Ink & Paper

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Ok, I have tallied the scores from the quiz, and here they are:

Jeff= 100%
Dad= 100%
Mom= 80% (#6, #1o incorrect)
Megan= 80% (#6, #8 incorrect)
Lindsay= 80% (#6, #8 incorrect)
Jacqueline= 0% - 20% for lack of effort

Marc, Al, Cadrin= Expulsion for skipping an exam. Possible candidates for the strap.

#6- Answer "B"- Marc with a "c". What kinda loser spells his name with a "c" at the end of it?
#8- Answer "D"- This is obviously where Jeff and Dad cheated, as they must have looked on the internet for the correct answer, which is Catch 22 written by Joseph Heller, not Cormac McCarthy.
#10- Answer "E"- C'mon Mom, this one was a gimme!

And so, the title goes to Lindsay, who didn't cheat and try to whine her way out of an incorrect answer, like Megan did. Plus Megan made fun of me regarding Tunti Cruds (- extra 10% for mocking the teacher, DT after school)

Jeff and Dad, nice try, but I'm pretty sure you copied off of one another.

Mom: Listen I know you did all those things for me when I was a crossed eyed, whiny baby, but you really have to stop living in the past. I know the flashbacks are coming worse than ever now, but as soon as I am done gambling, I'll put you in that home lickety-split.

Jacqueline: Conditional pass because I haven't heard from you in a while and am glad to know you are still kickin'.

Now I should go mark some real exams. Sigh. I can't insult my students like I can with my blog readers. Well, actually, I can and I do.

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Man lots of news today that gives multiple examples of why the US military/government seems more unwilling than ever to admit their practices are crossing over into legitimate state-sponsored torture.

Torture Example #1

WASHINGTON, March 10 - The Pentagon is seeking to enlist help from the State Department and other agencies in a plan to cut by more than half the population at its detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in part by transferring hundreds of suspected terrorists to prisons in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Yemen, according to senior administration officials....The transfers would be similar to the renditions, or transfers of captives to other countries, carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency, but are subject to stricter approval within the government, and face potential opposition from the C.I.A. as well as the State and Justice Departments, the officials said. NY Times

You would have to be an ignorant fool to assume that by sending 'enemy combatants' to Saudi, Afghanistan, or Yemen, these captives aren't being condemned to torture on a more vicious scale than they have already experienced. From the frying pan into the fire, except that the fire is carefully hidden from the public view, so as not to offend. Unbelievable. Where the hell is the UN on this one? Hello? Anyone at the UN not too much of a sissy to call out the US on this one?

Torture Example #2

WASHINGTON, March 11 - Two Afghan prisoners who died in American custody in Afghanistan in December 2002 were chained to the ceiling, kicked and beaten by American soldiers in sustained assaults that caused their deaths, according to Army criminal investigative reports that have not yet been made public.
One soldier, Pfc. Willie V. Brand, was charged with manslaughter in a closed hearing last month in Texas in connection with one of the deaths, another Army document shows. Private Brand, who acknowledged striking a detainee named Dilawar 37 times, was accused of having maimed and killed him over a five-day period by "destroying his leg muscle tissue with repeated unlawful knee strikes."The attacks on Mr. Dilawar were so severe that "even if he had survived, both legs would have had to be amputated," the Army report said, citing a medical examiner. NY Times

Why are we just hearing about this now? It has been over 2 years since this happened, well before Abu Ghraib in Iraq, yet it has trickled out slowly. Perhaps this never would have seen the light of day if not for the pictures from Iraq, but still, it makes one wonder what else has been swept under the rug. How can some soldier attack a prisoner so brutally over a period of five days, and not have a superior step in to stop it? Moreover, where is that soldier's humanity? Where is our humanity as we let this kinda thing continue?

Torture Example #3

Children as young as 11 years old were held at Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi prison at the centre of the US prisoner abuse scandal, official documents reveal....In one case, witness statements among the released documents allege that four drunken Americans took a 17-year-old female prisoner from her cell and forced her to expose her breasts and kissed her....Brig Gen Karpinski, who was in charge at Abu Ghraib from July to November 2003, said she often visited the prison's youngest inmates.

She said in her interview that she thought one boy "looked like he was eight years old"...."He told me he was almost 12," she said. "He told me his brother was there with him, but he really wanted to see his mother, could he please call his mother. He was crying."

The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has sued US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on behalf of four Iraqis and four Afghans who say they were tortured in US facilities. Mr Rumsfeld has stated that neither he nor his aides ever condoned or authorised abuses. BBC

Sickening, just sickening. Firstly, I think it is safe to say that the 17-year old girl was most likely a Muslim. I can tell you from what I have learned over here, that this kind of humiliation goes far beyond what we would deem as damaging in North America. The religious implications of what she went through will mark her for the rest of her days, along with the psychological impact of having 4 drunk US soldiers leering at you, wondering what they might do next. Her honour, which is absolutely the most important thing for a young Muslim woman, has been shattered, and thus she will be forever 'marked' in the eyes of her community.

Secondly, how can a 12 year old boy be any kind of threat at all? Seriously, this kid probably can't even read, yet he is deemed worthy of detention? Talk about being scarred for life. If you are looking for a way to help create a future militant, well I think we just discovered it. Is there no common sense in the military at all?

Finally, of course Rumsfeld denies he knew anything about any of this. I mean, its only been going on for the past three + years, I'm sure rumours reached the media before they reached him. Hang a few soldiers out to blow in the breeze, claim you have done all you can, and get back to work, eh Rummy? And yet, we still have another 4 years of these ideological psychos running the show.

And what is even more scary than all of this combined is the fact that I am getting this info not from overly biased websites in the corner of the internet, but that I am finding this out from major sources. And yet, despite the predominance of mainstream media in our lives, massive protests have yet to form to demand answers. So is it solely the government's fault? The blame for this continuing debacle also must land on the population, whose job it is to hold the politician's feet to the fire. And yet, we remain silent.....

Ok, I admit this has been a pretty "humanity is going down the tubes" blog, so before you run out into busy traffic to end it all, read this and marvel at the funny idiots that think their dog actually is a human. Thank god my pooch isn't some prissy dog.....

More to come, as always.....

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Friday, March 11, 2005

You know how Jackson was late to his trial right? Well "CNN ran a countdown of the minutes Mr. Jackson had left before facing arrest and jail..." according to the NY Times. Is it just me, or has the tipping point been reached where news coverage becomes quasi-reality TV entertainment? It just strikes me that CNN went a little over the top. This from the guy with the countdown feature on his blog....

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Blog Quiz

Please choose the best answer for each of the following questions. This quiz will be used to determine your dedication to the blog. Please post all your answers on the comment section directly above, with your name. Do NOT cheat off of previously posted answers; you are on the honour system!

1. What is the author's dogs name and breed?
a. Tuesday, golden lab
b. Wednesday, golden lab
c. Sunday, black lab
d. Monday, black lab

2. What is the name of the school that the Author is currently teaching at?
a. A'Takamul International School
b. British School of Kuwait
c. Dasman International School
d. A'Lahoud International School

3. The driving in Kuwait is best described as:
a. Insane
b. Manic
c. Suicidal
d. All of the above

4. The author is known to hang out at which of the following hotels?
a. The Sheraton
b. The Hilton
c. The Messilia Beach Hotel
d. The Commercial

5. The author's primary food is from what food group?
a. Breads and Cereals
b. Fruits and Veggies
c. Meat and Poultry
d. Diary

6. The author's roommates name is:
a. Mark
b. Marc
c. Marv
d. Michael

7. The author thinks that the British Royal Family should
a. Rule the world
b. Die horribly
c. Invade Canada
d. Continue as is

8. The author's favorite book of all time is
a. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
b. Catch 22 by Cormac McCarthy
c. Long Way Round by Ewan McGregor
d. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

9. Where is the author taking his vacation this coming April break (less than 34 days now!)
a. Frankfurt
b. Baghdad
c. Airdrie
d. Doolin

10. This blog is described by you to your friends as
a. 'Radical'
b. 'Freaking dope'
c. 'Life sustaining'
d. 'Worth dying for'
e. All of the above, especially C.

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Book Review time, gather round the warmth and glow of your computer screens....

Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox

A memior by the actor that we all knew as Alex P. Keaton and Marty McFly, this is a pretty decently written book for an actor, with Fox seemingly quite open about his life, both pre- and post- Parkinson's Disease (PD). It was interesting to note how he fought to keep the PD hidden from almost everyone, for over 7 years, working through it on a combination of medication drugs and time. I would recommend this book, not because it will drastically change your life, but because I think it is a good example of the pains people go through when they are diagnosed with an incurable illness. Plus, it makes that 'book' by Ewan McGregor, with all his whiny moaning seem pretty weak in the overall scheme of dealing with life's issues.

Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho

The author of the The Alchemist takes a drastic turn in this novel, assuming the role of a Brazillian girl who works as a high-call prostitute in Geneva, Switzerland. Not what I was expecting after reading The Alchemist but a good read anyway, as he delves in the psychology of "why' the woman does what she does, and how she continually fnds new ways to justify it to herself. What I really liked about this book, what really struck me, was something that wasn't even in the novel; instead it was in the dedication, where Coelho dedicates the novel to a fan who has recognized him. Basically, Coelho was on vacation just before Eleven Minutes went to print, when a gentleman recognized him and mentioned how Coelho's books had changed his life. Coelho gets this man's name and dedicates the book to him, saying: "I have a duty to you, your wife and grand-daughter and to myself to talk about the things that concern me and not only about what everyone would like to hear."

I really admire Coelho for having the courage to still take risks. He could have retired, the earnings from The Alchemist alone will feed generations of his family. He could have re-written a similar book, capitalizing on what people want and expect from him. Or he could take a risk, which he did wit Eleven Minutes. This wasn't my favorite book of all time, but that simple dedication gave me a whole new level of respect for Coelho, who is still choosing to write for writing's sake, instead of for the dollar.

Ok, in other news, I have found out through evil means (X), that the Birdboy's IP address is in Prince George, BC. I would threaten that we are close to finding him, but that would be empty, as the loyal blog crew is simply too damn lazy to take it any farther than this.

Read Matt Good's blog, I am consistently impressed with it.

And now, it's hound walking time....

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This is so ignorant, I don't even know where to start.

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Hard to believe that this happened one year ago today....

And in the continuing debacle that is the Michael Jackson trial, which I think I am giving an awful lot of press to but whatever, we read how already the rules are being bent to accomodate 'celebrity'....

Mr Jackson arrived an hour late to his trial, wearing pyjamas and slippers and complaining of back pain.
The angered judge had threatened to issue a warrant for his arrest unless he arrived within an hour.
In a statement, Michael Jackson's defence said that Mr Jackson had been taken to a hospital for treatment for a severe back problem after tripping and falling over while getting dressed. Mr Jackson arrived at about 0938 (1738 GMT) on Thursday, looking frail as he walked gingerly into the courthouse in what appeared to be blue hospital-issue pyjama trousers as his supporters chanted "innocent." BBC

Couple of things really annoy me about this charade. Firstly, Jacko shows up wearing PJ's, an obvious attempt to convey a message of innocence to the courtroom. Look, you are in your mid 40's, wearing PJ's doesn't make you appear innocent; in fact it makes you appear even creepier, if that is possible. If you are already an hour an a half late, be an hour and 33 minutes late and get one of your handlers to put some jeans on you.

Secondly, if Jacko was taken to a hospital for treatment, I want to see the records. Should he not have to produce some kind of proof of his excuse? I mean, it's not like he got caught in traffic, right? And furthermore, would there not be some kind of media that would pick up on him going into the hospital? This guy can't go out and ride his merry-go-round without the media reporting on it, yet he can go to a hospital with no record being made?

Third, his asshole supporters, who have nothing better to do with their lives than stand on the street chanting innocent, are still evidently alive. In a nation with such weak gun laws, why hasn't some nut job taken care of this problem? They don't release you early from prison because you have been squeaky-clean good. No, you have a role in society, to create mayhem. Here is a good place to start.*

Onward to Canada, where out biggest musical fiasco is whether or not to acknowledge that Celine Dion is from our country. Jetsgo is obviously on their way to winning the coveted "Total Bastard Airlines" trophy for this year. "Buh-bye"

Jetsgo, one of the country's upstart discount airlines, announced just after midnight Friday that it will stop all operations immediately. Passengers are advised to make alternative travel arrangements as there will be no aircraft or staff available. Travellers looking to return from a trip must also book with other airlines.

I think my Uncle Ken and Aunt Marie got hit with this problem a few years ago when Canada 3000 (Jetsgo's original name, pre-bankruptcy) went belly up suddenly, stranding current and future passengers.

I mean, c'mon, did Jetsgo not see this coming, at least a little bit? Or did they suddenly open their wallets, find one weatherbeaten fiver, and say "Man, we really spent a lot of money at the peeler's last night, better call it a day in the airline industry." I hope they get their asses handed to them in civil court. They even screwed people that had already used 1/2 of their ticket. So some poor Canadian is in Las Vegas, surrounded by money, women, all you can eat buffets, and loads of cheap booze, wondering how he is going to get home. I feel so sorry for that guy. Wait a minute, no I don't....

Now I am a big Dave Matthew's Band (DMB) fan. Not a psycho, burn a CD of Dave-taking-a-poop kind of fan like Cross is, but I consider myself a fan. That's why this caught my eye. Ewwwww...

I am as tired of everyone about this whole BSE thing, and I'm not a farmer. It just keeps getting worse.

Beef industry officials in Canada say they don't expect the U.S. border to reopen until 2006, three years after a ban was put in place....The border was expected to reopen on March 7 to live Canadian cattle under the age of 30 months but a Montana-based ranchers' group obtained a preliminary injunction blocking the move and is seeking a broad ban on Canadian beef. The lobby group, R-CALF, argued the reopening would cause financial harm to U.S. producers. It said Canada doesn't properly test its animals for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease.CBC

Right, the truth is printed in black and white, simple supply and demand. The American ranchers don't want the Canadian beef because right now they don't have nearly as much competition, thus they can charge higher prices. I was listening to CBC on the net the other day and they were interviewing Americans on whether or not they would buy Canadian beef in the future. Most of them said they would only buy American and that there should be a label of some sort to make it easier to discrimminate.

Now I am not so dumb as to think that the CBC wasn't selectively editing some of their interviews, but if this is the way most Americans are thinking about the safety of their beef, I strongly suggest that they read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, which gives one an idea of how truly disgusting the meat rendering process is and how slack the enforcement of cleanliness laws has become. I didn't stop eating meat like my wilting brother, but I sure as hell won't be going anywhere near a fast food establishment anytime soon.

Until later...

*If some wacko does kill Jackson supporters, I deny all responsibility.

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Just a warning to my parents that they had better behave themselves when they get older.

Well it's not a total solution to the massive US deficit that our great grandkids will have to deal with in this globalized world, but at least some common sense snuck into the usually rigid ideological lines of this Republican administration....

President Bush's plan to extend his tax cuts over the next five years ran into resistance in the Senate on Wednesday as Republican leaders offered a budget for 2006 that would undo more than a fourth of the cuts that Mr. Bush has requested.....Uneasy about the potential impact on the ballooning federal deficit, the Senate Republicans called for $70.2 billion in tax cuts over the next five years, as opposed to the estimated $100 billion the White House is seeking. It does not specify which cuts will be extended or which taxes might be restored, but Senator Judd Gregg, the New Hampshire Republican who is chairman of the Budget Committee, said his intent was to extend reductions on capital gains and dividend taxes, which are set to expire in 2008. NY Times

I remember a prof in one of my classes saying that the US government predicts future prison populations based on grade 4 literacy rates. With that in mind...

The United States has about 2.1 million people behind bars - a larger proportion of its population than any other nation in the world. The correctional system's price tag is more than $60 billion - up from just $9 billion two decades ago - and states are understandably eager to shave costs. Some are attempting to do it by cutting back on already dismal prison medical care.

Prison inmates are literally the sickest people in our society. States and municipalities frequently try to dodge the bill for treating them by ordering up bids from private providers and signing up with the cheapest, most bare-bones plan. Paul von Zielbauer of The Times recently opened a window onto this aspect of the problem with a harrowing series of articles about Prison Health Services, the nation's largest private provider of jail and prison medical care, handling about one in every 10 people who live behind bars in this country.

Among the horrific deaths described in the series is that of Brian Tetrault, a 44-year-old man with Parkinson's disease who died after an upstate New York jail's medical director drastically cut his medicine. Officials then falsified records to make it appear that Mr. Tetrault had been released before he died. Another upstate inmate, 35-year-old Victoria Williams Smith, died of a heart attack after being mocked by a prison nurse and denied treatment for days. Equally as troubling were accounts of how Prison Health Services failed to keep a close eye on inmates who later committed suicide, and its habit of sometimes employing doctors with criminal records and doctors who lacked state certification.

Shoddy care and the denial of care are unfortunately not unique to private companies, which do not provide the majority of the health care that is supplied to inmates. Many publicly run systems, which provide most of the care for the nation's inmates, are equally bad. The root problem is that the country has tacitly decided to starve the prison system of medical care, even though AIDS, tuberculosis and hepatitis are rampant behind bars, and roughly one in six inmates suffers from a serious mental illness.

The corrections system is largely cut off from the public health system, in part because of federal rules that deny Medicaid assistance to inmates. The denial of benefits is based on the notion that people who break the law don't deserve public help, a theory that has helped spread tuberculosis, AIDS and hepatitis from prisons to the world outside. Privatization of services is no magic cure for this growing threat to public health. The common-sense response would be a coherent, publicly subsidized program of testing, counseling and treatment that would slow the spread of disease, both behind bars and after inmates were released
NY Times

Remember that little post I had about Bush appointing John Bolton to be the US ambassador to the UN, despite the fact that Bolton has been historically anti-UN? I found this quote in a NY Times article, one I urge you to read to see how very little has changed in the Bush administration's outlook on world diplomacy.

In an interview in 2000 on National Public Radio, Mr. Bolton told Juan Williams, "If I were redoing the (UN)Security Council today, I'd have one permanent member because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world."
"And that one member would be, John Bolton?" Mr. Williams queried.
"The United States," Mr. Bolton replied.

Yeah, that would be just wonderful. Nothing like handing the keys to your house to the robber. Why not make it nice and official and give him the deed to the property too?

In other news, this is dumb. And furthermore, this is what we have to fear from all those wacky left-wingers out there like me.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Another version of what happened regarding the freeing of the Italian hostage and the subsequent shooting.

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Hey thanks to all the readers who posted on the blog; just wanting to make sure I wasn't type typing away for nothing. Now I will really try to exert some 'communist propaganda' on you all. And the only thing I ask, as this blog has yet to cost you any money, is that you pass it along to friends/coworkers/family/lonely societal rejects, just to keep the slow march to worldwide domination moving along.

And I am sorry if my recent anti-Kuwait blog annoyed some of you. I'm not that sorry, mind you, but maybe just a little bit. I will explain once I am back in Canada why living in Kuwait can get a little stressful. Yes, bloggies, the stories, the stories...

Ok, I am starting to wonder a litte bit about who this Birdbrain fella is. He seems to have a more unhealthy relationship with Keanu than I do. I hesitate to give him too much press, as I am sure his somewhat egocentric alter-ego persona will be only too happy to put up a massive comment. Hmmm. I will continue to think, but as stated above, the more the merrier. Welcome to the club Birdshat, glad to have you aboard.

And from the BBC, things are looking worse and worse for Jacko, as his accuser took the stand the other day, claiming among other things that they shared a bed and looked at porn on the net. A brief setback happened when the accuser's brother admitted some errors in his testimony, but I think the "Save Michael" ship is starting to take on a lot of water. How is this being covered in N. America? It is hard to figure it out over here, but judging by the internet, it must be getting a lot of press. Is it like OJ? Or more of a Kobe Bryant level of media frenzy? Anyone?

I stumbled across this story on Yahoo the other day...

Adult film company New Frontier Media has something new for cell phones: ring moans....Wireless content company Brickhouse Mobile on Tuesday said that under an agreement with New Frontier it would begin offering ring tones for mobile phone users featuring porn stars making groaning and moaning noises from the suggestive to the positively tantalizing.....The company said it would also begin offering sexually explicit "wallpaper" for cell phone screens and adult videos for download on mobile phones under its brand The Erotic Network, the television subsidiary of New Frontier Media Inc.

Imagine that going off in church. Or during the Boy Scout meeting. Or when you are having dinner with Grandma. I dunno, maybe I am way off on this, but some things are best never brought to market.

When I was in Ireland, this story was breaking. A young father was killed in a pub fight as he tried to separate two other guys who were fighting. The Catholic guy who died was killed by IRA (which is Catholicism-based) members. Read on....

But the ugly Belfast pub brawl that resulted in the slaying of a 33-year-old Catholic man by members of the IRA has seriously tarnished the organization's image among its grass-roots Catholic supporters, especially after the victim's five sisters defied the IRA's unwritten code of silence and publicly demanded that their brother's killers be brought to justice.....The Jan. 30 murder of Robert McCartney has underscored the increasing criminality of the IRA and dealt a serious blow to the electoral chances of Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing......In an extraordinary admission of just how damaging the incident has become for the IRA, its leadership issued a statement Tuesday saying it had met with the McCartney sisters and offered to impose a "punishment shooting" on the four men it says were directly responsible for McCartney's death. Two of the four are said to be IRA members. Punishment shootings are the IRA's preferred method of rough justice. Normally they are not fatal. Yahoo

I find it fascinatingly morbid that the IRA would offer to impose a punishment shooting on the four men responsible. If you can get past the fact that these four men are seemingly free and not in prison, the idea of a punishment shooting is even more bizzare. From what I understand, the shooting is usually through the hands, as they are held as if one was praying. Eye for an eye leaves everyone blind, so said Ghandi.

I am currently reading Micheal J. Fox's memior Lucky Man. Will post a review when I am done. So far it is good, altho he can get a little off topic from time to time. But for a Hollywood guy, he seems very grounded. But he was raised in Canada, so there ya go.

Huh, as I was just looking out the window, thinking of what to rant about next, a truck drove by at about 60km/hr with it's passenger door wide open, swinging in the breeze. What a crazy ass country.

I'll write more later, I got a whole weekend to kill here.....

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Just a survey: If you read this blog on a regular basis, please leave a small comment above this message. I am just curious as to who is tuning in. Thanks. I'll write more tomorrow, as I am tired and not feeling too creative. Thanks.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The kick ass 80's-era digital stuff on the left hand side of the page is the amount of time remaining until my flight takes off in April. In theory, it should reset/update everytime the page is reloaded. This is all according to the wonderful (and super sexy) Mr. T, who sent me the info via email. Thanks Mr. T!

Mr. T says: "I pity da fool who doesn't read Ink & Paper and pass it along."

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Halliburton operates in Iran despite sanctions
Posted on Tuesday, March 08 @ 10:01:46 EST
How do U.S. contractors legally do business there?

By Lisa Myers & the NBC investigative unit, MSNBC (via Smirking Chimp, link on left)

It's just another Halliburton oil and gas operation. The company name is emblazoned everywhere: On trucks, equipment, large storage silos and workers' uniforms.But this isn't Texas. It's Iran. U.S. companies aren't supposed to do business here. Yet, in January, Halliburton won a contract to drill at a huge Iranian gas field called Pars, which an Iranian government spokesman said "served the interests" of Iran.

"I am baffled that any American company would want to have employees operating in Iran," says Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. "I would think they'd be ashamed." Halliburton says the operation — videotaped by NBC News — is entirely legal. It's run by a subsidiary called "Halliburton Products and Services Limited," based outside the U.S. In fact, the law allows foreign subsidiaries of U.S. corporations to do business in Iran under strict conditions.Other U.S. oil services companies, like Weatherford and Baker Hughes, also are in Iran. And foreign subsidiaries of NBC's parent company, General Electric, have sold equipment to Iran, though the company says it will make no more sales. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

Still, Halliburton stands out because its operations in Iran are now under a federal criminal investigation. Government sources say the focus is on whether the company set out to illegally evade the sanctions imposed ten years ago."I am formally announcing my intention to cut off all trade and investment with Iran," announced President Bill Clinton in 1995. Sources close to the Halliburton investigation tell NBC News that after that announcement, Halliburton decided that business with Iran, then conducted through at least five companies, would all be done through a subsidiary incorporated in the Cayman Islands.

"It's gotten around the sanctions and the very spirit and reasons for the sanctions," says Victor Comras, a former State Department expert on sanctions.For Halliburton to have done this legally, the foreign subsidiary operating in Iran must be independent of the main operation in Texas. Yet, when an NBC producer approached managers in Iran, he was sent to company officials in Dubai. But they said only Halliburton headquarters in Houston could talk about operations in Iran. Still, Halliburton maintains its Iran subsidiary does make independent business decisions.Why should Americans even care if U.S. companies circumvent the sanctions?

"The purpose of these sanctions is to dissuade Iran from supporting terrorism and from seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction," says Comras. There's a move in Congress to close the loophole.

"We don't want American companies propping up a government that's dedicated to our destruction," says Sen. Collins. Halliburton says it is unfairly targeted because of politics, but recently announced it is pulling out of Iran because the business environment "is not conducive to our overall strategies and objectives." However, that exit will be slow. Halliburton announced it was leaving Iran only three weeks after Iran announced the lucrative new gas deal, which industry sources say will take three years to complete.

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Something that history has forgotten, or never acknowledged in the first place....

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"Italy's foreign minister has demanded the US "identify and punish" those responsible for the death of an Italian intelligence agent in Iraq....Gianfranco Fini said the US and Italy had different versions of what happened to Nicola Calipari, who died under US fire while escorting a freed hostage.....The US says shots were fired because the vehicle was speeding and did not heed troops' warnings for it to stop....But Mr Fini said the car was travelling at no more than 40km per hour....Calipari had also made "all the necessary contacts" with US and Italian officials about the hostage's release and the journey to the airport, he added. The incident has intensified the already strong Italian opposition to the country's military presence in Iraq and put intense pressure on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government to find answers."

This whole Italian hostage thing is turning into a real he said/she said affair and if the population of Italy keeps up the pressure, I am predicting a change in the Italian government's position regarding the war in Iraq. Their contribution is small, only 3,000 troops, when compared to the 150,000+ US troops, but the ramifications for Italian-American relations are what the governments of both countries are really concerned about.

Meanwhile, in an effort to further alienate the US from multilateral, consensus-based decision making, Bush appointed a new ambassador to the UN. Read on....

"US President George W Bush has named Undersecretary of State John Bolton as his choice to be US ambassador to the United Nations....Mr Bolton, currently the top US arms control expert, is known to be a harsh critic of the UN....His appointment was quickly criticised by opposition Democrats, who said the move sent out "all the wrong signals".
Mr Bolton must be confirmed by the US Senate before he can succeed John Danforth, who retired in January....His nomination was announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who described him as a "tough-minded diplomat" who "knew how to get things done"....His track record, she said, was proof of his commitment to multilateral action and reform of the UN....But Senator John Kerry, defeated in last year's presidential election, asked: "Why would [President Bush] choose someone who has expressed such disdain for working with our allies?"

Good point Kerry. (PS- Way to lose the election jerkface) This Bolton fella scares me already if he is what Condi says he is, "knowing how to get things done." That is Wsahignton speak for: "He knows how to enforce our ideologically inflexible guidelines no matter what the consequences might be." What happened to a Bush government that wanted to reach out to Europe and the rest of the world? He wouldn't lie to us, would he?

And in other political news, this story illustrates why the Democrats need to stop being so touchy-feely when it comes to dealing with the Republicans. I say that if the Democrats want to win anytime soon, they better start playing hardball. And step one is for Clinton to pull 'most recent president' rank on former presidents. I really think I am the Karl Rove of the the left, I'm all strategy...

And in a total waste of money/technology that could be used to help the living, read this story. Seriously, it is a good thing they finally determined that King Tut wasn't murdered, cause man, the world was just holding it's collective breath. I mean, who cares how the guy died, is it really gonnna matter to the living guy who needs a CT scan to find out whether he has cancer or not? What a total waste of money. I'm not saying that we should disregard history, far from it, as I think it is one of the most important studies that we can undertake. But there comes a time when we need to address the need for CT scans and other medical necessities for the living. C'mon people, priorities.

On the Martha Stewart/Evil Lady front, we get this quote:

"Pride in homekeeping creates serenity and pleasure. I even experienced it standing around the microwave in the place where I was staying."

Uh, yea Martha honey? Listen I dunno what kind of high quality crack you smoke on a regular basis, but I don't think too many people find 'serenity and pleasure' when they are cleaning the crud off the underside of their toilet bowl. Nor do people enjoy the experience of pulling a wad of wet hair from a plugged drain.

I also like how she says " the place I was staying." Like she was at a friends house, or perhaps a Motel 6, roughing it, but making it through because she experiences 'serenity and pleasure' standing 'around the microwave.' Here is a hint to anyone who experiences the same feelings of warmth and joy when standing around a microwave: Close the door, you're irradiating your genitals.


Speaking of people and the growing need to address serious pyschological issues, according to one study, 5 year old girls are concerned with appearing fat. Yes folks, it has gotten this bad. Read it here.

Christ, when I was five, I was more worried about whether Spiderman could defeat Superman if they ever came to blows. Then I realized that Superman was total sissy and that Spiderman (pre-Toby) was way tougher and thus had nothing to worry about from the man of steel.

Spiderman: You win Superman, I give up. You are too tough for my radioactive blood.

Superman: Ha ha ha

Spiderman: Unless....wait a sec, what is this I have in my pocket? No I'm not happy to see you Superwoman (aside: I'll call you later babycakes). No, instead it is a tiny piece of kryptonite, which will make you wither like that girly man Green Lantern.

Superman: Noooo, I am too much of a sissy for Spiderman's awesomeness. 5-year old Jay, crossed eyes and all, has proven to be correct! Aaaaaahhhhhh!

And then, after a couple of years, the shitty band Train wrote that godawful song about Superman's feelings. You know the one. Where "Superman" says....

"It's not easy, to be, meeeeee."-- This is touchy-feely crap that no self-respecting superhero would say, or allowed to be said in his name. It's not easy to be you, Superman? Tough. We all have jobs to do on this planet. Yours is to save it. So if you don't like it, go back to your own planet...waaaaiit a minute, your loser planet blew up right? So it looks like you're stuck here. So ship shape, quit yer blubbering, and go take care of Lois Lane, lest she discover that Spiderman is way more kick ass than you.


"I'm not scared to fly/ No, I'm not that naive"-- What the hell does this even mean? I can only assume that Superman is floor-licking drunk, after trying to go toe-to-toe with Spidey in a drinking contest. Meanwhile, while Superman is super-puking, Spidey is macking on Superwoman over in the corner and has already got her phone number and spare set of keys.

Oh, and on account that today is International Women's Day, I would just like to say a big thank you to God, for allowing me to be a guy. Because women have a far more difficult road in life than men do. I'm not joking guys, we have it easy. So hug your better half today. And, to prove that you haven't gone all sissy on them, quietly remind her that the reason there were never any realistic female superheroes was because no one needed a superhero to arrange a vase of flowers or figure out colour schemes.

Man, I have so much fun....

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 8:07 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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The blog below is just a venting session, I'm ok now. That does not, however, mean that I won't have some kick ass stories to tell you when I get back....

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 6:24 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 6:22 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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Monday, March 07, 2005

Well today was International Day for the boys at our school, which meant they were outside of their regularly scheduled routine, which of course led to total chaos as per usual. The attitudes and the lack of respect for authority has gotten waaaaaay worse in the past 3 weeks than it ever was before the January break. Stupid, but I guess that is what happens whent he kids know the worst that can happen to them is a firm talking to or an in school suspension. May is gonna be a great month, but only at the end when they have exams. I think it is gonna get a lot worse before it gets any better. If it gets any better. 37 days, 8 hours until my April plane takes off....

And from the "Suspended Rights" files, I bring you this little bit of info, taken from a larger and more in-depth NY Times article that came out March 6. (Note: If you want to read the entire article, you will have to sign up for their free account.)

The Bush administration's secret program to transfer suspected terrorists to foreign countries for interrogation has been carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency under broad authority that has allowed it to act without case-by-case approval from the White House or the State or Justice Departments, according to current and former government officials.....The process, known as rendition, has been central in the government's efforts to disrupt terrorism, but has been bitterly criticized by human rights groups on grounds that the practice has violated the Bush administration's public pledge to provide safeguards against torture.....The transfers were portrayed as an alternative to what American officials have said is the costly, manpower-intensive process of housing them in the United States or in American-run facilities in other countries.

You know what excuse I like best? The one they mention is the last sentence of the above paragraph. Effectively, they are 'outsourcing' their detentions to other countries. As if this government, with it's $400 billion + deficit is suddenly worried about the cost of housing a handful of 'enemy combatants'. Give me a break, don't try to justify it on financial reasons. Not only does it sound ethically terrible, it is obviously a see-through, weak ass lie. You are sending them there, without charges (Maher Arar anyone?) and if they get tortured in the process, oh well, that was never the fault of the great ole US of A.

The reason this is continuing to happen is strictly because the government has the people so scared of anything and everything, that the populace is willing to look the other way on a few cases of state-sponsored torture. I just wish people would realize that, in the long run, the loss of civil liberties is going to cost way more than the cost of giving these accused a fair day in court.

On a totally different note, I eavesdropped ("overheard" is too innocent a word) a conversation between two teachers today. One teacher, and her husband who also works at the school, have been the loudest "behind the back" complainers since they arrived here in August. Seriously, I don't ever try to be around them, just cause the vibes are so bad. But anyway, the wife was talking to another teacher, and was saying how her and her husband have decided to stay another year at the school. I was totally floored, even more so when she then went on to bitch about the school even more, already bemoaning the fact that they are gonna be here next year.

Here is an idea. It may seem radical, unorthodox, even crazy: Don't come back. Wow, I dunno what bolt of lightening hit me and made me think of that. Look, I know the school is a hard one to teach in, and we all know there is a lot of room for improvement (except in my English classes, which totally rule all the time). But if your life sucks soooo bad that you can't go one conversation without hating on the school, maybe you should make a change. I guess some people just like to be under a rainy cloud all the time, but you sure don't appear (to me anyway) to be much of anything if you can't take your life by the horns and lead it in a positive direction. Tough it out for the next three months and then move on. Just frustrating for me to listen to, thats all...

Changing directions again, there was a huge article in the NY Times yesterday about the 'supposed' upcoming release of Chinese Democracy by Guns N Roses.

At the stroke of midnight on Sept. 17, 1991, Guns N' Roses was the biggest band in the world. Hundreds of record stores had stayed open late or re-opened in order to cash in on the first sales that night of "Use Your Illusion," Vols. 1 and 2, the band's new twin albums......

Remember them, faithful bloggies? Remember slow dancing to "November Rain" during those hormone-charged grade 8 dances? Remember how we head-banged in our "I am such a cool grade niner" moments to "Welcome to the Jungle?" Remember how we thought nicknames like "Axl" and "Slash" were ultra cool? Well if we hold our breath (and I don't recommend you do in this case) we may just see the release of a new GnR CD sometime before 2309 AD.

The article focused on the life and times of Axl Rose as he struggles to get his shit together and release this 'new' album, which the NY Times called "The Most Expensive Album Never Released."

Along the way, he (Axl) has racked up more than $13 million in production costs, according to Geffen documents, ranking his unfinished masterpiece as probably the most expensive recording never released....

The band's archive of recorded material swelled to include more than 1,000 digital audio tapes and other media, according to people who were there at the time, all elaborately labeled to chart the progress of songs…..By one count, the band kept roughly 20 songs it considered on the A list and another 40 or so in various stages of completion on the B list.....

At MTV's annual awards show in 2002, publicists buzzed through the audience whispering about a big finale. And with just minutes to go in the broadcast, a screen lifted away to reveal the band and Mr. Rose, in cornrows and a sports jersey, looking strikingly young. The musicians burst into "Welcome to the Jungle," one of the original band's biggest hits, and the crowd went wild. But on television Mr. Rose quickly seemed out of breath and out of tune. He ended the performance, which included the new song "Madagascar" and the original band's hit "Paradise City" in a messianic stance, raising his arms and closing his eyes. He left the audience with a cryptic but tantalizing message: "Round one." Round two never came.

It is time to close the book on this act. I think we all know that an artist is over the hill when he is referred to as "Mr. Rose." The sad thing is that if this CD ever gets released, no matter how shitty it is, how out of date and tired the arrangements are, it will sell millions and millions of copies. Hell by the time this record is released China may very well be a democracy. People will rush out to buy the CD, attempting to re-capture a moment of their lives that they now see through rose-coloured glasses. And if it ever gets released, it won't be anything new or exciting, instead it will be predictable and safe, as we all know what to expect from rockers that were in their heyday in the late 80s/early 90s. One wouldn't expect that, if Huey Lewis and the News were to suddenly re-appear, they would be playing anything other than their bread and butter. Nor would we, the consuming public, want anything different. We would rush out to buy the album wanting it to sound the same and if were to be anything other than the 'formula' we desire, it would be labelled a massive failure.

Futhermore to that last point, Axl has painted himself into a corner. He will lose this battle no matter which of the three roads the project takes. If, as mentioned above, he diverts from his past, the public will react negatively and the press will label him as a poser. Secondly, if he sticks to his formula, the public might like it in the short term, but the critics will describe it as tired and the public will eventually feel this way about it as well. The third option is that he doesn't release it at all, leaving himself to be consigned to the scrap heap of past-due musicians. He cannot win this.

If this record does come out, question yourself before you spend the money on it, or even before you burn it. What are your motives? It won't make you feel as awesome as you think you felt in Gr 8, nor will it open your ears to anything new. Ask yourself what the motive is behind it's release. If it was artistically motivated, it would have been released many moons ago. If it is financially motivated, well, perhaps that gives you a better idea of what the whole sham is about in the first place.

And finally, some advice to Mr. Rose, not from a fan, as I never was one, but from someone with common sense who has an idea of how the media/fans will react if you release Chinese Democracy: Axl, shut the door and move on, go into producing or lead out your life in a quiet manner. You left on top, not many can say that. If you care about your fans let them remember you as the young headstrong rocker you used to be, not the tired, middle-aged guy you are now.

I suspect that this won't be the last we hear of ole Axl. He may go down the many roads of ill-fame, such as reality TV or a 'Where are they now?' retrospective. He may burn out hard, or he may briefly rise again. But he will always remain a shadow of his former self and no matter what happens, he has already succeeded in becoming a media caricature of what he used to be.

Things that have happened, or were happening, on September 17, 1991, when GnR was last on top of the charts......

#1. The Internet
#2. The Tragically Hip had only released (at most) 2 albums
#3. Michael Jackson was only considered "kinda odd" as opposed to today, when he is referred to as "totally f**ked in the head"
#4. George Bush Sr. was in power.
#5. My brother had just turned 10.
#6. Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen were still one person, as far as the TV viewing audience knew
#7. Seinfeld was in it's 3rd season
#8. David Letterman was still not funny
#9. Magic Johnson was still playing basketball
#10. No one laughed when you said you were listening to MC Hammer.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 7:15 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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Sunday, March 06, 2005

"Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, one of President Bush's staunchest allies, has demanded to know why US troops fired on the car carrying Ms Sgrena to safety." BBC

The ripples from the most recent 'accident' in Iraq, where a recently freed Italian hostage was shot upon by US troops, continue to expand. The ex-hostage is now claiming that they were not speeding past a US checkpoint, something the US military is denying. If this is true, and rumours on the web seem to be gaining momentum, the troops had no provocation to shoot upon the vehicle. One story I read suggested that the car was less than 700 metres from its destination, meaning that it would have already passed the numerous checkpoints. Hmmmm. This will rebound around for a few more days, and it's time in the public eye will fully depend on how long the Italian public reacts to it. They have already named a street after the fallen intelligence agent, who is being treated as a national hero. If these reactions are any kind of indication, this could continue to grow....

"Leno brought in Everybody Loves Raymond star Brad Garrett...." Jay Leno, is one of the media personalities that will be testifying (potentially) at the Jacko trial, and as such is under a court-imposed gag order not to talk about the trial. Now this presents a bit of an issue for Leno, as using Jacko in his opening speil of jokes is somewhat akin to breathing. It's just that natural. So he brought in Brad Garrett, who is that super huge guy on Everybody Loves Raymond, who is now delievering the jokes while Leno stands by, smiling an impish grin. I gotta say, that is pretty creative on Leno's part, wonder if he will get hammered for it by the courts. BBC

By the way, Brad Garrett has to be the scariest comic I have ever seen. "Ha ha, you're funny Brad, don't kill me!"

Some of the chatter on the net is suggesting that there will be a big crackdown on the BC Bud that has been making it's way into the US, after the loss of the four RCMP officers. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the right-wing radio twists this horribly, leading to suggestions that Canada is a "drug-addled nation" that supports "addictions and crack whores." You know how the right wing radio can be. I am gonna keep an eye out for it, if I see any, I'll post it on the blog.

PM Martin yapped with Bush yesterday, and all suggestions indicate that the conversation got over the missile defence "rejection" by Canada. But right now, the BSE case is dragging out, as the opening of the border has been delayed yet again. This is something that came down after the refusal to participate in the missile defence shield, so I am cynically wondering (and I don't think it is too much of a stretch) if the delay of the border opening is nothing more than a smack-back by the US government, a punishment for Canada not playing by the US rules.

See this is where I would be a kick ass PM. I'd call it like I see it, all guns blazing all the time. You don't like it? Tough, suck an egg. All these political 'niceties' really piss me off, as they don't get us any closer to solving whatever problem is in the spotlight. All about looking proper and good, and frankly I can see why people get totally fed up with politicians of all stripes.

But I'm too impatient to play the game of politics, slowly rising to the top. Nope, it's all coup d'etats for me. Preferrably bloody, but we'll see how it goes. These coup things, ya gotta roll with the punches, you just can't plan it down to the last bullet.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 6:51 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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