A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

22 December 2005

God I Love This Country

"Bad taste, violation of religious or moral standards or even public disgust aren't by themselves enough to make something indecent."

Somewhere out there, Stephen Harper is wearing the crowns off his teeth. But more of him anon.

God I Love That Country, Sometimes

Because once in a while, they show smarts. The drilling provision was buried within a defence bill, presumably masking as "energy security"--a Bushism meaning "continuing to do things the same old way while gutting the country to do it".

The people who pull the strings on the president may be very disappointed. I mean, they paid for the right to drill there, didn't they?

In a Related Story

Of course, things aren't always like that. The (sieg heil!) Patriot Act is being extended, and they're still holding people indefinitely without trial and torturing people (the US legislation which enforces the UN Convention on Torture specifically exempts mental torture and much of the "tool kit" they're currently using).

Not that it matters. GWB doesn't worry too much about the letter of the law, nor its spirit, if he thinks he can get away with it. When caught, he reverts to scapegoating his "war on terror":

"My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important programme in a time of war"

Where is the shame? I think America knows what to do with presidents who make secret tapes--why is no-one doing it?

18 December 2005

The Heat is Rising

Politics is often and aptly described as a swamp. And if there is a heart to this steaming, sticky, humid darkness it is the mucky ground covered by that mystic route called the Campaign Trail.

But it's not at all a straightforward route. And there isn't just one. Along the Campaign Trail there are many forks, decision points that signal a choice to be made. Moreover, each new decision may lead to a series of new ones, or effectively eliminate a prior one.

For the observer, the choices made by political parties, and particularly by their leaders, may give a clue to where each is heading--obscurity or 24 Sussex Drive--and also some idea of where the country is heading as a whole, or possibly into a hole. In this campaign, several issues are already cropping up as major markers, and as everyone in Canada knows, some parties are already out of the race.

That would be the New Democratic Party. Jack Layton's voice is lost amid the tropical cacaphony of the Liberals and the Conservatives. Nontheless, we'll be looking at them, as well as the Bloc Quebecois (in a minority Parliament, splinter groups become important) and of course the other two major contenders.

Stick with me and I'll tell you exactly how to vote. And unlike most part leaders, I'll give you rational reasons to do so.

Next: Child care and guns--a single solution?

Really next: The issues.

While you're waiting, have a look at the other parties (who won't be forming the next government).

13 December 2005

'Bye Tookie

The state of Cal-i-foh-nyah killed a man about three hours ago. He had spent the last twenty-five years of his life on Death Row in San Quentin, writing children's books and warning against the dangers of gang life. He was 51.

I'm glad I live in a country that's thought better of that sort of savagery. No-one would miss Paul Bernardo, or Karla Homolka for that matter (or especially). But Shannon Murrin, who spent five years in prison before his acquittal in the Mindy Tran murder case, Stephen Truscott--sentenced to hang at 15 for a killing he didn't commit, and Rodney Cain, to name only three, would have objected.

Tookie Williams was most likely guilty of all charges against him. But it's as right to kill him as it was for him to kill in the first place. And he was probably more useful as a live warning against the drug & gang lifestyle than he is as fertilizer.

It's seems wrong, too, that given the Gubernator's record of "playful" sexual harrassment, and the "youthful indiscretions" of the current Chief Executive, that a man who's made mistakes can get no understanding from them.

12 December 2005

A Reason

At last an explanation:

Who Would You Dye For?

The SO and I are gourmands and budget bon vivants. We enjoy the pleasures of table and glass, and relish good food in good company.

Last night the SO and I had a terrific dinner with a friend I'll call Norah (thanks for the bloody amazing Samosas, Norah). During the conversation, she mentioned that she had recently tried to dye her hair purple.

This seemed somewhat incongrous, as Norah is a devout Muslim, and wears the hijab, or headscarf, at all times outside her home. We were prompted to ask her why.

"Oh," she answered with a winsome smile "just for me".

11 December 2005

More Gun-play on Parliament Hill

Paul Martin has decided to ban handguns. Whoopee. He's actually managed to get me to agree to a Stephen Harper sentiment: That we actually have a fairly stringent set of gun laws in this country and they seem to be working.

The few legally-held handguns in this country aren't bothering anyone. It's a flood of illegal guns, coupled with a certain type of lifestyle. I personally am getting tired of hearing of "south Asian male, 22, shot at nightclub, may have had gang connections".

Every race and nationality takes its turn in the ghetto. In the early 1900's the indolence, alcoholism and violence of the Irish made them undesirable neighbours. At the moment it seems as though the East Indian community is arising from this stage, with the related inter-gang homicides as the gangs are squeezed into smaller, less respectable spaces and fight for territory.

However, it's discouraging to see the nightclubs putting in metal detectors because "more people are carrying guns when they go out". If a bouncer catches someone trying to get through the metal-detector with a Smith & Wesson .45, what is he going to do about it? Bouncers aren't armed--it's illegal.

The solution will come when the communities from whom the gangsters are recruited start to participate in the enforcement process--like telling the police when they know a crime's been comitted. To do otherwise is collaboration.

In More Amusing News

If I were Anne Coulter's parents, I'd tell the press she was adopted. Crazy Annie flounced offstage to boos and catcalls at a the University of Connecticut, saying:
"I love to engage in repartee with people who are stupider than I am."
Anne, darling, you're really limiting yourself there. I can only think of three people, actually. But I'm told you, Mike Savage and Rush are competing for the shrinking audience of genuine loonies who believe Iraq has something to do with the War on Terrorism, and Mr. Bush is busy in his closet, rocking back and forth and chanting "There ain't no sich thang as Globalised Warming!" with his fingers stuck firmly in his ears.

On the Subject of Which

I approve of the Quioxte--ahem--Kyoto Protocols. We can't meet them, I mean we really can't. The targets are impossible without completely retooling our lives and economies worldwide, and only 95% impossible if we get started now. But I like them just the same--they're all we've got, the only attempt to address something which is real, and is happening now. Any other course of action at the moment seems to predicate itself on denial of that basic.

So it was good to see most of the world (except the one with the biggest economy) getting together on the idea. It is at least a statement that we believe that global warming is a fact, that it is a problem, and that it's a problem we need to address in our lifetime.

And Finally, A Personal Triumph

After three weeks of having to thread my way down the hallway I share with the SO betwixt piles of camping gear, old carpets, and assorted other crap, I completed the storeroom floor. Next, it's the main living spaces. The SO looks doubtful when I tell her we can do it with a minimum of fuss and inconvenience, and makes noises about hiring a "professional".

I ask you, is this any way to express her supreme confidence in me as to my fitness as a mate?

06 December 2005

A Return to Good Old-Fashioned Responsible Gunfighting

By the way: now that the Skycops have guns, they are presumably being trained to use them, and are prepared to do so.

That is, on a public transit system consisting of cramped, crowded trains, and jostling, confined stations containing thousands of people, they are ready at any moment to open fire on wrongdoers.

I feel more secure already.

Bad Idea Given Stupid Encouragement

The City transit system includes an elevated rail line I'll call Elerail. It's okay, sort of. The city spreads north and south of the river, the Elerail runs alongside it. To some extent this distorts the transit picture by in essence, forcing "two-steps-forward-and-one-to-the-side" trips for commuters.

No matter, I favour it, and the extension they're now building (which is utterly loathed by a number of well-meaning people for, I confess, perfectly adequate reasons). But public transit is almost always a case of "if you build it, they'll take it" and the more so with this system for the reason below:

For some blindingly stupid reason when the system was built, in a haze of locally-grown smoke, the planners neglected to put in turnstiles.

I know. I love the City. In what other metropolitan area sprawling hundreds of square miles and containing 2.2 million grasping, venial, tight-fisted bastards does the transit authority say: "Hey man, can't we just share this with the world?"

It followed as the night the day that they should then have to hire a special force of cops, dredged from the very best of the rejects and retirees from real police forces, to catch turnstile-jumpers. One must sypathize for these Skycops. Theirs was made an unneccessarily difficult task because, as mentioned, there were no turnstiles to jump.

The regular local force in this city has a reputation somewhere between Sgt. Preston of the Mounties and the Gestapo, tending closer to the second. But Skycops get no respect at all.

So they're being given guns. The math, on the part of the individual responsible, obviously goes like this:

Cost of turnstiles, several million. Likelihood of appearing on television: Nil.

Cost of guns, several hundred thousand, odds of having to make a statement to the press and appear on television to defend someone who's shot an innocent bystander, thus impressing the 19-year-old I'm having it off with: Much better.

Worse yet, stupid citizens make statements like this:

"I guess it makes me feel a little bit more secure although I didn't feel all that insecure," said Robert Smith

Next week, the City will introduce an all-Canadian, local version of the Patriot Act, and some other blithering idiot will repeat the sentiments above. Haven't we learned not to encourage this sort of thing?

04 December 2005

Morning Musings on a Monk

The Monk of Miletus commented below, and quite correctly, that the "sacrifice-in-vain" argument for continuing to fight for the unsteady proto-democracy in Iraq is flawed:

". . . To achieve this rather ambiguous result, over 2,000 Americans have died, as well as about 50,000 Iraqis.

You say we cannot withdraw. Well, what about when 3,000 Americans and 75,000 Iraqis have died? Should we withdraw then? Still no? Well then, what about when 4,000 Americans and 100,000 Iraqis have died?"

True. Simply citing deaths already incurred is no reason to allow more of them. Yet the Monk provides his own answer earlier on:

"We overthrew a Baathist, Sunni-dominated government and it seems clear that we shall leave an Iranian-style, Shia government in its place."

In the first place, an Iranian-style theocratic government is not inevitable, and becomes more likely if the American troops are withdrawn--a consummation devoutly to be avoided.

Second, yes, any government in Iraq will tilt toward the Shia majority simply by a pure process of democracy. This is a grave flaw in planning--has no-one observed that people who declare themselves the servants of a god don't tend to go a bundle on civil rights, particularly of those who don't follow their creed?

You need look no further than the initiator of Gulf War II, and only a little further, to Cuba, to see this.

The world is full of irony. Many who oppose the war now find themselves supporting the occupation as the alternative to the bloodbath and terrorist state that seem set to follow a pullout. I feel that the wobbly democracy imposed in Iraq, flawed as it is, must be supported wholeheartedly and with boots on the ground.

The alternatives, as the Monk says, are a theocracy or terror state (those two terms are synonymous in my view). Most importantly, the conquerer cannot allow themselves the luxury of retreat from a place where so many are waiting to fill the resulting power vacuum.

George Bush II, having vaccilated on his cover story, finally decided to cover the invasion with the umbrella of the "War on Terror". Ironically, this was a self-fulfilling prophecy. He picked the battleground, and every day, people loyal only to a self-styled cultural version of Islam make their way to Iraq to die gloriously in its service.

"Iraquification" of the war is likely a couple of years away, and would currently work as well as "Vietnamization" did for LBJ. The war is unpopular even with America's staunchest allies. So the boots on the ground will have to be American.

Now all we need to know is what "victory" means.

By the by, here's more irony in action:

"President Bush said Thursday 'that U.S. support is helping to bring AIDS prevention and treatment to hundreds of thousands around the globe, as he marked World AIDS Day,' the Washington Post reports. 'Bush's speech, attended by five Cabinet secretaries and many ambassadors from African nations, came as the world is about to miss by a wide margin the goal of providing AIDS drugs to 3 million people from low-income countries by the end of 2005.'"

And they're going to need those drugs, at least if current dogma-based foreign policy is allowed to continue.

These two items show a common cause: Total failure to consider the world from the other guy's perspective. If you see the world from beneath a Ba'athist bootheel for three decades, courtesy in part of the CIA and George Bush the First, you may well be slightly suspicious when George Bush the Even Lesser rides into town on his white horse, proclaims Pax Americana, and then proposes to leave you to the tender mercies of a thousand simmering internecine feuds.

If you're an African woman, whose culture more often than not supports the husband's right to get sex (both from you and from others), you cannot count on the support of US troops to protect you from infection. Being abstinent and faithful on your part mean $#!+ if your partner is neither. Guess who the newest, highest-rate HIV infection victims are?

I want to jot down some thoughts on the wobbly democracy in Canada, which is about to be (lethargically, I suspect) exercised. But this post is long enough already. See ya.

By the way, the Monk's blog is, in my 'umble, brilliant. Succinct, well-delineated--not at all like my own random ramblings. I'm glad to have heard from him, and even happier about the water on Mars (link courtesy of the Monk).

01 December 2005

I've Started, So I'll Finish

Recently, there have been calls in the US (finally) for the winding-down of the war and the return of her hard-worn troops. The current occupant of the White House has recently made noises about it.

This is the one thing America cannot, must not do.

Along with this has come a lot of crap about who voted how on the war: "Did you support it? Do you think you were wrong to do so?" with all the co-accusatorial cross-politics this implies.

I'm in an awkward position. I knew the war was wrong, but supported it broadly because I couldn't believe that anyone would deliberately lie just to avenge his dad and create 100,000 dead Iraqis. As the WMD cover story unravelled, I slewed around one hundred and eighty degrees. I consider myself once bitten, twice opposed.

But the one thing the US cannot do is cut and run. Having destroyed the most stable institution in Iraq--the Baathist dictatorship they fought so hard to establish in the first place--they are left with the painful realization that a tradition and groundswell of support for democratic governance do not come overnight.

The warning signs are all over Russia, should anyone care to look. Even Italy has a government that we in North America would consider high-handed and overbearing, and let's not get started on France. Part of the mistake was in trying to give US-style democracy (which most of the world, oddly, eschews for more directed models) to people who have never had any say in their own lives. They were promised bread and circuses, but didn't realise they'd be eating it in a bomb shelter.

The Chinese say that once you pick up a stray kitten, you become responsible for the cat it will become. Iraq is George the Impaler's kitten (no speculation as to what a man who brands humans would do to a kitten). In a carefully orchestrated speech on Iraq made to cadets at Annapolis Naval Academy Bush II made the statement that America would stay the course so long as he was president.

The speech was called "significant" by his aides--just like eight of his latest speeches to selected audiences.He made no promises about going there personally, nor did he say what happens after he gets booted out next election.

I'm glad to see America questioning its role, goals, and morality, finally. But the reason given for returning the troops is to save US lives. What about Iraqi ones? Is the sacrifice of over 50,000 Iraqi civillian casualties to be in vain?

It's too late to back out now. Having picked up this particular kitten, and having backed their president (by about a 2:1 majority) Americans need to live up to the awesome responsibility of taking a community of uninspired fatalists and turning it into an active and engaged democracy.

If they leave within the next five years, the kitten is likely to grow up into a rabid dog.