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Welcome to the Me Show.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
 
  • It's looking increasingly likely that life will go on despite all our best efforts to destroy the planet. That's because it's looking increasingly likely that there's life on Mars.
     

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  • The other global air pollution agreement is coming into force today.
    The anti-smoking pact has been signed by 168 countries, and ratified by 57 of them, which will now have to tighten their anti-tobacco laws.

    Canada has ratified this agreement. Links.
     

  • Saturday, February 26, 2005
     
  • This is going to encourage the neocons a little. Egypt is taking a step towards democracy:
    Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak has asked parliament to change the constitution to allow multiple candidates in presidential polls.

    This BBC editorial suggests this is a clever move on Mubarak's part:
    In one fell swoop, he has outmanoeuvred the opposition and also managed to go some way towards muting US criticism of his style of government.

    This looks to be a more dramatic version of the reforms made recently in Saudi Arabia.

    Why do we want these countries to democratize? We believe there is an intrinsic value to it, a benefit to the citizens; but it is also in our self-interest. We believe democracy tends to go with a few other things, like liberalism and tolerance and also prosperity-through-capitalism. We also think that a society with those qualities is less likely to produce renegades who will want to attack us directly, or who might hijack their own state and turn it against us.

    One question worth thinking about is to what extent we gain these benefits even if the democracy in question is a sham.
     

  • Friday, February 25, 2005
     
  • In case I don't manage to comment on this, I want to make sure we all pay attention to this:
    The American military has successfully shot down a missile in a test of its missile defence system conducted off Hawaii. ... The Pentagon is asking for a 20-per-cent boost in funding for the ballistic missile defence program, from $7.7 billion US this year to more than $9 billion US next year.
     

  • Thursday, February 24, 2005
     
  • So, it's "no" on missile defence, whatever that means.
     

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  • Kevin Drum catches Bush in a bit of, well, Bushspeak:
    This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. Having said that, all options are on the table.

    This is, of course, one of Bush's famous zen koans. You can just see the meaning if you squint, turn your head just so, and open your third-eye chakra.

    No, actually, as far as I'm concerned, he's being perfectly clear, just mendacious. His first sentence is meant to dispel, without quite denying, the notion that the US is gearing up to make a strike against Iran. His second sentence is meant to imply that a strike is a possibility. Of course, if the Commander in Chief says a strike is a possibility, that means the military machinery is already in motion, making the first sentence - ever so slightly - a lie. Notice also that when Bush says this notion is "ridiculous," he's effectively affirming the existence of UFOs.
     

  • Tuesday, February 22, 2005
     
  • Bloggers on the Arcade Fire:

    Matthew Yglesias
    Will Wilkinson
    Adrienna
    Missy
    ...and many more.

    Like, holy crap. The Cato Institute and all the wonks in Washington and New York seem to have gone gaga for them. Way to go, guys.
     

  • Monday, February 21, 2005
     
  • Chavez:
    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has said he believes the US government is planning to assassinate him.
     

  • Sunday, February 20, 2005
     
  • If you haven't already, read the PM's speech to the House of Commons on Civil Marriage (pdf). It shouldn't be missed. Thanks to Warren Kinsella for putting it online.
     

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  • It's been a good couple of months for the colour orange. First there was Ukraine's Orange Revolution. Now the colour finds itself being fought over by rival cellphone companies in a British court.
     

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  • A statement worth thinking about:
    "When Europe speaks with a single voice, it will be the most powerful in the world."

    That's from a Spanish voter in today's non-binding Spanish referendum on the EU constitution.

    The BBC suggests that the 42% turnout is an embarrassment for the pro-Constitution movement, even though most of that 42% was in favour. But I'd say getting 42% of voters to turn out for what is, in fact, nothing more than a public opinion survey is pretty impressive.
     

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  • Should the American public be concerned that their government is running an advertising campaign appealing to ordinary Pakistanis which makes this claim:
    "Who can stop the terrorists? Only you."

    I'm all for appeals to the Pakistani public. I'm all for getting their help. But doesn't this message sort of suggest that the CIA and all those thousands of American soldiers in Afghanistan, not to mention Pakistan's military and intelligence service, can't stop the terrorists?
     

  • Thursday, February 17, 2005
     
  • The FATE of D-FAIT

    I had intended to comment on this yesterday, but I am compelled to do so today. For some time now, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade's website has indicated that it is in the process of dividing itself in two. There will be two deparments, the D-FA and the D-IT. So far so good. But for some reason, although this move has been in the works for quite a while and PM PM has appointed two Cabinet Ministers, the parliament only voted on the idea yesterday - and defeated it. According to the The Globe, the defeat was a surprise for just about everyone except perhaps a few backroom Conservative strategists, who put the word out at the last minute to their MPs to vote against the proposal.

    As Jon Stewart would say, "Awkward!"

    Then comes today's news:
    One day after the House of Commons defeated the idea, the federal government says it is moving ahead with plans to split Foreign Affairs and International Trade into two separate departments.

    So... Parliament voted it down, but it's going ahead anyway. Clearly, I have a thing or two to learn about the nature of Canadian government, but on the face of things, I'm inclined to agree with Belinda:
    "It shows disrespect for the parliamentary process," said Conservative trade critic Belinda Stronach.


    OK... now go listen to Tegan and Sara.
     

  • Wednesday, February 16, 2005
     
  • Some progress in Kashmir.
     

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  • The enemy of my enemy is my friend:
    Iran has vowed to back Syria against 'challenges and threats' as both countries face strong US pressure.

    Russia, always the opportunist, is looking more and more like it really is actively trying to thwart US interests:
    Earlier, the Russian Defence Ministry confirmed it was discussing the possibility of selling missiles to Syria. Talks are said to be focusing on a short-range anti-aircraft missile system, known as Strelets.

    White House Spokesman Scott McClellan's response makes no sense:
    Washington said that if Iran and Syria had aimed their remarks at the US they were "misreading the issue". ... "Their problem is not with the United States, it's with the international community. Both Syria and Iran ... need to abide by the commitments they have made," he said.

    The White House has been threatening (albeit a little incoherently) to attack Iran. It is claiming that the recent bombing/assassination in Lebanon was Syria's doing, with the clear intention of getting Syria to withdraw the 16,000 troops it has stationed in Lebanon, as well as possibly preparing the ground for a US invasion of Syria. If either country is misreading the situation, it's only because the US has been scribbling all over the text. Syria's reponse is striking:
    "To point to Syria in a terrorist act that aims at destabilising both Syria and Lebanon is truly like blaming the US for 9/11," [Syrian Expatriate Affairs Minister Buthaina Shaaban] told the BBC.
     

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  • Kudos:
    "Martin said Canada would host a major international meeting this December to start discussing a new long-term agreement to succeed the Kyoto accord when it runs out in 2012.

    But this certainly doesn't make up for this:
    But Canadian officials acknowledge the country has little chance of meeting its commitments under the Kyoto accord, which came into effect on Wednesday.
    Kyoto obliges Ottawa to cut emissions by 6 percent from 1990 levels by 2012. Canadian emissions are in fact already over 20 percent above 1990 levels and still rising.

    Greenpeace says we are lagging way behind other Kyoto-member nations. This is at least partly due to the bureaucratic mess that is our Kyoto policy. Responsibility for it is shared between the ministries of Natural Resources and of the Environment. The result has thus far been paralysis.
     

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  • Hmm... My site looks terrible in Firefox. Looks like I have a new project.
     

  • Tuesday, February 15, 2005
     
  • Kyoto starts tomorrow. Doing damage control, the US State Department pointed out some White House spending programs. They say they are spending $5.8 billion on climate change research and programs. I'd like to see their math.

    Here at home:
    ...it is generally believed that Canada has no immediate hope of meeting its targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

    Oh, and happy Flag Day, everyone.
    Canadian Flag
     

  • Monday, February 14, 2005
     
  • Local Boys Make It Big

    A very cool article from this Saturday's Globe and Mail about the burgeoning Montreal, and Canadian, music scene with special focus on an old highschool friend's band, Arcade Fire.

    And by the way, for those of you from back home, take a look at the Juno's nominees for Best Alternative Album this year.

    Links: Arcade Fire, Jim Guthrie.
     

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  • Venezuela and Brazil are courting each other. They are looking at cooperation on oil and guns. Specifically, Venezuela may buy fighter jets from Brazil. Chavez says the US has been avoiding shipping him spare parts for his old F-16s. This might make it harder for the US to argue that Chevez is a threat to the region.
     

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  • What's wrong with this statement:
    The surveillance has been conducted as the Bush administration sharpens its anti-Iran rhetoric and the U.S. intelligence community searches for information to support President Bush's assertion that Tehran is trying to build nuclear weapons.

    The US has been flying unmanned drones over Iran. They apparently caused a stir in the Iranian media, when sighting of the drones caused a national newspaper frenzy in late December over whether the country was being visited by UFOs.
    According to the Post, the drones are both looking for clues about Iranian nuclear tactics and part of a US strategy of provoking a potential combatant just enough to get them to raise their defenses, thereby revealing some information about those defenses. According to Iranian officials, the strategy didn't work, since many Iranian military officials were themselves trained in the US and know the American tactics. This is interesting stuff.
     

  • Friday, February 11, 2005
     
  • The Uppity Mr. Chavez or I Looked Into His Eyes...

    China imports oil, Russia exports weapons.
    President Chavez (left) with President Putin in Moscow last November

    The US says it is worried that some of the 100,000 automatic rifles or helicopters might end up in the hands of the FARC, the Colombian rebel organization. Its accusing Venezuela of risking a regional arms race. Venezuela says it's just replacing old weaponry. (Of course, its old weaponry has to go somewhere, right?) I wonder if Venezuela looked at American suppliers.

    Russia-Venezuelan cooperation has been increasing for at least a little while. Late last year, they were discussing oil, arms, and trade.

    Some more BBC links for background on Chavez, his backers, and Venezuelan politics.
     

  • Thursday, February 10, 2005
     
  • Slate's Elisabeth Eaves suggests we keep an eye on Farid Ghadry. He's "not Ahmed Chalabi". He's from Syria.
     

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  • A Saudi-sponsored international anti-terrorism conference has ended with a press release. Greater international cooperation on this sort of thing is always a good idea. Still, any conference which includes the US alongside Iran and Syria is not going to lead to anything very substantial. For the record, Canada was there too. We sent our Assistant Director of Intelligence from CSIS to head up the delegation.
     

  • Tuesday, February 08, 2005
     
  • The New York Times takes an interest in the Montreal music scene. Um, weird.
     

  • Monday, February 07, 2005
     
  • Look who's been getting uppity:
    U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega says the rhetoric and actions of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez are undermining democracy in the South American nation, and posing a threat to Venezuela's neighbors. ... Mr. Noriega said Washington might seek to invoke the democracy charter of the Organization of American States that was signed in 2001, which calls for collective sanctions against presidents who seek to become de facto dictators.

    Gosh, what'd they do to threaten hemispheric stability? The article doesn't say, citing only US accusations that Chavez is accumulating power in the executive branch. (Doesn't he know, if you're goind to undermine your democracy, you should take over all the branches of government?) I wonder if this story from last week has anything to do with it:
    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said his government may sell eight U.S. refineries as part of a strategy by the world's fifth-largest supplier of oil to reduce dependency on sales to the U.S. ... ``We have serious concerns,'' White House spokesman Scott McClellan said yesterday [Feb. 1st] at a press briefing when asked about Chavez's plan to reduce oil business with the U.S. ``We have made our concerns known when it comes to President Chavez. We have talked about our concerns with other leaders in the Americas.''

    Or this one from a few days earlier:
    Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez signed 17 bilateral agreements and also discussed cooperation in mining, oil and gas projects, as well as technological partnership.


    The US currently consumes about half of Venezuela's oil exports. China moving in on Latin America understandably makes it nervous. But this hamfisted approach of declaring Venezuela's president a dictator is just so... well, predictable.

    Thanks to Michael.
     

  • Wednesday, February 02, 2005
     
  • Freelance journalist Dahr Jamail provides a somewhat different picture of the Iraqi vote. Via Urban Fox.
     




  • moon phases
     


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