saddam hussein executed

saddam hussein was executed by hanging in baghdad around 6 a.m. local time saturday (10 p.m. et friday). was this a victory in the war against terror? hardly. was this a triumph of justice? that's debatable. was this the much needed boost for human rights? i sort of doubt it.

it is certainly underwhelming, considering how much brutality this man caused over the last couple of decades, the circus that was his trial, and the seeming railroading to a quick execution. of course, even if the trial wasn't the most even-handed affair, there really was no way saddam would ever get a fair trial, because everyone knew him to be evil and guilty, even though he technically hadn't been taken to trial at the time or had been convicted of anything, which technically made him innocent according to western laws, even though everyone knew he was guilty, but he's not until a court finds him so, which they finally did in a trial that got ridiculously out of hand, if you follow where i'm going with this.

perhaps instead of having a perfect trial from a new judiciary, what was more important was the appearance of due process, because who are we kidding? it was all just a formality anyway. saddam was dead the moment the first american soldier set foot in iraq. it was only a matter of time. not if, but when and how.

i suppose many do rejoyce and consider saddam to have gotten better than he deserved, but at the same time, what now? he's dead. soon to be bones. where does that leave the iraqi people? what about the troops fighting there? the rest of the world?

say what you want about saddam (he's a monster for sure), but he managed to keep the disputing factions relatively under control during his reign because, well, he scared the shit out of everyone. he was basically the linchpin in iraq, and once removed, that whole complicated political and religious system sort of came unravelled which leaves iraq in civil war. is the world better off without saddam? probably. was he a necessary evil though? maybe. the less than satisfying nature of his death sort of makes you wonder, doesn't it?



gerald ford: iraq war was a "big mistake"

gerald ford, the 38th president of the united states, and the only one ever to take office without being elected, died at the age of 93, on december 26, 2006. he took over the presidency after nixon resigned in the wake of the watergate scandal. during his presidency, the biggest thing he'll be noted for (over and above surviving two assassination attempts on his life) is when he gave a full and unconditional pardon to nixon for any crimes he may have commited while president. this would turn out to be his biggest political mistake.

ford, apparently, did not agree with the iraq war. in a series of interviews done on the condition that they not be released until after his death, he spoke of many things, from the iraq war to the notion that the united states has a duty to free people around the world.

here are some highlights on what he had to say:

on the unjustified iraq war:

- ford said the iraq war was not justified. "i don't think i would have gone to war," said ford, about a year after u.s. president george w. bush launched the invasion.

- "rumsfeld and cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in iraq. they put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction... and now, i've never publicly said i thought they made a mistake, but i felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do."

on what he would have done:

- "i don't think i would have ordered the iraq war. i would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer."

on george w. bush's notion that the u.s. has a "duty to free people":

- "well, i can understand the theory of wanting to free people," said ford. but he was unsure if it was possible to "detach that from the obligation number one, of what's in our national interest."

- "and i just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security."

on saddam and weapons of mass destruction:

- "saddam hussein was an evil person and there was justification to get rid of him," he told daily news' thomas defrank. "but we shouldn't have put the basis on weapons of destruction. that was a bad mistake. where does (bush) get his advice?"

it seems that ford was just as perplexed towards the bush administration's actions as everyone else was at the time.

(source 1) (source 2)

the following is a fitting humorous tribute to gerald ford. here, dana carvey is in an old saturday night live skit that shows him playing news anchor tom brokaw preparing for ford's inevitable death:

an inconvenient truth

i know i'm a little late on this review, but i guess it's better late than never *wink, wink* i had been sitting on this movie for months and just haven't bothered to take a look at it until now. it didn't tell me anything i didn't already know, but it was definitely entertaining.

global warming is a tough subject to discuss without getting too preachy, and it's sort of unavoidable. at least al gore does it entertainingly in the documentary, an inconvenient truth. former vice president al gore does a great job of taking a stuffy, yet incredibly important subject like global warming and manages to, amazingly, turn in an entertaining and informative lecture. here, he speaks with passion and wit and humour. you can tell this is a subject close to his heart. the only thing i have to wonder about him, is where was this version of al gore in the 2000 election campaign? but i digress. the past is the past and we can't really change that. i'm

at any rate, an inconvenient truth is a great documentary. everyone should see this movie. as a human, as a global citizen, you will be cheating yourself if you did not see this movie. if you are someone who already knows about global warming and wants to make a change, this movie will give you support and make your beliefs into convictions. if you are someone who is critical of the effects of global warming, this movie will at the very least test your beliefs. and if you're too afraid to test your beliefs every once in a while, then those beliefs probably weren't worth propping up in the first place.

a major issue raised in this movie is the ability of science to help humanity move forward and advance. over the past few years, science has taken a major beating: from schools no longer teaching evolution to global warming being dismissed as a theory. it's about time science took a front seat again in schools and in thought. after all, science has gotten us to where we are today. without it, we'd still be a bunch of superstitious cave dwellers. (well, i guess some of us still are).

all in all, even if you don't believe in global warming, and you don't believe in the negative effects (eg: increased spread of diseases, flooding, increased natural disasters, increased refugee populations, etc), you can at least know this one key thing: you may not think it effects you, but eventually it will effect your job, your living space, and ultimately where it really hurts: your pocket book.

pick up the movie. it's good for you. the dvd package is even made from completely post-consumer recycled (and biodegradable) material.


george bush: new years resolutions

president george w. bush has made a new year's resolution to make sure u.s. troops remain safe in iraq and that the united states would "help this young democracy survive and thrive, and therefore write a new chapter of peace."
it's really a good thing he made a resolution about it, otherwise it won't ever get done. i mean, everybody follows through on their resolutions, right?
he's also gone on record saying that he wants more consultation with congress and the iraqis before "coming to closure" on a plan for iraq. he believes that "the key to success is to deal with elements there that are trying to prevent this young democracy from succeeding."
no shit sherlock. that's like saying the key to staying alive is breathing. considering he has yet to make any real changes towards the issue of civil war in iraq, with thousands of iraqis dying every month, not to mention the continuing increase of u.s. military casualties, hearing him give nothing but lip service sort of makes you want to puke in your mouth.


the fantastic four: rise of the silver surfer

the first fantastic four movie was horrible. everything from the writing to the special effects were terrible. the only character they got (mostly) right was the human torch. now there's a sequal, because for some strange reason that first movie made money. the fantastic four: rise of the silver surfer is supposed to herald some great special fx for the silver surfer. however, if you watch the trailer, the silver surfer simply looks like another version of the t-1000 from terminator 2. considering that movie came out in 1991, it's easy to say that i'm not too impressed with this version. i understand that the silver surfer came first, but you would have thought that there would have been some advances in fx in fifteen years when it comes to metal work.

anyway, the trailer has more action than the whole first movie did, so i guess this one should be a little better. however, if they don't improve the writing, there really is no point. it was the terrible writing, above everything else in the first fantastic four film that killed it.

one last thing: i'm really liking this method of releasing a full clip from the film as a trailer. studios should do that more often. it makes for a nice change of pace.

just click on the silver surfer picture to be taken to the trailer.



transformers were my favorite toy growing up, and the transformers movie was such a milestone in my childhood development. watching my favorite transformers die within the first ten minutes of the movie was very traumatic for me.

and now there is a live action movie and i cannot wait. it is being directed by michael bay, which sort of makes me want to throw up considering the bile he's put to screen over the last ten years, but the one thing i do know, is that he can do large, action filled movies. and that's all i expect. i don't expect a good story or great character development. all i care about is awesome robot fighting. if there is a good story and great characters, that's all just bonus for me. simply put, i want a fun and exciting summer blockbuster on the grandest scale possible. if michael bay can pull this off, i will forgive him for his past cinema sins.

i have low expectations, yet high hopes for this movie. i am hoping, deep down inside, that this movie won't suck. my childhood memories depend on it. even if the movie does suck, you know that it will make a tonne of money. consider the fanbase: just think of how many kids have played with transformers, and how those kids have now grown up to be adults with jobs and families. and consider how many kids today watch the new transformers shows (the transformers have been around in one form or another since they first came out in the 80's.) basically, the studio and the hasbro toy company are looking to make a killing on this, even if it sucks. the geeks have indeed inherited the earth.

i won't be posting a youtube version of the trailer because this movie demands that you view it in glorious quicktime. click on the screenshot below to access the trailer. all i can say at this point is, "bow down, bitches!" enjoy.



i never bought audioslave. and by "bought," i mean i never believed what i was hearing from audioslave; i never felt these guys were serious. it always sounded like old rage against the machine songs dubbed over with chris cornell's dubious vocals that sort of spilled nonsensical lyrics.

well, with the release of their third album, revelations, i now believe them. i finall "get" them. it no longer sounds like two different bands trying to force something to work. revelations works on so many levels and i finally believe that these two separate entities have finally shed their baggage to create quite a good album.

i've always felt that rage against the machine had one of the best rhythm sections of modern rock and it's no different with audioslave (of course, they are the same people, so that was really a dumb statement).

i also felt that chris cornell was sort of riding the coat tails of the ratm members, never sort of pulling his own weight. well, he's actually very good here; his voice sounds strong and vibrant. he's got that instantly recognizable voice that is sorely lacking in modern music these days; everyone sounds the same. but cornell's voice you instantly know, no matter what song it is. i really believe the best thing to come out of the seattle sound of the 90's are the distinct singers. cornell, layne staley, eddie vedder... these guys basically have a brand with their voices.

just a couple of beefs: tom morello's solos still bother me. i miss the days when he'd just give a solid, rocking solo. now, he's more into making funny noises with his guitar, which works sometimes and doesn't most of the time. when it doesn't work, it just sucks you right out of the moment of the song, and that's a shame. the second beef is with the band's name. audioslave is a horrible name for a band. terrible. just terrible.

here are a couple of videos:

original fire - tom's solo here doesn't work for me.

revelations - tom's solo here is much better.



elbow is one of the best underrated bands on this planet. these guys are definitely one of my favorites. i could listen to their music anytime, any day, any place. i particularly like to write while listening to these guys. they have a great ability to craft really great "big" songs, songs that take up volume and space yet somehow manage to stay incredibly intimate and delicate.

not only are they great musically, the lyrics to their songs are spot on. take the lyrics to "leaders of the free world" for example. The first two lines are just perfect:

I’m sick of working for a living
I’m just ticking off the days till I die

here are a couple of videos. go buy their cds and dvds:

"leaders of the free world"

"switching off"


how to read a music video

so the writing for giants has been going quite well as of late. i think i am slowly seeing success in terms of how the second half of the book is coming along. as i have mentioned before in previous posts, my intent with the second half of giants was for it to have as little dialogue as possible, with the majority of it being played out through the physical interaction between characters, their actions, and music. this is influenced by the movie easy rider. to this day, that movie remains a huge influence on me.

that movie had very little in the way of dialogue (most of it incoherent), with long stretches of video played to rock music. it was basically a two hour music video, which i thought was great, because it got the message across without any real dialogue. now doing this in a book is very tricky, because you don't want to rely on music for mood or emotional points because if the reader hasn't heard the song, it won't mean anything to them.

so what i've done is write it traditionally, and injected songs in virtually every major scene; just a mention of them, and nothing more. the result, hopefully, is that the reader understands there is a specific song playing, yet that's not the focus. it's sort of like mentioning a certain character is wearing a red obey shirt. it doesn't really matter if you know what the brand obey is. all that matters is that it's a red shirt. it's a detail, but it's not necessary. however, if the reader does know the brand, then hopefully it will give an added benefit to their experience. same way with listing a song. ultimately, it would be kind of cool if the reader went and sought those songs out.

so far, i have manged several dozen pages without any dialogue and it reads great i think. a lot of this second half of the book is based on some of the roadtrips that i have done. a lot of it is a mediation on travelling in general, and how seeing one's own country for the first time can be quite an eye opening experience. there is one particular sequence taken from my last trip across canada that involves the time my friends and i were trying to find a campsite late at night, somewhere in ontario. we were on a dirt road and we couldn't see a single thing. suddenly, a small orange pylon appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the road. we decided to drive on the left side of it, and it turned out to be the fortunate choice, because as we went around, we noticed that on the right side of the pylon, there was no road. the whole right side had crumbled away leaving a wide, gaping cliff. needless to say, it was a bit harrowing. here's an actual picture of the road from inside the car just minutes before we saw the pylon. as you can tell, we couldn't see anything. you can click on the picture for a better look, but it doesn't illuminate much:

the following are a couple musical exerpts from the book. they're not in any particular sequence, but the randomness of it is sort of the point, and i think it still fits together. (these are just first drafts. i haven't even done a spellcheck on them yet). the songs i have chosen here are just songs that i have either a) listened to on a roadtrip or b) was listening to while i was writing the scene.

- - -

The great lakes are big. This is an understatement. John had never realized just how large these lakes actually were. They seem to be as large as the prairies are flat; Just kilometres and kilometres of shoreline, with everything seeming so calm on the surface, with a whole world thriving underneath. It’s amazing how nothing seems real until you see it for yourself. Pictures or photos or images on a television screen… nothing does justice until you’ve witnessed it with your own eyes. Birth doesn’t happened with eyes wide open, but John can’t help but wonder if people ever open their eyes. Do they ever really see what they’re looking at? Is that even a lake out there, or is it fleeting? Is it really an old memory that will soon evaporate into a dust bowl? Is there time to say goodbye? Wave goodbye to the nice lake, John. Wave goodbye.

And it took 28 years to notice this. To see this. To open his eyes to this. Sometimes the distance between time and life can be cruel. How did he go so long without realizing the greatness of these lakes? It’s even in their goddamned names. It’s funny, but most people believe their lives are going nowhere when in reality the truth is colder and harsher than that. The truth is, most people live their lives at the speed of light. Blink. And it’s over.

John turns from the lake shimmering in the rearview mirror to Elton, who’s noticeably shivering next to him. His got his arms folded across his chest, his hands tucked into his armpits. It’s actually quite warm out, with even the wind wisp of burning warmth to it. He says something to himself and takes off his sunglasses before putting them back on. It’s at that moment that John wishes he could do something for him. Anything. If only. But he buries it, like he’s buried other feelings of helplessness. The time will come, he knew. And so he focuses on the beauty of the world as The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Weight of the World chimes on the radio.

- - -

Off the beaten path. In the middle of nowhere. On the road to nowhere. It’s actually quite frightening how much the darkness can swallow up. Without even the starlight, the dirt road before them seems to lead right to absolutely nowhere. The headlights shoot out several feet only to be taken in by the vacancy. There are particles of dirt floating in front of the headlights and every once in a while a large insect would fly out from nowhere, only to disappear into the blackness. It’s almost like they’re driving right into a black hole that’s swallowing them whole. Deepthroat. And the road seems to narrow, with the sides of the forest closing in on them. The branches are now scratching along the sides of the car, smacking their leaves up against the windows.

Elton glances at John but doesn’t say anything. This is John’s trek. His voyage. It’s dangerous to have expectations. Especially great expectations. So Elton leans back and listens to the Nick Drake’s Horn which rings out hollow one guitar instrumental tunes. You wouldn’t think that anything could get accomplished in the blackness, but there’s a sign up ahead. Not a sign, but a small orange pylon with reflective tape that acts as a sign that gets closer and closer until John slows the car down and in the split second, decides to go to the left side, rather than the right of the pylon.

As they pull up slowly to the left side of the marker, Elton rolls down the window and puts his head out, feeling nothing but deep air and emptiness. It is then that he notices the road has disappeared. They stop the car. Elton opens the door and puts a foot out tentatively but there is no ground where there should be ground. He takes the flashlight that John hands him and peers over the side with it. The light reveals the crumbled road, or what’s left of it. The whole right half of the road, the side where the pylon was acting as a divider, had completely crumbled and broken away so that there was nothing but a gaping cliff. That’s when the howling comes in; not from any animal, but from through the trees. From the wind. Like an abyss.

rocky balboa: it ain't over 'til it's over

does the world need another rocky movie? i think so. i think i am the only one in the world excited to see this movie. there's just something so great in the piles and piles of cheeze that rocky represents, that i just love. rocky is forever an underdog story, even when he's the champ, which is what i think makes it so great. that, and the song eye of the tiger.

so what's the new movie about? who cares. all you have to know is that there will be a montage sequence, 14 rounds of rocky getting hit with hundreds of punches that no human being could possibly survive, and dramatic moments where sylvester stallone mangles the english language. that's ten bucks well spent.

the following are two clips, the first is the trailer from the next and final rocky movie, out this christmas, and the second clip is of the training montage from rocky III. the best part of this training montage, is that it is completely unedited, the way it appears in the actual movie.

i believe the training montage was perfected in rocky III, although rocky IV had a pretty sweet training montage too. I mean, c'mon, he was fighting the commies. notice the sweaty, homoerotic embrace at the end of the clip as apollo and rocky prance in the ocean, with rocky raising his fist in triumph. genius.


the iraq study group: the new dream team

the iraq study group headed by james a. baker III have released their recommendations on the quagmire that is the iraq war, the most divisive military conflict since vietnam. the recommendations are actually quite blunt and refreshingly embedded in logic and reason, something that seems to have escaped the administration over the past few years. the report doesn't call for the foolish outright immediate withdrawal that some democrats have been proposing, nor does it support the ludicrous stay-the-course mantra that president george w. bush has been repeatedly cheerleading for. instead, the report calls for a dramatic change of direction that follows a timeline based on several different factors, and argues for the slow and gradual withdrawal of troops over the next fifteen months.

the highlights as taken from an article from the new york times:

- a call for direct negotiations with syria and iran and a clear declaration that the united states would reduce its support to iraq unless that weak and divided government makes “substantial progress” on reconciliation and security in coming months.

- while americans will be in iraq for years to come, the iraqis must understand that the american military commitment is not “open ended.” it is time, the panel said, to “begin to move its combat forces out of iraq responsibly.”

- the commission also abandoned the definition of “victory in iraq” that president bush laid out as his own strategy a year ago, and its report did not embrace the white house’s early aspiration that iraq might be transformed into a democracy at any time in the near future.

- their findings left washington awash in speculation over whether mr. bush, who thanked the members for their work and, in a private meeting, did nothing to push back against their findings, would embark on a huge reversal in policy. to do so would represent a admission that three and a half years of strategy had failed, and that mr. bush’s repeated assurances to the american people that “absolutely, we’re winning” were based more on optimism than realism.

- mr. bush can easily embrace some of the findings, including a call for a five-fold increase in embedded american trainers in the iraqi forces, which the panel said should happen down to the level of companies of iraqi military.

- the commission’s report included blistering critiques of current policy. it said that intelligence agencies had far too few people working on the causes of insurgency. it noted that the total cost of the iraq invasion and its aftermath could be “as high as $2 trillion,” or 20 times higher than some bush administration estimates in 2003.

- it proposed the creation of an Iraq support group of neighboring nations, including iran and syria. but it left unclear how those countries would be persuaded to be helpful.

and finally, here is a quick rundown of the members of the iraq study group, which is composed of both democrats and republicans. the study group is bipartisan and united in its recommendations. the new american dream team, if you will. just click on the jpeg for a larger view.

what barry says: the neocons

here's a great little video by the knife-party.net. it's a quick few minutes that sums up the neocon agenda. it's an older video, and while still relevant, things have changed a little (not much, but a little bit) in the united states political landscape, what with the end to the republican revolution and the end to cowboy diplomacy.

however, i think the graphics are pretty, so that's usually enough for me to post something on this silly blog.


george w. bush: american idol

ever wonder what president george w. bush would sound like singing john lennon's "imagine?" or how about lou reed's "walk on the wildside?" well, here you have them both in a mash-up mix thanks to www.thepartyparty.com.

i don't know about you, but i know who my american idol is!


the united nations: staff sex crimes

united nations secretary general, kofi annan recently addressed the unsettling occurance of sex crimes by a select few united nations staff. these crimes are being committed not only by some u.n. staff, but also by some non-governmental organization members.

annan repeated that "no one in the u.n. is above the law." there has been a "zero tolerance" policy in effect ever since allegations of u.n. peecekeepers in the congo surfaced.

just to note, the work that the u.n. does around the world is priceless, and the actions of a select few deviants hopefully won't deminish such efforts. we shall see how strict the u.n. is on this and how far they go to prosecute those who are basically the worst kind of predators: those that use opportunity and position to exploit people who are in need.

i also realize there has been a lot of debate for the last 10 years (actually, more than that) as to whether the united nations is still relevant or just a relic from the past, unable to affect any sort of change in the world. yes, they have some collosal failures on record (eg: Rwanda, soon to be Darfur, etc) but sadly, it's the best we've got right now. there needs to be a major restructuring, because let's face it, sexual misconduct is the least of the u.n.'s worries at this point. not to trivialize sex crimes, because they are some of the worst types of crime out there, but the u.n. is in serious need of rebuilding and commitment.

here's the article:

Sex crimes by staff 'overshadow' good work: UN chief
CBC News

Sexual exploitation by some UN workers is "utterly immoral" and "completely at odds" with the organization's mission, Secretary General Kofi Annan said at the start of a conference aimed at ending the crimes.

Annan made the comments in an opening address at the UN High Level Conference on Eliminating Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN and NGO Personnel. The conference in New York drew officials from the UN department of peacekeeping operations, UN agencies, member states, troop-contributing countries and non-governmental organizations.

Annan said one act of sexual exploitation committed by a UN staff member was one too many.
"Even if it is only a few who take advantage of our positions of relative power in the countries where we operate, it is a few too many," Annan said.

"Our behaviour should be something that others can emulate and be judged against."
The officials were discussing ways to address acts such as sexual assaults, rapes, human trafficking and sex with adult prostitutes by UN staff. These include allegations of sexual exploitation by UN peacekeepers in such countries as Congo, Liberia and Haiti.

Since 2004, the United Nations has investigated 319 cases of sexual exploitation involving some UN staff. The investigations have led to the summary dismissal of 18 civilians and the repatriation on disciplinary grounds of 17 police and 144 military staff.

Most UN staff 'upstanding,' Annan says

Such acts do not reflect the "upstanding behaviour" of most UN staff and the uniformed personnel who serve alongside them, Annan said.

"Throughout the world and in difficult and dangerous conditions, these courageous men and women make invaluable contributions to our work for peace and human dignity," he said.

"It is tragic and intolerable that those contributions are undermined by the small number of individuals among them who have engaged in acts of sexual exploitation and abuse.

"Such acts violate the trust and respect placed in us by the communities we are sent to help. They cause great harm to women and children who already face extreme hardship and violations in their daily lives. And they overshadow in the eyes of the public our many achievements."

Already raised standards, cracked down

Three years ago, after officials from the UN and non-governmental organization worked on the issue, Annan issued a bulletin entitled "Special Measures for Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse."

UN member states recently adopted standards set out in the bulletin, which spells out prohibited sexual conduct, explains the duties of individual and managers, and applies to all UN staff, including those in uniform.

Annan said the UN has made progress in implementing the bulletin, including by handling allegations of sexual exploitation more professionally, firing staff if they are found guilty, and sending uniformed staff home and barring them from future peacekeeping service.

'We have really only begun': Annan

However, the secretary general said the world body still needs a UN-wide strategy to implement the bulletin."

Today our personnel are better informed about what is expected of them," he said. But there still exists in some member countries a climate where victims do not feel free to come forward to report such acts, he added.

"We have really only begun. My message of zero tolerance has still not got through to all of those who need to hear it, from managers and commanders on the ground to all our other personnel," he said.

Annan said he has put together a draft policy statement and comprehensive strategy for victims of sexual exploitation by UN staff to be discussed by member states. Annan said victims, and the children born of such acts, need assistance.

"No one in the UN is above the law," he said.

In September 2005, Annan set up a group of legal experts to examine how to strengthen the accountability of UN staff and related personnel, such as UN police officers and military observers, who commit crimes while serving in UN peacekeeping missions.

The group has issued its report, which includes a proposal for an international convention on the matter. He said he wanted that report to be discussed at the conference as well.

As well, after allegations surfaced about UN peacekeepers in the Congo, the UN's peacekeeping operations department tightened its procedures and put investigators in place to enforce its "zero tolerance" policy.