Ink & Paper

Saturday, March 19, 2005

If you care to hear an interview with Matt Good on the CBC, email me and I will tell you how to find it. Politics, not music. Worthwhile.

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I usually don't post pictures like this, but this one is messing with my head. 2 years ago today the Iraq Invasion was launched. Sorry if this offends, but I hope it makes you think.

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Separation of church and state? Sounds good on paper anyway.... (See story below)

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Might as well start with the meat and potatoes story of the day...

WASHINGTON, March 18 - The fevered Congressional intervention in a single individual's health crisis is being driven in significant part by powerful political forces that have converged at the bedside of Terri Schiavo.

While lawmakers of both parties justified their effort to try to prevent removal of the feeding tube from the brain-damaged woman as a matter of fundamental rights and due process, political motivations have figured in as well.

For Republicans, it was a chance to try to carve out new territory in the "culture of life" issues so paramount to passionate religious conservatives, who have flooded Congressional offices with messages beseeching help in keeping Ms. Schiavo alive. For Democrats still struggling in the wake of their defeat in the November elections, the case offered a way to portray their newfound willingness to move to the center on such issues.
And for Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader facing inquiries into fund-raising improprieties in Texas and potential violations of House travel rules in Washington, taking a prominent role in rallying conservatives to the Schiavo cause also provided a sudden distraction from his troubles.
"To friends, family and millions of people praying around the world this Palm Sunday weekend: do not be afraid," said Mr. DeLay, who interjected himself forcefully into the case, in a pointed religious reference during a Friday news conference. "Terri Schiavo will not be forsaken." Mr. DeLay and other lawmakers appeared to be affected emotionally by the life-and-death subject of Ms. Schiavo. Some have long held religious beliefs opposing such things as assisted suicide or the disruption of life-sustaining medical care.

Democrats quickly recognized they had a political stake in this as well, particularly with a handful of Senate seats coming open in states won by President Bush last year, including Florida." NY Times

More info at CBC

This is far away and beyond just one woman's plight; it has turned into a massive political-religious cause that is attracting perhaps far more attention than necessary. Both the Republicans and the Democrats are at fault here of making this into a political game, trying to one up each another in an effort to appeal to the conservative right. This story, with the Democrats supporting her right to life, has become further evidence that the two parties are nearly one in the same.

Furthermore, I would be highly skeptical of anything Tom DeLay says, as he appears to be slightly above slime in his ultra-conservative right wing religious views. His history includes some rather inappropriate remarks after the tsunami, where he suggested via a Bible verse, that the reason for the destruction was in large part due to the non-Christian beliefs of many of the areas that were destroyed.

So do not be swayed by the supposed compassion that is being shown for Schiavo by both political parties. Instead be aware that this is nothing more to them than an opportunity to score some points (in the Democrats case, much needed points) with a major block of voters. Terry Schiavo, now without her feeding tube, will remain a politcal lightening rod for the remainder of her days, however many those may be, and long afterward, when her story lands squarely in spin alley.

In further conservative news, I see here that not much has changed in my home province, as Klein is vowing to fight recongnition of same sex marriage even though he realizes it is a futile battle. Ok, Ralph, we get it. Your voters get it. You and your government do not approve. Can we please move on to another issue, instead of wasting our time fighting one you cannot win? Winston Chruchill once said: "Never never never never give up." But he was Prime Minister and you, Ralph, you are not. Thank goodness.

And along come the Royal Family, who haven't been in the news for almost 4 hours now, with this announcement that the marriage ceremony between Chuck and Cammy, or part of it anyway, will be televised. This must mean that there are people out there that are willing to waste part of their lives watching something that will have absolutely no bearing on them whatsoever. After the ceremony is over, these losers will go back to polishing their overpriced royal memorobilia and watching the Michael Jackson trial. And they will die very very unfulfilled, as they should.

Hitler is still making money, off of the skyrocketing sales of his now-80-year-old book Mein Kampf. In Turkey, no less. Who gets the royalties from the book sales?

And from the "Let it go, already" file we hear that Bobby Fischer, ex-chess champ of the world, is now being offered an Icelandic passport. Why? Because he is in Japan, waiting to be extradited to the US to face charges of breaking an economic sanction. He did this in the early 90s when he played a chess match in the former Yugoslavia. He could face upwards of 20 years in jail if found guilty.

Who cares? Seriously? So the guy played a chess game 13 years ago in a country that no longer exists. Does he pose a threat to the US? No. Is it worth the man hours to chase him down? No. Does anyone care at all, any more? No. So let the guy be. Save some money and stop yourself from looking like a bully, always trying to get your way. But that would be out of character now wouldn't it, Uncle Sam?

PS-Bobby, take the Icelandic passport. Iceland is cool. I hear the nightlife there is awesome.

Bah, this world is in need of a serious ass kicking. I'm gonna have to run for politics someday. My platform will be all about how I am right all the time and people who disagree with common sense will receive a swift kick to the arse. But no one ever elects redheads, the best we can hope for is a Conan O'Brien late night slot where we insult Quebeckers. Sigh.

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Friday, March 18, 2005

As my weekend draws to a close, I still have yet to look at the homework by dean asigned for me. But I have a spare first thing tomorrow, so in theory, I could put it off until then. Right?

The Glorious Mr. T sent me a really interesting link today about a guy named John Titor (possibly) who claims to be from the year 2036 and had traveled back in time (to 1999/2000) to retrieve an old IBM computer. Sounds like a B-movie so far, eh? Nonetheless he has attracted some attention and some of his claims are worth investigating. Among other things, he claims that there will be a civil war in the US over increased security measures, WW3 will happen when Russia starts lobbing nukes at major centres all over the world, and that people in 2036 look at our time as being one full of selfish, greedy people. Well, 1 out of 3 is a start I guess.

Anyway, go read it, as I found it to be pretty interesting. Perchance to dream?

Back to our reality, whatever that might be, you have probably heard about the ongoing battle to save/end the life of Terri Schiavo, a woman who was left in a vegetative state after suffering a heart condition in the early 1990s. Her husband, who is her legal guardian, has been fighting for her right to die, via the removal of her feeding tube, claiming that she asked to be allowed to die if anything like this were to ever happen. Her parents are fighting against this course of action, claiming that she still feels pain and responds to certain stimuli, and thus, removing her feeding tube would cause her to suffer a slow and painful death by starvation.

This is all taking place in Florida (where else?) and has become such an issue that President bush has become involved in it, suggesting that he supports her parents, which shouldn't surprise any of you, given bush's pro-life stance on just about everything except the environment.

So this debate will be battled out in courts and legislatures for a few more months or years, adding to the stress that both sides of this arguement are already feeling. I am not going to offer my thoughts on whether she should be allowed to die. No one has died and made me God, and if I were to offer an opinion, it would only be that such decisions must be made within the family (if possible) and not aired in public.

So I am making this very clear: If anything happens to me, and of course it won't because of the Theory of Invincibility, and I end up eating through a tube, with no brain activity and no chance of recovery, pull the plug and move on. I would prefer the Tragically Hip to play live at my funeral, and some guys to be jumping motorcycles in the parking lot, but I'm not too picky.

There, that should settle that.

And in an effort to get Linux-using, DVR-inventing, uber-nerds away from their computers, Adidas is bringing to market the first computerized running shoe.

The Adidas 1 uses a sensor, a microprocessor and a motorized cable system to automatically adjust the shoes' cushioning. The sensor under the heel measures compression and decides whether the shoe is too soft or firm. That information is sent to the microprocessor and, while the shoe is in the air, the cable adjusts the heel cushion. The whole system weighs less than 40 grams.

Yea, big deal. Can I check my email via my shoes? No. Can I post illicit photos of Al on steel worker websites? No. Can I afford to spend $250 US on a pair of shoes. No. (Aside: If I ever spend more than $150 Cdn on a pair of shoes, kick me in the face)

Can you say marketing gimmick?

Oh, on a kinda fitness related note, I am now weighing in at less that 200lbs, 197 as of the last weigh-in at the Hilton. And no, I'm not on any dumb-ass anti-carb diet. When I left university in June of 2004, I was at 240lbs. Get a dog and eat bread and water, those are the secrets. Oh and move to a country with no beer.

Outta here for now....

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Italians have become the latest to announce the removal of their forces from Iraq (3,000 in all).

Berlusconi has reportedly claimed that public displeasure was a real factor in his decision to recall troops, but it should not be overlooked that he has pledged to ensure the country secure before beginning what he called a ‘progressive reduction’ of Italian forces. It must equally not be overlooked that he is up for re-election next year and, given the recent Sgrena incident, stands to gain politically from this course of action.

We live in that kind of a world. A world in which wars are protested by tens of millions before they start, are fought despite it, and then are used by the same politicians that supported them to win back public support by denouncing them after the fact.

Matt Good

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And a Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all.

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Top O' the morning to ya, on this, a very dry St. Patrick's day. You better be wearing green or smack, pow, to the moon!

Well I just got back from picking up my ticket for my April flight home and as always, it was an experience. Same travel agent as last time, a Palestinian guy named Nidal, who looks like a total greasebag, but is actually really a good guy.

Anyway, we get there (Alex and I) at about 10:00am. Nidal prints out my ticket by 10:10. Then the coffee comes, small talk until 11:15, when Nidal finally asks Alex wear he is thinking of travelling to in April. We could have been in and outta there in about 20 minutes, but that ain't the way things work here. Finally left there about 11:45. Ah well, got the jitters off the Turkish coffee, got my ticket, so life ain't so bad. Looking very forward to my trip home, and I will be landing in Calgary on April 14 at 4pm, dog in tow. Bark bark.

In a further, some might say insidious stretching of conservative US influence, Paul Wolfowitz has been given the nod to pursue the top position at the World Bank. The organisation, which has 184 members and is traditionally headed by an American, is responsible for leading global efforts to promote economic development and reduce poverty. BBC

This is a mere formality, basically the job is a slam dunk for Wolfowitz, one of the Bush loyalists that oversaw the Iraq invasion.

Mr. Wolfowitz's career has hewed to those same unshrinking precepts, and in nominating him for the presidency of the World Bank, President Bush simultaneously removed one of the most influential and contentious voices in his war cabinet and rewarded one of his administration's most dogged loyalists with an influential and contentious spot in a wholly new realm. NY Times

Wolfowitz has a history in developmental aid, working in Asia through the mid 80s and into the early 90s, and the NY Times mentioned that he had developed a passion for development work. This comment by the Times, seems to me anyway, a little forced, as if they were trying to justify the choice to the rest of the world. With good reason too, as I was immediately skeptical about the ability of a leopard to change it's most recent spots. The last three years has seen Wolfowitz not in the development field, but instead in the destruction one. Is he likely to go back to the rose-colored painted history that the Times was talking about? Hmmm, I am having a hard time thinking he will. What kinda money will be forthcoming to developing countries that have the audacity not to open their resources to US companies. Yea, "check is in the mail...."

Some Eurpeon reaction to the Wolfowitz announcement...

There has been a cool response to President Bush's nomination of Paul Wolfowitz to be the next head of the World Bank, a key development agency.....Mr Wolfowitz, 61, currently US Deputy Defence Secretary, has a reputation as a "neo-conservative" hawk and was a key architect of the Iraq war.
News of his candidacy brought criticism from aid agencies and faint praise from several European government ministers.....Mr Bush described Mr Wolfowitz as a "compassionate, decent man".
French and German ministers were guarded in their reaction, while Sweden's foreign minister said she was sceptical about the nomination.....Aid agencies and development experts lined up to criticise the nomination. A British-based campaign group, the World Development Movement, described the nomination as a "truly terrifying appointment"....
Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner and a former World Bank chief economist, said: "Choosing the right general in the war against poverty will not assure victory, but choosing the wrong one surely increases the chances of failure." Greenpeace, ActionAid, and Oxfam were among other critics. BBC

And hey, speaking of destruction, looks like the Republican dominated Senate has cleared the US to begin drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, or ANWR. I have written about this before, stating my opposition to the drilling. I remain opposed to this action for a few reasons.

Firstly, even the most optimistic predictions suggest that at most there is enough oil to supply the entire US for a scant six months. That still is a hell of a lot of oil, but is six months worth the ecological footprint that will linger for decades, if not centuries? Cadrin has argued with me that the drilling technology is far superior to years past, and with this I do not disagree. However, it will impact, and it will only take one mistake to drastically damage the area far beyond repair.

Secondly, my opposition sits on more of a gluttony arguement than an environmental one. I read these articles and think to myself, "Here we go again" as humanity, more accurately western humanity, cannot and will not, change their consumeristic ways, even for a minute. I remember reading somewhere that if the population of the US just slightly changed their driving habits, or even better, stopped buying SUVs, ANWR would never be in play. But even this is too much to ask, and again we are going into get 'what is ours' and failing to see the bigger picture. Eventually we will run out of wells to drink from, and that is when all hell will really break loose.

WASHINGTON, March 16 - President Bush's long-stalled plan to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling cleared a major hurdle on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, when the Senate voted to include the proposal in its budget, a maneuver that smoothes the way for Congress to approve drilling later this year.

By a vote of 51 to 49, Republicans defeated an effort by Democrats to eliminate the drilling language from the budget. The vote does not ensure that drilling will be approved. But if the budget is adopted, Senate rules would allow the passage of a measure opening the refuge with a simple majority of 51 votes, escaping the threat of a filibuster, which has killed it in the past.

The vote was a major turning point in one of the most contentious energy debates in Washington at a time when Senate Republicans, using the power of a newly expanded majority, have been pushing through bills that businesses had sought. In another victory for the White House, the Senate also narrowly beat back an effort by Democrats and moderate Republicans to make it harder to extend Mr. Bush's tax cuts for the next five years.Drilling in the Alaskan Arctic is a central component of President Bush's energy policy. In a statement issued after the vote, Mr. Bush praised the Senate and also called on Congress to enact a comprehensive energy bill, which has stalled over Arctic oil exploration in the past. NY Times

Read here about a University of Colorado prof who is in hot water for comparing victims of 9/11 to Nazis. I'm all for freedom of speech, but he is paying the price, right or wrong, for his comments.

So you are sitting at home on a Friday night, Pringles crumbs on your chest as you watch TGIF re-runs of Family Matters, laughing at Urkel (that crazy bastard) when it suddenly hits you that perhaps you ought to fill your time with something a little more meaningful. Perhaps you are wasting your time. Relax, no matter how much time you waste, you will never have the same amount of spare time as the guy in following story seems to have.

Billy Reed just lost a 19-month battle to protect his rights, or what he believes is his right to have his eyes closed in his driver's license photo....But Reed, 49, of Fleetwood, Berks County, said he might appeal yesterday's Commonwealth Court ruling against him to the state Supreme Court....A three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court rejected Reed's arguments in a published opinion, in which it found that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's requirement that subjects keep their eyes open for the photograph is reasonable....Reed, an auto-body mechanic who studies law in his spare time, said the case wouldn't have gone as far as it had if the license technician was nicer.....He said he had his eyes closed in his previous license photo and no one objected. But on Aug. 5, 2003, the technician told him he would have to have another photo taken. When he questioned her, he said, she pushed a silent alarm and was surrounded by four police officers. "I didn't set out on this as a mission," he said. "It's one of those things that happen in life: Here you are. Life takes you down a path and you end up where you are." Idiot

I mean, c'mon. Taking this to the State Supreme Court? Why do you think the court system is so bogged down? Taking this all the way to the top state court because the technician wasn't nice to you when you asked to be photographed like a moron? Here is a guy who needs a girlfriend. Most people try not to have their eyes closed during a picture, yet this nimrod decides to be different and in the ensuing process, waste thousands of man-hours of labour.I also like how the technician pushed a silent alarm and the cops showed up. More man hours down the tube. Why doesn't life take this guy 'down a path' preferrably a dark, secluded one, and then push him off a cliff? What a doofus.

Now I am usually a little skeptical of anything that comes within a thousand miles of Howard Stern, but this one was too good not to post. Circumstantial evidence anyone? (By the way, I'm not a lawyer, so if the following info has nothing to do with circumstantial evidence, don't email me telling me I suck. Piss off)

Simpsons creator Sam Simon was on Howard Stern this morning, sharing some very special memories of Michael Jackson’s celebrated appearance on the show, a lovable turn as an animated mental patient with a shaved head. Sam said he brought the script over to Jackson’s place to see if he’d be interested in doing it and Jackson was. His only reservation was that he wanted more scenes with Bart Simpson, his favorite character on the show. He demanded the script be changed so his character could spend more time with Bart. According to Sam, they changed the script, giving Jackson a scene where he spends the night alone with Bart in his room. Jackson agreed to the change and signed on to do the show. Sam also added that during the voice recording, someone gave Jackson a giant Bart Simpson doll and when he thought no one was looking, Jackson started to kiss the doll. Ewww

I don't think I can write anything that will top that, so I'll sign off for the time being.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

No doubt you have heard about Ashley Smith, the hostage of the man who shot up an Atlanta courtroom last week, setting off a major manhunt. Apparently she talked to him, much of it about her Christian faith, eventually convincing him to give himself up peacefully. Some excerpts from the NY Times.....

When a fugitive accused of courthouse killings jabbed a gun at Elizabeth Ashley Smith, forced her inside her apartment and bound her in the bathtub, she did what she said her religious faith had taught her to do. She talked with him as one hurting soul to another....Now, with the fugitive having surrendered at Ms. Smith's urging, her story has become an instant classic of sin, redemption and grace.

A spokeswoman for the Christian Broadcasting Network in Virginia Beach, Angell Watts, said: "How many people do you hear of in these kind of situations who begin talking about the Lord and, literally, people are touched? She had the presence of mind to talk calmly. At that point, most of us would have been screaming his name."

She read to him from "The Purpose-Driven Life," by Rick Warren, a California pastor who writes that each person's life has a God-given purpose. She told Mr. Nichols that he should surrender.

Others said that is what made her an exemplar of Christian principles.

Terry Pluto, who writes sports and religion columns for The Akron Beacon Journal (wrote) in a column,....that God had spoken through Ms. Smith to reach the man who held her hostage.

Dr. John MacArthur, a theologian and broadcaster who is president of the Master's College and Seminary, an evangelical institution in Santa Clarita, Calif., said, "It's an incredibly wonderful story of how God used a broken lady to stop a guy who could have killed again and again."

I found this article to be pretty heavy handed on the religious side of the story. I know religion may have played a big part, but for the NY Times, which is a decently balanced newspaper in my opinion, this article seems pretty shifted to the conservative Christian side of the saga.

Look, I am happy that she lived. And if she is uber-religious, fine, I am ok with that too. But perhaps one of the most profound 'what if' questions was emailed to me by the Glorious Mr. T. who wondered if the hype around her religious convictions would have been different had she been a Muslim instead of a Christian. Chew on that one for a while.

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Fiscally conservative Republicans my ass.

The United States deficit in the broadest measure of international trade soared to an all-time high of $665.9 billion in 2004, showing in stark terms the speed with which the country is becoming indebted to the rest of the world. Yahoo

This is partially why the Canadian dollar is so high and my converted salary is so low. I feel angry at this.

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Well this was a rather up and down day. Got up late this morning, walked the dog and caught a ride to work with Neil and Jan. Dwayne joined us too, as his wife (who just had baby #2) was at home today.

We go to McDonald's, as Dwayne wanted some breakfast. Sitting in the drive-thru, we are behind a white Corolla. Of course the windows are down, because we are in a drive-thru and because it didn't snow here like it did in Edmonton last night.

Dwayne suddenly says: "Did you guys here that?"
Us: "No, what?"
Dwayne: "I think that guy in front of us just said "Y'all gotta put some hashbrowns in tha muthaf&$ka!!"
Us: "No, really?"


Dude in the car in front of us, waving his hands manically, both of them out the window: "Y'all gotta put some hashbrowns in tha MUTHAF&%KA!!" And it was the full on pronounciation Muh-tha-fuh-KAH!

Well we just started laughing our asses off. It was so funny that we couldn't get even get offended at the treatment of this poor Sri Lanka working the drive thru. This dude in front of us, a black guy from somewhere in the Deep South of the USA, was putting on a show. He repeated it at least 2 more times, each time his hands flying around outside the window.

Now Dwayne is a black guy too, from Toronto, and he was the first guy to say it. "Man, ain't no one but a black guy from the South can say muthaf&%ka properly." He then proceeded to mock the guy for the whole day, coming up to me at lunchtime when I was doing supervision and saying: "Y'all gotta put some hashbrowns in tha mutha%&ka."

Seriously this was one of the funninest things I have ever seen/heard.

Then I worked all day, which was busy but ok, except for the massive amount of homework my English Dean assigned to me for the weekend. It's ok though, and least she's not a muthaf&%ka like the first English dean we had.

Then I came home to find that Monday had taken a rather massive dump on the floor. That's fate I guess, putting me in my place for laughing so hard this morning. Not happy about having to clean it up and wash the floors, but this is the first time it has happened and she looked so bloody guilty as soon as I discovered her 'surprise' that I couldn't get too mad at her. She's just a pup still, and hey, as she said to me on our walk, "Shit happens." I suppose it does.

So that was the rather wacky day I had for my Wednesday. And now onto the news....

OSLO (Reuters) - First born children in Norway get better education and as adults are more successful in the job market than younger siblings, a Norwegian-U.S. study showed...."It is the birth order and not necessarily the size of the family that is important," said economics professor Kjell Salvanes of the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration. "It is better if you are the first born." Salvanes and two colleagues from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) based their study on census data of Norwegians born between 1912 and 1975....The findings will be published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, a Harvard publication, in May. They found that younger siblings tend to get less schooling than their elders and then end up with lower pay on average and were more likely to be in part-time work, Salvanes said. The findings were likely to hold true in other countries, he said. Yahoo

I could have saved them a lot of time and money. Exhibit A: Jeff. Case closed. Just kidding Jeff, I'm sure you'll get that job at McDonald's someday. Keep reaching for the stars!

In further education-related news, you may have heard of the Harvard president who said that women are less inclined to be successful in the sciences because of their genetic make up....

The president of Harvard University has lost a vote of confidence following his suggestion that woman have less "innate ability" than men at science....Lawrence Summers' predicament is unique in the institution's near-400-year history, US reports say.....Academics at Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted by 218 to 185 to express a "lack of confidence", but the body has no power to punish Dr Summers....Dr Summers, a former Treasury Secretary, has given no indication that he is planning to resign....At the seminar in January, Dr Summers argued that men outperformed women in maths and science because of genetics, not just experience. BBC

No word on whether or not he is related to Rush Limbaugh or not....

Not to say that I told you so but.....I wondered if there would be some reaction from the Italian government after the killing of one of their top security agents by US forces. Well although 'officially' this isn't related, I think we are all able to put 2 and 2 together....

Italy will start withdrawing its 3,000 troops from Iraq starting this September, announced Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on a television show....Berlusconi said on Tuesday that his country will start a "progressive reduction" of troops. He said he had already spoken with British Prime Minister Tony Blair about the action.
Berlusconi has been facing increasing opposition to the war and to Italy's involvement with the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. He faced renewed criticism after the March 4, 2005, killing of an Italian intelligence officer...."We certainly appreciate the contributions of the Italians," said White House spokesperson Scott McClellan. "They have served and sacrificed alongside Iraqis and alongside other coalition forces"

What must you do to justify your existence as the White House spokesperson? I don't mean you job-existence, I mean your all around existence as a human? I gotta think that Scott McClellan must take an awful lot of showers. "So...many...lies, won', so dirty....."

I am going to murder M. PHILLIP KROSSE.

And in a glacial-quick response to the killings of numerous detainees in the war against terror, the NY Times is reporting that...At least 26 prisoners have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002 in what Army and Navy investigators have concluded or suspect were acts of criminal homicide, according to military officials.The number of confirmed or suspected cases is much higher than any accounting the military has previously reported. A Pentagon report sent to Congress last week cited only six prisoner deaths caused by abuse, but that partial tally was limited to what the author, Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III of the Navy, called "closed, substantiated abuse cases" as of last September.

Is it just me or are we starting to see this tiny snowball rolling downhill rather quickly? I wonder how many more numbers will be added to this figure of 26, and I wonder how long it will take.

Bob Geldof, of LiveAID concert fame, is still making noise about the need of the Western countries to acknowledge Africa's problems. Apparently he is getting crankier in his old age, as reported in the Guardian. Good on ya Bob, you've been on Africa's side far longer and have far more credibility in my eyes than that poser Bono.

And for those of you who have read The Davinci Code by Dan Brown, you might want to check this link out. Appparently the Church is out to clear up the mistakes that have led readers to assume that blah blah blah blah blah blah, I don't wanna write about religion. But thanks to Keith for suggesting I help enlighten bloggies on this phenom of a novel. You rule Keith!

And it is the weekend, so I am happy about that. I will be buying my ticket to Calgary tomorrow morning, so that rocks too. And it is exactly 4 weeks today until I leave for my April break. And I think I can handle that. As long as they put some hashbrowns on that muthaf&%ka.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

You're dead to me Cross. You'll be even more dead to me after I MURDER YOU!

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Just so you don't think I've gone all soft in my old age, too afraid to take risks as I get to the upper-20 age bracket, I am personally spearheading the A'Takamul 2005 NCAA Men's basketball tournament pool. Big money, $10 buy in.

You: "Ooooohhhh Jay you're a sissy. What's the big deal?"

Me: "It's technically illegal in Kuwait to gamble with money. I'm not sure if it's CD-burning illegal or murder-illegal, but since some of the Muslim staff have already bought in, I figure it's pretty much overlooked."

Actually, it is pretty much overlooked and we got a pretty good size group playing, so if all goes according to plan, the winner could walk away with about $100 Cdn or so. Not huge money, but it passes the time.

Jay's Uninformed, Haven't-Followed-NCAA-at-all-this-year, picks for the Final Four: Duke, Wake Forest, Illinois, and I forget the other one. Oh well, if the 'professionals' on the net are correct, I may be a winner. Time will tell.

In more serious news, the UN has announced that the death toll in Darfur, Sudan is far worse than expected. Despite the fact that the US government has labelled this a 'genocide', the response by the world community has been noticably weak. Africa is a big place, you could fit 3 USAs into Africa and have a little bit left over. And it is always in turmoil, or so it would seem from the mass media coverage that we get. There is always some civil war/uprising/corruption/plague etc to occupy the few headlines that deal with Africa. Oh and don't forget the ongoing AIDS suffering.

And, I think, that this constant barrage of negative news has served not to help Africa, but to desensitize us to it, allowing us to ignore 'another' report of how Africa is slipping into the abyss. We never hear any good news out of Africa and thus have tuned it out, perhaps only dealing with it after the horrible facts come to light. Rwanda ring a bell?

To further add to our general disenchantment with helping Africa out, we are rather innudated with a litany of other 'sky is falling' news stories, from Iraq to North Korea, US shootings to violent weather tragedies. So those tend to push the dark continent onto the back pages of the newspapers.

Despite our best efforts as a western society to ignore Africa's problems, it keeps popping up again and again, reminding us of the legacy of imperialism and underfunding. And yet we push it away over and over. When will the world wake up the fact that Africa is not a minor set of issues and that urgent, ongoing, and stable help is needed to address the poorest continent on the planet?

An interesting development for historical buffs to consider, as this report suggests that the Nazi's might have possessed and tested a variant of a nuclear weapon during the waning days of WWII. One wonders, if this is true, how the war would have ended if they had managed to use it. I suspect that they still would have been defeated, as their troops were vastly decimated and their resources drying up in 1944-45. But still, had they managed one last hurrah, perhaps Paris or London wouldn't be the places that we know today. Food for thought.

On a lighter note, a story that proves just home much of a sissy I am when compared to this guy. Dang!

Going to the Hilton tonight, gonna pretend I'm rich. In my beat-up running shoes.

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Monday, March 14, 2005

Nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh said the following on the March 1 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show

LIMBAUGH: "The life expectancy of men is drawing closer to that of women. Women still live longer than men because their lives are easier. This is -- (laughing, grunting) this is according to government statistics released yesterday."

More proof that Rush Limbaugh is an idiot.

You really wanna know the reason that women live longer than men? I mean the non-scientific reason, as I will never claim to be a scientician of any stripe. The non-scientific reason women live longer than men is twofold:

#1. Because women are so busy juggling a career, raising a family, cooking dinner, cleaning the house, taking the cars to get serviced, walking the dog, etc etc, they never have time to get sick, much less grow roots in the couch watching football and eating cheesed pretzels like us guys all end up doing by our mid 30s.

#2. Men are dumb and we always end up arguing that we already know how to fix the breaker box in the basement, "No need to call the damn electrician" and then promptly electrocute ourselves as we failed to notice that we were standing in a pool of water.

Tongue in cheek, especially #2, but I still think Rush Limbaugh is a moron.

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Hmmm, I seem to remember some noise about this before the election. But no, the US government would be considering re-introducing the draft. Would they?

There are already signs that the Selective Service System (SSS), as it is known, is gearing up for business. By Mar. 31, the SSS boards in every state must certify to Washington that they are ready to induct the first young men within 75 days. Smirking Chimp

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No doubt by now you have heard about the shootings throughout the US this past weekend, including the church group killing of 7 and the courtroom killings of 3, including a judge. Following these stories, I found several articles that questioned why these kind of things happen. I'm rather shocked that people even wonder why anymore, seeing as how the US has the most liberal, if I can be so cagey as to use that word, gun laws in the westerninzed world. It's kinda like asking why your kid is so fat as you take him to his choice of McDonald's or Burger King.

So if you are still wondering why shootings occur in the US, check this link out, one of many that spell out the statistics related to guns in the USA. You can't allow people the right to bear arms, enshrine and defend that right for decades upon decades, and then question why a few wackos go on shooting sprees. Common sense apparently isn't that common.

On a somewhat bigger scale than handguns, check this article out to understand why the Middle East will continue to be a powderkeg for the next 10,000 years or so. Apparently the pre-emptive right to strike has embraced by Israel as it watches Iran step closer and closer to nuclear weaponry. The hatred for Israel over here is so out in the open that maps have blacked out Israel entirely. If I go to Israel and they stamp my passport, I won't be allowed back into Kuwait, nor would I be allowed into Saudi, Oman, Yemen, etc etc. This is why Israel stamps a sheet of paper and staples that to your passport. Messed up, eh?

Not to attract any anti-Semites on my blog, but Israel's recent policies haven't done much to endear it to its neighbours. And if Iran goes nuclear, it is only gonna get a hell of a lot worse. And don't believe a thing Iran says about their nuclear development being only for 'civilian purposes.' That is like my lame ass 'hand in the cookie jar' excuse that I was only trying to get cookies in order to give them to Jeff. As if. So now we have 2 deceiving sides of this damaged coin, just waiting to lob a few nukes at each other. Looking like the shit is heading towards the fan....

And China did pass that law, allowing them to take 'non-peaceful' means to ensure their hold over Taiwan. Read the follow up article here.

Ok, laugh time. I really suggest that people start following a comic strip called "The Boondocks." It is a politically charged view of the world through the eyes of an anarchy-loving 10 year old black kid and it never fails to make me laugh. Better than Peanuts, which has never been funny. Futhermore, you should read the comics page in the paper every day, good for the soul.

Remember I posted that story from the NY Times about how some news stories were produced and planted by the Bush administration? Remember that little 'story' named Jessica Lynch and her 'dramatic' (Hollywood-ized) rescue? Remember how I am always yelling at you not to trust the media? Well check this story out. Again, it may never be confirmed, but it has been making the rounds on the interweb lately and has got me thinking. Check it, sucker!

With this kind of speculation running about, it is interesting to remember Osama. Some conspiracy theorists suggested that Bush would produce Osama in captivity just before the 2004 election, but obviously that didn't happen. Still though, if this whole Saddam-capture thing was a front, well it could get to be a bit of a slippery slope that may come into play down the road....

This is why I hate Bill O'Reilly, and all right-wing radio blowhards:

The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) is making the war on terror much more difficult to wage. Under the guise of protecting the liberties of Americans, the ACLU combs the world to find foreign guys who say they were treated badly. Maybe they were and it shouldn't happen. But I believe exploiting the situation to embarrass the Bush administration is the ACLU's goal, not protecting the little guy rounded up in Kabul.

One final example. Mohammed Atta most likely loved the ACLU. The dead 9/11 hijacker was in the USA illegally and roamed around planning the deadly attack. If the feds had information on Atta in a database and a local Florida cop had managed to pick him up, the ACLU says the cop had no right to know any federal information about the illegal alien Atta. That extreme position sums up just how much the ACLU is looking out for all of us.

Aaaah! O'Reilly, you moron, look at the bigger picture! What happens if the IRA launches an attack against America and Bush decides to round up anyone with an "O" at the beginning of their name? Who is gonna save your ass then?

He dismisses massive human rights abuses against 'enemy combatants' by saying "Maybe they were (abused) and it shouldn't happen." That's it, nothing more said about throwing some farmer from rural Afghanistan into jail for 3+ years, except for an "oops?"

And to throw 9/11 into the mix, claiming that it all would have been different had Atta been arrested by that cop, is a cheap shot. I can throw it back at you by saying that if ole Ronnie Reagan hadn't supported Osama in the early 80's, perhaps the world wouldn't be sinking into the pooper right now. Historical analysis shouldn't be subjective.

The ACLU is looking out for you O'Reilly. That's something to consider when your brother in law gets busted for typing terrorism into a search engine at his local library. That is something to consider when your grandkid's names are given (without their knowledge) to army recruiters that come to their school. Never gonna happen you say? Perhaps you ought to read the fine print in the Patriot Act and the No Child Left Behind legislation that your administration has passed. The same legislation that the ACLU fought against as being too draconian, that is the legislation that will come back to haunt the USA long after the war on terror has faded away.


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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Lots of notable news today, so get your finger out of yer nose and pay attention.

According to this article from the Guardian, it is looking like a sure thing that Hillary Clinton is going to make a run for the 2008 presidential slot. She is facing some obvious competition, from both within and outside the Democratic party, but she must be considered a contender for the Democratic nomination.

But what caught my attention was the move she has made to the right, embracing and speaking about her faith, outlining her support (and vote for) the Iraq war, etc etc. So this is what is to become of the Democrats, taking on a mentality of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" when it comes to dealing with the Republican juggernaut. It seems almost pathetic, as if the Democrats can't figure out their own path to victory, and thus are resigning themselves to a Republican-lite recipe for success.

I had been aware that Hillary was probably going to make a run for it, but I wasn't aware of how her views (or more accurately, the marketing of her views) had drifted to the conservative side of the spectrum. It seems like when it comes to voting in 08 it might just be six of one, half-dozen of another, more so than ever before. Time will tell, but keep an eye out for a building media frenzy, probably starting up in early 2006.

And interesting article from the Independent online, which examines the shaky persona Jacko has brought to his trial, including the PJ bottoms, which may have undone much of his lawyers work. Rumours have also surfaced that Jacko is one penny away from complete bankruptcy. Looking good Mike!

As we all know, the US troop death count is now over 1,500 since the beginning of military action in Iraq. What the administration has failed to address or acknowledge is the amount of Iraqi civilian deaths. I had hesitated to post any numbers, but one number is starting to pop up more and more often, and in different places on the web, so I am inclined to consider it. It's a rather staggering toll of 100, 000 dead Iraqis, many of whom are women and children. Again, this is just speculation, but if it is even half, or a quarter of that, or hell, even a tenth, it equals a far more significant number than those that died on 9/11. Is this to be the legacy of US imperial ambitions?

Good article by Noam Chomsky on the selling of the 2004 US Presidential election.

Going largely unnnoticed last week was the passing of a motion, if I can use that word, by the Chinese government that authorizes the use of force against Taiwan, if Taiwan were to begin formal procedures to officially become independent of China. Not that it isn't already largely independent in practice. Why does this matter?

Well the US is committed to the protection of Taiwan in the case of Chinese agression. Not that this is an immediate or even forseeable thing, but it is something to consider as the US military is rather "occupied" (pardon the pun) in other parts of the world. China recently announced that it was increasing it's military expenditures for the upcoming year and is currently riding a redhot economy, which is fast forming it into even more of a world force.

As well, the economic ties between China and the US cannot be ignored, and the cynic in me wonders if push came to shove, would the US vote in favour of Taiwan's independence or their own economy?

Many people, much smarter than I, have been predicting that the next 95 years will see the emergence of the third world economic (and thus military) force, that being China and to a lesser extent, India. If this proves true, and all indications suggest that it will, the US and the EU will have to seriously reconsider their foreign policy decisions and actions.

And to further hammer on the 1984 theme that the last section started, I found this article in the NY Times and promptly considered moving to eastern Siberia. Scary...

It is the kind of TV news coverage every president covets....."Thank you, Bush. Thank you, U.S.A.," a jubilant Iraqi-American told a camera crew in Kansas City for a segment about reaction to the fall of Baghdad. A second report told of "another success" in the Bush administration's "drive to strengthen aviation security"; the reporter called it "one of the most remarkable campaigns in aviation history." A third segment, broadcast in January, described the administration's determination to open markets for American farmers.

To a viewer, each report looked like any other 90-second segment on the local news. In fact, the federal government produced all three. The report from Kansas City was made by the State Department. The "reporter" covering airport safety was actually a public relations professional working under a false name for the Transportation Security Administration. The farming segment was done by the Agriculture Department's office of communications.

Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production.

Sigh. This just keeps getting more surreal every single day.

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