Ink & Paper

Saturday, July 02, 2005

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 11:26 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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Please do visit all the links in the following rant. Cheers.


Well today is July 2 and all over the world we have seen huge concerts all in the name of raising awareness of Africa's pandemic of poverty. Sir Bob Geldolf has been the driving force behind this and from the current news reports, the event(s) have gone off without a hitch.

Concerts in 10 cities, including London, Philadelphia, Paris, Berlin, Johannesburg, Rome and Moscow played to hundreds of thousands of people.

A TV audience of several hundred million were watching the gigs, ahead of the G8 summit of leaders next week. (BBC)

Nearly two-dozen musical acts graced the stage about an hour north of Toronto in near perfect sunny weather in what turned out to be a veritable who's who of Canadian rock royalty. (CBC)

Half the world tuned in yesterday to watch the biggest musical event in history, featuring 170 acts in 10 countries. A million people were said to be in the crowds in London, Paris, Philadelphia and elsewhere.
(Independent Online)

Ok, so you get it. A lot of people sang along and a lot publicity was shone on Africa's plight. I am happy that so much was done in the name of debt relief for the nations of Africa. But will this matter?

I don't want to rain on this parade; I truly do feel that this is progress towards something. It is good. But I only have to point to the tsunami aid and how that money went to the richest towns and citizens of the affected areas to have some serious doubts about the end result of Live 8.

Africa is not a quick fix solution. I took a history of Africa course in my last semester at the U of A and I can say with certainty that nearly all of Africa's current problems with poverty stem from the colonial rape that has been ongoing for centuries. The simple (and small, in the overall scheme of things) act of a few concerts is commedable but is ultimately not enough. Not nearly enough.

A few weeks ago there was an agreement signed and put into place by the G7 countries that wrote off about $40 billion in African debt. The politicians smiled and slapped themselves on the back. The media ate it up, finally a good story to lift the public's morale in this time of war. But, as always, the devil is in the details.

The devil, in this particular case, was a tiny note tucked away in the fine print that allowed the extensive privatization of many of the countries that are to be affected by the debt write offs. I don't have to look very hard to find some interesting facts about western corporate practices in Africa. Information brought to you by Naomi Klein, the author of No Logo, one of the most influential anti-globalization books of all time. Read on...

With all this noblesse oblige focused on saving Africa from its misery, it seems like a good time to remember someone else who tried to make poverty history: Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was killed ten years ago this November by the Nigerian government, along with eight other Ogoni activists, sentenced to death by hanging. Their crime was daring to insist that Nigeria was not poor at all but rich, and that it was political decisions made in the interests of Western multinational corporations that kept its people in desperate poverty. Saro-Wiwa gave his life to the idea that the vast oil wealth of the Niger Delta must leave behind more than polluted rivers, charred farmland, rancid air and crumbling schools. He asked not for charity, pity or "relief" but for justice.

The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People demanded that Shell compensate the people from whose land it had pumped roughly $30 billion worth of oil since the 1950s. The company turned to the government for help, and the Nigerian military turned its guns on demonstrators. Before his state-ordered hanging, Saro-Wiwa told the tribunal, "I and my colleagues are not the only ones on trial. Shell is here on trial.... The company has, indeed, ducked this particular trial, but its day will surely come."

Ten years later, 70 percent of Nigerians still live on less than $1 a day and Shell is still making superprofits. Equatorial Guinea, which has a major oil deal with ExxonMobil, "got to keep a mere 12 percent of the oil revenues in the first year of its contract," according to a 60 Minutes report--a share so low it would have been scandalous even at the height of colonial oil pillage.

So tell me this: Is the soon-to-be increased privatization of Africa, a note that got very little mainstream press coverage amid all the backslapping and warm feelings, going to help Africa? I doubt it. More likely we will focus on the good of the debt relief and ignore the scant few reports that come out of Africa that deal with the continued exporting of its natural resources to foreign markets and bank accounts.

Matt Good wrote recently....

One of the problems of Live 8, for me anyway, is that it validates those that are truly responsible for the exploitation of Africa. Rather than addressing the root of the problem, the result of it is has been made the focus. Over the last ten days I have written about that aspect, as have many others - including
Naomi Klein and George Monboit, just to name a few. Our society as a whole buys into, and profits from, the exploitation of the developing world - and that has not been made the material point.

Will these concerts affect what happens in Scotland next week? I seriously doubt it - and I say that not to be defeatist whatsoever. The corporate lobby is immense and far too valuable with regards to both political capital and financial support. The cause of African poverty lies in the exploitative nature of its relationship with the West. As I mentioned recently, despite the fact that the G7 (the G8 minus Russia) forgave some $55 billion dollars in debt for 18 of the world's poorest countries, the Finance Ministers of those nations made sure that privatization stipulations were included in the package, conditions that will see those that forgave the debt see more in future returns than the debt they forgave.

That is not progress. That is simply a new face painted on the status quo

Indeed, this set of concerts and the debt relief party of last month may not truly ever benefit Africa whatsoever. Moreover, don't think that these concerts are increasing the pressure on the governments that involved in the upcoming talks in Scotland. Instead, these concerts have been hijacked by political leaders who are anxious to put their face next to a rock star or three. One photo of Tony Blair next to Bono does wonders for Blair's popularity with the youthful demographic. This arguement has been made before, against the various rock stars, who have been castigated for not being fully aware of the personal gains politicians are making off of the Live 8 celebrities. I would like to think that the politicians appear next to the rockers because Africa is something the politician feels strongly about, but I am too far gone and jaded to be that naiive.

As well, in the past I have made numerous comments and posts in regards to how I feel about rock stars using their fame to further one cause or another. Not that all of them are ignorant of the cause they are supporting, for that would be an unfair assessment. Geldolf, Bono (grudingly), Stephen Page of the Barenaked Ladies, and Matt Good (perhaps Good more than any others I have come across) are aware and informed of a variety of issues to varying degrees. But many of the Live 8 acts have never done or said anything in relation to Africa's poverty issues. Celine Dion, for one. Destiny's Child, for another.

Are such artists as Dion and Destiny's Child performing at Live 8 because they trulybelieve and are informed about Africa and poverty? Or is this more public relations than anything else, a chance to associate their brand with a worthy cause? I don't think I would be entitrely cynical to suggest that some of the Live 8 artists would have a hard time finding Uganda on a map. Further to this point, the arguement has also been made that the Live 8 concerts do not do enough to include African artists. I agree with this.

And the media, for all its coverage of the Live 8 concerts, have done very little to truly shine an quality information on Africa and the issues Live 8 is trying to address. Here are some quick examples....


But because the event over-ran there are fears that thousands of people may be stranded without transport home. A spokesman for the local authority said: "The situation is basically that it looks like we are going to have people sleeping in the park.

Globe & Mail

Between acts, concertgoers watched other Live 8 events on giant screens, taking in R.E.M from London, The Black Eyed Peas and Destiny's Child from Philadelphia and an address from Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg.

It scares me that the concerns of how Londoners are going to make it home from the concert is more newsworthy than the information behind Africa's suffering. While millions in Africa sleep in huts and drink dirty water, BBC reports that a few people might have to weather a night outdoors in London.

Many of the other news reports focused, like the Globe and Mail, on the lineup of rock stars more than delving into the causes and issues of why Live 8 was concieved of in the first place. Often the articles mentioned something along the lines of how "Live 8 is being held to raise awareness of Africa's poverty" before going on to document the who's who of artists. If the goal of Live 8 was to raise awareness, then I would hope that the media would stop feeding the monster that is western celebrity-worship for just one day and give the masses some hard facts about Africa. To tell me that Celine Dion got booed when she appeared via satellite to sing doesn't make me any more informed about Africa.

And I have my doubts about how much people will take in from these concerts, beyond the immediate "awesome show" mentality that lingers after a huge orgy of music and celebrity. I almost stopped writing this post when I saw the following comment:

Marty Gradwell from Whitby, Ont., said he came to the Canadian gig "to rock out and enjoy the start of a warm summer."

Asked what prompted the worldwide music bash, he could only venture a guess.

"For AIDS in Afghanistan, is it?"

I know not everyone is this dumb. I know that many people will walk away from this set of concerts more aware of Africa than had the concerts not happened at all. But I also wonder how many of the concert-viewers will continue to follow African issues, much less consider becoming involved in aid activities for African causes. I fear that all this awareness will be shuffled to the back of one's consciousness as Live 8 fades from the headlines.

Make Poverty History is an organization that is also heavily involved in the Live 8 productions. You may have seen, or even worn, some of their white wristbands that are intended to raise awareness about poverty eradication. Warm and fuzzy, right? Not entirely. Perhaps I am splitting hairs here, but you are only as good as your faults. Mind you, when some people think that Live 8 is for AIDS in Afghanistan , I don't hold out much hope that the masses will be following the hypocritical business practices of organizations involved in the production.

I think that Live 8 is a good thing. I truly do. To organize a whole slew of artists to perform all over the world on the same day is no small feat and should be, must be commended. But once the lights fade and the poor immigrant janitors are the only people left in the stadiums and parks, will people truly follow through on the demands Live 8 is asking of the political leaders? I have my doubts. We may just, as westerners, pat ourselves on the back and go back to buying diamonds from Angola. We are enormously talented at moving on, assuring ourselves that the problem is being dealt with, when in fact the actions of our governments are merely a new public relations marketing strategy on an old and ongoing problem.

Good for you, Geldof. You pulled off an event that people said could never be done. Twice. I only wish that the rest of the world had your passion and anger when it came to dealing with what has truly become, and may remain, the world's only lost continent.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 10:53 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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Thursday, June 30, 2005

From Common Dreams...

Again and again in his primetime speech, the president attempted to bind the Iraq counter-insurgency to the broader "war on terror" started by the September 11 attacks, trying to rebuild a connection in the public mind that has given way to skepticism about the justification for the invasion.

"This war reached our shores on September 11 2001," Mr Bush said, pointing to links between Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Jordanian extremist thought be behind many of the suicide attacks in Iraq, and Osama bin Laden. "The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September ... if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi ... and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden," the president said.

From the
Independent Online...

With his popularity tumbling, and a majority of the US public telling pollsters the 2003 invasion was a mistake, Mr Bush stepped up his efforts to present Iraq as part of the much more popular "war on terror" that began on 11 September 2001.


But Bush said his twin strategies of achieving a military victory as well as a political solution in Iraq would be fulfilled without additional troops. "Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight," Bush said.

The Associated Press-Ipsos poll shows that more than half of Americans believe that invading Iraq was a mistake

The deaths of two more U.S. soldiers pushed the number of American dead to at least 1,743.

I have to say, and it may be the most obvious statement I have ever made, that bush is grasping at straws. Very rarely since the fall of Baghdad has bush attempted to link the 9/11 attacks to Iraq. The common misconception that was in the American populace was the idea that Saddam had a direct link to the 9/11 attacks, a misconception that the adminstration let fester, as it served their needs.

They didn't need to continue to insinuate that Saddam had a hand in 9/11, not once the war had started. There were enough embedded journalists, laser bomb shows, explosions, Jessica Lynch stories, and seemingly overwhelming US military victories to fill the CNN headlines without the need to harp on the 9/11 "link."

But now things are different. The thousands of little cuts that the bush administration has suffered to its credibility, from the
Downing Street Memo to the lack of WMD to Abu Gharib to Gitmo, are finally starting to bleed the adminstration down. In short, the administration is starting to realize that they are losing the media battle and if they don't change tactics soon, the public will listen to the "new" media, which is quickly closing on the bush follies like a pack of wild dogs.

Hence, we see the attempted re-link of the 9/11 attacks, an obvious stab at the heartfelt emotions of Americans, to the gong show that is Iraq.

From the
AP wire...

With his approval ratings at the lowest of his presidency, Bush worked to rally lagging public support for the war with a prime-time address at Fort Bragg, N.C.

The visit offered Bush one of his favorite audiences: row upon row of American soldiers
Bush's audience Tuesday evening was unusually quiet while the president spoke, however, applauding in unison after one key passage, as if on cue, and then at the end.

The problem is that the American people are tired. They have been hit with so much chaos and uncertainty in the past 4 years that bush and co. have succeeded in making 9/11 a distant memory for most Americans, something that seemingly happened in another lifetime. Obviously this is not the case for everyone but I for one think of it in this manner. Hell, we've seen two wars since then, I wouldn't blame people for just concooning themselves from the administrations spin.

The attempted re-link of 9/11 and Iraq is cheap and I think, this time, see-through. At the very least, I think people will know that 1743 American troop deaths in Iraq has very little to do with the events of 9/11. When some kid dies because of some insurgent bomb, mom and pop in Hometown, America are not going to be linking it to a defense of freedom anymore. No, now it is nothing but another young life cut short, another American flag draped over a coffin.

All is not going well with regards to public support. A perfect example is this
troubled reality when it comes to recruiting enough soldiers.

I don't know what bush can do to rally the population. His televised speeches used to make headline news, but a scant one day after, I have to do moderately hard looking on the internet to find articles about it. He is like a coach whose players have long since tuned him out. Lots of talk, but not a lot is getting through anymore.

I hope this public ignoring of bush doesn't manifest itself as more apathy. I hope instead that people wake up to all the lies and bullshit that they have been fed. I think this may just be happening, if the latest polls about Iraq are any indication.

Iraq and 9/11 were not connected in any way. At all. Britney Spears and a mosque are more connected that Iraq and 9/11. Bob Saget and true comedy. Megan and dunking a basketball. On and on, but the fact remains that the bush administration is dredging up old ghosts in a misguided attempt to prolong the public fear of the terrorist boogeyman. And for a president that talks so much about the future, it seems odd that he needs to revisit the past.

Lastly, your pop culture
downer of the day.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 2:34 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I was going to write about bush's speech to the nation about how he is "bringing the fight to the terrorists" and "defending our freedom" but frankly I would be rehashing old cliches, much like bush. I wonder why people get so worked up about his televised speeches. I mean, I think a better glimpse of his ethics and shadows occurs when bush and his cronies speak more off the cuff. That is when you see the confusion and miscommunication that is rampant through the White House, with Cheney stating the insurgency is in "its last throes" while Rumsfeld is saying the insurgency could go on for "six, eight, ten, twelve" years. That, ladies and gents, is where the real information is, not during the infomercial-like presentation of cliches and body language that are bush's cookie-cutter speeches.

In happier news the
CBC reports...

The Liberals' controversial same-sex marriage legislation has passed final reading in the House of Commons, sailing through with a vote of 158 for and 133 against.

Supported by most members of the Liberals, the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP, the legislation passed easily, making Canada only the third country in the world, after the Netherlands and Belgium, to officially recognize same-sex unions.

It is about time. I'm kinda proud of the fact that Canada will be the 3rd country in the world to acknowledge that a Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to all people. By the same token that the Charter protects the beliefs and teachings of a group of Christian conservatives, it should too extend to the marginalized same-sex groups that exist all over Canada.

I tend to laugh at the people who claim that same sex marriage (and yes, it should be called marriage) is weakening the sanctity of the ceremony. The reason I laugh is because frankly I don't think that the heterosexual portion of the population has done a real bang-up job of keeping marriage pure and holy. Adultery, divorce, spousal abuse etc. have effectively ruined whatever chance the heterosexuals had of claiming a moral high road when it comes to marriage.

As for the 'destruction of the family' vibe that seems to come about when people don't want same-sex marriage to happen, please, we all know that the nuclear family is best left to a 1950s sitcom. More and more families are blended nowadays, more and more kids are growing up in single parent homes, and more and more kids are growing up with two parents locked in the workplace. So the nuclear family, if it ever truly existed at all, is a dying breed and to claim that it is alive and well is to pretty much nail the blinders into your temples.

So who am I, as a heterosexual soon-to-be married stud (emphasis on stud) to deny some guy who lives in Ontario, whom I have never and will never meet, the right to be with the person he loves, with all the inherent legal and emotional rights that marriage brings into one's life? I'm pretty important in the whole geopolitical scheme of things, but I'm not important enough to deny someone a right simply because they are slightly different than me.

I was watching The Daily Show with John Stewart the other night. He made a comment about how New York was so great because on the same weekend it played host to a Billy Graham evangelical revival as well as a massive gay pride parade. The punchline came when Stewart asked which group was more likely to be trying to convert people to their lifestyle.

It is long overdue, this legislation for same sex marriage. Is it going to lead to the destruction of Canadian social fabric? No, not even close. If anything this legislation will truly make Canada more of the mosaic that we so erroneously have claimed as our own for so long. Are we a country of tolerance? Yes, but we haven't always been. Japanese internment camps and the ongoing saga of Native peoples are two big blots on our history that we have yet to acknowledge as being heinous.

This piece of legislation brings us one step closer to truly being a nation that embraces, tolerates, and celebrates our differences. And the differences, as difficult as they may be for some to accept, are what make a community vibrant and interesting. It's okay that this legislation passed. In fact, it's f&%king great.

Bravo Canada, what better way to celebrate July 1st than to make the country a country of everyone, be they black or white, gay or straight. This is the sign of a country that is growing, maturing, and willing to address issues instead of hiding from them.

I am so proud to be a Canadian citizen. I hope you are too.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 3:02 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

''In our time, political speech and writing is largely the defense of the indefensible."
~~ George Orwell, 1984

An excellent article about why 1984 is

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 4:23 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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Viewed in strictly moral terms, Kuwait hardly looked like the sort of country that deserved defending, even from a monster like Hussein. The tiny but super-rich state had been an independent nation for just a quarter century when in 1986 the ruling al-Sabah family tightened its dictatorial grip over the "black gold" fiefdom by disbanding the token National Assembly and firmly establishing all power in the be-jeweled hands of the ruling Emir. Then, as now, Kuwait's ruling oligarchy brutally suppressed the country's small democracy movement, intimidated and censored journalists, and hired desperate foreigners to supply most of the nation's physical labor under conditions of indentured servitude and near-slavery. The wealthy young men of Kuwait's ruling class were known as spoiled party boys in university cities and national capitals from Cairo to Washington. (From PR Watch, via Matt Good)

When I post this blog I will have been in Kuwait for nearly 10 months, minus a week or three when I was on vacation. To some I have mentioned the wealth that permeates the Kuwaiti society and how that wealth is contrasted with the extreme poverty and slavery-like conditions of the supporting cast of Indians, Pakistanis, Thai, and Sri Lankan workers and maids. It is seen best when a Ferrari is waiting at a stoplight next to a truck with workers sitting in the exposed bed.

If one is lucky enough to be deemed a "Kuwaiti" in terms of citizenship, life is assured (as much as the future can be predicted) of being fairly easy with regards to careers and jobs. The Kuwaiti government employs between 90-95% of Kuwaiti citizens and because of the oil money and the small population, this form of high-income selective socialism is maintainable for the foreseeable future.

It is an actual law that no Kuwaiti can be employed for less than 500KD per month, which is about $2200 Cdn at the current rate of exchange. As well, because the number of Kuwaiti people is relatively small (1 million out of a total population of 2.5 million) when compared to the insane amount of oil wealth that this country has, the chances of a Kuwaiti not owning a huge house or a Mercedes is slim. To be deemed a Kuwaiti is to have won the lottery.

Because of the amount of wealth and the access to western-style consumer goods the Kuwaiti people have effectively become a nation of shoppers. I am speaking in general terms here, but by and large money is spent like it is going out of style. It is not unusual to have students with cell phones that are worth half of my monthly salary.

But this is an emotionally scarred nation, in my humble opinion. The effects of the Iraqi invasion are still evident in the national psyche and there seems to be little effort being made to adequately deal with these issues. The efforts to deal with the echoes of the invasion are more often portrayed as what can best be described as a victory/violence campaign of Kuwaiti history, emphasizing and distorting the truth of the invasion to make it seem more palatable. "Kuwait won!" would be a good way of describing the method of dealing with the invasion, with a heavy influence on the violent side of the conflict. The idea of a nation-wide counseling program is, to the best of my knowledge, non-existent.

The results are mixed and cloudy at best. On one hand you have a generation of youth, born during or shortly after the invasion, who are being raised in extraordinary wealth and surrounded by an indoctrination process that glorifies Kuwaiti victory and resistance against the Iraqi invader, often with a heavy influence on the violence associated with the invasion. A walk through one of the "Iraqi Invasion Museums" shows you that the Kuwaiti version of what is acceptable viewing for children is far more violent than what we would accept in the west. Indeed the negative effects of this invasion are being passed along to a new generation.

One must also address the brotherhood Kuwaitis feel towards the Palestinians, whom they see as fighting and dying for a shared cause. The imagery that is shown on Kuwait and Arab television of Palestinian suffering and death is uncensored and gruesome. The images would never air on western channels, a point of debate in itself, I suppose. The desensitizing effect serves to contribute to a youth culture obsessed with war and violence.

It is also worth noting that the parents of this post-invasion generation of Kuwaitis were alive and lived through the invasion, which was (understandably) a very traumatic experience. Yet these survivors of the invasion have little in the way of counseling options to help them deal with the invasion's after effects. In place of counseling they have instead seen a dramatic increase in salaries and standard of living, as the government has made a concerted effort to rebuild the nation, both aesthetically and financially.

The results of this financial upswing is, as mentioned, a nation of consumers. But, as some people know, the simple act of buying a new car will only make you happy in the short term. True long term happiness, I would argue, cannot be bought as it is something intangible. If someone is unhappy or scarred emotionally, the act of buying a new car will not fill that emptiness in their person over the long term. At best it will give some short term joy but will ultimately see that person end up in the same mental and emotional state they were in before they made the purchase. This is what I perceive as having happened to the adult generation of Kuwaiti survivors of the invasion. The desire to buy their way to happiness is strong here but is having a negative effect on the population as consumption continuously disappoints.

The added wealth has also created a generation of post-invasion children who are, in effect, being raised by the aforementioned maids and servants. While parents are involved to various extents, it is not unusual to have a child in the classroom who has not seen his or her parents in many months, as they may be traveling on business. In the meantime, the child is left with the maids who act as surrogate (and subordinate) parents. The end result is that the child is continually bombarded with new toys and gifts in an attempt to keep the peace, to keep the child from lashing out as a result of feeling neglected. The idea of replacing love with materialistic gifts is a destructive and vicious cycle that has no end. The Playstation was cool for a month or so, but soon enough junior is feeling empty again.

I see a society of chronically unhappy people who cannot fill that void of love or deal with the things they have experienced. It is the hyperized American dream without the theme of parental guidance. How can a parent raise a child if the parent is still emotionally scarred? Obviously I am speaking in general terms here and I have only my non-scientific observations from which to draw upon. But where there is smoke, often there is fire.

As the child (and the parent) grows in this environment, surrounded by all the materialistic possessions one could imagine, the end result is often a spoiled character. Obviously this is dependent on the individual family, but the vast majority of western ex-pats have a large collection of stories that feature a 'me-first' mentality, starring a Kuwaiti citizen as the main antagonist. Coupled with a sense of entitlement and a nation that glorifies violence, the resulting effect of not getting what one wants is usually a lot of yelling, threats, denials of responsibility, and the ever-popular use of influence, or wasta. I was often requested to "give" junior a grade, as opposed to the idea that he "earn" it himself. When I politely declined to do so, often a phone call was made to my superiors. Such is the importance of wasta.

I don't know what will happen to Kuwait in the years to come. If global warming doesn't get it and things continue on as they are, I suspect that it will be a depressed nation of people, searching for help and not finding it. Such vices as drug use, which is already very high here (per capita), alcoholism, smoking, and violent behaviour against maids and servants will only increase in the years to come as Kuwaitis struggle to deal with this generationally shared traumatic history.

Underlying this is the struggle Islam faces to maintain its conservative view on social issues in the face of a generation of children that are very apt at surfing the internet. While my skool is mandated to censor books that depict or imply a woman's sexuality the children in the desks are well aware of what a credit card and a few minutes with the "X" key on the keyboard can lead them to discover.

It will be a struggle for all of the middle east in the years to come. Iran seems determined to acquire a nuclear bomb. Israel has a bunch themselves and doesn't seem to follow the same rules or play fair when it comes to local politics. Saudi Arabia is indeed a castle built upon sand and could easily collapse as warring factions of the royal family struggle for power. And then there is Iraq, of which I have written so much already. And while all this is going on, the US and other western countries will be vying for the vast oil resources that permeate the region. Tucked in amongst these battling giants is a tiny little slab of oil-drenched land that is perhaps rearing a generation of children who may not ever be truly fulfilled.

Kuwait has made giant leaps when it comes to rebuilding the infrastructure and facilities that were damaged by the Iraqi invasion of the early 1990s. But I wonder just how long that rebuilt infrastructure will last when the national soul is still ripped and bleeding. Only time will tell.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

Your daily dose of hypocrisy. Read this. Then this. Then pass this blog along to at least 5 people you know.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 3:57 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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Oh Canada, are you so squeaky clean?

CBC reports....

Hassan Almrei, one of five Muslim men jailed in Canada for alleged connections to terrorism, will have a bail hearing in Toronto Monday.

Almrei has been held for more than 3.5 years on a security certificate, under which a detainee can be held indefinitely without a trial. The government is also allowed to keep the evidence a secret.

Almrei and his lawyers have not been allowed to see much of the evidence used by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to have him arrested nor has he been charged or given a trial.
CSIS alleges that Almrei is connected to al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and is a threat to Canadian security.
Almrei, who denies the allegations, has admitted to working for a Saudi honey company accused of funnelling money to the terrorist network. He also admits he entered Canada on a false passport and knows an alleged al-Qaeda operative now being held in the U.S. in connection with the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The certificate used to arrest Almrei was supposed be a device that could have him quickly deported back to Syria, his country of origin. But Almrei's lawyers successfully argued before a judge that Syria is a country where the police use torture as an interrogation technique. As a matter of policy, Canada doesn't deport people to countries where they might be tortured.

More info here too.

Admittedly, the evidence against Almrei looks pretty damaging. But perhaps that is even more of a reason to allow his lawyers to have access to the secretive evidence that the government is hiding. As well, three and a half years before you get a bail hearing sounds more like a judicial system in a former Soviet republic than in Canada, but yet here we are.

Canada is not unlike the US in holding people outside of the law, denying them their right to a fair judicial process. Yet we (myself included) are amazingly critical of the US detention of prisoners at Gitmo. I often accuse the US of hypocrisy, yet as I write this I wonder if Canada is too far behind in the human rights abuses race. Sure we aren't running some illegal detention center on some rock off of Newfoundland, but we are still detaining individuals, failing to provide them with the most basic of judical rights, that being a right to a fair and speedy process.

Perhaps Canada, in a way, is even a little worse than the US. At least the US government isn't trying to totally hide Gitmo. Hell, it is there for all to see. But Canada quietly detains people and we never hear a whisper about it. Where is the media investigation into Almrei's detention? In a land that prides itself on inclusiveness and multicultural mosiacs, the public has either been kept in the dark about Almrei or has chosen to ignore his plight.

Look, he very well may be guilty. But stacking the cards against him and his lawyers by withholding evidence doesn't make the Canadian government look to inpartial, now does it? Instead, the government comes across as devious and manipulative, casting a dusting of doubt across the entire Canadian judicial system.

Almrei and his lawyers have been boxed into a corner that they cannot possibly fight their way out of. He is guilty before having a chance to prove his innocence. Sure we didn't send him back to Syria because of their reputation for torture, something I am sure Maher Arar finds sickening, but we have kept this man for three and a half years without so much as a bail hearing or allowing his legal team to see what evidence is being presented against him. He cannot win. He will lose. And perhap with his loss will come the loss of the supposed honesty of the Canadian government and judicial systems.

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An article about the possible implementation of the military draft in the US. Some quotes...

Americans overwhelmingly oppose reinstatement of the military draft and most say they wouldn't encourage their children to enlist in the service either, an AP-Ipsos poll found.
That resistance underscores the dilemma facing the Bush administration as it struggles to recruit a volunteer military in war time.

Despite the recruiting problems, seven in 10 Americans say they oppose reinstatement of the draft, and almost half of those polled strongly oppose that step, the AP-Ipsos poll found. About a quarter of the people in this country say they favor reinstating the draft.

The shortfalls in military recruiting have led to speculation that the government might be forced to reinstitute the draft. But Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has ruled it out, saying the all-volunteer force has proved the wisdom of discontinuing the draft in 1973. "There isn't a chance in the world that the draft will be brought back," Rumsfeld told a House hearing Thursday. (italics mine)

Just remember what Rumsfeld said in the above article. It too will come to pass. Doublethink anyone?

CBC reports....

The Iraqi insurgency could stretch on for more than a decade, U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said as he played down meetings between American officials and militant leaders.

If the fighting continues for years, it will be up to the Iraqi security forces to defeat the militants because the U.S. and other foreign forces will be gone, Rumsfeld said on Sunday.

"Coalition forces, foreign forces are not going to repress that insurgency. We're going to create an environment that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces can win against that insurgency."

Well I think that pretty much is the beginning of the end in terms of US involvement in Iraq. Between the lines is the admission by the US that the war is going poorly and will continue to do so. And because ongoing wars are bad for political careers, the troops will begin pulling out of Iraq long before the country is stable. Perhaps the US will stick around just long enough to make sure the oil is flowing properly, then it'll be time to get the hell outta Dodge.

Implicit in this article is the idea that it is somehow the Iraqis job to clean up this mess. I dunno know about you, but when I go over to a friends house, have a hell of a party, rip up the place, I usually feel guilty enough about what I did to their washing machine that I stick around the next morning to pay the Maytag repairman. I don't cut and run.

But this is effectively what the US is going to do, even if the insurgency is still detonating car bombs every 3 or 4 hours. This is not unusual practice for the US, there is much documentation of the millions of land mines and unexploded ordiance left behind in Vietnam. The US is not alone in cutting and running, but they are perhaps the most visible culprit of leaving a country in ruins after getting involved in a pointless and costly war.

The left wing pundits are already predicting a
full-scale civil war in Iraq is or could erupt between the Sunni minority and the Shia majority. And let's not forget about the Kurds in the oil-rich north of Iraq...

Sunni Arabs and Kurds are virtually on the brink of civil war in northern Iraq: the daily situation in both Kirkuk and Mosul is explosive - ambushes, assassinations, car bombings - but scarce information filters south to Baghdad and to the outside world. Kirkuk is nominally under Kurd control. But what the Kurds want most of all is to control Northern Oil - part of the Iraqi National Oil Co, in charge of the oilfields west of Kirkuk. Sunni Arabs say "over our dead bodies". No wonder the key local battlefield is the oil pipeline crossing Kirkuk province: it was blown up again this Wednesday.

I suspect that the complete vacuum of power that would be Iraq after the US pulled out would be a prime opportunity for a civil war. Moreover, who is going to continue to pay for the Iraqi defense forces and/or the rebuilding of Iraq? My bet is the UN. I don't suspect that it would be a good political maneuver to continue to pump money into Iraq after the troops are home.

So is this the beginning of the end? Yes, in a media-spun, saving-face version of the world that Washington is. Of course, the road to the last soldier being flown out of Baghdad is going to be a long and bloody one, but we in the public are getting pretty desensitized to it all now. I don't think the removal of US forces will be before bush leaves office, but we'll see.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 5:39 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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