musharraf: too bad so sad

the president of pakistan, general pervez musharraf is on a book tour right now, and while being interviewed by the cbc, he was questioned about whether his government was doing enough to prevent taliban soldiers from crossing the border into afghanistan to kill canadian troops. the general in turn began to criticize canada's reaction over the number of casualties being taken by canadian troops in the fight against terror. his basic remark is that canada needs to suck it up. that canadians should get used to casualties, and if they aren't prepared to suffer casualties, then they shouldn't participate in operations. he says that canada's losses compared to pakistan's losses in the war on terror, just don't match up.

these comments, of course, will rile canadians. but there is some truth to his remarks that canadians have to face up to. yes, canadians need to come to terms with the reality that war means death, and yes by implication, we have been naive about it. after all, the majority of canadians supported going into afghanistan, and while most canadians knew there would be casualties, none of it was real until the actual bodies started coming back home. there will be more bodies, and canada has to realize this. and i suppose in terms of sheer numbers, pakistan has lost more in the war on terror than canada, and i cannot argue against statistics. besides, statistics is a gruesome sport, one that falls into the lowest of debates, similar to who has the biggest penis.

but what i can debate is his essential point that canadians have to get used to the bodies. whether it's one body or a million, i don't think any nation or any people should have to get used to people dying. that is the last thing you want to do. war should never be routine. if that happens, it makes war a videogame. when one person dies, it effects the lives of their immediate loved ones, to their friend, to the families of their friends, to their relatives, to the families of their relatives, and so on like a ripple effect. war eventually touches everyone. some more directly than others. and to even suggest canadians should get used to seeing their sons or daughters brought home in flag-draped coffins is heartless at best. but i shouldn't be too surprised considering the source of these comments.

ultimately, canadians may or may not support the war in afghanistan, but no canadian should ever get used to it.

here is a quick video blurb from the cbc:


outrages upon human dignity

what is torture? is strapping a person to a board and holding them underwater until they believe they are drowing torture? is stripping a person naked and attaching electrodes to their genitalia torture? is placing a person in strained physical positions for hours on end, and depriving them of sleep torture?

george w. bush says that the phrase, "outrages upon human dignity" of the geneval conventions is too vague. while i agree that it is vague, as most laws tend to be, i believe these rules can be applied in the most common sense of ways: how would you want your soldiers to be treated as prisoners of war?

take the case of maher arar, a canadian citizen deported by the united states to syria and tortured until he admitted he was a terrorist, that he had trained in afghanistan. the only thing is, he wasn't a terrorist. he had never even been to afghanistan. but i suppose it's hard to think straight when you are being whipped by shredded electrical cables for days on end. heck, if i endured what he endured, i'd have probably admitted anything just to get them to stop. which is usually the case when one is tortured. you just start telling them what you think they want to hear; anything, to get them to stop the pain.

the fact that now the president has the authority to interpret those articles in the geneva conventions is frightening. what then, is the point of the judiciary? this of course opens up "interpretation" of said conventions by other, less benign leaders around the world. one person's idea of torture, can be another person's idea of coercion. where does the line get drawn? is there even a line to draw anymore?

here, jon stewart's daily show effectively runs down the debate on torture and dignity with their trademark wit and humor. watch for the moment of zen, where radio talkshow host laura ingraham tosses her credibility by saying americans are for torture because they like to watch a fictional television show:

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jon stewart

ah, god bless jon stewart. here he is on a piece about fox news' attempt to sandbag bill clinton. he comes up with the perfect comeback. i'd love to hear a politician say something like this in a debate:

clinton vs fox news

chris wallace of fox news attampted to sandbag billl clinton the other day. what was supposed to be an interview partly on the clinton global initiative and partly on anything else fox news wanted to talk about turned into a full on attack. but the attack that is in question is clinton's counter-attack at chris wallace. he attempted to get clinton, to hit him with questions that he'd never ask the bush administration, but clinton just went off when he tried it.

the question was the following: why didn't you do more to put bin laden and al qaeda out of business when you were president?

does clinton get angry? yes. of course he does. he has every right to be pissed off because walace and fox news is avoiding the facts and merely acting as a mouthpiece for the bush administration, who is of late trying to blame clinton for 9/11. the reality is, clinton did more to get bin laden than the bush administration before 9/11. the reality is, the bush administration thinks iraq is more important than getting bin laden. the reality is, chris wallace has no credibility, and neither does fox news, despite what their trade-marked "fair and balanced" b.s. might say.

as onegoodmove.org pointed out, thinkprogress.org has been doing some investigating into chris wallace's claims that he asks the bush administration the tough questions. they found that he never asked the bush administration why they demoted terrorist specialist richard clarke and he's never asked them about the uss cole. you can go here and here to read their findings on wallace's so-called journalism.

the result of this interview, is a lot of focus on clinton's outburst rather than the facts he produces, which are sound. what is to note here, is the fire that clinton has in his words, in his demenour, in his forceful counterattack in general. this is a fire that is lacking in the democratic party today. clinton saw what was coming, and he blew wallace out of the water for trying it. he hit them back harder than how they were trying to hit him, and that's part of the reason why he won two terms as president. clinton shows you don't have to be dirty in order to fight dirty politics; you can be pissed as hell, but argue with facts. (yes, he does do some chiding, but you can't really blame him). this is the type of stuff that democrats need to feed off of. they need to take this and run with it. they should be asking - no, demanding - repeatedly, where the fuck is bin laden and why aren't you doing anything about it?

fox has been going around the internet, trying to scrub out the video footage of the interview. they've already hit youtube, and google video is probably next, so enjoy this video while you can. it really is quite something. if it is no longer available, try here.

in the end, clinton admits about trying to get bin laden: "i tried and i failed to get bin laden. i regret it. but i did try." a man who admits his mistakes. bush could take a few pointers. even after all these years and all these attacks, clinton still stands tall.
the democrats really have to learn to at least strike back as hard as they're hit. they can't take this stuff lying down.

this is keith olbermann's rant which is both in defence of clinton, and another blatant attack against the bush administration. i love it.


movie bites: infidelity, a pageant, and mass murder

kim: the world is moving so fast now that we start freaking long before our parents did because we don't ever stop to breathe anymore.

the last kiss is a movie about a man named michael (zach braff) who has the perfect life: he's got a beautiful girlfriend, he's still best friends with his childhood buddies, he has a great job, and he's got a kid on the way. for some reason or other, he decides to sabotage himself by succumbing to a brunette named kim, who is ten year his junior. the movie is primarily about him, but also about his four friends who each have their own early mid-life crisis. chris is stuck in a marriage where his wife constantly points out how much he screws up; kenny is trying desperately to hang onto a life of no responsibility or commitments, and izzy just can't seem to get over his longtime love who dumped him inexplicably one day.

the movie is written by paul haggis of crash and million dollar baby fame. personally, i have never really liked haggis' writing style. i found crash to be horribly contrived and melodramatic, and those two things sort of follow in this movie. however, i found that he manages to deftly weave some humor into some intense situations, such as when michael is caught by his girlfriend and during quite a violent arguement, she calls him a "slut!" and his response is to look confused and reply, "slut?" the fact that haggis can take you from intensity to outright laughter and back to intensity within a matter of seconds in a movie like this, is kind of impressive. humor, ease of humor, is hard to do. probably the hardest thing to write, i'd say. but haggis does it well in this movie. and yes, the actors and director do take a lot of credit, because it is a movie after all, but the writing is solid and even though it is a formula.

on a side note, regarding michael's unexplainable desire to just sabotage his perfect life: if i had a life that boring and that planned out and safe, i think i'd try to sabotage it somehow as well. i know a lot of guys that would, my father included. so is that just a guy thing, or a universal human thing?

olive: grandpa, am i pretty?
grandpa: you are the most beautiful girl in the world.
olive: you're just saying that.
grandpa: no! i'm madly in love with you, and it's not because of your brains or your personality.

little miss sunshine is about a family called the hoovers, who are on the verge of breakdown. the premise basically involves the whole family going on a roadtrip so that olive, the daughter, can participate in a beauty pageant. the family is as dysfunctional as it gets. you have a suicidal uncle, a son that took a vow of silence, a daughter who lives, breathes and sleeps beauty pageants, a father who desperately doesn't want to fail, a grandfather who snorts heroin, and a wife that basically tries to hold the whole family together.

the writing is just pitch perfect. each character has their time to shine, with some great dialogue, especially from the perverted grandfather (alan arkin) who says he can say and do whatever he wants because he still has nazi bullets in his ass. it's not the most original of stories, but it's got a nice charm and heart to it. at the same time, it doesn't completely cop out at the end with a disney ending, which i really appreciated and feared. the movie doesn't tackle any of the subjects too deeply, not even the attempted suicide of the uncle, but it touches enough on each story that it makes you really chear for the family. by the end of the movie, they desperately need something good to happen to them, and you really want it to happen for them. their troubles don't end with the movie; there is no magic fix, and the film makers don't completely try to comfort you with a softball ending, but it leaves you satisfied to have endured the hoover family experience.

beth: i'm an english teacher, not fucking tomb raider.

and for something completely different, is the descent. i missed his little horror flick when it first came out. i sort of gave it a pan when i saw the trailer. basically, i thought it was the typical group of people getting in over their heads type of movie. and i was right.

the movie is about six women who go on an expedition into some caves in the appalachian mountains. what would be a fun, exciting trip turns into horror. but the horror doesn't really start until about halfway through the movie. the first half of the movie is great, and it's made really well, because there is a claustrophobic look and feel to the movie as the women are weaving their way through the caves. i actually found myself getting uncomfortable because of it. (tight spaces just aren't my thing). anyway, the movie doesn't really serve up anything new, but you do get some inspired "ripley-esque" moments where a couple of the women really kick some ass.

as silly as the second half of the movie gets, it was fun to watch. and even when they don't bother to really explain the science behind the cave creatures, i found that i didn't care. it was just sort of neat to see some of these women really take action. while all beautiful, not one single female character is taken to be a sexpot or vixen. there is no gratuitous nudity or sexuality, which would have been really easy to do considering it's a movie with no men in it. i guess that's what makes the movie ingenious. that, and the fact that it doesn't skimp on the gore or meyhem. viewer discretion is advised.


c'était un rendez-vous

this has nothing to do with politics or writing really, but c'était un rendezvous is a short film made by claude lelouch in 1976. it is a 9 minute film shot early morning in paris that involves a fast car, a grill-mounted camera, and a roll of film that had only 10 minutes left on it. the car goes from the paris periphery to the top of montmartre in nine continuous, unedited minutes. the car runs sixteen red lights, crosses the median to avoid a bus, drives on the sidewalk to avoid a garbage truck and nearly hits several pedestrians and pigeons, all in the efforts to get to sacre coeur where the rendezvous is.

it director was actually arrested when it premiered (subsequently released without charge), and it is claimed that a ferrari was used with a formula 1 race car river at the wheel. but the director himself has said that he drove his own mercedes and the film was dubbed over with the sound of a ferrari 275gtb to make it seem like it was going at much higher speeds. calculations made by several independent groups using the film show that the car never exceeds 140 km/h (85 mph).

still, whatever car he was using, he was going pretty fast through paris, and having been to the city myself and walked through many of those same streets and locations, it is quite an amazing feat. this is one of the coolest car dashes ever filmed. the film comes across as completely irresponsible and dangerous, but i really wouldn't be surprised if part, if not all of it, was staged. it is still very cool though.

operation: medusa

the cbc has pictures of canadian troops during operation: medusa which turned out to be a moderate to huge success, depending on who you talk to. operation: medusa was a push by nato forces led by canadians to clear insurgent forces from the panjawaii district of Kandahar province.

here are a few pictures that appear on the cbc website.


the growth of jihad

the new york times is reporting that a new national intelligence estimate, the most authoritative document that the intelligence community produces on a specific national security issue in the united states, has concluded that the american invasion and subsequent occupation of iraq has increased islamic radicalism around the world. this is the first report since the iraq war began that gives a comprehensive picture about global terrorism trends.

this report, which represents a consensus view of the 16 spy services inside government, basically confirms the suspicions of many critics of the bush administration and the iraq war: that the administration fumbled on the war on terror, and in fact has made things much worse in the process. before the war, iraq was not important to the war on terror, but as a result of the war, it is now a fire starter for terrorist inspiration and the spread of jihad against the west. as if islamic radicals needed yet more ammunition for their cause and for recruitment!

really, one begins to wonder if this administration has any clue at all as to what fuels terrorism and how to fight it. or do they even care? it seems that these neo-con fetishists are sacrificing the future for this immediate need to satisfy their own greed. i don't think there is a more apt description of this administration than the phrase, "bull in a china shop."

frankly, the conclusions, while not suprising, considering forward-thinking people with half a brain were calling this years ago, are still frightening never-the-less. here is the article in full:

Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat

By Mark Mazzetti

Published: September 24, 2006

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official.

More than a dozen United States government officials and outside experts were interviewed for this article, and all spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a classified intelligence document. The officials included employees of several government agencies, and both supporters and critics of the Bush administration. All of those interviewed had either seen the final version of the document or participated in the creation of earlier drafts. These officials discussed some of the document’s general conclusions but not details, which remain highly classified.

Officials with knowledge of the intelligence estimate said it avoided specific judgments about the likelihood that terrorists would once again strike on United States soil. The relationship between the Iraq war and terrorism, and the question of whether the United States is safer, have been subjects of persistent debate since the war began in 2003.

National Intelligence Estimates are the most authoritative documents that the intelligence community produces on a specific national security issue, and are approved by John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence. Their conclusions are based on analysis of raw intelligence collected by all of the spy agencies.

Analysts began working on the estimate in 2004, but it was not finalized until this year. Part of the reason was that some government officials were unhappy with the structure and focus of earlier versions of the document, according to officials involved in the discussion.

Previous drafts described actions by the United States government that were determined to have stoked the jihad movement, like the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, and some policy makers argued that the intelligence estimate should be more focused on specific steps to mitigate the terror threat. It is unclear whether the final draft of the intelligence estimate criticizes individual policies of the United States, but intelligence officials involved in preparing the document said that its conclusions were not softened or massaged for political purposes.

Frederick Jones, a White House spokesman, said that the White House “played no role in drafting or reviewing the judgments expressed in the National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism.” The estimate’s judgments confirm some predictions of a National Intelligence Council report completed in January 2003, two months before the Iraq invasion. That report stated that the approaching war had the potential to increase support for political Islam worldwide and could increase support for some terrorist objectives.

Documents released by the White House timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks emphasized the successes that the United States had made in dismantling the top tier of Al Qaeda.

“Since the Sept. 11 attacks, America and its allies are safer, but we are not yet safe,” concludes one, a report titled “9/11 Five Years Later: Success and Challenges.” “We have done much to degrade Al Qaeda and its affiliates and to undercut the perceived legitimacy of terrorism.”
That document makes only passing mention of the impact the Iraq war has had on the global jihad movement. “The ongoing fight for freedom in Iraq has been twisted by terrorist propaganda as a rallying cry,” it states.

The report mentions the possibility that Islamic militants who fought in Iraq could return to their home countries, “exacerbating domestic conflicts or fomenting radical ideologies.”

On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee released a more ominous report about the terrorist threat. That assessment, based entirely on unclassified documents, details a growing jihad movement and says that “Al Qaeda leaders wait patiently for the right opportunity to attack.”

The new National Intelligence Estimate was overseen by David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats, who commissioned it in 2004 after he took up his post at the National Intelligence Council. Mr. Low declined to be interviewed for this article.

The estimate concludes that the radical Islamic movement has expanded from a core of Qaeda operatives and affiliated groups to include a new class of “self-generating” cells inspired by Al Qaeda’s leadership but without any direct connection to Osama bin Laden or his top lieutenants.
It also examines how the Internet has helped spread jihadist ideology, and how cyberspace has become a haven for terrorist operatives who no longer have geographical refuges in countries like Afghanistan.

In early 2005, the National Intelligence Council released a study concluding that Iraq had become the primary training ground for the next generation of terrorists, and that veterans of the Iraq war might ultimately overtake Al Qaeda’s current leadership in the constellation of the global jihad leadership.

But the new intelligence estimate is the first report since the war began to present a comprehensive picture about the trends in global terrorism.

In recent months, some senior American intelligence officials have offered glimpses into the estimate’s conclusions in public speeches.

“New jihadist networks and cells, sometimes united by little more than their anti-Western agendas, are increasingly likely to emerge,” said Gen. Michael V. Hayden, during a speech in San Antonio in April, the month that the new estimate was completed. “If this trend continues, threats to the U.S. at home and abroad will become more diverse and that could lead to increasing attacks worldwide,” said the general, who was then Mr. Negroponte’s top deputy and is now director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

For more than two years, there has been tension between the Bush administration and American spy agencies over the violence in Iraq and the prospects for a stable democracy in the country. Some intelligence officials have said that the White House has consistently presented a more optimistic picture of the situation in Iraq than justified by intelligence reports from the field.

The broad judgments of the new intelligence estimate are consistent with assessments of global terrorist threats by American allies and independent terrorism experts.

The panel investigating the London terrorist bombings of July 2005 reported in May that the leaders of Britain’s domestic and international intelligence services, MI5 and MI6, “emphasized to the committee the growing scale of the Islamist terrorist threat.”

More recently, the Council on Global Terrorism, an independent research group of respected terrorism experts, assigned a grade of “D+” to United States efforts over the past five years to combat Islamic extremism. The council concluded that “there is every sign that radicalization in the Muslim world is spreading rather than shrinking.”


george w. bush is the devil

chavez just won't quit. he's looking more and more like a baffoon as he keeps calling bush "the devil." he's also called on bush to resign now. it should be noted that when you criticize or make fun of bush, it should be easy, like fishing with dynamite, but chavez's over-the-top remarks just makes him look bad. plus, it doesn't help that chavez isn't the most ideal of human beings either. in the end, i suppose nobody is as good as making fun of bush, as bush himself, which he so admirably does by just existing.

still, it's kind of fun watching chavez go off. i think we should have bush and chavez do a sort of "rap off" like in 8 mile. chavez could make his anti-christ remarks and bush can retaliate by saying chavez is full of "phony numbers." i think it'd be great.

here's the daily show's take on chavez and his growing lunacy:

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clinton vs global warming

former president bill clinton's 2006 global initiative conference took off, with richard branson, one of the elite's big shots, taking time off from circumnavigating the world in a hot air balloon to donate $3 billion to fight global warming.

finally, clinton and branson are together. it's like a buddy comedy in the making, don't you think? you have the crazy, eccentric billionaire and the suave, sex-crazed gigolo. the movie's plot would involve clinton swearing off his womanizing ways and with the help of his wild-eyed, off-the-wall best friend, branson, he trecks around the globe in branson's hot air balloon to win back the heart of the woman he loves: hilary clinton. hilarious adventures will obviously ensue. i should write this and pitch it to fox. they'll greenlight any crap movie. (cough, cough! x-men 3! cough, cough!)

at any rate, clinton is developing a $1 billion renewable energy fund.
it looks like he is following in the tradition of jimmy carter, as someone who is making a legacy out of his retirement. considering he was one of the youngest presidents ever, i guess it would be premature to think he'd just go off into a corner of the world and disappear. i wonder how much time he'll have to devote to causes such as this once he becomes the nation's first husband? (aw, who are we kidding? hilary will never become president. i don't think the united states is ready for it quite yet).

it is interesting to look at how much more freedom a person like bill clinton has once he leaves office and moves into private civilian life. he's free from the pressure of intrest groups, yet he doesn't have the sway or the authority he once had. just think of the possibilities if there was actually such a thing as a free-thinking president...

while this is a good start, and seems more than just your typical vanity project that celebrities dabble with, the reality of the situation when it comes to the environment is that the bulk of the attitude and lifestyle change has to happen through the average person in their everyday lives. if the people are not willing to change, and politicians are still afraid of losing elections, then i don't think there's much hope.

still, the clinton global initiative is more than just the environment; it's about helping people. below is
what the new york times has published. and after that is some video of keith olbermann interviewing clinton on various topics from torture ro presidential advice:

Clinton Debuts $1B Renewable - Energy Fund

Published: September 22, 2006
Filed at 12:41 p.m. ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- Former President Clinton announced the launch of an investment fund expected to raise more than $1 billion for renewable energy on Friday, the final day of his global issues conference.

The Green Fund would focus on reducing dependence on fossil fuels, creating jobs, lessening pollution and helping to reduce global warming, all while making a profit, Clinton said.

The announcement at the Global Initiative Conference came a day after British business mogul Richard Branson pledged $3 billion to battle global warming.

''The earth is warming at an alarming rate, we are running out of fossil fuels, and it is long past time for us to take action to correct these problems,'' Clinton said in a statement.

The fund's launch was announced by Clinton, former World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn, Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures, Yucaipa Companies founder Ron Burkle and business leader and philanthropist Steve Bing. Wolfensohn will serve as the fund's managing director.

The three-day initiative, which debuted last year, is an annual gathering of business, political and nonprofit leaders that requires participants to make financial or other commitments to help solve global problems. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the wife of the former president and a potential 2008 presidential candidate, attended Friday's session.

Some 150 other commitments amounting to nearly $3 billion also were promised to tackle causes ranging from improving health care in rural China to promoting environmental maintenance in the South Bronx.

The 2005 conference resulted in $2.5 billion in commitments, less than half of the nearly $6 billion pledged so far this year.

Associated Press Writer Beth Fouhy contributed to this report.

here is the olbermann interview. i have to say, i miss clinton a heck of a lot. say what you want about him and his presidency, but i still think he is incredibly sincere when he talks. even more so since becoming a regular civilian. and now it's not just his words, but in his actions. it really does feel like he just wants what's best for not only america, but the world. the whole monica lewinski thing seems a bit trite these days, doesn't it?


usa, a-okay!

so the bush administration has backed down on redefining article 3 of the geneva conventions. the original source of disagreement between the administration and the so-called republican "rebels" involved how to define the rules governing the interrogation of terrorism suspects and provide legal protection to c.i.a. officers who conduct said interrogations.

the deal that was reached seems to be pretty vague, maybe because they might still be working out the details. but for the most part it seems that the compromised agreement ensures that detainees are handled according to geneva convention standards for treatment of prisoners and not a more narrow interpretation that president george w. bush had sought.

the accord, however, states that bush has the authority to enforce the geneva standards and enumerates acts that constitute a war crime, including torture, rape, biological experiments and cruel and inhuman treatment.

so what does this mean in the end? it means that the bush administration made a bunch of noise. it made a lot of threats and posturing, and in the end, didn't fully shoot what was left of the credibility of the united states. already, the administration's propaghanda - er, i mean, spin - machine is in action, turning this into a full on victory. once more, by scaring everyone to death, bush appears like he's standing tall; the protector. the defender. when in reality, he's just a bully.

but was this all just a matter of a bait and switch? to distract everyone from what is still ongoing in iraq? keith olbermann takes a look at the suggestion that this whole business with the geneva convention serves as a useful distraction tool.

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reservoir dogs

there is a line in reservoir dogs, where "nice guy eddie" walks into the room after mr. blond has just cut off the police officer's ear in an attempt to get information out of him. he takes in the carnage that has occured and he screams:

"If you fucking beat this prick long enough, he'll tell you he started the goddamn Chicago fire, now that don't necessarily make it fucking so!"

olbermann discusses the merits, or lack of said merit, of using torture as a means of gettiing information. the debate, of course, is whether you can rely on information gained for torture. it seems that those on the ground, dealing with the gathering of information, tend to agree that for the most part, torture is unreliable, and has many blowbacks.


harper on afghanistan

the following is an interview that the cbc did with canadian prime minister stephen harper. basically, the interview is harper's attempt at some sort of media control, to reassert the government's position on afghanistan, in the light of numerous canadian deaths and what would seem like a successful military front in operation medusa. his message seems to be to stay the course. at least for another two years when they re-assess the mission in afghanistan.

i have to say, it's about time media-shy harper did something like this. i don't know if he necessarily convinces anyone who has doubts about the mission, but i don't think that was necessarily the intent. it was actually nice to hear him give some frank opinions on the topic. here is the full interview in two parts:

the numbers game

operation medusa is a success. depending on who you ask. apparently, 1,500 taliban fighters were killed during the operation despite a lot of them simply slipping away. still, there is a lot of praise for our canadian troops, and maybe this might better the moral of our troops, despite several more soldiers dying during and after the campaign. the most recent of course were the four canadian soldiers that were killed by a suicide bomber, who rode up on a bycicle and detonated a bomb. the troops were away form the safety of their armoured vehicles, conducting a foot patrol. they had just given out toys and snacks to local children when the attack occured.

now whether the numbers of taliban killed during operation medusa can be acurately verified doesn't seem to really matter in the media game that general james l. jones, supreme allied commander of nato seems to be playing. it seems it's all about numbers at this point, in what seems an attempt to shore up support with the canadian people, who are questioning the validity of our mission in afghanistan.

here's the cbc article:

Canadian-led offensive may have killed 1,500 Taliban fighters

The U.S. general who heads all NATO military forces says a two-week campaign that cost five Canadian lives in southern Afghanistan may have wiped out half of the "hard-core" Taliban fighters in the country.

Gen. James Jones, NATO's supreme allied commander, says Canadian forces did 'an absolutely superb job' in the latest offensive. (CBC)

The Canadian-led push, Operation Medusa, ended on Sept. 15 when Taliban forces stopped fighting and slipped away, Gen. James L. Jones said on Wednesday.

The Taliban "suffered a tactical defeat in the area where they chose to stand and fight" and got "a very powerful message … that they have no chance of winning militarily," he told reporters at the Pentagon.

NATO estimates that "somewhere in the neighbourhood of around 1,000" Taliban fighters were killed, and the number could be higher, he said. "If you said 1,500 it wouldn't surprise me."

Half of Taliban force may be dead

He said he thought there were 3,000 to 4,000 regular Taliban fighters before Operation Medusa. In response to a question, he agreed that he was saying that one-third to one-half of them may have been killed.

Most of the combat units in Canada's Afghanistan contingent took part in the operation. Four Canadians were killed in the fighting and one died when U.S. jets mistakenly strafed Canadian troops.

On Monday, four more Canadians died in an attack by a suicide bomber on a bicycle. They were on patrol in the Panjwaii district of Kandahar province, where the Taliban had ostensibly been defeated the previous week. The bombing brought Canada's death toll in Afghanistan since 2002 to 36 soldiers and one diplomat.

Canada currently has more than 2,000 soldiers in Afghanistan.

Jones said it is unclear how quickly the Taliban dead will be replaced with fresh fighters. He stressed that he was not counting casual, short-term recruits. "They bring along a lot of other weekend warriors if they can pay for them. [They] say, 'Do you want to make 200 euros or $200?' Actually, they pay dollars."

Nor are Taliban forces the only problem, he added.

"There's also the al-Qaeda remnant, which is considerably less. Then there's the [opium] cartels with their own armies for security of their convoys, and this is a problem. Then you have the corruption, the criminal elements, the tribal fighting that goes on. So it's a lot of disparate groups."

High praise for Canada

He praised the countries that contributed troops to Operation Medusa.

"I think the governments have been very strong, particularly Canada. Canadian leadership has been very, very strong in this. Canadian forces did an absolutely superb job, augmented by their British colleagues, a Dutch company that came in and two companies from the U.S."

But he said he was not claiming total victory over the Taliban. "We have disturbed the hornets' nest and the hornets are swarming.… It remains to be seen how much more capacity they have for this kind of fight."


america on its head

george w. bush is campaigning to become the first torture president of the united states of america. if he's not actively campaigning, then he's sure fooled me. he is pushing for new legislation that would redefine common article 3 in the geneva conventions that prohibits the use of torture. he is asking for the following:

1) authorize the cia to hide detainees in overseas prisons where even the international committee of the red cross won't have access.

2) permission to interview those detainees through practices such as "waterboarding" (which is a form of torture where a person is held underwater to the point where they believe they are going to drown).

3) permission to try those detainees, even sentancing them to death, through evidence they cannot see and evidence that may have been taken from such interrogation methods.

former secretary of state, colin powell, on the 13th of september, issued a letter to senator john mccain that sharply criticizes bush's new legislation that proposes a two track approach to interrogation, one system that observes the geneva convention's ban on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and one that does not. in the simple letter, powell states that "the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism."

here is the letter:

Dear Senator McCain,

I just returned to town and learned about the debate taking place in Congress to redefine Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. I do not support such a step and believe it would be inconsistent with the McCain amendment on torture which I supported last year.

I have read the powerful and eloquent letter sent to you by one my [sic] distinguished predecessors as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Jack Vessey. I fully endorse in tone and tint his powerful argument. The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article 3 would add to those doubts. Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk.

I am as familiar with The Armed Forces Officer as is Jack Vessey. It was written after all the horrors of World War II and General George C. Marshall, then Secretary of Defense, used it to tell the world and to remind our soldiers of our moral obligations with respect to those in our custody.



all this is very troubling for a nation that has seen the world turn on it, or at least the administration, over the past five years. the united states has resorted to force to spread their ideals and beliefs instead of relying on their culture and morality. the american people, long cowed by fear, has allowed this administration to do whatever it wanted. and now, here is proof, that not only is the administration trying to unilaterally reinterpret international law, but it is turning the country into a joke of its former self, becoming what they are fighting, and flying in the face of its own moral and political beliefs. what is the point of a constitution, of principles, if those that govern, those that are supposed to protect the people, are willing to compromise principles whenever it pleases?

if this passes, this may spell the doom for americans overseas, in combat or not. this means that if the united states can unilaterally reinterpret international law and make torture legal, then what is stopping another nation from doing the exact same thing? what protection is there for american men and women who get imprisoned overseas?

in the following two videos, keith olbermann discusses bush's new legislation, as well as what seems like bush's new slogan, "it's unacceptable to think." the first video is of bush basically saying that it is perfectly acceptable for a country to unilaterally reinvent international law to suit its purposes, so long as they "adopt the same standards we adopt." in the video, bush tries to brush aside the idea of what would happen to an american soldier caught in another country.

ultimately, bush claims they are just trying to "clarify law." well, by his logic, north korea can come out and say, "well, we thought it over, we gave it real intense thought and debate... and we've decided that torture is all good. we're clarifying that whole cruel and unusual part by saying anything is fair game." that would be clear enough i suppose. it seems that all they would have to do, is to say they are fighting terrorism. and terrorism, it seems these days, is in the eye of the beholder. some people call hezbollah a terrorist organization. some call israel a terrorist state. some call palestinians terrorists. some would call the united states a terrorist empire. the word itself seems to loose meaning depending on who you talk to, so how do you govern such a word?

in this second video, they discuss the legal ramifications of embracing torture. the goal may be to give interrogators more latitude of methods, but the resulting blowback may mean not only endangering american lives, but a self immolation of part of the american identity by its own government. when is enough, going to finally be enough?

(source 1) (source 2) (source 3) (source 4)

arar, the rcmp, and torture

while the bush administration has been stealing all the headlines for torture, our very own rcmp has been blamed for providing inaccurate information that resulted in maher arar, a canadian citizen, being deported from the united states to syria, where he was subject to torture. arar was ultimately cleared of any wrong doing or of any acts that would lead to the threatening of canada's national security.

the fact that we could have provided information, false or otherwise, to the united states so that a person could be deported to a country that is widely known to take part in torture, is troubling at best. it appears that some of canada's laws regarding the releasing of information when it involves a person being deported to a country suspected of using torture, will have to be revisited. after all, there are many cases where we refuse to hand over people to countries where the death penalty is still viable, so why not with torture?

the follow article from the globe and mail explains the situation far succinctly than i can:

RCMP criticized in deportation, torture of Arar

Globe and Mail Update

OTTAWA — Maher Arar is an innocent victim of inaccurate RCMP intelligence reports and of deliberate smears by Canadian officials, a commission of inquiry says in a scathing report that suggests the federal government should pay him compensation.

Mr. Arar, who was deported from the United States to Syria, where he was tortured as a terrorist suspect, has suffered "devastating" mental and economic consequences as a result of his ordeal, Mr. Justice Dennis O'Connor said in a report released today in censored form.

"I am able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offence or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada," the report says.

The 822-page report, which has been censored because of government concerns about national security, also calls for the further independent investigation of the cases of three other Canadian Muslim men — Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muyyed Nurredin — who were imprisoned and tortured in the Middle East under similar circumstances.

The RCMP should never share intelligence reports with other countries without written conditions about how that information is used, Judge O'Connor says.

He also says information should never be provided to a foreign country if there is a risk of it being used to torture people.

The report — the result of more than two years of hearings, some of them held in secret — clears federal officials of any direct involvement in the U.S. government's decision to deport Mr. Arar to the Middle East in 2002, even though the 36-year-old computer engineer was traveling on a Canadian passport.

Judge O'Connor, however, blasts the RCMP for providing U.S. authorities with inaccurate intelligence that resulted in Mr. Arar, and his wife Monia Mazigh, being put on a border watch list as dangerous al Qaeda terrorist suspects.

U.S. officials refused to testify at the Canadian inquiry. But Judge O'Connor says it "is very likely" they relied on the faulty RCMP intelligence.

"The RCMP provided American authorities with information about Mr. Arar which was inaccurate, portrayed him in an unfair fashion and overstated his importance to the investigation," the report says, referring to a Mountie probe of possible al Qaeda terrorist activities in Ottawa after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

The RCMP asked the Americans to put Mr. Arar and Dr. Mazigh on a watch list as "Islamic extremist individuals suspected of being linked to the al Qaeda terrorist movement," the report says.

"The RCMP had no basis for this description, which had the potential to create serious consequences for Mr. Arar in light of American attitudes and practices," the report said.

The Mounties' errors included reporting he was in the Washington area on Sept. 11, 2001, when in fact he was in San Diego.


fusion: colbert + stewart

there are rumors flying around that secretary of state, condoleezza rice and canadian foreign affairs minister peter mackay may have something more going on than just a "professional" relationship. suggestions of an affair came about after rice's visit to nova scotia this week, where mackay even introduced her to his dad.

i guess there is quite a novelty factor with these two, and it's getting a little silly. it's like the obsession people had with the whole "brangalina" thing with brad pitt and angelina jolie before they finally came out in public together and admitted their relationship. for months it was like: are they...? aren't they...? well, i guess you could call this one, "marice" or may favorite, "peezza."

despite the oddball nature of this media obsession, which i suppose i am foolishly participating in by blogging about this, there are some good laughs to come out of this. below is a video of last night's colbert report on the topic, with an addition of the daily show where former saturday night live comedian, norm mcdonald gets put on "the seat of heat" by jon stewart.

personally, i'm hoping for a george bush / stephen harper affair. we can call them "gephen." ah, if wishes were ponies...

the pope vs islam

the pope made some disparaging remarks about islam in a speach to the university of regensburg. pope benedict repeatedly quoted 14th century byzantine emperor manuel ii palaeologus, who wrote that everything the prophet mohammed brought was evil and inhuman, that "such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." benedit added, that "violence is incompatible with the nature of god and the nature of the soul."

well, his comments aren't going over too well in the muslim world, as you would probably expect. some are calling for a written apology, with one muslim leader, syed ahmed bukhari, the chief cleric of one of india's largest mosques telling muslims to "respond in a manner which forces the pope to apologize." he did not elaborate on this statement. there have already been some protests in gaza city as a result of the pope's speach.

the only thing i can say about this, is that the pope is treading on some very dangerous ground. those that are defending him say that either he is calling it like it is, or he is at least inviting dialogue and discussion on the matter. regardless, it is absolutely assinine for a person of his stature to say such things in such a way. not even george bush has said something that silly about islam.

what muslim leaders should do at this point, is to call for a non-violent response and rebuttal to the pope's speach. if violence does erupt over this, and muslim leaders are either aiding or not opposing the violence, it would only confirm the suspicions of people who consider islam to be a violent religion. it would prove to them that followers of islam are incapable of entering a debate without resorting to violence.

we'll see what the future brings.

(source 1) (source 2)

the terminator vs the governator

the terminator likes to come "day and night." the clip is pretty self explanatory.

fact and fiction: what's the point?

no link between saddam and al qaeda. no connection between saddam and 9/11. no weapons of mass destruction. not even any sign that any weapons program was in place, because the first gulf war and the sanctions destroyed saddam's capabiliites. we know this, because the republican guard ran when the united states went into baghdad. despite all this knowledge, depsite all the facts, cheney still insists he would do the exact same thing. there really is no more line between "rhetoric and reality," and it is clear now that logic and rational no longer matter to this administration. this administration has lied to the american people, to the world, for one single purpose: to stay in power.

the following link is cheney being interviewed on meet the press on sept 10th, 2006, where he admits that he would do the exact same thing, that going into iraq was the best thing to do. notice how he doesn't deny that saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 (bush already admitted that, which was one of the main accusations prior to the war). instead, cheney keeps pushing how terrible a man saddam is and that the world is safer without him.
and cheney still makes reference to weapons of mass destruction, despite all the facts that say otherwise. look, no one is denying that saddam was a bad man; but they didn't go into iraq just because saddam was a bad man. if that were the case, the americans would have to wage war with half the world.

at this point, it's outright delusion, or lying. neither is acceptable when it comes to leading a nation. the fact that the iraq war was clearly a mistake, that it was a war based on, at worst, lies, or at best, exaggeration, and the fact that cheney would do it all over again, is astounding in its sheer stupidity. dick cheney really does live up to his name.


politics and guns

25 year old kimveer gill went on a shooting rampage wednesday at montreal's dawson college, killing 18 year old anastasia desousa and wounding nineteen others before turning the gun on himself and ending his life.

inevitably, this tragedy has now become a political issue, not because of the fact that he was a loner who didn't make many friends, or because he was into goth culture of violent video games (although those are all things that will be analyzed extensively in the days to come), but more because of what he was armed with when he went on his shooting spree. he had three weapons on him: a 12 gauge shot gun, a glock .45, and a beretta cx4 like the one pictured below:

the debate on the federal gun registry is now heating up once more. the registry, introduced under the former liberal government, ran way over budget, with the current conservative government intending on putting an end to the registry. the quandry of this situation, is that the gunman's weapons were all legally registered to him. this man, it appears as more time passes, seemed to be a man filled with some very negative emotions, most notably hatred towards others and a fetish for death and guns.

the registery would not have been able to prevent this situation from happening, because of how gill was able to pass through the legal hoops that were made to prevent guns from getting into the hands of people like him; ultimately this is more of a social issue with the way people are treated and how they develop during their most impressionable youthful years and how that translates to their latter behavior.

but the registery needs to be kept, because while it could not have prevented this, it is still incredibly useful. for example, if is a domestic dispute happens, it is important for the police to know if there are guns in the household before they go in; what kind of guns, how many, etc. some people called the registery nothing but another attempt at a government cashgrab. well so what? my question is, what in the world does anybody need with a 12 gauge shot gun and a fucking beretta cx4? to hunt? hunt what? for protection? what's the point of the police then?

i understand the alure of guns. i have fired a gun just one in my life, when i was 15. i admit, that there was a strange sensation of strength, of power, but it was not for me. i can see how that same gun in the hands of a different type of person would excite them. but again, i ask, what does anybody need with a beretta cx4, legal or not? at this point, i don't see how anybody can justify to me why they need such a weapon. the only reason for anyone to have such a weapon, would be because of the fetishistic value of it; to just have one. and that's just not a good enough reason. small arms, conventional weapons, have destroyed more lives in this world that nuclear weapons. civilians should not be allowed to have these weapons to begin with.

below is some footage of the beretta cx4 in use. it's semi-automatic nature and ease of use (eg: reloading, shooting) are what makes this weapon popular. just watch this footage, and tell me why any civilian would need a weapon like this.

(source 1) (source 2) (source 3) (source 4)


from iraq with love

before 9/11, iraq was pointed to as a central battleground in the war against terror, that al-qaeda was linked with saddam. well, we now know there was no such link, but iraq is definitely now a front in the war against terror. the only thing is, the bush administration made it a front as a result of the iraq invasion. it's like making yourself do extra work when you don't need to. now, it appears al-qaeda has taken a decent hold in iraq. congratulations, george bush, you got your wish: iraq is a haven for terrorists.

here, olbermann's interview touches on the fact that iraq was made a front in the war against terror, and how war in the middle east creates "strange bedfellows."

update: untitled

just a quick update about how the writing has been going. i finally mailed off some promotional copies of desert sessions: an anti-corporate love story to the georgia straight, which is vancouver's weekly publication about news, entertainment and politics. hopefully they will be kind to it. everybody in vancouver pretty much reads the georgia straight, so i'm hoping to get a little more exposure.

i haven't done any actual writing on the second half to my currently untitled project, but some great ideas are coming through. i realized that since the first half of the book was so heavy on dialogue and action, i will be making the second half pretty much void of any dialogue except what is necessary.

i was watching easy rider the other day, which is about peter fonda and dennis hopper traveling from los angels to new orleans on their motorcycles, searching for america. the movie has very little dialogue, and what little there is doesn't make much sense because of how high (actually high in real life) hopper and fonda were when they made the film. the movie is basically a two hour music video, with long clips of them traveling to music, through the desert, down the coast, etc. and i realized that this is what i want the second half of my book to be like. i want lots of descriptions, lots of emotion through how the characters look at each other, how they touch each other, etc. i find that sometimes language gets in the way of real communication, because sometimes people will say one thing, but their true intent/meaning would reflect in their facial expressions or the way they hold themselves, etc. that is what i wanted to capture. i wanted it to be more poetic.

the second half of the book will be based partly on a two week road trip i did across canada last year with two friends of mine, and a recent trip through british columbia i did a few weeks ago. it will basically be about the large, empty spaces that i came across. and because music is such a huge part of my writing process, and because music is where i get most of my inspiration from, i will be mentioning songs throughout the second half of the book, and hopefully the reader will know the songs and it will add to the mood of the book. if the reader doesn't, though, it won't take anything away from the experience.

below are some of the songs i have chosen to me
ntion. i tried to chose some of the most beautiful, euphoric music. the whole point about the second half of the book is about the beauty in the world, since the first half is all about the ugly humanity. i think i sort of made a mistake about writing the first half so brutally straight forward and antagonistic, that the second half almost has to go the completely opposite way in order to balance out. my previous books have been depressing, incredibly so, so this one i wanted to change things up. to really give the reader some warmth to the second half. so lyrically and melodically, i wanted to capture that, hence the following songs. click the links to hear them:

elbow - grace under pressure
alexi murdoch - orange sky
pink floyd - wish you were here

the following images are pictures that i took on my road trip last year and the one just a few weeks ago. you can see the canadiana in them, but at the same time, they
really could be images from anywhere. these are the types of images that i will be attempting to portray in the second half of the book. you can click on the images for a better look.