Ink & Paper

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Michael Jackson fans are idiots. Some quotes from fans waiting outside the courthouse as the jury deliberates...

-"If he is convicted then it is a crime against humanity," he said.

-"In 10 minutes turn on your radio or what you have to listen to music and listen to 'You Are Not Alone', ..after that song is done in one hour listen to it again - every hour, everyone same time - it makes you feel better," the writer adds.

-Seventeen-year-old Stacy Garcia struggled to explain why she had come to court for the first time on the day the jury went out. "He's just Michael Jackson," she said.

-For Nkechi, the reasons for the obsession were clearer: "It's not so much Michael Jackson, but the fact that his music has touched the world. I have been a Michael Jackson fan as long as I can remember. His music related to me and he said all the things I couldn't find the words to say. He touched me as a child - don't print that!" she joked.

-"I mean he has charisma."

-"We want God to reach into the hearts of the jury and prove Michael innocent."

And my personal favorite...

-"Haven't you got a proper job to go to?" says one man. (to a TV news crew)


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I am an angry man. Often it is the little things that cause me to fly into fits of cat-punching rage. Often it is the things that you don't even notice that result in my incarceration in a mental institution. If you know me at all, you will know that behind my happy go lucky facade is an angry man of Irish descent willing to beat up an old granny who looks at him funny.

Actually, I'm not like that at all.

But some things do piss me off, in a mild way. Today I have a serious beef with ebay.

What pisses me off about ebay is that everytime I do a seach on Google (.ca) I always end up seeing that whatever I was searching for is for sale at ebay. The link is on the right hand side of the Google results page and occasionally boggle (which rhymes with Google, kinda) the mind of your Dear Author.

So I decided to prove how stupid ebay's marketing really is with some random googling of random words, to see what ebay potentially had for sale. If you google any of the following words, you will see a link for ebay, advertising that they have that word/product for sale:

-nothing (I like this one)

I don't know why this pisses me off, exactly, except that it seems to be marketing run amok. I mean, who sits down at the computer and types 'stoopid' into google, sees the link to ebay, and says to themselves "You know, I feel like buying some stoopid today."?

Or "I feel like buying some Monday today, let's see what ebay has to offer."

Or-"I feel like shopping for nothing, so I'll go to ebay."

Or-"I am tired of abusing sheep in New Zealand, perhaps I can buy a donkey on ebay."

Fine there were some gimmes on that list, a list I made up as I went along. Obviously Jeff is for sale, he's a man-whore. Vents too, that's somewhat legit. I dunno who would want to buy an Archibald, you can't give those away. But for the most part the idea of shopping for these "items" is like a one-legged man at an ass-kicking contest.

Well actually, its nothing like a one-legged man at an ass-kicking contest, I just wanted to write that phrase because its funny. But you get what I am trying to say.

Ebay is dumb and their marketing is stoopid. Thus, I hate ebay. Oh, that doesn't mean I won't use them in the future, it just means that I'll feel really dirty afterwards.

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I'm going to be selfish on this one, and I apologize in advance.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union....

A federal judge has ordered the Defense Department to turn over dozens of photographs and four movies depicting detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq as part of an ongoing lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The court order came in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the ACLU, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights to obtain documents and materials pertaining to the treatment of detainees held by American forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

The ACLU expects redacted versions of the photographs to be released within the next six weeks.

Word on the street is that these images/movies make the leash-incident look like child's play. Emphasis on "child" as children are reportedly some of the victims in these new photos.

The reason I am going to be selfish is that I want these images to be withheld from public viewing until I am out of the Middle East. Kuwait is pretty calm right now and I would prefer it to remain so for at least the next 12 days.

I'm being selfish, I know. These upcoming images need to be shown, perhaps the evil that they contain will finally be enough to awaken the American public to what their government is doing. People have yet to be shocked enough to begin quesitoning the bush government's actions and maybe these upcoming videos and images will finally, finally awaken the sleeping beast that is the American populace.

I just hope its not until I land in Canada.

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Friday, June 03, 2005

CBC reports...

The U.S. Pentagon confirmed Friday a list of abuses involving the Qur'an, the Muslim holy book, by American personnel at Guantanamo Bay, but said the incidents were relatively minor.

The latest confirmed abuses are contained in a report put together by Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, the commander of the detention center in Cuba.

They include: splashing urine on a prisoner and his Qur'an, stepping on and kicking the Qur'an, throwing water on it, and scratching an obscenity on the inside cover.

....Muslims around the world....Consider the Qur'an to be the word of God as dictated to and written down by the prophet Muhammad.

I wanted to address this list of abuses. Obviously having piss thrown on you, having an obscenity scratched onto the inside cover of your holy book, and throwing water on the Quran are despicable, horrible, and vastly insulting. But I want to focus on the issue of stepping and kicking the Quran.

If I were to sit in front of my class and put my feet up on my desk, the soles of my shoes facing the students, this would be seen as a fairly hefty insult. In cases of schoolyard bullying, I have seen some students (usually the younger ones) pull of their shoes and begin hitting another student with them. Again, this is seen as vastly insulting.

As well, before Muslims go to pray, they are required to wash their faces, necks, hands, and feet as dictated by Islam. While this may seem odd to us in the west, keep in mind the idea of going to church and eating the body of Christ probably would seem pretty odd to a Muslim observing Catholic practices.

I am not entirely sure why the feet have such power in Islam, why they are surrounded by ceremony and taboo, but nonetheless this is the case. As such, the idea of kicking and stomping on a copy of the Quran (with a dirty boot no less) would be perceived as massively insulting. I don't know that it would be worse than the allegations of flushing the Quran down the toilet, but I suspect it would be close.

As I have pointed out before, and CBC confirms, the west has yet to grasp the importance of the Quran in Islam. You'll notice that the Pentagon, quoted in the above article, says the incidents are "relatively minor." Now I have no doubt that this is more of public relations comment than what the Pentagon truly believes or knows, yet it still constitutes misinformation to the masses, drawing a picture that these allegations and actions are seen as minor in the Islamic world and that the western public should simply disregard them. This could not be more incorrect, as the "incidents" need to be addressed in an open dialogue with Islam in order to properly frame the seriousness of the situation for the western public.

As well, this new revelation from the US that these occurrences are indeed true, could prove to be far more damaging than the previous (and disputed) Newsweek article. Why? Simply because the abuses are being admitted to by the US government, not highlighted by an outside independent magazine. It is coming directly from the horse's mouth, not via the grapevine. Consequently this will be seen (righfully so) as official government support for desecration of the Quran by US forces.

If they wanted to hold a match to a tinder-dry forest, the US government is succeeding. This ongoing situation is far more serious when one considers the long term implications of a generation of young Muslims who are growing up amidst what is increasingly resembling a war of religions. Yet, when future attacks do occur on US soil, a scenario even the US government has acknowledged as a near certainty, many in the west will still ask what we did to deserve this treatment.

And perhaps that is our greatest weakness, the fact that despite all we have been through, everything we have seen and heard in the last 4 years, we remain ignorant of the consequences of our actions. And the last thing this world needs is more consequences.

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If you think the washing machine saga was something, shit son, you ain't seen nothing yet. Probably next week, as it is developing. It is a doozy, I promise you that.

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Movie Reviews

I am woefully late in viewing the latest movies. E.T. is still new, in my opinion.

Dazed and Confused

I had seen the last ten minutes of this movie about 4 times. Usually I would stagger into someone's living room at some party, drunk off my ass and singing Newfoundland fisherman songs while trying to twist open a beer can, all the while making googly eyes at Al, who would run away feeling dirty.

Anyway, about a year or two ago, the Glorious Mr. T burned me a couple of movies to watch on my computer. Then I moved to Kuwait. After 9 boring months I finally get around to watching the movies. You can tell how much I love Hollywood.

This was a good movie for a thoughtless night. Not deep at all, but it passed the time and I had a few chuckles. I could see how 45 year olds who graduated in the mid 1970s would latch onto this movie, much like Al has latched onto the idea the Guns and Roses will actually release a new disc anytime soon. It's a 'remember those great times', rose-colored memories movie. But it was ok.

Enemy at the Gates

This movie, about the true-life sniper battles during the Battle of Stalingrad, was pretty accurate and followed the book fairly well. I was a little pissed at Jude Law (and other actors) for not even trying to hide their accents, as that did seem to weaken the overall vibe of the movie.

But it was pretty well done, I thought, and certainly framed the Battle of Stalingrad well in the overall context of the war. The opening scenes, where young fresh troops are sent immediately into battle, only to be cut down because they don't have adequate weapons was disturbingly correct. What was even more correct was that when the troops who survived the Nazi bullets started to retreat, they were cut to pieces by Russian officiers who would accept no "traitors."

The only two big differences between the book and the movie were:

1. There was no love interest between Vasily Zaitsev and a female sniper in the book, and I'm pretty sure he didn't wander into some triage hospital to find out that she had survived, thus ensuring a happy ending. But that's Hollywood for ya, trying to get the girls to come along when the boys want to see a war movie.

2. The final duel between the two snipers (which is even disputed among historians as ever having occurred) is different in the movie, and frankly was a poor ending. I won't give it away, but snipers have a particular way of dying and the movie failed in the end to carry this theme all the way through.

Anyway, good movie, better book. Pick them both up, if you haven't already done so.

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It is pretty obvious that I turned out terribly. And I attribute this to the fact that my mother never cared enough for me to do something like this. Just kidding, Ma & Pa, thanks for uncrossing my eyes.

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Washing Machine Update- I think the saga has ended....

Well both the roomate and I did a load of laundry each today. Waterpipes did not explode from the floor or ceiling, cobras did not jump out the the machine, fires did not start, and the bathroom floor was not turned into a home-made pool. In fact it appears as though the process actually works as it should.

Admittedly, I am a little disappointed. I was getting some good mileage out of this comedy of errors. Yes, occasionally I considered throwing various school-owned pieces of furniture out the window in fits of rage, but for the most part it was interesting to see the drama associated with such a mundane, day-to-day activity. I appreciate being able to do my laundry in my own apartment and not having to act all surprised when a pair of my giant underoos falls to the floor while doing laundry at Jan's. But still, with a functioning machine, well my life seems a little too easy.

Oh well, I guess I'll adjust. I can always hope and bet that something else will go wrong before I leave.

And in news you should already be aware of: The Glorious Mr. T proves yet again that the Author is always right and often ahead of his time.

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Washing Machine Update #5- Is this the end?

Well after being out at the G12 grad yesterday and getting home at 10pm, I had to drag my old man ass out of bed at 7:15am to await the hopeful arrival of the "new" replacement washing machine, slated to be delivered at 7:30am.

Now precedent would suggest that the arrival would thus come between 4:30pm Thursday and 3:00am Friday morning, but lo and behold, the doorbell rings at 7:24am and the washing machine is rolled in and installed. 20 minutes later, the installation guys leave, telling me not to use it for 24 hours, on account the silicon has to dry. I know nothing about silicon except that it goes into fake boobies, so I take their word at face value.

Anyway, the washing machine is here. Whether or not it works, well, I'll let you know tomorrow when I give it a "whirl." Man, I'm so funny. I'm a little disappointed in this chapter, I was kind of expecting some more drama. But they came in, installed it, and that was that. Oh well, I still have another 14 days here, something else is sure to throw a massive wrench into my life.

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"OH MY GOD! It's U2! Ahhh, I love you Bono! Ahhhh U2! OH MY GOD, I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING! This RULES! I'd know them anywhere, I'm their #1 FAN! AHHHHH! Whoo whoooo!

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From AlterNet, an excellent article on Wal-Mart and the effect it has and will have. Read it.

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I was thinking about this whole "Deep Throat" thing yesterday.

No not this Deep Throat, this one. You dirty perv.

Those of you who follow the news know that a few days ago, Mark Felt, once the #2 man at the FBI, has revealed himself as the man who tipped off reporters to the break in at the Watergate, the tipping point for the eventual collapse of the Nixon presidency. By feeding information to the Washington Post, Felt was able to help expose the corrupt and ultimately illegal practices of the Nixon administration. Deep Throat remained unknown until just a few days ago, creating a legend of speculation and intrigue not only in Washington but around the world. Who was the man that exposed the dark underbelly of the world's greatest democracy? Now we know.

As I write this, a few days after the story broke, it is already starting to fade from the news. It was perhaps the story of the 1970s, but now is relegated to more of the human interest genre of news, soon to be forgotten into the back pages. Perhaps we should re-examine the idea of impeachment as we wander through these modern times.

I think that very few people will argue that Nixon's impeachment as a result of the Watergate scandal was unfair. He deserved it and perhaps served to promote the theory that democracy was truly looking out for the little man, protecting him from the ravages of power unchecked. Whether this is true or not is largely debatable, but in a scientific theorectical sense, this case served to promote this ideal.

Clinton was the next President to face the impeachment process, based on his perjuring of himself when questioned about his little "something something" with Monica Lewinsky. Lost in the spin of the late 90s, it is clear to most objective observers that Clinton's impeachment was a witch hunt perpetrated by the Republicans. If you don't believe me, call Rush Limbaugh and ask him what he thinks of Bill & Hillary.

Now I am not going to suggest that most administrations are angels, far from it. But Clinton's impeachment was largely partisan-driven and I would be surprised to find anyone willing to argue that cheating on his wife and trying to get away with it endangered the country.

And yet, as I sit here in Year 5 of the bush administration, I wonder where the "Deep Throat" of our generation is. I am not going to go into an exhaustive list of what I feel the bush adminstration has done to deserve it's own Deep Throat, as do not feel like writing a book today. But look at some of the following....

1. Weapons of Mass Destruction.
2. A record-setting deficit.
3. An illegal war.
4. The spin of 9/11
5. The support of torture.

Now the thing is that these are the deceptions that we know about. Of course many people will argue that indeed the Iraqis were involved in 9/11 or that the deficit is not the administrations fault. But by and large history will attribute the above to the bush administration.

But if these are the deceptions that we know of, it boggles the mind when one thinks about what we don't know about. All adminstrations are secretive and there are many things that we the public will never know about. But when I see the track record of W's administration, I start to get more than a little worried. I'm no math genius but when I put two and two together here, I usually come up with the logical answer of four.

So where is the Deep Throat of 2005? I can't think that someone somewhere hasn't seen, heard, or has access to something highly explosive. And we all know that bush has barely squeaked his ass into the White House the last two elections, so one can safely assume that he has enemies or malcontents in his midst who would like nothing better than to see him impeached.

The idea of impeaching bush has come up now and again, but it always seems to fade away quickly. While I think the mass media are largely useless, I still have some hope that if some kind of information came along that would boost their ratings, that they would jump at it. We only have to look to the Clinton impeachment to see that the media is all to willing to turn up the heat on a president if it serves to sell papers or commercial time. And Clinton's track record, while not unblemished, was far better than bush's has been. Compare the two economies for one example.

But yet, as mentioned, the idea fades quickly from sight. It has gotten to the point that I wonder if there is anything bush could do that would finally wake up the masses to the idea of impeachment. Perhaps if he murdered an old white woman and her young hispanic lover inside a church, all the while holding a copy of the Quran? Maybe. I don't know.

I don't know what has happened to the public voice. It seems to me that in this age of instant communication, blogs, and international opinion, the masses seem unwilling or unable to communicate collectively, more so after the soul-crushing defeat of Kerry this past November. It is as if a general malaise has come along. I fear then that the duty (and I think it is a duty) of being the Deep Throat of this generation could be passed over and ignored. And history will judge us by our silence. Guilty?

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Not to jack Jeff's rant but I found Bono talking again....

Whatever the merits of the case, his fellow Irish singer, Bono, has admitted some people think the worst thing of all is a "rock star with a cause".

The U2 lead singer told delegates at last year's Labour conference: "Listen, I know what this looks like, rock star standing up here, shouting imperatives others have to fulfil.

"But that's what we do, rock stars. Rock stars get to wave flags, shout at the barricades, and escape to the South of France. We're unaccountable."

Wrong Boner, you are accountable. You are accountable for the type of 'music' you put out. And if you decide you are informed enough to preach about Africa, then you are accountable for what you say. If you sound like an idiot or look like a poser while doing so, don't run back behind your "rock star" defense and say that you aren't accountable.

And adding that you get to escape to the South of France doesn't exactly enamour me to your rants about debt relief and "1st world helping 3rd world" sermons.

This kinda bugs me. But more important than that is the fact that it will bug Lori and then Neil will get yelled at. And that makes me smile because I'm a jerk.

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Well apparently I am not so smart. In fact, according to my asshole brother, I "suck." This in reference to my minor screw up with the comments. Now, well, they should work and may be even have a little different look to them. Fingers crossed. You do get what you pay for with this site....

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Today is June 1 and I am happy about that.

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Washing Machine Update #4

Last episode, we saw that the hapless apartment dwellers were offered a replacement washing machine, with the idea that the replacement could arrive sometime between 10am and 2pm on Thursday.

In updated news, The Author's roommate received a call today (during class of course) from the washing machine repair company. He answers and is told that the cost is 13KD, or about $50 Cdn. He says that he ain't paying for it and gives the school's number. This was a wise decision.

Then I get an note from the maid saying that the head maintenance guy who was supposed to come by tomorrow between 10 and 2, has an emergency air conditioning matter to attend to and would it be possible for him to come by at either 730am or 230pm.

Now let's examine the idea of an emergency first. In an emergency, action is usually required in a quick and time-efficient manner. An ambulance, a fire truck, perhaps a plumber. But in Kuwait, when their is an emergency air conditioning matter to be dealt with, well, that gets scheduled for sometime the following morning.

"My house is on fire!!!!"

"Yea. Well, how's next Tuesday for ya? Between 10am and 10pm? How's that?"

Anyway, I said that he should come by at 730am, in hopes that this will negate any "emergency-related" excuses mucking up a 230pm delivery. So as it stands now, we may have a replacement washer tomorrow morning. Are you holding your breath? I wouldn't if I were you.....

Oh and I have another developing story regarding the delivery of my last paycheque. I will let you know, as it is a doozy of a situation, in due time. I need to see how things play out. It should be fine, but cross your fingers anyway just in case. Off to G12 graduation. No tie for me.

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Just a note that I had to re-install (I sound so freaking smrt) the commenting portion of the blog. As a result, all of your witty comments or earth-shaking revelations were wiped out. Sorry folks. But remember, comments make the Author happy and when the Author isn't happy, people get seriously f&%ked up. Thanks!

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One day I won $10 million dollars. My close group of friends also won $10 million dollars that day as well. It was kind of lucky, I guess, but we figured we deserved it because we were awesome in so many ways.

Many people called us, asking us to donate our money to their various causes. We dismissed them, sometimes even getting angry at their requests. It was our money, we reasoned, and we should use it to improve our lives first instead of giving it away to everyone.

So we bought a couple of houses each. A few Ferraris. One of my friends bought a Lear Jet and another one bought some race horses. It didn't matter, we still had lots of money.

But people continued to call and ask for donations. We got together one night and over a 200-year-old bottle of wine, we discussed our options. We were unhappy, as we felt that people always wanted more from us. This wasn't fair.

So one night we hired some goons to rob the only grocery store in town. Oh, we didn't rob it of money, we had enough of that. We robbed it of food, emptying the shelves completely except for a few forgotten loaves of mouldy bread.

When the townspeople went to buy food the next day, they were surprised and scared. "Where will we get our food?" they wailed. We waited. We had stored the food in a warehouse we owned and after a week of them begging, crying, suffering, we announced that we had found the food and were going to sell it to them ourselves. They were happy, so desperate that they didn't even mind that we charged them triple what it originally cost.

In time, we managed to convince them that we had always been the ones providing them with food. We ran other grocery stores out of business until we owned the entire county. Our ten million dollar winnings seemed paltry now, as money flowed into out pockets like water in a river.

Some people in the town complained, but they were too hungry, too poor and too powerless to mount a real challenge to us. And besides, deep down inside, they knew that if we left they would have to fight amongst themselves and would probably starve to death.

Over the years we slowed the shipments of food down, reducing their size. The people in the town made do with less and less, while we charged more and more. We became even richer. I personally, had a whole fleet of Bentleys. It was wonderful. We had managed to forget completely that we had robbed an entire community for our own greedy desires, and thus we slept like babies every night, secure in the knowledge that we were righteous.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

President Bush called a human rights report "absurd" for criticizing the United States' detention of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and said Tuesday the allegations were made by "people who hate America."

"It's absurd. It's an absurd allegation. The United States is a country that promotes freedom around the world," Bush said of the Amnesty International report that compared Guantanamo to a Soviet-era gulag.

It's just that simple folks. People that work for an organization dedicated to ensuring basic human rights for all of humanity no matter their nationality apparently also are "people who hate America." What more explanation do you need?

Further on in the same article, we the reader are served a big steaming plate of hypocrisy horseshit when bush was asked about the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Russia....

On another foreign policy issue, Bush said he expressed concerns with Russian President
Vladimir Putin about legal proceedings against former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Once the richest man in Russia, Khodorkovsky was convicted Tuesday of fraud and tax evasion and sentenced to nine years in prison following a trail widely denounced as politically motivated.

Bush did not comment directly on the verdict, but said, "it looked like he had been judged guilty prior to having a fair trial."

The president said he has questioned whether the case shows a backsliding away from the rule of law and democracy in Russia and said it will "be interesting to see" how Khodorkovsky's expected appeal is handled by the government.

"Here, you're innocent until proven guilty and it appeared to us, at least people in my administration, that it looked like he had been judged guilty prior to having a fair trial," Bush said. "We're watching the ongoing case."

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The letter that prompted the article below.

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An article that is hard to read.

Published: May 31, 2005
Nyala, Sudan

A reader from Eugene, Ore., wrote in with a complaint about my harping on the third world:

"Why should the U.S. care for the rest of the world?" he asked. "The U.S. should take care of its own. ... It's way past time for liberal twits to stop pushing the U.S. into nonsense or try to make every wrong in the world our responsibility."

And while that reader wasn't George W. Bush, it could have been. Today marks Day 141 of Mr. Bush's silence on the genocide, for he hasn't let the word Darfur slip past his lips publicly since Jan. 10 (even that was a passing reference with no condemnation).

There are several points I could make to argue that it's in our own interest to help Darfur. Turmoil in Darfur is already destabilizing all of Sudan and neighboring Chad as well, both oil-exporting countries. And failed states nurture terrorists like Osama and diseases like polio, while exporting refugees and hijackers.

But there's an even better argument: Magboula, a woman I met at the Kalma Camp here.
She lived with her husband and five children in the countryside, but then as the Arab janjaweed began to slaughter black African tribes like her own, she and her family fled to the safety of a larger town. In December, the Sudanese Army attacked that town, and they ran off to the bush.

Two months ago, the janjaweed militia caught up with them.

First the raiders shot her husband dead, she said, her voice choking, and then they whipped her, taunted her with racial insults against black people and mocked her by asking why her husband was not there to help her. Then eight of them gang-raped her.

They may also have mutilated her. At one point she spoke of being slashed with a knife in the shoulder and chest, but when I asked her about it, she kept changing the subject.

"I was very, very ashamed, and very frightened," she said, leaving it at that.

After the attack, Magboula was determined to save her children. So they traipsed together on a journey across the desert to the Kalma Camp, where a small number of foreign aid workers are struggling heroically to assist 110,000 victims of the upheaval. Magboula carried her 6-month-old baby, Abdul Hani, in her arms, and the others, ranging from 2 to 9, stumbled beside her.
Magboula finally arrived at Kalma a few weeks ago. But the Sudanese government is blocking new arrivals like her from getting registered, which means they can't get food and tents. So Magboula is getting no rations and is living with her children under a straw mat on a few sticks.

Then a few days ago, Abdul Hani, Magboula's baby, died.

She and her children are surviving on handouts from other homeless people who arrived earlier and are getting U.N. food. They have almost nothing themselves, but they at least have the compassion to help those who are even needier.

The world might also respond if people could see what is going on, but Sudan has barred most reporters from the area. I'm here because I accompanied Kofi Annan on a visit - bless him for coming! - and then jumped ship while here.

Magboula and the 2.2 million other homeless people from Darfur need food and shelter, and President Bush has been good about providing that. But above all they need the international community to shame Sudan for killing and raping people on the basis of their tribe. Each time Sudan has been subjected to strong moral pressure, it has backed off somewhat - but lately the attention has subsided, and Mr. Bush even killed the Senate-passed Darfur Accountability Act, which would have condemned the genocide.

What killed Magboula's husband and child was, indirectly, the world's moral indifference.
Others can still be saved if there is unrelenting pressure on Sudan to disarm the janjaweed, on intransigent Sudanese rebels to negotiate seriously for peace (instead of lounging about their hotel suites) and on governments like Egypt's and China's to stop being complicit in the Darfur genocide.

When Americans see suffering abroad on their television screens, as they did after the tsunami, they respond. I wish we had the Magboula Channel, showing her daily struggle to forge ahead through humiliation and hunger, struggling above all to keep her remaining children alive. If you multiply Magboula by 2.2 million, you get the reasons why we should care.

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Washing Machine Update #3

I went down to talk to the powers that be today about the washing machine. No, I was not so idiotic to ask when the washing machine was going to be fixed and returned. Silly Rabbit, I've learned from my previous ass-kickings. No I went down to talk about our final apartment inspection that is scheduled (and I use that term very loosely) for June 16, essentially the day of my departure.

The apartment inspection is done by a guy who is basically the head maintenance guy of the school. He comes around to all the apartments to make sure that we haven't destroyed the place moreso that it already is. He counts furniture and things of that nature. So I've been told.

I wanted to make sure that when he does come over and sees our washing machine space is empty that he doesn't try to charge me for the washing machine. You laugh, but after this year this scenario is entirely within the realm of possibilities. I was assured that he knows the washing machine has been taken in for repair and that it would be no big deal.

Then I go upstairs to muck about on the internet, hitting up my favorite Boy George and Spice Girls pages. Soon after, a maid comes along with a message for me from the powers that be whom I had just spoken with. I read the message, as follows:

(Maintenance) is aware that the washing machine has been removed. He can bring by another washing machine from one of the empty apartments and install it for you. When would be a good time? Awaiting your reply....

Ah, Kuwait. The idea of replacing the broken washing machine was never brought up three weeks ago when I first brought the issue to their attention. The idea of moving another unused washing machine into our apartment must have been so obvious as to be missed completely. So instead, as I have documented, we jumped through a couple of burning hoops, over the dog doo stick, and finally ended up with no washing machine and some dead cockroaches. I wish I could make this stuff up.

I scrawled on the back on the memo that anytime between 10am and 2pm on Thursday (my Saturday) would be a lovely time to take possession of our "new" washing machine. I haven't heard anything as of yet about if this time will work or not. I suspect not, but I will certainly keep you posted. More to come in this pathetic saga that dominates my life....

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At one time in recent history there were two brothers, Sam and Shane. They were only a year apart and for the first 10 years of their lives they had lived in relative harmony, cooperating and getting along. Of course they had squabbles and even a few full on fights here and there, but for the most part they survived one another as most siblings learn to do.

They loved their mother,but she was seldom seen. Their father was a jerk, frankly, and they both agreed on that. He gambled, spent money on booze, and every once in a while he would take a frustration or two out on Shane, who was the oldest and a little bigger than Sam.

As boys are apt to do, things that happen to them are often defined in the narrow view of either being fair or unfair. Sam thought that the beatings Shane got from their father weren't always justified, but Sam was happy that he wasn't the one getting hit, so he tended to keep his mouth shut and enjoyed the fact that his father never hit him. Whether or not it was because Sam was smaller and younger, well that thought never occurred to him. It had, as far as Sam was concerned, always been that way.

Shane, on the other hand, wasn't so pleased with the situation. His father beat him and Shane dreamt of the day when he was big enough to kick his father's ass. Shane was big for his age, definitely bigger than Sam, but his father had the authority and the belt, so Shane could only cower and wait. He grew to resent Sam a little, but still tolerated Sam because they were brothers.

One day Sam and Shane came home from school to find that their father had left for good. They were both happy in their own way. It wasn't long though before their mom had a new boyfriend. The boys sat back and watched for a while, cautious when it came to authority figures.

Their new father seemed like a good guy. He made a lot of promises, kept some of them, and didn't seem to be all that interested in anything other than their mother. This situation continued on for a few years, the boys basically being left to raise themselves, as their mother and her boyfriend enjoyed spending money and going out on the town.

Years passed. Shane hit a growth spurt when he was in Grade 10, and started to resemble the high school boy he was to become. He went out for football and started to lift weights, gaining muscle and confidence. He didn't fear too many people anymore, knowing that his days of being beaten up were almost behind him.

Sam was in Grade 9 that year and hadn't grown at all. He was small and resented the fact that Shane seemed to enjoy pushing him around, seemed to enjoy making Sam feel weak in front of his friends. Sam grew sullen, occasionally wishing for the days when Shane wasn't so cocky.

As the boys grew through their teens they grew apart, except when they came together in arguments. Shane was left to his increasingly bullying ways, while Sam was left to defend himself by using such means as rumours, lies, and occasionally vicious practical jokes. Shane was favored a little more, maybe because he was becoming quite the force on the football team. His mother and her boyfriend felt that perhaps it was better to accommodate Shane's size than to fight against it. Sam kinda got lost in Shane's shadow and took to spending a lot of time in his room, brooding and wishing he was still the favored son.

The relationship wasn't healthy between Sam and Shane and it grew even worse as their mother and her boyfriend seemed only to make a half-assed effort to reconcile the now-openly antagonistic brothers. The brothers fought with each other, both with words and fists, stole from one another, blamed one another, and basically were having a really hard time living in the same house together.

Perhaps it should have been the boyfriend of their mother who stepped in with some authority, demanding that the two boys work things out. Their mother was a mild woman, given to blowing in whatever direction the wind was, susceptible to changes and moods. The boys grew angry with her boyfriend, even though he was better than their father.

They resented him because when he did try to help them out, he basically ended up just making the water murkier and the situation messier. He pretended to care but the boys knew deep down that he only cared about one thing, their mother. That hurt them and instead of lashing out at him, they turned their aggression on to one another.

Finally the anger and the fights grew too much, as one day the boys fought openly at a family reunion. Both of them ended up bloodied and exhausted, and it took a group of distant relatives to try and separate them. It was an ugly situation and the relatives of the family preferred not to think about it.

The two brothers, the mother and the boyfriend went to see a counselor a few weeks later. The counselor made notes on a yellow pad of paper and after the meeting was over he sat down and called one of his associates. They talked, indirectly, of the problems this family faces and who might be to blame. The boyfriend was a definite factor in the problem and it was finally concluded that if the boyfriend did not take a more direct and cooperative role in the mending of the fences, the family could be doomed to further aggression and spiraling violence between the two brothers.

But would the boyfriend accept his responsibility, or was he too short-sighted to consider the feelings of the two boys? If the counselor was a betting man, this case was going to be a tough one to call, he thought to himself, as he sat down to write up what would prove to be one of many reports about the family's progress. "Only time will tell," he whispered to himself.

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Monday, May 30, 2005

I just got back from eating dinner at some Indian restaurant. And besides getting cancer from the haze of second-hand smoke, I did some thinking. And I decided I had better put my money where my mouth is. So I wrote this and emailed it.

May 30, 2005
Mr. Prime Minister,

I am writing to you in the hopes that you and the government of Canada will continue to take steps to improve the situation in Darfur, Sudan. I urge you to continue efforts to aid the refugees through whatever means that you can.

I am sure that you are well aware of the statistics and the horror stories that are coming out of Darfur, so I will not quote facts and figures. What I will say is that this region is basically being ignored as the UN jumps through bureaucratic hoops. Frankly, time is of the essence and Canada could easily step into the lead when it comes to a collection of countries that are concerned with the injustices that are ongoing.

It would be a shame, not only to Canada but to your government, if in 2015 Darfur is spoken of in the same manner which we now remember Rwanda. It would be a disgrace to Canadian history if we, as one of the top countries in the world, failed to use our privileges to make a positive difference.

I am aware that the Sudanese government rejected recent Canadian offers of military and financial aid. I hope that this only has served to illustrate the isolation that these refugees are suffering and has resulted in a redoubling of Canadian diplomatic efforts to provide assistance to the thousands of suffering refugees.

It is well past time that western countries step forward and deal with this pressing issue. I hope that Canada is not only involved in the process, but that we lead the way.


Jay Archibald

Kuwait City, Kuwait

I think I just developed a new habit here. I will post any emails that you send to people in a position to make a difference, be it in Darfur or anywhere else that Canada can take a lead. Let me know either by email or comment.

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In one of the comment boxes, Lori (who is fast becoming the number #1 non-Jeff commenter) asked the following:

I have been wondering what I can do to help/make a difference in Sudan and I figure I could help get info out to the masses in the hopes that they will convince their MP's or MLA's or whatever they have to start acting on it.

There are a couple of things you can do if you want to be able to sleep better at night. Here are some suggestions and you are welcome to add more in the comments section.

  1. Amnesty International-Canada is always accepting financial donations for various causes and continues to be involved in the Darfur region.
  2. Write/email the Prime Minister.
  3. Write/email the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  4. Write/email your MP.
  5. Write/email a Senator.
  6. Write to the Canadian representative, Ambassador Allan Rock ( at the United Nations Canadian mission.
  7. Get people you know informed about what is going on. Write mass emails, start a blog, call people at 3 am in the morning and start yelling at them.
  8. Write letters to your local newspaper or to national magazines like Macleans.

Some might read this and think that sending one letter to one person won't make any difference. It may not. But 'tis better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all.

OK, I'm stepping down off my soapbox. For now.

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Olivia was having a really bad week. Not just a bad week, a really bad week. It had started, as bad weeks usually do, on Monday morning when she got out of bed and found that Jackson, her English Bulldog had thrown up sometime during the night, all over her brand new living room rug. "Wonderful," she thought to herself.

It had gotten worse as the week went on. She had dropped her favorite coffee mug at work, an expensive bowl of a cup with a cute little picture of a cat on it, smashing it into a million pieces. Then her computer got a virus and while she didn't lose any data, it was frozen for an entire day, making the rest of the week nothing more than a game of catch up. Plus it put her presentation to the board of directors even more behind schedule. "Sometimes I hate this job," she had muttered to a coworker, who had nodded in silent agreement.

Then she had stopped for groceries on the way home Thursday after work. She had looked and looked but the store didn't have kiwi fruit or her shade of hair dye. She had asked some kid of 17, zits all over his face, where she could find the kiwi fruit and the hair dye. He didn't know and she had lost it on him. She knew that he didn't deserve it, but it felt good and she had stormed out of the store feeling better somehow, despite not having her hair dye or kiwi fruit.

Her good feeling hadn't lasted too long though, for on the way home her SUV had a flat tire. She was only going about 30km/hr when the tire blew, but nonetheless she had been scared. She had managed to pull over and began changing the tire. It was a hot day in July and this made her sweat, her mascara running down her cheeks. Nobody stopped to help her. "So much for the brotherhood of man," she grunted to herself as she lifted the flat tire into the back of her SUV, getting dirt all over her Chanel suit. She had gotten the tire changed but not before breaking off one of her fake nails. She cursed, sucked at her finger, and got back into the SUV, cranking up the A/C to max.

She had dropped the flat tire off at the tire shop, getting leered at by the mechanics in the process. She had ignored their eyes as best she could, but she still felt dirty, and it wasn't entirely because of the running mascara or the dirt blouse she was still wearing. She had gone home, stopping to pick up a pizza along the way.

She got home, noted that the dog hadn't thrown up again and sat down to watch Desperate Housewives and gorge on pizza. She flicked on the TV only to find that the show was cancelled because of some breaking news story about some typhoon in Malaysia. She flipped the channels for a bit, finally settling on some reality show where people eat bugs. She laughed at them as they struggled to choke down some wormy thing.

She opened her box of pizza, only to find out that they had screwed up her order, giving her ham and bacon instead of ham and pineapple. "Fuck sakes, goddamn idiots!" she cursed and began to pick the bacon off, throwing the little pieces in the garbage can. She had miserably chomped on the pizza and watched TV for the next hour or so and finally gone for a hot shower. She crawled into bed, under the light sheets, and began to read her book, a hardcover tale of romance and mystery.

She had finally shut off the light at 1030pm, after checking to make sure her alarm was set properly. "Only one more day until the weekend," she said to herself in the darkened room, comforting herself with the thought that this weekend "the girls" were going out on Saturday night and probably were going to get smashingly drunk.

"Well, I know I'll hit the booze hard," she thought to herself, "after all, this week has been such a struggle. I don't know why life is so hard for me sometimes." And with that, she slipped into a deep and comfortable sleep.

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I was a bad student in junior high. I ran with a bad crowd and often skipped classes, choosing instead to follow the cool kid leader of the day as he decided what was important and what was cool. Usually being a goody goody in class wasn't a way to curry favor with the leader and thus was a surefire way to find myself on the outside looking in, unable top have a say in what was going to define cool in the upcoming months and years.

Of course, there were plenty of kids that were not in the cool group who really wanted to be. I tended to move in and out of the cool group, usually depending on what the defacto leader in the cool group thought of me on that given day. However, I was never so far out of the cool group so as to suffer a "loser" reputation; I was kinda lucky that way. From my experiences in the cool group I can safely say that we ignored the true losers for the most part. Really, they didn't bring a whole lot of cool to the table. Who wants to be hanging out with a kid who gets his clothes from Zellers anyway?

Once in a while though, usually at the direction of our parents or our teachers, the cool group was made to "include" one of the loser kids in our activitues. It was rather pointless in the long run, as we had every intention of kicking sand in his face as soon as our parents or teachers weren't looking. Usually we managed to ignore them for a month or two, maybe even until the Christmas break, before finally paying some minute amount of attention to the issue.

Usually by then the kids spirit had been broken so badly that we could throw them some little bone, perhaps let them play on our soccer team one lunch hour, and they would almost fall over themselves with joy at finally being recognized. Of course, when we did finally allow them to hang out with us, to allow ourselves to be seen with them, we made damn sure that a parent or teacher saw us. Otherwise the rest of the kids would think that we were slipping from our rightful place at the top of the pile. And that just wouldn't do.

Usually after we had let the loser hang out with us for a lunchtime or whatever, the teachers would praise us and feel that finally we were coming around, ready to treat others like we ourselves would like to be treated. Of course, we preferred being on top and had no plans of ceding schoolyard power to a group of Zellers kids. They had nothing to offer the school, except perhaps a festering sore that wouldn't go away.

But we would pretend to like them and the teachers would call our parents and everyone would smile and pat themselves on the back, figuring that finally things would change and the loser kid wouldn't throw up in the morning anymore.

The next day the cool group would ignore the loser kid from yesterday and would go back to doing what we did best, having a good time, usually at some loser kids expense. The teachers and the parents would be happy, lost in their haze of self-congratulation, and wouldn't even notice that we had invented a new game that involved us, a pile of rocks, and a cornered kid named Jaime. And thus, life would continue on.

Poor Jaime would feel sore and beaten, yet would hold out hope that a better day was just around the corner, that soon help would come along and he too would be propelled into the cool group. He'd been allowed to play soccer with the cool kids just the other day. Surely that was some sign of his improving social rank?

The kids in the cool group would just smile at Jaime, throw another rock, and when the parents and teachers asked us how we liked having Jaime around, we would say: "Oh he's great. I feel really sorry that we didn't include him earlier." And the adults would smile and think that they had won. And we would go back to skipping class and throwing rocks, knowing full well that we had looked good at the right time and were now free to go back to doing whatever the hell we wanted.

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer.

I've already established my appreciation for Krakauer, who has also written Into the Wild and Into Thin Air. He takes on a different topic in this latest book, which is a thorough examination of Fundamental Mormonism, and by extension covers the history of Mormonism.

Firstly, I bet that if you read this book, no matter how smart you are, you will learn at least one thing. I'm not very smart, so I learned a lot. I didn't know that Mormonism has only been around since the 1820s and was started up by one Joseph Smith, an American. Nor did I know that Mormons believe that Jesus came to America after his resurrection and that the native Americans are actually a descended (and damned, justifying their darker skin) race of people from Israel. I didn't know that the Mormon faith has been persecuted for most of its existence, nor did I know that the Mormon church elects its leader, who is believed to be in direct contact with God.

Now I am not here to judge the Mormon faith, I'm just stating what I have learned. Krakauer investigates the practice of polygamy and centers the book around the 1984 murder of a woman and her young daughter, a murder that was carried out by a man who believes that God instructed him that this woman "needed to be removed." The book even touches on the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping saga of a few years ago.

I was vastly uninformed about the fastest growing North American religion. But besides what I learned about the Mormon faith, I think this book offers some general insight into the extremist fringe of every major religion. It is curious to see the affect that unquestioning belief has on a small percentage of believers. The murder of this woman in 1984 is hardly a blip on the history of murder committed in the name of one faith or another.

Perhaps I am in a different mindset being over here and seeing the institutionalization of religion, but after reading this book (with an open mind, I suggest) it is hard not to question the value of feverish religious beliefs. Now I am not saying that all religious faiths are a negative aspect, instead I am saying that among the positive results of religion (community, good deeds, etc) lies the darker side of fanaticism and a black and white ideal that can and does lead to intolerance and violence.

Anyway, this book achieves the notable end of not only being a very indepth analysis of Mormonism but also a critique of organized religion and its negative effects on our modern society. I highly, highly recommend reading this book. I think it would be beneficial to anyone, whether or not they practice a major religion or not.

Grade: A++

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