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Jan 2004 - Dec 2004

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Friday Dec 31, 2004

Here we are at the bottom of the year. A crappy, disastrous year for many. Genocide in the Sudan. Imperial war in Iraq. Tsunami in Asia. It goes on. Add to that the personal crises in each of our lives and it's a wonder we all just don't hang it up right here and now. I keep reminding myself that every era and every person who's ever lived suffered trauma and tragedy of seemingly world ending proportions. So this, my friends, is life. We beat on and savour the moments of sweetness while enduring the periods of darkness.

I've written a new article for The Podium. It's pretty short, so I'll paste it in its entirety below. But you can also click on this link if you prefer.

See you in 2005.

Stingy Tsunami Relief
by Raywat Deonandan

When Mr. Jan Egeland, the United Nations undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, called the West's contributions to the tsunami relief efforts "stingy", he was answered with a defensive cry from the United States. President Bush was recalled from vacationing in Texas and senior White House staff submitted their predictable sound bytes, all trumpeting the same refrain: "the United States is the single biggest contributor to humanitarian aid in the world."

This is true, depending on how you add the numbers. And to be fair, no nation is legally obligated to give aid to others, though the moral, political and economic arguments to the contrary are strong. The maintaining of alliances, global security and trade and power relations all depend on the remittances paid by rich nations to poorer ones. However it is the scope of such aid, especially in light of this unprecedented humanitarian tragedy, which is disappointing.

Canada has shown leadership in this matter, with our federal government pledging $40 million in aid, or about $1.23 for every citizen. The provinces have so far given over $18 million independently, while individual Canadians continue to give in heartwarming amounts. In addition, we have placed a moratorium on debt payments from stricken nations who owe us a total of $993.3 million.

The United States, however, initially announced a donation of only $US35 million. This is equivalent to 12 cents for every US citizen and is noticeably less than the $US40 million Bush has earmarked for his own inauguration ceremonies in the new year. Poorer Western nations like Spain and Sweden have pledged $US68 million and $US75 million respectively; Sweden's GDP is one seventh the size of the USA's.

These numbers get tossed around so much that they often lose meaning. Some perspective is helpful. The median salary of the New York Yankees in 2004 was $US3.1 million, the team's total payroll exceeding $US184 million. It is telling that the world's richest nation can only offer 5 million displaced and dying persons a fraction of the cost of maintaining a single major league baseball team for one year.

According to Slate Magazine, Mr. Bush himself has a net worth somewhere between US$9-26 million, while Paul Martin's fortune famously hovers about the $50 million mark. The amounts of tsunami aid pledged by these men are, in a sense, equivalent only to the net worth of a single wealthy individual, while working people throughout dig deep to give to the Red Cross.

The entire US foreign aid budget in 2004 was $US2.4 billion, loudly touted as the most generous aid budget in the world. Yet this is what the Bush administration spends in occupying Iraq every 10 days. Moreover, aid is rarely if ever strictly altruistic. The much touted $US3 billion/year of HIV/AIDs money ("Bush money" to field workers) is tainted: only nations which agree to receive imports of US genetically modified foods are eligible to receive it.

In light of such gamesmanship and political disingenuousness, the millions pledged so far to tsunami relief do indeed appear "stingy."

Thursday Dec 30, 2004

Canada has announced that our federal contribution to the tsunami relief efforts has been increased to $40 million which, at least when it was announced, was the highest amount offered by any country. The USA has announced a similar initial contribution, despite accusations by a certain Norwegian official that the West's donations have been "stingy."

No nation is under any obligation to give money to another nation; it's something one does out of goodness. Well, I'm not so naive. It's something one does out of goodness, to maintain certain strategic relationships and to nurture an image of beneficience. And while I am terribly grateful --and genuinely moved-- by the relief contributions of Western nations and individual citizens, there's a weighty argument that we owe this money to the less wealthy nations whose poverty has --whether we like it or not-- contributed to our wealth. Think about it: the conversion of Southern industries to cash crop agriculture, the linkage of foreign loans to imbalanced trade equations and the leveraging of deflated economies to allow near-slavery conditions in Third World factories which service Western consumer demands all contribute to the argument that we are in large part responsible for the depressed economic conditions of the South. And those conditions, which I discuss in my latest article, are at the root of this disaster.

Ironically, the single largest donor to date is the World Bank. Known to many do-gooders as the fortress of evil, the World Bank is in my opinion a more complicated beast. Its economic projects have been largely disastrous and disingenuous, but its health projects have been, for the most part, precisely on target. That's why it's warming to hear that a Bank official mirrored my own sentiments in an official statement, declaring that relief is not good enough; rather, we should be rebuilding the South Asian infrastructure from the ground up so that water quality, road quality and communications quality are at 21st century standards ---so that this never happens again.

Once again, a crisis has brought opportunity. As 9/11 brought a chance for the North and the South to put aside old hates and learn about each other, so does this crisis represent an opportunity to rebuild the world's relief and aid structure to the betterment of all. But the opportunity of 9/11 was ignored. I fear this one might be, as well.

Meanwhile, as I mentioned, relief efforts forge forwards, though I fear we will arrive too late for many. The Andaman Islands, owned by India, are populated by isolated and, in large part, quarantined neolithic tribes. The Indian government has protected these people for decades from contact with the polluting effects of the modern world, since history has shown that whenever an "advanced" culture contacts a "primitive" one, the latter always suffers, usually fatally so. However the Islands' isolation is working against them now, as refugees have been holed up there for days without rescue. I fear for everyone trapped there and especially for the tribes which may have been completely wiped out.

I am involved with a specific relief effort called the Canadian Committee for Relief to Eastern Province, which is geared toward providing emergency medical supplies to the eastern villages of Sri Lanka. We have a website which will hopefully have content soon: CanRelief.org. In coming days we will be trying to secure donations of cash and medical supplies (for example, antimalarials and antibiotics) for shipment to Sri Lanka where we have people on the ground who will handle distribution. If anyone would like to help, please do.

If you're in the Toronto area, a special party will be held with all proceeds going to our relief project. Please come if you can:

Date: Thursday Jan 13, 2005
Place: Supermarket (206 Augusta) & The Embassy (223 Augusta Ave)
Time: 9pm-2am
Price: $10-$50 (sliding scale; pay what you can)
What: Medalert!, an evening hosted by Nirmala with dancing by DJ Serious, Mike Tull, Denise Benson, Brenden Canning, Broken Social Scene, Abacus, DJ Nav, John Kong, Son of S.O.U.L., Dalia, Dj Nana, Jocelyn D, DJ Nav, John Kong, Noel Nanton, Kola, Chocolate, Sonar and DJ Amita
Sponsors: CKLN, Toronto Women's bookstore, Typotherapy & Design

Wednesday Dec 29, 2004

Thanks to everyone who has been inquiring, but I have lost no one due to the Tsunami in South Asia. However, someone very close to me has lost a large number of relatives, it seems. I am assisting her in putting together some kind of medial relief effort. I will post details here as they develop. In the mean time, if you'd like to give to the cause, go to redcross.ca.

Also, I've written a new article on the role played by poverty in this tragedy. I'll try to get it published somewhere, but it's really not a priority right now.

Wednesday Dec 22, 2004

A quick check of the hit stats for this site and for The Podium reveals some interesting things. First, my Download page gets a tone of hits for no reason I can fathom, except that google searches for Leo Delibes's "Flower Duet" and for Iomega software tends to lead surfers there. Never knew Delibes had so many fans. One of the most popular articles on my sites is Kevin Hilditch's Restaurant Etiquette, Part I, also as a result of a frequent google search for the phrase "restaurant etiquette."

Another interesting site is Googlewar.com, which compares the hit counts for two competing memes. Comparing "deonandan" with "vadum" gives a dramatic win to Vadum, presumably because it's also the name of a Danish town. Mmmmm....danish....

I've bitten the bullet and paid $12 (US) to Haloscan to retrieve all the old user comments on this site. Man, this website maintenance stuff is adding up!

The other news I have for you is that I've finally updated my Photos page. The new pics are in galleries 62-66. Still more to come!

Monday Dec 20, 2004

Congratulations to Neil K. and LB on the birth of their daughter Nicole late last week. Let's hope the kid gets her looks --or at least her hair-- from the mother and not the father. In honour of Neil, we begin with the following quote from Art Buchwald:

"Americans will accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic or a dope fiend, but if a man doesn't drive, they think there must be something wrong with him."

Good thing neither Neil nor I no longer live in America. Now let's begin with today's real topic:

"What's the difference between the U.S. destroying the rebellious Iraqi city of Fallujah and Saddam destroying rebellious Halabja? What difference does it make if you're killed by poison gas, artillery or 2,000-pound bombs?" -Eric Margolis

How do the soldiers of the "Land of Free" get away with this? Same reason the retarded boy king was re-elected to a second term: xenophobia, barbarism, hate and petty feelings run deep in everyone, but especially among supposedly "free" societies who've learned to reject criticism at every turn, forcing our pathologies deeper with every national crisis. Some people demand to know why I hold the West to a "higher standard" than I do the rest of the world. I don't; I hold us to the same standard. What is barbaric for them is barbaric for us. Moreover, at least they never claimed to be "the heart of freedom" or "the land of liberty" or any other puke-inducing euphemism for "do what I say, not what I do." Is it any wonder the American population is increasingly more inclined to treat the rest of the world as something less than human? A recent study by Cor nell University spells out the true extent of such sentiments...

The survey found 44% favoured at least some restrictions on the civil liberties of Muslims in America, even those with citizenship. Twenty-seven percent supported requiring all Muslim-Americans to register where they lived with the federal government. Twenty-two percent favoured racial profiling to identify potential terrorist threats. And 29% thought undercover agents should infiltrate Muslim civic and volunteer organizations to keep tabs on their activities and fund-raising.

"Land of the free" indeed. Is it okay now to make the obligatory Nazi Germany comparison? This is where fascism begins, children, with the uninformed consent of the unthinking majority to curtail the rights of a minority, the individual members of which have yet to be accused let alone charged with a crime. The 1930s were not that long ago and the world has not changed all that much; certainly people have not changed at all.

And we can expect no relief from the political Left. Want to know why supposed "progressive" groups have allowed the right wing to trundle all over North America, throwing aside decades of social progress? This discussion sheds some light on the situation: instead of debating the question at hand --in this case, why families with girl children are more likely to suffer divorce than are families with boy children-- the forum spends most of its time debating what to name the f@cking thread. Aieeee.

Meanwhile, thanks to Maggie W. for providing this link showing which corporations donated to which US political party. That's all I got. I gots no more.

Thursday Dec 16, 2004

I'm not one for quoting other people's entire blog entries, but this time Andrew Sullivan gets it right. Sullivan is a conservative journalist/blogger who often subscribes to the over-reactionary school of political thought. You know the type: terrorism is the scourage of our time and we need big daddy Prez to take care of us, even though every available statistic tells us we have more to fear from our next door neighbour than from any turban-clad Jihadist. Nevertheless, Sullivan gives us this pearl of perfect wisdom:

"Let's review. We have the horrors of Abu Ghraib; we have several murders and rapes of inmates in Iraq and in Afghanistan; we have separate abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib after the scandal broke; we have the use of electric shocks, beating to unconsciousness, scarring chemicals, one instance of 'water-boarding,' using dogs to terrorize and sometimes bite inmates, forced sodomy, and any number of bizarre pieces of sexual humiliation, designed specifically to abuse Arabs. Got all that? We have at least 130 convictions.

Now we have this: In Karbala in May 2003, one Marine held a 9mm pistol to the back of a bound detainee's head while another took a photograph. Two months later, in Diwaniyah, four Marines ordered teenage Iraqi looters to kneel alongside holes and then fired a pistol 'to conduct a mock execution.' In April of this year, shortly before the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal shook the U.S. military, three Marines in Mahmudiya shocked a detainee with an electric transformer, forcing him to 'dance' as the electricity hit him, according to a witness, one document states.

The ACLU also discovered a document containing a statement taken in October by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in which a Navy corpsman who had been attached to the Marines in Iraq stated that it was routine to take a prisoner to an empty swimming pool, place cuffs on his hands and legs, put a burlap bag over his head, and then 'the EPW [enemy prisoner of war] would remain in the kneeling position for no longer than 24 hours while the EPW was awaiting interrogation.' It's also increasingly clear that these kinds of abuses - the use of nakedness, exposure to extreme heat and cold, hooding, sexual abuse, real and faked electric torture - are themes across these disparate acts. In other words, there seems to be an informal methodology for the abuse and humiliation of prisoners. Do we really believe that these common practices are the result of completely spontaneous imagination by soldiers with no idea of what they were doing and no culture of acceptance from their superiors? These were not just some untrained grunts, coping with Rumsfeld-engineered chaos. These were elite Navy SEALs and Special Forces. And we have no idea how many incidents have gone unreported or have been covered up."

So I ask you again: who are the good guys in the War On Terror?

Now, I'm a fiction writer and a great fan of screen adapted science-fiction. Being both has caused me much distress over the years as I've endured some of the most heart-breakingly bad adaptations of beloved novels and stories. SciFi's version of Farmer's Riverworld comes to mind. That book is an acknowledged masterpiece and I encourage all of you to read it. The television version was a steaming turd redeemed only for the final performance of the late Kevin Smith. Among the many atrocities wrought upon the text was the change in the story's main protagonist. In the book, the hero is the historical figure Sir Richard Francis Burton, one of the Victorian era's most dynamic men and one of my boyhood heroes. In fact, all of Riverworld's main characters are historical figures, including Alice Liddell Hargreaves and Hermann Goering. In the American TV version, Burton was replaced with --get this-- a fictitious American astronaut. And Goering was replaced with a 'roided up version of Emperor Nero. Weak, weak, weak.

Anyway, I bring this up because Ursula K. Le Guin, a legendary science fiction and fantasy writer, has just written this article in which she decries SciFi's distortion of her decades old masterpiece, the Earthsea books. I'm not a fan of her writing, but it bothers me that TV can't get it right. Time and again it's been shown that remaining true to a great novel's specifics guarantees a great visual product. The Lord Of The Rings movies are a perfect example of doing justice to a book. Why can't producers learn from such successes? Why must they dumb everything down and rob an entire generation of potentially glorious watching experiences?

Tuesday Dec 14, 2004

"A good start [to reducing global poverty and population] would be to stop selling armaments to governments. Armaments are a negative investment. They don't create wealth. If they are used, they destroy it. A million dollars sitting in a tank is a million dollars unavailable for food, medicine and education. A lot of poverty is a direct result of military expenditures and wars for power and loot." -Charley Reese

Once again the regime in Iran proves it's run by dumbasses, as they will soon execute a mentally handicapped teenaged girl for alleged prostitution. This is, of course, reprehensible and shameful national policy. But let us not forget the other countries in the world that execute retarded teenagers; those regimes, too, are worthy of our disdain. One such country is immediately south of Canada and run by an Evangelical man-chimp, according to whom, "freedom is on the march." Puke.

The man-chimp and his handlers are rapidly remaking their nation in the image of the Beverley Hillbillies, without the humour. This article is a must read for those of us fed up with the right wing insanity.

Here are some interesting stats. Know from where the USA receives most of its petroleum imports? Saudi Arabia? Iraq? Nope. According to the American Petroleum Institute, the top oil and petroleum product exporters to the USA are Canada, Mexico, Venezuela and Nigeria. Occasionally Saudi Arabia breaks into the top 4, but weirdly never surpasses Canada. (According to US Department of Energy, Saudi Arabia is higher up on the list, but still below Canada.) What does this mean? Well, while in no way does this fact diminish the thesis that Iraq was invaded to secure oil supplies for future years, it does mean that US interest in the Middle East has as much to do with political interests as with oil. One word: Israel.

And speaking of Israel, here is yet another report of poor behaviour on the part of Israeli soldiers. If the report is to be believed, the soldiers murdered a Palestinian teenager for fun.

On a lighter note, BushSpeech.org allows you to make the Shrub speak your own tailor made speech.

Here is a review of a fascinating history book which compares the way textbooks around the world protray US history. Definitely worth a browse.

Speaking of reviews, here is another review of Alexander, in case you're looking for a view contrary to mine. And while we're talking entertainment, here's something I learned from watching tonight's episode of The Amazing Race 6: peoples is stupid. Speaking of stupid, my cousin Ajay sends us this story about stoners reporting to the police the theft of their illegal drugs. Oh those crazy kids.

In furtherance of my eternal quest to get my dirty little hands on... well, you know... here's a great little link sent by Sarah. And while we all thank her for the mammaries, let's also thank Lord Vadum for the following:

Sunday Dec 12, 2004

Well, my favourite player --Chris-- won Survivor: Vanuatu. The lesson here is that I would make a crappy Survivor contestant. At every turn, I felt Chris made the wrong choices, and yet he emerged the grand winner. He did so by being a good judge of character and by being an excellent liar. Why am I talking about this? Because contrary to what a lot of stuck-up people think, there is wisdom to be found in some reality TV. Survivor in particular can be a learning experience. It is a near perfect laboratory for the measurement of human competitive nature, and allows each viewer to gauge his own moral certitude against the performances of our avatars on the island. Feel free to disagree... but you'd be wrong.

Thursday Dec 9, 2004

You may have noticed that since the US election the political content of this site has diminished. With the re-affirmation of the rule of dumb-asses in the world's most influential nation, I guess I just haven't got the heart to rant (as much) these days.

Speaking of dumb-asses, America's most prominent fascist, stick-figure Ann Coulter has finally, in no uncertain terms, shown her true nature. This video shows her advocating for the USA to "punish" Canada for our, um, disloyalty. The same clip shows Jon Stewart's favourite TV dick, Tucker Carlson, also complaining about us of the North. Other pro-Bush pundits have been bashing Canada of late, too. The message here is not that anti-intellectual mouth-breathers are anti-Canadian, but rather that, once again, the American Right has remarkably set upon a consistent, coherent, simultaneous and ubiquitous talking point. Now, one could argue that Canada is on their minds because The Shrub has recently put Canada back on the national agenda. But it's more intriguing to consider that this army of conservative pundits might receive its or der of "talking points" directly from the Republican Party.

This blog has done a clever thing by comparing Coulter's and Carlson's statements about Canada with Bush's own words during his recent speech in Halifax. Odd that this time, C&C seem out of step with the actions of their boy king. MediaMatters has the transcript of the C&C statements.

Speaking of the American Right, a regular visitor and friend to Deonandan.com, Rondi A. just had another appearance on Faux News, sandwiched between none other than RFK Jr. and Darth Rumsfeld himself. We might not approve of the company she keeps, but we nevertheless offer our genuine congratulations to Rondi for yet another media success. It means a lot more now that Fox News is available in Canada.

Speaking of Canada, Dawn L. sends us these Canada T-shirts, useful for Americans to disguise themselves when abroad.

Speaking of Canada and the American Right, Neil H. sends us this clip of a Stalin-esque statue of Bush The Younger being toppled in Vancouver. You know, demonstrators and demonstrations tend to be boring. But it's great when they get a little creative like this.

Neil also suggested that someone comment on the demise of the National Post's blog. I have nothing to say about it, but maybe one of you does.

But speaking of blogs, it seems CBS News is courting bloggers. Hey, I'll gladly whore out this space to the highest bidder. Any takers?

And speaking of Stalinism, check out this creepy billboard, put up in Florida by Clear Channel and sent to us by Lauren G. How about a brand new round of Bush-Hitler comparisons?

I'll leave you with a bit of egoism. Found a great French translation of the summary of my latst book. It makes me feel oh so global:

"Élevée à l'étranger, en Occident, Kalya revient dans son village ancestral, en Inde, où elle fait la connaissance d'un entomologiste grec canadien excentrique, venu étudier le blastophage, un insecte propre à l'écosystème du village. Cette histoire d'amour entre des amoureux fort différents explore le fossé entre la science et la religion, l'Est et l'Ouest, les hommes et les femmes, l'ancien et le moderne, et la mesure dans laquelle la perception définit la réalité. Raywat Deonandan est né dans une famille d'agriculteurs indiens installée en Guyana, et il a émigré au Canada alors qu'il était encore jeune. Il possède quatre diplômes d'universités canadiennes, notamment un doctorat en épidémiologie. Son premier livre, un recueil de nouvelles intitulé Sweet Like Saltwater, a été acclamé par la critique internationale et a obtenu un prix national en Guyana."

Monday Dec 6, 2004

"Evidence procured by torture is now sufficient to detain 'enemy combatants' at Gitmo. Prisoners 'have no constitutional rights enforceable in this court.' Slowly, we are beginning to piece together what the Bush administration has set up - with little public debate. The government can detain prisoners without naming them, it can use methods that are 'inhumane,' it can use evidence procured by torture, and anyone the government deems an 'enemy combatant' is beyond the recourse of constitutional protection. Some of this might be defensible, although I doubt whether I'd agree. But the lack of candor, the absence of real debate (neither Gitmo nor Abu Ghraib came up in any of the presidential debates), and the vagueness of many of the rules are surely worrying in the extreme." -Andrew Sullivan


"The U.S. has been sending high-level anti-American suspects to Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and, reportedly, Pakistan, where it's alleged they are brutally tortured with violent electric shocks, savage beatings, drowning, acid baths, and blowtorching -- the same tortures, ironically, ascribed to Saddam Hussein." -Eric Margolis

Land of the free indeed. If history teaches us anything it's that the supposed "good guys" in a conflict are often as bastardly as the "bad guys" against whom they fight. Here is an unsurprising story about the Israeli military murdering a 13 year old girl then lying about it afterwards. Meanwhile, it is becoming clear that the US is using napalm in Iraq. Who's the evil power wantonly using chemical weapons again? Is Saddam now sitting in the White House?

Well, I came back from Philadelphia yesterday. The good folk at Tibotec proved an excellent and attentive audience for my talk about the global burden of HIV/AIDS. And Philadelphia was pleasantly much warmer than my current of Ottawa; must be the friction from all that brotherly love.

As anyone who has read my last book knows, I fancy myself a bit of an amateur expert on the life and deeds of Alexander the Great. Thus, it was my duty to watch the new Warner Brothers movie last night. What can I say? It was not as bad as WB's last sword-and-sandals crapfest, Troy, but was mostly laughable. And that's a shame because the subject matters (of both films) are colossal characters with epic stories. But Alexander, while by no means a good movie, was 100 times better than Troy.... which says more about how truly awful Troy was.

Alexander's character can only be guessed at, since his legacy is one of conflicting reports. But why Colin Farrel chose to play him as a confused boy with an Oedipal complex is unknown to me; nothing of the nature of history's greatest general came through. Farrel's Alexander lacks the crazy glint and charisma that a king of the world would necessarily possess. Hey, but at least they didn't cast Keannu Reeves or Ben Affleck. Moreover, the story of Alexander is one of a series of remarkable deeds and achievements over a decade-long march Eastward. Instead, Oliver Stone gave us a series of unremarkable conversations each of which went on well past the point of interest. Lastly, does Stone really believe the ancient world was in fact one gigantic queer paradise? Methinks Oliver has issues.

I leave you with this cute little website. It's an advice site in which 4 supposedly Polish guys each give an answer to your question: ITolYou.com.

Thursday Dec 2, 2004

"Without exhaustive debate, even heated debate, of ideas and programs, free government would weaken and wither. But if we allow ourselves to be persuaded that every individual or party that takes issue with our own convictions is necessarily wicked or treasonous, then, indeed, we are approaching the end of freedom's road." -Dwight D. Eisenhower

Ike also had this to say:

"If all that Americans want is security, they can go to prison. They'll have enough to eat, a bed and a roof over their heads. But if an American wants to preserve his dignity and his equality as a human being, he must not bow his neck to any dictatorial government."

I leave it to you, Dear Reader, to see the relevance.

This is exceptionally cool. It's a "quilt" in which you can zoom infinitely.

Rondi A. sends us this news bit about blonde jokes being banned in Hungary. Who will ban Hungarian jokes in Sweden?

Neil H. sends us this analysis of "hate media" in the Ivory Coast. Sounds like a Third World sort of thing, but it bears an uncomfortable resemblance to Faux News.

Now, Karan has sent us this article by an American in Canada who's trying to convince her fellow Americans that Canada is not a place they'd like to live. I have no problem with this. You anti-Bush and yet anti-Canada Americans: stay in your own country and clean up your mess before you come here and whine about long hospital line-ups.

I'm off to Philadelphia in a couple of hours. I'll be speaking to employees of the Tibotec corporation about the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Yep, it's the Stephen Lewis speech at the low Ray Deonandan price.

Tuesday Nov 30, 2004

Well, George II came to Ottawa today. To my American friends, let me explain that this is a big deal to Canadians. Even though we hate the bastard, a visit by any American president is kind of like badly needed attention from an absentee parent. Sad, but accurate. The protestors came out, and for the first time in my life I went with them to see what I've been missing throughout my many years of armchair criticism.

First, let me say that there didn't seem to be anyone over 19. And while some of the signs were funny, most were predictable and tiresome. There was a dude with a huge "free beer" sign taped to his extended hockey stick, but he did not indicate in which country the liberty-deprived beverage had in fact been incarcerated. There was an interesting moment when we overheard a policeman say, "okay, get out the gas," and I was torn between seeking cover and getting out my camera. I chose the camera, since the wusses didn't actually gas anybody. Both CBC and CNN covered the action, and apparently there were some scuffles. Here are some pics from my trusty piece-of-crap camera:

My favourite sign of the afternoon: "Buck Fush."

A glimpse of the gathering crowd.

The cops with their gas masks on, seemingly about to storm Starbucks, home of the latte-drinking anarchist horde.

Last night, CBC-watching Canadians also chose our nation's "Greatest Canadian", which in the words of one columnist is tantamount to choosing the tallest midget. We chose Tommy Douglas, who is a fine choice, but whose name more than half of Canadians under 50 have never heard of. Douglas was the premier of Saskatchewan, first leader of the federal NDP and the father of great social programmes like medicare. While my heart was with Trudeau, I was convinced that Terry Fox would win. And in retrospect Fox should have won. He represents everything this country pretends to want to be: kind, modest, hard-working, generous and peaceful.

As well, last night I attended a function of the Writers' Union of Canada at the home of the eminent Margaret Atwood. My first impression: the Canadian literary scene seems populated exclusively by white people over 50. Seriously, the only other people of colour I encountered at this enormous gathering were Shyam Selvadurai and Lien Chao. And one of the only truly youthful persons there was an old friend from high school, Jennifer Duncan. Perhaps there were others, but I didn't meet them. I'm not sure what this means --maybe young and non-white authors don't know about the union, I dunno-- but it was a pretty weird feeling.

It seems writers don't have manners, either. Must be all that time spent alone at home with a typewriter and a damned cat. I was walking across a crowded room when a very large Eastern European woman arm-barred me and literally hurled me several paces backward... because someone was taking her photo and I was about to walk in front of him. Geez, lady, a simple "excuse me" would have sufficed.

Speaking of white Canadian authors over 50, they don't get much whiter than Pierre Berton, who unfortunately has just passed away.

Sunday Nov 29, 2004

So why shouldn't Iran have a nuclear programme? Can anyone give me a good reason? Everyone else in the region seems to have nuclear weapons, including a neighbour who has shown a readiness and will to act aggressively (Israel). Iran does have ties to terror organizations, but Pakistan has more of such ties and more nuclear weapons. So why pick on Iran? And why is Pakistan being so well rewarded by the West? By my understanding, the only legal restraint on the Persians is that they are a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty. But what if they pull out? With the US developing a new generation of battlefield nukes, Russia threatening to do the same, and both Pakistan and India expanding their nuclear arsenals, why should Iran feel compelled to remain disarmed?

So, after a couple of years of searching, I've finally located precious photocopies of letters I wrote to my first great love, Katie, from Asia back in 1992. (Katie is now a happily married woman.) See, I had sort of been thinking about re-packaging the letters into a romantic travelogue of some kind; Katie has givn me her consent. We tend to forget, but in 1992 there was no email and few mobile phones. Travelling to Asia back then was much more difficult and uncommon for North Americans; letters were enjoying their last days as the primary medium of interpersonal trans-continental communication. I'm no longer sure, though, that these letters are worthy of publication. Check out this excerpt from July 5, 1992, written at 5:AM in the youth hostel (YHA) in Bangkok, with some seriously shaky penmanship:

"I am drunker than I've ever been in my life, my darling. The locals who run the YHA took me out drinking and dancing. They are fine folk, but I cannot keep up with them. I miss you very much. I wish so much that you were here with me now. I think I am going to puke..."

See my point?

Thursday Nov 25, 2004

Sorry, updating this site has not been a priority of late. I'll get back on it once some business dies down.

Chris C. sends us this GOP-style ad for why Jesus might be wrong for America. Speaking of messianic figures, the Shrub himself is coming to Ottawa next week. Apparently the motorcade is in direct view of the roof of my building, though I suspect it would not be the wisest thing to camp out up there with a telescope while dressed in my typical Ottawa Fall attire: black turtleneck, watchcap and face grease. I don't think I'm on any secret service watchlists, but you never know. If you don't hear from me after Tuesday.... call somebody.

Okay, I have a very creepy dream to relate to you all. I know, I know, everybody's dreams are boring; it's true. But mine has a phsyiological moral to it. Last night (morning) I went to bed at 4:AM, 'cause I work late these days. No sooner had my mind drifted to neverland when I sensed an evil presence in the room, and felt strong hands pinning me to the bed, holding my ankles and shoulders. I could see no faces and, most terrifying, I couldn't even speak! I kept trying to yell, "f@ck off!" but all that dribbled out of my mouth were incoherent mutterings. Some seconds later, I was okay again and wide awake. The clock read 4:20 AM, and the weirdest part of all was that my ankles and shoulders still tingled from where they had been held. It hadn't felt like a dream at all, but rather like a hazy drugged experience.

Now, the paranormal enthusiasts out there are immediately thinking of stories of "the Old Hag" or the incubus or succubus myths of the Middle Ages. Maybe even the precursor to alien abduction? Meanwhile, the pragmatists are thinking poor widdle Raywat had a bad dream and now he's awwww upset. But the truth is that I experienced something that is physiologically common but not well known or understood: Awareness during Sleep Paralysis, or ASP.

Sleep paralysis consists of a period of inability to perform voluntary movements either at sleep onset (called hypnogogic or predormital form) or upon awakening (called hypnopompic or postdormtal form). See, your body goes into paralysis just before REM sleep to prevent you from acting out your dreams. But sometimes it does so prematurely, or fails to come out of paralysis once you awake. The strange thing is that, almost universally, the experience is accompanied, as in my case, by a sense of presence of a "malevolent being" who is often suffocating you or sitting on your chest. It really is one of the most terrifying experiences of my life, and yet it is simply a --well-- brain fart.

So if your brain ever farts, don't call the paranormal police. Just mutter, "f@ck off!" and everything will be okay.

Monday Nov 22, 2004

National Security Advisor used to be a pretty important job, often filled by a towering amoral intellect like Henry Kissinger. However, the only time you're likely to see "towering intellect" and "Condoleeza Rice" in the same sentence is... well, you just read it.

It's not that she doesn't look good on paper. She spent 20 years working at Stanford in various positions, eventually rising to provost, and she worked as an advisor in various capacities to the first Bush administration.

But when you listen to her talk, it's impossible to avoid the flashbacks to sixth grade social studies, and the well-meaning but stultifying teacher who tried to explain world politics to you but f@cked it up so badly that you're still not sure what an electoral college is or why there was ever a wall in Berlin in the first place. (I think it had something to do with blocks?)

-from Rotten.com's bio of Condi Rice.

I've discovered the true value of the Harry Potter books: they are the ultimate escapist distraction in times of overwhelming stress and turmoil. Thank you, JK Rowling.

Remember The Hunger Site? By clicking on it, you actually feed hungry people. Now there's the Animal Rescue Site.

On a recent episode of Survivor: Vanuatu, competitors were rewarded with a coffee maker. Many viewers scratched their heads and asked themselves, "how are people surviving in bamboo tents on a beach managing to power a coffee maker?" Well, this photo tells all. The coffee maker sits atop a fake tree stump with an AC outlet. Yep, Survivor has officially jumped the shark.

Neil H. sends us this article about highschool students in New Zealand listing "pimping", "drug dealing" and "prostituion" among desirable careers. Of course the humourless school officials are perceiving a crisis of attitude among the teens. Idiots. It's a joke, get over it.

I highly, highly recommend you view this comedic news report from Iraq. Thanks to Good Ol' Nojjy Boy.

Ver uncomedic is this video still of a US marine murdering an unresisting Iraqi man lying on the ground. Video journalist Kevin Sites gives an eyewitness account of the event; read his Nov 21 entry.

Neil H. also sends us this bird's eye view of Fallujah. People have to remember that the place isn't a jungle filled with VC and tunnel-rats. Rather, it's a metropolis still populated by people who must yet get on with their lives, though the majority have already fled.

Congratulations to my friend Andrew K. Johnston for his new book, Earth From Space. Damn, is everybody an author now? What does a guy have to do to stand out?

Wednesday Nov 17, 2004

Colin Powell has retired/resigned. Fred Kaplan had this to say about him:

"Here is a man who enjoyed the most appealing life story in American politics. The son of Jamaican immigrants who pulled up his own boot straps in the Bronx; a Vietnam vet who rose through the Army's ranks to general, national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and secretary of state; a proud black man who could have made a serious run for president under either party's banner-chewed up and spit out on the shard-strewn sidewalk of Losers' Boulevard."

He is to be replaced by Condi Rice who, it seemed to me, personified tokenism in her previous role as national security advisor. On the plus side, we know that everything that comes out of her mouth will be in sync with Bush's true attitudes and desires. The same could not be said of Powell, who clearly was an independent thinker. But he was ultimately weak and disappointing. Regardless of what you might think of Bush policies, I think everyone can agree that Powell did no one any favours by disagreeing with his boss yet refusing to resign. A shame, since before his ridiculous choice to become Secretary of State, Powell could have become an effective and beloved President.

Oh looky, it seems drilling in the Alaskan wildlife refuges is all but inevitable. Is anyone surprised?

Kevin H. sends in this article about Georgia moving to remove the word "evolution" from their public school curriculum. I'm reminded of a friend at the Smithsonian who was asked by a school group to give them a tour of the natural history exhibits without using the "E word." Jesusland indeed.

Neil H., clearly bored, sends in this tidbit about pillows made to look like a woman's lap. Yep. It's a sequel to the pillow that was made to look like a boyfriend's arm. Oh those wacky Japanese.

I leave you with the following erie 16th century prophecy from Maria Laach Monastery:

"The twentieth century will bring death and destruction, apostasy from the Church, discord in families, cities and governments; it will be the century of three great wars with intervals of a few decades. They will become ever more devastating and bloody and will lay in ruins not only Germany, but finally all countries of East and West."

"After a terrible defeat of Germany will follow the next great war. There will be no bread for people anymore and no fodder for animals. Poisonous clouds, manufactured by human hands, will sink down and exterminate everything. The human mind will be seized by insanity."

Saturday Nov 13, 2004

A very weird thing just happened. I suddenly realized that this blog was missing all entries prior to August! I have no idea how this happened, but luckily I was able to restore the missing entries from my 3 month old backups. Also missing are the user comments from before June. This is because my comment provider, Haloscan, doesn't allow comments older than 4 months to be seen unless I pay for a subscription... which I will do in due time.

I have a new article over at The Podium. It's a very brief review of a novella called The View From Tamischeira. You can read the review here. It's reprinted from the Prairie Fire website. Not the most inspiring article, I know, but I have way too much work to do to be spending brain energy on newspaper articles right now.

Speaking of The Podium, on-going renovations are in progress over there, and the page views have been accelerating steadily. One of these days I'll have to splurge for some good hit tracking services so I can find out who's reading this stuff.

And speaking of reading, I've finally got around to reading the Harry Potter novels. Now, I'm a bitter jealous man. In fact the "S" in "Raywat S. Deonandan" stands for schadenfreude. But surprisingly I do not reproach J.K. Rowling for any of her success. In fact, I hope she makes hundreds of millions more off her books. The idea that an author can be so successful is pretty heart warming. It's even more inspiring to find out that the books themselves are excellent and, in some small ways, profound. Better yet is the fact that Rowling does not appear greedy, shallow or humourless. We'll see if she breaks her word and exceeds the 7 novel limit she has set for herself, but something tells me she will be true to her word.

Americans reading this may not be aware that the first Harry Potter novel and movie are called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone everywhere in the world except the USA, where it is called Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone. It seems the American publisher (Scholastic) was afraid that a title with the name "philosopher" in it would turn off American children and confuse them. (Insert rolling eyes here.) Apparently millions of sales in other English-speaking countries weren't enough to convince them otherwise.

Now, if anyone had bothered to do his homework, he would have learned that the philosopher's stone is an actual myth about a rock capable of turning lead into gold and of creating elixirs of immortality. In fact, the alchemist who made the stone in the Potter story --Nicholas Flamel-- was a real historical figure of 15th century France. A sorceror's stone, on the other hand, has no basis in extant myth. Changing the name took some historical oomph from Rowling's story, in my opinion. In fact, for the movie, scenes in which the stone's name was mentioned had to be filmed twice, once for an American audience and again for everybody else.

See, contrary to popular opinion, Americans are not stupid. Some of the smartest people who have ever lived happen to be American. But American institutions keep underestimating their population and keep lowering the intellectual bar. This is not strictly an American trend, but one does seem to see it more often in that country.

Thursday Nov 11, 2004

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada. What does one say? Happy Remembrance Day? Doesn't quite work, does it? I'm not one for glorifying either wars or warriors. The notion of "noble military service" has never taken root in me. However, on this day I will mourn with everyone else the deaths, not only of the soldiers of human wars, but their civilian victims, too. If I have learned nothing else after 37 years of life on this plane of existence, I have learned this: that human civilization never really learns anything.

Want to know how big of a geek I really am? Not only have I just downloaded both the Japanese and Italian versions of the Star Blazers theme, but I've been listening to the live feed from the web's only 24 hour Star Trek radio station: Starbase 479. Deeply, deeply nerdy. I'm so ashamed. And the irony is not lost on me, that both Star Trek and Star Blazers depict the "noble military service" of soldiers in the far future.

So Yasser Arafat is dead, an unconventional soldier to be sure. I will leave it to history to evaluate his legacy and to dissect his worth as both a leader and a human being. I will say, however, that his death in 2004 will not have the devastating consequences it would have had in, say, 1994 or 1984 or even 1974. For the past few years, he has existed solely as a symbol, a "living Palestinian flag." In fact, I would argue that most young Palestinians see him mostly as an historical touchstone and not as a functioning leader. Will there be a power vacuum in the Palestinian Authority? I would argue that there's been a power vacuum in Palestinian society for some time; Arafat's death will not exacerbate the situation unduly.

A friend sends this mesmerizing website. It's a gallery of anti-Bush Americans expressing their profound apologies to the rest of the world.

Wednesday Nov 10, 2004

As everyone knows, I'm obsessed with reality TV. I particularly like shows that put arrogant shmucks in mortal danger, like Fear Factor (which should really be renamed Babe Factor). But the new Richard Branson show, The Rebel Billionaire is just nuts! The stunts both the contestants and Sir Richard must do are genuinely dangerous. This is the first TV show I've seen in which the stunts are too dangerous for me to even fantasize about taking part. If they do a couple more seasons, I'm sure someone will get killed.

My biggest concern is that contestants will be sent into outer space on board one of Virgin Galactic's new spaceships. Man, to wannabe astronauts like me that would be unfair. However, it seems unlikely that the ships will be ready before 2007. In short term, however, the show's biggest impact is to make Donald Trump look like a pompous wuss in comparison.

Tuesday Nov 9, 2004

Back to politics:

  • Neil H. sends us this article on "why Americans hate Democrats".
  • With the rush of anti-Bush Americans trying to emigrate from Jesusland to Canada, all kinds of resources have erupted to guide them in their choices. Here's an article listing 10 reasons for Americans not to flee to the true land of liberty.
  • So why not move to China instead? Neil H. sends a light-hearted look at 10 things the Chinese do better than Canadians.
  • New bitter T-shirts abound. Bob A. (the "frankest man in the world") sends us this one for showing your disdain to the rednecks who gave the world 4 more years of W.
  • ...while this T-shirt exists for embarrassed Americans who must travel abroad.
  • Neil H. also pointed us to this article about European Christian theocrats emboldened by the Bush victory. Remember my prediction about Turkey being rebuffed by the EU? The wheels are in motion.
  • Meanwhile, as expected, creationism rears its ugly head anew in American schools.
  • Albert H. points us toward an explanation for the distribution of red vs blue states. Apparently it has to do with IQ distribution, with red states having lower average IQs than blue states. Is this a hoax? Who knows. But I like it!
  • Nick B. points us toward this treasure trove of Gwynne Dyer articles. Mr Dyer is a Canadian political/military commentator I've sometimes cited in this space.

Time to plug a friend's business. If anyone is looking to spend some time in Paris, France, and is thinking of renting a short-term apartment instead of a hotel, visit Let's Paris, a service run by my good friend Lauren Greenwald.

Sunday Nov 7, 2004

Man, it's 5:30AM and I'm still up working. No, I'm not that dedicated, I just started late.

As I work, I also procrastinate. I've been reading the various trivia notes on my favourite movies over at the Internet Movie Database and I've been trying to download both the first season of Star Blazers and the new U2 single "Vertigo."

...Which got me thinking of U2, who have been my favourite band since 1979. Yep, I'm that old. In grade 9, Bill Michalis asked me who my favourite guitarist was ('cause that's what stupid 14 year olds talk about) and I said, of course, "The Edge." Bill got mad at me because he had asked for a guitarist not a band. Back then, no one had heard of U2 or its pointy-faced guitarist. But today, who remembers that silly band "The Edge"? I can't even find a website for them.

My fondest U2 memory is of sneaking in to see them play 22 years ago with my Aryan buddy Nick Minde. We had bought scalped maintenance passes for $5 each; I think the venue was Massey Hall in Toronto. We pushed our way to the front row and were having a great time when Bono tossed an Irish flag into the audience. A couple of beered-up losers next to me started shoving over who got to keep the flag.

Now, this was back when all the cool 15 year olds wore Army surplus fatigues, and Nick and I were no exceptions. So Bono, mid-song, sees the disturbance at his feet, notices the two wide-eyed youths in army fatigues, puts 2 and 2 together and gets twelve. "We don't fight over flags here," he snarled directly to me. "That's what the song is about!" Actually, that wasn't what that particular song was about, but I gave the guy some slack; he was a foreigner, after all. Now, I don't know if it was intentional or not, but at that point a bolus of saliva left Bono's mouth and landed on my person. In all honesty, I can make no conclusions about whether that bolus was projected or directed, but I do like to tell people that Bono Vox spat upon me. And yes, I still use the "Vox" 'cause if you're gonna choose a pretentious stage name, it should stick to you like fresh dog poop.

Mr. Vox (b. Paul David Hewson, 1960) has gone on to become arguably the biggest rock star in the world and, more importantly, a crusader for African debt and AIDS relief. In his latter capacity, he humbles me daily with the extent of his work. Unlike most celebrities who simply lend their names to causes, he actively works in the furtherance of those causes, and amazingly manages to affect the actions of historic individuals, such as the Pope, Kofi Annan, Paul Martin and Bill Clinton. Look, if they can give Nobel Peace Prizes to the murderous likes of Yasser Arafat and Anwar Sadat, then I certainly wouldn't complain if someone were to nominate the hardworking Mr. Hewson.

Anyway, the new song reminds me a great deal of my angst-filled days in army fatigues. The band sounds youthful and energetic again, and something tells me the new album will be their masterpiece. Thus endeth Ray's early morning reflection.

Friday Nov 5, 2004

Thanks to Darth Vadum for sending the link from which the graphic on the left was snatched. As its author remarks, Alberta probably belongs in Jesusland, too.

There were some interesting exchanges regarding my use of the term "gaylord" in the previous post. As it was an homage to my good friend, actor/comedian Mr. Andrew Currie, I might as well publish his complete quote:

"I've come to the conclusion that the Microsoft Xbox is gay, not in the homophobic sense, but rather in the sense that it's best suited for gaylords."

Oh come on! You gotta laugh!

Thursday Nov 4, 2004

"Essentially America is two nations living side by side. One of them resembles Iran and the other resembles Canada. And Iran won the election." -Gwynn Dyer, Studio 2, 11/3/2004

OK, here's what I'm going to try. It's a new administration. Sort of. I'm going to try to forgive everything they did in the past 4 years and see if they can move forward in a more sane direction starting....NOW. Maybe Bush is serious about mending the wound that rips across America's belly. I hope he is. But before I go entirely soft on these guys, I have to share with you the Give Bush A Brain Game. Thanks to Kevling for the link.

As I've already gone out on a limb and predicted that Al Gore will return to national prominence very soon, let's make a few more predictions for the next 4 years:

  • Within the next 4 years, Hillary Clinton will lose considerable power in the Democratic Party, perhaps even losing her New York senate seat to, oh, let's say Giuliani.
  • Within the next 2 years, probably sooner, the USA will give Israel the go-ahead to bomb Iran. They've already supplied the Israelis wtih 500 bunker-buster bombs and several long-range fighter-bombers. The US is in no position to invade Iran as things stand, so their best bet to continue neo-con foreign policy is to use Israel as a military proxy.
  • Roe vs Wade will be challenged... successfully.
  • The Democratic Party will continue to wither well past the midterm elections, and will finally re-emerge, branding itself the party of "individual liberties" or something gay like that. (To paraphrase Andrew Currie, "gay" is used here not in a homophobic sense, but in the sense that it pertains to gaylords.)
  • Canada will join the USA in the useless (but more or less harmless) continental missile defence programme.
  • A more militarized Europe will start to emerge, strengthened by the inclusion of Russia.
  • Both China and India will join the new global arms race, to the consternation of both Pakistan and Iran.
  • Turkey will fail in its bid to enter the European Union, as fear of Muslims reaches a global pitch.
  • The clever Aaron Brown will finally get doofus Lou Dobbs's earlier slot on CNN, but both will be Anderson Cooper's bitches.
  • Mark Steyn will retire, and no one will care.
  • Another devastating terror attack will occur on US soil. There will be much horror, but we'll all get over it.
  • John Edwards will never be heard from again.
  • I will have written at least 2 more books, none of which will make me any money whatsoever.

There you have it. Ever notice how much Conrad Black's voice sounds like William Shatner's?

Wednesday Nov 3, 2004

It's 2:33AM and this is how it presently stands: Bush- 249, Kerry- 242. Of course, Ohio still remains the unknown. So if Bush takes Ohio's 20 electoral votes, the best Kerry can hope for is a tie, which puts the decision in the hands of the House of Representatives, which means that Bush wins. Kerry can can still win Ohio, but it's a legal longshot. But the Democrats have lost the popular vote. So, in my book, unless a clear Kerry victory results in Ohio (unlikely), George W. Bush has won re-election fair and square. (Of course, the morning may bring a different story.)

Stupid, stupid electorate. That's all I'm going to say. That and: I told you so.

I will remind you of a prediction made by The Amazing Kreskin more than four years ago: after George W. Bush, Al Gore will be President of the USA. So, based solely on Kreskin's spooky powers and on my own admiration of the former Vice President, I hereby officially predict a return of Al Gore to national politics sometime within the next 3 years.

That is all.

Tuesday Nov 2, 2004

"George W. Bush and John Kerry are ninth cousins twice removed and can each trace their lineage back to [Vlad the Impaler]." -NY Daily News

And so it has arrived, the day of reckoning. Deonandan.com readers, with a pathetic showing of 26 votes, predicted today's election this way:

Bush - 50%
Kerry - 38%
Nader - 0%
Other - 12%

Exactly who is this "Other"? Maybe a write-in campaign for Gore. Though, with the new screwed up computer balloting, there can no longer be a write-in phenomenon. Reports are already coming in about irregularities in Florida, specifically regarding the unreliable electronic voting machines. Oy.

Andrew Sullivan pointed out the following. "Fair and balanced" my ass:

October 30 - Fox poll shows Bush up by 2. Headline: "Fox Poll: Bush Up By Two Points Over Kerry".
November 1 - Fox poll shows Kerry up by 2. Headline: "Fox National Poll: Voters Split."

As you all know, I am not optimistic about today's election. While all signs currently point to a decisive Kerry victory, something inside me says the Forces of Darkness will yet prevail. Let's hope it was the gross Yorkshire pudding I had for lunch. Regardless of who wins, it is now clear that Global Warming has arrived. Let's see how the corporate apologists spin this one.

Monday Nov 1, 2004

Legend has it that when the Washington Redskins win their game on the last weekend of October, the incumbent wins the US Presidential election. This pattern has held true for the past seventeen US elections. I am happy to report that the Redskins lost to the Packers this weekend.

What a movie script world in which we live. Who would have expected that Osama bin Laden himself would have provided the long-awaited "October Surprise." Say what you will about him, the man has impeccable timing. By criticizing George Bush directly, however, he has set analysts a-flutter with speculation about his motivations. I lean toward those who think this is Osama's way of supporting Bush. The Shrub has given al Qaeda everything they wanted. Not only does Osama finally have his long-cherished "war of civilizations" between the USA and jihadists, but al Qaeda is now the nominal sole focus of US foreign policy. Moreover, he has succeeded in isolating the USA in world opinion, in revealing American military limitedness, in providing a tangible example of Western mistreatment of Muslims (Iraq) and in recruiting legions of new soldiers to his movement. In short, George Bush has unwittingly been Osama bin Laden's closest ally. Of course he wants Bush to re main in power, and of course he is clever enough to do so by attempting to use reverse psychology.

The truly sad part of this nasty saga --a part that will never be discussed in mainstream media, only whispered privately between friends or blogged on low-traffic websites like this one-- is that of all the major players in this sick global drama, only the mass murdering criminal fanatic (the Arab one, not the Texan) has told the truth. Only Osama has dared speak truthfully of the true motivation for Islamic terrorist actions against the USA: American support for Israel against Lebanon and the Palestinians, and American support for Islamic tyrants who suppress actual democracy in the name of maintaining oil flow. It has nothing to do with them "hating our freedoms", as the mouth-breathers insist. As Osama himself asks, "Let [Bush] explain why we did not strike -for example- Sweden."

(Let's just see how long it takes for some moron to accuse me of supporting Osama bin Laden.)

Will the bin Laden video affect the election? I don't think so. Most Americans won't view it. They'll only see a still shot from it and listen to both sides' spun versions of its content. So, on balance, its effect will be nil. The election remains too close to call, though many signs now point to a Kerry victory. Despite such portents, I'm still calling it for Bush. why? Because there is no justice in the world, and the wicked rarely get punished. Osama will remain at large and Bush will remain in power.

Friday Oct 29, 2004

"Yes, Kerry is liberal. But what's to fear from a liberal president? That he would run big deficits? That he would increase federal spending? That he would expand the power of the federal government over individuals' lives? Nothing Kerry could do could top what President Bush has already done in those realms." -Des Moines Register

Sorry for my delay in posting. I'm really stressed these days due to a number of issues I shan't discuss in this space. A shame, considering the Big Election is only 4 days away.

Maybe you've already seen this. It's footage of Bush giving the finger. It's not a big deal, but it does show the big doofus is still a goof-off frat boy at heart. Not exactly the person you want with his finger on the button.

So I still can't believe so many people still think the Iraq war was a response to Sep 11, and that it was a "last resort" thing. The evidence against this conclusion keeps piling up. Had something like the PNAC existed on the Democratic side, with platforms advocating for the invasion of Iraq going back 10 years, you'd better believe the world would be forced to know about it. But somehow the New Republicans keep getting away with it. Here we have evidence that the UK was given the invasion plans 5 months before the actual war:

"The revelation strengthened suspicions that Tony Blair gave his agreement to President George Bush to go to war while the diplomatic efforts to force Saddam Hussein to comply with UN resolutions were continuing."

And from a 1999 interview with a potential biographer, the Shrub himself said:

"If I have a chance to invade [Iraq] ...I'm not going to waste it."

All this macho talk of defending liberty is hoo-ha, and the world outside the US borders knows it. This is by all accounts a Potemkin president who needs hidden audio prompters and babysitting from the likes of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. Commiting mass murder on the flimsiest of pretexts is a crime of historic proportions; a new estimate has it that 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed so far in this war. A potentially bigger crime is governing without facts or evidence, as the Shrub has been doing from Day 1. Bush himself said:

"…a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your Commander in Chief."

In epidemiology news, plague has arrived in the USA. "Bring out your dead!"

And Neil H. sends us an informative article containing sex advice from diplomats.

I leave you with the following from the mighty Hunter S. Thompson:

"Every GOP administration since 1952 has let the Military-Industrial Complex loot the Treasury and plunge the nation into debt on the excuse of a wartime economic emergency. Richard Nixon comes quickly to mind, along with Ronald Reagan and his ridiculous 'trickle-down' theory of U.S. economic policy. If the Rich get Richer, the theory goes, before long their pots will overflow and somehow 'trickle down' to the poor, who would rather eat scraps off the Bush family plates than eat nothing at all. Republicans have never approved of democracy, and they never will."

Monday Oct 25, 2004

As readers of this website know, my favourite Republican president of the 2oth century was Eisenhower. In fact, I could make a compelling argument for him being the best US president of that century. It warms my heart to learn that Ike's son John, also a life long Republican, has cast his support for John Kerry. That's gotta make you think, no?

As I'm sure you've heard by now, the British newspaper The Guardian started a letter-writing campaign for Brits to encourage Americans in key states to vote against George Bush. As expected, the fuming set has come out with guns blaring, accusing the Europeans of "meddling" in the US election. While meddling is a strong word, there is no denying that the Brits are attempting to express their voices in the US election. What's so wrong with that? American Michael Moore influenced the Canadian federal elections by openly encouraging voters to choose against the Conservative party. And official American foreign policy involves regularly messing in other countries' elections, including invading them and choosing their candidates. (Linda McQuaig spells it out here.) Add to that the fact that, in this day and age, every single person on this planet has a huge stake in who wins the US federal election, and you see why the Guardian's project is not so unreasonable. Heck, people, it's only letters. Since when is the land of free speech afraid of some personal letters?

(To be fair, if Nazi Germany wanted to send letters through a time wormhole to encourage Americans to vote for Bush --'cause, really, who else would?-- I'd support their right to do so, as well.)

Now, it's largely believed that the Republican base tends to have more college graduates than does the Democratic base. And yet there is the widely held perception that Bush supporters are not as deep thinking as Bush detractors. (At least there's an accusation from the Right that the Left accuses the Right of being dumb, even though an army of conservative fire-breathers like Ann Coulter and Michele Malkin regularly, and juvenilely, deride the intelligence of "liberals".) That's why a couple of surveys from the non-partisan Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland are so very interesting...

The first survey, taken in August, looked at Americans' knowledge of the Iraq situation, irrespective of party affiliation. It found:

  1. Americans are accurate in the number of Americans killed
  2. Americans grossly underestimate number of Iraqi civilians killed
  3. Majority believes Iraq was giving substantial support to al Qaeda, and that experts also believe this
  4. Majority of Americans (88%) believe world opinion favours the US invasion of Iraq. (Where can they possible get this misconception?!!!)

That survey also found that 71% of Bush supporters held misconception #4, versus 25% of Kerry supporters. Similarly, 72% of Bush supporters believe Iraq was giving substantial support to al Qaeda (which it was not), versus 23% of Kerry supporters.

The second survey was conducted this month. It found that a majority of Bush supporters still hold the following misconceptions:

  1. 84% believe Bush favours including labour and environmental standards in trade agreements
  2. 69% believe Bush favours the US being part of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
  3. 66% believe Bush supports the US joining the International Criminal Court
  4. 72% believe Bush favours the US joining the treating banning land mines
  5. 51% believe Bush supports the US joining the Kyoto Treaty on global warming

Remember these are Bush supporters we're talking about, people you'd think would know the most about the platform of their preferred candidate. The official survey results also say:

Kerry supporters were much more accurate in assessing their candidate’s positions on all these issues. Majorities knew that Kerry favors including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements (90%); the US being part of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (77%); the International Criminal Court (59%); the land mines treaty (79%); and the Kyoto Treaty on climate change (74%). They also knew that he favors continuing research on missile defense without deploying a system now (68%), and wants the UN, not the US, to take the stronger role in developing Iraq’s new government (80%).

The truly sad part about these findings is that a majority of Bush supporters also claim to support policies that are actually held by Kerry, not Bush, but that they mistakenly attribute these policies to Bush. So let me say, with a convincing bit of evidence to support my case: the majority of Bush supporters are obviously a bunch of dumb-asses. I'm starting to think that voters should be made to pass a short quiz on candidates' platforms before they're allowed to vote.

Hawaii seems to have joined the Legion of Dumb-Asses. Electoral-vote.com shows that Hawaii, previously a Kerry stronghold, is now tied, giving Bush a lead of a single electoral vote.

Friday Oct 22, 2004

"If Bush loses, serious conservatives, with the possible exception of extreme social conservatives, will have to ask themselves what they gained from four years of unfettered power, and ten years of domination of American politics. Government is 'bigger' by every measure, and more intrusive. A pet idea, Social Security privatization, was actually discredited by their president's incompetence. Younger voters are increasingly turned off by the social conservatism, so the movement is not expanding its base. A huge new entitlement was created. The federal role in education expanded. And poor planning and dishonesty over Iraq weakened our defense, our credibility, and made it impossible to set a clear standard for when we would intervene and when not... All the tax cuts have done is to postpone the day we pay for these things. And if Bush wins, all this will still be true." -Mark Schmitt (copped from Andrew Sullivan)

Anyone else see Triumph the Insult Comic Dog behind the Debate scenes in Spin Alley? Funny stuff. (Link may not work due to overwrought bandwidth, so try this one.)

The joy over at Electoral-vote.com was short-lived. Polls now show a statistical tie between Kerry and Bush, which once more gives credence to Deonandan.com's reader prediction of a Shrub victory. Sigh.

So after yesterday's little mention of the CBC's Greatest Canadian silliness, and of my support for Trudeau, it seems CBC producer Andrew Yates found my online essay about when I'd met Trudeau as a boy, and is encouraging me to join the campaign to get people to vote for P.E.T. in the Greatest Canadian finale. I'm not big on campaigning for silly things like this, so I'll pass. But I will show the campaign's official poster, so you can make up your own mind. Click on the image for a larger version:

Sorry, that's all I gots for ya today.

Thursday Oct 21, 2004

"[George W. Bush] couldn't testify before the 9/11 commission without having a man by his side. I'll bet when they have lunch, Cheney orders for him. And then he just eats the salad." -Bill Maher

There's been some talk about what Pat Robertson claims the Shrub told him just prior to the Iraq war:

"And I warned him about this war. I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, 'Mr.President, you had better prepare the American people for casualties.' [And the President told me]: 'Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties.'"

Is Robertson mistaken? Possibly, though he has told that story before. If it's true, it confirms the growing perception of Bush as, how do you say, nuts.

So nuts, in fact, that his re-election bid is being endorsed by Iran. Oh, that's funny. Apparently the Iranian hardliners feel the Democrats treat them poorly with their annoying human rights demands, while the Republicans let them torture in peace. What, no official response from the Death Star?

Here's an interesting statistic. It seems the number of abortions in America increased under Bush's watch. Why is that, you ask? Because, as is clear to anyone who isn't a knee-jerk anti-intellectual, preaching and legislating morality do nothing to affect actual behaviour; economics affects behaviour. The poor have become poorer in Bush's America. And, cultural forces aside, a poor pregnant woman is less likely than a wealthy pregnant woman to want another mouth to feed. You want to reduce the rate of abortion, O Holy Shrub? You make life easier for those at the bottom.

Electoral-Vote.com still has Kerry in the lead, which gives me hope. But the October surprise is coming. I think it might be something as banal as that propandist Kerry-smearing film Sinclair broadcasting is planning to blast the American public with the night before the election. It may well work. And if it does, the American people deserve who they get as President.

Did anyone else catch that ridiculous "greatest Canadian" show on CBC? What an embarrassment. Just goes to show why direct democracy does not work: the masses aren't capable of informed voting. Shania Twain was the highest ranked woman on the list. Shania Twain! What is Jim Carrey doing on that list? People tend to conflate "great" with "famous" or "rich." Of the final 10, they all belong there except David Suzuki and Don Cherry. I really hope Trudeau wins it, just to piss off the whiny oilmen. (Oh you know who I'm talking about.) But my money is on Terry Fox. A strong possible winner is Wayne Gretzky. Though if a hockey player is voted the greatest Canadian of all time, I'm going to hit someone.

Well, I've been up all night finishing up a couple of grant proposals. Must.... sleep...but...can't...so...will...walk about like a zombie...and... overuse ellipses.

Monday Oct 18, 2004

"What is the difference between Adolf Hitler's invasion of Poland and Bush's invasion of Iraq? There is no difference. Both were unprovoked attacks in violation of international law. Both were blatant attempts to achieve political objectives by force – in Hitler's case, the annexation of Poland; in Bush's case, regime change. Morally, there is not a thread's difference between the bombing of Warsaw and the bombing of Baghdad." -Charley Reese

There. He said it.

While the US government continues to deny it has plans for a new draft, here is a story about a little known clause in the No Child Left Behind Act which gives the military legal access to the personal information of all students in a given school. Creeeepy.

Meanwhile, Iraq continues to be bled dry. Did you know the Iraqis are still paying reparations to Kuwait, even though Saddam has been deposed? More than that, much of the reparation money is going not to Kuwait, but to US corporations, of course Halliburton among them. In the words of Jon stewart, my American friends, do you feel like the government just sh!t on your chest?

Tom Tomorrow has it all figured out here.

Okay, I was taking my daily peek at Electoral-Vote.com, and as usual I working my little monkey brain trying to figure out how many more electoral votes John Kerry needs to unseat the Shrub. But for some reason, my math just wasn't working out.... until I stopped squinting and realized that for the first time, the site has Kerry in the lead. And by a healthy 10 electoral votes, too!

Whoa. Add to this the sense that the polls informing these results typically oversample Republicans, do not include those (like me) who don't own land-lines, and in no way represent the millions of new voters who will exercise their franchise for the first time this year. And add to that the fact that, on election day, undecideds tend to lean toward the challenger, not the incumbent. The result is that, according to these numbers, John Kerry will win by a wide margin.

Now, these numbers are flawed, partly because they are patched together from unrelated polls. And anything can happen over the next two weeks, including the much dreaded "October Surprise." (Anyone else foresee George W. parachuting naked into Falujah to bolster his macho image?) Heck, maybe it's time for Cheney to defrost the head of Osama bin Laden, which they've had in storage in a White House basement fridge for several months now.

So I'm torn on what to predict. My brain says Kerry. But my gut still says Bush. Please, please, please let that feeling in my gut just be indigestion.

Sunday Oct 17, 2004

"Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative." - John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

During the last Presidential "debate", John Kerry referenced Dick Cheney's daughter Mary as a lesbian who knows her lifestyle wasn't by choice. The Republican spin-meisters have turned this reference into a character slam against Kerry, since apparently speaking respectfully about an outed lesbian who happens to be a public figure whose name was mentioned in the VP debates is a moral outrage. As gay conservative journalist Andrew Sullivan points out, it's only an outrage if you consider homosexuality to be a shameful thing; so this episode speaks more about the innate homophobia of the Republican base than it does of Kerry's alleged underhanded tactics.

Here's what Lynn Cheney said at a post-debate rally:

"The only thing I could conclude is that [Kerry] is not a good man. This is not a good man. And, of course, I'm speaking as a mom. And a pretty indignant one. This is not a good man. What a cheap and tawdry political trick."

Yet members of the Republican party have gone on record directly insulting Mary Cheney. Alan Keyes agreed that Mary Cheney, by virtue of her lesbianism, is "a selfish hedonist." The Cheneys were completely silent on that count, as they have been whenever members of their own party attack their daughter's lifestyle.

Lynn Cheney: silent when Republicans attacks her daughter, outraged when a Democrat speaks of her respectfully. Some parent.

William Saletan, who wasn't that thrilled with Kerry's 2nd debate performance, considers the third to have been a "grand slam" in his favour.

Now, during the VP debates Dick Cheney told everyone to visit FactCheck.com (instead of FactCheck.org) for the truth about Halliburton. As everyone now knows, the first site is redirected to George Soros's anti-Bush site. The common assumption was that Soros was smart enough to quickly buy out the domain name and redirect traffic to his own site.

I did a little bit of digging and discovered that FactCheck.com is owned by a company called Name Admin, Inc., which is based in the Grand Cayman Islands. They're essentially one of those annoying companies that buys endless domain names and advertises on them. The company claims to have instituted the redirection all on their own, for fear of overloading their servers. Their official statement on the matter is here. Do you buy this explanation? Or is George Soros part owner of Name Admin, Inc? Hmm, maybe here's some fodder for a loony right wing conspiracy.

Now this I love. Minor deity of political comedy Mr. Jon Stewart of The Daily Show appeared on CNN's Crossfire, one of those annoying pointlessly confrontational "debate" shows, and gave 'em hell. You can read the transcript here and Wonkette has the video feed here. Essentially, Stewart finally punked out that bow-tied weasel Tucker Carlson. Yeah!

Stewart puts his finger on the disservice the American media is presently doing the public. In a fine example, he asked the Crossfire hosts, "After the debates, where do you go?" The answer: "Spin Alley," that room the networks switch to where the parties massage the facts to fit their agendas. Stewart: "Don't you think that, for people watching at home, that's kind of a drag, that you're literally walking to a place called deception lane?" Amen, brother.

You know, the debates made me a bit mad because the lame-ass moderators pulled too many punches. Here are some of the questions I would have asked the candidates:

For President Bush:
1. "Why was Halliburton awarded a no-bid contract?"
2. "Prisoner abuse and torture has now been reported in US military prisons all across Iraq, Afghanistan and in Guantanamo Bay. To what do you attribute this phenomenon?"
3. "Senior members of your administration have been advocating for the invasion of Iraq long before 9/11, as part of the group called People for a New American Century. Given that fact, why should we believe that the decision to invade was based solely on fighting terrorism?"
4. "Why must people take a loyalty oath to your party before they can attend one of your rallies? Are you afraid of those who might not agree with you?"
5. "Why did you not let the UN weapons inspectors finish their work in the March of 2003?"
6. "Since the US armed Saddam in the first place, knowing full well he was a dictator and tyrant, to what extent are we responsible for the atrocities he then committed?"
7. "If, as you say, democracy is the key to international security, why do we enjoy warm relations with the dictators of Uzbekistan --who is a known torturer on the level of Saddam-- and Turkmenistan, and with de facto dictators in Egypt and Pakistan?"
8. "Why do you insist that Osama bin Laden attacked us because, as you say, 'he hates our freedoms', when many Middle East experts, and bin Laden himself, claim that the attacks are in response to US support for Israel, US troops in Saudi Arabia and Western military presence on the Arabian peninsula?"

For Senator Kerry:
1. "What the hell is wrong with you?"

For those of you in Ottawa, I've giving two big talks tomorrow and Tuesday on CSIH's public health project in Guyana. Note on the appearances page that the venue has changed.

I leave you with this: a movie showing chicks bellydancing to Ozzy Osbourne.

Wednesday Oct 13, 2004 --update

I'll try to keep opinions about the veracity of debate content out of my analysis. Having said that, here's how I saw it:


Bush was trounced. Not by Kerry, but by himself. Giggling at inappropriate times, openly deriding his opponent in a way that transcended mere criticism of Kerry's voting record, and of course that halting way of speaking all contributed to projecting an image of a nervous man struggling to keep his composure.

He screwed up big time when Kerry accused him of once saying that he didn't worry about Osama bin Laden and Bush responded with something to the effect that he never claimed such a thing. Here's what he actually said in March of 2002:

Q: Do you believe the threat that bin Laden posed won't truly be eliminated until he is found either dead of alive?

BUSH: As I say, we hadn't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, you know, again, I don't know where he is. I'll repeat what I said: I truly am not that concerned about him.

On the other hand, Kerry was the picture of calmness and confidence. One blog has already described him as "the Zen Master". I was blown away by his ability to stay on message while drawing upon encyclopaedic knowledge of budgetary numbers and American political history. I was particularly impressed by his ability to slip in his experience as a law enforcement officer. I think he scored major points that way.

While Bush closed strongly with his response to the softball question about his wife, and even came across as charming to this dyed-in-the-wool Shrub-hater, Kerry one-upped him again with a poignant story about his dying mother. Great joke about marrying a billionaire, but ultimately dying mother stories trump meeting-your-wife stories any day.


Here's where it's a bit closer. Bush got the answer "righter" a couple of times, in terms of saleability and pertinence. In particular, for the question about how to relieve US troops in Iraq, he gave a great answer (with which you may or may not agree), that the best way to reduce troop deployment is to train Iraqi troops. Kerry's answer was meandering.

However, on almost every other topic, Kerry parried with great deftness. I think he scored great blows with his comments on raising the minimum wage instead of giving tax breaks to the wealthy.


While Bush gave a much better presentation this time around than the first time, I don't think this one was as close as the 2nd debate. Kerry wins, marginally but undoubtedly.


2:AM update. I'm bewildered by the various right-wing blogs who saw this as a clear Bush victory. I don't think this is spin; I think these opinions are genuine. I really can't see how they can possibly see it that way. It's a clear indication of the gaping ideological crevasse that separates the poles of modern (North) American political discourse. In my defence, every poll and almost every media outlet (including Andrew Sullivan's conservative blog) agrees with my analysis:

CBS poll: "Who won the debate?"
Kerry - 39%, Bush - 25%

CNN/USA Today/Gallup: "Who won the debate?"
Kerry - 52%, Bush - 39%

MSNBC online poll: "Who won the debate?"
Kerry - 75%, Bush - 25%

ABC Poll: "Who won the debate?"
Kerry - 42%, Bush - 41%
Among Democrats – Kerry: 81%
Among Republicans – Bush: 73%

Note that all the polls attempted to sample Republicans and Democrats evenly, but most (in particular ABC) oversampled Republicans, suggesting that Kerry's victory is by an even greater margin, as perceived by the general population.

Wednesday Oct 13, 2004

Psalm 23 (via my sister-in-law)

Bush is my shepherd, I shall be in want.
He maketh me lie down on park benches.
He leadeth me beside the still factories,
He restores my doubts about the Republican Party.
He leadeth me into the paths of unemployment for his cronies' sake.
Yea, though no weapons of mass destruction have been found, he maketh me continue to fear evil.
His tax cuts for the rich and his deficit spending discomfit me.
He anointeth me with never-ending debt.
Verily my days of savings and assets are kaput.
Surely poverty and hard living shall follow me all the days of his administration,
And my jobless child shall dwell in my basement forever.

To start us off today, here's a link to an event the whole family can enjoy!

And in preparation for tonight's third and final Presidential "debate", here's a rare look at Bush's actual notes from the first debate!

So, an anti-torture bill was introduced and passed in the US senate. Anti-torture bill. Anti-torture bill. This is what it's come to? In the supposed "heart of freedom", a law needs to be passed in the 21st century banning torture?! Oy.

The NY Times ombudsman has gone on record as saying in this year's Presidential campaign the Left has been more vile in its attacks than the Right. I have no data to dispell this assertion. But Salon's Mark Follman attempts to do so here.

Okay, apparently Sean Penn is angry at the South Park guys for saying "no shame in not voting ...if you don't know what you're talking about." He wrote them this nasty letter. While I admire Penn's dedication, courage and passion, he really needs to lighten up, take a step back and stop taking himself so seriously.

First off, these are the South Park guys we're talking about. Second, their position isn't so unreasonable. I've heard it repeated mostly by conservative pundits, like Tucker Carlson (who, while often funny, is also the same goombah that once said, "there's something subversive and un-American about soccer.") To be blunt: what is wrong with requiring a degree of awareness among voters? What is wrong with discouraging uninformed inviduals from going to the polls?

Clearly this reasoning smacks of elitism (which is ironically the charge often laid by the Right on the Left). It's not quite as bad the original intended provision in the US constitution, which was meant to reflect Athenian thought by holding that only property owners could participate in the electoral process. (The rationale was that ownership impelled meaningful interest). But it's somewhat similar in that it places an expectation on citizens to achieve or acquire something more than age of majority before they can exercise their franchise.

More importantly, if there is to be an educational expectation among voters, what level of awareness are we talking about here? I don't think it's unreasonable to expect voters to be able to identify the candidates and both sides of several key issues. But it's important that any such talk steer clear of any discussion of formal academic accomplishment, i.e. restricting voting to college grads or high school grads, etc. Mind you, in America, I gather that fewer registered Democrats identify themselves as college grads than do registered Republicans. (Not surprising since those who are very poor are typically uneducated and are less likely to support a party perceived to be promoting the interests of big business.) Yet the common Rightist view is that American universities are bastions of liberal thought, hence grads tend to be indoctrinated. That position certainly is debatable, since anecdotal evidence, at least in Canada, shows a strong streak of conservatism among faculties in History, Economics, Business and Political Science. As for those of us in the maths and sciences, I don't see how my professors' political biases could have been extended to me via calculus lectures, unless they were embedding their famous coded messages back then, too!

As always, however, the plural of anecdote is not data, so I'll refrain from making any conclusions. I'm sure there's a study out there somewhere.

Monday Oct 11, 2004

Here's a marvelous quote from a wonderfully bitchy article about the Republicans taking over New York City:

"In Vichy Paris they still had croissants and coffee, baguettes and nightlife, but it wasn’t the same there either." - Philip Weiss

Okay, many of us were left scratching our heads after the debate on Friday when Chimpy Boy, in response to a question about his criteria for choosing Supreme Court Judges, made a reference to Dred Scott. Huh? Is slavery now an issue for the 2004 election? But no, it now appears that this reference was a coded message to his ultra-conservative base, suggesting that in a 2nd term Bush would attempt to repeal Roe vs Wade, since the reasoning behind the Dredd Scott case and the rationale for opposing Roe vs Wade appear to be identical. Something about human beings having a 5th amendment right to life, liberty and cable TV.

(As an aside, while I am ultimately pro-abortion, I do have many moral qualms about the practice. However, don't you find it incredible that the very same people to rant and wail about fetuses' rights to life are the same folks who have no qualms about executing thousands of convicts or dropping bombs on innocents? Just try arguing with these people --I have. The illogic that spews from their orifices is truly bewildering.)

After the VP debates 2 weeks ago, my very bright girlfriend exclaimed in frustration, "I hated Cheney's foreign policy. And Edwards's wasn't much different." Too true. I tried to defend the Kerry-Edwards stance by claiming that in order to win the election, they must move further to the Right, to which she responded, "Yes, but then they tend to stay there."

Hers is a valid point that makes me very uncomfortable. As the campaign progresses, I see fewer and fewer differences between the Republican and Democratic camps, especially on foreign policy. This saddens me greatly, since it means American discourse has permanently shifted to the Right yet again. Compared to Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter was Che Guevara without the beard. And compared to both, John Kerry may as well be Ronald Reagan without the astrologer. Of course, to remain to the Right of the Democrats, this means that the entire Republican party has goose-stepped further down the Orwellian lane.

It makes me laugh when they accuse Kerry of being ultra-liberal. By Canadian standards, he may as well be a fascist. So why do I support Kerry, even though I think he's a weenie? Simply because a smart weenie is better than a retarded chimp any day.

So it seems Michael Jackson is bidding on Ebay to buy an Irish ghost in a bottle. This has some resonance with me, since the first story in my first book is about a ghost trapped in a bottle. Of course, I meant it as a metaphor, not as a device for someone to bilk hundreds of dollars from a demented man-child by selling bottled farts. Of course, the sale has spawned scores of imitators. Wish I'd thought of it.

RIP Christopher Reeve (1952-2004), aka Superdude.

Saturday Oct 9, 2004

"Q:How many Bush officials does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None. There's nothing wrong with that light bulb. It has served us honorably. When you say it's burned out, you're giving encouragement to the forces of darkness. Once we install a light bulb, we never, ever change it. Real men don't need artificial light."- Steve Chapman

Item 1: Did Bush cheat in the first debate? this website suggests that he did. Look at the photos they present and you'll see a suspicious rectangular bulge on the Shrub's back. An electronic audio device perhaps? Salon discusses these allegations in greater depth.

Item 2: In the words of the Shrub, You Forgot Poland.

Item 3: Presidential debates on the whole have become less meaningful and more exclusive. This site tells us why the modern debates suck.

Item 4: The remainder of this post will be about the 2nd debate, which was held last night. But first, Haroon Siddiqui has this to say about the first debate:

"It is a measure of the sad state of American public discourse - in which the media play stenographers to those in power and politicians do not deviate much from their financiers' scripts - that anyone putting up the feeblest of challenges to presidential assertions, as Kerry did Thursday, is hailed a hero."

Okay, on to the last debate. I take back my comments about how I don't like the Town Hall format. This incarnation of the format was much more exciting than I'd expected. And it prevented the cheating that I linked to above. Celebrity blogger Atrios gives the following preview:

"Coming into debate 2, Bush hasn't got anything. He can't hide behind his 'compassionate conservatism face' which he used in 2000 - that was tossed in the garbage. He can't hide behind 'war president face' because last week we all saw what a joke that is. All he's got left is the real face - sulky fratboy/petulant child."

The Commander In Chimp was much more on his game, perhaps a bit too much so. For the reaction shots, he was clearly trying to avoid smirking. And to satisy his base, he was much more aggressive and reactionary... perhaps a bit too much, in fact, since at times he seemed more willing to shout than to engage in any kind of genuine discourse. He had two great failings. The first was when he stupidly responded to Kerry's allegations that Bush received $84 from a timber company he owns. Bush's response: "I own a timber company? That's news to me."

FactCheck.org reports, however, that Bush co-owns the Lone Star Trust, which owns another company called LSTF, which is described on Bush’s 2003 financial disclosure forms as a limited-liability company organized "for the purpose of the production of trees for commercial sales." The site does claim that the $84 is an incorrect figure, though. So either the President lied about owning a timber company (which is unlikely, given the stakes), or he is simply unaware of the scope of his financial grasp, which is both likely and sad.

Bush failed again in his final question of the evening, which asked him to name a mistake he had made in office. After a convoluted response, I am unsure if indeed he was able to admit to having made one. This segues into Kerry's biggest (colossal!) blunder of the evening, not landing the knockout punch after Bush's stumble. Instead of declaring in this ripe moment that here is a man who cannot admit an error, Kerry went back to his tired "I am not a flip-flopper" plea. Booooring.

Kerry's other major failing was an inadequate response to a question about his opinions on the sanctity of life. I am still not sure of what he was trying to say.

Bottom line: this was a draw, but Kerry had the edge. Why? Because he had a greater folio of facts at his command, and his responses were each buttressed by examples and statistics. Bush responded thus a few times, but mostly resorted to elements from his stump speech.

How will this affect the election? Who knows. One more debate to go! If you haven't yet, go vote in our poll!

Thursday Oct 7, 2004

Oh, where to begin..?

Lots of outlets have picked this up already, so why not me? During Tuesday's VP debates, both candidates were a little flexible with the facts, but Cheney was the most blatant. I mean, really. If you're going to fudge the truth, at least do so in a manner that people can't instantly check! When will these old farts learn the power of the internet? Cheney said:

"Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer. I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session."

However, it seems that in the past 3.5 years, Cheney has presided over the senate a total of TWO TIMES. (Edwards himself presided once.) As for being present on most Tuesdays, it seems he was there to attend Republicans-only strategy meetings. So it's not a wonder that the debate was, as Cheney said, the first time he had met Senator Edwards....

Except that that, too, was a lie. It seems Cheney had met Edwards on at least three earlier occasions. This is not ordinarily a big deal, but it does show either that Cheney is living in a fantasy world in which he makes up the facts as he goes, or that the Republican campaign is really, really sloppy with its research, since Cheney's was clearly a pre-scripted remark.

When confronted about Halliburton's dealings with America's sworn enemy, Iran, and about Cheney's own opposition to sanctions against Iran, Cheney said:

"What happens when we impose unilateral sanctions is, unless there's a collective effort, then other people move in and take advantage of the situation and you don't have any impact."

But here's what Cheney actually said at the time, back when he vocally opposed sanctions. It's quite a sobering window onto these people's true characters and motivations:

"We seem to be sanction-happy as a government. The problem is that the good Lord didn't see fit to always put oil and gas resources where there are democratic governments."

Apparently, after the debate CNN yanked its online poll which was showing an overwhelming Edwards lead. Why would they do this? I like to think it's because CNN officials suspected the poll had been hijacked. That's what I'd like to think. Meanwhile, once again, Andrew Sullivan presents a unique perspective on the last debate.

As a humourous aside, Cheney encouraged viewers to visit FactCheck.com to see the truth about Edwards's Halliburton allegations. However, anti-Bush activisit George Soros was one step ahead of him, and quickly bought out the domain name to point to GeorgeSoros.com, with its hard to miss message: why we must not re-elect president Bush! Cheney had meant to say FactCheck.org. I'm just mad that I didn't think of it-- I could have put this site on the map!

Another topic I'd like to bring up is Turkey. It seems EU officials will soon have to decide whether to start the negotiations to allow Turkey to enter the European Union. It's important to note that the officials won't make the final decision. Rather, in 10 years a referendum would be put to EU citizens to decide whether to allow the Islamic country to enter their economic union. So what's the issue? Apparently the only issue vocalized with any passion is a racist one: white Christian Europe is afraid of an influx of 75 million swarthy Muslims.

I don't want to minimize Europe's concerns, since change of that magnitude can be a scary thing. But they have to realize that Islam is already a substantial component of European society; Turkey's entrance or exclusion will not change that fact. In fact, it can be argued that Turkey's membership in the most modern of secular governmental arrangements would be seen as an example for floundering Muslim states. I just hope the Europeans make a decision based on rationalism and not on emotion.

Those of you right of centre won't enjoy this, but others may get a kick out of this little educational film.

I finally finished reading the greatest comic book of all time, Alan Moore's Watchmen. I'm gratified to learn that a live action movie is being planned, with rumours of Jude Law playing the role of Ozymandias. Cooool.

In honour of Watchmen, this site computes which of the watchmen heroes/villains you are. Here's what it said about me:

"You're law enforcement material! Whether it's working vice or for the CIA, you have all the tools. You're brash, tough, and resilient. You could go far! You'd do well on the 'other side' of the law too. Consider organized crime, pornography, politics, or the tobacco industry."

I will!

It was only a matter of time.... but someone is suggesting that Bush's brain, Karl Rove, was behind the allegedly forged documents of Rathergate. (What ever happened to Abu Ghraib-gate or Iraq-gate or Halliburton-gate or Guantanamo-gate?)

Lastly, if you're not scared enough already, it seems there are new and more terrible weapons in our future. Among them, an antimatter bomb. A quote from Star Trek VI is apropos: "Let us redefine progress to mean that just because we can do a thing, it does not necessarily mean we must do that thing."

Tuesday Oct 5, 2004 -- update

Okay, debate is over. What a nail biter it was! Let the overwrought sports metaphors begin.

In the early rounds, Darth Cheney came out swinging, clearly going for red meat. I was really worried for the first 30 minutes, as Cheney seemed to swat Edwards around effortlessly, while Edwards offered platitudes and seemed to avoid directly answering some of the questions.

Cheney had the clear advantage on foreign policy matters, and really knew how to press his advantage. I was awed by the Dark Lord's command of facts, questionable or no. However, Edwards showed his true strength on domestic issues, particularly with respect to health care and education, things he knows a lot about as a result of his experience as a personal injury lawyer. Indeed, Edwards grew stronger as the night progressed. And while Cheney scored some scathing hits with his allusions to Edwards's lack of experience and poor senate attendance record, I feel his delivery was more mean-spirited than statesmanly.

Edwards closed more effectively than Cheney. And Cheney came across as more "presidential" than his boss. But who won? I have to call it a draw. If pressed, I'd say Cheney has the slightest advantage, since he at least stayed on topic more often than Edwards, something I do respect at an intellectual level. However, Edwards's more accessible delivery may have the greater impact on the proverbial dumb-ass undecided bloc. Also, since the bar was set lower for Edwards, one could also say that he won because he exceeded most people's expectations.

Interestingly, the spin-meisters were ready with their soundbites. The Republicans had one that clearly had been written by a committee: "the Democrats got the best trial lawyer in the country, and even he couldn't defend John Kerry's record."

I'm curious to see how the rest of the world viewed the exchange.

Tuesday Oct 5, 2004

"No matter how you feel about Bush, watching him speak is difficult. It’s like watching a drunk man cross an icy street," - Tucker Carlson

Just got back from Toronto and am still catching up on email, etc...

Conservative blogger and journalist Andrew Sullivan presents a mostly fair and concise summary of the first Kerry-Bush debate. If I hear one more desperate wingnut spinner claim Kerry "won on style" while Bush "won on substance", I'm going to hit someone. Read the transcript. Chimpy boy says "it's hard work" no fewer than eleven times. That's substantive to you?

LEHRER: Thirty seconds, Mr. President.
BUSH: You know my opinion on North Korea. I can‘t say it any more plainly.

In the words of Ed, this is Bush's way of saying, "Yeah. Umm. I got nothin'." Substance my arse.

On Sep 30, I linked to an article on the Top 10 Reasons to Get Out of Iraq, and said the article failed to mention the Iraqi dead. Silly me, it was right there in the 3rd paragraph: "While the American death toll made headlines across the United States, the mounting number of Iraqi deaths, at least ten times greater, gets scant attention." That's what I get for averaging 3 hours of sleep a night. Thanks to Nick B. for pointing out my oversight.

Congratulations again to Scaled Composites for winning the $10 million Ansari X-Prize for sending civilians into space 2 times in less than a week. As many of you know, this was my boyhood dream. Heck, 12 years ago I even applied to be an astronaut! You can see the rejection letter here. Sigh.

I've finally updated my Reviews & Interviews page. You'll note that there are several new entries, most notably my radio interview at this year's Book Expo.

On a similar note, I just discovered that my video news page has not been updated in two years, so I corrected that oversight. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost all of my archived videos except the absolute gayest of the lot. Those of you who haven't met me, you have to believe me: I'm not really that effeminate sounding or pretentious looking! Ask around!

Can't wait for the veep debates tonight...

Sunday Oct 3, 2004

Greetings from Toronto. Due to the indescribable slowness of my current dial-up connection, I won't be able to write much today. Just wanted to pipe up with my comments about last week's Bush-Kerry debate. I was fully expecting Kerry to be trounced (you know, his slow plodding style boring the audience to sleep). But I was overjoyed to see him take the game to the President, and I was surprised --though I should not have been-- to see Bush so inept at countering Kerry's arguments which, though accurate, were nontheless big enough targets for the easy launching of several of those multitudinous Republican smear missiles. In short, Kerry didn't so much win that debate as much as Bush lost it.

And yet --here's the bewildering bit-- a couple of right wing blogs (the writers of which are likely reading this post) promptly declared that Bush won the first debate. I have no reason to believe these claims to be the product of a desire to spin. But honestly, I have no idea how any reasonable viewer could perceive a Bush victory in that exchange. At the absolute most generous, it was a draw. The pundits and the polls (and even freakin' Faux News) seem to agree.

Whether Kerry's victory will translate to any sort of electoral advantage is, of course, the big question. But you don't need me to tell you that, since it's presently the 24 hour topic of every cable news channel. For the first time, I see some hope that my prediction of a Bush victory may be incorrect. (Deonandan.com readers seem to have agreed, as a flurry of recent votes in our electoral poll were all for John Kerry). I still think Bush will pull it out, but at least the big billionaire Kerry is going down swinging.

Bush definitely has the advantage in the next match-up, which is the dreaded "town hall" format. It suits his dumbed down delivery. I really hate this format, since interacting with regular folk only slows down the exchange and invites more sloganeering than usual.

What I'm really looking forward to is Tuesday's debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards --Darth Vader vs. Luke Skywalker. I know Cheney is the favoured heavy, and he'll be doubly motivated to make up for Bush's poor showing. But I have great faith in the trial lawyer Edwards who is both eloquent and likeable. Edwards's biggest disadvantage is that he will likely be called upon to defend Kerry's previous slip-ups. But I predict he's going to destroy Cheney.

Thursday Sep 30, 2004

"We are now being coerced to accept and believe that a new political-cum-religious doctrine has arisen, namely that there is but one political God, George W Bush, and Tony Blair is his prophet." -Robert Mugabe

That's right...Robert Mugabe. Even the slimiest of Third World dictators can have canny political perspective. Thanks to Rachel H. for the link.

On Sep 24, I linked to an article by men's rights activist Glenn Sacks. At the time, I characterized Mr. Sacks as a "right wing reactionary." My description of him was based on some minor points in some of his columns and on google and nexis searches of his name, linking him with extreme Rightist sites, such as WorldNetDaily.com, JewishWorldReview.com and Dr. Laura's website. My admittedly biased policy has been to label writers associated with those sites as "known right wing reactionaries."

It seems I may have labelled Mr. Sacks prematurely. On his site, he honours Camille Paglia and others of the progressive Left, and acknowledges the importance of gay rights. He also offers this carefully phrased comment: "feminism, buried underneath its man-hating and lies, still has a lot of positive things to offer both men and women."

As of the writing of this post, Mr Sacks has not asked me for a retraction or apology, but I offer both nonetheless, since I think my characterization of him was unfair and unconsidered. Judging by his writings, he's a difficult fellow to place on the linear political spectrum, but he certainly doesn't deserve the label of "known right wing reactionary." I would certainly not appreciate it if someone else mischaracterized my profession or political stance in their blog. (A Stanford student once referred to me as a banal "press critic", and the mouth-breathers over at Free Dominion once called me a "penniless socialist"; Mr. Sacks, I know your pain).

My reasons for attaching a political label to Mr. Sacks had to do with revealing bias. Here we learn that George Gallup, head honcho of Gallup Polls, believes that "the most profound purpose of polls is to see how people are responding to God." His bias is now clear. Do you trust this man to conduct unbiased political polls during a campaign season charged with religion?

Nasty Nicky B. sends this article which lists 10 reasons to get out of Iraq. The article misses the single biggest point that almost every American writer, on the Right or Left, misses: the longer there is fighting, the more innocent Iraqis get killed. Isn't it amazing that you almost never hear any concern for the masses of Iraqis who have been killed or maimed?

Someone once wrote that if you want to know why Americans are disconnected from --and misunderstood by-- the rest of the world, just ask them what the tragedy of Vietnam was. They will answer that it has to do with thousands of disenfranchised soldiers returning to a confused citizenry. The rest of the world will answer that the tragedy is millions of dead Vietnamese. And while it irks me to put it this way, this mindset is uniquely American among Western societies. Therein lies the ultimate parallel between Vietnam and Iraq. Until our friends south of the 49th learn to value the lives of other people, the rest of the world will continue to see them as aloof, disconnected and clueless.

Hey, try this. It's an online voice synthesizer. Type in "Oil Beef Hooked" for an Irish accent. (Thanks to Sean M. for that old trick.)

Congratulations to Scaled Composites, Inc, for being a small step away from winning the Ansari X-Prize. This has special meaning to me since I once applied to the Canadian Space Agency to be an astronaut about 10 years ago. I still have the rejection letter. Sniff.

Tuesday Sep 28, 2004

You know, this site gets hundreds of hits every week, yet only twelve people have voted in our poll. Come on people, times a-wasting!

"The Bush policy in regard to Iraq has been a fraud from the beginning, and it remains a fraud with the appointment of an old CIA leech as prime minister to oversee the rape of Iraq by the favored corporate pirates. The Iraqi people know the score. The question is, Do the American people?" -Charley Reese

I tells ya, if Charley Reese really were indicative of the true nature of so-called conservatives, I'd consider an ideology change. The man makes so much sense so much of the time. A recent thread on Matt Vadum's (right wing) blog was on whether we should care about the characters of political candidates' spouses. I continue to maintain that until the office of First Lady (or whatever you call your leader's spouse) is described under the nation's legal canon, it's none of our business who s/he is or what s/he does or says. Not surprisingly, Mr. Reese has echoed my sentiments in a recent column.

Well, the US Presidential debates begin this week. It's amazing to watch the tired stratagem employed by both sides: lower expectations. Since day 1 of the campaigns, both Bush and Kerry have been giving each other metaphorical bl@w jobs regarding their opponent's debating skills. Is this what Western society has come to? Instead of promoting their individual strengths, our leaders denigrate themselves in a weird war of skill attrition. Sometimes I think the fundamentalists are right: we really are in the end times.

The polls continue to show Bush to be ahead of Kerry. As discussed previously on this site, polls must be read with some criticism. CNN online has finally added this guide to help readers interpret polls; I'm not sure I agree with their interpretation of error margins, though. In addition, one must always keep in mind, as I mentioned before, that these polls are of likely voters, and thus do not consider the legion of new voters who may make their voices heard this election cycle. In addition, American political polls use a strange sampling strategy wherein their study sample is tweaked to be made up of a predetermined percentage of registered Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Why they do this is unclear to me, since it seems likely that simple randomization would give a better general izable snapshot of the voting population.

An additional point is that national voting preference polls typically do not necessarily represent state results and their corresponding electoral college votes. A random sample of 500-1000 people from each state is necessary to give us this information (to get an error margin of about 3-5%). We saw the same problem in the recent Canadian federal election, in which national polls were used to generalize conclusions about voting practices within individual ridings. A statistician friend, Dr. Nick Barrowman, wrote this article on this very topic.

My brother sends in this article about Israeli torture prisons whose tactics closely resemble those of US military prisons in Iraq. Makes you wonder who taught whom, huh?

As you all know, I love reality TV. In last week's Survivor: Vanuatu, self-identified "shepherd" Dolly Neely was voted off. Dolly's parting words, devoid of irony, were: "I wasn't cut out for this. I'm way too simple and I just belong on the farm." Now, according to Dolly's official biography, she's the daughter a World Bank official, grew up in Washington DC, has lived in Germany, England, Uruguay and Argentina, and has met US Presidents Ford, Clinton and Bush Jr. Simple farm girl, huh? She's either delusional, deeply dumb or truly, truly canny. Her poor performance on the show leads me away from the latter option.

Sunday Sep 26, 2004

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"[September 11] is a gift to the hard jingoist right, those who hope to use force to control their domains." -Noam Chomsky, September 12, 2001

The Right likes to mock Prof. Chomsky at every opportunity. But he does tend to be right a lot of the time.

Experiments with turning this Bulletin into a standard blog are still underway. You can see the current design options here. My heart really isn't in it, since it means giving up a lot of control over design and form. We'll see what transpires. In the meantime, I'm still working on Deonandan.com version 2.0, which I hope to launch in the new year.

A lot of talk on this site has been around the quality of political polls. Finally, the National Council on Public Polls has offered this guide for journalists on how to critically assess polls. I encourage everyone without a research background to read it. One of the important caveats to consider when appreciating the current election polls coming out of the USA is that they represent samples of likely voters, whose names were taken from the last valid active voter list. This coming election, however, may indeed see a staggering number of first-time voters whose actions may make the current polls' results somewhat suspect. We'll see.

A Danziger cartoon

I'll leave you with the following thought. It's odd how John Kerry's election campaign has brought the Vietnam War back into the mainstream public discourse. Heck, there's already a John Kerry Swift Boat PCF-94 video game out! (This blog suggests that the video game about Bush's war experience is already out, too!) What's really weirded me out is how the extreme Right has started to harp on about how justified that war was, and how wrong the US was not to have used overwhelming force to devastate the Viet Cong. In her latest screed, Aryan poster-girl Ann Coulter says pretty much that. The very wise and comparatively moral President Eisenhower prevented the French from using nuclear weapons against the Vietnamese, and managed to keep Americans out of that affair (at least officially). Somewhere along the way, though, American conservatives became blood-thirsty; the Republican party became the War party. Any war, it seems.

Have the lessons from Vietnam really been lost? Must we learn them all again in Iraq? I'm afraid the November election will tell.

Friday Sep 24, 2004

Check it out. A former CIA agent echoes my post from Wednesday:

"I have initials for why I think we went to war in Iraq: O-I-L. O is for oil, I is for Israel and L is for logistics, as in when we have Iraq we have a foothold and a number of bases strategically placed in the Middle East so we can be in control over there and also to protect Israel." -Former CIA agent Ray McGovern

Well, I tried p!ssing people off last time with my gender comments regarding The Amazing Race. No one took the bait. Let's try it again and see what happens...

  1. According to "ifeminist" Wendy McElroy, the wage gap between men and women does not truly reflect an unfair workplace. It's actually a complaint I've had sometime with Canadian wage gap stats: they're not appropriately stratified by the factors McElroy mentions in her article. Her conclusions are debatable, however, and I welcome your comments.

  2. Another article which questions some of the hallowed assumptions of paleo-feminist thought is this one by Glenn Sacks, which argues that false allegations of man-on-woman sexual abuse are far more prevalent than many presently assume. The source --Sacks-- is questionable, as he is a known Right-wing reactionary. But his stats are compelling. If anyone can respond to them, I'd like to hear from you.

In a very weird segment of NBC's Today Show earlier this month, Matt Lauer uncharacteristically grilled dirt-monger Kitty Kelley when she appeared to push her new Bush-bashing book, The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty. During the interview, Kelley said to Lauer, "Matt, you play golf with the former President Bush...” at which point Lauer cut her off and snapped, "I have never played golf with him!"

However, a quick web search using keywords "Matt Lauer", "golf" and "Bush" reveals the following New York Daily News headline from May 26, 2004: "Lauer & Ex-Prez Bush Link Up On Golf Course." Why would Lauer lie about this, and why was he so uncharacteristically hostile toward Kelley? I've got some theories. When will people realize that in the Internet era, you just can't get away with lying on television.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media has seemingly finally found its backbone. Hometown Ottawa boy Peter Jennings finally punked out George W. Bush by spelling out the President's deliberate mischaracterization of remarks by John Kerry. Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Has the complacent press finally woken up? Could this be a sign that Bush will not walk away with the election?

Michael Moore sure thinks so. About a thousand people have sent me this open letter from Moore, asking all anti-Bushites not to lose hope. I hope he's right. His comments on the quality of political surveys are particularly interesting. I will reserve further commentary on the outcome of the election until after the debates.

On a different note, Nojjy Boy sends us this analysis of the "revolutionary" nature of Bush foreign policy.

"Those who seek to bestow legitimacy must themselves embody it, and those who invoke international law must themselves submit to it." -Kofi Annan

Now who could he be talking about?

Wednesday Sep 22, 2004

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"Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we’re deaf, dumb and dangerous." -Garrison Keillor

The Keillor article above is tremendous and mirrors much of what I've been saying in this space, namely that the modern Republican party bears no resemblance to the more honourable and truly conservative Republicans of the past, specifically those of the sensible Eisenhower era.

This article suggests an active role played by Israeli intelligence in manipulating the USA into war in Iraq. It's a bit of an extreme position, but certainly the Israel lobby in Washington played a strong part in shaping the foreign policies of the current administration. At this point, it's prudent to remind ourselves of exactly why the neocons had a hard-on for Iraq:

  • First, George W. Bush truly believes that he can force democracy upon Iraq and by doing so ultimately create an pro-USA sentiment in the region... But Bush's personal beliefs actually have little clout. What matters are the tangible goals of his handlers, such as...

  • Securing access to Iraq's oil reserves, the second largest in the world. Sure, this is an old song, but a melodic one. Bush, Cheney, Rice --all have high level ties to the oil industry, and all now have financial interests in the post-invasion Iraqi oil industry.

  • Establishing a military attack point on the Euphrates. This allows the USA to pull troops out of Saudi Arabia and thus substantially reduce American dependence on Saudi royal cooperation. It also allows control over the flow of natural resources (notably water) in the region, hence allowing the US to project influence into Syria, Lybia and Iran.

  • Satisfying the Israel lobby by removing Israel's single biggest regional threat. It's no coincidence that Israel's new biggest threat is Iran, the new target of neocon military thirst.

  • Lastly, Iraq was supposed to be the first stop on the road to global military hegemony, as indicated in PNAC's policies, which date back well before the Clinton era.

You will note that none of the above reasons has anything to do with improving the lives of Iraqis or combatting terrorism. So now that US troops are in Iraq, what should be done? Haroon Siddiqui spells out the points that should constitue John Kerry's platform on Iraq:

  1. America will start counting the Iraqi dead and injured. That will end the racism of discounting the value of Arab lives. At present, non-American lives are never talked about

  2. America will do all in its power to hold, not postpone, the planned elections for a National Assembly in January. It will do so by providing full protection to the United Nations staff assigned to the task.

  3. America will gradually pull out of Iraq. The timetable will be set in consultation with the elected representatives, not the puppet regime in Baghdad, which has zero credibility with the people.

  4. America will consider a United Nations trusteeship for Iraq, should the elected representatives want it.

  5. America will honour all the rules of the Geneva Convention in dealing with detainees.

  6. America will follow the rule of law and due process in dealing with terrorism suspects in the United States. It cannot preach democracy abroad while violating its basic precepts at home.

Will John Kerry do the courageous thing and adopt such a platform? Unlikely, since he is still trying to out-Bush Bush. Soon his campaign tactics will start to resemble those of the evil master, Karl Rove. The danger to me isn't so much that Bush will win (which I still believe will happen) but that the entire political spectrum is becoming more Bush-like, not necessarily in terms of platform, but in terms of disingenuous smear and misdirection campaigns. It signals, to my mind, the beginning of the implosion of the Republic. All great nations, it seems, eventually face an era of public sanctioned quasi-fascism and rampant unquestioned propaganda; I fear the USA might be experiencing the first tastes of such an era. This sucks for all of us, since never before in human history has one country's culture and power been so globally pervasive and influential. Already, the newly democratic Russia is adopting a Bush-like stance, with dictator-in-waiting Putin consolidating autocratic power into the Kremlin, all in the name of fighting terrorism. Sound familiar?

On the plus side, dissent hasn't been this loud in years. I'm emboldened by the new wave of bloggish voices echoing my own positions, and the very late (but eventual) arrival of the mainstream media into the arena of self-examination.

Back in America, instead of outrage at the President's continued blindness and arrogance as he stubbornly declared to the UN that other countries should help foot the bill for Iraq, we get religious platitudes from his sedated followers:

"[George Bush] has a vision... It’s his faith. It breaks my heart to hear him criticized. They hated our Lord, too." -Holly Coors of Coors Beer.

No wonder I hate Coors beer so much. So she compares W to Jesus? And I wonder who she's talking about when she says "they". Hmm? The Romans?

Apparently Karl Rove is planning a slew of new commercials featuring Bush as a rough and tumble Texan cowboy (when he's actually a fragile Eastern blue-blood). Will Ferril already has a parody of those commercials. You can view it here.

My sister sends in yet another self-test for political orientation. I may have posted this one already. According to it, I'm on the "libertarian left"-- Economic Left/Right: -7.12, Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.00.

Rachel H. sends in this essay which presents an argument for optimism, given sufficient historical context. Rachel thinks it's a little "cheesy." I disagree. It's a good and reassuring read.

I'll leave you with my controversial observation after having watched the finale of The Amazing Race 5, perhaps the best reality show I've ever seen. What I've learned from this show is that: male-male teams are marginally less competent; female-female teams are marginally more competent; and male-female teams all seem to have completely useless female members. I'm sure this is more of a commentary on the show's casting philosophy than on any generalizable truth about human beings. But it's a fun thing for me to say in hopes that pissed off readers will send me angry brain waves.

Monday Sep 20, 2004

"[George W. Bush] showed pathological lying habits and was in denial when challenged on his prejudices and biases. He would even deny saying something he just said 30 seconds ago. He was famous for that." -Yoshi Tsurumi, W's business professor at Yale

It's definitely worth reading the full text of Prof. Tsurumi's story. Do follow the link. People ask me all the time, "why will so many Americans vote for George W. Bush?" (Like I have some sort of special insight into the mindset of the Right-leaning American voter.) The truth, as I see it, is that many Rightists see through the facade that is the macho and sensitive image of a ridiculously self-styled warrior President. But they look beyond these failings and vote according to their ideology, one founded upon lower taxes and muscular foreign policy; Bush's character is ultimately unimportant, which is why attacks on his non-existent military background are worthless. It also doesn't hurt that the Bush platform appeals to many of the uglier, fearful and selfish prejudices that linger in the back of all of our minds.

Speaking of ugly, I just watched perhaps the most disturbing footage I could ever imagine. The beheading of American Eugene Armstrong by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's followers in Iraq is the most sickening thing I've ever seen in my life. It reminds me of the horrific tales told to me by my father about slitting the throats of pigs back on the farm in Guyana. Want to see it? I don't recommend it, but you can view it here. If al-Zarqawi wants Bush re-elected, this is how to do it. A quick scan of the Rightist blogosphere shows the expected knee-jerk responses: it's time to nuke the Middle East and punish all of Iraq, time to dial up the torture in Abu Ghraib; that sort of thing. The gut instinct of a people unschooled about the world is to conflate the actions of a group of criminals with the guilt of an entire civilization, sort of like declaring war on Italy because the mafia has committed crimes in Chicago. I bet none of these people is aware that al-Zarqawi is a Jordanian, not an Iraqi, who was allowed to set up shop in Iraq only after the "Coalition of the Willing" created the necessary chaos. The people of Iraq are innocent, but will always bear the brunt of this renewed wave of fury.

There are those who will deliberately misinterpret my remarks to imply that I blame the Americans for Armstrong's horrific death. No; ultimate responsibility always resides with he who wielded the knife. But here's the lesson the mouth-breathers refuse to learn, plugging their ears and singing loudly whenever someone brings it up: if you remove the US military presence from Saudi Arabia and Iraq and cut military aid to Israel, the Islamist terrorist threat to US citizens will evaporate over the next 4-6 years. Is that appeasement? Maybe. But it's also the right thing to do, since Westerners have no ethical business having such a pronounced presence there in the first place.

This reasoning is often countered with the shallow argument that our civilization needs oil, and maintaining influence over the region assures us access to oil. But here's the magical thing about oil: it's worthless to its producer if he doesn't sell it. And if we are willing to buy it, they will always sell it to us.

Have you heard of this ridiculous photo, supposedly of a crying little girl who's just had her pro-Bush sign ripped away by an evil Democrat? Well, it seems that her father Phil Parlock has staged this exact same scenario during two previous US elections. Unbelievable. He may have even had his son play the role of the evil Democrat!

If you haven't yet voted in the Deonandan.com daily poll, go ahead and do so now. You'll notice that there's a photo of Ralph Nader having a discussion with an anime character. Well, that's Ryo Sanada, one of anime's Ronin Warriors. One of the interesting things about Ryo Sanada is that he is running a "parallel campaign" in the US federal election. What a magical time in which we live.

Want to take a geography quiz? I'm pretty good at this stuff, but I only got 30% right. Hey, let's see you find Pulau on a map!

To get our minds off that other video I linked to today, here's one that's more pleasurable. It's the music video for Doctor's first single, "What Makes You Think He's Lucky?" Why am I telling you about it? Because the band's lead singer used to front the Canadian band The Watchmen. And what comic book did I just spend major $$ buying? You guessed it... Alan Moore's classic Watchmen.

well that was a long way to go for no reason. See you next time.

Saturday Sep 18, 2004

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"See, free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don't attack each other. Free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction." -George W. Bush, Oct. 3, 2003, Milwaukee, WI

Hahahahaha! Oh that Georgie Boy. What a card.

Know that industrial breakdancing video I linked to in the last post? Apparently it's an example of a new aggressive form of urban dance called "krumping", which is featured in this short film. In case some of you are wondering if I'm considering a lifestyle change, let me assure you that this is the full extent of any discussion I will ever have on dance in general and on breakdancing in particular. So there.

Want to know why the American Right will never capture the hearts of youth (without killing and eating them, that is)? 'Cause only liberals can attract something called The Axis of Eve.

Good Ol' Nojjy Boy sends us this interesting discussion of the shortfalls of a potential hydrogen economy. I'm not a fan of hydrogen as the basis of a whole energy economy. To put it bluntly, one requires energy to produce hydrogen; it's that primary source of energy we have to be concerned about. I remain a supporter of micro-hydro, solar and wind for the developing world, and a combination of geothermal (for residential use) and nuclear and macro-hydro for industrial and large-scale urban use. In fact, I strongly believe that if anything will sustain our civilization into the 22nd century, it will be some version of nuclear power.

Back to picking on the wack jobs in the White House. According to BBC broadcaster James Naughtie, US Secretary of State Colin Powell once described the pro-war neocons in the Bush administration as "f@cking crazies" (@ added to bypass the evil eye of Big Brother) during a conversation with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Powell has always known the score, which makes him even more of a disappointment for knowlingly letting his considerable reputation bolster the credibility of the duplicitous chickenhawk set. (Powell and McCain remain, by the way, the only two possible Republican presidential nominees I could ever possibly support.)

Now this is a juicy development. Remember way back in 2000 when George W. Bush "won" the election from Al Gore under dubious circumstances? Many on the Right (you know who you are) countered Democratic complaints of shenanigans with the fairly accurate response that, according to the strict rules of the game, Bush had indeed won. (Those rules had to do with appeal procedures, count deadlines and extreme technicalities regarding chads, etc.) As I am a firm believer in adhering to the technical rigour of state and federal laws, I reluctantly agreed that Bush supporters were correct in that case, especially since the highest court in the land had ruled it thus (although that's another story).

Now comes news that the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign missed the deadline by a single day for getting their asses on the Florida ballot! To their credit, the Democrats are taking the high road: "To keep an incumbent president off the ballot in a swing state the size of Florida because of a technicality, I just don't think would be right," said Florida Democratic Party chairman Scott Maddox. Hmmm, seems to me that if technicalities are going to be enforced one way, they should be enforced every which way! If Bush had been left off the ballot due to the Republicans' own negligence, I wonder how the army of Rightist pundits would have responded? Sigh. If only.

Astute observers will note that I have removed the "nerd counter" from this page. Seems it was slowing down the loading time. Also, I'm toying with the idea of finally giving in to peer pressure and switching this Bulletin to a traditional blog format, such as that supported by Blogger and Blogspot. It would make posting a lot easier, but would eliminate the unique look to this page. What do you think?

Tuesday Sep 14, 2004

St. John's, Newfoundland - Greetings, readers of my most humble blog (though, for the sake of historical accuracy, this page existed long before the term "blog" was even invented. So there!) As I write this, I am lounging (nekkid!) in a deluxe room at the swanky Fairmont hotel in charming downtown St. John's, Nfld, which is perhaps the oldest city in North America. The view from my room is a spectacular one of the harbour, with historical Signal Hill looking down upon us. Signal Hill is where Marconi engaged in the first ever trans-oceanic wireless telegraph "conversation." (The conversation consisted of a single letter of the alphabet.) This site was chosen because St. John's is also the eastern most part of the continent; we're pretty much sitting smack in the Atlantic ocean.

Exciting stuff, really, if you like this sort of thing. And about 300 miles north of me is where the Titanic went down.

Yes, I'm stuffed with cod, halibut and crab. Tomorrow I'm off to beautiful Halifax, burgeoning metropolis of Atlantic Canada and home to the best scallops and lobster I've ever tasted.

I don't have access to my files so I can't provide any interesting political links today. But I will give you this link. It's the music video for the song "Pro-Test" by industrial electro band Skinny Puppy. The video shows a breakdancing showdown between hip-hop b-boys and, um, Goth rivetheads. If you like dance videos, you'll like this. It's mesmerizing, even though Goths do get tiresome at times. I think it might just be the best breakdancing video I've ever seen.

While we're sharing videos, here is a funny one. Warning: it contains sexualized nudity. But ignore the scantily clad babes in the foreground and focus on the kid in the background who can't control himself. Poor bastard won't ever live this down.

Okay, I gotta get back to work. Don't forget to vote in the Deonandan.com poll!

Saturday Sep 11, 2004

New feature on this website: a daily poll! This month's topic is, of course, who will win the US Presidential election. So go vote! And now we begin...

"In 2003, the United States invaded a country that did not threaten us, did not attack us and did not want war with us to disarm it of weapons we have since discovered it did not have. ...[Iraq is] the greatest strategic blunder in 40 years, a mistake more costly than Vietnam." -Pat Buchanan, Where the Right Went Wrong

How could such a blunder take place? It happened because the political climate of the Western world, most significantly in the USA, changed exactly 3 years ago to this day. I firmly believe that 200 years from now (if civlization is still standing), Sep 11,2001, will be remembered not just as a date when terrorists struck New York, but when the hard Right solidified its control over American political life. The USA, and hence the world, is now run by a bunch of sissy hair-pullers.

Let us not forget that there was life before 2001. What else happened on September 11?

  • 1973 - An American-backed terrorist insurgency causes the overthrow of a democratically elected Marxist government in Chile, replaced by fascist dictator General Pinochet.

  • 1987 - Death of Lorne Greene. Sniff. We miss you, Commander Adama!

  • 1991 - Mike Tyson arrested for rape.

An unlikely source sends in this funny schedule of events at the RNC.

And uber-trendy litmag McSweeney's offers this intriguing list of possible John Kerry running mates.

On a personal note, my cousin's kid Joshua, who is unfortunately autistic, is now famous for appearing on the Autism.Net website. (Click on Employment to see him.) Similarly, his precocious sister Ashley, who drew this picture of me is now appearing regulary on the YTV television show, Treehouse. Yes, mine is a good looking family ;-)

Congratulations to regular Deonandan.com reader Rondi Adamson for scoring an article in the Wall Street Journal (Europe edition). It may be for the forces of darkness, but that truly is the big time, Rondi.

Tomorrow I'm off to Newfoundland to deliver this address. And on Wednesday, I'll be in Halifax to do yet another book reading. If you live in any of these places, do come out!

I leave you with this:

"I think [George Bush] is a bully, and like all bullies, he’s a coward when confronted with a force that he’s fearful of. His reactions to the extravagant and unbelievably selfish wish list of the wealthy interest groups that put him in the White House are obsequious. The degree of obsequiousness that is involved in saying ‘yes, yes, yes, yes,’ to whatever these people want, no matter the damage and harm done to the nation as a whole — that can come only from genuine moral cowardice." -Al Gore

Thursday Sep 9, 2004

"Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country." -George W. Bush

Man, am I overworked. Yes, me. Hard to believe, isn't it? I'm torn about what to talk about --Sudan, Chechnya, Bush/Kerry, my athlete's foot-- but I'm much too tired. Instead you get a couple of more quotes...

"[Bush] looks like a cross between Mad magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman and Howdy Doody, but dumber. When he smiles it makes me want to flee in terror, like I’m looking at an evil clown-elf." -Moby

Moby is one to talk. He's not exactly normal looking.

"President Bush has proven to be all campaign and no governance. Every word out of his mouth, every policy, seems to have been crafted by campaign aides with the goal of not accomplishing anything but his re-election." -Charley Reese

And yet the plebes who vote for him will not see this. Why? Because the man is a figurehead. His intelligence, his speeches, even his platform don't really matter. What matters is that his party will embrace the doctrine of lower taxes and increased corporate welfare, and that's why his base will continue to support him.

"[Iraq] might not be on the same scale, but it's Vietnam all over again. A war in a foreign country that was no threat to the United States. No strategy for victory. A complete misreading of both the country and its people. In the end, the Americans who die in Iraq will, like their brothers who died in Vietnam, have died for nothing. We'll end up installing a replacement dictator. But even if the Iraqis have elections, those elections should not be purchased with American blood." -Charley Reese

On that note, my brother sends in this essay about the real reasons for the invasion of Iraq.

So here's the ad for my upcoming appearance, as seen in the programme guide of the Halifax Public Library. Even cooler is the fact that I made the splash page of the library's official website. Sadly, I've yet to secure a bookstore to sell copies of my opus at the event, so the affair might be entertaining, but certainly not profitable.

Monday Sep 3, 2004

"I'm no huge fan of John Kerry. He sees two sides of every one-sided issue, and four sides of every two-sided issue. But the alternative is a president who sees one side of every issue, no matter how many sides it has. Given how many sides there usually are, and given how little effort Bush makes to learn about each issue, the odds are that, on average, he'll pick the wrong side." -William Saletan

Make no mistake, I despise the American Right. I find the modern Republican party (as opposed to the Eisenhower Republicans, the Lincoln Republicans, the T. Roosevelt Republicans and even --God help me-- the Nixon Republicans) to be a bunch of selfish, xenohobic, deluded asses whose economic platform is based on outmoded business theory and whose entirety of world knowledge and scientific literacy is derived from the more arcane portions of the Book of Revelations. Everyone who reads this website knows that few people dislike the foreign policy choices of the Bush Jr. administration more than yours truly. But I am convinced now, more than ever before, that he will win a second term this November.

Kudos to the Republican campaign machine for putting together an incredibly disciplined and focused marketing package, culminating last night with the President's speech at the RNC. Unlike the floundering Democrats-- who should have had a cakewalk to the White House-- the Republicans actually have a digestible, repeatable platform, as flawed as it might be. Rewriting the tax code, standardizing education programmes, providing savings incentives: these are all highly attractive policies to those 3 or 4 undecided voters.

Watch the brilliance. For example, Bush said that he intends to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign energy. That's an enormously popular platform ---but he doesn't say how he's going to do it. (Though, I suppose by annexing those nations with large oil reserves, one is in effect reducing foreign dependence.) And that narrated slide show before Bush's speech was sheer entertainment genius. If I were an undecided voter, I'd be well seduced by it.

Bush solidified his hard Right stance by reinforcing his anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage positions. Instead of splintering his party --many of whom do not share his religious extremism-- his core base will be strengthened, while the liberal wing of the party (the Giulianis and Schwarzeneggers) will not desert him. Why? Because, while the American Left is united by one temporal theme, the hatred of George Bush, the Right is united by an even stronger force than anger: greed. Bush's greater base of support is characterized by one thing: a desire for lower taxes.

He pronounced "nuclear" correctly this time, and was only a bit put off by the highly entertaining activist intrusions into the convention atrium. Moreover, he was affable and funny. If he weren't a politician, he'd be a likeable buffoon at any party, and I suspect he's probably a "swell guy" in person. But he is a politician, one who heads an administration whose short-sighted policies have either created or exacerbated conditions of misery, death and dismay.

In any case, unless some surprising things happen between now and November, I fully expect Bush The Son to retain power. He will win the upcoming debates, not necessarily because his policies and arguments are better, but because he is more charismatic than John Kerry. More than that, I strongly suspect that before the election (and certainly before the end of the year), Osama bin Laden will be captured.

What suprises might unseat Bush? Well, here comes one. Ben Barnes, the former Texas official who pulled strings to save Bush from service in Vietnam, is going public. Let's see if this gets any real coverage. I doubt that it will.

Some more random points:

  • Zell Miller on John Kerry... in 2001: "John has worked to strengthen our military, reform public education, boost the economy and protect the environment." Zig-zag Zell indeed.

  • Check out the trailer for the new movie, Team America

  • And so it begins: the priming for war against Iran.

  • Why is John Kerry's service record a matter for national debate while Bush's barely reaches the mainstream?

  • On a similar note, it seems the petition put out by the pro-Bush Swift Boat Veterans group contains a large nuber of faked signatures.

  • Here is a story about American troops trying to stop "contractors" from torturing Iraqis. Instead of being silenced by the Pentagon, these soldiers should be hailed as heroes and allowed to inspire similar behaviour.

  • Remember how I mentioned some time ago (just after the 2000 election) that the Amazing Kreskin had predicted that Al Gore would be President after Bush? If Kreskin was right, then Bush wins in November and Gore runs again in 2008. It seems that Kreskin was almost 100% correct in his prediction of this year's Canadian elections... so maybe his predictions can be banked on?

  • Maggie sends in this link. It's a (I think) fake interview about John Kerry.

  • Here's an interesting personal note. Seems there's an overpriced book on the architecture of Tadeshi Kawamata that mentions my review of Kawamata's sculpture in Toronto... from 1989. Aieee. I feel old.

I'll leave you with this. It's a photo of George W. Bush, in his Yale days, delivering an illegal punch to an opponent in a rugby match. Honest. Honourable. Peaceful. Yeah, right.

Wednesday Sep 1, 2004

"[Our enemies] never stop thinking 'bout new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." -George W. Bush, August 5th, 2004

Want to know why the Republicans will win in November? (And I do so very strongly hope that I am incorrect.) Just watch the replay of the GOP Convention from last night: it was entertaining, something the DNC convention was not. The so-called undecided voter bloc in the USA is a group of --let's face it-- simple-minded people. If you haven't made up your mind yet on this most important election in modern US history, then clearly you're not a deep thinker. And people who are not deep thinkers are most easily convinced through simple slogans and entertaining snippets, which is what the Republicans gave them last night.

In short: the Republicans had Arnold. And Arnold, the big shill, is entertaining as hell. Unless W himself screws things up (and he still might), Arnold just won him the election.

It was particularly erie watching Kennedy heiress and Arnold main squeeze Maria Shriver hunkered next to Bush I. She was there out of politeness, clearly, but conspicuously not applauding at key points in her husband's speech.

Out of many possible points, I will take exception to one thing Arnold said: "If you believe that the government should be accountable to the people, rather than the people being accountable to the government, then you are a Republican." Huh? Seems to me it's the Republicans who are forcing citizens to be accountable to an increasingly Orwellian government.

The GOP convention is a tad disingenuous. This is the party of John Ashcroft, Dick Cheney and Tom DeLay. But they presented it as the party of Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Arnold Schwarzenegger, moderates all. Where was Rick Santorum? If you watch closely, though, you will see the party's true colours. Notice the dearth of minorities. The Republicans are still mostly fat white men in suits.

The strength of the American Right is one of anti-intellectualism. The progressive approach is one of complexity and nuance, which is more difficult to convey, especially in today's sound-byte culture. For instance, it's easier to say that a man is homeless because he's lazy than it is to say that he is homeless because of several interrelated personal and societal choices and factors. The Rightist approach makes better and easier television and radio, hence the success of Rightist talk radio. And hence the more entertaining Republican convention.

The last thing I'm going to talk about is the Bush twins, Barbara and Jenna. Man, what a pair of airheads! Sure, that Barbara is hot, but turn off their microphone already! I found myself actually getting dumber while listening to them. It felt like a country music awards show, with lame teleprompter jokes written for barely literate in-bred presenters.

And speaking of barely literate presenters, I'll be doing a book thang on Wednesday Sep 15th at the Alderney Gate public library in Halifax. My next booking after that will actually be an academic lecture at the Institute of Population Health at the University of Ottawa on October 19. As always, check out my appearances page.

Monday Aug 30, 2004

"A recent Spanish congressional report estimates that had Bush not invaded Iraq, oil would now be around $30 a barrel, instead of $43. Americans have yet to understand the full cost of the president's foreign misadventures." -Eric Margolis

I was going to spend today's post talking about the chaos in Sudan. But I'll save that for later. Instead, you get yet another random news edition. Let's begin...

  • US gymnast Paul Hamm apparently won the gold medal in error, and now the IOC wants him to give it back. The Americans are refusing, however. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, it must be noted that a major unmentioned dimension to this issue is that Hamm stands to make millions from endorsements as a direct result of his gold. Otherwise, I'm sure sportsmanship would win out and he'd give them bloody thing back already.

  • Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former British PM Margaret Thatcher, is accused of plotting the overthrow of the government of Equatorial Guinea. If convicted, not only will he be executed, but the President of that country --the cannibal Teodoro Obiang Nguema-- will eat Thatcher's testicles. The son's, not the mother's.

  • When (yes, when) George Bush is re-elected in the Fall, expect the neocons to turn their imperialist eyes upon their next target: Iran. Look for the anti-Iran smear campaign, prior to sabre rattling, to begin soon. If they do invade, they'd better watch out for this guy. Him and the Iron Sheikh.

  • Want to know why Bush will win? It's because Kerry will lose, as Haroon Siddiqui explains.

  • As much as I rant against the American Imperium, I'll be the first to say that they are so far preferable to, say, a Chinese Imperium. This story tells of a pregnant inmate in China being given a forced abortion in order to qualify her for execution. Horrors abound the world over.

  • Remember Josh Rushing, the US military spokesman I talked about last week? Well, he truly has been muzzled, and the honourable fellow is retiring in protest.

  • Hey, here's a blog called Adventures In Epidemiology. Sadly, the adventure seems deathly boring.

  • This site presents diagrams describing how Exxon funds the network of climate change doubters in the Conservative US intelligentsia. Sadly, my friends Neil Hrab and Sonia Arrison are listed among members of the network of evil. Don't worry, folks, we're working on 'em.

  • Okay this is weird. I was surfing for health research jobs in Saudi Arabia when, a couple of random clicks later, I was faced with this ---my ex-girlfriend's wedding announcement! Congratulations to her and her lucky fella... though I'm still thoroughly weirded out.

"But the sad truth is, the real difference between Democrats and Republicans is that their celebrities are, like, actually famous and ours are, well, singing weirdly erotic songs about Our Savior." -Rob Long, a Republican.

Thursday Aug 26, 2004

"This clearly proves that [North Korea] was right when it commented that [Bush] is a political imbecile bereft of even elementary morality..... Bush is a tyrant that puts Hitler into the shade and his group of such tyrants is a typical gang of political gangsters." -North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman

Ewwww. Getting the verbal bitchslap from North Korea. That's gotta hurt.

I saw The Control Room last night. It's a fabulous documentary about news coverage of the US invasion of Iraq, centred primarily around the emergence of Al Jazeera as an alternative news voice. I highly recommend this film, even to those of you who suspect it of being more partisan blather masquerading as documentary. Unlike F9/11, this film seeks out official US spokesmen to give their side of the story, thus providing needed balance. And with such balance, much truth emerges. Was Al Jazeera propagandist in its war coverage? To an extent, yes --its cutaways showing US military forces spliced with dying Iraqi children clearly showed a political predisposition. On the other hand, their behaviour, at least as it was portrayed in this documentary, was a great deal mor e honourable and fair than that of Faux News or even CNN.

It is disturbing to consider that days after the White House vocally complained about Al Jazeera's coverage external to the farcical "embedded" coverage by Western journalists, 3 precision missile attacks by US forces in Baghdad destroyed 3 independent Arabic news facilities, including the Baghdad office of Al Jazeera. Contrary to the official US position, eyewitnesses reported no sign of enemy fire originating from the Al Jazeera building. In a fair world, there would be an investigation of this murder, culminating in a war crimes trial.

But most saddening are the true words of one of the Al Jazeera journalists: human beings don't have a good memory. No one talks about Somalia anymore, or Bosnia or Nicaragua. Or even Rwanda. In ten years, no one except Iraqis will be talking about the murder in Iraq. The world will have moved on to another atrocity.

Particular kudos to Captain Josh Rushing, the Us military press officer at the Pentagon's Central Command in Iraq. He showed great honesty while nonetheless arguing on behalf of a questionable US military policy. He admitted to an unintended biased double standard when he reacted with outrage when Al Jazeera broadcast images of dead US soldiers while experiencing none when they broadcast similar images of dead Iraqi civilians. It's as I've often told my compatriots on the Left: we can disagree with US foreign policy and its militarization of that policy, but in my experience the actual officers of the US armed forces have proven to be nothing but thoughtful, fair and honest, though perhaps misled and often underinformed. Of course, do keep in mind my mantra: the plural of anecdote is not data.

Rushing, however, has now been forbidden by the military from making any comments about his part in the movie. As the Globe article asserts, "Rushing has been silenced because of his unpatriotic acknowledgment that war is hell and that Arabs have a very different viewpoint of the Iraq war."

Here is some mandatory reading. It's Charley Reese's take on the racism presently directed against Muslims. Reese is further proof that not all American conservatives are clueless blowhards. The political ideal called "Conservatism" should not be viewed in a knkee-jerk fashion by we of the Left as necessarily innately wrong; the current incarnation of the Republican party bears no resemblance to the heart of Conservatism. Reese also provides the following quote:

"The Palestinian-Israeli conflict? Started by Great Britain and France at the end of World War I. The Kurdish conflict? Ditto. In fact, the modern Middle East was created by a Frenchman and an Englishman without the slightest reference to the wishes of the native people or any natural borders... And while we still struggle to undo mischief begun in the past century, our leaders are creating mischief that might well occupy our posterity. Here again, what they are doing appears plain stupid on its face."

Want to see how fractured the extreme American Right is becoming? Ever a source of comical material, Ann Coulter is now deriding Bill O'Reilly for being too moderate!! I believe the Age of the Neocons is reaching its end.... but that still doesn't mean The Shrub will lose the upcoming election!

On a personal note, I was thrilled to find a review of my novel on Amazon.com--- until I recalled it was writted by my friend Sesh months ago... before he even read the book. Thanks, buddy, but my bloody honesty compels full disclosure.

Tuesday Aug 24, 2004

"Lying about a sexual affair is just not on the same scale as lying about war. The petty penny ante real estate deal known as Whitewater pales into insignificance compared to the multi-billion dollar fraud of the Iraqi reconstruction contracts." -Paul Craig Roberts

On to today's random news...

And I leave you with this:

"These dramatic new deployments signal further expansion of military operations around the globe as America comes ever closer to resembling its forbear, the British Empire. Most Americans, however, remain unaware of their government's new imperial plans to rule oil and the Muslim world, and of the unexpected conflicts that lie in wait for America's increasingly far-flung expeditionary forces." -Eric Margolis

Tuesday Aug 17, 2004

"In case you haven’t noticed, we are now almost as feared and hated all over the world as the Nazis were. With good reason... our unelected leaders have dehumanized millions and millions of human beings simply because of their religion and race. We wound and kill ’em and torture ’em and imprison ’em all we want. " -Kurt Vonnegut

NY Times Bush-basher Paul Krugman recently appeared on the Tim Russert show with none other than the fire-breathing distortion addict Bill O'Reilly. I guess Bill is still smarting from having had to play nice with Michael Moore on Bill's show last month, 'cause he was in fine bloviating form when confronting Krugman. Of course, O'Reilly claims "victory." You decide for yourself. Here is a video clip of the event, with some fact clarifying text commentary added in.

The Times has this chart of "Iraq by the numbers." Thanks to Good Ol' Nojjy Boy for forwarding that one.

Sorry, I'm not too politically fired up today. Maybe it's the high fat food they serve in the hospital where I work.

But I do have some fun stuff for you.... Remember that Japanese anime cartoon I keep talking about, Neon Genesis: Evangelion? Well, this quiz tells you which character from the show you most resemble. Apparently I'm Asuka, the little red-haired girl from Germany. Uh-huh.

On a personal note, the University of New Brunswick hs just joined the ranks of Cornell, Columbia and Ryerson by including yours truly as an author to be studied in its graduate English programme. Click here and look at course #6887.

Similarly, an online Caribbean arts website has developed special pages for artists of Caribbean heritage. They even have one for me!

That's all I got today. Sorry.

"In a day and age when ex-Trotskyite democratic socialists, big government-huggers and naked empire-worshipers find a safe and happy home in the Republican Party – a party once popularized as advocating small decentralized government at home and non-interference and trade abroad – one might wonder if left, right and center are not passé." -Karen Kwiatkowski

Thursday Aug 12, 2004

"There's something subversive and un-American about soccer." -Tucker Carlson on PBS's "Unfiltered."

Uh-huh. Soccer. Subversive. Un-American. And this is the guy the Right wants to "balance out" the supposed liberal bias on PBS. You know, it's not bias when you're simply being --what's the word?--- sane.

(By the way, speaking of the sport of Pele and Beckham, I highly recommend the Chinese kung fu comedy film, Shaolin Soccer.)

Let's have some more:

"[Bush is] the only president in my lifetime who has liked to boast about how little he reads. He needn't boast. It's quite evident. I don't say he is dumb, but he is without a doubt the most willfully ignorant man who has occupied the White House in recent years." -Charley Reese

So true. And what does this tell us about modern American society when, as I suspect, they elect him to a second term in November?

In other news, immigrating strippers are now required to provide nude photos of themselves to be inspected by Canadian immigration officials. Damn, there's another career path I missed the boat on. (Immigration official, not stripper. Though if the money were good enough...)

The abuse of Iraqis continues. According to this article, British troops forced Iraqi detainees to dance like Michael Jackson. Oh the horror; the humanity.

But there's real horror, of course. The new Iraqi "government" has opened its own torture facilities. So let's recap: the US is not there for the WMDs, 'cause there aren't any; they're not there for the al Qaeda connections, 'cause there aren't any; so they're there to stop the torture and abuse of Iraqi citizens.....? Riiiight.

When blowhards collide: The long-awaited confrontation between Michael Moore and Bill O'Reilly took place on the latter's show. It seems to me that for the first time, O'Reilly was a bit cowed by a guest. Sadly, Moore has become the unofficial spokesman for the Left. Baaad choice.

So George Bush, the great big hero, is now picking on another minor Third World dictator. Fidel Castro is accusing the Shrub of slander. I hope it goes to court. That would be good court TV!

Hands up; how many of you think blowhard websites like this one serve no purpose? Well, read on:

"Internet blogging is becoming for the Democrats what talk radio was for the Republicans." -Mike McCurry

See? I'm the Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage of the progressive scene.... only without any money. Or audience. Or self-respect. Sniff.

I was going to link to a version of the infamous Ann Coulter column that was pulled from USA Today, one that is complete with the editor's questions and comments, just to point out how out of touch with reality Frau Coulter really is. But the link, as you will see, has been discontinued. Hmm. Curious.

My good buddy Neil H. sends this story about a Hong Kong career fair yanking a job ad for budding porn stars. Sheesh, people, either it's legal employment or it isn't! Choose one!

How's this for duplicity? A GOP official in the state of New Hampshire has admitted to jamming Democratic party phone lines on election day in November, 2002. It's telling that a story of this magnitude garners barely a peep in the modern media, electoral corruption being so endemic as to seem ordinary.

Sigh. Nick B. sends us this video of a TV commercial for the old Vic20 computer, featuring William Shatner. Ahhh, the memories.

Here's a good one:

"Bush is as qualified to talk about freedom as Bill Clinton is to talk about chastity." -James Bovard, The Bush Betrayal

Apropos of nothing, it seems my friend Sue Kelly now has her own website --www.bigbuzz.com/suekelly-- where she is telling the story of her new life in Uganda. Meanwhile Lauren, my good buddy and Parisienne, has opened up her own online location: LaurenGreenwald.com.

So today is my 37th birthday. Here I am having birthday brunch with Andrew Currie, trying to look grown up while playing video games on my PDA. The jowls of an angel, I say! My birthday is shared by Rosa Aguiar, the late Jon Donald, George Hamilton, John Derek and Terry "The Red Rooster" Taylor. This is also the day when Cleopatra killed herself by inviting the bite of a venomous asp. On this day, every year, the heavens proclaim my birth (or Cleopatra's death) with the climax of the Perseid meteor showers.

My horoscope from Eugenia Last:

Happy Birthday: Make the effort to finish what you start this year and to rid yourself of the people and problems that have been dragging you down and holding you back. If you really believe in yourself and what you want to do, you can make it happen. Your numbers are 2, 3, 14, 23, 30, 37.

Time to play the lottery! And from Yahoo!:

A lovely sentiment and a passionate offer are just around the corner. Your only quest is to decide which one to accept first -- and how to say thanks properly.

I leave you with the ever quotable Ron Reagan, Jr. Guess who he's talking about!

"It's one thing to get trashed by Michael Moore. But when Nobel laureates, a vast majority of the scientific community, and a host of current and former diplomats, intelligence operatives, and military officials line up against you, it becomes increasingly difficult to characterize the opposition as fringe wackos."

Monday Aug 9, 2004

"We cannot let terriers and rogue nations hold this nation hostile." -George W. Bush, Aug 21, 2000

Eisenhower wouldn't have put up with them terriers, I tells ya. He would've done what needed to be done. What is that, you ask? I'll list my recommendations for removing the terrier threat next time. Today, however, I will answer Matt Vadum's question (in Friday's comments) about why I consider Clinton to be the best US president since Ike.

(Let me first say that, while I remain a Kennedy doubter, my attitude toward JFK's reign is somewhat more favourable now that I've seen Thirteen Days, accurate or no; I never fully appreciated JFK's difficult battle against hawkish stalwarts within his own government.)

Bill Clinton is not a great man, but he was a darned effective president who worked hard, had his imprint on every federal action, enthralled the average citizen, was respected by foreigners and foreign leaders, pushed through progressive legislation despite an uncooperative Congress, and left his country in better shape than when he found it. His failings are obvious and personal, not political: his sexual insatiability (which is irrelevant to me), his arrogance, his lying about the Lewinsky affair and his lawyerly behaviour during his impeachment testimony (i.e., the definition of "is").

According to this article, Clinton was recently voted the 3rd best President of all time, after Lincoln and JFK. (Odd how Washington and Jefferson, the two greatest US leaders of all time, as I see it, didn't make the top three.) Mind you, the same poll had Clinton tied for third with....George W. Bush. So make of it what you will.

Here are, in the opinion of this non-US citizen, Slick Willy's great accomplishments:

  • increased employment
  • increased home ownership
  • created a surplus out of the Republicans' 12 years of deficit; the GDP grew 3.5% every year Clinton was in office.
  • presided over a period of American prosperity unprecedented in living memory; in fact, this analysis ranks Clinton as the best White House money manager among the 10 post-WWII presidents
  • created the smallest federal government, in terms of percentage of GDP, since Johnson, yet delivered services so widely that Clinton's government seemed huge
  • presided over a period of comparable peace, at least as such is experienced and understood by Americans and their Western allies

Here are Clinton's great near-accomplishments:

  • provided a workable Middle East solution (the "Clinton Plan") which was hijacked by hard-liners
  • involved the military in a just war (Kosovo), though I would argue insufficiently so. (Interestingly, the right wing attack machine would complain that he had dragged the US into "a conflict that poses no threat to the territorial integrity, national sovereignty or general welfare of the United States" --an ironic position given the current state of affairs.)
  • made an honest, and almost successful, attempt to fix health care in the USA, until blocked by the Republican congress

I have chosen not to list some of his more important legislations, such as several key bills protecting the environment and increasing corporate responsibility.

And what of his outright failures?

  • the man himself admits to having missed the boat on intervening during the genocide of Rwanda
  • he failed to extract the USA from Somalia before things got really, really bad

There are those reading this Bulletin who will insist that Clinton's foreign policy efforts were all disastrous and disingenuous. The latter is possible, but I will not grant the former. While he still suffered from the plagues that infect all US leaders --subservience to Israeli policy, corporate interests, political posturing within his own party, a pathological need to spin, etc.-- I believe Clinton did a terrific job in improving the living conditions of his people (and thus of most of the Western world), in giving hope to much of the disenfranchised, and in projecting an image of the superpower as somewhat altruistic and non-imperial.

You are, of course, free to disagree.

Friday Aug 6, 2004

Greetings from Toronto, where I have been for the past week. Family emergency is over. All the money I've thrown at the St. Michael's Hospital's cardiac fund over the years has paid dividends, and unnamed elderly parental unit is now happily back home driving the other parental unit mad.

Thank you to all those who have expressed their concern. I'm certain that as time goes on, you will have further opportunity to do so.

Now, this wouldn't be a Deonandan.com bulletin update if I didn't chime in on some aspect of US politics, would it? So let me say for the record, before my Rightist friends start accusing me of stuff: I think John Kerry is a weenie. Yep. I don't think he's speaking from the heart when he expounds on several platforms. I wish he'd be courageous enough to take a definitive stand on the war in Iraq. I wish he were more personable. I wish he didn't come across as a stuck up East coast blue-blood (which, ironically , is what Good Ol' Boy George W. Bush actually is). And I wish he were an inspiring leader type, like Clinton, Reagan and (to some) Bush.

The speech Kerry gave at the Democratic National Convention was very, very good. Delivered by someone with more passion and charm, however, it would have been a game ender.

The one thing John Kerry has going for him is that he is not George W. Bush, and he's going to ride that train as far as it takes him. If only Edwards had the seniority to take the #1 Democratic position-- now there's a man with charisma. Or Hillary, though she's a pale imitation of her husband.

Speaking of Bill Clinton, he was in Toronto yesterday to sign copies of his book. The line-up and security shut down much of the downtown core. I have photos which I will post soon. My US friends must realize that a great many (I would argue, the clear majority) of Canadians believe, as I do, that Bill Clinton was the greatest US President of the modern era. The line often trumpeted is that he was the best since Kennedy. I'm not so big of a Kennedy fan, so I say that Clinton was the best since Eisenhower, a phrase that will grate on several readers of this website for a variety of reasons. Clinton probably enjoys a higher popularity rating here than he does in his own country, a statement that is possibly true for both living Democratic presidents.

Enough for today. I gots work to do.

Tuesday Aug 3, 2004

What is it with elderly parents and heart disease? Sheesh. On the plus side, it's a reason to spend a few more days in Toronto. To you folks over at the cardiac unit of St. Michael's Hospital: I gave you money once, so now you owe me! Keep your heart surgeons happy and well paid... at least until the end of the week.

Congratulations to my old pal Dr. Vimal Kapoor on his wedding to Seema this past weekend. Okay, the actual wedding was last year, but those crazy kids waited to have the reception. Photos are upcoming.

Congratulations, too, to Naomi L. and Sean M. who both turn a year older today.

No ranting or anaylsis or deep commentary today. Instead, I give you this story about a Sikh student in Boston who was detained by Secret Service agents because he was taking pictures of his own college campus. If those facts aren't sufficient evidence of racial profiling, this quote from one of the agents puts things in perspective: "I don't want you pulling an Uzi from your turban," he said to the student.

If you're one of those people (and I know who you are) who thinks this is justifiable and non-racist behaviour on the part of law enforcement, consider the following. If the IRA was blowing stuff up on US soil, would you find it as justifiable to arrest a student with an Irish surname who happened to be taking photos? What if the mafia was having a particularly violent crime spree, would you find it acceptable to randomly accost those of Italian descent?

Never mind the obvious, that Sikhs aren't even part of the Islamist terror movement! The IRA corollary here would be the arrest of a Scottish instead of an Irish student, because the agents are too retarded to know the difference! That's a special kind of ignorant racism.

The sad part of that story is that it is most definitely not an isolated incident.

Thursday July 29, 2004

"Now, returning to our republican roots doesn't mean we try to live in splendid isolation. Not at all. It just means that we stop trying to run other people's countries and concentrate on running our own. We can have trade relations with the whole world – cultural exchanges, tourism, the whole ball of friendly wax. We just make sure the CIA and the military don't do any dirty work inside other people's countries, such as interfering in their elections or overthrowing their governments. And we don't take sides in other countries' wars and feuds. Armed neutrality should be our position." -Charley Reese

That's all I'm asking for. Some people objecting to what I write in this space have characterised themselves as domestic social liberals who are conservative when it comes to foreign policy. Well, I question what it means to have a "conservative" foreign policy. In my way of thinking, Reese's quote above best describes a true conservative position, and I have nothing but respect for it. What currently passes for capital-C Conservative foreign policy, in both the USA and Canada, is the neocon perspective, one in which global military hegemony is desirable. I would characterise such a position as imperialist, not conservative.

And really, at the end of the day, it's citizens' positions on the role of military force that functionally best differentiates Left from Right, at least in North America. Forget government size and fiscal restraint as an indicator of political polarity; Republicans have embraced sustained defecits and expanded government for many years now (remembering that in the USA, the military is one of the fattest arms of the federal government), while the federal Democrats have brought in budget surpluses and sometimes slightly scaled back bureaucracies.

So, either an American citizen believes that the role of an all-powerful military is to defend US citizens and property from attack on US soil, or it is to enforce US interests (whatever those interests might be) anywhere that such enforcement is convenient. One's placement on the spectrum in between those two poles best defines one's true political character. Where does military intervention in the event of huminatarian crisis fit in this model? I dunno, I'm thinking this sh!t up at 1:AM.

Here's some random news: the GOP is messing with Florida again. This story describes how a Republican group appears to be tricking new citizens in Florida into joining the party. Shame, shame.

Meanwhile, while the media goes nuts over Teresa Heinz Kerry having told a reporter to "shove it", no one seems to care that the US government has quietly agreed to keep the controversial School of the Americas open. In case you don't know, the "School" is where US-funded terrorists and dictators are trained in torture and other deplorable methods. It's where bastards like Manual Noriega learned their trade. You tell me: how can you believe that the government was innocent of the Abu Ghraib nightmares while they officially sanction, fund and operate a torture school on US soil? Shame, shame.

Why is this allowed to happen? Why is the US public unaware of it? I believe it's because Western news media are largely incompetent. News is now entertainment, and if it isn't entertaining, it doesn't get airtime. (Witness CNN's coverage of the Democratic National Convention, punctuated with commentary from comedians and actors who are bafflingly given equal standing with former diplomats, governors and congressmen.) A torture school is simply not entertaining. Maybe Fox should repackage it as a reality show?

Re: the DNC, I've really been enjoying it. Bill Clinton was remarkably smooth. If US law allowed it, I'm sure he'd win a third term (and Ann coulter would die of conniptions). Speaking of my least favourite blonde, it seems USA Today gave her space for a series of columns about the DNC, but pulled the offer when her first submission was waaay over the top; they should have known better. (It begins, "Here at the Spawn of Satan convention...")

One of the interesting effects of Clinton's glibness was that it inadvertently drew attention to Hillary Clinton's comparative lack of oratorical skills. She's got a few years to work on it before her own run for the White House.

Barack Obama was supposed to be the ordained black star of the event, but I think he was overshadowed by Al Sharpton, who deviated from his script, went overtime and contravened the Kerry plan by attacking Bush directly. But Reverend Al was riveting, impassioned and genuine, qualities that have been lacking in the more ceberal speeches up to this point.

A big congratulations to my good friend Neil Hrab for having attained the first level of Conservative heaven: his own entry in Disinfopedia, an online directory of forces working in support of corporations, governments and special interests. I might not agree with many things Neil writes, but there's no denying he's a very smart young man who does his research.

In fact, Neil sent me this article about a study which concluded that "self-described moderates dominate the newsroom, but liberals outnumber conservatives by a ratio of about 5-to-1 at larger print outlets and about 3-to-1 at local papers."

On its face, this seems to support the oft heard Rightist complaint that the US media is biased to the Left. I disagree that this is the case. First, I would argue that the so-called "self-described moderates" are in fact largely Right of centre. (Heck, Bill O'Reilly claims to have no political leaning!) Second, who are these dominating liberals? Are they columnists and front pagers, or are they (as I suspect) the beat reporters (mostly women and junior reporters, I have a feeling) who typically do local stories on page 16? Third, do the political leanings of the reporters really determine the tone of the product? I would argue that the editorial philosophy is a top-down affair. Moderate or left-leaning writers at The National Post will nonetheless cover only the stories the paper's Right-leaning masthead deems relevant. Similarly, Matt Lauer is a self-described moderate, but since NBC is own ed by GE (accused by many of being a war profiteering company), it can be argued that executive pressure was exerted for Lauer to only do war stories which were supportive of that effort. (And indeed, the Today Show's war coverage has been, in my opinion, hawkish.)

What does all this mean? Well, it means that the study on media bias asked the wrong questions. Regardless, I actually believe that the US media is, on average, neither liberal nor conservative, but rather statist. (Not examining, for the moment, the trend of growing corporate media conglomerates.)

Hey, go visit The Podium. There's a new article there not by me! This one was written by statistician Nick Barrowman, about the supposed failure of the political polling process prior to Canada's last federal election.

Enough of this. I leave you today with a public service announcement: Agust is anal sex month! So go forth and peg, ingle, stupp, poke, ream and whatever other euphemism you prefer. But use lots of lube!

Monday July 26, 2004

"No way. The Iraq weapons fiasco was absolutely not caused by an 'intelligence failure,' as the White House and the recent Senate whitewash claim... U.S. national security and CIA were corrupted and blinded by extremist ideology, cowardice, and careerism." -Eric Margolis

As well, claims that "everyone" was mislead by faulty intelligence is completely wrong and yet another example of either shoddy recall or blatant historical revisionism. Longtime readers of this bulletin know that I have long maintained in this space, well before the war, that the invasion was not based on a solid or honest rationale. And as Eric Margolis goes on to say,

"Scores of Mideast professionals, this writer included, insisted from Day 1 that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, posed no threat to the U.S., and had no link to al-Qaida."

It's true. While others played it safe and kept quiet, Eric went on record and made such declarations weeks and months before the invasion, and suffered much ridicule from his intellectually challenged "colleagues" at that rag, The Toronto Sun, for doing so. (Peter Worthington and Linda Williamson, I'm looking at you.)

But it doesn't matter. It's becoming clearer to me that George W. Bush will in fact narrowly win re-election in November. I hope this sense changes, but right now that's how I'm calling it. Why? Because just as Stephen Harper failed to understand the true identity of most Canadians, so do the New York Times, John Kerry and Salon fail to understand the heart of middle America, a place where strength and character are respected above record, complexity and training, and a place that sadly relies upon its biased and shameful mass media to provide the entirety of its political education. Does George Bush have strength and character? Heck no! But his PR people have sold his image as such, and the flock is buying it. One hopes, though, that they aren't buying it so much that they are becoming members of the Cult of George.

Regardless of what happens in November, the USA will be a more evenly politically divided nation that it has been since the US Civil War. That's why for many, this game provides such relief. It's the "any George but Bush" game!

Congratulations to Deonandan.com reader Rondi, not only for her continued success as a writer for such venues as the Ottawa Citizen and the Christian Science Monitor, and for a few appearances on Faux News, but for having recently reached the pinnacle of online cool: Rondi has been cited by Wonkette! Yes, that Wonkette, the celebrity blogger with a penchant for ingling and naughty words, and MTV's correspondent at this week's Democratic National Convention in Boston. That truly is the big league, Rondi.

I've been busy with the FTP client lately. New photos have been posted. The new galleries (60 and 61) are of my 2003 trip to Guatemala and this May's mission to Guyana.

And if you look up, just below the Disclaimer link, you'll see that I've added a new monitor this site, a utility that allows you to see how many people are reading this page at the exact same moment you are. Cool, but ultimately useless. Much like this website.

Friday July 23, 2004

"Incredibly, given their backgrounds, top Bush officials still seem not to understand that, like communism, radical Islam cannot be defeated with military power alone. Like communism, radical Islam is an ideology -- one that people will die for. To fight it, the United States needs not just to show off its firepower, but also to prove to Arabs that Western values, in some moderate Islamic form, will give them better lives. The war on terrorism cannot be a narrow American or American-Israeli military struggle, or we will lose it. Like the cold war, the war on terrorism will be over when moderate Muslims abandon the radicals and join us." - Anne Applebaum

Quiz time. Rondi sends this one: a test to see where you lie on the political spectrum. Like everyone else, it seems, I'm smack dab in the middle.

More importantly, which Olsen Twin are you? I'm Ashley.

Have you seen the animation that's sweeping the nation? The "This Land Is Our Land" duet between Bush and Kerry? Truly hilarious. Look for it here, and if that doesn't work, try here.

Jawaid sends this article about how revelations of Bushite duplicity, re: Iraq, resemble the famed Pentagon Papers of the 70s.

Apropos of nothing, you might enjoy a summary of the White House press briefings. Some of these encounters are truly hilarious.

Speaking of hilarious, this site lets you create your own George Bush cartoon. Mine is on the left.

You can also make your own church signs. Just click here. In fact, there are all kinds of sign generators here.

Well, I just got back from Winnipeg where I had a vwery successful book reading at the McNally Robinson. Many thanks to the McNally staff, especially Alicia Brown, and to my hosts Tracey McCourt and Marnie Johnston. A special thanks goes to Derek Dabee and the local Guyanese association, who came out in force and even presented me with a gift!

Some of you may know that I had planned on going skydiving for my birthday next month. However, due to my uncle's untimely death, several family members have expressed to me that it's in bad taste to be risking my life while the family is in mourning. So I have called it off... for now. The beauty of such a scenario is that not only do I have a great excuse for my cowardice, but the $500 or so I was going to spend to go to Toronto and jump out of a plane I can now spend on other fun things. My first such frivolous purchase was a $40 personalized RAYWAT belt:

Cool! Or shall I say... Truly hilarious.

Finally, finally, finally, I've updated my photos section! Do have a look. Pics are posted from Winnipeg, Washington, New York, Toronto, Philadelphia and from a slew of weddings and goofy things like that. Still have to sort through my Guyana and Guatemala pics. Sheesh. So much housekeeping yet to do! This website thing is way too much work.

Thursday July 15, 2004

"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilisation...[It is not possible to find a leader] more foolish than you [Bush], who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom...Because of this we desire you [Bush] to be elected." -supposedly from al-Hayat, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade (al-Qaeda linked terror group)

I make no assertions about the veracity of the above quote. But it does mirror my own thoughts, specifically that a continued Bush presidency, with its suppression of liberties domestically and its grating of allies internationally, is preferred by the so-called "Islamofascists." (The latter term, by the way, is a favoured one of hardline Conservative commentators, and I really don't have a problem with it; it adequately describes the platform specifically of the violent, extremist faction of militant Islam, and is not to be conflated with the majority of pro-Arab political movements which do not necessarily purport to limit liberties or impose rule by force.)

Having said that, I will not be surprised if there is another terrorist attack on American soil prior to the November elections. This will shore up the Republican position and assure a Bush re-election. Not surprisingly, the administration is already floating plans to delay the elections if an attack occurs. Make no mistake, the malleable public will go for it. This is how dictators are born; it's similar to how both Napolean and Julius Caesar came to power: they were granted it somewhat democratically in a time of overblown crisis.

Luckily, the democratic process has one great thing going for it: Bush doesn't seem to want to be President anymore. I think he wants to return to his ranch and go back to thinking up funny names for his guards. This job is a lot harder than either Poppy or (especially) Clinton made it look, huh?

Speaking of civil liberties, a Charleston couple were taken away in handcuffs because they wore anti-Bush T-shirts at a July 4th event. Pro-Bush/Cheney paraphernalia was permitted, of course. Please remember, this is the "land of the free" we're talking about here.

Let's turn our attention to journalistic integrity, shall we? Here is a very good article about the media's dereliction of duty over the past couple of years. They are only now waking up and are finally asking the administration some tough questions. I, personally, will never forget a Bush press conference just before the Iraq invasion (in March of last year) when no one asked the Shrub a good question. (The New York Press talked about it here.) In fact, Helen Thomas, known for her excellent coverage of presidential press conferences, was banned from this event! Instead, we had one fellow tossing the man-chimp a softball question about how his faith had guided him in his war decision. Thank God (see the irony?) those days s eem to be waning.

And so I'm thrilled that a new film called Outfoxed finally examines Faux News's claim to be "fair and balanced." The mighty mighty Wonkette has published some of the actual memos from Faux News chief John Moody to his reporting staff. I encourage all of you to look at them and decide for yourself whether Faux is "fair and balanced." Here are my favourites:

"We will cover [operations in Fallujah] hour by hour today, explaining repeatedly why it is happening. It won't be long before some people start to decry the use of 'excessive force.' We won't be among that group... More than 600 US military dead, attacks on the UN headquarters last year, assassination of Irai officials who work with the coalition, the deaths of Spanish troops last fall, the outrage in Fallujah: whatever happens, it is richly deserved."


"Please offer a prayer of thanks for their [Fox News personnel in Iraq] safety to whatever God you revere (and let the ACLU stick it where the sun don't shine). "

Though I take pleasure in characterising the American President as "chimp-like" (hence, by my own definition, making me a proud "Bush basher"), there are those who bristle at this comparison. A quote from a press release from Monkeywire.Org:

"Bush shares with lower primates the ability to make his desires clear despite an inability to communicate in English. He also understands and reacts to negative stimuli, and makes use of simple tools. However, Bush's dental records -- which were used as evidence of the President's service in the National Guard -- clearly demonstrate that he is human."

My mistake.

In parting, I give my American readers 10 reasons to dump George W. Bush. So get to it so we can start the process of dumping on President Kerry.

Saturday July 10, 2004

"We can confirm the Irish Embassy in Washington received an official complaint about the [Coleman-Bush] interview." -The Irish Examiner


So I saw the movie. Here's what I thought:

  • The neocons kept saying "Saddam and Al Qaeda", "Al Qaeda and Saddam", Saddam-Al Qaeda-Saddam, etc., until the malleable public started to perceive a non-existent connection between the two, just as the disingenuous White House pricks intended. Michael Moore keeps saying "Bush and bin Laden", "bin Laden and Bush", etc., to garner the same reaction. While Moore's got a lot more facts on his side than the neocons did, the mischievous nature of his approach is comparable to that of the neocons, and I really don't appreciate it. I obviously have no respect for the Shrub and his junior shrublings, but Moore's conspiratorial tone was too much even for me.

    It's a shame he went the bin Laden-Bush route. As Eric Margolis pointed out, Moore would have done a better public good had he used the film to more thoroughly spell out the neocon's untruthful selling of the "threat" of Iraq. The facts for such a film would be pretty hard to dispute. Instead, Moore obsesses far too long on the business connections between the Bushes and the bin Ladens --connections which are interesting, but which are possibly meaningless and which are unlikely to mean much to the heartland American who can't tell Saudis from Pakistanis.

  • If you've seen any coverage of this film at all in the media, then you've already seen the film. Really, all the key bits have already been played on television. So you won't be surprised by any of the footage. Except....

  • You might have heard people talking about it, but the 7 minutes of Bush doing nothing after being told his country was under attack really was something to behold. It was tainted by Moore's narration, which I felt to be misinterpretive. In my view, Bush wasn't thinking, "I wonder which of my oil buddies is responsible for this", but rather, "Daddy? What am I supposed to do? Daddy?" (Aside: I can forgive a man for being in momentary shock. But seven minutes?! Why didn't his aides pull him away?)

  • Some of the footage was unfair. Make-up scenes of Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell and Wolfowitz getting ready before a TV stint makes them look like preening stars. But anyone who's ever been on TV knows that that's part of the ritual. Genghis Khan would have looked ridiculous in such a setting.

  • Blaming Faux News for leading the media to change their Gore-positive election predictions to Bush-positive ones? Please. There are lots of reasons to distrust Faux News, but that's not one of them.

  • I would have really appreciated seeing a serious rebuttal from someone from the Dark Side. At least in Bowling For Columbine, Moore got an interview with Chuck Heston. I'm sure David Frum would have loved to have been interviewed for the movie. After all, his 15 minutes ran out a long time ago (though he'll always have a job humping on celebrity-desperate Canadian TV).

  • I am, on balance, opposed to the Afghan invasion, since it was a murderous and ultimately unproductive act of retribution, and not an efficient, forward-looking piece of constructive foreign policy. But I can certainly see many rational arguments in favour of that war, so I choose not to preach about it from my virtual pulpit. In my opinion, Moore is therefore on shaky ground when he implies that the sole reason for the Afghan war was the building of Unocal's gas pipeline to the Caspian basin. As I've contended before on this site, the pipeline is the reason for the sustained occupation of Afghanistan, and not necessarily of the invasion per se.

So what's he verdict? Moore's film is essentially the liberal response --unfortunately, in kind-- to 4 years of conservative truth bending and public manipulation. I guess it's supposed to help even the ground, now that "both sides" are armed with propagandist techniques and bile (the latter of which used to be a sole rightist possession). Maybe so. But I fear that American society is now irretrievably tainted; there is no one in the mainstream media willing or able to "tell it straight." And Canada can't be far behind.

But, in the interests of getting the nuclear button away from the thumbs of a retarded man-chimp, I would think it a good thing if anyone who has not educated himself about the facts of Bush presidency (i.e., clearly not anyone reading this website!) chooses to go see it.

"Brando was absurdly beautiful and massively talented and grandly weird." -Johanna Schneller

The same can be said of my beloved uncle, Bhanu Benjamin Persaud, who passed away six days after Brando and of the same ailment: idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. RIP to both.

Thursday July 8, 2004

"We will not hesitate to discredit you." -Dick Cheney to Hans Blix, as the latter set out to inspect Iraq's WMDs

So the administration was not applying pressure to find reasons to invade Iraq? Hmm.

On an entirely different topic (well, not really), accomplished historian Niall Ferguson has a new book out, Colossus: the Price of American Empire, in which he claims:

"Many parts of the world would benefit from a period of American rule. [The US should abandon] informal empire [and assert] direct rule [over countries which] require the imposition of some kind of external authority".

In many ways, that's not an unreasonable suggestion. One of my problems with the American hegemon is its hypocrisy, its overwhelming dominance coupled with its self-denial and victim persona. Shed the false cloaks already and play the empire you already are. Ferguson's old college housemate, George Monbiot, responds with this:

"Unaccountable power requires a justifying myth, and the US government might just be dumb enough to believe the one that Niall has sought to revive"

What myth? The same one embraced by the British Empire in its heydey: that selfish grabs for power are in fact altruistic attempts to better the lives of its conquered peoples. Iraqi "sovereignty" comes to mind.

Meanwhile Irish reporter Carol Coleman apparently gave President Bush a hard time in a recent TV interview. The White House is responding childishly, with official complaints to the Irish government and attempted censure of Coleman. The docile US media has given its national leaders a free pass on the tough questions for so long now that the first sign of backbone from a real journalist brings out the true reactionary, spiteful and petty nature of the administration.

Judge for yourself. Read the transcript or listen to the audio or even watch the video.

The shallowness continues. The New Republic is reporting that Bush officials are pressuring the Pakistanis to deliver Osama bin Laden before the November elections, preferably timed to coincide with the Democratic National Convention. Everything these people do is political; nothing is done solely for the betterment of the American people or the world. If bin Laden can be captured according to an imposed timetable, why hasn't he been brought in yet?

If the story is indeed true, and if the right wing lurkers reading this (and there are many) don't find such a campaign tactic revolting, then I am sadly convinced that a good half of our society is both morally bankrupt and functionally insane.

On a personal note, I just bought me an inversion table. Soon I won't be crotchety anymore.... I'll be upside down and crotchety!

Also, I'll be seeing Centigrade 488.3 tonight, and will dutifully report back with a review.

Sunday July 4, 2004

Happy 228th birthday to the giant nation to our south. You know, in the two years when I lived there, I never spent the 4th of July in the heart of the behemoth, Washington, DC. Don't really regret it, since I imagine DC on the 4th is a security nightmare. On the flipside, Ottawa on Canada Day is a hickfest. Every mouth-breather in a 50 mile radius of the city converges here and renders (what passes for) the downtown core into a menage of vomit, garbage, "Doppler dudes" (you know, those guys who scream from moving cars, oblivious to the fact that the Doppler Effect makes their words even more unintelligible) and the occasional bared titty.

Speaking of the latter, I did witness a particularly poignant Canadian scene in the Byward Market on Canada Night. There were women with bared and painted breasts hanging 'em out for all to see, yet they failed to attract a crowd. A few metres over, however, the line-up for beaver tails (those deep-fried sugary treats) was a hundred deep.

Conclusion: In Ottawa, deep-fried fat trumps nippled fat.

Last night, I threw my very first party in Ottawa. First of many, I think. Here's a photo from the festivities. Yes, Chez Wat is gyno-friendly. Never forget the truest addage of party hosting: invite the women and the men will follow.

So I still haven't got that Japanese anime series/movies/manga Evangelion out of my head. I've downloaded the entire soundtrack, and this morning I watched both feature length movies again. Don't be mislead by the cutesy animation: this stuff is deep, moving and gripping, and definitely not for kids. Heck, the final movie opens with its 14 year old male protagonist pleasuring himself over the bare-breasted comatose body of his co-worker, and ends with him making love to a teenage clone of his own mother. Calling Dr. Freud... Hello!

Now comes word that a live-action version of Evangelion is being filmed in New Zealand by the same team that realized The Lord of the Rings. I really hope that they don't dumb it down for the Western audience. The series, as is, was a smash popular hit in Japan, so clearly the material is accessible to the masses. And I hope they retain the haunting incidental score.

Lastly, R.I.P. Marlon Brando (1924-2004), a figure who's fascinated me for some time. My own dashing father, only a few years younger than Brando, was quite taken by how handsome Brando was in his youth. The lesson: any one of us pretty boys (ahem) can become a heaving sack of human lard given sufficient time and excess. And that kind of fat is neither deep-fried nor nippled.

Thursday July 1, 2004

Bush quote #1:

"[If elected], Governor Bush will work to.establish mandatory reduction targets for emissions of four main pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and carbon dioxide." [Bush Environmental Plan, 9/29/00]

Bush quote #2:

"I do not believe, however, that the government should impose on power plants mandatory emissions reductions for carbon dioxide, which is not a 'pollutant'." [President Bush, Letter to Sen. Chuck Hagel, 3/13/03]

Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!

Happy Canada Day. Indeed, today is the 137th birthday of the official dominion of the nation of Canada. It used to be called Dominion Day in my youth, which really pleased the local grocery chain that was also named Dominion. Today is also the 400th anniversary of Champlain's arrival in Canada. So the French, ever the Canada Day poopers, have a reason to celebrate today, too.

Being in Ottawa for Canada Day is a unique experience. I got up early, went for a run along the canal, a swim in my building's rooftop pool, watched the Governor General's speech on TV, then cycled down to the Parliament Building to watch the official festivities. Fifteen minutes later, I was bored out of my gourd, and quickly came home to update this website instead.

Today is also the birthday of my grandmother, whose age is unknown to me. Guess I'd better make a phone call.

I'd really like to follow up on the comments made Tuesday about the inaccuracies of political polling. But a statistician friend is preparing his own op-ed on the issue, and I will wait for his more lucid and informed analysis, which I hope he will allow me to publish in The Podium.

Speaking of which, my secondary site got an unexpected plug yesterday when The Ottawa Citizen published my porn article. Seems they included mention of The Podium and my latest novel at the bottom of the article. Now let's sit back and wait for the hate mail.

Since we're on about newspapers and Canada, let's touch a bit more on the election, shall we? Haroon Siddiqui mirrored my own conclusions about the "splitting" of the vote on the left in this article. The same piece provides the following apt quote about the true source of Canadian's distrust of Stephen Harper:

" The issue was never that Canadians did not know Harper. They knew him only too well. His vision was crystal clear: remaking Canada in the American image, with lower taxes, smaller government, fewer services but a more muscular army and perhaps higher deficits and debts; stronger provinces at the expense of Ottawa; populist free votes and referenda, the antithesis of parliamentary democracy; politicization of the courts; and general obeisance to America."

I recently finished watching all 26 episodes (and 2 feature length movies) of the classic Japanese anime show, Neon Genesis: Evangelion. I can't get the show, it's complex characters, unique Japanese sensibility, psycho-religious themes, gripping plot and kick-ass music out of my head. Highly recommended for those of you who like this sort of thing.

One last bit of random news. Remember the magical ingler Washingtonienne? Well, Wonkette is reporting that the buggered intern is receiving $300K for a book deal. Interesting: getting a few twenties for the occasional pegging is labelled by some as prostitution. Getting mega bucks to talk about said pegging is just good ol' commerce. If only somebody would pay me $300K for my blog!

I leave you with two more contradictory Bush quotes:

"I want justice. And there's an old poster out West, I recall, that says, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive.'" [President Bush, on Osama Bin Laden, 09/17/01]


"I don't know where [Osama] is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him. I truly am not that concerned about him." [President Bush, Press Conference, 3/13/02]

Tuesday June 29, 2004

I called it: a Liberal minority government. No great feat there, as pretty much everyone else was making the same prediction a few hours before the election polls closed. A question which will obsess the media for a few days, though, is why the surveys were so misleading. The surveys, you see, predicted a neck-and-neck race between the Liberals and Conservatives. I think the short answer is that surveys purport to measure attitudes and voting intentions, which do not necessarily translate into numbers of seats won. There's also the question of the applicability of the telephone mode to political content; it may introduce a larger bias than previously suspected.

Whatever. At the end of the day, the country breathes a sigh of relief because the "Republican party of Canada" was denied power. Where many analysts saw widening support for the Conservative agenda, I saw something else: in almost every riding in the nation, the left wing vote greatly outnumbered the right wing vote. The left vote is unfortunately split, though, between the Liberal, NDP and Green parties. Our flawed electoral system gives the faulty impression that the Conservative undercurrent is stronger than it actually is. And that gives me hope! Harper and his band of northern Texans really are out of touch with the values and attitudes of most Canadians.

How about you? Take the Are You A Neocon quiz and find out! According to the quiz, I'm a "liberal." Surprise, surprise.

Here's something new. There's a book called The Obesity Myth, which claims that (North) Americans have been sold a big fat lie about the dangers of obesity. The author, a lawyer named Paul Campos, contends that the association between obesity and mortality is overstated, and that the need for slimming is therefore not as great as the media would have us believe.

It's an interesting point of view, and I'll have to crunch some numbers before I give an "official" response. I did work on obesity for the NIH for a couple of years. The scientific concensus is that:

  • The overweight epidemic in the USA is real (i.e., there are many more fat people than there have been in the past)
  • The obesity epidemic is also real, depending on how one defines obese
  • There is a consistent statistical association between overweight and a host of adverse health outcomes, most notably type 2 diabetes

The author's point is that the link between obesity and death by heart disease and cancer is not solid. I'm not sure about this, but it might be a valid observation. Moreover, he states that being active is more important than losing weight. This is very much true, if you're talking solely about heart disease. Judging from the interview, he tends to gloss over the threat posed by diabetes.

Anyway, it's something to think about. And since I'm supposed to be the great champion of evidence-based policy, I have to give Campos's thesis some consideration before trashing it out of hand.

In Bush news, the Americans have handed over "sovereignty" to the Iraqis 2 days early. As the mighty Wonkette put it: "You can just hear Bush telling [the new Iraqi leader]: 'Really, it's never happened with any other country. I've just been so tense lately...'"

Monday June 28, 2004

"I have often said that history is a lot scarier than Stephen King's horror stories. I get scared every time I hear Bush talk — or try to talk." -Charley Reese

Speaking of the would-be boy emperor, apparently photographers in Ireland got a photo of Herr Bush in his skivvies. In the immortal words of the mighty Wonkette: "Too bad that from this angle, you can't see Dick Cheney lying back on the bed, smoking a cigarette."

While it is more than appropriate to target the Shrub as a semi-illiterate friend of the elite, it's also important to note that his nominal opponent, John Kerry, is enormously wealthier than anyone in the Bush clan. In fact, if elected, Kerry would be the wealthiest President in US history. So regardless of who wins in the Fall, political power in the USA will remain in the hands of the financial overlords.

In other news:

  • A flight attendant has made a false bomb threat against an airliner. Everyone seems to be tripping over himself to explain her behaviour as "stress induced". Had she been of Arab extraction, wanna bet she'd be in Guantanamo by now?
  • While the world continues its obsession with the Middle East, the US federal election, Reagan's death, Clinton's book, Kobe Bryant and European football, we should not forget that other parts of the world continue to suffer unimaginable horrors which, had they occurred in Western nations, would dominate the headlines for years. Uganda is such a place.
  • Speaking of unimaginable horrors, David Lee Roth is training to be an EMT.
  • One should never confuse Andy Sullivan --who's a nice reporter fellow in Washington, DC-- with Andrew Sullivan, who's a gay conservative.

And oh yes, that other thing that's happening today in Canada.... The federal election!

The clock winds down on perhaps the most unprofessional federal campaign in Canadian history, with the polls showing the Liberals and Conservatives in a dead heat. It's an odd situation, really. In my mind, Canada really only has two national parties: the Liberals and the NDP. The Bloc exists only in Quebec (which goes to show you how disproportionately Quebec enjoys federal influence, that they can have a powerful federal presence based solely upon seats within in the province) and the Conservatives are essentially an Alberta presence with a few tendrils in Ontario and the Maritimes. For this reason and others (most notably Canadians' growing realization of the facade of Stephen Harper), I officially predict a minority Liberal government of about 120 seats.

While keeping the Conservatives away from power is a good thing, I wonder whether the situation is all that good for Canada. Minority governments are short-lived and castrated. They spend so much energy clinging to power by negotiating coalitions that they rarely have any to spare for true policy innovation. In many ways, it's better to be the opposition. So no matter what happens today, Paul Martin is in for a very hard year.

A reminder to my friends in Winnipeg: I will be reading/singing there on July 19th! So keep that evening free!

Friday June 25, 2004

Hmmm, so it seems that the Bush administration's claim of a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq may be due to a confusion over a name. Ahmad Hikmat Shakir Azzawi is a low level member of Al Qaeda. But Hikmat Shakir Ahmad is a Lt. Colonel in Saddam's army. Not the same guy. Insert your own joke here.

Well, when next I update this site, Canada will be going to the voting booth. And what a wacky campaign it has been. Though the Liberals started out with a seemingly unassailable majority, it now seems likely that we will have either a Conservative or Liberal minority government. If the latter, expect a coalition with the NDP and/or Bloc Quebecois. If the former, expect a vote of no confidence in less than 6 months, since there is no common ideological ground between the Conservatives and any other party.... except that it's in the Bloc's interests to avoid another election at all costs, so they may support whichever party forms the government.

The Liberals' major blunder, aside from years of corruption and arrogance, was misidentifying the issue of importance. All the polls say that Canadians care the most about health care. But health care is not the main election issue, since no one seriously believes any of the major parties has substantially differing platforms with respect to health care. The Conservatives, on the other hand, got the issue bang on: acountability and honesty. However, they failed to point out how they are any more accountable or honest than the Liberals. And the NDP? To be honest, I'm not entirely clear on what they stand for anymore, at least to the extent that their policies are significantly different from those of the Liberals.

See, my American readers, aren't Canadian politics so much more interesting? NOT.

Still, I suppose I have to give a prediction, so here it is: a minority Conservative government. Or a minority Liberal government. Aw heck, let's go out on a limb: a minority NDP government!

So, remember my pornography article? As I mentioned, it was sold to The Ottawa Citizen. However, The Toronto Star had also wanted it, and I'm kicking myself for not better anticipating its demand. So I've written follow-up article, and The Toronto Star has agreed to publish this one next week after the elections. Thanks again to Deonandan.com readers Mischa, Matt and Neil for their editorial input. (NB: editorial input gets you gratitude but no cash. Sorry.)

Mischa had asked about the mechanics of freelancing for Canadian newspapers. Here's how it works. Everyone says to query the editor first, by firing a quick email, phone call or fax to him or her; this way you don't waste time writing an article until you're sure it has a home. In my experience, though, it's best to write the dang thing and then try to find a home for it. Why? Because opeds are written from a place of passion and urgency. Get it on paper first, with all its immediate passionate content, then worry about selling it later. If you can't find a home for it, send it to The Podium. Those losers will publish anything!

Most papers in Canada pay a flat fee for oped-length submissions, usually $150-$250. The Citizen pays $250 for a comment piece of about 900 words, plus $20 for each CanWest paper that picks it up. The Globe pays about $500 for a feature of 1500-2000 words; that's about as high as it gets in Canada. What they buy is "first serial rights", which means they get the right to publish it first before anyone else, plus they retain the right to reprint it anytime they want (while paying you a token fee for the reprint, like CanWest's $20); but actual ownership of the article remains with you, the author. Once it's published the first time, you're free to peddle it elsewhere, so long as you offer full disclosure of its publication history; it's unlikely that The Citizen, for example, will want an article you've already sold to The Star. Beware of publications which buy "all rights" or "full rights" from you.

Editors tend to be pretty reasonable. I've had articles on websites like Rabble and Dooney's Cafe, and in foreign magazines like India Currents Magazine, which have been picked up by a Canadian newspaper as a "first rights" acquisition, since by their reckoning the earlier publication did not overlap their market. Quite a civilized perspective, I think.

I seem to recall having signed letters of agreement with all three papers --The Star, The Citizen and The Globe -- many years ago. That letter may have specified the freelance agreement, but I don't really recall. Technically, I suppose no formal agreement has been made until the article appears in the paper. Until then, theoretically, you're free to sell it to someone else. But this would not be good form, and I do not recommend you do this. In my case, I approached The Star first with my porn article, and they expressed interest but made no commitment. I waited two days then sold it to The Citizen, only to find out that The Star had already reserved space for it! So communication is critical, especially if yours is a timely article that you need to get out fast.

So if you have an oped boiling inside of you, visit my links page and scroll to the bottom. There you will find a list of email addresses of major world newspapers, to which you can ship off your article. Good luck!

Wednesday June 23, 2004

"The biggest single problem the federal government has is its hypocrisy. It talks one way and acts another. It talks of spreading democracy while supporting dictators; it blathers about human rights while violating them; and it claims to promote the rule of law while scoffing at laws it considers inconvenient." -Charley Reese

Memo to Ray Bradbury, who is still pissed at Michael Moore for cribbing the name of Moore's film, Fahrenheit 9/11 from Bradbury's classic, Fahrenheit 451:

  1. Remember Shakespeare? He's the one who first wrote, "Something Wicked This Way Comes."
  2. Remember Walt Whitman? He's the one who first wrote, "I Sing The Body Electric".

So shut up already.

(This is not necessarily an endorsement of Michael Moore, by the way. As a Salon reader once put it, Moore is the Rush Limbaugh of the Left: if you agree with him, he's a god; if you don't, he's a fact-distorting blowhard.)

You know, a lot of people think it, and some whisper it, but few actually write it. Sheila Williams, in this article, finally puts it on the line and draws a connection between Stephen Harper, Alberta, cowboys, Texas and George Bush. It's not the best argument, but if you feel like some good ol' fashioned Texas bashing, have a read.

Speaking of Americans and Canadian federal politics, syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage has officially endorsed the Liberal party. I think he thinks Canada is a two party system.

And speaking of poorly informed journalists, this freelancer has just sold his pornography article to the Ottawa Citizen. Thanks to the Deonandan.com readers who made editorial suggestions. (No, I will not be sharing the fee.) I'll let you all know the publication date once I find out.

(FYI, the The Toronto Star had also expressed interest, but election coverage prevented them from having enough space for the article. Guess we tapped into a hot topic. Now let's see how much hate mail I get.)

***UPDATE*** (Thursday, July 24) - The Toronto Star has just offered to publish it in tomorrow's edition! D'ohhh! But I've already given my word to The Citizen. Oh well. On the plus side, perhaps it's best not to have my home town see my name associated with pornography.

Monday June 21, 2004

Today we take a break from international politics. (It's true, there are things happening in other places than Iraq!)

I saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban this weekend. So far it's the best movie of the year. I encourage all of you to see it, even if you haven't seen the first two.

Last night, I (illegaly) downloaded and watched Michael Moore's Oscar-winner, Bowling For Columbine. I really really really wanted to love it, since it confirms most of my stereotypes about the world and about the USA in particular. But the film makes far too many spurious links and conclusions for my tastes, with more than a touch of disingenuousness. So while it's an enjoyable film, I wouldn't suggest that it's particularly insightful or, indeed, factual. But it's a lot of fun.

I'm told Fahrenheit 9/11 is much better. So I'm looking forward to it, especially since the right wing attack machine has already started its approach.

Well, I hemmed and hawed about doing it, but I finally took the plunge. I wrote this article about pornography. Specifically, it's about Canadian society's present overreaction to pornography. I've made the dangerous move of conflating adult with child pornography, even though I recognize that they are separate industries and, indeed, moral paradigms. But there's only so much space. Now I must see if I can find a home for the article. Do feel free to comment.

Friday June 18, 2004

"When America puts out its annual report on human rights abuses, we will be a laughingstock. I suggest a special commission headed by Sen. John McCain to dig out everyone responsible, root and branch. If the lawyers don't cooperate, perhaps we should try stripping them, anally raping them and dunking their heads under water until they think they're drowning, and see if that helps." -Molly Ivins

And so we begin. Today is another random observation day....

As you may have noted, I really like quoting Ron Reagan, Jr. He used to have his own TV show in the early 90s. It was actually pretty good, sort of a less cynical Daily show. Anyway, here is a nice little story about Ron, Jr.

Speaking of people named Ronald Reagan, I'm continuing my policy of not commenting on him or his reign directly. Instead, I offer this story.

So, the 9/11 Commission has officially concluded that there were never any links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. But earlier this week, Dick Cheney was still asserting "long-established ties" between the Iraqi leader and the terrorist group. And Bush? He stands by Cheney, citing the name of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to support his claim, though there is zero evidence of any collaboration between al-Zarqaqi and Saddam. How these liars continue to get away with it is beyond me.... and they will continue to get away with it. As < A HREF="http://www.reason.com/hitandrun/005665.shtml#005665" target=_new>Tim Cavanaugh puts it:

"It doesn't matter how much gas costs, how poorly things are going in Iraq, what new torture memos surface, or whether there are new terror attacks inside our borders. John Kerry hasn't got a whore's chance in a convent, Bush is going to kick his ass all over the United States, and when we see the results in November, the idea that anybody ever thought Kerry had a prayer will seem as quaint and absurd as the brief flurry of 'excitement' for Dukakis (or was it Kakdukis?) back in Old '88."

In furtherance of the so-called "Global War On Terror" (GWOT), the US military is diminishing its traditional Cold War era bases in Europe, South Korea and Japan and are building smaller "lily pad" bases across the world, ostensibly to allow faster deployment to areas of terror-related unrest. Sounds reasonable on its face, except that scrutiny reveals that these new bases are also positioned adjacent to key oil deposits around the world. Coincidence? You tell me. And do remember to forget that the new bases in Iraq sit atop the 2nd largest oil reserves in the world, and that the new bases in Afghanistan sit atop the largest untapped reservoir of oil in the world: the legendary Caspian Basin.

At this point, I think it's responsible to point not that not all Republicans are evil. Indeed, some of them are just unrealistic.

"An open society cannot last if office-seekers lie, deceive and pursue hidden agendas. An open society cannot succeed if, generation by generation, the people grow more ignorant. An open society cannot succeed if the press is more interested in propaganda, gossip and entertainment than it is in the pursuit of truth." -Charley Reese

Bless you, Mr. Reese; you know of what you speak. He provides another great quote here:

"Two American political myths are about to collide with reality. One myth is that economies can continue to grow indefinitely. The other is that we can find a substitute for petroleum."

Is the GWOT and the fiasco in Iraq all about petroleum? Not entirely. But you're in deep denial if you don't think our addiction to oil is not a major force directing the foreign policies of all the world's great powers, most notably the superpower. Prisoner abuse scandals, lying about reasons for going to war, beheading Americans, torturing combatants-- these are all important things, but are historical footnotes to the real trend before us: civilization's desperate need to secure sources of energy.

An important first step toward true freedom --intellectual freedom-- is the confrontation of liars. At last, a triumph: the British office of communications has officially censured Faux News for a recent disingenuous report. Ha!

But how can we have Reese's open society without open government? Can you believe that US Congress is still waiting for Rumsfeld's people to provide the complete Abu Ghraib abuse report? When is this man not in contempt? Do note that the Right often complains that the "liberal" media are prolonging the life of the abuse scandal well past its natural point of media expiry. But it's not the "liberal media" who are withholding documents, effectively prolonging the issue and maintaining its front page status.

"The biggest bombs in [the Abu Ghraib] case have yet to be dropped." -Scott Horton, the former chairman of the New York Bar Association and Pentagon legal advisor

I'm afraid of what those "bombs" are. Meanwhile, at the same time military police were allegedly abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, Rumsfeld ordered that one Iraqi prisoner be held 'off the books' -- hidden entirely from the Red Cross and anyone else. This from the same man who complained that, during the war, the Iraqis were violating the Geneva Conventions by showing images of captured US soldiers. The right wing hypocrisy machine knows no shame.

And let us not forget that Rumsfeld's people maintain a network of illegal secret prisons around the world. Given the revelations at Abu Ghraib, the imagination recoils at what is possibly happening in such places. Who, again, are the masters of terror?

Meanwhile, the June 30th deadline for "Iraqi sovereignty" approaches. As has been repeated on this site, there is no real sovereignty so long as the new Iraqi government remains unable to order a foreign military off of its soil. But here's a twist. According to international law and the Geneva Conventions, upon nominal reassertion of Iraqi rule, all POWs must be released. And who is a POW? Saddam Hussein. The Bushies named him thus in order to engage in some legal acrobatics. Then again, why expect them to follow international law now? They haven't in the past.

Apropos of nothing, here is a story about the high prevalence of birth deformities in Vietnam, which might be linked to the US use of Agent Orange in the early 1970s. Expect a similar story twenty years from now, when a generation of affected kids grow to adulthood, after having been conceived in a desert of depleted uranium. Biological warfare, anyone? DU should be banned. It's sad that this is not obvious.

Want to know what a tough S.O.B. is? This guy sure qualifies.

And here is a new review of Desilicious, that book of erotic literature to which I am a contributor. Ta-ta for now!

Wednesday June 15, 2004

"What's [George W. Bush's] accomplishment? That he's no longer an obnoxious drunk?" -Ronald Reagan, Jr., 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadephia

Got back today from the national Book Expo in Toronto. It's a major book fair attended by authors, publishers and --most importantly-- booksellers. I signed some books and had a great radio/TV interview which was simulcast live to scores of independent outlets across the country. The woman who had been slotted to interview me --and hence had read my book-- was not there. So instead, I was interviewed by Canadian boxing contender, Wendy Broad, who unfortunately had not read the book. Still, faking it was a uniquely surreal moment.

While it was fun bumping into my author friends Allan Stratton, Brian Panhuyzen and Maggie Wood, as well as scores of acquaintances in the industry, for me the highlight was discovering the audition booth for Canadian Idol. Yes, I lined up to sing my bit, but was called away to sign books before I got a chance to sing. Good thing, too, since the fellow in front of me blew the house down with his angelic voice.

Photos are forthcoming.

One last thing about literary matters: the first review of Divine Elemental is out. You can read it here.

On to domestic matters.... tonight was the English language debate between the leaders of Canada's four federal parties. I missed it. But I did catch the French debate the night before. And I'm scared. I'm scared that Stephen Harper and his band of northern neocon lites may actually convince the Canadian public to hand them a mandate.

Now, I and my family have traditionally voted NDP for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that we have always lived in ridings represented by strong, visionary NDP candidates. But as much as I admire Jack Layton, I must admit to perceiving a bit of malaise where the party is concerned. I see no unique vision, even with the return of party legend Ed Broadbent.

What does this mean? I don't know. My loyalties are unclear. Canadian politics aren't as polarizing as American politics (which is ironic since US presidential candidates rarely manage to distinguish themselves from each other, in terms of policy, during the campaign phase). I do know this: I don't trust Stephen Harper. I don't believe that he and his cadre have any true faith in Canadian abilities or institutions, and I believe, if handed a mandate, he will move quickly to promote more foreign (i.e., American) ownership of Canadian interests, more transfer of public responsibilities into private hands, more coddling of business interests before citizenry, and a rapid slide towards the adoption of increasingly conservative moral policies.

And so my ideal outcome is a minority Liberal government formed through majority coalition with the NDP. And this outcome is becoming increasingly more possible with every day that passes.

Last time, I mentioned Ontario's flirtation with Muslim sharia law. Well, the issue is not so cut and dried as my flippantly brief analysis might have suggested. The great Haroon Siddiqui sets us straight on the issue here and here.

That's all I got today. I leave you with a link to my photographer friend Lauren's online portfolio.

Friday June 11, 2004

"Facts are stupid things." -Ronald Reagan, 1988

I'm (so far) sticking to my pledge not to criticize Reagan directly. Instead, I will simply link to this article which looks unfavourably upon that thing we have chosen to call "Reaganomics."

Today is random topic day. Let's begin....

"The people there hate us, which is why they gave [Michael Moore] the [Palme] d'Or. It's a meaningless prize." -Ray Bradbury

Now, Bradbury is one of the favourite science fiction writers of my youth, and it's understandable that he's upset that Michael Moore has seemingly stolen the title of his book Farenheit 451 for Moore's new film, Farenheit 9/11. But to claim that the Palm d'Or is meaningless? Tsk tsk. (For the record, the Cannes jury is made up of an international panel, not just Frenchmen.)

It seems that Rumsfeld may have ordered the torture of John Walker Lindh. I'll say this for the neocons: at least they're not racist. Their evil bullsh!t applies evenly to Muslims of all skin colour.

But wait, their evil is insidious! After years of failing to push PBS off the government payroll and off the air, the Right has changed tactics and is now moving to control the content of the public broadcaster. Pretty soon Elmo will be praising Jesus and Cookie Monster will be eating Muslims. Big Bird is toast, the big queer.

This is a weird story: Afghan children are being murdered and their organs harvested for sale. By some strange convolutions, this horrific activity is being conflated with Al Qaeda and terrorism. Memo to the media: we already get the message that terrorists are bad; there's no need to do further yogic contortions to link murder-for-profit with 9/11.

Speaking of weirdness, the Ontario court appears to be about to allow Sharia (Muslim law) to be practised in the province. This is a bad, bad mistake. I argue for the rights of Muslims on this site because I believe in the unnegotiable rights of everyone in a free society, regardless of circumstance. But those rights are made possible and potent because they exist beneath a secular, singular --and mostly fair-- judicial umbrella. One set of laws for everyone, regardless of class, sex, race or citizenship: this is the credo of democratic society.

Meanwhile, in case anyone was still wondering, Bush is nuts.

Dawn sends in this game to play with the whole family. It's Republican Survivor!

Remember... I'll be at Book Expo in Toronto this weekend. Hope to see you industry types there. And for you literary fans in Winterpeg, I'll be doing a thang at McNally Robinson bookstore on July 19th! Do come out... there'll be free booze!

Wednesday June 9, 2004

"The human race consists mostly of idiots, with a scattering of wise people. The problem with political systems is that most make it difficult to put the wise few in the positions of power. Thus, for the most part, in every generation the world is ruled by idiots, some of whom have criminal minds." -Charley Reese

Speaking of idiots, check out the latest from the Queen of All Idiots, Ann Coulter:

"The invasion of Iraq has gone fabulously well, exceeding everyone's expectations."

I suppose that's true if "everyone's expectations" included thousands of Americans dead and millions of Iraqis dead, instead of the actual hundreds and tens of thousands respectively. How anyone can continue to take this woman seriously is beyond me.

Some have noted that I have refrained from commenting (directly, at least) on the legacy of Ronald Reagan. I'm not a big fan of p!ssing on the dead, especially when there are more gripping current events to discuss. But the hero worship in the US media and on some blogs is starting to grate on me, and I'm not sure how much longer I can restrain myself. Until my head finally explodes, I'll just link to this scathing criticism of Reagan by Christopher Hitchens, who struggles to regain his lost leftist credibility.

But today I want to return our attention to the climate change debate. Always, the rightists claim that scientists are "divided on the issue." To support this claim, they often cite a widely circulated 1997 article from The Wall Street Journal which, on its face, looks like compelling evidence for the denial of climate change, especially since it seems to have the backing of a long list of scientific signatories.

The WSJ never looked into who the authors (Robinson & Robinson) were, though. They are a father-son team who constitute a uncertified research insitute which appears to me to be nothing more than a front for a home-schooling business. The senior Robinson was once a colleague of the late, great two-time Nobel prizewinning chemist Linus Pauling. Pauling and Robinson disassociated themselves from each other, each casting doubts on the other's scientific skills and approaches. These points, of course, do not in themselves deny the legitimacy of the WSJ article, since it is entirely possible that Robinson was the better scientist than Pauling (though doubtful), and it is entirely possible that Robinson's home-schooling centre, the "Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine," can actually produce good scientific work.

What is important to note is that:

  • The research upon which the WSJ article is based was not published in any known scientific journal;
  • The research was not peer-reviewed, and therefore not vetted for errors before entering the public forum;
  • The Robinson paper masquerades as an official product of the National Academy of Sciences and the Robinsons have since received official censure from the NAS because of this;
  • The article is debunked in many other articles such as this one, and discussed critically in online forums such as this one; and, most telling...
  • A response letter from top world scientists, including one from NASA, was denied publication in WSJ for reasons unknown.

A final damning note to this story is that the Robinsons started an online petition to encourage like-minded scientists to throw their support against the Kyoto Accords. Their list of names was substantial and impressive, and has since served as the sole source of evidence for the corporate apologist claim that "scientists are divided on the issue."

First, the petition is evidence that some scientists are opposed specifically to the Kyoto Accords, and not to the theory of Climate Change; it is possible to accept the science without supporting the proposed political solution. Get the difference? Moreover, scrutiny has revealed a large portion of the names to be either faked (i.e., celebrity or fictional character names) or those of undergraduate students. As a guage of the attitude of the "scientific community", then, I submit that the petition is useless.

Despite these incredible flaws, the Robinson paper persists as the main scientific weapon used by the energy industrialists to bludgeon the supporters of climate change policy initiatives. The lesson here is to critically appraise every scientific study used to argue a policy point. How?

  • Are the results reproducible? That is, have other experimentalists made similar conclusions?
  • Is the report peer-reviewed? If not, why?
  • What is the opposing viewpoint and who holds it?
  • Might the author have a hidden agenda, such as loyalty to a funding source?
  • Does the author have the necessary training and experience to appreciate his findings? If not, what are the opinions of those who do?
  • Do not be afraid to let a study question your assumptions about the world, but remember that common sense is a virtue.

Taken in isolation, any one of the points above does not disqualify a study. But taken in toto, they provide an effective framework for assessing research. In these times of diminishing scientific literacy and an accelerating demand for scientific evidence to underpin policy decisions, it is imperative that each of us learn to recognize junk science when we see it.

Monday June 7, 2004

"Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do." -- Ronald Reagan, 1981

And so we mourn the passing of possibly the most overrated US President in living history (though JFK comes close on that count). I will say only this on the passing of the Gipper: his upcoming funeral will be a security nightmare.

We begin today's random blather with a quote from Eric Margolis:

"Two acid tests will determine whether any Iraqi regime is truly sovereign and independent of U.S. control: The ability to order all U.S. forces out of Iraq; and reaffirmation of Iraq's active support of the Palestinian cause... Anything less means Iraq remains an American colony, the administration's fancy double-talk notwithstanding. "

He describes the new Iraq puppet regime this way:

"The result: Iraq's new regime, installed under the guns of U.S. tanks, makes the former Soviet Union's Eastern European satellite states look like paragons of unfettered independence."

I'd posted some weeks ago that I would go on record with my solution for Iraq. Well, here it is: after creating a separate "special international zone" for the Kurds, negotiate a pan-Arab occupation force to replace the Americans and Brits, with a UN mandate to create a truly sovereign indigenous government by the end of the year. Why would Arab countries go along with this plan? Because, as payment, the Americans would give them the billions they are currently expending in Iraq and agree to dismantle all US military bases in Iraq and withdraw all American business interests. Sound unfair? In both the long- and short-run, it would cost less in both treasure and lives and go a long way toward earning some good will in the Middle East. Of course, you run the risk of allowing a fundamentalist government to set up shop in Baghdad... but that, my friend, is the price of free choice.

Until then, the horrors in Iraq continue. Episodes of severe abuse and even rape by US soldiers are being reported. As I've said before, these are war crimes and should be called such. This is a direct result of attitudes of the administration, voiced so well by Alberto Gonzales, White House counsel, in a 2002 memo to The Shrub:

"The war on terrorism, 'in my judgment, renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners.'"

The right wing attack machine strikes again. This cartoon is kind of funny. But it is symptomatic of the recent spate of seemingly organized attacks against Al Gore, claiming his recent New York speech to be "insane". Judge for yourself. The speech is here. Sounds pretty sane to me.

'Cause remember: You might be a right winger if... you're pro-life, pro-death penalty and pro-war, as long as it doesn't affect you personally.

On the personal front, I got back yesterday from the Great Books by Great Grads fest at Hart House. It went well. And there was lots of free food, so I'm happy. Also attended the bachelor party of Kevin Hildtich. We played Paintball, which is not something I'm eager to try again. The experience, did, however give me a renewed respect for what real soldiers do. That profession requires a fair amount of physical courage; something, I fear, I have in short supply. One participant summed up the paintball experience well: "I was alone, hearing Croatian guys muttering on one side of me, while simultaneously feeling both terror and boredom. That pretty much sums up war, no?"

I've been saving this pic for a while. My very first interactive webcam experience, writing a note to Ed while he watched from his office in Toronto. That's what technology is all about, kids.

Meanwhile, my writings keep popping up in places without my knowledge. Interesting.

I'll be back in Toronto next weekend for Book Expo Canada. I don't think it's open to the public, so there's no point in me plugging this one. But remember to Ask Bena!.

Thursday June 3, 2004

"When it comes to the environment, Republicans aren't just in bed with industry; they're sweeping all the sh!t off the desk so they can do it right there in the Senate office. They're a whore on the floor of a taxi cab." -Bill Maher

I had a whole slew of logical links saved up that detail the right's denial of climate change, specifically which studies form the basis of the famous "scientists are split on the issue" platform. It was pretty damning stuff.... but I seem to have misplaced them. So instead you get my regular unstructured random drivel. Sorry.

Apparently the forces of evil, i.e. the US neo-con movement, are collapsing. While this is undoubtedly good news, I'm not so sanguine. The neo-cons are without doubt a soulless lot, but they did not create this mess on their own. There's half a nation of deliberately self-blinded people who allowed themselves to be lead by the nose toward duplicitous, shameful and destructive behaviour because it satisfied their post 9/11 thirst for revenge. Just as the soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison are part of a systemic dysfunction and moral rot, the rise of the neo-cons was largely symptomatic of a Dark Ages anti-logic mentality that --due to poor education, indoctrination and the unforgiveable influence of organized religion-- infects millions in both the USA and Canada. The question that occupies my thoughts: is this infection waxing or waning?

The neo-cons are indeed responsible for the political mess they have wrought, and for the hundreds of thousands of lives they have taken or scarred. But what about the "liberal" politicians who knew better, but who nonetheless voted for the Patriot Act and for funding the Iraq war? Do they not share some of the blame? And what of the compliant and deluded American media, who whipped up hawkish fervour without much self-examination or, as we have since learned (though many of us have been crying this for months), without evidence?

To its credit, the New York Times issued an apology for its "credulousness" regarding WMDs prior to the invasion. Credulousness, naivete, call it what you will. But they conveniently avoid taking responsibility for a tonality that resonated in much of the coverage leading up to the war: one of eagerness. The Times was less guilty of this than other outlets, but they were involved. Let me spell that out again: the media were eager to go to war; not resigned, or fearful or horrified-but-determined, but eager. That, to me, is disgusting. Robert Parry dicusses the shortfalls of the NYT apology here.

The neo-cons may fall from grace and Kerry might get elected President and we'll pretend that the past four years were an aberration. But Ann Coulter, who called for the invasion and forced conversion to Christianity of all Muslim states, will still be on the talk show circuit, happily preaching to millions who share her view. Michael Savage, who calls for, among other things, the nuking of a random Arab city, will still have his nationally syndicated radio show, as will Rush Limbaugh, who claimed that the Abu Ghraib prison abuse was no worse than college fraternity hazing. And what of Faux News, the loudest cheerleaders for the war? Think they'll go out of business when the neo-cons disappea r? I don't think so.

My point is not to call for the firing, dissolution or censorship of these "journalists." Rather, I remind you that the rabid neo-con mentality that turned a great and compassionate nation into a murdering, lying, bullying behemoth does not reside solely in the hearts of the handful of men camped by the President's throne.

And now on to lighter fare...

Now that the story had broken in the international tabloids, this will be the last I say about the Washingtonienne affair. Check out www.jessicacutler.net for some delicious photos of both the lovely ingler and her benefactor, the mighty Wonkette. It seems the person benefitting the most from the "scandal" is indeed none other than the Wonkstress herself, Ana MAarie Cox, who is profiled in this LA Times article. (Sadly, it seems, her blog is part of syndicate of corporate websites, and not so much the triumph-of-the-lone-blogger story I had hoped for.) It seems, as well, that both Cox and Cutler have received lucrative offers from both playboy and various publ ishers.

Damn, I should have had my own sex scandal when I lived in DC. Hey, stop that laughing.

Speaking of good blogs, here's a fairly intelligent one.

Thanks to Maggie for pointing me to this site, which allows you to create your own anime self-portrait. To the left is mine. It really is eerie how much Anime Wat has captured the very essence of True Wat.

The new pics from Guyana have not been posted yet, but I promise to get them up real soon! Have you heard, by the way, that a top terror suspect carries a Guyanese passport? Great. One more reason for them to strip search me at the airport.

And because some distant relatives sometimes read this Bulletin, I herein provide a link to photos from my Uncle and Aunt's recent 40th wedding anniversary in Florida.

Two more things:

  1. Don't forget the Great Books by Great Grads fest at Hart House on Saturday morning!
  2. And do send your personal questions to Ask Bena!

I leave you with this link: The Lying Game: An A-Z of the Iraq war

Tuesday June 1, 2004

Just flew in from Guyana, and boy are my arms tired. Ha ha ha! Sadly, I actually think that's funny.

While in the land of my birth, I was surprised to find US soldiers --marines and rangers and dudes with special forces badges-- "occupying" the hotel. When asked, they said they were there to "build schools" 'cause, you know, that's what marines, rangers and special forces do. So, in the ensuing days, I tried to snoop on their conversations (not hard; they're pretty loud). I overheard sentences like:

"We go on 24 hour ops in 1 day."

"The runway's not big enough for the C35."

"The transport comes ashore at 1700 hours on Saturday."

"We may have to blow a hole in a wall."

And my favourite: "What about the radiation?"

One particularly large jarhead finally got wise to my snooping and fixed me with a long, hostile stare, followed by some whispering to his colleagues. Yikes. Now I'm on another watchlist. Serves 'em right for setting up HQ in a ritzy public hotel. And for trying to sell such a ridiculous cover story. I got one surreptitious photo of a jarhead in camouflage fatigues using a GPS device to mark the hotel, but it didn't turn out well. Alas.

The project went well. My CME lectures were advertised in the national newspaper, fer Chrissakes. No pressure there. And we garnered a few television interviews. A full photo spread is forthcoming, but in the mean time here are some samples:

Roumyana Benedict, the Wat and Janet Hatcher-Roberts interviewed on the Evening News.
Roumyana and Janet on the Guyana Today morning show. (The Wat was there, too, but someone had to take the photo.)
The Wat interviewed again on Guyana Today, this time all on his lonesome.

Does it seem to anyone else that there's a new fashionability to beheadings? A spate of recent newsworthy denogginizations include Nick Berg, some Italian politician and kids in Baltimore. What, is headhunting becoming cool? Soon, rappers and teens from Long Island will have noggins hanging from their rearview mirrors and, ironically, necks.

There's a whole 'nother environmental crisis a-looming: global dimming.

Here are a couple of independent blogs I've been enjoying of late: The Bitter Shack of Resentment (I particularly like the May 5th entry) and Ed's Daily Rant (he's a funny dude, that Ed). But no blog compares to the mighty Wonkette, who finally has published this photo of both the delicious Wonkstress herself and that famous ingler, Washingtonienne.

Meanwhile, stuff going on way over there in Eye-raq continues to enrage and depress. This, to me, is a war crime.

This coming weekend, I'll be part of the Great Books By Great Grads festival at Hart House in the University of Toronto, 10:AM-12:20pm. A full list of authors is available here. Do come by... I promise: no boring readings, just a lot of schmoozing.

Remember: send your questions about life, the universe and genitalia to Ask Bena!

And remember, also: stay out of the bike lane!

Monday May 24, 2004

"You know what will happen. Sooner or later, the neoconservative cabal will go back to its incestuous think tanks and sinecures, the vice president to his lavish Halliburton retirement, Bush to his Crawford, Texas, ranch -- and you will be left in the contemptuous chancelleries and back alleys, the stiflingly guarded compounds and fear-clammy, pulse-racing convoys, to clean up the mess for generations to come." -Roger Morris, former US diplomat in open letter to current US diplomatic corps

Oh look. More abuse photos. And guess who's the bad guy? The higher-ups who may have ordered it? The dudes and dudettes who actually did the foul deeds? The intelligence "contractors" whose idea it was? Nope. Apparently, according to the heartland, the "traitor" is the guy who blew the whistle on the criminals. This is why the GOP strategy of "blame the victim" might actually work.

Talk about interesting timing. The USA chooses now to ask for an extension to their one-year exemption from prosecution at the new International Criminal Court.

With the world going the way it is, maybe it's time to build our own underground secret society? Or an evil lair? The first step is to buy this; some throw rugs and a plasma TV and it'll be just like home.

The Washingtonienne saga has culminated, and the woman in question has been revealed! Click here for a photo of the lovely Jessica Cutler. Read an interview with her here. Cute, foul-mouthed, politically aware yet disinterested, of negotiable virtue with a propensity for ingling --I'm in love!

Here's something cool: the gender genie. Just type in some sample text, and the genie applies its pseudoscientific technique to decide if you're a man or a woman. I entered some samples from Deonandan.com.... I'm all dude, apparently. Whew!

Our new advice columnist is online! Got a question about your personal life? Your professional life? Your website? Your poor hygiene? Just Ask Bena!

Seriously, this is not a joke. Send your questions in confidence to askbena@hotmail.com. When she has a critical mass of questions, Bena will publish her responses here on Deonandan.com.

Okay, I'm off to Guyana for a week to do this. Talk to you in a week!

Thursday May 20, 2004

"And for God's sake, folks, why would anyone believe that if we are willing to shoot, bomb, burn and dismember Iraqis and destroy their country, we would hesitate to employ torture? The United States is without a doubt the most self-deluded nation on Earth, and that nest of liars who occupy Washington work full time to maintain the delusions." -Charley Reese

Oh, I've got a lot of random stuff for you today, kiddies. Let's begin with excitment in the blogosphere. Thanks to Rondi, I've been spending an inordinate amount of time over at the Queen of Gossip Blogs, Wonkette. An interesting seedy little story has been evolving there of late, well beneath the radar of mainstream media.

The mighty Wonkette linked to an anonymous DC blogger called "The Washingtonienne." The latter wrote a compelling online diary of her experiences as a senate intern, complete with the racy (and hilarious) details of her sex life. It seems she was accepting money from powerful Republicans in exchange for her, um, ingling services. (Sorry to use medieval terminology, but Big Brother is still watching.) Well, once Wonkette bumped up Washingtonienne's popularity, the blog was pulled and rumours began flying about the identities of the men in question, with a further rumour about Washingtonienne being fired for her blogging.

The plot thickens, with the return of Washingtonienne's blog some days later.... except it is being written by an impostor who clearly lacks the charm and wit of the original. Fast forward to today, where the recently purchased washingtonienne.com site now links directly to MoveOn.org, the famous anti-Bush political site, with ties to The Daily Misleader. The world is more web savvy than we give it credit for.

Even weirder... a new site, washingtoniennearchive.blogspot.com, went up this morning, archiving all the original Washingtonienne posts. But as of this minute (1:38pm), it has mysteriously been pulled. Vestiges of Washingtonienne's original posts are becoming harder and harder to find. Hmmm, the mystery deepens.

The questions remain: who is The Washingtonienne? Was she fired? Who is her powerful, bill-folding, rear-lovin' boss? Does anyone other than me and Wonkette care?


Essay mills are a big problem these days. Companies advertise online to sell pre-written essays to lazy/rich/untalented students. Remarkably this company is selling an essay which begins with a quote from ME. At least they cite me by name. Now I want a cut, dammit.

This is a fascinating article on the differences between "liberal" and "conservative" morality. Essentially, the difference is between individual versus communal responsibility. We live in an era of prevailing conservative morality, which may be morphing into a new era of liberal morality. Read the article and decide for yourself.

It seems there's a new air of freedom to dissent against the faltering neocon juggernaut. Kurt Vonnegut has come out swinging against the Bushies. He gives us this gem:

"Here’s what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial, about to face cold turkey. And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we’re hooked on."


Meanwhile, the prisoner abuse scandal escalates. Reuters and NBC journalists are now alleging abuse at the hands of US soldiers in Iraq, with identical stories told of US authorities mistreating Muslim detainees on US soil.

I remain terribly concerned about people being held at Guantanamo Bay, where the Geneva Conventions (for some reason) do not apply. Reports are leaking out of abuse there, too.

So are these still "isolated" incidents committed by "a few rotten eggs?" Organized or not, the problem is clearly systemic, and is linked to our culture's diet of vengeance and intolerance and the President's own simplistic "us versus them" mentality.


About a year ago, I gave up caffeine cold turkey, with no regrets. I sleep like a baby, enjoy a constant mood throughout the day, and am no longer a slave to yuppie coffee chains. A new study, meanwhile, has found that your daily coffee contains a lot more caffeine than previously suspected. Come on... join me... kick the habit!


Sigh. Last night was the final episode of my favourite TV show, Angel. With it ends an era of smart, young, exciting adventure fiction that began with Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Along with the demise of Friends and Frasier, Angel's departure signals true supremacy for reality programming. For now.

At least Angel got some good coverage in the end. Malene Arpe writes about it for The Toronto Star.


Apropos of nothing.... Venezuela president Hugo Chavez suspects an American plot to overthrow his government. A couple of years ago, most poeple would have laughed at this attitude. These days.... is it really so preposterous? Let's not forget that Kissinger did exactly the same thing in Chile 30 years ago.

I'll be travelling to Venezuela's neighbour, Guyana, in a couple of days to support CSIH's HIV/AIDS project there. Check out the updated project website. We're also trying to organize some PR events for my new book for when I'm there.

Finally, I've updated my photos section! Click on gallery #52 for all the recent pics from my ongoing book tour.

Speaking of book stuff, come on out to The Docks in Toronto Sunday afternoon. I'll be one of the featured authors as part of the cultural celebrations of South Asian Heritage Month. Hope to see you there!

I leave you with this little lesson, cribbed from Wonkette, on how to use moral relativism:

"As of a few minutes ago, gay couples in Massachusetts may legally marry. Our more conservative readers might find this outrageous, but don't forget: Saddam Hussein was much worse." -Jesse Walker

Tuesday May 18, 2004

"[The US Congress's] anger sounds a bit hollow in light of the fact that they voted to give Bush an absolute blank check to carry out this operation. They ignored the ambiguity in the pre-war intelligence. They didn't bother to ask if there was an exit strategy. They ignored -- even mocked -- the concerns of thoughtful Middle Eastern scholars, journalists, activists and protesters. They refused to challenge the intentional blurring of the line between Saddam's secular regime and the religious extremism responsible for 9/11." -Adam Schiffer

The photos depicting abuse of Iraqi detainees by UK soldiers were a hoax. Once again, the USA is all by its lonesome.

I'm glad to see that my discomfort with the ridiculous comments by Republican Senator Inhofe was shared. Jason Vest has this response to Inhofe.

Before anyone tries to convince you that outrage to these events is overblown and out of context, remember that they may just constitute war crimes of the type worthy of UN resolutions and pre-emptive invasions.

Meanwhile, Colin Powell shows that the administration wants to play the "moral equivalency" card, the same one the neocons decried when so-called "liberals" used it to contextualize the 9/11 attacks. He is apparently upset that the Arab world has not shown enough outrage over the beheading of Nick Berg.

Here's why Powell's fake rage is pointless. Even pro-war conservative columnist Salim Mansur concedes that the prison abuse and beheading cannot be linked. The latter is the action of a criminal group of inhuman individuals acting without state sanction; their behaviour is the expected behaviour of barbarians; outrage is wasted on them. The prisoner abuse, on the other hand, is the (apparently state sanctioned) action of an organized and purportedly civilized organization, one that is the product of a supposedly free and democratic society; it is therefore the more shocking and outrageous action, especially when the stated mission of that organization is the delivery of enlightened values to the people it is accused of abusing.

This is all moot since, as I stated in my last post, US public outrage over the prisoner abuse scandal will quickly wane, despite new evidence that the government (in particular, Donald Rumsfeld) was in fact directly responsible. We in the West may in fact be entering a new era of insensitivity, wherein barbarity, especially in times of war, becomes expected and indeed condoned. While the West ostensibly battles the worst of Islamist dogma, we seem to be quietly absorbing one of its more seductive and self-destructive tenets: vengeance.

On an interesting side note, famed Iraqi blogger Salam Pax, whom I've quoted on this site a couple of times and who was made famous for his daily comments from the ground in Iraq, may be the subject of a new movie. I just hope the dude is himself real, and not another hoax.

Meanwhile, Sarin gas has been discovered in Iraq. Whether this constitutes the great stockpiles of WMD predicted by the Bushies is unclear. To me, it's irrelevant. I have long stated the position that Iraq, and indeed any sovereign nation, is entitled to whatever weapons it chooses to own or develop. Therefore, the WMDs, even if they exist(ed), were never sufficient justification for an invasion. The heretofore lack of WMDs, however, is clearly an important political issue for the Shrub, who used their rumours to justify his entire belligerent foreign policy.


So India has toppled the BJP and put its founding Congress Party back in power. Arundhati Roy proclaims this development to be a triumph of true democracy. Similarly, Haroon Siddiqui lauds the wisdom of the Indian electorate's recent decision. I'm not so sanguine about these developments.

First, let's be clear. The BJP certainly has intolerant and intolerable fascist underpinnings. The party has close ideological ties to both the RSS and the Shiv Sena, fire-breathing right-wing Muslim-bashing groups. They've attained power by appealing to the worst instincts of the Hindu majority, demonizing Muslim and Christian minorities. Certainly, the election to power of the Catholic Sonia Gandhi reresents an important step toward true secular government.

But a funny thing happened when the BJP formed the government: they became somewhat moderate, and have presided over a period of increasing Indian prosperity unprecedented in the country's modern history. Moreover, they have recently made important strides toward securing some kind of lasting peace with Pakistan. Congress, on the other hand, ruled when Pakistan was created and was at India's helm when war did break out.

This is in no way a defence of the BJP, who have made some supremely idiotic and offensive moves, not the least of which being their decision to refuse development aid from many key donors, including Canada. However, there's another dimension to the Indian election worth considering: this ridiculous loyalty to dynastic traditions. Congress was elected, I believe, based largely on the appeal of the Nehru family, for whom Sonia Gandhi is the present torch-bearer. Voters' fascination with ruling families (Kennedys, Bushes, Nehrus, etc.) is tantamount to elected monarchy. And that is definitely uncool. What I would like to see is a Congress-led coalition government headed by someone other than a Gandhi.

Breaking news: Sonia Gandhi has decided not to accept the PM job, and will likely relinquish the position to former finance minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, a dedicated economic reformer. Singh has a certain personal importance to me, since several of our group got to meet him back when I was a student in India in the summer of 1996.


  • Don't forget to save up your questions for the coming debut of Ask Bena!

  • Thanks to Lisa and Fiona at Octopus Books for hosting a big book event for me here in Ottawa last week.

  • Next Sunday the 23rd, I'll be a featured author at the Mazaa event, as part of the cultural festival of South Asian Heritage Month. I'll be promoting both Desilicious and Divine Elemental. The event is free and held at The Docks in Toronto.

Tuesday... I mean Thursday May 13, 2004

Today's entry has nothing to do with Bill (or George) Clinton. I just thought the line was snappy.

Last Friday, while waiting in the National Press Club in Washington, DC, I had the great pleasure of watching Donald Rumsfeld testify before the House Armed Services Committee. He came out of it, as a friend put it, with a couple of new a$$holes. (I apologize for having to conceal my colourful language; Big Brother is still watching.) It's always gratifying to see the pompous receive lessons in humility, but I'm not as sanguine as others about Rumsfeld's comeuppance.

For one thing, I don't think he should resign. I don't want him watching from a lifeboat when the SS Imperium finally sinks under the weight of its own ego; I want him on the bridge, wrestling Cheney for a life jacket. Moreover, contrary to what most observers are predicting, this is likely not the end of the neocon juggernaut. Instead, I foresee oversaturation of prisoner abuse coverage in the US media, followed by the inevitable backlash against such coverage. Interestingly, Norman Solomon agrees with me, and has made it into print before I could get my op-ed-writing ass in gear!

A couple more "revenge" killings by the jihadists and Western public opinion might just turn from outrage at Iraqi prisoners being abused to a thirst for more of such abuse. And don't think the Bushies haven't thought of this. Comments from Oklahoma Republican senator James Inhofe hint toward the new spin and damage-control direction to be taken by the GOP in coming weeks and months:

"These prisoners, you know they're not there for traffic violations," Inhofe said --and I almost fell out of my chair at the airport when I heard him. First, it really doesn't matter why the prisoners were incarcerated --whether for jaywalking or for pegging Inhofe's favourite uncle-- abuse is illegal and immoral, according to any standards imaginable in a decent society. Second, Inhofe didn't just toss out these words, they were chosen to make a decidedly unsubtle suggestion: that the prisoners deserved their treatment. It's a tactic oft used by the most devilish of rape attorneys --blame the victim.

Maybe it doesn't matter to the "good" senator that many (and possibly most) of the Iraqi prisoners were innocent. Of course, to people like Inhofe, it's worth doing unspeakable things to innocent people so long as some bad guys get theirs, too. That is, after all, the whole story of the Iraq war: kill tens of thousands, wound tens of thousands more, terrorize hundreds of thousands ---all so you can get one man and his two sons. And their oil.

Let us now discuss the GOP claim that the abuse was conducted by a "handful of bad apples." Rumsfeld has admitted that there were many more episodes than what we've already heard, occuring in bases across Iraq and Afghanistan. At what point do scores of incidents stop being "isolated" and begin being "systematic"? I want to believe that these occurrences are the acts of traumatized misdirected footsoldiers, but the facts do not support this conclusion. The nature of the abuse appears tailor designed to specifically affect the pschology of Muslim men, as if directed by someone with expertise in this matter. In fact, it now seems that the abuses fit the profile of R2I military interrogation methodology, suggesting again a systematic and directed programme of torture.

And does any of this really surprise anyone? That is, anyone who doesn't have his head up his behind? I don't believe the President is directly responsible for these events, at least not in the sense that he ordered them. But he is responsible for the dangerous attitude he instilled within his "patriots." By immorally and incorrectly stressing a non-existent connection between Iraq and 9/11, he encouraged his soldiers on the ground to see --not Iraqi civilians and prisoners of war --but terrorists who had killed innocent Americans. So they feel less empathy for their charges; and they fight to avenge the victims of 9/11, not to forward a re-branded "liberation for Iraqis" diktat. This ongoing tragedy is a direct result of Bush's irresponsible and self-serving rhetoric. And buttheads like Senator Inhofe still don't get it.

The months will wind on and the GOP will continue to point to the "enemy" and say, "See, they're doing much worse things than us!" To our American friends, I can say only this: don't be distracted and misdirected by your neocon task masters, as you have been for the past 3 years; remember, you're supposed to be the good guys, and being good means more than just being better than the other guy.

With all this occuring in the Iraqi theatre, where the Geneva Conventions apply, I shudder to think what is happening in Guantanamo Bay, where the Conventions do not apply.

It's easy to criticize. (And fun, too!) But what alternatives to we critics offer? Next week, I'll attemtpt to give my opinion of what should be done in Iraq.

Now to the personal news. Had a fun time in Washington. Thanks to Olsson's Bookstore for hosting my event, and thanks to NetSAP and SAJA for inviting me down. Additional thanks go to Mark & Melissa and Matt for opening their homes to me. Photos will be forthcoming!

Deonandan.com will be undergoing a facelift sometime soon. Part of our new service will be an advice column by guest writer Bena Cohen (not her real name). Ask Bena will debut as soon as we've collected enough questions. So save up your pressing issues about sex, life, small furry quadrupeds and anything else that's on your mind, and I'll post Bena's contact info presently. (And no, she's not me, so give it up.)

Tonight is the Ottawa launch of Divine Elemental at Octopus Books, 116 Third St, 7:pm. There will be free booze, so come on down!

Friday May 7, 2004

"I have no problem whatsoever with entertainers and comedians pretending to be journalists; my problem is with journalists pretending to be entertainers." -Ted Koppel

I wonder about whom Koppel was speaking? Hmmm.

You know, I've been reluctant to comment on the photos showing US soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners. I linked to them last time, and figured I wouldn't have to say anything, since the story pretty much speaks for itself. As a commentator on The Daily Show put it, "the path to Iraqis' hearts and minds doesn't go through their electrified genitals. Now we know."

However, it's been interesting watching the standard apologists rally around the Bushies with the standard drivel. As Janeane Garofalo put it, "anyone who still supports Bush at this point is pretty much doing it out of spite." Care for some examples? From Victor Davis Hanson, one of my least favourite respectable public figures, comes this in the Wall Street Journal:

"[Those horrified by the photos should] hold their moral outrage until the full account of the incident is investigated and adjudicated."

I'm all for waiting for data and doing things objectively. But, Victor, if these photos aren't worthy of some good old fashioned "moral outrage," what is? And over on Wonkette (thanks, Rondi, for pointing me to that site!) comes the following abuse justification from that old addled windbag Rush Limbaugh:

"You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You of heard of need to blow some steam off?"

Over in the UK, their own soldier abuse scandal is being handled by the pro-war lobby by claiming the photographic evidence to be hoaxed. This article addresses the hoax claims. And it seems these episodes of abuse were not isolated. Meanwhile, "ghost detainees" in Iraq are being hidden from the Red Cross by coalition soldiers.

Just imagine if there had been no photographic evidence for any of this: do you think the statist US media would have run with the story as vocally as they have been? I think not. I must say, I've been pleasantly surprised by how much the media has turned on the Bush administration in the wake of this scandal. They get a pass on lying (about WMDs and other things). They get a pass on illegally moving funds from the Afghan war to Iraqi war plans. They get a pass on mass murder and suppressing liberties domestically and abroad. But the thing they finally get slapped on their wrists for --the prisoner abuse in Iraq-- is one of the few things they're likely not directly responsible for. In this article, Eric Boehlert discusses why it took the press so long to come around.

While I don't think any of the numbskulls in the White House planned any of this, it's clear to me that the abuse in Iraq is a result of the neo-con movement's sustained campaign of "get what we want by any means necessary." From prisoners in Guantanamo not being granted access to legal representation, to reports of prisoners sent to Syria and Israel to be tortured outside of the American legal system, to prominent neo-cons like Alan Dershowitz calling for torture to be justified, how can the President and Rumsfeld claim to be "shocked" that prisoner abuse was happening in Iraq? Especially after months of reports from Amnesty International and others about on-going questionable conduct by coalition soldiers in Iraq.

"Every respectable American, from the president on down, is shocked - shocked - to find that Iraqi prisoners are being mistreated. As if no one knew that prisoners are abused and tortured to get information out of them.... Could anyone who is paying the slightest attention think it wasn't happening in Iraq?" -Ira Chernus

Slow-witted Lou Dobbs (sorry, Lou, it's true) made it a point the other day to point out that the US abuse is nothing like the abuse committed by Saddam, in terms of duration, degree and intensity. The army of neo-con apologists crow on the same theme, that no matter what bad things the US military might do in Iraq, it's nothing compared to what Saddam was doing before, and nothing compared to what the most severe of Islamists might do to captured Americans. Clearly they're missing the most important lesson here: it's not sufficient to merely be less evil than Saddam; you have to be as benevolent as you claim to be, especially when a war of pre-emption has been re-branded as a war of liberation.

I'm off to Washington in a few hours. Hope to see all of you at Olsson's bookstore Monday night! I leave you with the following quote from Charley Reese:

"This entire glorification of war - as if the whole and only purpose of the government and the country were to fight wars - smells of fascism. The news media glorify the war and militarism; we get the same dose on television, in the movies and in video games. If the American people aren't careful, they will wake up one day to find out they've become a nation of mindless heel-clickers."

Tuesday May 4, 2004

"The people of Iraq may not have electricity and running water...but they have a flag!" -Daily Show headline

As Deonandan.com reader Mark pointed out, Pat Tillman was indeed a hero, as determined by the criteria I myself laid out in my last post. I don't have a problem with Pat Tillman. I'm sorry he's dead. But I'm the type of guy who mourns for every dead person. And I recognize that not all deaths are equally tragic. While I wish that Pat Tillman, and all the other soldiers killed, were still alive, I'm going to go out on a limb and say for the record: there's a difference in tragedy between the deaths of volunteer soldiers on foreign soil and the deaths of innocent civilians killed by anonymous bombs. Who mourns for the goat herders in Afghanistan and the shopkeepers in Baghdad who weren't given a choice of whether to be involved in these wars? Where are their monuments? Why are their names not read aloud on Nightline? Meanwhile, images of death still do not reach the US public, except in heroic terms; and, man, are those heroic terms questionable! Leave it to a Bush to, um, contextualize:

"Why should we hear about body bags and deaths? Oh, I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?" -Barbara Bush, March 18, 2003, Good Morning America

Tillman died in Afghanistan, which is a moderately more defensible war than the one in Iraq. One day I'll expound on that sentence, but in the mean time I'll give you Eric Margolis's comparison of America's Iraq with the Soviets' Afghanistan.

Around the media world, we see that Globe and Mail columnist Heather Mallick recently appeared on the truly hilarious (and disturbing) show, Faux's The O'Reilly Factor. It seems Bill O'Reilly has developed a fascination with Canada of late. Oh great. And speaking of clueless blowhards:

"And I just -- I cannot speak strongly enough about how we must collectively get after those who kill in the name of -- in the name of some kind of false religion." -George W. Bush

I think he should drop the pretense and just start calling Muslims "infidels." I'd die of irony. Until then, this open letter gives the President some vital advice on achieving world domination; as every Risk player knows, first you take Australia!

The assault on knowledge and thought continues south of the border. (Attn my American readers: I'm not talking about the Mexican border here.) According to this Reuters article, the Bush administration has systematically altered science data on government websites to conform to their moralistic anti-contraception, anti-abortion agenda. Is it a wonder the US is losing its dominance in the sciences? As the most powerful nation in the world, their cultural and political trends affect every one us; thus, as their science infrastructure falters, the whole world slips closer to a new Dark Age in which religion and superstition (denial of global warming, anyone?) prevail over experiment and data.

On an entirely different topic, here is an article about how touching/groping is not assault. Hope my parole officer reads it.

Hey, take this quiz! It will tell you which Greek god you most closely resemble. Me, I got Nemesis: "Hot, sexy and powerful... you protect yourself and your friends at all costs, and woe be to your enemies." Yeah! Don't mess with me! I'm a 12,000 year old Greek chick!

Maria Amuchastegui sent this entertaining article about the pitfalls of being a writer. Those of you with your own ISBN numbers, I'm sure you can relate. Here's my most recent writer horror story: I had a phone interview last night, ostensibly for publication in Canadian Literature. Today I was told the interview did not get recorded! All that eloquence gone to waste.

Congratulations to one of my clients, Dr. Prabhat Jha, for having been named one of Canada's Top 40 Under 40. He's the second of my clients to make such a list. Old friend and client, Borys Chabursky, was named to the list in 2003.

I will be off to Guyana again in 3 weeks, to take part in CSIH's HIV/AIDS project in that country. This coming weekend, however, I will be back in Washington, DC. Those of you in the area, please come on down to Olsson's Bookstore in Arlington on Monday night!

I promise I will soon switch to domestic matters and leave the Shrub alone for a while. Until then, I leave you with the following quote about the modern U.S. Republican party from Joseph Wilson, former US ambassador to Gabon and a member of a traditionally GOP family:

"If you're fiscally responsible, this is not your party. If you believe in a moderate foreign policy characterized by alliances, free trade and the ability to operate in an international environment, this is not your party. If you believe in limited federal government, this is not your party. If you believe that the government should stay out of your bedroom, this is very definitely not your party. In fact, I would argue that unless you believe in the American imperium, imposed on the world by force, or unless you believe in the literal interpretation of the Book of Revelations, this is not your party."

Thursday April 29, 2004

Good morning! Got a lot of things on my mind today, and a lot of media citations worth noting. So let's begin:

"Democracy can so be imposed by an occupying power. The British did it in India." -Richard Gwynn

I stand corrected! (See, the High Lord of Deonandia is not so vain that he can't admit when he's --somewhat-- wrong.) The Indian election is a fascinating thing, really, and we in the West can learn something from their democracy. People walk for hours for the right to vote (and often for the right to receive their bribe to vote, but that's another story.) A friend in Delhi tells me that all the voting booths are electronic now... but there are only a handful of electronic voting machines in the country, so voters have to wait at their stations until the truck arrives with the machines!

"What a revolution it would be if the American government said to the world: 'If you need food or medicine or civilian infrastructure, we are ready to help, but we will no longer sell you arms, station military forces in your territory, interfere in your internal affairs or take sides in your quarrels with others. What kind of government you wish to adopt is your business, not ours.'" -Charley Reese

Can you imagine such a world? Now that would be closer to the paradise-on-Earth the Christian fundamentalists are trying to bring about than the Armageddon the neo-cons seen insistent on manufacturing. Now, courageously Reese goes on to make the following accurate statement, which is a difficult pill for many to swallow:

"Terrorists the world over did not declare war on us. The overwhelming majority are concerned with local issues in their own countries. Only one organization, al-Qaida, declared war on us. It has probably less than 1,000 members. We don't need 1.2 million men under arms, an ocean-girdling fleet, a $400 billion defense budget and a $40 billion intelligence budget to deal with 1,000 or fewer individuals."

Then why are our friends down south taking this reckless path? I think the following sheds some light on that question:

"Jay Garner, first administrator of post-war Iraq, has revealed that he was fired because he wanted to hold elections while the Bush administration wanted him, first, to open the doors to American corporations." -Haroon Siddiqui

Siddiqui --for my money, the finest journalist in Canada right now-- goes on in this column, to say:

"The promise of democracy for Iraq is, at best, a retroactive rationale, and, at worst, a sham."

In concert with the brutalization of the world abroad, the Bushies continue to erode freedoms at home, making a travesty of the "liberty" they shallowly claim to be exporting:

"The Bush administration is arguing that it has the right to lock up U.S. citizens forever -- without evidence, witnesses, lawyers or trials. If the Supreme Court agrees, will this still be America?" -Tim Grieve

Not convinced? A 15-year old boy in Washington state was investigated by the Secret Service and punished by his school... for drawing a picture of George Bush as the devil. Now, the Secret Service has to investigate every Presidential security complaint made to them, but where does the school get off reporting the boy and handing down punishment? Exactly what rule did he break? Orwell is looking more prescient by the hour.

As always, I blame the media. The Bushies are a bunch of power hungry madmen (of whom the President himself is, surprisingly, likely the least mad.) But they would be impotent to effect such saddening/maddening change on the public's mindset if it were not for the near-criminal complacency of the American statist media. One of its worst transgressors is Victor Davis Hanson, who is a smart non-bloviating man, but one of those annoying academics who insists his academic credentials give him authority in areas in which he has no expertise. Finally, someone has printed a rebuff of this irritating man. (Do note that the High Lord of Deonandia, while also ostensibly an academic, never drags his credentials into these debates, unless relevant.)

Regular visitors to Deonandan.com will know that climate change is a favourite topic on this site. As we've established before, climate change is real; there is no valid scientific debate on this question anymore, just as there is no more on the question of evolution: both are facts, and it is only the uninformed and agenda-stricken fringe that is still in denial. The sense that the scientific world is "divided down the middle" on this issue is an illusion created by the media, who insist on giving equal voice to the extreme minority of skeptics, as explained here by George Monbiot. Imagine if every media report on space travel included a redirection by a member of the Flat Earth Society; wouldn't it look as if the science world were split on that issue, too?

It doesn't help that government agencies, which the public incorrectly sees as impartial bodies, make decisions to service political ends. NASA, which had no problem giving official support to the scientifically ridiculous movie Armageddon (and not its more accurate competitor, Deep Impact) recently announced that it would not allow its scientists to even comment on the upcoming global warming movie, The Day After Tomorrow. This is so unbelievable I have to say it again: NASA climatologists aren't allowed to even comment on whether the movie might be accurate. Guess who is traditionally in charge of NASA budgets? It makes one wonder whether such compliance with the statist industrial agenda was not, shall we say, associated by suggestion to the White House's promise of an expanded NASA budget.

But anti-environment blowhards are sometimes right. In this article, Margaret Wente correctly points out that eco-dogma is blinding us to the potential benefits of DDT in the developing world. It's a hot topic right now, one which I recently discussed with representatives of a drug company which shall remain nameless. DDT is dangerous. But, like nuclear power, its dangers can be assuaged and its benefits harnessed when applied appropriately and with caution.

In the interests of political fairness and expanding the readership of the blogosphere, I herein provide a link to the rightist screed blather of Matthew Vadum. In yesterday's post, Matt linked to a (very poorly written) student essay which criticizes the "sacrifice" of US soldier/NFLer Pat Tillman.

Now, you can probably guess my take on the issue, so I won't bore you with the obvious. But what I find interesting is our society's overuse of the word "hero." While modern dictionaries list more generous usages, for my money the only valid definition of the word is: one who has risked/sacrificed his life (or reputation,honour, etc) to save the lives (or reputations, honours, etc) of others, whether succesful in that task or not. Does Pat Tillman qualify? He certainly gave his life, and I believe he did so in the belief that it was given on behalf of others. But was it truly? In my predictable opinion, his life was given in promotion of US imperial interests. But maybe all that matters was what he thought he was doing, not what global realpolitik understands him to have been doing. According to that argument, German soldiers in WWII, who no doubt believed that they were risking their lives to save their brethren, were also heroes, as perhaps were any suici de terrorists, who undoubtedly gave their lives in the belief that their actions would better the stations of their own people. Let us strive to choose our words carefully, shall we?

"But left unspoken in the sports media's ample coverage of Tillman is the recognition that most Americans dying overseas joined the military for economic reasons. Even the media that supported the war as a fight for freedom find it amazing that anyone would actually sacrifice money to join the warfare." -Randy Shaw

And now the personal news...

Congratulations to occasional Deonandan.com visitor Rondi Adamson for her recent appearance on Faux News!

I find it interesting how often I find one of my non-fiction articles re-printed on the 'Net without my permission. It doesn't bother me yet. But when my fiction starts getting hijacked, it's time to call Shyster & Shyster.

I know some of you will find this interesting: AVN's top 50 porn stars of all time. It's sad that I recognize all the names on the list.

I've just been added as a featured author on the May 23rd South Asian cultural festival in Toronto called Jya Fest. More details will be forthcoming. And for those of you in Ottawa, do come out to my local book launch at Octopus Books on May 13.

I leave you with a Chris Rock classic:

"You know the world is going crazy when the best rapper is a white guy,the best golfer is a black guy, and the tallest guy in the NBA is Chinese. The Swiss hold the America's Cup, France is accusing the US of arrogance, Germany doesn't want to go to war, and the three most powerful men in America are named 'Bush', 'Dick', and 'Colon'. Need I say more?"

Monday April 26, 2004

"Piled on top of the insider accounts by Paul O'Neill and Richard Clarke, Woodward's book delivers the coup de grace to any lingering doubt that the Bush administration is teeming with fanatics for whom evidence is little more than an obstacle on the path to greater glory." -Arianna Huffington

The amazing thing about Woodward's book, Plan Of Attack, isn't so much its content --which, from where I stand, provides no surprises-- but in the way the GOP has responded to it. Unlike the fashion in which the White House tried to villify and discredit Richard Clarke and Paul O'Neill, they are instead embracing Woodward and spinning his observations in a pro-Bush direction. So common are statements from such people as Condoleeza Rice and Prince Bandar about Woodward's beyond-reproach reputation, that I wonder if th is approach was not in fact sanctioned and strategized from the White House's communications office. It's not a tough spin, either, since one can easily interpret Woodward's observations about Bush in two opposing yet compatible ways: the President was strong and decisive or he was fanatical and dogmatic. Of course, I hold more with the latter interpretation, as does Richard Gwynn:

"True believers do have real value. But it's a quality for a private individual, not for a president."

One manifestation of the True Believer mentality is the belief that your ideology is so correct that others will eventually embrace it, no matter how it is introduced to them... even at gunpoint. Democracy cannot be introduced at gunpoint. This, as Charley Reese describes it, is the fatal flaw in the neo-con outlook. The proposed "handover of power" to the Iraqis on June 30th is therefore a farce. No power can or will be "handed over" in this fashion. True popular government in Iraq will come about when the street organizes and demands an evacuation by foreign military powers. Whether this will result in a democracy the likes of which we Westerners can recognize and conceptualize is unknown --and indeed unlikely. But it will be a government of the people; and, with things being as they are, it will be bi rthed in much bloodshed.

Meanwhile, here in Canada the Khadr family continues to make headlines. Of course, the regular bloviating set hollers for the family's citizenships to be revoked.

This is absurd. The only circumstance in which a government should be able to rescind citizenship is if it was acquired under false pretenses. If a naturalized citizen's views or actions are deemed criminally offensive, then prosecute him in a criminal court. Anything less necessitates the existence of two tiers of citizenship: one for those born here and one for those naturalized. If a native-born White Canadian son converted to Islam and rushed off to join Al-Qaeda, would anyone be demanding he lose his Canadian citizenship? Of course not. The forming of such a precedent effectively reduces the rights of naturalized citizens relative to the native-born. An accident of birth should not determine one's rights in a society. If it did, next thing you know, C-grade students who got into Yale just 'cause Daddy's a bigshot might eventually become President.... oh, wait.

In personal news, I just got back from five days in Saskatoon or, as I now call it, Blonde Babe Paradise. Sigh. My big book signing/reading at McNally Robinson was, simply, a disaster. The venue was the bistro inside the bookstore, where people were more concerned with eating their sandwiches and chatting with their friends than with listening to the visiting author. Cripes, has no one heard of PR? On the plus side, I did a pleasurable interview with a local student publication, In Media Res, which will be published in the Fall, I believe.

My next PR stop will be the city of my former residence: Washington, DC! I'll be there on May 10th to speak/read/sign at Olsson's bookstore in Arlington. Check out the store's list of events for May. I'm listed with Tim Russert and John McCain! Let's hope my anti-Bush screed doesn't get me arrested at the border!

Thursday April 22, 2004

Re: the Carter/Reagan question from my last post...

"[T]he threat of Mr. Reagan was a factor." -Paul Kengor/Jacob Smith of the Washington Times


"[CIA operative Miles] Copeland said that during the Iranian hostage crisis, neither the CIA nor the Iranians wanted Carter to get credit for the release of the hostages. Both the CIA and the Iranians preferred Reagan get credit. Copeland insisted there was no formal CIA deal with the Iranians but just 'a mutuality of interests.'" -Carla Binion

While either of these quotes can be used in support of either argument, I'm just looking for an excuse to type: Ayatollah you so!

Today's entry is one in which I catch up on posting all the interesting quotes I've been collecting the past few days. Let's begin with that old stalwart Charley Reese:

"Bush is following the Israeli example. Rather than address the cause of the problem, he just tries to kill his way out of it. That policy has failed the Israelis, and it will fail us."

Interesting how Democrats are accused of spending their way out of problems, while Republicans seem to like to kill their way out. Reese has another good one here, in which he talks about how the press has begun to use lazy military speak. And dig this gem from Julianne Malveaux:

"Free and fair elections in Cuba would be a good idea. They'd be a good idea in the United States, too."

Now this is a clever little article. It's one of those cute ones wherein it's not really about what you think it's about. Read it and you'll see what I mean.

Former Libertarian Presidential candidate Harry Browne gives us 19 dumb statements about Iraq. And George Monbiot reminds us of the origins of the wacky Christian fundamentalism that is the bedrock of so much neo-con policy.

Arianna Huffington, meanwhile, does us all proud by proclaiming the nobility of political blogs, though she's clearly not a Deonandan.com reader. :-(

In a couple of hours I'm flying off to Saskatoon, where I'll be doing a reading/signing at McNally Robinson. Do come down! I leave you with this new classic from Chris Rock. (Remember, because Big Brother is watching, I had to edit the profanity):

"You see these weird white guys getting overly patriotic, and they have their f@ckin' flag hats on, and their flag drawers, and their flag pickups. 'I'm American, man! I'm American! F@ck all these f@ckin' foreigners!' There was a lot of accepted racism when the war started. 'I'm American, man! I'm American! F@ck the French!' That was cool. Then 'I'm American, man! I'm American! F@ck all these Arabs!' And that was cool. Then they went to: 'I'm American! I'm American! F@ck all these illegal aliens!' Then I started listening, because I know that niggas and Jews is next."

Sunday April 18, 2004

On Friday I linked to the latest vomitus by Frau Coulter as an example of how a deceitful individual with an agenda can list selected facts in support of a spurious conclusion. My (unpublished) interpretation of one of Coulter's facts in particular was questioned by the usual suspects. I put it to you, the public, to chime in...

The fact: On Jan 21, 1981, Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as President of the United states. On the same day, the 52 American hostages who had been held in Tehran for the past 14 months were released.

Corollaries to the fact: 1. Ronald Reagan was known as a trigger-happy dude who, in campaign speeches, had spoken with great bellicosity about those who would kidnap Americans. 2. President Carter had agreed to release billions of dollars in seized Iranian accounts in exchange for the hostages.

My position: The date of the release was timed to stick it to Carter one last time, and it was the money that got the hostages freed. The opposing position: The date of the release was timed to appease the incoming fire-breathing Reagan, who should take credit for the hostages' release.

What do you think? Leave a comment and tell me.

(By the way, I really can't let this one go: Frau Coulter has the nerve to accuse Jimmy Carter of "back-stabbing this loyal US ally." Which loyal US ally? The Shah of Iran. Yes, that Shah of Iran. The same one who, in his day and just prior to the popular -almost democratic- uprising that overthrew him, was a brutal soulless (unelected) despot in the mold of Saddam Hussein. She is strangely silent on the fact that Carter refused to deal with Ayatollah Khomeini, sworn enemy of the "loyal ally", while Reagan was all too willing to do so.)

This weekend I got to hang out with my old friend Allan Stratton, who also has a new book out. Of course, Allan is an immensely bigger literary star than I can ever hope to be. So if you're going to buy his book, be sure to buy mine, too!

I will leave you today with the long-awaited link to William Shatner's blog.

Friday April 16, 2004

"You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet." -George W. Bush, April 13 press conference

What a doofus.

And yet, the doofus will likely be re-elected. You can watch the projections here. Here's one analysis of King Doofus's speech:

"Bush's rhetoric is proof once again that the government of the United States is in the hands of a crude and deluded leader, whose war policy in Iraq promises more disasters to come." -Matthew Rothschild

Speaking of doofuses (doofi?), the Queen of All Wackos is at it again.

Today is a day of long overdue positions, a list of citations of important stands that have been long overdue in coming. (Beware, I will use the phrase "long overdue" ad nauseum):

  1. Now here is a long overdue article detailing the advantages of nuclear power. I have long contended that nuclear power is the best short- and medium- term solutions to the global pollution and energy crises. Safety concerns are most often cited as reasons for discontinuing nuclear energy production, but in reality it's much safer (statistically and, to a large degree, conceptually) than coal, gas and oil. The author of this article contends that hydro power is unacceptable because of its environmental impact. There is some truth to that, but he does overlook the growing trend of "micro-dams" in the developing world, which have minimal impact, but provide the clean energy needs of small, mostly agrarian communities.

  2. This is also long overdue. It's a quiz on Iraq. Go on, take it. Did I mention it's long overdue?

  3. This is absolutely brilliant and long overdue. It puts a finger on exactly why the rest of the world so despises the current incarnation of Imperial America. It has nothing to do with freedom or democracy or money or power, but rather a national attitude, reflected in media and speech-making, that manifests as an absolute disdain for the welfare of anything non-American.

Someone asked me why I haven't commented on the on-going 9/11 hearings. Quite simply, I think the issue is unimportant. As much as I detest the Administration, even I don't fault them for failing to predict and act on something everyone else also failed to predict and act on. I'm more concerned about their actions after 9/11. Therein lies clear evidence for their neo-conservative imperial tomfoolery, criminal arrogance and murderous irresponsibility. So let's wrap up the 9/11 hearings and start the Iraq hearings! As Charley Reese put it:

"Ideologues are dangerous, whether their ideology is the neoconservative variety, Zionism, communism or Islamic extremism. Their minds all work the same way: We know the answers; don't try to confuse us with facts. I am deeply grieved about every young American who is killed or maimed in Iraq. Their sacrifice is for a lunatic idea and nothing else."

(See long overdue article #3 above for the irony in Reese's quote.)

Remember the panel I was on at the Great Ontario Book Break? Here's a photo of us: Anne Hines, Moi and Craig Heron.

And here's the audience.... almost outnumbered by the panel members!

It seems independent wrestler Shank Dorsey has included one of my essays on his website. And Ryerson University has set up pages for Canadian authors of Asian descent. I get my very own page here, though they spell my name wrongly a couple of times :-(

A reminder to my friends in Saskatoon: I'll be making an appearance at the Rand McNally bookstore next Thursday at 7:30pm. Do come out!

Monday April 11 (um, I mean 12), 2004

We begin, as usual, with a couple of quotes:

"The story of the Middle East debacle, like that of the pre-9/11 terrorism fiasco, reveals the inner workings of Bush's White House: The president, aggressive and manipulated, ignorant of his own policies and their consequences, negligent; the secretary of state, prideful, a man of misplaced gratitude, constantly in retreat; the vice president as Richelieu, secretive, conniving, at the head of a neoconservative cabal, the power behind the throne; the national security advisor, seemingly open and even vulnerable, posing as the honest broker, but deceitful and derelict, an underhanded lightweight." -Sidney Blumenthal


"The only link between Osama bin Laden and Hussein is that they are both monsters of our creation." -Robert Scheer

Got some tidbits for you today. First, this article by Russell Smith describes the literary event from last week. Now, Russell has gone and called it a "fiasco." I wouldn't say so; all my books got sold! And I met some swell folks.

My right-leaning friend in Washington, Matthew Vadum, has gone and got himself his very own blog. Yes, we "commie pinkos" sometimes have right-leaning friends. It happens. And speaking of such things, I just love this. It's a right-wing discussion forum which quotes --in its entirety-- my Bulletin entry from Jan 16 of this year. The idiots actually tried to paint Belinda Stronach as a socialist-lover because she's met me. Oh, the 'Net does bring out the wackos.

It seems the wackos down south are being left to their own. According to this article, Canada is enjoying an increase in immigrants from the USA who are tired of living under the retarded Republican regime. I wish they'd stay there, though, and just vote out the lunatics. As Robert Reich put it:

"Nothing is more dangerous to a republic than fanatics unconstrained by democratic politics. Yet in a second term of this administration, that's exactly what we'll have."

Occasionally the wackos on the 'Net show some surprisingly good taste. This discussion forum actually took one of my articles seriously! Good on them!

I'm in Toronto right now for the extra-long weekend. I've been living in Ottawa for a month now, and have not managed to spend a complete weekend there yet. Sigh. Being in Toronto, though, I was able to find this article in The Toronto Star about my old professor, Peter Hallett, under whom I did my Master's degree. Dr. Hallett really is a fascinating fellow. (The article was forwarded to me by fellow Hallett disciple Rimas Kalesnykas.)

Those of you in Toronto, don't forget that I'll be doing a thang at the Jersey Giant Pub on Front St. tomorrow night at 7:30pm. Be there and buy me many drinks. Until then, I leave you with this parting thought from George Monbiot:

"We know that the Bush and Blair governments lied about their motives for war. We know that humanitarianism was used as a cover for imperialism. We know that thousands of civilians were killed. But we do neither ourselves nor the Iraqis any favours by using them to ventriloquise our disgust. We can say without contradiction that the war should not have happened, and that it has been of benefit to the Iraqi people by ridding them of one of the world's most abhorrent dictators."

Thursday April 8, 2004

Monday's bulletin listed your reading assignment for this week: a Wall Street Journal article by pro-war liberal Christopher Hitchens, reproduced on this right-wing board. As one Deonandan.com reader put it, Hitchens's article "appears to have a low signal to noise ratio." The same reader then directed me to this article by Noam Chomsky, which is also quite critical of Hitchens.

I would not presume to walk in Chomsky's footsteps. However, as promised, below is my humble response to the Hitchens article. Specifically, I have responded in turn to the seven questions Hitchens posed, which he claims opponents of the Iraq war never seem to answer:

1. "Do you believe that a confrontation with Saddam Hussein's regime was inevitable or not?"

No, I do not... unless you count under "inevitability" that the Bushies were unwaveringly intent on it.

Let us never forget that the confrontation was made "necessary" by the creation and support of the despot --over a period of many years-- by, you guessed it, the American government. If Saddam had not been armed, funded and trained by the US, he would not have grown to be the threat (perceived or otherwise) that served as the justification (genuine or otherwise) for 2003's invasion. More than 15,000 dead Iraqis and almost 600 dead Americans have paid the price for this fake "inevitablity."

(Will we see a similar "inevitable" confrontation in Uzbekistan 10 years from now?)

Since Gulf War I, US-led economic sanctions have weakened pro-democratic forces in Iraq while strengthening Saddam. In other countries with one-party rule, such as China, US policy has been "prosperity breeds democracy." For countries who can't hit back with a nuclear fist, the policy is slow starvation rather than popular uplifting; just watch what will happen in North Korea. I believe that prosperity and sustained, well-placed incentives and threats would have brought down the Saddam regime without the sanction-related deaths of hundreds of thousands or the invasion-related deaths of tens of thousands.

But regime change was never the goal, so the softer tack could not be taken. The establishment of a permanent US military presence was the goal: to relieve US dependency on both Saudi geography and oil, to project power into Syria and Iran, and to finally give Israel a friendly, muscular neighbour.

2. "Do you believe that a confrontation with an Uday/Qusay regime would have been better?"

As Charley Reese put it, Saddam was nearing his "dotage"... "When dictators grow old and weak, there is always a power struggle, and there is no guarantee that either of Saddam's sons would have survived it." The sons were crazier, but weaker. History clearly shows that military despotism rarely succeeds in a dynastic fashion.

However, the question of succession is irrelevant. My point --one that Hitchens has never addressed in his writings-- is that, if you accept that Saddam was a threat that needed to be removed for reasons of global security (which I do not), then there were always less destructive, though less dramatic, ways of doing so. But again, these methods do not achieve the unspoken goal of de facto occupation, hence could never be considered.

3. "Do you know that Saddam's envoys were trying to buy a weapons production line off the shelf from North Korea as late as last March?"

So what? My understanding is that he was trying to buy battlefield weapons, not a ready-made nuclear device (which is the only true WMD). Without a distance launch vehicle --which he did not and never would possess-- none of those weapons would threaten the USA. They would likely threaten Israel, though, which is perhaps what we should be discussing (but never will).

Here's a question Western journalists never ask: is not a nation entitled to purchase weapons? No one questions the motives of the US, the UK or France when those governments spend millions or billions on enormously more destructive weaponry, then position that weaponry on everybody's doorsteps. Clearly, the reason is that Iraq is not as trustworthy as other countries (and that Iraq was under certain legal constraints, due to its defeat in the first Gulf War). But ask yourself, who's invaded more countries and fought more wars in the past 10, 20, 30 or 50 years: Iraq or the USA? Statistically --not emotionally-- whose weapons purchases should we then be more concerned about?

And I don't mean to defend Saddam here, but I gotta say this: you're faulting the man for trying to buy weapons a couple of days before the most powerful nation in the history of the world has promised to bomb him back to the Stone Age? Hell, under those conditions, I wouldn't blame him for getting a sex change and joining a nunnery!

4. "Why do you think Saddam offered "succor" to the man most wanted in the 1993 bombings in New York?"

Perhaps with questions #3 and #4, Mr. Hitchens is trying to suggest that the invasion was justified because Saddam might have eventually procured a nuclear device which might have eventually been smuggled into the USA. First, there is zero evidence that that was a goal of the Saddamites; they were much too busy quelling internal dissent and eyeing easier prizes in the Arab world.

Second, it's going to happen one day. Come on, we all know it. One day, maybe tomorrow or maybe 100 years from now, someone is going to detonate a nuclear device in a metropolitan centre. The Bushies have now emptied the war chest and spent the flower of its military on perhaps maybe assuaging one questionable potential source of a future tragedy. Was this really a efficient way to allocate finite resources if the threat truly is grave?

If, on the other hand, Mr. Hitchens presents this point as evidence of the Baathists' ties to Al Qaida, then it is a spurious connection indeed, one that even the desperate Bush administration hasn't dared try to exploit.

5. "Would you have been in favor of lifting the "no fly zones" over northern and southern Iraq; a 10-year prolongation of the original 'Gulf War'?"

Yes. If Saddam then did the stupid thing of trying to eradicate the Shiites and Kurds in a military fashion, then that would have satisfied all of the requirements for the nations of the Earth, including many of the Arab nations, to move against him, since the atrocities against the target populations would be both imminent and ongoing, to use Human Rights Watch's parlance. Military response would then have been justified; there would have been a true and much less hypocritical "coalition of the willing."

And if he did not move against the Kurds and Shiites..... well, then, isn't that what everyone wants?

You know what? There should not have been a need for a no-fly zone in the first place. If the peacemakers after the first Gulf War had done their jobs properly, these zones would now be quasi-independent states with protection under international law. Instead, tens of thousands of people have died, ostensibly because of the short-sightedness of Bush The Elder.

6. "Were you content to have Kurdish and Shiite resistance fighters do all the fighting for us?"

Yes; their only agenda was freedom and self-rule. The coalition's agenda is much shadier. What I'm not content with is the years of financial and military support given to Saddam so that the resistance fighters never had a chance.

7. "[Hitchens's opponents'] view seems to be that Iraq was an elective target"

Hitchens proceeds from a false premise. Iraq was not an elective target. It was specified as a military target by the PNAC (a neo-con policy group consisting of many top Bush people) long before Bush even declared his candidacy. It was chosen not for it's (questionable) military threat or for Saddam's (unquestionable) evilness, but rather for its strategic importance.

Do not delude yourself, Mr. Hitchens. This was never about either preemption, saving the Iraqi people, promoting democracy or even some vague Hitchensian notion of an inevitable confrontation. This has always been an imperial acquisition. Let me ask you something: if on the eve of the 2003 invasion, Saddam had offered to step down and institute democratic elections (overseen by the UN or Europe) ---on the condition that no US or UK soldier or business interest would ever set foot on Iraqi soil or own, directly or indirectly, any Iraqi asset-- would the invasion still have taken place?

If you answer no, then you're a fool.

And thus ends my response to Mr. Hitchens, which he will likely never read.

It is certainly possible that the lives of Iraqis (including the Kurds and even Shiites) will now improve under American care; I certainly hope that is the case. For those who contend that this somehow justifies the lies and murders which defined the invasion, I leave you with a quote from George Monbiot, which first appeared on this site on March 26 of 2003:

"Those of us who oppose the impending conquest of Iraq must recognise that there's a possibility that, if it goes according to plan, it could improve the lives of many Iraqi people. But to pretend that this battle begins and ends in Iraq requires a wilful denial of the context in which it occurs. That context is a blunt attempt by the superpower to reshape the world to suit itself."

Monday April 5, 2004

"Studies recently revealed that not only are over half of Americans overweight, but also 25 to 40 per cent of American pets are overweight, investing the term 'fat cats' with a whole new meaning... In some countries, one of those pets could be feeding a family. Let them eat Spot." -Bruce LaBruce

And thus ends Mr. LaBruce's final column in Eye Magazine. Sniff. I'm gonna miss the big f@g. (Remember, I can't even pretend to be profane on this site anymore; Big Brother is watching.

Speaking of the end of Canadian media institutions, this article by Ruck Salutin examines the cancellation of CBC's public affairs programme, Counterspin. I was never a great fan of the show, to tell the truth. But Salutin makes a good point: Counterspin was a rarity on television, a discussion show in which the people actually affected and involved with the issue in question were the focus of the discussion, and not window dressing for the true stars, the hosts.

Back to our regularly scheduled programme of Bush bashing:

"Uzbekistan [the US's closes ally in Central Aisa] holds over 7,000 political prisoners under unspeakable conditions - more political prisoners than held in the Soviet gulag during the 1980s. Prisoners are subjected to electric torture, burning with blowtorches, boiling alive, gang rapes, acid baths, and other atrocities. Ironically, President George Bush keeps trying to justify invading Iraq by citing Saddam's 'torture chambers and rape rooms.'" -Eric Margolis

That pretty much speaks for itself. I find it interesting that I, an avowed pinko (by American standards, anyway), would find such personal resonance in the writings of self-desribed conservatives like Eric Margolis and Charley Reese. The latter is especially impressive and important since, as a crotchety old curmudgeon who's proved himself as a soldier, "patriot", political hack and campaigner for the forces of evil, he's got nothing to lose or gain by politicizing his viewpoint in the twilight of his life. Dig this remarkable (for a conservative American) quote:

"The Arab world sees us - correctly - as an accessory before and after the fact to all the crimes Israel commits against the Palestinians and other Arabs in the area. We cannot load Israel down with modern weapons, with gifts of more than $90 billion of American tax dollars, with absolute protection from all attempts to hold it accountable under international law, and then pretend we are innocent. We are guilty by proxy of murder, land theft, destruction of property and all the other human misery that Israel has caused in the region."

And now your reading assignment for this week: this article by Christopher Hitchens essentially defending the invasion of Iraq. Hitchens is a self-described liberal and a very good writer. I will try to respond to the article in an upcoming Bulletin.

On the personal front, I have several bits of news for you:

  1. Last weekend's Harbourfront gig was, in my opinion, a dismal failure for the Ontario book industry. The top publishers and writers of the province all gathered, but someone forgot to invite the public. I'll post some funny pictures of empty auditoriums here in a day or two. The important thing, though, is that I sold a lot of my books... due mostly to flagrant and aggressive flirtation. Yes, I'm a whore.

  2. Happy birthday to long time Deonandan.com reader/supporter Mary Ellen!
  3. The watcam is up and running!

  4. The write-up of a presentation I once gave at the University of Ottawa is included in a new book titled, Worlds of Wonder: Readings in Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature. A description can be found here, while chapter contents can be seen here. I had to find this out myself, mind you. It would be nice of people to tell me when they, you know, PUBLISH MY WORK.

  5. I'll be in Toronto next Tuesday evening to do a reading at the Jersey Giant Pub with poet Merle Nudelman. Everyone is invited!

Friday April 2, 2004

"Decisions in the Bush White House are made not based on what is best for the public interest, rather what will get the president the most mileage with his base, and best political advantage." - John Dean

John Dean. Think about that for a while, will you? An insider in the acknowledged most corrupt White House of the modern era, Dean knows what he's talking about. His perspective explains perfectly why the idiots who run the great nation to my south would selfishly create a war unneeded by anyone. Creating mass death for political gain: is this not criminal behaviour? It's a fun interview over at Salon. Dean also offers this tidbit:

"Dick Cheney is the power behind the Bush throne. Frankly, I am baffled why the mainstream news media has given Cheney (not to mention Bush) a free ride. I don't know if it is generational, or corporate ownership, or political bias, but it is clear that Cheney has been given a pass by the major news organizations."

Let's get back to the meat and potatoes of the administration's retardedness: Iraq. The Shrub is positioning himself as the "war president" in the hopes that this characterization will pay electoral dividends in the heartland. Eric Margolis has a way of summarizing well the Bushies' pomposity:

"[Bush's] claim to be a war president is like the man who murders his family, then begs for mercy because he is an orphan. The Iraq war was not one of self-defence, like World War II, but an unprovoked, illegal aggression engineered by the Bush administration and justified by a torrent of shameful lies. Bush's 'war on terrorism' is a police action that was unnecessarily and foolishly militarized."

The fools who backed this war --and, yes, they were fools for not seeing the obvious-- scurry to reshape Western aggression as a programme of liberation, rather than a (disproven) action of preemption. Well, that's not going to fly, either:

"[While Saddam was indeed a murderer,] the killing in Iraq at the time was not of the exceptional nature that would justify [war]. Such interventions should be reserved for stopping an imminent or ongoing slaughter. They shouldn't be used belatedly to address atrocities that were ignored in the past." -Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch

Now that individuals are finally stepping up to blow the whistle --in John Dean style-- on the disingenuous motivations of this corrupt and cowardly administration, the right wing media machine does what it does best: bloviate and sling mud. Even moderate journalists are sometimes caught up in the trend; I remember Paula Zahn interviewing Scott Ritter on CNN, way back when it wasn't yet cool to decry the (impending) war, and muttering under breath, "looks like someone's been drinking Saddam's kool-aid" after Ritter was off screen. Then there was the demonization of Hans Blix after he appeared on MTV to take questions from American youth, and suggested that Iraq should be given more time to comply with disarmament demands. Now, it's terrorism "tsar" Richard Clarke. Like everyone else who tries to tell the truth about the idiots who live in on Pennsylvania Ave., Clarke has become the target of a mud-slinging campaign. Is this the "free" (North) America in which we live?

Well, in an attempt to help redress the right wing imbalance on American radio, Al Franken has launched a "liberal" radio station. We'll see how long it lasts.

On a personal front, I've made some big changes in my life this week that I know you're just dying to know about:

  1. I've switched to the new four-bladed Schick Quattro for that oh-so-close shave.
  2. I've discovered that soy milk --on which I've subsisted for the past 3 years-- contains a phyto-estrogen. God knows an increasingly effete creature like me can't afford to start growing man-boobs, so I've switched back to real 2% milk --what chemists better know as glorified cow sweat. Got sweat?

Don't forget, friends in Toronto, that I'll be on a panel at Harbourfront tomorrow at noon. Richard Ouzonian has been replaced for some reason. (Richard, it's not true! I don't smell....much.) His replacement will do a fine job, I'm sure. So please come on down so I look like I have a following. Pleeeeeeze. Sniff

Monday March 29, 2004

Greetings, Deonandites. Just came back from Montreal where I had a meeting with Merck...in French! Aieee. I have this to say about Montreal: Ohhhhh, the women. Yowza. Hubba hubba. Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more.

This coming weekend I will be back in Toronto to take part in The Great Ontario Book Break at Harbourfront. At noon on Saturday, I will be on a panel in the Studio Dance Theatre with Richard Ouzonian and Craig Heron; the session is titled "Research Required", but I've yet to be told what it's actually about. So come on down and watch me fake it, as I often do.

Still struggling to get the watcam up and streaming. In the meantime, here's a snapshot of Young Dr. Wat manning his terminal, with his underdecorated Ottawa apartment in the background. Love the hair. Until next time... ta-ta.

Wednesday March 24, 2004

The watcam is almost online. Got some minor obstacles to overcome still.

In the process of applying for a Canada Council travel grant for my appearance in Washington in May, I discovered that I had all the details wrong! For my friends in DC, please be sure to see me at Olsson's books in Arlington (not Bethesda!) at 7:pm on May 10. The Canadian Club of DC has included a brief write-up of the event in their newsletter.

Wanna see something truly disturbing? Click here.

Tonight I'll be interviewed on CKCU radio in Ottawa, on a show called "Village Idioms." Apparently, it will also be webcast.

I'll leave you with a plug for my childhood friend Miles Latincic, whose rock band now has its own website.

Friday March 19, 2004

Howdy from sunny (and very cold) Fredericton! This is quite a pleasant little berg, though not busy or obnoxious enough for the likes of me. But the air is crisp, the scenery inspiring, the people polite (so far) and the girls pretty. What more can a lecherous, self-absorbed narcissist like me want?

The reading at UNB last night went extraordinarily well. I was concerned that no one would show up, given the cold and the competing events on at the same time. But some die-hard literary fans did trickle in, and God bless every one of 'em!

This morning was a pleasant interview on a CHSR radio. I babbled on, as is my wont, and I'm sure I ticked off a lot of people... as is also my wont. This afternoon, I said some brief words to an undergaduate English class taught by my good friend and Shakespeare expert Edith Snook. Since a poster on this site was curious, let me just say that I gave them a few minutes of blather about the semantics of post-colonialism, then I read them a story from my first book. Then I left.

Nothing else to report, except that there is no Fido coverage here, so I'm considering finding a new mobile carrier, since I'm one of those guys whose life depends on the reliability of his telecommunications gadgetry.

By the way, I encourage everyone to check out this short story, written by my good friend Raju back in Washington. It's his first fiction publication, but I think he's got real talent and is well on his way to greater successes.

Bye bye till next time.

Wednesday March 17, 2004

"The CIA estimates China's and India's surging, oil-hungry economies will cause world oil shortages by 2030 - or sooner. Accordingly, the Bush administration moved to assure America's global hegemony by seizing Mideast and Central Asian oil before the impending crisis. Doing so required occupying Iraq and Afghanistan." -Eric Margolis

The above quoted article goes on to assert the Bush administration's desire for global hegemony, founded upon a quest to control the world's oil flow. Following up on this site's debate about impending natural changes, some experts are projecting an imminent crisis in the world's oil supply. This is due to unpredicted and accelerating industrial growth in previously agrarian countries. No wonder the superpower wants to grab as much of the black stuff as it as it can.

Meanwhile, regular Deonandan.com reader Rachel has sent in this link, which well examines the US government's suspicious approach to orthodox science.

Well, I promised I'd have the watcam back online by now, but things are busier than I'd expected. So until I get the live feed back up, here's a still from that recent television thing that I did. Yes, this is me.

On a completely different topic, tonight my publisher, the Giller prize-winning novelist MG Vassanji, will be among the speakers on writers in exile, to be held at the National Library in Ottawa.

Tomorrow night, I'll be doing a big book reading at Memorial Hall at the University of New Brunswick. Wanna see something cool? Here's the official write-up for the event. On Friday morning, I'll be interviewed on CHSR radio, and in the afternoon I'll be speaking to an undergraduate English class at UNB.

Next Wednesday (the 24th), I'll be interviewed on CKCU radio in Ottawa. So if you're local, do tune in.

I'll be back in Toronto April 2-4 for a series of public engagements at Harbourfront, and again on April 13 for a reading at The Jersey Giant Pub. My bookings are piling up, so please consult my appearances page to see if I'll be in your town soon; if so, do come and say hello. I will leave you with the following quote, which is particularly apt, now that apathetic voting populations in both Canada and the USA have left us with the mess we're in:

The penalty that good men pay for not being interested in politics is to be governed by men worse than themselves. -Plato

Thursday March 11, 2004

Here I am, happily ensconced in The Nation's Capital. I'm still sleeping in a bag, tiptoeing over packing peanuts and living on a cell phone with the wrong area code, but otherwise this place is starting to feel like home already.

Last night, I went to a rally to welcome back into politics NDP legend Ed Broadbent. While I love and support Ed in everything he (publicly) does, he's gotta stop allowing the leftwing fringe of the party to dictate his image. The funniest part was when he was marched onto stage by an accompaniment of African drummers.... who were all white. You know what I'm talking about. I was waiting for a yoga session to break out midway.

That's all I got today. I'll be in Fredericton next weekend for a book reading/signing and an interview on local radio. If you'll be in town, do let me know.

Friday March 5, 2004

Off to Ottawa this morning. So, so tired. Likely won't be able to update this page for some days, but I will be able to read it. So keep on posting!

Speaking of which, one poster (Mischa) pointed me to a site which happens to have this detailed article debunking the "everything is great and will continue to be great" stance of Bjorn Lomborg. The site also has this to say about the White House's meddling in scientific affairs. See? Deonandan.com is your gateway to erudition!

Monday March 1, 2004

"Flat-earthers in the Bush Administration -- along with hired guns and conservative think tanks -- are engaged in a campaign to suppress science that is arguably unmatched in the Western world since the Inquisition." -Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Do remember that the Kennedy family is supposedly opposed to all things Republican (except, it seems, Arnold Schwarzeneggar). Having said that, the above cited article is magnificent in its citations, though some of them are a bit of a stretch. To summarize, scientific studies of the past few years --primarily environmental studies-- are among some of the finest methodological investigations in the history of science. Yet, as discussed recently on this site, the fanatics in the White House prefer to ignore the bulk of it, while accepting only those studies which confirm their industrial agendas and those of their bankers.

Contrary to the stated opinion of a poster on this site, denying the bulk of evidenciary knowledge in favour of a marginal opinion is not "noble"; it's wacky. Copernicus and Galileo were noble for using science, data and observation to deny the dogmatic heliocentrists in the Catholic church. The President of South Africa is not noble for denying that HIV is responsible for AIDS, and in chosing to adhere to his own pseudo-science dogma which is without firm evidenciary basis. And the Bushies are not just ignoble and wacky, but are morally criminal for adhering to their industrial dogma while denying oceans of good science. Are we now clear on the difference?

Meanwhile, the crap hits the fan down in Haiti. Not sure of what an appropriate solution should be. But this time, how about not propping up the petty tyrant? Eric Margolis tells an interesting story about his time in Haiti. And Eric also has this great primer on what exactly constitutes a "WMD".

The Ottawa countdown is winding down. I'll be (happily?) ensconced there by the end of the week.

Saturday Feb 28, 2004

Wow, quite the little debate we're having. Everyone is welcome to his or her say, so please don't be scared off by the passionate nature of the posters here. I feel it necessary to point out that this all began with that mysterious gloomy Pentagon report. My understanding is that it creatively presents a worst-case scenario (which is what Pentagon reports are supposed to do); so no one should accept its doomsday prediction as gospel. But the report's questionable conclusions should in no way distract us from the fact that most evidence points to the existence of global climate change, and that such change will have an impact on the way we live our lives.

A good example is Africa's Lake Chad, which is 1/20th the size it was 35 years ago, presumably due to global warming. The result is millions of people with a diminished supply of fresh water. Also attributed to global temperature change, bizarre changes in animal behaviour are being observed around the world. As Ed Begley reportedly said on a TV talk show, how many rivets need to fall off of the airplane before we accept that it's not safe to fly in it?

The wall of denial springs from a (mostly free market) attitude which holds "Environmentalism" to be a kind of ideology and not a science. In many ways, this is true. "Eco-warriors" can be as annoyingly dogmatic and blinkered as those corporate apologists I like to criticize on this site. And scientists are almost as prone as everyone else to the cultural pressures of their professions. The deniers, meanwhile, are championed by the late American professor Julian Simon and Danish author Bjorn Lomborg.

Interestingly, Simon was an economist and Lomborg is a statistician. Neither had any training in biology, environmental science or any natural science. This lack does not invalidate their positions, but it does help us to understand how they could have made some basic errors.

Simon was made famous (deservedly so) for pointing out that things in the USA were good and were likely to get better. He used standard economic indicators, such as employment rate and food production per capita, to show that the doomsayers of the 1970s were actually panic mongers. Simon's great contribution was the insight that resources are created by people, and so are theoretically limitless. He went further, though, to say that human ingenuity can be expected to quell any environmental crisis that might arise. Not surprisingly, he continues to be the darling of the free market crowd, dusted off to rationalize the denial of any negative environmental prediction that might threaten short-term profitability.

The years since Simon's death have proven his optimism incorrect, however. He was good at gauging the US situation, but fell where all economists fall: with the inability to account for externalities, those nasty by-products of economic activity which are necessarily cast out of the system, most often into the "commons," the most obvious of which is the natural environment. Simon would never have conceived of modern Africa, with its rotating famines, pervasive plague, endemic water shortage and endless armed conflicts resulting from a desperate need for resources (mostly water). Simon never discounted global warming; he just assumed humans would adapt.

Where Simon could be considered a fallible great man, Lomborg is merely a publicity whore. He parrots Simon: "The world is not without problems, but on almost all accounts, things are going better and they are likely to continue to do so into the future." In his book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, he writes: "the typical cure [of global warming] of early and radical fossil fuel cutbacks is way worse than the original affliction." This may in fact be true. But since one cannot reliably quantify either the impact of fossil fuel reduction or the impact of global warming in meaningful units or with acceptable precision, it's a rather empty statement. For this and other reasons, I stand by the UNEP projections. Thus, the Kyoto Protocol is worth a shot. It may not work, but it's worth trying; its price is cheap by my reckoning.

While I am no fan of attacking a position by dicrediting its purveyor, I must point out that Lomborg's credibility is severely strained. Since he himself presents his credentials as supportive of the quality of his conclusions, I think his scientific credibility is fair game. In a review of his work, the Danish Committee for Scientific Dishonesty concluded, "there has been such perversion of the scientific message in the form of systematically biased representation that the objective criteria for upholding scientific dishonesty … have been met."

Both Simon and Lomborg have been repeatedly discredited over the years. Yet their work continues to be cited by those wishing to discount any positivist environmental legislation. So, are Simon and Lomborg actually correct, while the rest of the scientific world is wrong? It's possible, but highly highly unlikely.

Thursday Feb 26 (afternoon), 2004

As was my expectation, this morning's bulletin garnered negative responses from those who are traditionally opposed to my political viewpoint. (See comments attributed to "MV" below). I've responded in this morning's record-breaking comments section, but let me make myself clear again:

  • Climate change, like Evolution, is a fact, not a theory. Decades of observation show it to be so. What is in debate is whether human civilization has had anything to do with climate change. The Kyoto Protocol was in response to the informed assumption that human activity has been at least partly responsible.

  • As both a scientist and a paid and active member of at least two scientific bodies which have openly and formally advocated the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, namely CSIH and the Global Health Council, I'm quite comfortable in saying "we in the scientific community." Smartass.

  • "Climatologists overwhelmingly reject all this doomsday B.S." -MV. Whether or not "the overwhelming majority" reject the so-called doomsday scenario is unknown to me; perhaps you will share your survey results with the rest of the world, MV? But the majority of climatologists working in the field of global climate change either work for or are funded by the UNEP, with the notable exception of US military meteorologists. And the UNEP has made its position quite clear: global climate change is a fact.

  • Links to divergent opinions provided by MV in this morning's comments section are interesting in their agendas. Three of the five are from the Cato Institute's website. Cato is a so-called Libertarian think tank. In some circles, it's better known as an apologist body for all things corporate and industrial. Make your own conclusions. His 2nd link begins with a truly retarded statement:

    "CO2 is required for life on earth. It cannot be reasonably construed to be a pollutant."

    And this site wishes to be taken seriously? A pollutant is any substance added to the environment which might adversely affect the well-being of people. In sufficient amounts C02 well qualifies. Moreover, careful perusal of the site shows its membership and funding to be from the electrical and fuel industries. I won't comment on the other links, except that the first one is from CapMag, a tunnel vision capitalist forum. Need I say more?

    Apparently I do: why, MV, is Thomas Sowell --a writer on "judicial activism"-- an expert on global climate change in your opinion, while, I dunno, actual experts on global climate change don't qualify in your judgement?

  • Whether climate change is the result of human industrial activity (as supposed by the Kyoto Protocol), or is the result of a natural warming subsequent to the thaw of a mini-Ice Age 12,000 years ago, or the result of some other natural phenomenom, or the result of a combination of factors, the fact remains that it is an issue before us now. To refuse to consider the possibility of its preponderant effects, despite the results of a fricking Pentagon report, is exactly what I'd expect from a C-average President and his drop-out Vice-President.

  • After years of prodding from the scientific community, the political bodies are finally taking note of water shortages as a major global policy concern. The water crisis is but a single dimension to the global environmental crisis, which is a very real crisis with very real consequences for each and every one of us.

  • "It is the height of human arrogance to imagine that we humans could have such a dramatic impact on the natural environment." -MV. I agree fully. But what most people fail to comprehend is that the sliver of biosphere that supports human life is a minute portion of the so-called "natural environment." I don't pretend for a second that anything our civilization does can ever, say, wipe out life on Earth. But we are well capable of disrupting one or two variables in the biosphere which are necessary for keeping us alive. Nature is a dynamic system: disrupt it and it will wobble back to equilibrium. Unfortunately, the "wobble period" is measured in eons: more than enough time to see all of us dead.

  • "One doesn't need a Ph.D. in science to recognize that climate change hysteria is based on bad science." -MV. Evidently, one needs a Ph.D. to recognize that it's not hysteria based on bad science.

  • "... and is largely just thinly-veiled anti-Americanism." -MV. I make no secret of my dislike for the present American government. I'm sure that as a hype-monger yourself, MV, you're well aware that anti-Bush does not necessarily equate with anti-American. But then again maybe one needs "a Ph.D. in science" to recognize that fact, too.

    Chastisement of the world's industrial polluters is not solely chastisement of the USA. China, Russia, Brazil, all of Europe and even Canada are guilty. Don't you dare relegate this to knee-jerk anti-Americanism; your own blinkers begin to show.

  • On September 11, 2001, the deaths of 3,000 people turned the geopolitical world upside down. What do you think would happen if a whole city were buried beneath a rising sea? The more extreme projections predict the destruction of scores of cities, not just one. Regardless of how improbable that outcome might seem to you (and to me, to be candid), don't you think it's worth considering?

  • Remember, it's the supposed Pentagon report which paints the "doomsday scenario," not a bunch of detached pointy-heads. Personally, I don't think it will be as bad as the report allegedly predicts. (And I say "allegedly" because I've yet to see any proof that the report actually exists.) But I do believe that global climate change is a crisis which demands immediate attention by the world's powers; its effects will be both negative and noticeable.

  • ...But the truly frustrating part about this issue, MV, is that corporate apologists like you, the RNC and some voices in the Cato Institute, refuse to even consider the possibility that global climate change is a threat, and that human industry might have something to do with it. 100% of scientists will never agree on anything, which is why every data-based policy decision has to be based on the majority opinion of those best positioned to appreciate the data. In this case, that means the conclusions of UNEP scientists must be given more weight than, say, Thomas Sowell and CapMag.

    Please, somebody other than MV and me weigh in on this debate.

Thursday Feb 26 (morning), 2004

I highly recommend that you read this article. It describes an alleged Pentagon report which details the horrific results of impending climate change. Politically, the report is interesting since it paints the Bush twits as hypocrites and liars, since they've been denying forever that climate change is any kind of an issue. In every other sense, the report is preponderant for its confirmation of what we in the science community have been shouting for years: climate change is real, and it represents the single biggest threat to human civilization.

I don't know if the report is real, only that it has been discussed by both The Observer and Yahoo! News. It is huge news. Yet what has garnered around-the-clock coverage on both CNN and CBC? The premiere of Mel Gibson's Jesus movie. In a nutshell, that tells us why we are all doomed. And don't kid yourself; we are all doomed.

On a lighter note, I just got myself a swanky new apartment in Ottawa. I move next week. And when I do, the first order of business will be the reintroduction of the Watcam!

Saturday Feb 21, 2004

While we await some pics from the TV shoot earlier this week, I thought I'd share these little gems from my webcam back when I was living in Washington. To the left, we have pony-tailed Ray doing his impression of Bono.

Here we see long-haired Ray doing his impression of Prince.

We see here that Ray had just seen the X-Men movie. Lord, save us. Your parting treat is this link from the always gorgeous Alexandra D'Arcy. Thanks, baby.

Wednesday Feb 18, 2004

Finished filming my TV stint last night. Very cool experience. The best part was this very cool close-up of me coming around a pillar with a machine gun; felt like an action star. You will note that all references to the specifics of the production have been removed from this website. This is for security reasons, since it turns out the topic of the show is a very sensitive one, and has already resulted in a death threat against the filmmaker. Yikes!

Photos from the shoot will be posted here when the show airs.

Here is another review of Desilicious. And here is a little online test you can do to see which US Presidential candidate best matches your viewpoint. I got Dennis Kucinich, with Al Sharpton not far behind. Ewwwww.

My friend Sonia Arrison has written this report on an incentive to reduce spam. It's a PDF fie, so be forewarned. A shorter op-ed version is available here.

Meanwhile, my favourite TV show has been cancelled. Sigh. One less reason to get cable when I move to Ottawa. A very sad day indeed.

Sunday Feb 15, 2004

"The conservation movement is a breeding ground of Communists and other subversives. We intend to clean them out, even if it means rounding up every bird watcher in the country." -John Mitchell, US Attorney General 1969-1972

Damn bird watchers --trying to subvert our society! Be careful. Next time you look too long at a pigeon, someone may arrest you for subversion.

So Conan O'Brien has left Toronto. I must say, the Toronto audiences were downright embarrassing. They made us Canadians all look like a bunch of dumb hockey-obsessed rubes. There goes our much hyped social superiority. Judging by that display, our entire nation is just a small northern Ontario town that got really big but retained its inbred retardedness.

Here is the first review of Desilicious. According to the reviewer, I'm a "reputed author." I really hope she meant "reputable."

Looks like a near certainty that I'll be moving to Ottawa really soon. So if anyone in the Big O wants to offer me a social life, you how how to reach me.

Thursday Feb 12, 2004

It's 3:30 AM and I'm sitting in front of the TV in my PJs, clinking on my laptop, trying to finish a consulting contract while watching a PBS documentary on the Medici family. Ahhh, geek bliss. Throw in a Star Trek episode and colour me nerd.

Congratulations to Andrew Currie for his appearance on The Conan O'Brien Show last night. Andrew was the dude in the audience sitting next to the dude playing the "obnoxious American" role. Hey, it's a start... how many late night talk shows you been on?

Speaking of TV shows, I'm busily trying to grow a beard before next week, when I play an Indian commando in a television production. Anybody out there know how to tie a turban? Seriously, I need to learn. And no, I'm not an actor, though I have had many non-speaking roles in classic crappy Canadian TV productions, like Street Legal and Catwalk (a truly disastrous show, starring Neve Campbell, which aired on MTV). Oh yes, there were also the many roles in Herr Currie's slew of student films, including his student masterpiece, The Strange Story of Jacques LaPlante, which aired on television several times, and in which I played a policeman with enormous Elvis sideburns (hey, that's what I had on my face in those days), entirely because the originally cast actor didn't show up for the shoot and I happened to be moping about the set at the time.

While I'm not an actor, television does interest me to an extent. Im toying with the idea of transferring my journalism and fiction writing successes to the small screen... in some capacity, don't know what. If anyone has any suggestions, do share them with me.

In truly exciting news, I've been retained to author a policy paper on economic incentive models for global disease surveillance. Okay, maybe it doesn't sound exciting; but trust me, it's pretty damn cool.

Tuesday Feb 10, 2004

So...little....time. Yes, it seems very likely indeed that yours truly will be relocating to our nation's capital in a couple of weeks. That means that after months of a relaxed lifestyle, I now have to work my ass off to get things done before then. What things, you ask? Well, in addition to the slew of consulting contracts I'm finishing up, I've just agreed to co-author a report with one of the world's top AIDS researchers. This will eat up a hunk of my time, but is definitely worth it.

In addition, next week I'm filming an episode of SHOW NAME DELETED for the CHANNEL NAME DELETED. I will be playing both a religious firebrand and an Indian commando. May as well put that brown skin to work, eh?

And speaking of filming, you probably know that The Conan O'Brien Show will be broadcast from Toronto all this week. Well, my good buddy Andrew Currie will appear in a skit on the show sometime this week. He was supposed to be on tonight, but it looks more like tomorrow night. It's not mega-stardom yet.... but baby steps, my friends, baby steps.

Congratulations to Leslie, an old high school alumna whom I met in Washington (sounds complicated, I know) and her fella, Chris, on their impending nuptials in Kenya. They even have a website: www.leslieandchris.virtuallymarried.com.

Sunday Feb 8, 2004

"The thoroughly modern conservative is fiscally conservative and socially liberal... George W. Bush turns the formula around. A thoroughly backward conservative, he is fiscally liberal and socially conservative -- indifferent to balanced budgets and free trade, openly hostile to gay marriage and abortion choice." -Marcus Gee

I've often found Gee to be a forgettable conservative apologist, which is why I usually discount most of his views offhand. But he makes an interesting point here, one which is mirrored in the writings of self-proclaimed conservatives and fellow Bush-haters, Eric Margolis and Charley Reese. The American far Right is a weird, weird little world.

Reese is also responsible for this gem, which well summarizes my own attitude toward choosing which movies to see:

"I'm not paying some corporate entity $8 a ticket to be depressed. If I want to be depressed, I can read a daily newspaper or become a cop or an orderly in a psychiatric ward."

I love the way the Internet preserves and recapitulates everything of interest. My Globe and Mail article has been promoted by a number of blogs, including this one and this one and even the Montreal Muslim News. One can find minimal meta-fame in the strangest places.

The Divine Elemental promotional machine starts to get under way. In addition to my confirmed bookings, it seems that I will be returning (somewhat triumphantly) to the great city of Washington, DC, in May, hosted by the South Asian Journalists' Association and the South Asian Professionals Network. Watch this space for details.

And in even more personal news, it seems very likely that I will soon be moving to the frosty but pretty city of Ottawa, to be near my newest client, the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. I'm very excited.

Wednesday Feb 4, 2004

"Hatred of Muslims has become the anti-semitism of our era." -Eric Margolis

Speaking of hatred of Muslims, apparently Rukhsana Khan, a great writer with whom I've been having a brief correspondence, recently debated Irshad Manji regarding Manji's controversial book, The Trouble With Islam. I missed the debate. So if anyone out there has seen it, do let me know your impressions.

While we're talking about Eric Margolis, his most recent column is on a topic that's long overdue: Bush's lies about Iraq's non-existent WMDs constitute a crisis in American government bigger even than Watergate, since the latter didn't kill 15,000 people. Charley Reese concurs here. And in this column, Brother Margolis points out the silliness of claiming Libya's dismantling of its weapons programme to be a positive result of the Iraq invasion. As we see below, damage control is a bitch in the Internet era:

"I think some in the media have chosen to use the word 'imminent.' Those were not words we used." - White House spokesman Scott McClellan, 1/27/04

"This is about imminent threat." - White House spokesman Scott McClellan, 2/10/03



Re: the Prime Minister's throne speech on Monday. It all sounds like sunshine and peaches, as the Liberals clearly try to inch in on sacred NDP soil as we ramp up to the election season. But none of this stuff has been costed yet, and I am extremely sceptical that any of the proposed programmes will see the light of day. Hope I'm wrong.

In personal news, looks like I'll be doing an appearance at the McNally Robinson bookstore in Saskatoon on April 22nd. Bring the kids... if they've got money. And of course, I and a few other Desilicious authors will be at Octopus Books in Ottawa tomorrow night!

While we're plugging personal appearances, I'll also be at the University of New Brunswick bookstore on March 18th... which means I won't be able to make that Pen Canada thing I talked about on Monday.

Continuing the random plugging of my media appearances, those of you in Toronto can come down to the Jersey Giant pub on April 13th, where I'll be one of the presenters in the Pagitica Magazine reading series.

By the way, all my bookings are available on the news page.

Lastly, today I'd like to turn your attention to this wonderful pencil drawing by my good friend Mary Ellen Duff. Lord love a duck!

Monday Feb 2, 2004

"If Dean crashes, that will be a great shame, because he is an intelligent and principled man who actually has a good message, but elections are won and lost not necessarily on reality but on people's perception of reality." -Charley Reese

Here's the unspoken bad part about Dean's impending demise: it means the new frontrunners are old school Washington types whose funding comes almost exclusively from DC lobbyists. Losing George Bush is the Democrats' priority... but why replace him with yet another corporate sycophant?

I'm watching the Prime Minster's "speech from the throne" as I write this. My first impression: Governor General Adrienne Clarkson has a horrible French accent. (For my non-Canadian readers, the throne speech is similar to the American State of the Union address, and the Governor General is symbolic of the British monarch.) I've yet to hear anything truly newsworthy, but so far the speech is touching on all the things I care about: immigration, equality, social services, etc. Ahh, it's good to be Canadian. The PM is also reorganizing public health in this country; stay tuned for a more detailed analysis of this revelation in coming days.

Speaking of the GG, PEN Canada (this country's organization for supporting political writers oppressed by governments, headed by the great Haroon Siddiqui) is hosting a conference about writers in exile, to be held March 18th in Ottawa. The GG's "consort," her husband John Ralston Saul, is the honourary patron. I intend to be there... if only to figure out how one becomes an "honourary patron."

England, in order to save herself from extinction, will become a satellite of the United States and incite the imperialism and capitalism of America to fight by her side." -Jawaharlal Nehru, 1927

Nehru was a prophet.

Well, my bit on TV happened this weekend. How embarrassing! I looked so UGLY! Really, you have to believe me: I'm a good looking man. The camera puts on 20 pounds!

Don't forget, this week is the Ottawa launch of Desilicious at Octopus Books, Thursday at 7pm. I'll be there, so you be there, too.

Tuesday Jan 27, 2004

Ugh. I have a cold. As usual, the suckiest part is not being able to go to the gym. I'm convinced that every cold one contracts shortens one's life by months.

The race for the Democratic presidential nominee continues. They say Howard Dean snapped during his Iowa speech. I dunno. I saw the speech and it didn't seem untoward to me in the least, just over the top. I think he lost it in the negative attack ads against his competitors. But Dean, Kerry or Edwards for President? Hello, 4 more years of George Bush --despite what the polls presently indicate. No matter who wins the nomination, I'd like to see Wesley Clark as the Vice-Presidential nominee, just to see the Cheney-Clark debate: the general versus the chickenhawk.

I'd like to reveal a prediction made by the Amazing Kreskin exactly 4 years ago. He prophesied that Al Gore would be President after George W. Bush. If one is to believe overrated card counters, this means Bush wins the next election and Gore steps up in 2008... to beat, I dunno, the team of Quayle-Limbaugh.

Here in Canada, the Belinda express continues to roll. As mentioned earlier, I like Belinda Stronach on a personal level. She and her family have been kind to me. But I don't think she can play at the level of Jack Layton or Paul Martin. In fact, I'm not sure she can play at all! I wouldn't be too suprised to see her lose the by-election for a federal seat.

In completely unrelated news, my old friend Tanya was this past weekend's Sunshine Girl. For those of you not familiar with Toronto papers, the Toronto Sun features a babe on its page 3 every day. Tanya sure qualifies. I'm still waiting for my call to be Sunshine Boy. Hello! Studly brown dude here!

I'll be in Ottawa Feb 4-6 for the local launch of Desilicious at Octopus Books in the Glebe at 7pm on the 5th. Hope to see you there!

Thursday Jan 22, 2004

"In the era of the War against Terror, poverty is being slyly conflated with terrorism. In the era of corporate globalisation, poverty is a crime. Protesting against further impoverishment is terrorism." -Arundhati Roy

Meanwhile, former members of the US intelligence community plead with the President for sanity. But sanity is in short supply with this evil (yes, I said evil) administration. Did you know they are holding child detainees at Guantanamo? Just imagine if a foreign power were treating American children in this fashion.

Today is Chinese New Year. Gung Hei Fat Choy and all that. (Contrary to popular belief, that means "may you be prosperous," and not "happy new year.") According to the Toronto Star, for men like me, born in 1967, this year will see the following:

"This year favours the male sheep more than the female sheep. You will be able to get out of trouble. Stay put in what you have been doing. Your work and wealth will be stable. But if you are greedy, you may lose money. Your romances will be somewhat unstable. There is also an illness sign for you. Exercise."

Yes, I'm a sheep. But most importantly, I "will be able to get out of trouble." Cool.

The big news this week is that I have been profiled by Omni TV's Hindi news show, Badhai Ho!. They came to the fabled Deonandan household, spoke to me for close to two hours, and in typical Indian style, even filmed my degrees. When they distill all this footage down to a 5 minute airable clip, I am sure to look like the dork I am. So do check it out. In Toronto, the segment will air on cable 14 on the following dates: Sunday Feb 1st from 1-2pm, Monday Feb 2nd from 6-7am and Thursday Feb 5th from 9-10am.

That's all for today. Me go now.

Friday Jan 16, 2004

Hey, apparently Ryerson University teaches a section on "Asian authors," and includes me on their list of appropriate writers to read.

So Magna CEO Belinda Stronach is running for leadership of Canada's new Conservative party. Before I continue, I should offer the following in the spirit of full disclosure...

I've met Belinda on several occasions. Over the past decade, I was a three-time semi-finalist for the Magna For Canada essay competition, which was administered by Belinda at the behest of her political wannabe (and billionaire) dad, Frank. As a result, Belinda and I interacted on many occasions, both formal and informal; we even had a drink one night. One of my weirdest memories is of waiting up in a university office in the wee hours in Bangalore, India, in the summer of 1996, awaiting a phone call from the Magna board. This was particularly terrifying since I wasn't sure if the Dean would arrive in time to let me in the office, or if the phones would indeed work! (This was India, after all.) Well, they worked, and I defended my essay from half a world away. The board was made up of prominent Canadian businessmen, journalists and retired Members of Parliament. I'll never forget hearing in the distance thro ugh the phone a distinctly feminine voice: "Hi, Ray. It's me, Belinda. Do you remember me?" It went a long way toward putting me at ease.... though, clearly, not enough to actually win the competition.

(Remind me one day to tell you about the great parties Magna held for the essay contests. I once literally tripped former Ontario premier Bob Rae, and had a champagne drinking contest with the infamous Alan Eagleson. Magna knows how to throw a party.)

Belinda and I are the same age. Here's a sobering thought: ten years later, Belinda is a billionaire, a CEO, Forbes Magazine's 2nd most powerful businesswoman on the planet and now potentially a Prime Minister of Canada. Me? I'm essentially unemployed, penniless and homeless. Aw, now I'm depressed and need a cookie. For the record, I always found Belinda to be both charming and fetching and never objectionable in the least.

Having said that, there are necessarily concerns that she does not have the credentials, nor has she earned her dues, to seek one of the highest seats in the land. I'm somewhat torn on the issue. Of course, as a good pinko commie I despise privilege. But at the same time, I support every citizen's right to aspire to any public office he or she chooses. So why not run?

If Harper wins the leadership race, it will push the Conservative party further to the right, assuring their status as the official Opposition, but unlikely allowing them to ever form the government.... which is fine by me. If Stronach wins, the Liberal and Conservative parties may become more indistinguishable, especially given the fiscal rightist tendencies of our current Liberal PM, Mr. Martin. But what a field day Jack Layton would have with Belinda! You just know Jack is holding back his tongue, waiting for the opportunity to let loose.

What do I want? To be honest, I'm somewhat content with the Liberal oligarchy, but would prefer a more prominent role for the federal NDP, especially now that Ed Broadbent is running again. To that end, Belinda is a strategically apt choice for Conservative leader. Plus, if she ever does become Prime Minister, it would be cool to have as a memory the leader of a G7 country shouting at me through a phone, "Hi, Ray.... Do you remember me?"

Tuesday Jan 13, 2004

"George W. Bush has acknowledged he came to power seeking 'regime change' in Iraq." -Tim Harper

Well nuh, who doesn't know that by now? Very sad that it takes the sudden honesty of a White House insider --Paul O'Neill-- to make this story relevant. It's been fairly obvious to the rest of us for three years now. Of course, O'Neill provides a few gems, like this one: Bush at cabinet meetings is like "a blind man in a room full of deaf people." Heh heh.

Despite this news, there are actually many Americans writing to CNN to complain that O'Neill is a traitor and should be investigated by the FBI and maybe even sent to Guantanamo. The message? Lots of people have their heads up their behinds. (Note that I didn't say American people, 'cause there are just as many such folks here in the Northern Socialist Paradise, though most of them are west of Winnipeg.)

Thomas Walkom has this wonderful article comparing Bush (favourably) to Hitler. It's a comparison that's a long time coming in the mainstream media, and I'm glad he wrote it. Of course, Bush is no Hitler. But it's important for all of us to recognize totalitarian tendencies when they arise; and they've certainly been arising among our southern friends. The most chilling aspect of the comparison is the great number of people who admired Hitler prior to the war, just as there are a great number of Bush admirers today, for many of the same reasons.

So, since it's a new year and I'm in an unusually good mood this morning, I will now list some of the things I actually like about Herr Bush. Are you ready?

  • He gives people goofy nicknames. How can you not like that?
  • He (tries to) run 5 miles a day. Fitness is an admirable trait in a busy person.
  • He genuinely cares about his people. (Though I suspect "his people" are actually a minute subset of the total American population.)
  • His moral certitude. (Of course, Hitler also had moral certitude, as did Saddam and Stalin.)
  • His hot drunk daughters. (Or, as they're otherwise known, frat bait.)

On another topic, it seems the Sylvan library in Calgary has linked to my review of Vassanji's The Book of Secrets, thus dramatically bumping up my hit counts. Hooray for them. Feel free to link here as much as you can!

Thursday Jan 8, 2004

"And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?" -Benjamin Franklin, quoted in Dick Cheney's official 2003 Christmas card.

So Dicky thinks God himself backs his administration's imperial ambitions? Don't bother emailing me to explain that Franklin's quote was motivated by the Founding Father's desire to see prayer kept in official government procedures. That Cheney is too stupid to realize its inclusion in his official public correspondence would be widely interpreted as a declaration of his fundamentalist imperialist ambition should be a clear sign of his unsuitability for such a high office.

Here is an interesting list of unerreported and overreported stories of 2003. Do you agree?

You know, almost every day in this space I write something somewhat inciting. And yet what has garnered the most comments and emails of late? The question of which Canadian Prime Minister served the longest. Sheesh.

My publisher, TSAR Books has finally updated their website. Have a look.

My beloved Treo 180 broke yesterday morning. Quite heartbreaking. So I immediately emailed my friend Andrew Currie, who is the master of smart phones, and offered to purchase his old Treo 270. Here is a pic of me (copped from Herr Currie's website) receiving my new toy. I promise to maintain Andrew's tradition of lugging the beast around the world. (Man, do I look fat in this photo!)

Happy birthday to both Elvis Presley and Sneh Aurora. Till next time!

Saturday Jan 3, 2004

Rondi Adamson was nice enough to point out that I'd made a factual error in the last entry. Jean Chretien is not Canada's longest serving Prime Minister. My childhood hero Pierre Trudeau actually exceeded Chretien's reign by 1 year, then added another 4 years after Joe Clark's brief stint in 1980. Speaking of Trudeau, Montreal's Dorval airport is now officially Trudeau airport, and why the hell not?

Mary Ellen Duff pointed out that I missed some major 2003 lowlights: AIDs in Africa, the occupation of Afghanistan and the explosion of the space shuttle. I'm a big fan of space exploration, but I recognize that it's not immediately important to most people's lives. Certainly Columbia's explosion was tragic, but doesn't compare with earthquakes or wars. And I believe the occupation of Afghanistan to be a 2002 story, though I'm sure many Afghans and Canadian troops would no doubt disagree with me. Lastly, I believe the AIDS epidemic to be one of the biggest stories of the decade, if not the century. Thus, I find it difficult to relegate it to a single year.

Speaking of Africa, my list betrays my own media bias. Much tragedy befell Africa this past year: revolutions, wars, epidemics, famines and massacres. But since Africa receives such poor media attention, it doesn't make most people's lists, including mine. However, my favourite Africa story from 2003 was the (horrifying but, let's be honest, humourous) revelation that pygmies were being hunted and eaten for their suposedly magical meat. As a US Marine acquaintance put it, "It's hard enough just being a pygmy; now they have to put up with being hunted and eaten. Poor damn pygmies."

"If all that happens [decline in the insurgency in Iraq, more disarmament in the Middle East, etc.], then Bush will prove to have been right all along. Phew: that was hard to type!" -Richard Gwyn (Toronto Star, Jan 2, 2004)

Okay, I like Richard Gwyn. But he misses the point: the ends never justify the means. Nor do inadvertent ends justify improper intents. Even if the invasion of Iraq ends up saving Christmas, puppies and all things good, it doesn't mean we must forget or forgive: the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqis, the bullying arrogant politics that allowed the war, the misdirections and outright lies that paved the way to war or the disingenuous reasons for going to war. Let us not forget:

  • the weapons of mass destruction. Where are they?
  • that on the eve of war, the Iraqis offered the Americans everything they asked for, in exchange for peace;
  • that the fabled folio for war, presented by Colin Powell to the UN, was copped from a British graduate student's outdated thesis;
  • that there was never any connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda.... not until the invasion gave Iraqis a reason for such a connection
  • that in the opinions of many (myself included), 10 years of US-lead sanctions helped to both starve the Iraqi people and keep Saddam in power
  • that the blueprint for the invasion and occupation of Iraq pre-dates the 9/11 attacks, and was advocated by senior Bush officials long before coming to power, as evidenced by the position papers of the People for a New American Century (PNAC);
  • that the oil fields were the first things to be secured, while the rest of Iraq was left to burn;
  • that despite the war's gargantuan cost to the US taxpayer and soldier --not to mention starved and bombed Iraqis-- a handful of Republican-friendly companies and Bush cronies will become uber-rich from non-bidded contracts.

In short: Iraq was never a threat to the United States or its allies. The invasion had nothing to do with pre-emption or even vengeance for 9/11. It had everything to do with a strategic occupation of valuable real estate which, in the long run, might increase US security, but in the short run will only increase world insecurity. And at what price? Hatred and distrust for the West, more death and destruction than actually occurred on 9/11, bleeding of the American economy, hardening divisions between previously tight Western allies, and a shattering of George Washington's very proper and inspiring image of America as a non-imperial, prosperous and non-allied nation.

Despite what Richard Gwyn says, no amount of positive outcomes will make George Bush right about this war.

You don't have to be a Saddam-lover to oppose the war. All it takes is the ability to see a global picture that lasts longer than a single presidential administration.

Friday Jan 2, 2004

Happy New Year, faithful Deonandan.com readers. My present to you: a faster loading page. This is due both to the smaller size of this file and the fact that it is now hosted on the main Deonandan.com site on the Bravenet server. You may recall that I had to move the page because of its "profane content." Now that it's a new year, I'll see if I can limit the expletives. No promises, though.

As always, last year's Bulletin is archived.

2003 was an eventful year, and so I am loathe to be in a celebratory mood. For me, it ended with food poisoning and a death in my sister-in-law's family. (Um, the death was not due to the food poisoning.) Let's recap some of the global lowlights of 2003, shall we?

  • Two SARS epidemics in Toronto
  • In Canada, the retirement of history's longest serving Prime Minister
  • A major blackout affected almost all of eastern North America
  • The idiot would-be king invaded Iraq
  • An earthquake in Iran killed 30,000 people.... and the count is still coming in

Regular readers will know that I reserve the first entry of the year for a list of personal tansactions for which I am actually grateful. So, in reverse order, let's begin:

4. Leaving a dead-end job, but unfortunately also leaving a great city (Washington, DC). Yep, I enjoyed the two years spent in that position, but my career was going nowhere. Sadly, I had started to make a life in Washington, and it was a bit of a step backwards when I had to....

3. Return to Toronto. The city of my youth is my most favourite place in the world, but it would have been nice to have had a more triumphant return. Still, it's very nice to be back. Being in Canada, though, has allowed me to more fully...

2. Step up my involvement with CIDA's HIV/AIDS project in Guyana. The project represents everything I got into epidemiology for in the first place. Mine is unfortunately a part-time consulting role, but it has come at exactly the right time in my life. Oddly, my involvement represents the long-coming overlap between my careers in science and communication. And so it's not surprising that this year also saw...

1. The launch of my first novel, Divine Elemental. The next few months will tell whether my 3 years worth of work on this beast will be received with any sense of excitement by the public. But, hey, I wrote a novel. How many people can say that?

Sadly, that's all I've got. I hope you're list is longer than mine.