Ink & Paper

Saturday, August 06, 2005

60 years ago today....

Tens of thousands of people from around the world gathered in Hiroshima yesterday to renew calls for the abolition of nuclear arms on the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city.

Under a blazing summer sun, survivors and families of victims assembled at the Peace Memorial Park near the spot where the bomb detonated on 6 August 1945, killing thousands and levelling the city.

The anniversary came as regional powers met in Beijing to urge North Korea to give up its nuclear programme, seen by Tokyo as a threat and one of the reasons behind calls within Japan to strengthen its defence and seek closer military ties with the US.

At 8.15am, the time when the US B-29 warplane Enola Gay dropped the bomb, people at the park and throughout the city observed a minute's silence in memory of those who perished. Bells at temples and churches rang and passengers on the trams that run across the city bowed their heads in remembrance.

The Hiroshima bomb unleashed a mix of shock waves, heat rays and radiation that killed thousands instantly. By the end of 1945, the toll had risen to some 140,000 out of an estimated population of 350,000. Now, after years of illness, the official death toll from Little Boy stands at 242,437 and rising.

On 9 August, three days after the Hiroshima attack, another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

Tadatoshi Akiba, the Mayor of Hiroshima, told the gathering that the five established nuclear powers - the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China - as well as India, Pakistan and North Korea were "jeopardising human survival".

The members of the "nuclear club" were "ignoring the majority voices of the people and governments of the world", he said, before adding another 5,375 names to the Peace Park cenotaph. He appealed for the United Nations to work towards the "elimination of nuclear weapons by 2020".

Nearly 60 years after the first atomic attack, the majority of the world's people still want nothing more than peace. It is only the truly unbalanced ordinary civilian that thinks a particular group of people are worth attacking.

If your co-worker were to come to you and say something like "I hate those (identifiable minority), they oughta be tossed into a pit and buried" most likely you would back away feeling very uncomfortable. To dislike one or two people is one thing, but to hate an entire culture or country would cause one to be deemed nothing less than racist.

But the idea of governments going to war, and potentially using nuclear weapons to destroy a civilian population, is oddly tolerated under some misguided guise of national security or sovereignty. One only needs to look to India and Pakistan to see a prime example of how two nuclear governments could conceivably kill thousands in a nuclear exchange.

I know that governments the world over are largely unaccountable to their constituents, save for a bonanza of election confetti every 4 or 5 years. But I wonder what kind of men, because what are governments composed of besides individual human beings, could collectively justify the death of thousands and thousands of innocent civilians who for the most part are ignorant of the need for their deaths.

I have spent most of the day listening to CKUA's live coverage from the Edmonton Folk Music Festival and have been thinking a lot about the potential of humanity to create beauty in any number of forms. Couple that with the human need to achieve, to pursue innovations such as pacemakers and nanotechnology, and soon the possibilities for human success become uncountable. One wonders why then we have tolerated the decisions made by our governments to pursue death on a regular and ongoing basis. It is not what we, the people, the majority want. So why do we tolerate the following?

-There are currently about 31,000 nuclear warheads deployed or in reserve in the stockpiles of eight countries: China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Of these about 13,000 are deployed and 4,600 of these are on high alert, i.e. ready to be launched within minutes notice. The combined explosive yield of these weapons is approximately 5,000 megatons, which is about 200,000 times the explosive yield of the bomb used on Hiroshima.

-Table of Known Nuclear Tests Worldwide

-Total number of nuclear missiles built, 1951-present: 67,500 (link for next 3 stats)

-Estimated amount spent between October 1, 1992 and October 1, 1995 on nuclear testing activities: $1,200,000,000 (0 tests)

-Number of U.S. nuclear bombs lost in accidents and never recovered: 11

-Estimated 1998 spending on all U.S. nuclear weapons and weapons-related programs: $35,100,000,000

And if you think that's scary, read about the Project for the New American Century.

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I hate Chris Pronger.

Now I know that everyone is pissing-themselves-happy that the Oilers signed Pronger and Peca. And even the jaded blog author, who usually thinks NHL hockey is about as exciting as watching ducks try on rubber boots, is somewhat interested in the "new look" NHL that promises a faster game after some significant rule changes.

Maybe, just maybe, the NHL won't be a grandma league of clutching and grabbing, goons and hacks. Maybe it might actually live up to the billing of the fastest game on earth, as it used to be. I still think international hockey is better, as the international ice surface is better suited (size does matter, ladies) to the steroid players of today. But maybe the NHL is starting to suck a little less.

Anyway, I hate Chris Pronger. More to the point, I hate Chris Pronger's hair. Everytime I see his mug, his hair reminds me of some bad 1980's sitcom dad. John Stamos, maybe. His hair is just so damn
loafy, it looks like it takes a girlish amount of time spent with the hair dryer to make it loaf-up (a technical, Vidal Sassoon term) like it does.

Pronger is 6'6" tall, weighs about 220lbs. A little taller, a wee bit heavier than me. But I think that when I see him on the street, his golden hair-loaf floating in the breeze, I should be able to hit him low from behind and get a couple of quick snips with the scissors before he pounds the bejeezus out of me.

The problem is that Pronger's hair goes a long way to re-enforcing the hoser image of Edmonton citizens. People outside of Edmonton already think we are oil-pumping, beer-drinking illiterates that haven't updated our haircuts since 1983 and I don't think Pronger is going to help improve that massive generalization.

Anyway, thus ends a pointless blog that wasted your time. I would apologize, but I'm an ass.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 9:28 AM ~~ 2 bonsai trees

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Friday, August 05, 2005

I'm walking down an alley and I see a small stretch of gasoline sitting atop a shallow dip of gutterwater. Beside that gasoline stain, all rainbow and distortion, I can see the bottom corner of a dumpster, rusted and brown. The blue paint has long since been worn off by rain, errant car bumpers, and piles of slushy grey snow. I keep walking down this alley, past the empty booze bottles that we would rather pretend weren't an issue in our city.

I emerge onto a busy street, the eastern morning sun reflecting off of skyscrapers, squinting my eyes in its glare. I raise my left hand to my eyeglasses and tuck my head into my right shoulder. I am at a corner of a street waiting for the light to turn from red to green, for the little white outline of a man to appear and tell me all is safe for passage. I trust this little white outline of a man, perhaps a little too much. I assume that because he has made an appearance I have thus put on some cape, a semblance of safety. I step off the curb and cross safely, as one usually does.

My shoulder bag is slung across my body, from left to right and it bumps against my thigh as I walk downtown streets. Music plays softly in my ears, Little Milton to be precise. Sharpened blues notes protect my ears from sounds of streets and horns, from black cars with big spoilers and loud exhausts. The noise, the street noise, exhausts, don't we all know.

I had a good drink, a good drunk more to the truth, with a solid friend the other night. We talked and talked, about life and all the curveballs that age and responsibility throws our way. It was late when we parted, a dark bar leading to a dark summer night. We argued, discussed, agreed, and left a decent tip because the waitress left us alone to do so. I awoke the next morning with too little sleep and too much booze in my system. I went to work, as we all do.

I thought of my friend when I gazed into the gasoline on the water, when I listened to soothing sounds instead of cars and exhaust. I thought that sometimes it is the quiet things, the little things, the scant few hours in a dank bar with a few pints of beer, that makes all the struggles, all the stresses, manageable. And perhaps it is most important to be able to identify those corners of our lives as we get older, dented and rusted. We all know this, I suppose, but I'm not sure we always give it the weight that it deserves.

Things are a little crazy right now and my neck hurts. But it will all work out, I got some good people that watch my back. Cheers.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 9:21 PM ~~ 2 bonsai trees

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Nothing to say. I'm tired. Later.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 6:50 PM ~~ 1 bonsai trees

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

I got this via Matt Good's site and I think it is rather telling. You should also read Matt's take on the death of Saudi Arabia'a King Fahd.

Bush gives pep talk to disaster-hit Scout jamboree

By Adam Entous
FORT A.P. HILL, Va., July 31 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush delivered a pep talk on Sunday to thousands of Boy Scouts, urging them not to waver after four tragic deaths and a rash of heat-related illnesses cast a pall over their camping "Jamboree."

"The men you lost were models of good citizenship ... And you Scouts honor them by living up to the ideals of the scouting they served," Bush told an estimated crowd of 50,000 Boy Scouts, Scout leaders and visitors.

The president twice postponed his visit to the Scout gathering, which at times had the air of a U.S. Army recruitment drive.

Men in black "Army" T-shirts coached young boys to chant "OO-rah" like soldiers. A giant "ARMY" hot-air balloon bobbed overhead.

Bush said the Boy Scouts "understand that freedom must be defended," and touted what he called the "armies of liberation." The Army has fallen behind its recruiting goals amid the Iraq war.

"When you follow your conscience and the ideals you've sworn as a Scout, there is no limit to what you can achieve for our country," Bush told the crowd, which chanted "USA, USA."

The National Boy Scout Jamboree turned tragic last Monday when four adult Scout leaders were killed while pitching a huge dining tent on the grounds of the U.S. Army's Fort A.P. Hill, south of Washington.

One of the giant poles intended as a support for the tent came into contact with an overhead power line. The victims were all from Alaska.

Three days later in California, disaster struck Scouts hiking in Sequoia National Park. Lightening killed their adult troop leader and a teen-age Scout -- making it six Scout fatalities in less than a week.

"Laura and I have joined Americans across our country in extending our sympathy and prayers to the families of the Scout leaders who lost their lives so tragically," Bush said. "These men will always be remembered for their leadership and kindness."

The new job went really well today and I think it is going to be be awesome. More info as I find out more, because right now I don't know jack. Later kiddies.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 6:20 PM ~~ 1 bonsai trees

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Monday, August 01, 2005

Ah democracy. Where have you gone?

President Bush sidestepped the Senate and installed embattled nominee John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations on Monday, ending a five-month impasse with Democrats who accused Bolton of abusing subordinates and twisting intelligence to fit his conservative ideology.

Bush put Bolton on the job in a recess appointment — an avenue available to the president when the Congress is in recess. Under the Constitution, a recess appointment during the lawmakers' August break would last until the next session of Congress, which begins in January 2007.

Bush said that Bolton's nomination had been supported by a majority of the Senate but that "because of partisan delaying tactics by a handful of senators, John was unfairly denied the up-or-down vote that he deserves."

....Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., sharply criticized the move.

"The abuse of power and the cloak of secrecy from the White House continues," Kennedy said.

"It's bad enough that the administration stonewalled the Senate by refusing to disclose documents highly relevant to the Bolton nomination. It's even worse for the administration to abuse the recess appointment power by making the appointment while Congress is in this five-week recess. It's a devious maneuver that evades the constitutional requirement of Senate consent and only further darkens the cloud over Mr. Bolton's credibility at the U.N."

Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, a senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, "The president has done a real disservice to our nation by appointing an individual who lacks to the credibility to further U.S. interests at the United Nations. I will be monitoring his performance closely to ensure that he does not abuse his authority as he has in the past."

The battle grabbed headlines last spring amid accusations that Bolton abused subordinates and twisted intelligence to shape his conservative ideology, and as White House and GOP leadership efforts to ram the nomination through the Senate fell short.

At Bolton's April confirmation hearing, Democrats raised additional questions about his demeanor and attitude toward lower-level government officials. Those questions came to dominate Bolton's confirmation battle, growing into numerous allegations that he had abused underlings or tried to browbeat intelligence analysts whose views differed from his own.

Despite lengthy investigations, it was never clear that Bolton did anything improper. Witnesses told the committee that Bolton lost his temper, tried to engineer the ouster of at least two intelligence analysts and otherwise threw his weight around. But Democrats were never able to establish that his actions crossed the line to out-and-out harassment or improper intimidation.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 9:28 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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Sunday, July 31, 2005

My my....

A top US diplomat has cancelled a planned visit to Uzbekistan after its government gave the US six months to vacate a key air base.

The Karshi-Khanabad air base in south-eastern Uzbekistan is a staging post for US operations in Afghanistan.

State department official Nicholas Burns said he had planned to raise political reform and the violent suppression of an uprising in May.

He told the New York Times that the US had "profound" human rights concerns.

It would be inappropriate for him to go to Tashkent now, he said, and he would not travel to the region for several weeks.

The Uzbek government requested in a letter on Friday that the US terminate all its operations in Uzbekistan, Pentagon spokesman Glenn Flood said.


The Uzbek government says the violence was the result of an attempt by Islamic militants to seize power, and puts the number of dead at 173.

But leading human rights groups say many hundreds of civilians were killed, with Human Rights Watch describing the incident as a "massacre".

Ah, the beloved war on terror. Or "Struggle Against Extremism" as the US has now termed it. How it does make for such strange bedfellows.

Now don't for a minute think that the US gives one rats ass about the massacre that happened in May. Honestly, if the US had a big issue with the massacre, they would have pulled their troops and planes out of there the day after. The were willing to overlook the human rights concerns that Uzbekistan displays, up until the Uzbek government told them to leave. Then, whoa nelly, all of a sudden, two months after the fact, the US is upset about this massacre.

Where was the US indignation in May? It was non-existant. I'm sure some people in the US government weren't pleased with the massacre of protesters and the weak excuse that was issued by the Uzbek government that the dead were Islamist extremists. But whatever, the US still was allowed to use the Uzbek airfields to continue to wage their forgotten war in Afghanistan. So it became more of a mutual "don't look, don't tell" agreement. Plus there was fact that Uzbekistan was still a nice handy dumping ground for those doomed enough to experience rendition.

And it isn't as though the Uzbek government suddenly turned nasty overnight, not as if a once shiny reputation was sullied by one massacre. Oh no, the recent history of Uzbekistan extends far back before the war on terror was ever initiated.

Uzbekistan is nominally democratic but has been described as a police state. Several prominent opponents of the government have fled, and others have been arrested. The government severely represses those it suspects of Islamic extremism, particularly those it suspects of membership in the banned Party of Islamic Liberation (Hizb ut-Tahrir). Some 5,300 to 5,800 suspected extremists are incarcerated.

Prison conditions remain very poor, particularly for those convicted of extremist activities, and a number of such prisoners are believed to have died over the past several years from prison disease and abuse. The police force and the intelligence service use torture as a routine investigation technique.

In a report dated 21 March 2005, Amnesty International stated that:

Thousands of people have been detained and imprisoned in Uzbekistan on accusations of "religious extremism". Among them are members and presumed members of independent Islamic congregations, members of banned Islamist and secular opposition parties and movements, and their relatives. Amnesty International has received persistent allegations that police have tortured many of those arrested to extract 'confessions'. Heavy sentences, including death sentences, have been imposed after trials which appear to have been grossly unfair.
The nation is 88% Sunni Muslim and 9% Eastern Orthodox.

And with regards to Islam in Uzbekistan....

In light of the role that Islam has played throughout Uzbekistan's history, many observers expected that political Islam would gain a strong hold after independence brought the end of the Soviet Union's official atheism. The expectation was that an Islamic country long denied freedom of religious practice would undergo a very rapid increase in the expression of its dominant faith. President Islam Karimov has justified authoritarian controls over the populations of his and other Central Asian countries by the threat of upheavals and instability caused by growing Islamic political movements, and other Central Asian leaders also have cited this danger.

In the early 1990s, however, Uzbekistan did not witness a surge of political Islam as much as a search to recapture a history and culture with which few Uzbeks were familiar. To be sure, Uzbekistan is witnessing a vast increase in religious teaching and interest in Islam. Since 1991, hundreds of mosques and religious schools have been built or restored and reopened. And some of the Islamic groups and parties that have emerged might give leaders pause.

So the US was willing to do business with the Uzbek government, even though by all accounts the Uzbek government is perhaps one of the most repressive on the planet. Couple that with the fact that the Muslim majority is apparently locked in a battle with the government, a nice little recruiting tool for those people who need an example to support their opinions that the US is anti-Islam. Doesn't this seem to go against the whole "freedom march" that the US has been spouting off about since 2001?

And now, for true reasons we will never know, the Uzbeks have given the US the ole heave-ho. Not a real big deal, as the US is still on war-friendly terms with the government of Kyrgyzstan, another country implicated in US rendition policies and which is currently without an experienced leader, as the President was forced to resign after a history of leadership defined by such practices as....

On December 24, 1995, President Akayev was reelected for another 5-year term with wide support (75% of vote) over two opposing candidates. He used government resources and state-owned media to carry out his campaign. Three (out of six) candidates were de-registered shortly before the election.

A February 1996 referendum—in violation of the constitution and the law on referendums- amended the constitution to give President Akayev more power. Although the changes gave the president the power to dissolve parliament, it also more clearly defined the parliament's powers. Since that time, the parliament has demonstrated real independence from the executive branch.

The most recent elections were parliamentary, held February 27 and March 13, 2005. The OSCE found that while the elections failed to comply with commitments to free and fair elections, there were improvements over the 2000 elections, notably the use of indelible ink, transparent ballot boxes, and generally good access by election observers.

Sporadic protests against perceived manipulation and fraud during the elections erupted into widespread calls for the government to resign, which started in the southern provinces. By March 24, 15,000 pro-opposition demonstrators called for the resignation of the President and his regime in Bishkek. Injuries from police clashes were reported along with widespread looting. Protestors seized the presidential administration building, after which Akayev hurriedly fled the country, first for neighboring Kazakhstan and then for Moscow. Initially refusing to resign and denouncing the events as a coup, he subsequently resigned his office on April 4. A first attempt by parliament to ratify his resignation failed for lack of a quorum.

On July 10, 2005, Kurmanbek Bakiyev won a Presidential election in a landslide, with 88.9% of the vote.

Strange bedfellows indeed.

You probably stopped reading a long time ago, so I'll sum it up nice and neat for ya: The US is more than willing to deal with unsavory governments on a regular and ongoing basis, provided that everyone plays dumb and doesn't ask too many questions. This works most of the time, and even when it doesn't, like in Uzbekistan, there are more than a few governments out there who are willing to rent out an airbase to the US in return for the US turning a blind eye to undemocratic practices of the host country. Kinda takes the shine off the whole "let freedom reign" speeches that we see on CNN, now doesn't it?

But none of this matters, no one wants to talk about it, too confusing. This on the other hand, well, this is news that people need to know.

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