Ink & Paper

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Nothing much to say today except that I totally ruined my right heel. Hurts like a mother. See some of you at Al's Birthday party, Saturday night at Cliff Clayvin's in Edmonton. If you don't show up I'll kick your ass. Heel permitting, of course.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 5:48 PM ~~ 6 bonsai trees

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I just got back from a walk with Monday. We walked in the trees, through the park, smelling the damp, rain-soaked leaves and grasses. Granted, Monday smelled things a little more intensely than I did, but it was nice nonetheless. My shoes soaked through with water and my beloved dog indulged in her inner bovine and munched on some grass.

I was chatting with a good friend tonight, someone I will see soon and haven't drank with in far too long. We got to chatting about how many of the people we knew have moved on in their lives and seem to be quite content with occasional gatherings and social events, and how the people we know seem to be adjusting quite well to what I term "
the beginning of the middle age." Of course, there are some variants in the mix, as you would expect with a diverse and extended circle of friends, but by and large people are making and have made some pretty major life decisions. And it struck me about how the stages in our lives do seem to pass unseen before our busy eyes, from high school to post-secondary to the beginning of the middle age. I'm not sure I have anything concrete to say about this vague issue, but it was another thing that bounced around my head today.

About a week ago my brother (who wrote a really good piece entitled
A Lightbulb the other day) and I went for a drink on Whyte Ave, the first time I had been back to my old stomping grounds since I returned. He mentioned that if he has more than two nights a week where he is at home bumming around, he starts to get antsy. I'm the complete opposite. If I am out more than two or three evenings per week I feel like my time ceases to become my own. And yet, despite our differences, which are great and small at the same time, we connect and understand each other, accepting and celebrating the differences that make us individuals. Different stages in the same theatre of life. If only the rest of the world could function like this.

This is why
I like my walks. My mom is a walker, her mother before her. We all need time to think and this is my method of clearing things out, of making sure of my thoughts and my beliefs. I get to reflect upon friends who like nothing more than to hop on a plane to a distant and unknown land and I find new appreciation for he people have never lived overseas, yet still remain completely unique and true unto themselves. And I feel pretty good about the fact that I can call such a diverse group of people friends, because it makes my life richer and more textured.

I'm content. I am
enormously happy with the way things are going in my little sphere of life. I'm tired and a little stressed, don't get me wrong, but overall things are coming together like I never thought they would. And it is only because I am making decisions that I have thought deeply about and know will fit comfortably into my values, goals, and life.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 9:31 PM ~~ 1 bonsai trees

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Via Matt Good

How Bush would gain from war with Iran
The US has the capability and reasons for an assault - and it is hard to see Britain uninvolved

President Bush has reminded us that he is prepared to take military action to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. On Israeli television this weekend, he declared that "all options are on the table" if Tehran doesn't comply with international demands.

In private his officials deride EU and UN diplomacy with Iran. US officials have been preparing pre-emptive war since Bush marked Iran out as a member of the "axis of evil" back in 2002. Once again, this war is likely to have British support.

A plausible spin could be that America and Britain must act where the international community has failed, and that their action is the responsible alternative to an Israeli attack. The conventional wisdom is that, even if diplomacy fails, the US is so bogged down in Iraq that it could not take on Iran. However, this misunderstands the capabilities and intentions of the Bush administration.

America's devastating air power is not committed in Iraq. Just 120 B52, B1 and B2 bombers could hit 5,000 targets in a single mission. Thousands of other warplanes and missiles are available. The army and marines are heavily committed in Iraq, but enough forces could be found to secure coastal oilfields and to conduct raids into Iran.

A US attack is unlikely to be confined to the suspected WMD locations or to involve a ground invasion to occupy the country. The strikes would probably be intended to destroy military, political and (oil excepted) economic infrastructure. A disabled Iran could be further paralysed by civil war. Tehran alleges US support for separatists in the large Azeri population of the north-west, and fighting is increasing in Iranian Kurdistan.

The possible negative consequences of an attack on Iran are well known: an increase in terrorism; a Shia rising in Iraq; Hizbullah and Iranian attacks on Israel; attacks on oil facilities along the Gulf and a recession caused by rising oil prices. Advocates of war argue that if Iran is allowed to go nuclear then each of these threats to US and Israeli interests becomes far greater. In this logic, any negative consequence becomes a further reason to attack now - with Iran disabled all these threats can, it is argued, be reduced.

Iraq is proving an electoral liability. This is a threat to the Bush team's intention to retain power for the next decade - perhaps, as the author Bob Woodward says, with President Cheney at the helm. War with Iran next spring can enable them to win the mid-term elections and retain control of the Republican party, now in partial rebellion over Iraq.

The rise in oil prices and subsequent recession are reasons some doubt that an attack would take place. However, Iran's supplies are destined for China - perceived as the US's main long-term rival. And the Bush team are experienced enough to remember that Ronald Reagan rode out the recession of the early 1980s on a wave of rhetoric about "evil empire".

Even if the US went ahead, runs the argument, Britain would not be involved as Tony Blair would not want a rerun of the Iraq controversy. But British forces are already in the area: they border Iran around Basra, and will soon lead the Nato force on Iran's Afghan frontier. The British island of Diego Garcia is a critical US base.

It is hard to see Britain uninvolved in US actions. The prime minister is clearly of a mind to no more countenance Iran's WMD than he did Iraq's. In Iran's case the evidence is more substantial. The Iranians do have a nuclear energy programme and have lied about it. In any event, Blair is probably aware that the US is unlikely to supply him with the prized successor to the Trident submarine if Britain refuses to continue to pay the blood sacrifice of standing with the US. Tory votes might provide sufficient "national unity" to see off Labour dissenters.

New approaches are needed to head off such a dismal scenario. The problem on WMD is that Blair and Bush are doing too little, not too much. Why pick on Iran rather than India, Pakistan, Israel or Egypt - not to mention the west's weapons? In the era of Gorbachev and Reagan, political will created treaties that still successfully control many types of WMD. Revived, they would provide the basis for global controls. Iran must not be dealt with in isolation.

As the Iran debate unfolds, we will no doubt again hear about the joint intelligence committee. We should follow the advice of a former head of the committee, Sir Paul Lever, to remove US intelligence officials from around the JIC table, where they normally sit. Only in this way, argues Lever, can the British take a considered view themselves.

We need to be clear that our MPs have no mandate to support an attack on Iran. During the election campaign, the government dismissed any suggestion that Iran might be attacked as ridiculous scaremongering. If Blair has told Bush that Britain will prevent Iran's nuclear weapons "come what may", we need to be equally clear that nothing short of an election would provide the mandate for an attack.

- Dan Plesch is the author of The Beauty Queen's Guide to World Peace, about which he is speaking at the Edinburgh Book Festival

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 8:29 PM ~~ 1 bonsai trees

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Thanks to the Glorious Mr. T for the following tip.

ITV News

ITV News has obtained secret documents and photographs that detail why police shot Jean Charles De Menezes dead on the tube.

The Brazilian electrician was killed on 22 July, the day after the series of failed bombings on the tube and bus network.

The crucial mistake that ultimately led to his death was made at 9.30am when Jean Charles left his flat in Scotia Road, South London.

Surveillance officers wrongly believed he could have been Hussain Osman, one of the prime suspects, or another terrorist suspect.

By 10am that morning, elite firearms officers were provided with what they describe as "positive identification" and shot De Menezes eight times in the head and upper body.

The documents and photographs confirm that Jean Charles was not carrying any bags, and was wearing a denim jacket, not a bulky winter coat, as had previously been claimed.

He was behaving normally, and did not vault the barriers, even stopping to pick up a free newspaper.

He started running when we saw a tube at the platform. Police had agreed they would shoot a suspect if he ran.

A document describes CCTV footage, which shows Mr de Menezes entered Stockwell station at a "normal walking pace" and descended slowly on an escalator.

The document said: "At some point near the bottom he is seen to run across the concourse and enter the carriage before sitting in an available seat.

"Almost simultaneously armed officers were provided with positive identification."

A member of the surveillance team is quoted in the report. He said: "I heard shouting which included the word `police' and turned to face the male in the denim jacket.

"He immediately stood up and advanced towards me and the CO19 officers. I grabbed the male in the denim jacket by wrapping both my arms around his torso, pinning his arms to his side.

"I then pushed him back on to the seat where he had been previously sitting. I then heard a gun shot very close to my left ear and was dragged away onto the floor of the carriage."

The report also said a post mortem examination showed Mr de Menezes was shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder, but three other bullets missed, with the casings left lying in the tube carriage.

Police have declined to comment while the mistaken killing is still being investigated.

'Oops' doesn't quite cut it on this one, hey? Perhaps more disturbing is the completely contradictory set of actions described in the above article as compared to the original story, which Scotland Yard is still sticking to...


Scotland Yard are not commenting on details of the shooting because it is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. But earlier they said Mr Menezes was wearing a padded jacket which heightened their suspicions.

They said they pursued him into the station after he began running, and shot him after he failed to obey their orders to stop and tried to board a Tube train.

Just a few minor details have been called into question with this story by ITV News. But if the details are indeed so different than the ones we were first fed, one must look beyond this story and begin to question the other "factual" information that we ingest every night from our chosen and trusted news sources.

I'm pretty shocked by this, if it turns out to be true. The killing of an innocent man is one thing, but to lie about relevant information to save face (i.e. a bulky jacket, running from police) is something beyond despicable. And despite the ongoing internal investigation, I am highly skeptical that we will hear too much more about this as it wll no doubt quietly fade into the din of war speeches and body counts.

I probably could have written more about this, but I think this is a story best left to some individual reflection.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 5:28 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Monday, August 15, 2005

Yahoo Canada

An Iraqi-Canadian businessman kidnapped in Baghdad earlier this month was killed despite efforts to pay a ransom, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said.

Martin warned all Canadians in Iraq to leave the country as he condemned the murder of Zaid Meerwali, 32, who was kidnapped from his Baghdad home on August 2.

"It is with both profound sadness and abhorrence that I learned of the circumstances of his death," Martin said in a statement.

"Canada vehemently condemns this barbaric crime, and remains committed to working both bilaterally and multilaterally to help build a prosperous and peaceful democracy in Iraq," he said.

Meerwali, who held dual Iraqi-Canadian citizenship, returned to Iraq from exile after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003.

His kidnappers demanded a 250,000 dollars ransom, according to his family.

His nephew offered them 200,000 dollars, but after not hearing back from them, he circled area hospitals and made the grim discovery that his uncle had been killed.

In his statement, Martin warned Canadians not to travel to Iraq and suggested that those already there should leave.

"Any Canadians in Iraq should leave. The situation remains volatile and the Government of Canada cannot provide consular assistance to Canadian citizens in distress," he said.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 9:29 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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The US government is trying to stop fresh images of prisoner abuse in Iraq being made public, claiming they will aid the insurgency, court papers show.

US civil liberties groups have launched a lawsuit to force the release of 87 pictures and four videos showing abuse at Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad.

Earlier images sparked worldwide condemnation and resulted in charges against a number of soldiers.

The US argues the rest should stay hidden to avoid helping the insurgents.
It is "probable that al-Qaeda and other groups will seize upon these images and videos as grist for their propaganda mill," the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen Richard Myers, argues in court papers.

Releasing the images could also incite violence against US troops, he says.

No wonder the White House wants these images kept quiet....

President Bush's standing with an American public anxious about Iraq and the nation's direction is lower than that of the last two men who won re-election to the White House -- Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton -- at this point in their second terms.

Republicans in Congress already are starting to fret about the 2006 election.If Bush's approval ratings sink lower, more of them may be unwilling to go along with his major initiatives for fear it could cause backlash for them with voters.Bush's job approval in recent polls ranges from the low- to mid-40s. It was 42 percent in the latest AP-Ipsos poll.

His ratings on everything from handling Iraq to the economy to Social Security and other domestic issues are at their lowest levels so far.Reagan was at 57 percent at this stage of his presidency and Clinton was at 61 percent, according to Gallup polling at the time.

The eventual release of the 87 images from Abu Gharib will do nothing more than rip the scab open again, inviting a deserved round of world condemnation of the US. The bush administration managed to weather the first round of images from Abu Gharib, but with poll numbers showing that bush is less popular than ever, coupled with the nearly 1900 dead US troops in Iraq and the spiraling-out-of-control gas prices, the new images could be the straw that breaks this administrations back. And keep in mind these new images are reportedly far more graphic and abusive than the previous set.

Iraq is not going well, but the bright spot for lefties and people with common sense is that the masses are starting to wake up in the US and ask why their sons and nephews are dying in what is increasingly being revealed as an unwinnable war. People who supported bush are finally starting to come around to the idea that Iraq was a bad idea and wondering why for all the rhetoric and tough talk, there is no end in sight and continued bloodshed.

Republican voters are often also entwined with the US military machine. That is to say that often the people who enlist are also the same people who vote Republican, especially in the South, where a large percentage of the military personnel comes from. If bush loses this core group of voters, if they turn their backs on him as their relatives continue to die or become maimed, then this administration is indeed in deep trouble.

The pictures from Abu Gharib are sure to further tarnish the image of the US military, something that will not sit well with the pro-military Republican voters who were told that the US government was getting to the bottom of the first round of pictures. That the "new" pictures were probably taken around the same time won't be enough to win back a portion of the population that may finally realize the mud on the US military (and by association, the administration) has failed to wash off. If your son or daughter is in Iraq and now more of a target by association with these pictures, an issue that you were told had been dealt with, well, you aren't going to be too happy. In fact, you might just be fed up and scared, a mentality that is politically damaging if it catches on like wildfire.

But then again, I could be wrong. I don't know of any administration that has had a thicker and more polished layer of Teflon than the bush administration. This upcoming shit storm could very well slide away into oblivion just like so many other impeachment-quality issues that have come and gone during bush's one and a half terms. Who knows? If the Iraq gongshow wasn't real, one might be forgiven for thinking these past two and a half years in Iraq are nothing more than a bad dream.

And I just wonder if the American people are about ready to wake up. Thoughts?

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 5:42 PM ~~ 3 bonsai trees

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