Ink & Paper

Saturday, August 13, 2005



The Commitment Blog
Well this has been quite a year. This time last year I was packing my bags for Kuwait, totally unprepared for what I was about to get myself into. Since then I have taught a full year overseas, acquired a rather "developmentally delayed" dog, traveled in London and Ireland, got engaged, returned to Canada, settled in Red Deer, found three jobs, quit 2 of them, finally settling in with the Heart and Stroke Foundation in Edmonton.

And now, as of today, Megan and I are not only engaged, but are now officially homeowners. We signed the papers, dealt with the downpayment, and will be in our new home by September 15. We bought a new, two-storey home in Beaumont. This works well, as Megan has nailed down her job transfer to Wetaskiwin (a 20-25 minute drive from our new place), allowing her to stay with her current health
region. And Beaumont basically allows us to split the difference of driving, as I will be based out of downtown Edmonton. It is a little scary, as I am not quite used to throwing all this money around, but we have been renting for long enough and were looking to settle down somewhere, a turn of phrase that I wouldn't have uttered one year ago.

So yeah, that's the big news. Cray huh? I'm suddenly an adult, or so it feels like. We are planning a big housewarming/engagement/Jay's-back-from-Kuwait/Dog Monday's birthday box social in early to mid October, but more details will follow about that.


Lastly, Megan and I went to a wedding this weekend, as two of my good friends from Ottawa and St. Alberta (via Kuwait) Neil and Lori got hitched. Jan, another close friend from the Kuwait days, made the trip from Vancouver as well. The newly married couple are off to their new teaching jobs in Bangladesh this Sunday, and Jan is soon to be in Texas pursuing her Ph.D. It was a wicked wedding and was so great to see everyone having a blast. A great weekend with some great people, people I know I will see again somewhere down the road. But I still hate goodbyes. I absolutely hate goodbyes.

I'm tired and it's Saturday night. Time to put the feet up and relax. I'll check in with a new blog a little later.


PS- It is Allan L. Gibson's birthday on August 15. Show him some love, send an e-card, a bunch of flowers, or best of all, a flaming bag of dog poo at his front door. I got the dog....

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 7:36 PM ~~ 4 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out

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Thursday, August 11, 2005



Upcoming CDs you must buy. Emphasis on buy Cross, you thieving bastard.

Corb Lund and the Hurtin Albertans release a new CD entitled "Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer" on September 6.

I heard the title track on the mighty CKUA today, as they have an advance copy. Sad to say, but the song was awesome. Not as country as his last one, a little more rocky, but just as poetic. Sad because this means that Corby is about to blow up into something huge and I'm wary of that. You must buy this album. He's a local Alberta lad and he is the best thing to hit since, shit, Willie Nelson or maybe even Johnny Cash. And I don't throw out compliments like that very often.

Matt Good is also releasing, on September 20, In A Coma, which seems to be a few new songs and some acoustic reworks of his bigger radio hits of years past. Again, music with a message. Buy it suckers. Or I'll punch you.

Lastly, not leastly, Leaving Juneau's CD hits sometime in October or November. If anyone burns this I will personally get Jeff really drunk and lock him in your house and/or introduce him to your girlfriend's parents as "a really close cousin. Bo and Luke Duke kinda close." I'm not sure where I am going with this, but just buy the damn CD.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 8:28 PM ~~ 6 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out

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I don't know if you have heard of Cindy Sheehan or not. Her son was killed in Iraq while serving in the US Army and she is now demanding a personal meeting with President bush. She is camped outside of bush's Texas ranch, where he is vacationing for the next 4-5 weeks. She doesn't plan on leaving until he talks with her or until he goes back to Washington.

Matt Good wrote an excellent piece about her and I think you should read it. The face of war is a hard one to maintain when it looks like your mom.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 8:27 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out

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CBC

A senior lawyer for the U.S. government has told a judge hearing a lawsuit over Maher Arar's deportation to Syria that foreign citizens passing through American airports have almost no rights.

At most, Mary Mason told a hearing in Brooklyn, N.Y., passengers would have the right not to be subjected to "gross physical abuse."

Mason said the U.S. government is interpreting its powers in such a way that passengers never intending to enter the U.S. connecting to international flights at U.S. airports must prove they are no threat and could be allowed to enter the country.

If passengers are deemed to be inadmissible, they have no constitutional rights even if later taken to an American prison. Mason told Judge David Trager that's because they are deemed to be still outside the U.S., from a legal point of view.

Mason said the interpretation means travelers can be detained without charge, denied the right to consult a lawyer, and even refused necessities such as food and sleep.

But in a motion filed this week, the U.S. Justice Department argues that even if torture does occur, U.S. officials can't be sued under the Torture Victims Protection Act because it only applies to foreign individuals committing or allowing torture.

The department wants the Arar lawsuit dismissed on that basis.

However, department spokeswoman Cynthia Magnuson issued this short statement: "The United States does not practice torture, export torture or condone torture."

In legal briefs written by U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the Justice Department has defined torture to mean "pain consistent with major organ failure or death."

The Glorious Mr. T sent me the link to this story and I think both of us probably took an early coffee break and went off to a corner to cry softly, wondering how many more layers of shit are going to get piled onto the innocent and the hapless as they come into contact with the lawless entity that is the bush administration.

This idea that a person merely attempting to catch a connecting flight is suddenly in the same category as a muderous extremist is perhaps the worst example of painting everyone who is non-American with the same brush. America doesn't need more xenophobia, they already have that in spades. A friend of mine who spent a year in Texas tells how she was shocked at the level of international ignorance displayed every day, from the people she interacted with to the USA-centered newscasts that were on TV. And now the labeling of every foreigner as a 'potential' threat because they made a connection in Houston, well folks, I'm a little stunned at the logic.

Couple that with the idea that someone could be denied food and sleep and every other basic human right simply because the powers that be want to take a closer look at their possible threat level and you (I hope) can see the creeping police state that could emerge south of the border. I mean, what now, besides a waning public interest in the actions of an intrusive and abusive administration, is keeping the government from saying something like:

"Anyone who has been to the Middle East in the past 10 years is now subject to reduced legal rights if investigated for terrorism links."

or

"All Muslims are politely ordered to register with their local authorities for identification purposes only."

You are thinking this could never happen. But 5 years ago did you ever think that someone merely connecting to another flight in a US airport could be detained, legitimately tortured, and potentially deported to a "rendition" country because they happened to have a similar name as someone on a watch list? All in the great US of A? If you did, then move over Nostradamus.

And the idea that torture is defined as "pain consistent with major organ failure or death" just shows the level of insanity that permeates the bush administration. I mean, if I kidnap Cross and start pulling his fingernails out with tweezers (an act that would probably take 30-40 years per finger due to his freakishly long fingers) pretty much everyone would consider that torture. It isn't going to cause him to suffer major organ damage or death, but it sure as hell is gonna hurt like a bitch. Defining torture as something up to, but not including, massive organ failure or death, is not a definition at all. It is an open ended policy that pretty much allows any sort of treatment of detainees, be they legitimate threats or Maher Arar.

And you know the worst thing? Is that when all this discrimination and torture tolerance comes home to roost and a US troop who doesn't know any better is tortured to death by his captors, the US government will throw up their hands and squawk about how the terrorists are barbarians and hate freedom, how they play dirty and don't respect the international rules of conflict.

Birds of a feather, my how they fly together.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 7:05 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005



Maybe it is a good thing I saw gas prices at 97.9 cents/litre on the way home tonight. Might finally help people clue in to the fact that humanity is truly changing our climate and will have to suffer the consequences, be they mild or severe. Nah, who am I kidding....

CBC

People and animals in parts of southeastern Australia are trying to cope with an unfamiliar substance falling from the sky: snow.

Doug Forbes, who lives in Penshurst in southwest Victoria, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the landscape is covered in snow for the first time in 50 years.

"We've had snow here before, about 12 years ago, but nothing like this," he said. "Been snowing for the past 12 hours."

BBC

A new report from the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) warns that temperatures in Europe's major cities are rising.

The report analysed summer temperatures in 16 European cities over the last 30 years and found that in most of them, average summer temperatures were at least one degree Celsius higher over the last five years than they were 30 years ago.

WWF says the increase is caused primarily by greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, which is released into the atmosphere by coal and gas-fired power stations and by cars.

London showed the biggest increase. Its average maximum temperatures now are two degrees higher than in the 1970s.

In better sounding (literally) news, the new CDs include Justin Rutledge and Kathleen Edwards. Ah, I could have stayed in Megatunes on Whyte for many an hour....

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 10:47 PM ~~ 1 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005



CBC

Foreign Affairs is advising Canadians to avoid non-essential travel to Saudi Arabia after warnings of attacks in the region.

"There are credible reports of renewed terrorist attacks in the final planning stages in Saudi Arabia," said a statement on the Foreign Affairs website.


Canadians should avoid large gatherings and take precautions when in crowded places frequented by foreigners such as shopping malls, open markets, and restaurants.

The warning comes after Washington announced it would close three American missions in the kingdom until at least Wednesday.

Canada will keep its embassy open in Riyadh.

Britain and Australia have also warned their citizens against travel to the kingdom.

And as reported on MSNBC

Oil prices eased Tuesday after briefly climbing to a new high above $64 a barrel.

The market was still on edge about heightened security in Saudi Arabia and a recent rash of refinery outages in the United States, but it is not unusual for traders to take some profits after significant runups.

Saudi Arabia is truly a country, an empire, built on sand. The recent death of King Fahd has created a percieved potential for upheaval in the world's largest oil exporter and thus triggered warnings for travelers and a spike in world oil prices.

King Fahd was basically a non-factor for the past few years, having suffered a stroke and effectively being replaced by his half-brother Abdullah, who is now King Abdullah. The Saud family is a splintered and divisive clan, one that has many interconnected relatives and princes who want their piece of the oil pie. The intense competition for the throne is something that will have an effect on world oil prices for years to come, as King Abdullah is over 70 years old.

Violence may come in Saudi Arabia as a result of King Fahd's death. Saudi has been barely containing some pretty militant forces for the past decade and has suffered attacks on US and western-based interests in the past few years. But the ascention of King Abdullah is nothing to start a revolution about, as he has been the de facto leader since Fahd's stroke. The real trouble may start when Abdullah dies, especially if it happens in the next 1-2 years, a scenario that may not leave him enough time to handpick his successor. Reports suggest that after Abdullah dies, the throne is truly up for grabs, as there is no clear choice next in line.

What this means is that the price of oil will likely remain above $60 US per barrel for the foreseeable future, especially if Iraq (which is not producing the amount of oil the US anticipated at the beginning of the invasion) continues to be a cesspool of violence. Thus, your gas prices, now anywhere from 85 cents to $1.06 CDN per litre, depending on where you live, will likely stay nice and high as well.

CBC 's The National reported yesterday that, while upset, Canadians have yet to significantly change their driving practices as a result of the increase in gasoline costs. However, CBC also mentioned that the increase in gas prices is currently having a negative effect in the retail sector, as people are more concerned with putting gas in their cars then with buying the latest William Shatner CD. No doubt as gas prices continue to soar, the retail economy, and perhaps other sectors of the economy as well, will suffer.

All of this because one incapcitated ruler passed away. This death, and its subsequent reprecussions across the globe, illustrates just how fragile the North American economy truly is. For all the talk about America "strongly leading the way" in the world, the one thing they seemingly cannot protect themselves against is a nervous commodities market. A nervous market, coupled with the known fact that Saudi Arabia has a tonne of money invested in the US right now, means that events in Saudi Arabia will continue to directly affect the daily life in the US and Canada.

One must also not forget two other very important players in this struggle for oil security. Number one is China, whose thirst for oil is unquenchable in the face of their exploding economy. China, I have mentioned before, will be the economic dynamo in the coming century and will continue to need access to oil to avoid a slowdown in their economic development. I read a fascinating article in the Edmonton Journal's Sunday Reader about how the quest for oil may have place the USA and China on a direct course to confrontation in the years to come, as there are now too many hands in the pie. This town ain't big enough for the both of us kinda thing.

The second factor, perhaps less long term than China's impending economic dominance, is the issue of Iran and their quest for nuclear weapons, an issue that was picked at again today when Iran defied the west and started nuclear activites again, leading to rumours than more "harsh" action may be needed to deal with the Irainians. At this point the "harsh" action most likely means economic sanctions supported by the UN, but with so many US forces already in the Middle East, plus the potential threat a nuclear Iran would pose to Israel (or vice versa), well....

China has been doing business with Iran, signing oil deals where US firms aren't (technically anyway) allowed due to political issues. This has given the Chinese a distinct long term advantage, especially if Iran remains stable while Saudi Arabia implodes. A matter of trying pick which team you want to be on, I suppose.

It is all so interconnected and intricate, with backroom deals and UN vetoes playing into all sorts of stories that get 30 second clips on the nightly news. The fact is that the stability of the western lifestyle is largely a myth, a myth that needs a stable foreign oil supply and a lack of competition from other countries to ensure a smooth running ship. If that myth is, like the house of Saud, built upon sand, then one can only wonder how long and at what cost this charade will contiue to be played out on the world's stage.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 5:44 PM ~~ 9 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out

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