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Jaks View from Vancouver

Sunday, September 30, 2001

The Observer in London is reporting that strikes against Afghanistan will begin by Tuesday. The article gives a good review of the likely troops involved, and discusses the apparent victory of Colin Powell and Tony Blair for limited strikes over the more militant Pentagon faction who wanted to bomb a range of countries, such as Iraq.

The always-excellent Economist has another good backgrounder on the Saudi roots of the current crisis. And AlterNet's Martin Lee lists 13 important questions that no one is asking the Bush Administration.

I really enjoy user-controllable 360 panorama webcam stuff. How to get vertigo without leaving the comfort of your chair! The series here is of the pre-Sept 11th WTC.

Good morning.

Gosh! We wake up to discover that Bush's much-vaunted coalition is shaky to say the least. If America's biggest friend in the region, Saudia Arabia, will not allow its bases to be used for attacks against Arabs and Muslims, why should other states, like Pakistan?

And, of course, there is other news going on. In particular, Poland seems to be headed towards an interesting time. Solidarity lost all its seats in the recent election, but the left of centre Democratic Left Alliance failed, just, to get a majority of seats. A period of coalition building faces the nation.

If you are at all interested in the study of early man, Kharlena Ramanan's site about Neanderthals is a good stop. You'll need to track down more academic sites for the deep skinny, but this is a good overview of the current state of research. For a different perspective (one that pushes the Neanderthal's are us theory) see Scott Brown's "Neanderthal's and Modern Humans: A Regional Guide."

Saturday, September 29, 2001

The BBC's Owen Bennett Jones' report from Pakistan points up the long term instabilities that will arise from the current US policies in the region.

With the founding of the Homeland security office, we know that the USA is about to enter one of those reactionary dark periods when "national security" is more important than individual rights. Unfortunately, this future is not linked to America. Human Rights Watch has published a list of countries that are already taking the opportunity presented by Sepotember 11th to reduce the rights of their citizens.

South American abstract modernism: an NYT review of "Abstract Art From the Río de la Plata: Buenos Aires and Montevideo, 1933-1953" at the Americas Gallery.

Good morning!

The Internet just got bigger, with .biz and .info domains now available. However, as the BBC points out, there is very little content on these sites yet.

Bernard Lewis is perhaps the greatest English-language writer on the history of Islam and the Middle East. In 1990, he penned a long article for The Atlantic in which he examined the roots of the tensions between Islam and the West. Recent events have made this required reading.

Now this is interesting research: Economists McMillan and Masters have concluded that hard annual frost is/was a key to why some regions of the world became rich and others didn't. For example, frost helps agricultural productivity and defeats malaria, among other fine attributes.

Terror sex?? Sounds more like an excuse for a sensationalist story than a genuine cultural phenomenon. Hmmmmm.

Friday, September 28, 2001

From the New York Times comes the most detailed story I have yet found on the organization of the action cells that planned and executed the attacks on September 11th.

This is where you don't want to be right now ...

...lining up on the Afghan side of the Pakistan border

The power of the Homeland Security Director is being debated, with Congress wanting Ridge to have even more authority than Bush suggested. They want him to have full budgetary control over all aspects of the police state. Interestingly, one official has already described New York City as a police state. "This is how it is because this is how it has to be," said one law-enforcement official. "This is a police state now."

The following is the transcript from Jerry Falwell's broadcast on the 700 Club on September 13th, 2001:

JERRY FALWELL: And I agree totally with you that the Lord has protected us so wonderfully these 225 years. And since 1812, this is the first time that we've been attacked on our soil and by far the worst results. And I fear, as Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, said yesterday, that this is only the beginning. And with biological warfare available to these monsters -- the Husseins, the Bin Ladens, the Arafats -- what we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact -- if, in fact -- God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve.

PAT ROBERTSON: Jerry, that's my feeling. I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven't even begun to see what they can do to the major population.

JERRY FALWELL: The ACLU's got to take a lot of blame for this.


JERRY FALWELL: And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."

PAT ROBERTSON: Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we're responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, is the court system.

JERRY FALWELL: Pat, did you notice yesterday the ACLU, and all the Christ-haters, People For the American Way, NOW, etc. were totally disregarded by the Democrats and the Republicans in both houses of Congress as they went out on the steps and called out on to God in prayer and sang "God Bless America" and said "let the ACLU be hanged"? In other words, when the nation is on its knees, the only normal and natural and spiritual thing to do is what we ought to be doing all the time -- calling upon God.


What we are all waiting to see -- the worst comics ever!

After yesterday' s historical survey of market research , here is a story about how modern practitioners have adopted the anthropologist's tool kit.

Did you know that in a Gallop Poll published on Sept 21, 46% of Americans declared themselves opposed or ambivalent towards a war of retribution?

Now a State Senator from Kansas says that women only need the vote because men are doing such a bad job. In other words, if men straightened up, women could get back to what they are supposed to be doing -- according to this senator -- which is raising the family. Oddly or not, this State Senator is a woman.

Cynthia Cotts of the Village Voice has written a scathing article on the failure of the current press corps to protect the First Amendment in the face of decisions by the White House and the Pentagon.

Good morning! I have had a fine time reading today ...

In a previous note I had mentioned that the People's Republic has loosened the reins of newsmedia web sites. No longer, it appears. It will be a very good thing when the leadership succession discussions have concluded; right now China seems to be just floating, allowing itself to be reactive to events.

I have always had a hedonistic soft spot for Gustav Klimt. The Guardian has a good review. His museum site is good too.

The Social Research Institute of Chicago was a prime mover in market research. This article is a good overview of their work and influence.

Noting that terror is terror and that death is death, here is a photo essay comparing New York of September 11th, and Belgrade of the 90s.

The excellent British writer Polly Toynbee has a strong piece about womens' rights in Islam generally, and among the so-called Afghan Northern Alliance. She says the US should get assurances from the Alliance about future human rights policies in exchange for US support.

It is good to know that spats happen in even the best of families. It seems that while the usually-barbaric British press has agreed to leave Prince William alone while he goes to college. Unfortunately, his uncle's TV company broke all the rules, and now they have Prince Charles mad!

Thursday, September 27, 2001

The introduction of the cross-town express buses (99B east-west, and 99B, north-south) has simply added a lustre to an already wonderful transit system in Vancouver. By the time the new Millenium Line extension to SkyTrain is completed next summer, rapid transit the city and into the most important suburbs will be a reality! I realise that a vocal minority would like people to believe that Vancouver is bad, bad, bad. However, after using it daily for the more than ten years since I gave up driving, I love it, rarely find it inconvenient, and believe it to be excellent value for money.

Governments could quickly prove their commitment to enery-and-earth saving by making transit a free service. The additional use that such a move would generate will drag enough cars off the road to make a noticeable difference in air quality. Moreover, the savings on wear and tear to the city's roads would be more than enough to pay for transit. Free transit and free education through undergraduate degree would be my campaign slogans should I ever run for Emperor of the World.

"Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy" are the most popular TV shows in America. If you notice, at the end of each show there are more losers than winners. That's the American way.

Serious corporate bullshit department: This is an extraordinary story about how Philip Morris spent more than a million dollars to publicize a humanitarian donation of $150,000.

The hawk who eats doves in the West Wing: Paul Wolfowitz is a Deputy Secretary of Defense. His job, as he sees it, is to persuade Dubya to bomb the hell out of Iraq. This is an excellent profile.

I bet Dubya is glad the home town folks are on side. Seems that Texans would be quite happy to give up some of that vaunted American freedom in order to get back at that bin Ladin and his gang. I guess so long as they don't have to give up their guns or their cars ....

So now we discover that the "threat" to Bush's airplane that was the supposed reason he kept away from Washington on September 11th was, in fact, "just a mix up" and probably didn't happen. Hmmm. Meanwhile, where the real threat is, mothers do what they have to to survive.

Humans the culprits in extinction of the largest mammals. Gosh, who would have guessed?

Well I used to think that poor folks on the move were refugees. I was wrong. According to today's US State Department press briefing, the 1.5 million people expected to soon leave Afghanistan are a "contingency outflow." Now I know. Maybe the relevant UN organization should change its name to the UN High Commission on Contingency Outflows.

The Upper Arrow Lake at Nakusp on a forest-fire-smoky morning

For those of you with time to spare, a few sheets of blank paper, and a sensual imagination, why not try erotic origami! Looks like fun for all the family.

Now, I don't want to demean the deaths of the people on September 11th in any way, but to call most of them heroes is simply wrong. If just to die is heroic, then each of us is heroic because we will all die, and to call that heroism is to de-base that term and make it valueless in the future. Therefore, for Rumsfeld to issue Purple Hearts and the new civilian Medal for the Defense of Freedom to those who died in the Pentagon attack really takes away from the true heroism of the fighter who knowingly, consciously, faces an armed foe. Shame.

Good morning! I started my day with this excellent Guardian piece on how electronic eavesdropping cannot contend with simple "in the clear" messages, and thus the failure to pick up clues in advance of the September 11th attacks was inevitable.

As for press coverage of 'the war' so far, some analysts see a link between the lack of media criticism and the need for changes to FCC ownership rules; that silence on one side is supposed to bring a quid pro quo from the regulators. Conspiracy theories don't always have to be wrong.

Here's another blow for genetically-modified agriculture. Seems that pesticides can inhibite correct messaging between organisms. Odd that we should still be surprised at all this, or so apathetic in pushing for cleaner crops.

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

I just love it when a true-blue fascist actually speaks his mind! Berlusconi has always been way out there, and his "allies" won't be happy with this kind of loose talk. But it is refreshing.

Well, so much for the British Foreign Secretary sucking up to the Iranians! It always seemed like a longshot to me that they would be willing to join George's crusade. There wasn't anything the "allies" could offer that would balance the backlash Iran would have felt from its own militants.

Young Dubya, who we all know, had a various and family-propelled business career before he took to sucking on the taxpayers' tit, was apparently a business partner with Osama bin Ladin's brother! What a hoot.

What does the world's population really think about the American crusade? Hard to tell, but the early indications from Gallop are none too promising for public acclaim.

In paleontology, there is exciting news most every day it seems. Today's news is from Russia, about the early spread of homo sapiens into the northern arctic regions during the last Ice Age. Finds like this, and others in Georgia are allowing us to map the dispersion(s) of humans across time.

A skull from Dmanisi, Georgia, dated to 1.6 million years.

Now here's an idea about what to do with all the spin doctors of defeated political candidates. Those Mayan folks knew a thing or two.

An anxious opinion from a progressive Muslim-American on the new Crusade. In the meantime, the number of reservists who have had to re-confirm their body bag sizes has risen to 15, 600.

The Chinese, who will be US allies in this grand Crusade have somewhat different ideas about judicial process than most of us, as this eyewitness account of Muslim executions vividly conveys.

I have been fascinated for a very long time about the populating and pre-history of the Americas. I have read a number of good works on the archaeological and linguistics researches going forward. Therefore, I am always pleased to spot news that furthers this work. Recently the LA Times published this article on work being carried out just off the California coast. And in Ohio, there are reports of unusual burial practices and rare tools at a site near Orient.

Corporate predation on the heels of the September 11th massacres? Say it ain't so, Joe!

What actually happens when the FBI knocks on your door and asks you about the September 11th attacks? Read all about it!

Good morning!

I have added a section called VACATION to the list of links on the left. I will posting in there a selection of the pictures we took when we travelled to the West Kootenays this summer. There are just a few right now; more later.

Talking of pictures, NASA has released film of the nucleus of Comet Borrelly from the Deep Space 1 flyby. Wow! I still get really excited by this stuff.

For those folks betting US soldiers' lives on the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, CNN has a fact-filled backgrounder on the leadership that will definitely make you wonder who your friends are!

Here is a somewhat different POV, an intelligence briefer on Afghanistan and the Middle East from Israel. The detailed listing of the manpower potentially available for Osama bin Ladin's defence is of particular interest.

Content-delivery companies are still trying to figure out the best way to generate revenues from the web. It seems clear that subscription services are not going to fly for major portals, and so variations on the advertiser-pay model have been tried (banner ads, pop-ups, etc). Forcing viewers to watch an ad for a short period of time before being able to see the site's content is just the latest twist.

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

I was recently amazed to learn that it is no longer possible to send a telegram from Canada. A few weeks ago, I needed to get hold of someone in England who has no telephone, no email and who was not responding to snail mail. My mind went to telegram, with images of a uniformed messenger delivering a smart white envolpe directly to the addressee. No such luck! I tried everything I could think of, yellow pages, white pages, directory assistance, net searches. Nothing. I did learn that Western Union will still delivery telegrams anywhere in the States for $9.95. But not international. Hmmmmmm.

Not that I need any more reasons for never going to Starbucks, but every little bit helps.

Ah, how good it is to read Tariq Ali once again. I have had no time to catch up on my New Left Reviews that clang through the letterbox on a semi-monthly basis, so access via ZNet to TA's thoughts is welcome. This piece details the Saudi background to current Mulim fundamentalism. It is a good reminder that in the real world there are no good guys and no bad guys (Dick, George and Donald excepted, of course) and what you do one day may perhaps come back and bite you tomorrow.

One of the most offensive of all the right wing agendas that could come about as a result of September 11th is the introduction of national ID cards. They will not, of course, have any effect on terrorism (Spain has them and they still have bomb attacks weekly) but they will certainly enable the authorities to keep tabs on us. With luck, the furthest of the far right, the Libertarians, may be able to drum up enough angst against the idea to smother it.

Another victim of the war will no doubt be the longest undefended border in the world. Ashcroft is clear in his belief that Canada is a leaky boat, and that the defenders of the Free World (him, Dick and George) need to take matters into their own hands to keep out the barbarians. I guess it won't be long before the high walls and the barbed wire and the no-go zones are put in place!

This is the site for the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). I have no idea what their politics may be -- other than being anti-Taleban -- but the women of that region had suffered abominably for centuries, and any assistance to them must be welcome. I would like to know more about the founder, Meena; more, I mean, than is conveyed in the hagiographic biography on this site. She sounds like an interesting person.

Serious developments in Indonesia. The Council of Ulemas, which "represents mainstream Islamic scholars" and which "the government listens to" has declared a jihad against the US if Afghanistan is attacked. And Pakistan is at last warning against a forcible change of government in its neighbour, describing previous attempts to do this as expensive "blunders."

Graffitti in East Vancouver: "If a corporation puts up a sign in a public space, it is called advertising. If I put up a sign in a public space, it is called vandalism."

It is amazing how many coffee bars are open on the Drive at 7:30 in the morning. All the Italian ones are represented, the Amici Cafe, Abruzzi, Cafe Roma, Cafe Bella Napoli, Calabria (Frank's place), as is Grandview Billiards (home to a number of east European groups), Continental Coffee (for the post-punk hippy set, especially those with huge dogs) and the interloping Starbucks. There sure is no excuse for missing out on your morning jo!

Today's Undernews has a detailed exposition about the pipeline conspiracy: the view that the Afghani situation is intimately connected with the oil companies' need for a pipeline across Taleban territory.

Good morning! And we start off today with a story about how having a famous Dad isn't all fun and games. Hopefully, Ms Powell won't have to wait too long for another role to come along.

On the fashion front, NASA is working hard on designs for Mars. I wonder if they've heard about Dawn Gibbens and her efforts to make the workplace environment more cheerful and friendly? Maybe she could work on improving living space in the Shuttle.

For heavier reading, I can thoroughly recommend Gertrude Himmelfarb's excellent addition to Enlightenment Studies. She shows that the British 'moral philosophers' were as important in the development of ideas as the more well-known French philosophes.

Afraid of what the war will bring? Fear more -- it could provide a major boost to climate change!. In the more immediate future, we have other things to worry about -- such as the 30% of New Yorkers who believe that internment camps for dissidents are a good idea! [I am indebted to Boing Boing for this lead.]

Monday, September 24, 2001

I love this site! These are photographs of urban subjects such as I like to take. They also represent the very beginnings of mass consumerism and mass advertising campaigns.

One of regular stops on the net is to visit Jerry Capeci's GangLand, my favourite source of all things Mafia. I have an interest in this stuff as major organized crime forms the background to a novel I have in preparation. My primary interest in this field is in the network of Russian gangsters who have taken over Russia and spread their wings across the globe. A most fascinating bunch of bad guys!

I can throughly recommend Jacob Levich's piece from CommonGround relating Bush's speech to Congress last week to the fulfilment of many of the "promises" of Orwell's 1984. Also worth reading are the extracts from interviews about potential terrorist threats with America's military and policy leadership some months ago to be found at the PBS Frontline website.

British moviegoers have voted for the Best Film of All Time. Not having seen any of the Star Wars series, I am hardly in aposition to complain about the top two spots going to the Lucas series. However, I am shocked and pleased to see "Shawshank Redemption" in the number three spot. A marvelous movie, I think!

The US Administration is claiming that terrorists treat life as of little value. However, with 35,000 people, men, women and children, dying in the US each year from gunfire, it is clear that -- in the US at least -- the value of each of the 14 words of the 2nd amendment ("the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed") is worth more than 25,000 deaths every decade. And it sure doesn't help progessive causes of any type when the AFL-CIO decides that killing foreign workers (as "vengeance, pure and simple") is good policy.

The war of words against Osama seems to be lost on large parts of the world, with Osama being hailed as a hero and more. And the British are having to play the role of messenger in Iran for its Big Brother, with complex possible results. The New republic outlines the folly behind the arab coalition that Bush and his people are trying to forge. What will the Saudis do?

Also from the New Republic is this well-written piece on the added value of the Internet to the art world.

I've come across some more classy merchandise connected to the new war. And 10% is being donated to the Red Cross!

My wife has always been leery of my fascination with electric wheelchairs. Just wait until she sees what I could buy instead! Just what we need in our dotage perhaps.

In these tough times, it is good to see that the Brazilians still know how to have fun!

For the last couple of days I have noticed that Canadian coverage of ‘the war’ has been overlaid more and more with stories depicting the plight of the Afghani population, and the fearful humanitarian disaster that is about to strike them. This will surely continue, with CBC interviews with UNHCR, MSF and similar aid agencies continuing to appear on all major news shows. Canada has a solid middle-class core, United Church-leaning-to-Quaker spirituality, social democratic/left liberal in voting, who will never accept Canada''s participation in a shooting war, and it is this core which is coming to the foreground now after the first few jingoistic knee-jerk days.

Big Jean has probably felt this pulse and he has already moderated his tone. However, he has the bloodthirsty John Manley in his Cabinet screaming for blood, and he must also protect himself from the increasingly wild attacks of the increasing desperate Stockwell Day.

Part of this "backing off" mood is stemming directly from Bush's failure to mention Canada in his address to Congress. He named places all around the world from which assistance was coming, but forgot little old us! To be honest, I missed this one. I didn't notice the omission and, when it was raised by a local anchor later that night, I dismissed it. But I was wrong. It seems to have been a bad political mistake; the Canadian psyche was aroused and upset.

The Washington Post has a couple of good articles on the relationship of the Pentagon and the Press in times of war and national emergency. It seems the media in the land of the free is willing to button its lip.

Another example of the fine work coming out of Salon, this time in a profile of the oddly-technophobic Ray Bradbury.

The Environemntal New Service has a disturbing report on species loss down on the farm. Perhaps you could write about this for the open encyclopeadia project. Fabulous idea!


We were at our favourite hangout on the Drive yesterday afternoon for an early supper. The weather was warm and we sat on the patio. At the next table to us were four young people, early 20s, three young women and a man. They seemed to be the prototypical urban young adults of 2001. And all four of them smoked! I am truly astonished whenever I see this. These people who have no possibility of ever saying they didn't know the consequences are continuing to kill themselves by design. This is much more bizarre than tattoos and piercings. And infinitely sadder.

The Tate Gallery in London has always been my favourite art gallery, probably because of my love for Turner's painting, many of which can be viewed at the Tate. Anyone going to London should not miss the opportunity to visit this wonderful space.

Keeping ourselves culturally attuned, it is my intention (we'll see!) to read all of the books on the Booker prize shortlist this year. Hopefully, none of us will need Daniel Chandler’s excellent Semiotics For Beginners just to read those books. But this course is fascinating for itself and well-recommended.

Also well-recommended is the Design magazine, Inf@Vis.

OK, OK, back to the "real thing." A site detailing the disastrous First Anglo-Afghan War should be recommended reading for all those urging us forward into the pit. In the meantime, indications that anti-American feeling is building are confirmed in this report from Jakarta.

Sunday, September 23, 2001

How is news of the war on terrorism reaching the people of the People's Republic? Through a few more news sources than before, apparently.

Of course, if we could all be persuaded to stick to our toys and leave global stuff to our betters, then the quicker this whole mess can be over with. And, by the way, how now do we track cultural and sociological statistics? Easy: we watch people use search engines.

The war hasn't officially begun yet (although armed clashs are already being reported), but plans for life after the ultimate victory are well advanced. But maybe not for just Afghanistan. As Secretary Rumsfeld is continually reminding us (just so we won't be surprised?), there are 60 countries on the list to be dealt with, including taking another big swing at Iraq.

Counterpunch has published a beginner's guide to the faults of US foreign policy.

Now, going off at a mild tangent, this long New Yorker piece details Louis Freeh of the FBI's tracking down of the embassy bombing cells.

Now that the US has re-instituted the House Un-American Activi... I'm, sorry, I mean the Homeland Security Office, it is about time we started to re-train ourselves so as recognise our enemies. Without such training, when the call comes to nuke our foes, we won't know who to hit.

And when the homeland has been subdued, then, according to this Arab cartoonist, we take over the world!

It is good to see that America's ability to market and make money has not diminished in these stressful times. In fact, for some entrepreneurs, this is a time of great opportunity to sell classy merchandise to the masses. However, if you simply can't make it through the day, take heart! There is a support group for just about everything these days.

It is hard to start with anything but what CNN cleverly calls "America's New War".

Today's London press is discussing the nitty gritty of the military assault. For even more detailed nitty gritty about how it will be done, you can read all about it in the US Armed Forces Field manuals.

On the other side of the hill, here is a study of the demographics of the Taleban's fighting units written earlier this year.

This is an interesting piece on the dilemma facing magazines with long lead times that cannot now react to the events of September 11th. However, their problems pale in the light of the problems the attacks have caused media companies in general.

If you are looking for a source of lots of spare cash, try out for the Reward Money reality game show. In the meantime, hold those Uzbeki vacation plans!

Finally on this subject, these events will, at least, lead to employment opportunities for those willing to play gunslinger in the air.

On other matters:

I came across this interesting piece about book covers and book selling. And another about my heroine! Mae West wins again!

This article is a thought provoking perspective on the malaise that the author sees sweepoing through middle class America.

As a man of a certain age, I keep my eye on the latest research on prostate cancer. It is somehow both reassuring and boring that diet and exercise is involved in the successful fight

While medicine seems to leap forward in leaps and bounds, some problems in society seem to be moving only glacially towards a solution. Read about the "advances" in equal wages for women. It is from an English perspective, but the point still stands.

How do you know who is behind the latest press release from what sounds like a prestigous organization? Front groups proliferate, all trying to trick us. These folks try to help sort out the mess.