacres by the opposition were perpetrated before by islamic rebels with the express intent to blame Assad for the atrocity:   The Houla atrocity was initially blamed on Assad also but given the MO of the assault (butchery, mutilations by cutting implements) and witnesses testifying as to actual sequence of events, few now believe Assad's forces were responsible. Merkel's reluctance to join Obama's punitive strike against Syria doubtless relates to German media, which is much more critical of the rebels' methods than the US outlets. Der Spiegel reconstructed the Houla massacre and it points to the rebels, little doubt.  It is interesting to compare the video shot by the rebels of the Houla masacre to the images of the Ghouta carnage. Note the awareness of those present of the likely effect of images of dead children and facial mutilations on the U.N. and the civilized world. Dead children are used prominently to provoke visceral disgust. However, the way of one of the people at the scene handles the lifeless body of a child with a cavernous wound to his face, all but gives the authorship away.

6)  Evidence of planned false-flag operation preceding the attack:   The two images above, are cut out of Daily Mail Online article run originally on January 29. 2013.  It was taken off the paper's pages four days later but was available through an Internet archive Wayback Machine until the page was disabled.  (You can still see the article for a few seconds but the pages is then pulled)  Why would anyone want to tamper with the record if this really was a canard, if the US has 'high confidence' in the intelligence that says it really was Assad, and the  UN inspectors' report really (as Samatha Power claims) implicate Assad ?  There have been other 'leaks' purporting to show that this was a CIA-run or CIA-vetted operation but I am content with showing the curious disapperance of what was once deemed news fit to print in a major British newspaper.  The ministry of Truth now denies it has ever been printed.   As a crooked cop called Whitehouse (I kid you not !) says to Mel Gibson's character whom he betrays in The Edge of Darkness :

"It is never what it is, Tom;  it is always what it can be made to look like".

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Putin's Osotogari

George Friedman, the chairmain of the global intelligence think tank Stratfor comes to some predictable conclusions in his latest op-ed (Syria, America and Putin’s Bluff, 10/9/2013). Almost from the moment that the Syrian foreign minister announced in Moscow on Monday that his government welcomes the Russian proposal, the reactions in the US were either excessively skeptical or outright negative. From the president’s understated “potentially positive development” (which was really should have been a “potentially the solution to the crisis”) to the CNN cynical panels whose members see the Russian proposal to transfer the barbaric weapons under international as a “sham” or a “ploy” or, perhaps most bizzarely, a stalling tactic.  I say bizzarely because had Obama been resolute in his conviction that Assad’s action merited at least 200 tomahawks, the Syrian dictator would have been by now scrambling to find some of his command posts and airfields in a hopeless rubble.  So the last thing one would want to do here is to accuse the Russians of seeking to delay the overt act of war. Unless of course, one likes to parade one’s lack of smarts. No, the Russians are not playing for time. They simply saw in Kerry’s letting the cat out of the bag an opportunity and acted on it. Swiftly. Decisively.   

       Friedman believes Putin is motivated by a desire to punch above his weight, insinuating that Russia is a world-power capable of brokering a political solution to the Syrian crisis.   In his analysis, Friedman sees Kremlin acting out a revenge against the US for the humiliation of its traditional ally Serbia, in chasing Milosevic out of Kosovo in 1999 and making the historical cradle of Serbia independent. Likewise, Putin is said to be  incensed by what he perceives as meddling in Russia’s internal affairs by the western-financed NGOs.  The encroachment on a Russian sphere of influence, both in the Balkans and in Ukraine little later created a deep sense of resentment, he argues. Friedman believes – not without justification – that Putin took his due on Kosovo in the Georgia conflict of summer 2008.  He smashed the US-trained military of Georgia and liberated the former ethnic enclaves annexed to Georgia during the Soviet days as a payback for the unilateral declaration of Kosovo independence that year.  Since then, the theory goes,  Putin wants to present Russia as a world-power, restoring its Soviet-era ties with Cuba and cozying to the leftist regimes in South America.   All of this projects to Russia’s attitude toward Syria, a Soviet client since 1970. Putin is trying to deny Obama a payback for beating up on “a US client” Georgia in 2008. He has resolved to keep Assad in power. It is a “core issue” for him to maintain the illusion of Russia as a world power.    What can one say about all of this ?  The Stratfor chief may have some points right but the overall analysis is poor and for all intents and purposes useless. In truth it is not as much an analysis as it is a statement of Friedman’s own perception of the US – Russian relationship as the continuation of the Cold War “zero sum” game. 

      The Stratfor chief is far from Metternich’s perception of Russia as a potentially key player in the “global concert” and very close to the traditional paranoid British view of Russia as the vicious bear wont to claw its way into the honeycombs of  its world Empire.  Both views, the latter infecting the US cold-war view of Russia, are deficient. Russia’s traditional preoccupations with stability and outward unity make it predisposed to reactionary backwardness. This may have been no problem for Metternich, whom was no apostle of progress and modernity. But it certainly will cause frictions with cultures and economies which are more dynamic, who will eventually see Russia’s water-wheel as one running on backwater.   The pro-western politicians in Russia itself (the last of whom is Medvedev) know this and seek to change the MO on which Russians operate.  Putin himself, despite Brzezinski’s perception of him as a Mussolini wannabe, attempts to straddle the traditional opposing forces in Russia.  He oscillates between pragmatism needed to make Russia  an economically viable modern power and traditional Russian patriotism rooted in a sense of the country’s special mission which formed with the fall of the Greek Christian Byzantium as Russia’s guide and spiritual protector.  There is, consequently, somewhat of an inner struggle within Vladimir Vladimirovich, which gets played out in his dealings with the West.   To his fans, his perhaps most endearing personal trait is what the Russians call ‘bodrostj’, a cheerful self-confidence and unabashed sincerity. I think this was picked up on by George W. Bush, who shares with Putin certain charming naivete. He certainly did not see in Putin a poseur in search of an empire,  someone overwhelmed by the designs of history and his own place in them.     

       Russia’s foreign policy post-Yeltsin seems to reflect Putin’s personal struggles.  One thing that makes the Russian president an attractive partner to the West is that his (and Medvedev’s) focus is unhesitantingly on internal development of Russia, its economy and prosperity. He is not an ideologue, a crypto-communist,  despite the remark that the Soviet Union downfall was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the twentieth century, he made in addressing the Duma in 2005.  

      The remark was badly misinterpreted by Brzezinski and others. It reflects the patriotic, not the ideological side of Putin. He believes that the USSR for all its faults offered a sense of security and belonging to Russians.  He refuses to throw away the collective experience of suffering and the heroism of the Russian people in the Second World War (which in Russian has an internal marker, dating from Hitler’s attack in 1941 to his expulsion late in 1944, called the ‘Great Patriotic War’).  In the breakup and economic restructuring, tens of millions lost their livelihood, many among the Russian brightest and best educated reduced to the most horribly undignified existence. The remarks were also to convey Putin’s deepest concerns for the twenty-five-or-so million Russians caught during the breakup outside the borders of the Russian Federation. They were scapegoated by the new authorities for the ills of the Soviet system, denied citizenship, social services and schooling in Russian, equal access to justice, sometimes denied the right to practice Christian religion (in Islamic Central Asia). In addition to these, Russians were the victims of  violence at the hands of criminal gangs and nationalist paramilitaries. Hundreds of thousands of Russian ex-pats were expulsed or forced to emigrate by intolerable conditions.  Thousands were killed. The suffering of non-Russian ethnics in the breakup was even more intense and widespread as ancient national and religious animosities flared up in many places of the former Union.  It may not have been the greatest geopolitical catastrophe, certainly not greater than the world wars, but it was a huge social and humanitarian catastrophe, no doubt.  The civilizational collapse and widespread lawlessness that characterized the breakup of the USSR no doubt also figures hugely in Putin’s reading the situation in Syria and his estimates of what Syria post-Assad would look like.

     Unlike George Friedman, I observe that Putin is free of the pomposity and bluster that was so characteristic of the Soviet leaders after Stalin. Quite to the contrary: he seems to thrive on underplaying Russia’s power. It has been now fourteen years that Russia has belonged to Putin. During this time, there has been not a single instance on the international scene where Putin overplayed his hand, although opportunities there were plenty.  He could have, through his proxies crushed the Orange revolution in the Ukraine. He did not do that – preferring to let the anti-Russian rivals destroy themselves through internal fighting.  He could have attempted to force Poland and the Czechs out of the “shield” business making it simply too costly for them. He could have been much more forceful  the over the treatment of ethnic Russians when dealing with Estonia and Moldova. He could have walked into Tbilisi and forced Saakashvili to flee (which he was on his way to do, anyway). The American could not have done a thing, mired not just Iraq and Afghanistan, as Friedman notes, but in the midst of the biggest financial collapse since 1929. He didn’t.  But even before that, in the second war in Chechnya in 1999, as Yeltsin’s right hand,  Putin showed remarkable restraint. He  prevailed on the military not to use ham-handed frontal assaults like Grachev on Grozny in 1995 but instead profit from the superior numbers to deny the Chechen warlords lines of communication. The Russian army took their bastion, Gudermes, without nearly any fighting giving the jihadis a narrow corridor to escape.  This is not a behaviour of an self-obsessed satrap who imagines himself on the top of the world.  Stratfor analysts would do well to read some of Putin’s speeches in the parliament when he was prime minister fighting with the likes of Zhirinovski or Zyuganov.  He, unlike professional political idiots like McCain and Graham, knows where Russia stands among the economic powers and does not have any illusions about it.  Again, I am hard pressed to see grandiose master plan in what Putin does, or for that matter, any reasonable politician in Russia wants to do. As for Russia’s friendly relations with some of the leftist regimes I would not read anything more to that than Russia exercising its global options and searching for new markets.

      Russia’s policy toward Syria has been remarkably consistent, as it was during the Libyan crisis. For reasons explained above Putin abhors the kind of chaos created by a forceful removal of dictator. From his point of view, bad as Ghaddafi was, he posed no danger to anyone (any more). His misrule was preferable to a state of lawless anarchy and formation of another focal base of terrorist operations in the region.  Same as in Syria, except Russia has some strategic interests in Syria given its proximity to Caucasus and Russia energy supplies and routes. Her Islamic “problem” in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan is exclusively Sunni militancy, specifically Wahhabism that overshadowed in 1990’s the native mild forms of Sufism and Shiite practice (mostly in Azerbaijan) in the region. US anti-Assad alliance with Turkey and the Gulf states directly threatens vital Russia’s interests both political and economic. Russians  worked diligently to kill the Nabucco project and would not want to see it resuscitated or replaced by another “alternate” supply route that competes with Gazprom’s. Politically, Putin has pretty much cleaned up the North Caucasus of the dangerous militancy and has no intention to have another war there. Especially not now, when Kadyrov has built in Chechnya a working model of cooperation between the Federation and an Islamic state within its borders.  The Chechen autonomous republic has become one of the fastest growing regions in Russia.  

      Is there a Putin’s  “bluff” in Syria ?  I don’t think so.  Russia wants to have enough influence in the region to assure its baseline requirements for stability and prosperity. Despite the western media’s protestations, its foreign policy  is not welded to Assad’s regime, and there have been noises coming out of the Kremlin that Russia would like to see him go.  It is just that Putin does not want his departure to precipitate chaos and inter-communal mayhem that would surely follow, if he were to abdicate now. The danger seems even greater because the US State Department insists on a narrative that is simply not reflective of the current reality.  Even if the secularists among the armed rebels were numerically stronger, and this is far from certain now than it was eighteen months ago, the units and brigades are uncoordinated, led by commanders who are often at cross-purposes and, something that does not get much play time at CNN but is an ever-increasing part of the picture, often degenerate into criminal gangs bent on looting and taking hostages for profit.  The islamist rebel groups are often  enlarged by young men disillusioned by the lack of dedication of the more secular FSA units to the “cause”. 

    Putin understands that the chemical attack east of Damascus, whether hatched by the lower ranks within Assad’s military or as a provocation by the rebels, was a pretext for the US to tip the balance of power on the ground in favour of the regime opponents, now in retreat.  This is why Kerry’s “offhanded” remark in London basically shot that plan in the leg.  The Russians quickly prevailed on the Syrians to give up the chemical arsenal as they are strategically useless. Their existence can only be used to legitimize external aggression toward Syria. This was a masterful osotogari by Putin, effectively denying the military option to Obama as politically unsustainable.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pants on Fire

       Rush Limbaugh finally asked the question which is not a question to the Russian president. Did al-Qaeda frame Assad ? Putin said bluntly John Kerry lied to Congress about the role and extent of al-Qaeda participation in the rebel Free Syrian Army. Putin was referring to the Secretary’s answer to Wisconsin’s Senator Ron Johnson who was concerned about the infiltration of the FSA by offshoots of the notorious terrorist organization.

 Kerry answered: “The opposition has increasingly become more defined by its moderation, more defined by the breadth of its membership and more defined by its adherence to some, you know [sic], democratic process and to an all-inclusive, minority-protecting constitution, which will be broad-based and secular with respect to the future of Syria. And that's very critical.”

This comes barely a month after  a massacre in the North in which some 450 civilians were reported killed including 120 children. In this horrrific assault on humanity Assad was not suspected. It was brigades that Secretary Kerry denies play prominent role in the conflict or falsely labels as "moderates" pledged to a post-war democratic process in Syria. The western media have largely ignored the mounting evidence of large-scale atrocities committed by the al-Qaeda affiliates such as the one in Tal Abyad just mentioned or at Khan al-Assal.  In John Kerry’s narrative such incidents simply don’t exist. Or if there is not a decisive proof that al-Qaeda was involved, they are blamed on Assad.  In John McCain’s almanac, the jihadi cri-de-guerre Allahu Akhbar heard on the rebels’ videos showing the decapitations of priests or mass shootings of prisoners, is an equivalent of a church-going Christian’s Thank God!   Do these guys think we are total idiots ? 

 If one goes by facts and not oaths there is little evidence that Bashar al-Assad ordered a large-scale sarin attack against the suburbs of his capital which his forces were bombarding and from which his troops were clearing the rebel fighters.  Of course it is possible he did it,  or someone on his side took matters in his own hands, but on the surface it looks about as probable as that Nidal Hasan was thanking God for the gift of life when executing his unarmed fellow soldiers at Fort Hood.   

  There is obviously something terribly wrong with Kerry’s Syria narrative. It falls apart the moment you start reading something else than Washington Post or the Guardian and watching something else than the Wolf-Blitzer-Christian-Amanpour babble fests.  Kerry's estimate of "15%-25% of extremists among the rebels" would be laughed off by most people on the ground in Syria, that is if they would not laugh off the notion of  FSA as a disciplined, civilized military force before that.   

We of course do not have reliable sources that tell us the chemical attack near Damascus was perpetrated by the rebels. Yes, I am aware of the Gavlak’s report in MintPress News that has jihadist fighters admitting to releasing the gas in Ghouta, but I am not buying that either.  It just does not figure that the chief of Saudi intelligence would have been so personally involved in the incident to have blown his cover. It does not help either that the chief editor of the electronic outlet that employs the former AP reporter is a hijab-clad Palestinian-bred Shia.  We should not be anyone’s fools !  And as a cynic who grew up in communist Eastern Europe during the History’s inexorable march to the final victory of communism, I can tell stupid propaganda when I see it. 

Last Tuesday (9/3/2013), The Guardian ran a staged query on Syria and allowed  the “taboo” question to be asked again: Did the rebels have sarin gas ?  It answered in this fashion:

"It is not the media that is assuming that Assad is responsible. The Guardian and other media have reported claims and assessments by the US, UK, France and the Syrian rebels, and of course official Syrian denials. Only western governments have provided any evidence at all, however adequate or convincing it is judged. All three governments also state categorically that the rebels did not have the capacity to mount a CW attack on the scale of what occurred on 21 August. All have stated they are relying on classified sources as well as the precedent of earlier, smaller attacks. More detail is clearly needed to convince sceptics, given the experience of the Iraq WMD dossier.It has previously been reported that members of the al-Nusra front were caught with sarin nerve gas in Turkey – and this has been echoed by Syrian state media. Dale Gavlak, an independent journalist, has reported a belief that nerve agents used in Ghouta were supplied by Saudi Arabia. So far, however, neither the Syrian government nor Russia have publicly provided any evidence that the rebels were responsible for the incident. Delay in allowing the UN inspectors access to the scene of the attacks, and heavy shelling before they were able to get there, appeared designed to destroy evidence.”

I am sorry but I always assumed that we in the West believe that a crime has to be committed beyond reasonable doubt for one to be in a position to apply sanctions legally.  It cannot be just “any evidence at all”.  Note also, that the Syrian rebels are named among the ones who “concluded” Assad was responsible.  Gee whiz, should not a party that may well be guilty of the atrocity be excluded from passing opinions on it ?   And what about the weaseling around the al-Nusra rebels caught with a sarin canister in Turkey in June ?  Pardon me for asking a stupid question, but why would they try to smuggle sarin into Syria if they did not have the intent, the know-how, and the means to use it ?  Does that make any sense ?     But the real shocker and one that exposes the mendacious nature of the so-called “intelligence data” is the categorical denial that the rebels have “the capacity” to deliver a large scale attack such as undeniably took place east of Damascus in August. 

This is a bold-faced lie that has been repeated by everyone who wants the US military to get involved in the Syrian pandemonium. They say the rebels do not have sophisticated delivery systems for chemical weapons. They do not have an air force, missiles, specialized artillery to deliver the munitions whose payload is mixed in flight. Hmmm, really ? I don't think so.

The fact of the matter is you do not have to have any of the above to launch a horrific assault on humanity by chemical weapons. A president who professes to be outraged by mass killings of civilians has no excuse for not knowing that !  If the jihadists in Syria have access to sarin (which btw is not denied by The Guardian) it means they could very well have used it on the scale and with the effects observed in the terrible incident.  They do not need sophisticated delivery systems. All they need is a few bags of liquid sarin, and a way to puncture them as the terrorists of the death cult Au Shinrikyo did in the Tokyo subway system in 1995 killing twelve and injuring close to a thousand people. This is not a fantasy. This happened and it cannot be denied.  The agreement of the experts is that the toll could have been much worse if the attack had not been botched.  The Syrian jihadis could have very well done something similar during a conventional bombardment by Assad’s army of the areas where they had their fighters and make it look like a chemical attack by him.    

We do not know whether the rebels actually did it or not. But we definitely know it is a self-serving and damnable lie to say that they did not have the capacity to do it.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Doing the Right Thing...Too Much

    President Obama just could not help himself !  He had to do more that he did on the day of the Florida verdict; issue a short, diginfied, presidential statement setting the tone of sadness and reflection, the only truly human, civilized, Christian response to the legal outcome of the George Zimmerman's trial for those who did not find comfort in it. The only response that could calm the streets down. Alas, the president felt it was not enough ! He had to speak out, and bare his soul and capture the sad and, yes maddening,  incident as his personal experience, as the experience of his people, that would breathe some meaning to that awful, senseless killing which claimed young Trayvon's life on that rainy night in Sanford. There is of course nothing wrong with the sentiment. It comes from the noblest part of our soul, from the desire to share in someone's pain and suffering, from the resolve to set things right.  

    Unfortunately, the idea is fraught with danger. The president in his soul-searching failed to perceive that it was the same noble sentiment which propelled George Zimmerman to open the door of his car and to pursue the shadowy figure that deprived his community of peace and security.  He too already did the right thing !  He called the police dispatch to take a look at someone who did not seem quite in place. But he had to do more ! He had to get involved personally because - it seemed to him - the regular tools to right this wrong were not adequate.

     I imagine that Trayvon felt the same when he was confronted by a strange huffing and puffing creepy ass cracka who had a problem. He too tried to correct the perception the man had of him, one that was obviously wrong. He too went too far, young and inexperienced as he was in the ways of this world.

    There is no other tragedy in the death of Trayvon Martin that I see, certainly no cause worth fighting for.  If we all could just learn to step back when we feel we are so right and the other person or people so wrong !  I hope the president will eventually see that it is wrong to use his office to the ends he did yesterday.   I agree with much that he said, including the "Stand Your Ground" laws. They are unworthy of a civilized people. It is just that it is not right to speak about one community experiences in an incident that touches everyone in the US, including the man who was acquitted of a crime but has to live in hiding because there are so many people who in their noble sentiments want to do far more than is just. They demand what George Jonas once aptly described as "affirmative atrocity".
    The president needs to find a way how to address everyone in this, fairly and equitably. Stories about car doors clicking and ladies clutching purses will not do it. Someone needs to step up boldly and say, it is one thing to do the right thing and another thing to know how much of the right thing you may do before you bring down the house divided ! 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Bonfire of the Vanities - Florida Flavoured

The Zimmerman legal saga would be as close as you can get to a perfect farce if it were not so tragic.  No matter how one looks at it there was a young life lost in the incident, and lost totally needlessly. The greater tragedy is what the incident bespeaks of:  the wide gulf that separates American communities, by their race or ethnicity, by wealth, by cultural values. The trial and the immediate aftermath of the trial serves also as a great exhibit of the seemingly irreconcilable left-right political chasm that makes it hard and sometimes impossible to have an intelligent discussion. What I mean by ‘intelligent discussion’ is one in which both sides have the capacity to understand the other side’s point of view and the ability to reflect on one’s own beliefs, not to say have a firm rein on one’s own passions and preoccupations.  

 Observed from the relatively benign, boring Canadian North, all this looks like reports from another planet. Mind you, there are Trayvon Martin T-shirts worn here also, and bumper stickers proclaiming that guns are feared only by the criminals. All the same, we have been blissfully spared the sharp edges of the inequalities, and racially motivated nastiness. They exist here also, but they are much more subdued and truly on the fringe. Canadians know the meaning and value of compromise.  It appears, the Americans these days do not.   Apparently, there are only two ways to see the fatal incident in which Trevor Martin was killed. One, he was a victim of a stalking racist vigilante who set upon him without a cause as he was ambulating peaceably home from a convenience store. Two, he was a punk (never mind of which race) who got what was coming to him after bashing the head of a blameless citizen, protecting the property of his neighbours against the depredations of hooded hoods such as himself.  There seems an absolute disconnect between these two narratives. No possibility of a compromise. A verdict that favours one side of the divide will immediately spark a mass outrage on the other. There has been from the start an attempt to portray the incident and its handling by the authorities as having deep racial undertones.

         At the outset, I was entirely on side with Trayvon Martin family’s and the African-American community outrage at the police letting George Zimmerman simply walk out.  This certainly did not feel right, and the assurances of the police that there were no grounds to detain the shooter since he was battered and claimed self-defence ring hollow to our Canadian multi-cultural sense of fairness.  How could the police be sure at that time that George did not, as Tom Mesereau, formerly  Michael Jackson’s defense lawyer, put it later, bring a gun to a fist fight ?  Of course they could not be sure.  Zimmermann should have been detained automatically, and subjected to thorough medical examination i.e. an assessment of his injuries and state of mind. Since he seemed eager to cooperate, a lie detector test should have been administered, or at least suggested. I understand and share in the bitterness and outrage which was entirely in place, and well in advance of any outside political agitation and far-flung political theories of how to read the incident.  A routine investigative detention (up to what Florida habeas corpus statute allows) should be de rigeur.  There is no other way to demonstrate law enforcement is serious about enforcing the law. Not just to the African American community; to everone !  It make sense not just politically, not just procedurally, but - I pray you - humanly. You don’t want to hurt the family further in their grief, by putting in question the value of the life of their tragically lost son.   

         I am led to believe it was this act of stupidity prefigured and poisoned the whole process as it unfolded.  It is clear that the Florida state officials felt deeply embarrassed and resolved to make up for the dreadful gaffe of not detaining the shooter  and examining immediately his physical and mental state. The problem of course is the remedy  they cooked up was far worse than the ill it was to cure:  indict Zimmerman without grand jury, on the basis of the worst possible conjecture we can make about his motive, and let the jury chill this down to a compromise solution. Surely, they will assume that George must be guilty of something. (Just look at the pics of him : does this spooked guy look innocent to you ?)   If the jury doesn’t buy the sordid vilification of Zimmerman, they will still shudder to let him go free, and give us manslaughter as a way to equity. And so it went, surely one of the ugliest prosecutions in American legal history.  I hope it is long remembered that the special prosecutor in the case called Zimmerman a murderer after the trial's verdict, when he was acquitted of the charges against him by the jury of his peers. Disgraceful and impeachable ! 

     One of the saddest roles in this melodrama must go to the media, and more specifically to the TV networks and even more specifically, to CNN (which I have watched the most), although , the first prize for yellow journalism will be claimed by NBC for the doctored tape GZ made to the police dispatch!  It is not just that the pundits failed to halt (or thoroughly embarrass) the attempted railroading of George Zimmermann by the state. They helped to set up the farce and collaborated with this cynical abuse of process, right down to a staged rehearsal of the jury verdict. I certainly was not surprised the overwhelming majority of the studio guests “voted” manslaughter on Piers Morgan's show - so as to suggest that this is how most Americans felt about it.  (Most post-verdict polls, even from liberal strongholds such as HuffPost, show the "not guilty" verdict being supported by the majority of Americans who have an opinion).   Similarly, the legal experts called to comment seemed to be open to embrace the manslaughter compromise.  It was shocking to see bright, accomplished, lawyers by and large conniving in this ludicrously improvised state's case against George Zimmerman, and often witless when it came the flagrantly underhanded tactics the prosecution used.

      Just one example that somehow did not get commented on (TMK) by the bright legal minds:   a seventeen-year old is not usually refered to as a child in the legal contexts of proceedings that took place in Sanford (as it would be for the puposes of a family court) where the shooting victim was six-foot-one and 140-150 lbs high-school footbal player. It would have been far more appropriate to call him adolescent or minor but the sleazy misnomer seemed to have been deployed to argue that Trayvon Martin could not pose a real physical threat to George Zimmerman, and to disqualify the evidence of battery the latter suffered at his hands in advance of shooting him dead.  Not being a lawyer myself, and not knowing the procedural tolerance stateside for prosecutotrial rhetoric, I can only observe that in Canada the opening statement by Bernie de la Rionda would likely have been followed not by the defense's rebuttal but by a motion for a mistrial on grounds that the prosecution was inflaming the jury against the accused

   The badgering and scapegoating of George Zimmerman was constant and vociferous. In my reckoning, the worst offender was Piers Morgan. I have lost whatever respect I had for the man for the revolting animus he showed toward George Zimmerman, repeating ad nauseam the preposterous prosecutorial description of Trayvon Martin as a child "armed with Skittles and Arizona Tea".  Then there was Anderson Cooper, only slightly better, obviously having a more intelligent and guarded manner than Morgan. Nonetheless, his getting one of the jurors to talk and help her wade into series of statements to be picked apart and outed as racial bias and vile disrespect to a dead teenager was not helpful either. (Incidentally, I thought the interview was very interesting).   Clearly B-37 was over her head with Anderson who repeatedly ambushed her cleverly, in ways she was clueless about.  She had no idea what was going on when Anderson shot : "You really believe that ?" to her stated faith that George was afraid for his life. She thought Anderson was asking a question. 

       And then there is Sunny Hostin, a former federal prosecutor, now a legal analyst, who professed to have been stunned by the verdict and offered that justice took a day off.   She is alone among the CNN panelists who feels very passionately that Zimmermann should have been found guilty of a second-degree murder. She feels that the state proved beyond reasonable doubt that the act was one that manifested a depraved mind.  Ok, I guess it's a minority view. Problem is, she finds nothing wrong with Angela Corey's describing GZ as a murderer two days after the verdict that freed him while also believing that removing "Stand Your Ground" from the books would bring more civility to America.   But may I ask : what good are rules of law if we feel they are there only to advance our interests and aspirations ?  How can one speak of civility if one does not understand the idea of decency

   Is it decent for a major television network to fan the flames of racial hatred by pouring scorn and degrading comments on a pathetic figure who unwittingly, by not more than his lack of judgment and common sense, destroyed one life outright and brought terrible insecurity into his own life and the lives of those dearest to him ?  Does this make the country better ?  You really believe that Sunny, Anderson, Piers ?  

  Is it decent to deny the public the facts of the case and the relevant background, or to scatter them so they become meaningless, instead of serving a factually correct, balanced, judicious view of what happened ?  Why could it not have been what it was, right from the beginning...a stupid, violent, avoidable clash of two guys clueless about what the other was really doing ?  How is it possible that after more than a year of CNN (and Reuters) knowing the Zimmerman's family background the question of racial profiling can even be raised ?  George's great maternal grandfather was black; he grew up with two black girls in the house in the care of his grandmother; he had a black business partner; publicly took up the cause of a black homeless man beaten by a police-chief's son.  Is this a profile of a racist, prowling in the night in search of a coon to lynch ?  Is it decent to compare George Zimmerman publicly to a Charles Bronson notorious serial killer vigilante character three days after he was set free and the president called the incident a tragedy ? Is this how Piers Morgan understands calm reflection and widening the circle of compassion and understanding across America's communities ? 

     I have been strongly reminded during the trial and in the wake of the verdict of a brilliant book by Tom Wolfe The Bonfire of the Vanities, a book about America corrupted by insane greed, the rage of the underprivileged preyed upon by corrupt race baiters, unscrupulous operators in the justice system and manipulators in the media (distilled into one character).  More and more, the Zimmerman process seemed like life imitating art. The only thing missing right now is the ending that would match the book's conclusion of the malicious prosecution of Sherman McCoy rendered in the movie by Morgan Freeman. Worth watching, worth reflecting on !

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Tale of Two Hockey Cities

          Having lived in Montreal through the glory days of les Glorieux, and in the days of decline of the dynasty, I can testify to the exceptional brutality of its hockey pundits when it comes to losing.  No one in Montreal has time for, or patience with, bumblers running their hockey club.  This was as true in the late eighties as it is now.  Even after the club improved dramatically in the last (short) season from the disaster it was the year before, the nastiness and the barbs were in evidence at once when the Habs went out sheepish-like in five against Ottawa in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Michel Therrien’s post series rejoinder that despite regular season success much remains to be done was met with universal derision. Comme quoi par example, quipped one of the regulars on the popular TV show  l’Antichambre. 

         In sharp contrast, when Ottawa went out with a thud in the next round against Pittsburgh, getting walloped  in the last two games, the local media had nothing but lavish praise for the hockey club and its leadership’s accomplishments. And this in the face of obvious and long-standing issues.  Even though the victory against the Habs was a nice combination of grit, goaltending and gamesmanship (by Paul McLean) which for a moment obliterated the holes up front, the desperate lack of offensive talent on the Sens’ bench became immediately and painfully in evidence against a fast-skating, star-studded club like the Penguins. The spirit was willing; the flesh was weak. But the Ottawa press corps would have none of that. By and large, the pundits lapped up the Sens marketing script which asserted the club has much improved under the smart Walrus and even brighter days lie ahead.  And yes, Bryan Murray is going to get a top-six forward in the off-season which should make Ottawa even  stronger contender for the coveted prize. 

         Had the club been covered in Montreal, a howl of razor satire would meet this rosy picture of the world in May 2013.  Why ? It is doubtful that Spezza and Michalek can come back to their former days’ production. If Spezza’s is the kind of injury that all but destroyed Jagr’s ability to skate, do not expect much.  For one thing, Jaromir is much tougher fighter than Jason. If Milan’s knee is not rehabilitated – and one can never be optimistic with that particular joint – he will not get twenty-five goals again. So, who else on the club is a legitimate twenty-goals scorer ?  Turris can likely do it – he scored twenty four, mind you it was in San Antonio, in the AHL.  But yes, he definitely can do it with some talent on his line.  Who else ?  Silvferberg might.  Greening might. Zibanejad just might.  None of them scored twenty goals in the NHL.  Alfredsson might if he decides to come back for one season.  So the first thing that a Montreal hockey pundit would have shot through is the totally insane notion that the Sens need only minor fixes to become a legit contender.  But this is really nothing – nothing, compared to the discovery that this state of affairs has developed with the club operating somewhere $20 million below the annual cap. (It is probably close to $24M since Alfredsson’s cap hit last year was 3.5 million over what was paid to him) The club has not had a forty goal scorer since Heatley left town.  It had not had a power forward since Hossa left town. And yet, the dynamic duo of Melnyk – Murray cannot seem to find spare money to get some bang up front.  Why would that be ?  The answer is very simple. Why should Mr. Melnyk spend money on hockey in preference of his other ventures (major soccer club, casino at the hockey arena) if the club is making money with overachieving minor league cast led by a coaching wizard?  

          None of this of course would make the Ottawa papers. The headline in the Sun the day after Alfie kissed goobye a former Melnyk’s mania ('Stanley Cup where it belongs – Ottawa !’) and headed up for Detroit, was screaming : ‘ 11 WINGS AWAY…But in a BLOCKBUSTER deal, Sens give up Silfverberg, grab superstar BOBBY RYAN from Anaheim’.  (Capitalization preserved). Again, a Montreal-bred hockey cynic would see immediately through the psychobabble. This was no blockbuster; Bobby Ryan is no superstar(ranking the highest 28th, on the NHL best players list in 2011-12, and having an off year last season) and the deal has panic over Alfie’s  flying off the cuckoo’s nest written all over it.  It is a takeover of a contract with two years left on it for a current Sens No.1  prospect (already a top 6 forward), next year’s No.1 draft pick, and another young player.  This is a horrendously high price given there is no long-term commitment in it. I would not be surprised if in the future I see Jakob and Bobby playing on another team together like Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden in Boston, with the same amount of  equity for Ottawa Senators – zilch.  

         Bruce Garrioch (Ottawa Sun) describes July 5 as a day of ’agony and ecstasy for Ottawa hockey fans’.  It’s really neither.  Despite the shameless propaganda there were rumblings that Alfie was done in Ottawa in advance of his signing with the Wings. The cries of ‘shock and disbelief’ ring a bit hollow.  I am persuaded that given Daniel’s value to the club, not to re-do the contract in his option year and make him play for way less money than he was worth, was an act betraying the lack of management know-how and finesse that I have long observed with the club under its current ownership and GM.  Then there is the 'mysterious' tale of offer-counteroffer this spring. If it is as I believe - Barry asked for six (agreeing to drop two-year deal for one-year)  and Murray offered four million - then the club added insult to injury.   This is not simply because Daniel Alfredsson even at forty is a fine hockey player, a major contributor, and a greatly respected leader on the ice. It was especially galling because of the enormous marketing value his long service to the club and the community represented. I think it was more this than the putative yen for the Stanley Cup (though I believe Alfie wants that also) that made him leave Ottawa.  The jump has "ticked-off" written all over it.  Never mind the phoney "we were ready to write him a blank cheque".  It's a feeble-minded attempt to re-write what happened.   

       And again,  Garrioch seems too optimistic about the Ryan deal.  If he turns out to be a high-scorer on an underfunded (and therefore a non-contending) team he will want out at the earliest opportunity to protect his market value: the Dany Heatley scenario. 

      I think at this juncture it is the ‘fifth estate’ that can do much more for hockey in the city.  Get Montreal mean !  Ottawa is not Phoenix and the columns should not be written as hockey-ticket sales job for people who are essentially strangers to the game.  Right now, the Senators will likely sell tickets no matter what, but eventually people will tire of mediocrity, or even valiant efforts if they are futile. If you want to compete in the big league, you will have to spend big-league money!  People will not root for Ottawa Cheapskates !  This should be the message to Melnyk. And if Murray does not have the touch to pick value for Melnyk’s money, he should retire.  He’s been at it for nine years, and his July 2013 ‘trading frenzy’ scorecard describes his progress in a nutshell:  one top-six forward signed for two years, two top-six forwards gone for good and no sign of a proven offensive blue-liner to replace Gonchy!