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Welcome to the Me Show.
Saturday, February 28, 2004
 
  • OK, now I'm indignant! Blix says he too was bugged at the UN.
     

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  • Regardless of whether or not its a wholly political maneuver, this is a good thing: New U.S. Effort Steps Up Hunt for bin Laden. The article makes several interesting points including:
    -Pakistan's newfound enthusiasm based on the repeated assassination attempts on Musharraf.
    -The role of the weather (the snow is melting) to explain the timing. Here, the story notes, "When that moment arrived last year, many of the forces and American intelligence operatives now engaged in Afghanistan were tied up in the Iraq."
    -The role of US electoral politics to explain the timing.
    -The role of Task Force 121, a CIA-commando collaboration.
    -And for the rumor-mongers: Pentagon officials on Saturday denied a report on Iranian state radio that Mr. bin Laden had been captured in the region long ago. ... But the White House is trying to tamp down expectations. Officials there cringed when Lt. Col. Brian Hilferty, the senior spokesman for American forces in Afghanistan, said on Jan. 29 that, "We have a variety of intelligence, and we're sure we're going to catch Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar this year." Preparations for a staged capture sometime in, say, September or October?

     

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  • Don't got the time? Check out the human clock.
     

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  • I'm testing out Haloscan's comments and trackback. So, if you feel like saying hello, you can do so.
     

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  • More Blog Wanderlust:
    Starting at Eschaton, via Geekable, we discover detroitblog, which is very cool reading. Geekable's description is as follows:
    Here’s what I know: John is a man living in downtown Detroit. He works at a newspaper. On weekends, he enjoys drinking at dive bars, playing hockey, and breaking into abandoned skyscrapers in order to take pictures. He then talks about his experiences and posts his pictures on his blog. The result is captivating, blending breathtaking photographs with “I-can’t-believe-anyone-would-do-this” stories. Scattered among the photo entries are various comments about hooker slayings, corrupt cops, Detroit culture, etc. It really conveys the mood of the darker side of Detroit.

    The montreal city weblog, though quite useful, is not nearly so engaging.
     

  • Friday, February 27, 2004
     
  • As I've indicated previously, I'm in favour of our politicians engaging in poetry. And I'm pleased to see that today at least one NDP MP found his muse in Stephen Harper's Indians vs. Indians gaffe:
    Hon. Lorne Nystrom (Regina—Qu'Appelle, NDP):

    Mr. Speaker, in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
    Like the member from Calgary Southwest, he tried his best.
    They both missed their mark, what a lark.
    And now they claim it was a mistake, but give us a break.
    I would suggest they look at a map, before they fall into yet another trap,
    And stop blaming their office staff for yet another obvious gaffe.

    (thanks to Ian Capstick)
     

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  • This is cute: the Mars Rovers have a blog.
     

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  • Periodically I try to get my teeth into the world of Candian bloggers, and mostly I find I don't get anywhere. I think this is because pretty well all the Canadian bloggers I can find seem to be on the Right, which means I just get fed up when I read them. But, I really have to give props to BlogsCanada for having a truly excellent layout. I promise to do more searching; I know there must be great stuff out there. For now, here's Mathew Fletcher expressing the same kind of mysterious apathy that I feel regarding the sponsorship scandal. And here's New Junkie Canada trying to keep track of the China connection (which is much bigger news to my mind than the Sponsorship thing). And here's Warren Kinsella's blog. He's repeatedly refferred to as a 'liberal consultant', and the topmost post right now has some excellent quotes from a Harper's review of the Frum-Perle book "An End to Evil". I like the fact that Kinsella puts the word "book" in scarequotes when he talks about it. I don't like the fact that his blog doesn't appear to have links to individual posts.

    UPDATE: I take it all back. Having now poked around BlogsCanada for few minutes, I'm finding lots of good stuff. Most especially this. If you're interested in Canadian politics, do take a look.
     

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  • Probably this was indeed a 'clerical error', but it's too funny to ignore:
    [Stephen] Harper's office drafted a letter of apology Thursday to the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres after wishing its members a happy India Republic Day. ... India Republic Day each Jan. 26 marks the day in 1950 when India's constitution took effect, cementing its independence from British rule. It is a major annual celebration that heralds the sacrifices of Mahatma Gandhi and other freedom crusaders. It has nothing to do with aboriginals in Canada.

    (source) (other source)
     

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  • Some new details have come out about the Columbine High School massacre.
     

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  • Go read John Gorenfeld here and here and then ask yourself what the hell is going on in the world. Calling the Moonies crazy or misguided is an understatement. I mean, holy crap:
    Since, Jesus could not fulfil his entire mission, Heavenly Father had to rebuild the foundation for True Parents, by sending the Third Adam, Sun Myung Moon. Rev. Moon fulfilled the mission of True Parents that Adam and Jesus had failed to fulfil. By uniting with Rev. and Mrs. Moon humanity can fulfil their purpose of creation and enter the Kingdom of Heaven both spiritually and physically.

    OK, weirdo cultists worshipping self-proclaimed messiahs are, to say the least, nothing new. But the level of influence that the Moonies appear to have, and the absurd amount of government funding they seem to get (read Gorenfeld) is really, really, really disturbing. And here's the Wikipedia:
    By 2003, the puritanical missionaries of Moon -- who still delivers uncompromising speeches near the Capitol, calling gays "dung-eating dogs" and calling the Holocaust the Jewish "indemnity" for killing Christ -- were working for their longtime goal of sex purity in New Jersey public schools, on a government abstinence-based sex education grant. ... In 2003, Rev. Moon announced that the representatives of the five major religions -- as well as several dozen dead U.S. presidents communicating from the Spirit World -- declared him to be "the savior and messiah of humanity." ... In Washington, however, Moon first found common ground with strongly anti-Communist leaders of the '80s who appreciated Moon's fierce opposition to the USSR and support of Nixon in his hour of need. Today, much of George W. Bush's faith-based initiative is being indirectly promoted at the grass-roots level by Moon organizations, who share a common interest in sexual abstinence, and in increasing religious participation in government-funded social services.

    What the hell is going on in the world? For more on the Bush-Moon connections, click here. Original link via Eschaton.
     

  • Thursday, February 26, 2004
     
  • Perle is out of the pentagon, perhaps to spare his bosses embarrasment, and certainly to do evil in some new fashion.
    "We are now approaching a long presidential election campaign, in the course of which issues on which I have strong views will be widely discussed and debated," Perle wrote [in his letter of resignation to Donald Rumsfeld]. "I would not wish those views to be attributed to you or the President at any time, and especially not during a presidential campaign."

    That sure sounds like he and the administration are distancing themselves from each other, and maybe this is a signal that the neocons in the government are on the descendant, so to speak. Here's hoping. Now, what about Wolfowitz?
    (link via TPM)
     

  • Wednesday, February 25, 2004
     
  • I've just stumbled across this blog Unfogged and was instantly won over by the fact that the top post right now is about Thomas Hobbes. Then I found this very insightful point on the gay marriage debate:
    That's it: for many men, "I'm married" means "I'm not gay." But now the code might be changing and there needs to be some other way for them to signal "not gay." It can't be as simple as "I'm married...to a woman" (though that will be an oft repeated line, I'm sure), because that makes the question of their sexuality explicit, and even that feels tainting.
     

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  • I was going to write a post about the fact that although the corruption being exposed in the federal Liberal government is pretty despicable, it doesn't really get me that upset because, well, it's to be expected. And I was thinking about the question of whether or not the other parties would be just as bad or not. My first inclination is, of course, to say yes they would be just as bad. Politicians are politicians. But then I thought, well, the Liberals have had a long, long time to become very, very cozy with business interests all over the place. The other parties, though they might like do so, have had a lot less opportunity. So, I was thinking, maybe the other parties would actually be less corrupt if put in place. The back-door networks through which slime travels are fewer and less well placed. But then I checked the news and decided I should revert back to my original position.
    Revelations about rich Hydro One contracts going to friends of Ontario's former Conservative government prompted cries of cronyism today and a fresh pledge from the province's energy minister that corruption at the public utility will be rooted out.
     

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  • Wonkette has obtained the draft text of Bush's anti-gay constitutional amendment:
    Peenies are for sticking in hoo-has. Also, hoo-has may not touch other hoo-has. Unless we're talking about two hot chicks. Like Naomi Watts and someone else hot.
     

  • Monday, February 23, 2004
     
  • Uzbekistan, boiling water, and the United States of America.
     

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  • Communism, always an engine of invention and creativity (not to mention environmentally responsible development), is once again outpacing the capitalist world: China is considering adopting a Green GDP Index: they will calculate a green GDP by subtracting resource depletion and other environmental externalities from the GDP, the traditional measure of economic growth. Some comments:
    1) This is a really good idea, at least in principle.
    2) It's been around for quite a while (warning: .pdf file) outside the mainstream of economics in the capitalist countries. For a stupid critique of it, click here. For a smarter critique, click here.
    3) This Chinese official makes a very good point: An official from the National Bureau of Statistics noted that although adopting such an index was a positive step towards sustainable development, difficulties in implementation and transparency remained, noting that, "people criticise our economic GDP figure for being a fake. What about the green GDP figure?" That's one reason it would be better for a country with a better reputation to adopt a Green GDP. I guess that rules out the US, but Canada should bloody well step up to the plate. And where the hell is the EU?
    4) Communism is not an engine of creativity, but a strong government can sometimes be a positive thing.

    This post was inspired by this article at Tompaine.com. Even if some statistic combining GDP and environmental sustainability is not feasible, reasonable measures of environmental sustainability surely are, and my brief look over these and related pages suggest that the UN and the OECD are applying at least some effort to develop some. No account of the state of a country should be considered complete without at least measuring both economic development and the destruction of resources.
     

  • Sunday, February 22, 2004
     
  • OK, so here's the skinny on that Pentagon climate change report: It doesn't pretend to be a forecast. Rather, it sketches a dramatic but plausible scenario to help planners think about coping strategies. Here's the link to the January 26th Fortune magazine article which first reported this and which I discovered via Tompaine.com. Speaking of the Pentagon military guru behind the report, Tompaine notes:
    Marshall is sending multiple messages. The timing of the Fortune article, for instance. For a man of Marshall's long legacy of discretion to directly challenge the current administration's line on global warming at the beginning of a presidential election year speaks volumes. That he chose to do so by releasing a report by respected business consultants in Fortune magazine seems to say he wants the business world, Bush's most important constituency, to understand clearly that the status quo is untenable.

    Fascinating. Go read the articles, and if the state of the climate change debate gets you down, read this piece (also by Patrick Doherty at Tompaine) about Project Apollo, an alliance of US labour and environmental groups which have a plan to overhaul the US Economy: The combination of smart growth and renewable energy is nothing less than a new economic engine for America.
     

  • Saturday, February 21, 2004
     
  • CTV news just had a story about a US deserter who has fled to Canada. He said (as best as I can remember), "I signed up to defend my country from all enemies, foreign and domestic, not to commit acts of agression." He came to Canada when he got the order to ship out to Iraq. Now he wants refugee status, but Canada has no policy on this. In Vietnam, we had one and deserters were accepted. But, will the Martin govenment, so eager to cuddle up to Bush on defence issues, turn him away? The CTV story said there were over 200 such asylum-seekers last year (before Martin got in, I guess) and they all got sent back.

    UPDATE: The new immigration minister's email address is Minister@cic.gc.ca.
     

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  • The Pentagon and Climate Change:
    A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

    The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.

    'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life.'

    The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. Experts said that they will also make unsettling reading for a President who has insisted national defence is a priority.

    This according to the UK paper The Observer. Kevin Drum thinks, based on the source, that the report is probably real, but points out that the article doesn't give us enough of a context for the report. His guess that it is probably some kind of absolute worst case scenario seems probable, unless the Pentagon has some kind of crazy insight into climate modelling that the civilian experts don't... Even so, the fact that the Pentagon takes the threat of global warming seriously should make it obvious to everyone with half a brain that Bush's policies and statements have not been the product of anything even remotely resembling a rational process. Let's hope the Observer gets more information out soon. And on that note, how did the Observer get this report? A US correspondent? Or maybe the Pentagon shared this report with Britain and a leak over there led to this story? If that's the case, i.e. if the US government thinks the threat is serious enough to be sharing risk assessments with the British, then maybe we should even more concerned. Let's keep on eye on this.
     

  • Thursday, February 19, 2004
     
  • Like like like like like like like like this. Via, like, Calpundit.
     

  • Wednesday, February 18, 2004
     
  • Say, what's a synonym for "go up again" other than "remount" or "rise again"? Here's the context to help you think about it: "In 1998, Indo-Pakistani tensions rose again." Awkward, isn't it? I just can't come up with any alternative. This language sucks sometimes. Or maybe it's just my crappy brain.
     

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  • Let's all read Haiti Pundit. Via Oliver Willis, who is running for President of the United States, together with his lovely running mate, Jessica Alba.
     

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  • NEW YORK - Late-night talk show host Conan O'Brien offered an apology of sorts to people in Quebec Tuesday, days after a comedy sketch mocked the French-speaking province.
    In his opening monologue, O'Brien appeared on stage with a French translator.
    'People of Quebec, I'm sorry,' he said in English. It was translated to: 'People of Quebec, I'm an albino jackass.'
    'We meant no harm with our comedy piece the other night' was translated to: 'The other night, I wet the bed like a little girl.'
    'Quebec, your lively and rich culture is a treasure to Canada, and your unique heritage deserves only praise, not ridicule,' said O'Brien.
    Translator: (In French) 'I have never known the touch of a woman and I never will.'

    (source)
     

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  • Jack Shafer is my new hero. Hans Blix is still my hero, but he and Jack Shafer are going to share the love for at least a little while. Jack Shafer is keeping track of Richard Perle, and that is a very good thing to do.
     

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  • Dragging it out as long as possible:
    After a hard-fought race in Wisconsin on Tuesday night, John Kerry (search) was happy to have escaped with a victory, while John Edwards' (search) near win gave him reason to continue the race, which he hoped had finally been narrowed to a two-man field.

    All the pundits say all the media attention this close race gets is good for the eventual winner. Who am I to disagree?
     

  • Tuesday, February 17, 2004
     
  • Looking for a job?

    The FBI will hire 900 analysts this year, said Maureen Baginski, the FBI's executive assistant director for intelligence, on Tuesday. ... Recent graduates and veterans from a range of fields will be considered.

    Analysts' pay ranges from $33,431 to $108,335. Applicants can apply at www.fbijobs.com.

    (source - subscription)
     

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  • Atrios is getting the goods on Bush. Here, on the abortion scandal, and here, on the presidential pardoning of a man who defrauded the governmnet of about $25 million. Of these, the abortion is story is by far the bigger deal.
     

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  • Good news: India and Pakistan are talking.
    “These negotiations are being held to end the Kashmiris' struggle,” said Ghulam Nabi War, a Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front leader. “The two countries are not interested in people of Kashmir. They don't respect their wishes.”

    That's probably true, but I bet the Kashmiris would rather have peace and an open border between the two halves of their state than a nuclear war or a continuation of the status quo. If Mr. War (what a name!) would really prefer these talks not to happen, then I doubt he speaks for the majority of Kashmiris, who've got to be pretty damn tired of this mess.
     

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  • Here's a tricky issue. I'm not sure what to think of it myself. My first response is that catching black-market missiles trumps international law and principles of soverignty, but then again, there are other considerations... And we should have been told about it. See for yourself:
    The scheme has an innocuous name, the Proliferation Security Initiative, yet it has major implications for global security. It encourages its 16 member countries to intercept any ships suspected of carrying missiles or nuclear material -- even if those ships are outside the member countries' home waters. The primary targets would be ships from North Korea, though some reports suggest that Iranian ships also might be intercepted.

    Although virtually unnoticed by the public, the plan has provoked deep divisions in Canada's foreign-policy establishment, provoking fears that it could pave the way for a U.S.-led military blockade of North Korea, with the potential of dragging Canada into a war.

    Insiders said the government failed to consult its diplomats or heed their concern when Ottawa bowed to U.S. pressure to join the scheme to intercept North Korean ships on the high seas.

    Many legal experts said the plan is a violation of international law.

    North Korea's neighbours South Korea, China and Russia refused to join. China in particular is strongly opposed and questions the scheme's legality and effectiveness.

    In meetings with officials in Beijing last week, former foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy said he found the Chinese unhappy with Canada's participation, seeing it as a contradiction of Canada's traditional preference for United Nations involvement rather than unilateral military action.

    According to Canadian sources, a number of senior Canadian diplomats in the region also were unhappy. For years, they had promoted a policy of engagement with North Korea based on small-scale assistance and training projects that could help to bring Pyongyang into the mainstream of global relations. They believe this was sacrificed in Ottawa's efforts to placate Washington.

    Mr. Axworthy said Ottawa signed on without listening to the diplomats.

    "It's part of our act of atonement for staying out of the Iraq war," he said in an interview. "If they had consulted with those in the field, the advice would have been not to do it. But our foreign policy is being dictated by how to win 15 seconds of favour with [U.S. Vice-President] Dick Cheney."

    Mr. Axworthy believes PSI is a clear violation of international law and a breach of Canadian diplomatic rule-of-law traditions.

    "You don't simply climb onto your horse or your frigate and head off to stop the bad guys. It's a posse mentality, pure and simple. We have begun to forgo our basic principles . . . all for the sake of becoming bandwagon cowboys. We're back with the Barbary pirates, ready to shoot cannonballs across the bow."

    There is also a danger that PSI could encourage a violent reaction or further conflicts on the high seas, Mr. Axworthy said. "Any time you set a precedent for unilateral intervention, you're giving a licence to everyone else to do the same. We wouldn't like it too much if East Asian nations decide to intercept Canadian grain shipments to check if they have proper disease control."

    I've taken some liberties with the structure of this article for length and clarity.
     

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  • How fun is this? The place's I've been:


    Click the map to make your own.
     

  • Monday, February 16, 2004
     
  • If you've got a little time on your hands, read this excellent post, Forensic Journalism, at Calpundit. Not only does Kevin Drum give you a wonderfully clear picture of a key question in the Bush AWOL story, whether Bush's files were 'cleansed' a few years back, he also shows us how good reporting is done.
     

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  • A pile of dirt. Big, ugly, Republican dirt.
     

  • Sunday, February 15, 2004
     
  • Really Weird Politics:

    Via Eschaton:
    The Bush administration has decided that people with bad hearing have bad judgment, too, and need special guidance from the federal government.

    So the U.S. Department of Education is declaring about 200 television programs inappropriate for closed-captioning and denying federal grant requests to make them accessible to the hearing-impaired.

    The department made its decisions based on the recommendations of a five-member panel. Who the five members are, only the government seems to know, and it isn't saying. But the shows they censored suggest a perspective that is Talibanesque.

    The government is refusing to caption Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie, apparently fearing that the deaf would fall prey to witchcraft if they viewed the classic sitcoms.

    Your government also believes that Law & Order is too intense for the hard-of-hearing. So is Power Rangers. ... Sports programming took a heavy hit, too. ... The National Association of the Deaf says the government used to caption these shows but abruptly changed course, deciding that the shows don't fit the required definition of "educational, news or informational" programming.

    "They've suddenly narrowed down the definition of those three kinds of programming without public input," says Kelby Brick, director of the NAD's law and advocacy center. "Basically, the department wants to limit captioning to puritan shows. The department wants to ensure that deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals are not exposed to any non-puritan programming. Never mind that the rest of the country is allowed to be exposed."

    How imperiled the nation might be if The Simpsons and Malcolm in the Middle reached into the living rooms of the impressionable hard-of-hearing. Or, for that matter, Scooby-Doo.

    The censorship raises baffling questions about who gets in and who's left out. ... The Department of Education is refusing to reveal the names of the panel members whose opinions determined the caption grants and also won't disclose the new guidelines. By every appearance, the government has changed its definition of what constitutes a caption-worthy program. But it's keeping the new rules secret.

    "They apparently used a panel of five individuals and then made the censorship decisions based on the individuals' recommendations," Mr. Brick says. "We have found the identity of one of the panelists. This individual tells us that he never knew he was on such a panel and that his views would be used for censorship. No panel was convened. The five panelists were contacted individually and separately."

    ...The NAD is lobbying Congress to change the policy. Some networks and sponsors are stepping in and providing captions for some of the "inappropriate" shows. But the government's dismissive treatment of 28 million Americans defies words.


    Like, what the hell?
     

  • Friday, February 13, 2004
     
  • There's coming for you. They want your head.
     

  • Thursday, February 12, 2004
     
  • As a follow up to my earlier post about the deficiencies of Bush's new non-proliferation agenda, read this article by Fred Kaplan at Slate.
     

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  • Yikes! This is disconcerting:
    "'The breakup of the Soviet Union is a national tragedy on an enormous scale,' from which 'only the elites and nationalists of the republics gained,' Mr. Putin said in a nationally televised speech to about 300 campaign workers gathered at Moscow State University."

    ...Turning to global politics, Mr. Putin said that Russia must become a "full-fledged member of the world community" and assailed those in the West who still have a Cold War-era distrust of Russia. They "can't get out of the freezer," he said.

    Mr. Putin reiterated his stated opposition to prolonging his time in office, limited to two terms. But he indicated he would choose a preferred successor, saying that the task of any top leader "is to propose to society a person he considers worthy to work further in this position."

    I'm not particularly alarmist about Russia. I'm inclined to think the era of empires Russian empires is over. And though lamenting the loss of the USSR is misguided, lamenting the way the transition from communism was handled is totally valid. Putin is confusing those two sentiments because he is following the national (irrational) attitudes rather than leading his people towards a better level of discourse. And obviously doing so can only cause problems for Russia internationally, where many observers are likely more alarmist than myself.
     

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  • Check out this blog of a Canadian researcher in Iraq.
     

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  • If you haven't read the political platform of Billionaires for Bush, you really should.
     

  • Wednesday, February 11, 2004
     
  • Bush today on weapons proliferation:
    President Bush proposed new steps Wednesday to halt illicit weapons trafficking, warning that black-market dealings by the architect of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program had exposed holes in global enforcement efforts.
    "Every civilized nation has a stake in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction," Bush said. ... He offered a seven-point plan to combat the spread of such weapons.

    Expanding a U.S.-led international effort to halt commerce in weapons moving by land, sea or air. Bush called for bolstering enforcement capabilities of the Proliferation Security Initiative against networks such as Khan's.

    Tightening laws and international controls on weapons proliferation. Bush renewed his call for the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution requiring all states to criminalize proliferation.

    Increasing government spending worldwide on programs aimed at securing vulnerable nuclear arsenals in Russia and other former Soviet-bloc nations. He made no mention of any additional U.S. funding.

    Banning new countries from having the ability to enrich or process nuclear material, a step he said would deprive additional nations of being able to produce fissile material for nuclear bombs.

    Prohibiting nations that do not back the Additional Protocol which requires states to declare a broad range of nuclear activities and facilities, and allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect those facilities from importing equipment for their civilian nuclear programs.

    Creating a special panel of the IAEA to buttress its ability to monitor countries' compliance.

    Barring countries under investigation for violating nuclear nonproliferation obligations from serving on the board of governors of the IAEA.

    Some other relevant actions Bush has taken:

    Bush rejected a UN accord which would have created enforcement mechanisms to the Biological Weapons Convention; cut funding to anti-nuclear proliferation programs (not to mention backing away from various arms reduction agreements which would have seen the number of nuclear warheads in the world decreased; not to mention pushing for the construction of briefcase-sized 'tactical' nuclear weapons; not to mention pushing for a national missile defense system which just encourages other countries to invest in weapons programs of all kinds); and undermined UN efforts to prevent the sale of small arms to non-state groups (OK, these aren't WMD, but AK-47s, grenade launchers, and the rest do their fair share of the work in creating the kind of political instability Bush now accepts is a threat). Am I missing anything? Probably. And by the way, why is it just 'civilized nations' that have a stake in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons? What is that supposed to mean?
     

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  • Maybe Bush ought to claify that constitutional amendment a little, just in case this ever comes up:
    Under French law, Christelle Demichel became both bride and widow as a result of the ceremony, which was performed at Nice City Hall on the French Riviera.

    The deceased groom, a former policeman identified as Eric, was not present at the ceremony. He was killed by a drunk driver in September 2002.

    Demichel told LCI television she was fully aware that "it could seem shocking to marry someone who is dead", but said that her fiance's absence from her life had not dimmed her feelings for him.

    According to French law, a marriage between a living person and a dead person can take place as long as preliminary civic formalities have been completed that show the couple had planned to marry.

    Before the ceremony can take place, it must be approved by the French president.

    Oh, those wacky French.
     

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  • Quick! Look over there! Why, it's the latest distraction! They want to make the election about gay marriage, and Calpundit has the wording of the proposed constitutional amendment. If you're not already following it, go read Calpundit's coverage of the Bush AWOL mysteries. He's all over it.
     

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  • Update on the travelling cyanide-bomb salesman. This story fills in some details I hadn't seen before:
    It was an odd trio: the leather-faced Krar, whose left eyelid drooped conspicuously down toward the often-unlit cigar butt in one corner of his mouth; the 53-year-old Judith Bruey, with whom Krar had lived for several years; and a slight, attractive then-20-year-old woman Krar introduced as Dawn.

    The three had moved into a small cottage in a secluded area of rural Smith County and rented a storage room at the Noonday Storage Center on the outskirts of town.

    "We thought Krar and Judy were married and Dawn was their niece or granddaughter," said Leslie Duecker, whose family operates the storage facility. "I mean that's the way it looked, until we saw Bill and Dawn hugging each other by the storage shed one day and it wasn't like any daughter or niece."

    ...The trio moved from New Hampshire, where Krar had pursued a similar occupation and kept a locker at a self-storage facility in Hooksett.

    Krar was at that New Hampshire facility on Sept. 11, 2001. Employees there said Krar had attempted to impress them by claiming he had known the terror attacks were going to occur, though none believed him.

    Among those employees was a young woman, Katie Smith, in whom Krar took an interest.

    "He wanted to manage my finances," Smith said. "He claimed to be some sort of financier, and he said he'd lost his eye when he was in Special Forces in Vietnam."

    Smith said Krar introduced her to Dawn, and the pair told her they were leaving the United States for Costa Rica, where they planned to build a retirement community and wanted her to join them.

    "This Dawn girl was like his robot," Smith said. "She did everything he said. She told me that, before she met Bill (Krar), she had no self-confidence, but he had put her back on track.

    "I met with them a couple of times. Once it was in a restaurant and it was like something out of a movie. We had to sit in a corner and speak quietly so nobody could hear us. He gave me some kind of paperwork to sign, swearing I wouldn't divulge our conversation because it was about `international business,' or something like that."

    Krar gave her a business card, but the address was a mail drop.

    "I knew they were scamming, but I couldn't figure out exactly what they were planning."

    Nor could anyone else.

    Little of what Krar told Smith and many others was true. Krar's attorney, Tonda Curry of Tyler, refers to her client as "an eccentric yarn spinner." Assistant U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston, who is prosecuting Krar, says the defendant is "full of bull." From either perspective, Krar embellished his image.

    Neither lawyer can find any record of Krar ever being in the service. Rather than being a "financier," he worked as a carpenter and furniture maker before he abandoned that occupation in the 1980s and began selling surplus. His eye is the result of a birth defect. IDC America is not a valid company and has no holdings in Costa Rica.

    The FBI investigation dragged on until almost a year after Krar's package was delivered to Staten Island. Then, on Jan. 11, 2003, Krar was stopped for a traffic violation in Shelbyville, Tenn. Police were puzzled when they found weapons and three packaged military atropine injections, an antidote for nerve gas.

    Police also found a lengthy set of cryptic, handwritten notes that appeared to be some covert operation plan.

    The FBI questioned Krar in Shelbyville, and Krar told them the weapons and other items were materials sold by his company, IDC. He said the false ID cards were jokes in some cases and in other cases used to avoid "harassing" phone calls from salesmen.

    Krar also had an explanation for the notes. He said he was on his way to New Hampshire to visit Dawn, whom he described as his girlfriend of three years. She was divorcing her husband, Krar said. The notes, he said, were part of an escape plan he had devised for her. Krar made bail on the traffic violation and left Shelbyville, but the FBI investigation continued.

    Finally, in April 2003, FBI agents obtained a warrant to search Krar's home and storage facility, based on Krar's sale of false documents.

    What they found shocked residents of Noonday. Not only did Krar have reams of ammunition, silencers, automatic weapons, mines and other explosives, he had the soft-drink-sized canister of sodium cyanide and acid to activate it -- a combination that would have released the same toxic gas used in gas chambers in past decades. He had a collection of anarchist and white supremacist literature and instructions for making a cyanide bomb.

    Prosecutors filed cases against Krar, Bruey and Feltus. All three have pleaded guilty and face sentencing, possibly later this month. Krar faces a maximum life sentence, and Bruey could receive five years. Feltus' possible punishment has not been specified.

    Dawn was not charged. She would not return calls from the Chronicle.

    Featherston said the case has spawned others. The assistant U.S. attorney would not give specifics but said 150 subpoenas have been issued, resulting in several arrests and several arms caches discovered.

    Still, he said he does not know what Krar intended to do with the cyanide. "We'd like to know where it came from," he said.
     

  •  
  • Now, I'm not a military historian, and I know that the US military organizations are known to play off the legislative branch when they're not getting what they want from the executive, but all the same, the US military is a highly professional organization. Professional militaries stay out of politics. Which is why it's such a strikingly big deal that before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing,
    ...the top officers of the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force all raised questions on Tuesday about how the Bush administration plans to pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan after the current financing runs out at the end of September.
     

  • Tuesday, February 10, 2004
     
  • I cannot help thinking that the French are being really stupid today. For example:
    It was not clear whether Paris would also ban Sikh turbans, which the 5,000-strong Sikh community in the Paris area says are not religious but practical coverings for their uncut hair.

    It is issues like that which make them look stupid rather than just misguided.
     

  •  
  • News roundup. Let's start here: The al-Qaida terror network bought tactical nuclear weapons from Ukraine in 1998 and is storing them for possible use, the pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat reported yesterday. You have to be skeptical of this claim, but then again, it's plausible. Bush did an hour interview yesterday on NBC. Kevin Drum's got a record of the responses from a bunch of crazy right-wing commentators, and conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan discusses it here. In short: not good. It's nice to see these people offering some criticism. The transcript is here. Kevin also has some new information regarding the Bush AWOL story. The investigation of the theft by Republican staffers of Senate Democrats' memos continues. In a move which might help Bush win reelection while risking the entire global economy (by trading short-term gains in jobs for long-term american fiscal health), Treasury Secretary John Snow has tacitly but unmistakably abandoned Washington's longstanding support for a strong dollar in favor of a weak dollar that is getting weaker, though he continues to insist there has been no change in policy. And, via Pandagon, check out this excellent Salon article on Diebold and the mess that is modern voting technology in the US. You have to watch a short ad to read the whole article. I still see no reason the paper-and-a-pencil technology we use here in Canada couldn't be adapted for American voters. Surely they could get the hang of it. Speaking of the Canadian political process, we are on the verge of a massive government corruption scandal. The company that started it all back in 1999 is a few blocks from my house. And here's a question, how much attention do you pay to South America? I mean really, it's like the invisible continent. I think about it less often than I think about Antarctica and I'm not alone in that. But it warrants a little more attention today because today we learned that terrorists operating out of a "virtually lawless corner" of that continent (more a patch than a corner) were planning attacks on Jewish groups in Ottawa in 1999 which were foiled by undercover police. Pretty exciting stuff.
     

  •  
  • Watch the witch hunts begin. Background on the American clamp down on peace activists is here. Links via Eschaton.
     

  • Sunday, February 08, 2004
     
  • Meet Roy and Silo, and also Milou and Squawk. These two couples are in love. They're gay penguins. Link via Pandagon.
     

  •  
  • Eric Blumrich's latest animation.
     

  • Saturday, February 07, 2004
     
  • Philosoraptor brings our attention to the most horrible place in the world, North Korea's Camp 22, and asks, "Why isn't every civilized country in the world turning its attention on this problem right now?"
     

  • Friday, February 06, 2004
     
  • Ordinarily, I stick to politics on this blog, but once in a while I just have to share the things I find online. So here's www.whowouldbuythat.com, "auction oddities from all over the web". It's a blog of the weirdest crap on ebay. And it is really, really weird crap.
     

  •  
  • I'm going to quote at length from Warren's blog at MFA. First, one of several letters that Warren claims are real letters written in response to the recent Massachusetts Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. It's not clear from the blog where Warren found the letters.
    From Scottsdale, AZ:

    Massachusetts, how far you have come! At one time you were fervant for God! You executed witches. Now you think you know better than God and legalize what God calls an abomination. "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; that is an abomination" (Lev 28:22 NEB)... Please reverse the decision and honor God. Remember 9/11. Don't bring anything more upon us.

    There are couple more where that came from. Next, this letter (formerly an email forward) to Dr. Laura Shlessinger:
    Dear Dr. Laura,

    Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.

    a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

    b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

    c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.

    d) Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

    e) I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

    f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an Abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

    g) Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

    h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.19:27. How should they die?

    i) I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

    j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them (Lev.24:10-16)? Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Lev. 20:14)?

    I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging. Your devoted disciple and adoring fan.
     

  •  
  • Bush administration prohibiting Green Party members, civil rights and peace activisits from boarding planes? (Link via MFA- an intertesting organization, check it out.)
     

  •  
  • While we're on the subject of slimy, check this out:
    Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia traveled as an official guest of Vice President Dick Cheney on a small government jet that served as Air Force Two when the pair came here last month to hunt ducks.

    The revelation cast further doubts about whether Scalia can be an impartial judge in Cheney's upcoming case before the Supreme Court, legal ethics experts said. The hunting trip took place just weeks after the high court agreed to take up Cheney's bid to keep secret the details of his energy policy task force.

    According to those who met them at the small airstrip here, the justice and the vice president flew from Washington on Jan. 5 and were accompanied by a second, backup Air Force jet that carried staff and security aides to the vice president.

    Two military Black Hawk helicopters were brought in and hovered nearby as Cheney and Scalia were whisked away in a heavily guarded motorcade to a secluded, private hunting camp owned by an oil industry businessman.

    And here's the background on Cheney's case:
    Two years ago, the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch sued Cheney, seeking to learn whether the vice president and his staff had met behind closed doors with lobbyists and corporate officials from the oil, gas, coal and electric power industries.

    A judge ordered Cheney to turn over documents detailing who met with his energy task force. Cheney appealed, and in September, Bush administration lawyers asked the Supreme Court to hear the case and reverse the judge's order.

    It "would violate fundamental principles of separation of powers" to force the president or the vice president to disclose who they met with, said U.S. Solicitor Gen. Theodore B. Olson.

    Right, it would violate the separation of powers to force Cheney to tell the public whom he met with, but it doesn't violate the public trust if Cheney sold the country's energy policy to his oil buddies. Some other details from the story:

    The decision is likely to rest with Scalia himself. In a response to a recent inquiry from two Senate Democrats prompted by the hunting trip, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist said the high court does not have a formal policy or rules for reviewing decisions by justices on whether to withdraw from a case.

    [New York University law professor Stephen] Gillers said he found Rehnquist's response troubling as well.

    "This has exposed a gap in the ethics rules. This is a federal law that applies to the justices, but in this instance, Scalia is the judge of his own case. I would think the full court has an interest in its institutional reputation and would want to review a decision like this."...

    The camp is owned by Wallace Carline, the head of Diamond Services Corp., an oil services firm that is on 41 acres of waterfront property in Amelia, La. The company provides oil dredging, pile driving, salvage work, fabrication, pipe-rolling capability and general oilfield construction.

    (Link from Balta)
     

  •  
  • If at first you don't succeed: Bush just keeps gunning for that Alaskan oil.
    "Their agenda is clear--they want it all, they want it now, any way they can get it," Cindy [Shogan, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League,] said.

    President George Bush's budget projections for fiscal year 2006 count on $2.4 billion from oil lease sales in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's coastal plain.

    By sneaking it through in a budget like this, they hope to evade filibusters, which have thus far prevented the ANWR project from going through. Basically, if the budget calls for it, then a future piece of legislation would need to be passed in order to make it happen, a "reconciliation bill."
    Reconciliation bills can pass the 100-member Senate on a simple majority because they aren't subject to filibusters, which require 60 votes to shut down. Filibusters have thwarted pro-drilling forces in recent years.

    However, neither has the reconciliation process opened ANWR to drilling in recent sessions of Congress, as conference committee members have disagreed on using the method.
     

  •  
  • This just looks slimy:
    Making a surprisingly speedy entrance onto the global business stage, Mr. Chretien will arrive in China this weekend with a team of Power Corp. executives to meet some of China's most influential business leaders.

    The visit, his first major overseas trip since his retirement, is being kept hush-hush. Neither the Canadian embassy in Beijing nor his law office in Ottawa is revealing any details of the visit, insisting that it is completely "private."

    But The Globe and Mail has learned that much of Mr. Chrétien's tour of Beijing and other Chinese cities over the coming week is being organized by state-owned China International Trust and Investment Corp. CITIC is China's biggest and most powerful conglomerate, with a vast range of interests on four continents....With assets of about $48-billion (U.S.), [CITIC] has close links to the commercial interests of the People's Liberation Army and its leadership answers directly to the State Council, China's supreme executive organ....

    [Chretien will] be accompanied by his son-in-law, André Desmarais, the president of Power Corp., who is a director of CITIC Pacific Ltd., the Hong Kong affiliate of the CITIC group....

    By moving so quickly into the Chinese business world, Mr. Chrétien will be able to capitalize on his extensive political dealings with Chinese leaders over the past decade. As prime minister he visited China six times, led two Team Canada trade and investment missions to the country and met frequently with its top leaders.....

    Since his retirement from politics, Mr. Chrétien has lined up a series of business gigs. He is an international-relations adviser to PetroKazakhstan, a Calgary-based oil company that is trying to expand its oil exports to China and other Asian and Middle Eastern countries. And he has joined three separate law firms: Montreal-based Heenan Blaikie, Calgary-based Bennett Jones, and Montreal-based Desjardins Ducharme Stein Monast.....

    It looks slimy because it throws into question Canada's entire trading relationship with China. Has it all been to serve Chretien's personal interests? Even if his wooing of China throughout the last decade was intended to serve Canadian interests, the fact that he and his family now appear likely to benefit from the Canada-China relationship (which he did so much to establish) more than other Canadians looks, well, slimy.
     

  •  
  • If I lived in the UK, I think I'd move after seeing this article entitled Accidents Involving Nukes: Official List from the UK Ministry of Defence.
     

  •  
  • Forget Norway, visit Kenya. Seriously, click that link. You'll be glad you did.
     

  •  
  • Like Jesse at Pandagon says, it's Costco vs. Walmart. As I noted yesterday, Walmart's invested heavily in the Republican party. So, look who's on our side:
    Costco Wholesale Corp. Chairman Jeffrey Brotman and CEO James Sinegal gave $95,000 each in December to a political fund that aims to defeat President Bush in the November election, records filed with the Internal Revenue Service show.

    Brotman and Sinegal were among 25 people who gave a combined $7.9 million to the Joint Victory Campaign 2004 fund, which seeks to "change the course of the country away from the Bush administration's radical agenda" and elect "progressive" candidates, according to the fund's Web site.

    The loss of 2 million jobs during the Bush administration, the decision to invade Iraq, and cuts in social programs led him to donate to the fund, said Sinegal of the Issaquah-based discount stores.

    For more reasons to shop at Costco, click here. (Link from Hesiod).
     

  •  
  • Kurdish leadership blown up. An assasination attempt on the top Shiite cleric. The prospects for stability in Iraq are seeming bleak. On the subject of the attacks in Kurdistan, when I first spoke about them, I wondered about the motives of Ansar al-Islam, which the first reports suggested may have been responsible. My friend in Iraq, who is an expert on all things Kurd, had this to say:
    ...Ansar has been fighting the PUK and KDP for a long time (they beheaded a total of about 70 captured PUK peshmerga a year ago), so wouldn't be a sruprise [if they were responsible]....

    So, it sounds like we should be careful interpreting the attack as aiming towards a particular political goal, e.g. a civil war, or a stronger position for the non-Kurdish groups. I'm not saying it isn't one of those things; I'm just saying we ought to remember that many of the battles going on now in Iraq have long and important histories.

    Disclaimer: My expert friend is not associated with this blog, does not necessarily agree with anything I write, and in all likelihood doesn't even read it.
     

  • Thursday, February 05, 2004
     
  • Pakistan's moving on...
    President Pervez Musharraf pardoned the father of Pakistan's nuclear program on Thursday for giving technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea....

    Asked about Mr. Khan's motives, Gen. Musharraf said: �What is the motive of people? Money, obviously. That's the reality.�

    He said Pakistan would not submit to any UN supervision of its weapons program, and that no documents would be handed over to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. He also ruled out an independent investigation of the military's role in proliferation.

    He said, however, that the IAEA is welcome to discuss the proliferation issue with Pakistan.
     

  •  
  • Big news a'comin.
     

  •  
  • I watched the 'townhall' with PM PM tonight on the CBC. There's a summary of it here. My first reactions are as follows:
    We Canadians dislike our government. Although the questions tended to be formulated in terms of "I think we should do X. What do you think?", they were also laced with a fair bit of anger. People seem dissatisfied, but dissatisfied about different issues. Maybe it was just the format of the show, or the people selected to ask questions.

    Martin did fairly well. Although he dodged a couple of questions (like whether or not he'd increase the size of the military), and a lot of his answers were wishy-washy 'we've got to do the research' sorts of responses, he was frank occasionally and he seemed genuinely concerned and informed about Native issues. I said 'fairly' well.

    The environment got short shrift. Disappointing, as there have been a number of interesting developments lately, with PM promising money to clean up a lot of government-made pollution and Hydro-Quebec's problems with the Kyoto accord.

    The issue of Bush's missile shield was handled badly. The questioner was perhaps appropriately angry about Martin's taking a whole new direction "without a mandate" from the Canadian people. And Martin's response was tolerable: "We need a seat at the table." It's all fine, except the discussion ignored what is the real issue. Obviously, if the US is going to waste a crapload of money on building this thing, diverting resources from better aims and likely sparking at least a quiet arms race with China and maybe Russia, then there is absolutely nothing Canada can do to stop it. The best we can do is insist we have a seat at the table. However, there is a third option besides (1) butt-kissing and (2) sitting out in the cold. We could (3) vocally and vigorously denounce the idea in full view of the world (and the US - to the extent that we can penetrate their iron media curtain). In fact, this third way is not necessarily exclusive of the other two. It is entirely consistent to oppose the idea of a missile shield and yet be resolved to participate with it if indeed it does happen, given that we have no power to prevent it from happening. The only thing that might make such a position untenable politically is US (i.e. Bush) petulance. If by stating our opposition to the missile shield in principle we aren't allowed in the game, then we need to choose between (1) and (2)... except: by voicing our opposition to the missile shield on principle (i.e. it's a bad idea which endangers the stability of the world) we could do our bit to turf Bush out of office by helping to demonstrate to the American voters that he is a carcinogenic weapon of mass destruction who is bad for their health. Hopefully, then, with a Democrat in office, the missile shield question would either go away, or we would at least be facing a less petulant America.


    Update: OK, maybe I should have called those my 'first and incoherent' reactions. What can I say? It was late, and I've got the flu.
     

  • Wednesday, February 04, 2004
     
  • No news here:
    A majority of Canadians hope President Bush loses the upcoming election and do not really care who beats him, according to a magazine poll that hit newsstands Wednesday.

    In an article entitled "Canadians to Bush: Hope you lose, eh," Maclean's magazine said a national survey found only 15 percent of Canadians would definitely vote for Bush if given the opportunity....

    Clearly, there is something about George W. Bush that gets under the skin of Canadians," Maclean's wrote. "After all, vehemently disagreeing with the policies of American presidents is almost a national pastime.

    "There has to be another explanation for our extreme reaction, the desire afoot in the land to see him turfed from office. That and the unprintable sentiment about him and the horse he rode in on."
     

  •  
  • American Muslims getting organized.
     

  •  
  • When you shop at Wal-Mart, you're supporting "president" Bush. More "Wal-Mart meets Democracy" news here, as well as some other interesting stories. Link via Eschaton.
     

  •  
  • People who eat people...
    Q: Is this a unique problem?

    A: Definitely not. Meiwes testified under oath that he participated in at least 430 cannibal Web sites and chat rooms. When he advertised on the Internet for volunteers to be eaten, cannibalized, there were at least 204 volunteers. The problem is no one knows how many people around the world fantasize about cannibalism, but it is only one short step across the border from fantasy to reality and Meiwes may be just one of thousands who took the step.

    (source)
     

  • Sunday, February 01, 2004
     
  • How to start a civil war?
    Two suicide bombers strapped with explosives blew themselves up in nearly simultaneous attacks on offices of two Kurdish parties in Iraq Sunday, killing and wounding as many as 200 people, officials said.

    According to the article, the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) is blaming Ansar al-Islam which "had a stronghold in PUK territory ahead of the war that ousted Saddam Hussein, and U.S. officials say the organization has regrouped and was involved in several attacks in recent months." So would this be a retaliation attack, then? A demonstration of strength? An effort to kill the Kurdish leadership to produce useful chaos in the region? Or to weaken the Kurds with respect to the other Iraqi factions? To punish them for their US alliance? Juan Cole, where's your informed comment?
     




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