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Jaks View from Vancouver

Wednesday, October 31, 2001

In Israel and Palestine today, Israeli terrorists assassinated a Palestinian leader. Five other Palestinian militants were killed in clashes with Israeli military forces. From September 11th until now (4:00pm PST October 31), the total number of Palestinians killed is 129. In the same period, 21 Israelis were killed.

Do you ever wonder what Dick Cheney is doing while he hides out in some "secure location"? Paul Krugman of the New York Times reveals all: the Vice-President has been fixing massive tax breaks for his buddies!
"For example, it's not too surprising that calculations by Citizens for Tax Justice show General Motors, with its 380,000 workers, getting a check for $800 million [from the House-approved "stimulus package"]. But it's quite amazing that TXU (formerly Dallas Power and Light), a company with only 16,000 employees, would get a check for $600 million. And there are a number of medium-sized companies that, like TXU, are in line for surprisingly big benefits. These companies include ChevronTexaco, Enron, Phillips Petroleum, IMC Global and CMS Energy. What do they have in common? Well, they tend to be in the energy or mining businesses; and they tend to be based in or near Texas. In other words, the [benefactor] looks a lot like Dick Cheney."
Krugman concludes: "[T]he latest economic proposals from the administration, like the Cheney energy plan, don't look as if they came from serious free-marketeers. They don't make sense in terms of either demand-side or supply-side economics, but they do give a lot of money to certain companies."

On the same day that a Teahouse for pot smokers opens in Vancouver, the British Government is making it clear that its recent foray into lighter penalties for marijuana do not stretch as far as open smokling.

Blair the Bloodthirty's trip to the Middle East has hit a snag already. President Assad of Syria has told him in no uncertain terms that a "terrorist" is not a "terrorist" is not a "terrorist." Noting the difference between terrorism and resistance, Assad said:
"Resistance is a social, religious and legal right"
Maybe Blair will have better luck in Jordan and Israel later this week.

Tuesday, October 30, 2001

When allies disagree, and reach the end of their very small imaginations ...
"Mr Hoon - in Washington for talks with his opposite number, Donald Rumsfeld - denied that there was any 'disconnect' between British and American approaches to the conduct of the war. However ..."
The Guardian posits the problems clearly

The leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad has signaled a major shift in policy, seeking at this time only a restoration of 1967 borders rather than the complete elimination of Israel. This is a move that could/should be as decisive in the Middle Eastern context as was the IRA's peace moves last week in Northern Ireland. It will be fascinating to see what coverage this move gets in the US and Israeli press.

On a tangential matter, it is clear that Israel's strategic concerns have much more to do with Iran than they do with Palestine (because, of course, they refuse to accept the inevitable linkage). Haaretz Daily has an absorbing account of Israel's current preoccupation with Iranian nuclear capability.

Hard to believe that the Wall Street Journal would countenance even the thought of the disruption that would follow from an American invasion of Saudi Arabia but, there it is, in black and white:
"Coping with an overtly hostile Saudi government would at least have the virtue of clarity that doesn't exist today. It would also force a decision on whether to take over the Saudi oilfields, which would put an end to OPEC."
Thomas Freidman of the New York Times is just as pissed with them. As I have pointed out in this column several times before, the Saudis hold the key to many things in the future. However, with serious newspapers now seeing the light, one must now contemplate the possibility that the removal of the current regime might be the goal sought by both the USA and al-Qaeda. Strange bedfellows indeed.

******

The banning of ideas always looks more foolish in hindsight that it did even at the time. Newly-declassified documents show that the British Foreign Office fought hard to keep out three plays by Berthold Brecht even though the relevant officials admitted that to do so was "inconsistent with our thesis about the free movement of ideas which has always been one of our most powerful arguments against the Soviet system". But of course, situational ethics always apply when God is on our side.

Talking of which, exactly what regulations are being used to hold nearly one thousand people in secret custody by the FBI, the INS and who-knows-who else? Nat Hentoff asks pointed questions.


Twenty-seven years ago today, Muhammed Ali knocked out George Forman in the 8th round of their fight in Kinshasa, Zaire. Thanks to the New York Times we can relive this classic moment of boxing excess.
"Encouraged by the chant of 'Ali, bomaye,' from the crowd of nearly 60,000 spectators in the Stade du 20 Mai, boxing's most controversial champion created the most bizarre chapter in his bizarre career. "
It was Forman's first defeat. Thankfully, both gentlemen are still around today to charm us.

Monday, October 29, 2001

On Saturday, the bank we use most had a major failure in their computer system. ATMs could not connect, and debit cards were useless. It was so odd to be forced to face up to how much we rely on remote connected systems for daily chores. By seven that evening, with a theatre to get to, we had so little ready cash we had to search around for bus fare and forget the cab we would normally have taken. In the "old days" this would not have happened because one carried around enough cash to take care of daily life. Now, with ATM and cash machines on every corner, we assume instant gratification is available wherever and whenever. Not many of us would make it in Kabul right now.

The New York Times has a long essay describing the relative historical "decline" of Islamic science when compared to the West, showing how far in advance of the West were the Muslims of the High Middle Ages in most basic sciences. Now, "Muslims are seriously underrepresented in science, accounting for fewer than 1 percent of the world's scientists while they account for almost a fifth of the world's population. Israel ... has almost twice as many scientists as the Muslim countries put together." The reason?
"No science is created in a vacuum," said Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a science historian, author, philosopher and professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University, during a speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology a few years ago. "Science arose under particular circumstances in the West with certain philosophical presumptions about the nature of reality."

Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal, a chemist and the president and founder of the Center for Islam and Science in Alberta, Canada, explained: "Modern science doesn't claim to address the purpose of life; that is outside the domain. In the Islamic world, purpose is integral, part of that life."
This is an intriguing summary of a very deep subject. It has succeeded in its purpose: to pique my interest and launch me on a search of my own for further information and insight.

We know that one ally, Pakistan, is a military dictatorship that doesn't care much for democracy. We know that another ally, Saudi Arabia, is a brutal medieval kingdom that refuses rights to women and decapitates those considered socially unworthy. Now, we learn that a third ally, Uzbekistan, has thousands of political prisoners in a vicious gulag system like that of the old Soviet Union. One is known by the friends one keeps: Wasn't Dubya Dubya Three supposed to be about freedom and democracy?

*******

Michael Bloomberg, who made billions from the the financial press ("Make the customer think he's getting laid when he's getting fucked"), is the Republican candidate for Mayor of New York, an election which takes place next week. He is also accused of sexual harrassment, according to New York Metro Magazine, and the press is apparently ignoring the issue. Bloomberg has already spent about $41 million on the campaign, while his opponent, Democrat Mark Green, has spent just $9 million. Bloomberg has just received the belated endorsement of Rudy Guiliani, while Green has been endorsed by the New York Times among others.

In my youth as a Cockney kid, Margate was the epitome of the working man's holiday. It was close, it was cheap, and it did it's best to give you a jolly good time. Now, the old town is looking to move up in the world; and it plans to do it by resurrecting a more glorious past. Margate by the sea was where my favourite painter, J.M.W. Turner came, as Jonathan Glancy puts it, "to paint and love (Mrs Sophia Booth, his Margate landlady), and to escape fame in the spectacular sunset of his prodigious life." Where else, then, to put a new Turner Centre.


J.M.W. Turner: "Burial At Sea"

********

When both Donald Duck and Andrew Card have to hit the Sunday talk shows to tell the world they think Pakistan will stay the course, it is a sure sign they are rattled by recent events.

An interesting sidebar to Dubya Dubya Three is the number of British Muslims signing up to fight against the Coalition.
"I've been in contact with a thousand British Muslims who are going to the holy war. Hundreds have passed through here on their way. There are more fighters joining jihad from Britain than anywhere else in the West."
The death of four of them in air raids this weekend has done nothing to keep the others at home.

Sunday, October 28, 2001

The Guardian has a good piece about the shooting rampage against Christians in Pakistan yesterday. The most interesting comment, I think, is the description of the "creeping anarchy engulfing Pakistan", the Coalition's primary partner in Dubya Dubya Three. With disaffection throughout the Intelligence services, with thousands of tribesmen attempting to cross into Afghanistan to fight the "infidel" Americans, with increasing street protests by the Islamic opposition, the future of Pakistan will be as challenging as that of Afghanistan itself.

In Israel and Palestine today, four Israeli women, an Israeli soldier, and three Palestinian militants were killed. From September 11th until now (8:30pm PST October 28), the total number of Palestinians killed is 123. In the same period, 21 Israelis were killed.

********


As part of my birthday celebrations this week, my wife secured wonderful seats for us last night at a performance of Timothy Findley's play, "Elizabeth Rex." It was wonderful; well written, well acted and superbly staged at the Stanley Theatre. She also got me new music by the ever-wonderful Etta James (a collection of standards that worked for me) and Fisher's self-titled debut album. Fisher has been "our" singer since "I Will Love You" was an independent MP3. Great acting and excellent singing -- what a great birthday!

European elections are rather odd affairs to most North Americans, with institutional configurations considerably different from those found at home. French politics is a mystery to most Europeans too. French Presidential elections only come round every seven years, and so interest is always when the calendar has swung round to it again. The next election is in May, 2002, and the candidates are beginning to shape up, with a third party seeking to take ground from both extremes of left and right. This article from the Observer explains the current situation well.

Saturday, October 27, 2001

This morning an elderly Palestinian was killed while trying to smuggle a tractor across the border. Later an armed militant was killed in clashes with the israeli Army. From September 11th until now (11pm PST October 27), the total number of Palestinians killed is 120. In the same period, 16 Israelis were killed.

You may think you already know all about Osama the Most Wanted, but I'm pretty sure that Jason Burke's double-length biographic essay in the Guardian will have something new for you.

Now, finally, the focus in the anthrax investigation turns inward.
"''We've been zeroing in on a number of hate groups, especially one on the West Coast,' a source at the Justice Department told The Observer yesterday."
The Justice Department official continued,"We have to see the right wing as much better coordinated than its apparent disorganisation suggests. And we have to presume that their opposition to government is just as virulent as that of the Islamic terrorists, if not as accomplished." Right on!

*******

I am not sure what to make of the Dubya Administration's apparent pro-gay policy. As this perceptive article points out, it is pissing off the far-right a whole bunch.

"West Wing" is, in my opinion, a very fine show. It is the latest in a short line of very special shows that make television worth all the crap and nonsense. From all accounts, Aaron Sorkin is not a particularly affable fellow; but equally clearly he is a genius in the use of the television medium. The latest dissection of the Sorkin persona is a four-page spread in the New York Times Magazine.

********

From the "Lessons From History" Department comes this reminder of one of Ronald Reagan's favourite "freedom fighters" -- Jonas Savimbi and his murderous UNITA gang who, as Bill Berkowitz describes it, have
"been delivering massive human rights abuses and major destruction to his homeland for more than two decades."
Berkowitz's article demonstrates the close ties that Savimbi has enjoyed with far-right conservative politicians in the Unted States.
[thanks to AlterNet for the link]

He's back! Gary Condit is determined to run again. This is despite the fact that his staunch ally, Mayor Carmen Sabatino of Modesto, says "He probably is not electable."

What with wars and terrorist bombs and anthrax in the mail, it is good to know that old fashioned theft and fraud are still going strong. Having survived the WTC attacks, employees at First Equity Enterprises wake up this morning to discover their bosses seem to have absconded with $106 million of other people's money.

Friday, October 26, 2001

The Guardian's lead editorial today is certainly on target. It asks Bush and Blair a number of important questions about the conduct of the war, and post-war planning. It would be interesting to see any answers at all from the principals.

Belgium has become the second country (after Holland) to legalise euthanasia. Two countries down and one hundred and thirty-odd to go before we finally control out own bodies once again. (How did we ever let them take that control away from us in the first place?)

With all the fun and games going on in foreign climes, it is important to keep at least one eye peeled for domestic vandalism committed by the Dubya's White House. Today, for example, they have repealed the rule whereby the Department of the Interior can veto mining if the development will cause "substantial and irreparable harm" to the community. Lexi Schultz of the Minining Policy Centre says
this will allow mining companies "to take billions of dollars of valuable minerals out of public land for free without paying a royalty and without having to fully consider the damage that they leave behind."
Quite bizarre. Screw the earth. Screw the local communities. Long live the corporation!

****

The Taliban have captured and executed Abdul Haq in what has already been described as a "devastating blow" to the Coalition's hopes for a post-Taliban Afghanistan. It is a huge morale booster for the Taliban and al-Quaeda, and a genuine setback for Dubya and the boys, showing as it does that the regime can and will continue to defend itself. To the death of Haq must be added the inevitable inability of the "allies" to come together, increasing unrest in Pakistan, and the rapid approach of both Ranadan and winter. Such a cluster of crises will no doubt bring forth from the Pentagon and their buddies in London an increased level of military activity over the next couple of weeks, leading to accelerating civilian deaths , more unrest and even deeper issues to face when the next level of strategy fails in the snow-covered valleys of the Kush.

Five more Palestinians were killed by Israeli action yesterday, and another three this morning already. From September 11th until now (5:30am PST October 26), the total number of Palestinians killed is 118. In the same period, 16 Israelis were killed.


Thursday, October 25, 2001

While watching events unfold in Central Asia, it is important to remember what is going on in the rest of the world. A pointed reminder is this article from Britain's "Socialist Worker," aptly titled "Bush Gang's Other Dirty War". It describes (correctly in my judgement) the US-organized $1.3 billion "Plan Colombia" -- publicly described as a war on drug trafficking -- as being in reality "about smashing ... wider social movements in Colombia while making the country fit for corporations to exploit."

********

"Khandahar," a film based on a true story, directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf, and starring Canadian student Nelofer Pazira , has apparently become the hottest movie around. Dubya himself ordered an "urgent" screening of the film, and it had the highest per-screen average boxoffice in Italy last week, beating out "AI" and "Moulin Rouge."

I know that everyone is getting bored with the constant anthrax coverage on TV, but this is surely going too far!

******

I don't know about you, but I've been missing Congressman Gary Condit from the front pages! It is a pleasure, therefore, to see that his wife has broken her silence and come out swinging for her man.

The New York Post has one of its marvelously un-sourced stories (i.e., all but one source is anonymous) which, however, resurfaces the idea that the anthrax mailings are part of an internal terror operation, presumably from the far "right wing" of US society.

*********

The serious strains affecting relations between Saudi Arabia and the US are becoming more public. The effective ruler of the medieval kingdom accuses the western media of an anti-Islam bias, while the discovery that most of the September 11th hijackers were Saudi nationals has complicated an already complex web of distrust and suspicion.
"During the past six weeks both governments have struggled to paper over their differences and return to the basic compact: the Saudis deliver oil, the Americans deliver the weaponry that protects the oil."
As the NYT continues: "Even the most pro-Saudi current and former administration officials admit that the closed nature of Saudi society, the restrictions the royal family has placed on the relationship and a shortage of American government experts on the kingdom have made Saudi Arabia one of the least understood of America's allies. A senior intelligence official confessed that decision-making by the royal family, the mood of the merchant families and the sentiment in the mosques are 'black holes'."


Palestinian family peers out from damaged
house after Israeli terrorists pull out.


In other war news, now that Donald Duck has admitted that Osama Bin Laden may well escape the clutches of the US military, and has also been obliged to admit that the Taliban are more doughty survivors than the planners had expected, the danger is severe that ever more bombs will be dropped on the Afghani people just to cover the testosterone-rich we'll-smash-'em rhetoric that the Duck and his boss spewed at the beginning of the war.

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

On a very bad day for the death of civilians, I thought it would be a good idea to keep a tally of deaths in the Middle East. September 11th seems to be a good day from which to start the count. So, from September 11th until now (10:30pm October 24), the total number of Palestinians killed is 110. In the same period, 16 Israelis were killed.

Have you seen Johnny Depp's new movie, "From Hell"? Even if not, you are sure to find more than you could ever have hoped to learn about Jack the Ripper from this encyclopedic site.

The growing dissent in Britain's Labour Party against Dubya Dubya Three has now been formalised in a parliamentary group called Labour Against the War. A number of very senior Labour Party figures have been linked to the new group, as have the leaders of two important labour unions. Watch this space.

Also in England, yesterday's decision to minimize the legal prohibitions against marijuana, has led to both applause and serious reflection. The Guardian's Malcolm Dean has written a clear analysis of why the law needed to be changed.

*******

Martha Does Europe! It says something for the gal that, despite global recession and rampant terrorism, Martha Stewart just grows and grows.

Ken Ringle of the Washington Post has an illuminating article analyzing some of the mind-set differences between Islam and others.
"For them, events like the Crusades, a thousand years ago, are as immediate as yesterday. And they are very, very powerful events in the Arab mind. A lot of Islamic rhetoric revolves around the Crusades."
Ringle aptly quotes one expert to the effect that religion alone is not the issue: "Conservative Muslims see the West imposing an entire system of economic, political and social values which strike at the heart of the Islamic way of life." It may well be that Islam proves to be the strongest defence the world has to the absolute hegemony of capitalism consumerism.

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Simon Jenkins is not a writer with whom I could always agree. However, he has written a fine essay for The Times of London that rips to shreds the double standards that swarm around the subject of terrorism like a cloud of gnats. He contrasts and compares the changing attitudes of the British Government, the US Government and others towards a number of seperate incidents involving either Osama bin Laden, the IRA, or Israel. He correctly notes that the oh-so-close IRA attack on the entire British Cabinet in 1985 was as shattering to the British sense of invulnerability as was September 11th to the United States. Weltanschauung in danger of becoming Weltschmertz.
Tactics, humanity, proportionality or regional consequences are off agenda. “Do not reason with us on this one,” say the massed ranks of American columnists, “it is too close to home.”
And meanwhile, the British Government sits down to tea with Gerry Adams who, Jenkins notes, was recently considered to be the "Bin Laden of Ballymurphy."



Now, tonight we dance again with Mars! I still get very excited by this stuff.


*****

The decision by the British Government to lighten the penalties on marijuana use -- essentially downgrading possession from a felony to a misdemeanour --, together with anticipated amendments to the regulations concerning marijuana medical therapies, can only be seen as a welcome step forward.

******


In the "Just Checking On The Nutcases Department," we note that Jerry Falwell has turned his notorious, fascist and vicious statements about culpability for the attacks of september 11th, into a new way of fundraising. His son has sent out a letter to potential suckers begging for enough cash to prove to his dad that he is still loved despite what the satanic press may be saying.
"He needs to know you still support him. Please return the enclosed Vote of Confidence Reply Card right away in the envelope I have provided within the next 5 days….And with your card, please remember to include a special Vote of Confidence gift for Jerry Falwell of at least $50 or even $100 along with your signed card."
[thanks to Common Dreams for the link]

Monday, October 22, 2001

My friend dbf sought out this Cato Institute study which directly links US intervention with terrorism against US interests.

Executive Summary
"According to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, terrorism is the most important threat the United States and the world face as the 21st century begins. High-level U.S. officials have acknowledged that terrorists are now more likely to be able to obtain and use nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons than ever before.

"Yet most attention has been focused on combating terrorism by deterring and disrupting it beforehand and retaliating against it after the fact. Less attention has been paid to what motivates terrorists to launch attacks. According to the Pentagon's Defense Science Board, a strong correlation exists between U.S. involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States. President Clinton has also acknowledged that link. The board, however, has provided no empirical data to support its conclusion. This paper fills that gap by citing many examples of terrorist attacks on the United States in retaliation for U.S. intervention overseas. The numerous incidents cataloged suggest that the United States could reduce the chances of such devastating--and potentially catastrophic--terrorist attacks by adopting a policy of military restraint overseas."
Read the balance of the report here. Those wacky Libertarians often hit the nail on the head whilst thrashing around chasing their own particular demons.
[thanks to Bodacious Blog for the link]

The Australian comedian, writer, artist, Barry Humphreys is well-known throughout the TV world for his outrageous character Dame Edna Everage. A Humphrey character perhaps less known to audiuences outside of the UK and Australia is Sir Les Patterson, "Australian cultural attache and snappy dresser."



In this sample from today's London Evening Standard, Sir Les gives his opinion on proper attire for men.

On a sadder note, the historian of social niceties in the 18th century, Sir John Plumb has died. He led an infinitely interesting and enviable life in my judgement.

Finally, the truth behind Weakest Link's Anne Robinson: she really is a bitch!


*********

The fight for dissent within the ranks of Britain's Labour Party is becoming even noisier, now that Defence Minister Hoon has thrown his weight behind suppression.

The Weekly Standard has a good article by Ronald Radosh about old-time Weatherman, the time-warped Bill Ayers. Perhaps most interesting was a piece of bad timing: the New York Times ran a flattering article about Ayers and colleague Bernadine Dohrn on September 11th in which Ayers boasts about his 1970s bombings of New York, Washington and the Pentagon. Who will remember those now?

Talking about the 70s, do you remember the joy many of us felt as black politicians became mayors of ever-more important cities in the USA? Now, with black politicos well entrenched, we can turn our attentions to other successes. Openly gay politicians now run both Berlin and Paris.
``The signal from this election is that Berlin is a tolerant city, an international city, and it doesn't matter which skin color or religion or life orientation a person has."
Pretty soon, with luck, this will also become a commonplace and we will no longer need to mention and celebrate the victories of diversity.


Sunday, October 21, 2001

In the New York Times Obituary column, I found the extraordinary story of Zhang Xueliang, a Chinese warlord who kidnapped Chiang Kai Shek in 1936 in order to force him to work with the Communists against the japanese. Having gotten the Generalissimo to agree, Zhang prompty surrended to him and begged for punishment. He was kept under a form of house arrest in Taiwan for almost 50 years. He died aged 100 in Hawaii.

The end of those dumb "reality" TV shows? We can but hope!
" ... the most noticeable thing about how people are watching television now. They are flocking to comfort shows. `Friends' is the ultimate comfort show."
Unfortunately, "one factor working in favor of reality shows is their low cost. They require no actors or writers and are far less expensive to produce than scripted entertainment shows. "We're looking everywhere to save money," one network entertainment executive said. "And these shows are cheap."

Opposition to Duby Dubya Three within Britain's ruling Labour Party is becoming restless and noisy and much upset by Blairite attempts at suppression.
Alan Simpson, leading a "Labour against the bombing" group at Westminster, compared the attempts to curb criticism to a McCarthyite witchhunt.

The New York Times has an intriguing piece describing the global politics that surrounds the success of CNN.

Saturday, October 20, 2001

The politics of miracles! Were a Spanish surgeon's hands cured by the miraculous intervention of the late priest, Josemaría Escrivá? or because he stopped using dangerous techniques? The Pope's decision on this answer may well put the Catholic fundamentalists, Opus Dei, in even stronger control of the Church. These days, it is the Jesuits who are the good guys!

The Guardian has the best coverage of the US Special Forces raids that I have found yet. But the New York Times has this absorbing article about Pashtun clan laws and rituals.And they quickly added Michael Gordon's riveting analysis of military movements in the last 24 hours. He shows a fine appreciation for the multiple psychologies driving these raids.

More and more journalists are looking beyond the Pentagon and State Department rhetoric and linking Big Oil to the current military situation. The latest I have found is Laura Flanders' absorbing essay on the Bush family interests in Saudi Arabia, and Cheney's work with Haliburton in Central Asia.
"This conflict of interest has now turned into a scandal. The idea of the president's father, an ex-president himself, doing business with a company under investigation by the FBI in the terror attacks of September 11 is horrible." -- Judicial Watch
Also, the NYT has a good backgrounder on the high political and military cost of doing business with the Saudis.
[thanks to Common Dreams for the first link]

I had forgotten why I -- we -- like sex so much. Thank goodness there are scientists around to remind us.

*****

This summer, Sherry and I did the tour of hot springs in southeast British Columbia; we found some wonderful spots. This article from the NYT describes a similar trip, but this time in northern Japan. Hot springs rock!

Friday, October 19, 2001

I think the New York Times has done a commendable job to date in trying to cover Dubya Dubya Three against all the barriers that Donald Duck keeps throwing out. For instance, they have a well-written piece on yesterday's Special Forces raid against Khandahar. Of more interest to me tonight, however, is this fascinating study of Saudi fundamentalist proselytizing in the United States.
"There was a very deliberate recruitment process by the Saudis, trying to find black Muslims who had a real potential for Islamic learning and also for submission to their agenda."
It is, of course, this very sect from which Bin Laden and the Taliban derive their basic precepts.

Now, Macy Gray; she could sure shake 'em up in old Kabul! This is an interesting review of a new live show Ms Gray gave at the Supper Club. The reviewer nicely captures my own ambiguous view of the artist. She sure is weird, but some of her numbers are already eternal. I haven't gotten into Id yet as I had her debut album, but then again I haven't played it near as much either. I better go play it again now.

**********

Wheels within wheels in this ruthless world of nation states. Seems China and Bin Laden did a deal for some of the unexploded cruise missiles fired by the US on Bin Laden's camps in 1998. What's more surprising is the claim that, of 75 cruise missiles fired, 40 did not explode.


Magritte: "The Lovers" (1928)

Once again the Guardian has come up trumps! This time it is a set of writings on surrealist artists and surrealism as a movement designed in conjuction with the major exhibition of Surrealism currently showing at the Tate in London.


**********

The 50th anniversary of the start of "I Love Lucy" has brought forth some fine writing about this most classic of all sitcoms. It is great, too, that Desi Arnaz is getting his due respect.



As this article by Douglas McGrath illustrates, the series would have been nothing without him.

Thursday, October 18, 2001

Now this is straight-out scary shit! With the location devices already in place, cell phone users have no place to hide from anyone who wants to know where they are. Pretty soon they'll be tattooing barcodes on our babies' bums and tracking them minute-by-minute for the rest of their naturals. Scary, scary shit!

More, and more ominous, signs of the impending collapse of the Saudi regime. None of the protests or the suppression of them is being covered by US networks. This "ally" is a totalitarian dictactorship that uses summary execution and total press censorship to maintain its rule. Perhaps Inquisitor-General Ashcroft and Uber-Gauleiter Ridge are taking lessons from these masters.

Talking of collapse, James Ridgeway of the Village Voice has a very interesting analysis of the political-religious situation within Pakistan, with especial emphasis on the role of the powerful pro-Taliban Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI) Party.
"The party gives the otherwise isolated Taliban tentacles throughout Central Asia, creating a series of religious militias ready to fling themselves into jihad ... As a military matter, it means American troops will be exposed to attacks in places like Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, as they chase an enemy that seems to replicate at will."
The Pakistani military regime has just arrested the JUI leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman, so we'll soon see how that plays.
[thanks to AlterNet for the link]



*********

The Afghan News Network has published a news item granting a fascinating glimpse into the world of Psych Ops in operation in Afghanistan. The criticisms of other media analysts about these US broadcasts at the end of the piece are revealing.

Forget finding drugs to help the billions of poor people who suffer from malaria, tuberculosis, sleeping sickness and similar diseases. As this report documents, the pharamaceutical companies are spending their research dollars on the westerm middle-class problems of erectile difficulties (8 new drugs) and obesity (7 new drugs).
"Drugs are not developed according to public health need, but according to profitability" -- Dr Bernard Pécoul, director of Medicin sans Frontier's Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines
This is capitalism in stark and brutal operation.


*******

Dubya Dubya Three: This is a religious war, for sure. But the religion(s) against which the fundamentalist Muslims rage are not Judeo-Christianity; rather they are the true religions of the west: capitalism and consumerism. This is one complete way of life facing up against another complete way of life, not just limited theologies bumping heads.

Our religion, consumerism, is sweeping the world with brutal savagery and a complete lack of concern for the victims that it mows down. It should not be a surprise that other religions would find this threatening.

Money-market advocates are as preachy and single-minded and unthinking as the most extreme Shia or Sunni cleric. It is for this reason (along with an appreciation of the true horrors of capitalist-consumerism that allow people to starve to death in affluent countries, and which finance and support death squads operating in favour of corporations; sins as equally severe as anything the Taliban have committed in Afghanistan) that someone like me finds it so hard to condemn our supposed enemies.

Even if we just look at the theological issues, once again most of us in the West have no idea what it is to live a religion hour by hour, day by day. Christianity (once the lions were banished) has always been a part-time affair for most of us (what we preach on Sundays often does not survive the change to Monday morning) while for practising Muslims this is simply unimaginable.

This doesn't make them better, or us worse. It makes us different one from the other.

As anticipated by the betting public, Peter Carey's "True History of the Kelly Gang" has won the Booker Prize. I still haven't read it.

The Guardian, as always is an excellent source, this time for a fine analysis of the very serious problems facing Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and Palestine. As the essay notes, the pressure from Washington to join in the anti-Osama coalition could not have come at a worse time.

Wednesday, October 17, 2001

My friend dbf discovered this extraordinary site about Shia Islam. Scroll down on the first page to find a detailed list of items covering history and theology; and each page has links upon links to other information. Marvelous find, especially combined with Habeeb Salloum's excellent essay on the history of Arabic script in the always wonderful Vocabula Review.


***********

There is evidence of growing opposition within the United Kingdom to the Blair Government's dedicated following of US policy in Afghanistan.

Free speech in the face of PC suppression is not just an issue in the USA (Ari Fleischer: "You better be careful what you say") and Canada (the Thobani affair) but has also reached Italian soccer.
"I am with Bin Laden and against him at the same time. His reasons are good, his method - terrorism - is wrong ... He has succeeded in avenging the suffering of thousands of innocents, who have spent years and years living with death."
A Morrocan player, saying what he feels, has been pressured to backtrack.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

The Guardian has a very important story about the Taliban Foreign Minister travelling to Islamabad yesterday for discussions with the CIA and Pakistani Intelligence. The story shows just how much is going on in the background, with lots of travel between Pakistan and Afghanistan for senior officials. How will the US deal with the Northern Alliance? The US cannot prosecute the war without the assistance of Pakistan, and that assistance comes with the cost of not allowing the Northern Alliance to win. More, some elements of the Taliban will have to be allowed in the post-war government, so the "crusade" rhetoric -- wherein the Taliban as an entire group are demonised at every opportunity -- will need to be spun more narrowly. Bad policy is never easy to manage.

Another important story is the new face of government censorship. It appears that the US Government has purchased the rights to all civilian satelite images covering Afghanistan in order to stop the media from using the detailed images. Recognising that a regulatory ban would bring forth intense public and legal criticism, the power of the taxpayers money was brought to bear.

*********

Despite Colin Roadrunner's visit today, India will not keep quiet about what it considers Pakistani-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir. I have no idea who is right or wrong in Kashmir (or if, indeed, there is a right and wrong position), but I cannot understand why the US insists that a problem that involves territorial sovereignty and has killed hundreds of thousands of people
"must be resolved through peaceful, political and diplomatic means, not through violence or reliance on force but with a determined respect for human rights,"
while disregarding the same parameters for its own issues. Double standards fly high in wartime, I guess.

If you've ever wanted to be on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," Gary McKechnie can tell you all about it.


********

Anthrax scares are not only happening in the USA. Estonia, France, Lithuania, and Switzerland are all going through it, too.

The Orlando Weekly's Al Krulik has written a perceptive article bemoaning the use of nationalism to drive retail sales.
"C'mon, America, buy some wheels and burn some gas" -- GM's "Freedom" ad
Krulik concludes: "Maybe this is the time not to spend, not to buy, not to salve the wounds. Maybe this is the time to tell the marketers to back off. We've got some important things to think about. And they have nothing to do with going to the mall or buying this year's model."

********

Here is a passionate expose of US sponsored deaths by fellow Vancouverite Geoff Olson.

Olson mentions the "bread and circuses" necessary to blind the US population to its government's excesses overseas, but doesn't extend the discussion as far as it could be taken. It is interesting to note that, as an example, the TV network's Fall schedules were delayed by September 11th just long enough to ensure that a sense of necessary vengeance was built up in the public psyche by constant programming focusing on the deaths in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. However, once the terrorism of constant bombing began overseas, the network's were encouraged to get back on track. The idea being, of course, to keep the public's mind preoccupied with "Will and Grace" rather than with screaming burned children in Afghanistan. It is almost as if the Administration's image makers were using Noam Chomsky's works of exposure as manuals for action.

***********

Strains within the US's "allies" -- most especially in Saudi Arabia -- are becoming more extreme and more public. As this report notes, it is unlikely that Pakistan will continue its support if the Saudis bail out. Tensions can also be felt in Algeria, one of those almost-forgotten territories covered in blood and misery.

Steve Bell, the Guardian's sharp cartoonist has a view of the Middle East "peace" process and Tony Blair's role within it.



Dubya Dubya Three has not, it seems, put a damper on weird murders. A boy's body (sans head, arms and legs) has been found in the Thames in London. An almost identical case from Holland makes the case even more mysterious. South African witchcraft practices are seriously suspected.

The New York Times has a long and splendid review of "I Love Lucy" -- as cultural icon and as the influence behind "Dharma and Greg" and "Will and Grace".

Monday, October 15, 2001

The New York Daily News has allowed Zev Chafets to write a truly frightening fascist essay that calls for closing down the al-Jazeera TV network by military force. Maybe this fascist has forgotten freedom of expression, freedom of the press, pluralism -- all the things that the US claims it is fighting for.
[thanks to Jim Romenesko's Media News for the link]

Can you tell the origin of the language of religious hate? Here is a quiz to test your familiarity with Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Osama bin Laden -- three apples from the same rotten barrel.
[thanks to AlterNet for the link]

Sunday, October 14, 2001

The political and military deficiencies of Dubya Dubya Three are made clear in this analysis from The Guardian. "The defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, is reported to be increasingly frustrated by the caution of the generals and their inability to come up with a creative battle plan."

I am a dedicated tea drinker. But even so, I think research on the optimum shape of teabags deserves nomination for an Ig-Nobel. After goodness knows how many dollars and man-months expended on the investigation, the conclusion is "the quality of the tea you get depends on the type of tea in the bag, not the bag." Gosh!

In a blow to the Bush-Blair coalition, Indonesia has spoken out against the US-led bombing campaign against Afghanistan.
"It is unacceptable that someone, a group or even a government - with the reason that they are searching for perpetrators - attack a people or another country for whatever reason."
We need a few more major Muslim countries to speak out to show that the "coalition" is a PR sham.

**********

President Khatami of Iran has some fine things to say about both the USA and the Taliban.
"Two superficially opposing voices are heard in America and Afghanistan, which in fact are the two sides of the same coin ... Such false and arrogant judgements are the root cause of violence and terror as well as war,"

The Guardian is the source of this interesting article on new excavations in Egypt, researches which are leading to new conjectures about the lives and deaths of Akhenaten, Tutenkhamen and Nefertiti.

*******

Good morning, and happy 75th birthday to


Winnie the Pooh!

Thanks to Cruel Site of the Day for the link to these incredible war comics.

Saturday, October 13, 2001


The New York Times has a well-written review of a fascinating book that centres on Richard Nixon's personal jottings;a must for those intrigued by the whole Nixon persona business.

Yesterday I reported that the mad Minister Clare Short had affirmed there had been zero civilian casulaties in Afghanistan. In her speech, she said her information came from Afghani refugees arriving in Pakistan. I guess that makes this story a lie.
"I was on my way from Kabul to the border and walked to the village. I arrived at about 2pm and there were mass funerals going on. I saw many bodies in coffins. Eight people were being buried here, five there, it was a very emotional scene. So many people were crying. There were hundreds of people who had come from surrounding villages to help carry the bodies, dig graves and attend the funerals. Local people said 100 people had died and many were missing."

It has been said time and again that bin Laden and his troops tend to concentrate in caves. This article from Global Security explains the real problems involved in tracking down such haunts. Hard to imagine doing this efficienctly without troops on the ground.

Friday, October 12, 2001

The Chicago Tribune's Steve Johnson has a good essay on the difficulties for the US press in covering Dubya Dubya Three. He quotes Rumsfeld quoting Churchill:
"In wartime, truth is so precious she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."
Personally, I anticipate the press doing a much better job than they were allowed to do during Dubya's dad's war when many of us thought that NPR stood for National Pentagon Radio!
[Thanks to Jim Romenesko's Media News for the link]

*****

I have previously mentioned in this space my admiration for Gustav Klimt. I was pleased, therefore, to see that his "Lady In Red" made $4 million at auction yesterday, double its anticipated price.

Good morning.

It looks as if west Central Asia is about to explode, with "partisans" attacking the Abkazian region of Georgia. If this fighting were to spread to Chechnya -- as it quite possible -- repercussions could be felt well into the Afghani war zone.

I was re-reading Uber-Gauleiter Tom Ridge's acceptance speech this morning and noticed that he claims that "liberty is the most precious gift we offer to our citizens." Hmmm. In other words, forget liberty being an inalienable right (along with life and the pursuit of happiness), you don't have liberty unless it is offered to you by the Government! Where did this guy learn his civics? It is the little things they say that betray their deepest thoughts.

Things are not much better in England, where the always wacky Minister Claire Short claims there have been zero civilian casulaties in five days of bombing populated areas. Propaganda I understand, but stupidity always rises to the top!

Thursday, October 11, 2001

The story of the development (and even pre-history) of Braille is well told at www.brailler.com/braillehx.htm. I learned more than I could have imagined.



Wednesday, October 10, 2001

I am a great admirer of George "Herge" Remi and his creation Tintin -- my wife bought me the most fabulous Tintin T-shirt which I wear with pride -- and so I was pleased to read the review of a new book on the comic artist.
[thanks to Arts & letters Daily for the link]



It was fun this morning watching Ari Fleischer swing in the wind trying to explain Conger Leader Rice's attempts to get the US networks to censor themselves. I noted that, when asked about possible plans for genuine censorship in the near future, Fleischer didn't dismiss the whole idea, merely saying it hadn't yet come up.

The Guardian, as usual, is a fine source of fascinating material. This article describes the life and loves of Inessa Armand, French-Russian revolutionary, Lenin's lover and a major organizer of the revolution.


************

Good morning! There seems little point in trying to catch up with the news, so I'll just move forward.

The Guardian has information from a secret French parliamentary report that nails the City of London as one of the keys to the al-Qaeda financial network funding their overseas actions.
"This document clearly shows the great permeability of the British banking and financial system and the fragility of the controls operated at its points of entry ... Those responsible for combating financial crime are depressed and discouraged by an archaic and dysfunctional system"
Seems to me that if Bloodthirsty Blair is serious about attacking al-Qaeda he could spend some time in London rather than swanning around in Oman and other such photo ops.

While the noisy pundits have been exploring the possibility of expanding Dubya Dubya Three into Iraq, the New York Times has a very interesting piece on possible targets in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. On the same issue, Simon Tisdall gives us a British columnist's view of the dangers of expanded warfare.

Tuesday, October 09, 2001

Well, four days in hospital certainly puts one behind with one's blogging! I'll be catching up with a vengeance in the next 24 hours though!

Friday, October 05, 2001


About 2,200 students from the Ecole de la Mortagne in Montreal form a symbolic Peace sign on the school's lawn on Friday. Photo: Alain Roberge/CP via the Globe and Mail.


USA Today has an extremely detailed overview of the military difficulties in Afghanistan (I was pleased and surprised to find it at a news outlet I have usually considered less than useful.)

And, talking of America's new allies, the Northern Alliance, they have been named by the UN as Afghanistan's largest producers of opium. That is because America's enemies, the Taliban, banned opium production in their territories; this move reduced the world's supply of opium by 60%. Looks like American money will be used to build that back up again, this time with US-backed producers.

However, where pharmaceuticals are a lot less plentiful, medical complications have hit the refugees on the Afghani-Pakistan border in the form of an Ebola-like epidemic.
As one doctor put it, a patient suffering from haemorrhagic fever "literally melts in front of your eyes."
[thanks to BoingBoing
]

On the capital punishment front, Georgia is forced to give up the electric chair. One more down, just two more to go (Nebraska and Alabama).

The New York Times has a pleasant review of the work of Dutch painter Aelbert Cuyp (1620-91)

************

Good morning. I have a streaming cold today which I guess is of little interest to anyone but me, but it means my brain is travelling even slower than usual.


Paul Klee "Head of Man" (1922)

One of the many great things about living in British Columbia is the relaxed attitude towards marijuana. AlterNet has a fascinating article about the marijuana business in Victoria which gives a good impression of what this part of life is like here. Oh, so different from 1948 when Bob Mitchum was busted in Hollywood (although the corruption that got him special treatment is much the same) as revealed in this story from the Guardian.
[thanks to liberal Arts Media for the link]

Back to the war: As if to emphasize the shakiness of the Bush-Blair coalition efforts, the Afghani Northern Alliance are taking potshots at the role of Pakistan in any future arrangements for Afghanistan, and the role of the ex-King still seems to be up in the air. In addition, the mullahs of Morocco have declared themselves strongly against any attacks on Muslim countries or organizations; and, while granting the use of an air base for search and rescue missions, the President of Uzbekistan is still stating publicly his opposition to either air or ground strikes launched from his country.

Thursday, October 04, 2001


The Afghani government seems to have gone off-line. And their ISP is looking for them!

The Situationists are not dead! They are alive and well in the bodies of two Australian composers who have copyrighted all the 100 billion plus possible tones made by telephone numbers. That means that each and every time you use the phone you are in breach of their copyright! They say that if businesses can copyright DNA, then they can copyright musical tones.
"We're saying to (big business), 'Okay guys, the boot is on the other foot. If you really believe in copyright, you've got to pay'"



**************

I must have missed this in first passing through the Guardian. Novelist Arundhati Roy, universally praised author of "The God of Small Things," declared that Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush are really the same person. The terrorist
"is nothing more the American president's dark doppelganger. The savage twin of all that purports to be beautiful and civilized. He has been sculpted from the spare rib of a world laid to waste by America's foreign policy: its gunboat diplomacy, its nuclear arsenal, its vulgarly stated policy of 'full-spectrum dominance,' its chilling disregard for non-American lives, its barbarous military interventions, its support for despotic and dictatorial regimes, its merciless economic agenda that has munched through the economies of poor countries like a cloud of locusts. Its marauding multinationals who are taking over the air we breathe, the ground we stand on, the water we drink, the thoughts we think."
I believe I am posting this to prove, to myself if no-one else, that I am not the only one saying and thinking these things; that individuals far more intelligent and perceptive than I have come to the same destination in their analysis..


********

And where is Dick Cheney these days? He was definitely considered a major player in the shaping of this Administration's policy (I have always gone so far as to consider this the first term of Cheney's presidency). However, he has been invisible in the last two weeks. No statements, no appearances, and -- most oddly -- no media inquiries as to his whereabouts. The VP's site on the White House web page gives July 16th as the last date of a speech by him.



Has he fallen from influence? Is he incapacitated in some way? I have no answers, just questions.

I have no idea who is behind this site, the Titanic Encyclopeadia, but they have done an incredible job. There is probably more information on a single subject here than anywhere else I can think of. The detail is extraordinary, and obsessive.

***********

So, "West Wing" last night. I thought it was a useful exposition of a certain range of opinion. It asked some really tough questions, but ducked others. It operated within a limited sphere of reference for what constitutes "terrorism"; and it quite deliberatly emphasized the terrorists' hatred for the American way of life, rather than the terrorists' hatred for American actions in their own countries. But a brave attempt and a show that will justifiably go down in history as US TV at its best.

Other reviewers: CNN thought it was good, calling it "a brave exploration." It is hard to say whether or not Phil Rosenthal of the Chicago Sun-Times liked it or not. He calls the series "preachy" and a weekly civics lesson." In Los Angeles, Phil Lowery of the LA Times also seemed wary of making a statement. However, he was happy to include a quote from George Stephanopolous who described the show as
"a prime-time town meeting on a lot of the issues raised by the attacks. . . . You'd be hard-pressed to find this sophisticated a debate on most news shows. If the goal was to stimulate and provoke discussion, I've got to believe it did that."
On the other hand, Dave Winer who runs the often excellent weblog Scripting News says:
"Last night's West Wing was worse than a CNN town meeting. What a load of crap. I cringed 18 times and then fell asleep. Looking forward to the season premiere next week. I wish they had run it instead. I'm fed up with all the depressed people hogging the airwaves. Let's move on, write some code, make some love, eat good food, we've still got a lot to do. Terrorism sucks. Racism sucks. Let's create beauty together. The West Wing at its best is very good. Yesterday was very bad West Wing."


For all of you out there who wondered what Chubby Checker was up to these days -- and we know who you are -- you will be glad to know he has taken a full page as in Billboard magazine demanding a life-sized statue of himself in the lobby of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. ''I want my flowers while I'm alive," he wrote. "I can't smell them when I'm dead.'.

*****************

Good morning!

Boy, those freedom-loving, First Amendment hugging American Administration officials sure like to stifle freedoms elsewhere. Colin Powell wants a radio station in Qatar to be "curbed." Can you imagine the furore if he tried that with ABC or even a local outfit in, say, South Dakota?

And talking about reductions in freedom, Canada is getting in on the act. I have no idea who al-Hadi is, or what he may or may not have done, but don't we have rules here about lawyer contact? Or are we just slipping into the let's-destroy-freedom-to-protect-freedom mode as well?

That latter mode was well in evidence in Latin America for the past 50 years, sanctified and sponsored by the USA. One of the most egregious villains in the piece has been the School of the Americas accused of training Latin American military personnel on how to torture, kidnap and assassinate civilians. Back in the summer of 2000, some protesters in Philadelphia were arrested for demonstrating against the School. Yesterday, a judge threw out the case against them. Before rendering her verdict, Judge Stack said that she had never heard of the School of the Americas until yesterday and that what she learned was "very enlightening and somewhat shocking." The school was in many respects the USA's version of the Bin Laden training camps in Afghanistan. But, of course, they were fighting the fight for freedom, so that was OK ...

I also see that the US is attempting to add a coating of anti-drug moralising in its propaganda against the Taliban. Is this the same US Government that was itself, through the CIA, feeding the crack epidemic in Los Angeles just a few years ago?

A former US General is "leaking" the Pentagon's plan of attack. Is this the real plan? Or just another diversionery tactic?

Ernest Hemingway's 70 year old son Gregory -- also known as Gloria -- has died in a Florida jail cell. Another curious addition to that odd family's mythology. He had been arrested five days earlier while walking naked in Key Biscayne carrying a dress and high heels in his hands. Police Officer Nelia Real, who made the arrest, said: "He was a very nice guy. He wasn't nasty. He appeared to be very, very nice."


Wednesday, October 03, 2001

Bush (in the form of Rumsfeld) and Blair are urgently patching the holes that keep appearing in the "coalition." It is all very well for, say, Argentina to come out in full support for the "war", but it is the frontline states that actually matter. And a whole bunch of them are not happy.

Even so, it looks as if Pakistan is finally cutting its last ties with the Taliban, and bending its own post-conflict diplomatic options to match those of the US in the region.
"... this sounds similar to the kind of post-Taleban administration being discussed by members of the US-led coalition ... "
However, as this article from the NYT makes clear, by allying itself with, and supporting, Pakistan, the US is setting itself major potential problems in the future.

And then there is the British reporter who thought she'd make a name for herself, and instead the two Afghani guides she tempted will now almost certainly be executed. In the meantime, oceans of ink and indignation will flow on behalf of this grandstanding woman, diplomats' time will be wasted, and nothing good can really come it.

On more enlightened matters, the Brits seem to be on the verge of instituting some major changes to post-secondary education. Rumour is they will scrap the tuition fees they brought in 4 years ago -- thus making education free again -- and will have all graduates pay a small additional income tax for 25 years.
Education Minister Estelle Morris said: "I recognise that for many low income families fear of debt is a real worry and could act as barrier to higher education. I want to make sure that our future reform tackles this problem."
An idea worth considering.


*******************

If you are worried about hordes of Afghani Mujahaddin warriors invading your neighbourhood, why not become a "vicious and deadly street fighter"? Sammy Franco and his merry band of "Fight Club" fans have the how-to book you've been looking for.

The Washington Post today has a fascinating article regarding the discussions between the US and Sudan about the handing over of Osama bin Laden to either the US or Saudi Arabia just prior to him leaving for Afghanistan. "The Clinton administration struggled to find a way to accept the offer" but the FBI could find no indictable charge against bin Laden at that time, and the Saudi Government were not willing to accept custody of him.
"In the end they said, 'Just ask him to leave the country. Just don't let him go to Somalia,' " Erwa, the Sudanese general, said in an interview. "We said he will go to Afghanistan, and they said, 'Let him.' "

Howard Lalli at Creative Loafing has an interesting perspective on the future of CNN in Atlanta. They don't have one he says! Like many others, they seem to be packing up and moving to New York.

**************

Good morning!

I notice that my image server is down this morning. It will be back soon, I hope.

There seems to be some, probably minor, delay in the destruction of Afghanistan. In the meantime, Bush and Powell are telling everyone that the US "always" supported the idea of a Palestinian State. And Bloody Blair is speculating on the assistance that needs to go to poor people around the world ("The starving, the wretched, the dispossessed, the ignorant, they are our cause too.") None of this did we hear before September 11th. And even now, spouting rhetoric for their own purposes, the Alliance leaders show no understanding that, if you give a group no avenue for expression except violence, then violence will be used.

My note last night about the explosion in Gaza City turns out to have been the Israelis and Hamas terrorising civilan populations again. Nothing new there, except the embarrassment and discomfiture of the US Administation who cannot control their own creature, and for the Palestinian Authority who have not yet found the will to control the militias.

We are hearing a lot lately about the lack of human rights in Afghanistan and similar, Muslim, nations. What about the US allies? Romania, perhaps, or other areas of Eastern Europe.
"In 1996, [the Romanian] parliament adopted an even more draconian law. Even if practised in private, homosexuality was a crime. Marian Cetiner was the first person to be imprisoned under the new legislation and suffered police brutality and abuse during the two years of a three-year sentence she spent in jail."

The Greyhound Bus crash in Tennessee is an unfortunate story. It is interesting to note how everything is being filtered through the events of September 11th: the first reaction of both the bus company and the media was to assume a terrorist attack. However, we must not forget that one or two individual crazies not connected to al-Qaeda are still wandering our streets.

A report from Rome says that art galleries are pick-up heaven! If they have any marketing sense, MOMO, the Met, the Tate, the Louvre and others will be playing on this survey.


Tuesday, October 02, 2001

Yet more distress for the magazine industry. The death of Mademoiselle brings future problems into clearer focus. Confirming the shuttering of Mademoiselle, Condé Nast CEO Steven Florio said in a written statement that
"... current economic conditions have produced a situation where ... the magazine is no longer viable."

The war is being blamed, but the recession was on before September 11th, and advertising was certain to shrink.

I am pleased to bring you this important message -- violence breeds violence -- from Free Range Graphics.

From the I'm Just Stupid Department: two dumb kids from Missouri tried to drive into Canada with more arms than the Canadian Army can muster!

"... a pair of AK-47 assault rifles with five loaded magazines, a machete, a sword, a set of brass knuckles, three martial arts throwing stars, pistol belts and magazine pouches."

Even in normal times they were looking at confiscation and a huge fine. Now, with Homeland Defence in vogue, who knows what will happen to them. So dumb.

Did you know that the Great Lakes have so much pesticide in them that the lakes are actually breathing the chemicals out into the air. And this is apparently a good thing?

Back at the war...
"In 1985 a group of bearded men met with Ronald Reagan in the White House. These turbaned men were, Reagan stated, 'the moral equivalent of America's founding fathers.' These were the Afghan mujahedin, for whom Osma bin Laden worked and was undoubtedly funded, directly or indirectly, by the CIA. At the same time Nelson Mandela sat in prison in Robben Island. Mandela, according to the official watch list of the Pentagon, was a terrorist, the head of a terrorist organization attacking the anticommunist apartheid regime." William G.Martin, Foreign Policy in Focus


And what's going on here? A huge explosion in Gaza City at 3:15 in the morning.

Nat Hentoff in The Village Voice clearly explains the anticipated attack on the rights and freedoms contained in the US Bill of Rights which will come as a result of September 11th.

David C. Vladeck, director of the Public Citizen Litigation Group, says that the public demand for security will support "virtually everything the government does in terms of intelligence gathering and assessment, immigration, and telecommunications."

This is the right wing's chance to do things they could before only imagine. These are troubling times indeed.

Good morning!

On a day on which we can expect the first military responses in Dubya Dubya Three, I start the morning with a more hopeful story: A new youth-based group seeking to end the handgun madness in the US.

"Nearly thirty thousand Americans die every year from gun violence," said Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice. "It's time to demand the industry take responsibility for its deadly products."

Gun Industry Watch, working with Physicans for a Responsible Society and Alliance for Justice, will monitor the gun industry and report on deceptive and dangerous practices.

Paul Foot, an always alert writer, has written a short but timely essay on the financial and moral corruption that is at the heart of Italy today, and personified in the figure of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Monday, October 01, 2001

In Uganda, they are debating the future of the death penalty, with many senior officials opting to remove the ultimate sanction. If the penalty cannot be eliminated completely, the head of Uganda's Prison Service, Moses Kakungulu, has suggested that the duty of executions be given to some other organization than his own to perform.:

"The death penalty has been shown and proven to be a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment with political, economic and social repercussions which outweigh its objectives," Kakungulu said.

For those still wondering what gets "terrorists" crazy enough to kill themselves in suicide missions, this paper from Thomas J. Nagy of The Progressive may go some way to explain. He has found US Government documents detailing the deliberate destruction, through sanctions, of Iraq's water supply -- a direct hit on the population of the area NOT the regime that the US complains about. Polluted water and consequent disease have killed or damaged hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of innocent Iraqi civilains. All preventable. All the US's decision.

There will be no million dollar payouts to the next Iraqi child who dies of cholera, no pop star benefits when this generation of babies is damaged beyond repair, and barely a mention in even the best newspapers. How else do we expect victims to react if we give them no voice, and no hope through "legitimate means" to change the actions of a superpower that ignores the United Nations?

In my continuing quest to track down classy merchandise connected to September 11th, I bring you Osama bin Laden pinatas!

Science moves apace: A Japanese report indicates that the first tiny steps toward practical teleportation are being taken in experiments in Denmark. I think this is really neat, even though it remains mostly theoretical!




Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post and CNN must have had a slow day: he has penned an article about media manipulation from the White House; how the spinners around Bush are "re-imaging" him as a "war President" firmly and commandingly in control. "There's been a collective decision to re-image the president, and the media is fully cooperating," says David Carr, former writer for Inside.com.

Added complications for the US military. The Iranians are sure not going to make this easy and, of course, this whole series of events has been fatal to Khatami's efforts to impose discipline on the religious fanataics in his own country. None of this is good for the long term future of American policy in the region no matter how desolate Afghanistan is made to become.

Some days ago, I gave links to discussions about the challenges to a free press in this era of 'new war.' A USA Today column -- merely parrotting what has been said openly in British and Australian and Pakistani papers for days -- has struck the first negative chord.

Gregg Easterbrook at the New Republic has a fact-filled essay on airplane security that is well worth the read.

A hundred years ago I read Terry Southern's "Red Dirt Marijuana and Other Tastes" and have never forgotten it. Some months ago I discovered the Greater Vancouver Public Library system (great though it is) does not have a single copy. And, just yesterday, I was telling my wife that I was going to make renewed efforts to track it down. Lo and behold, this morning I find a review of a new -- though disliked by the reviewer -- biography of the writer. For balance, I should note that the official Terry Southern web site seems to like the book.





The start of another week, October already ...

It is now three weeks since the events of September 11th and the edge has come off our memories. Most of us are going about our daily lives in the same way we did before. Many people were and continue to be directly affected by the attacks, but most of us were and are not; not directly at last. The fervour of revenge and retribution is cooling across the land and the incipient peace movement has popped its head above water. It is necessary, therefore, for the government authorities to keep reminding us of the vigilance required in these dangerous times. It is in these terms that we should understand Ashcroft's continual jeremiahs. It is this week, I believe, Governor Ridge takes up his new post as Homeland Security Director. I'm sure he'll get into the same game as soon as he starts.

The attacks seem to have affected Canadians at least as strongly: The results were issued this morning of a poll about US-Canada border security, and a large majority of respondents appear willing to sacrifice soveriegnty to the Americans, allowing the US final say in who travels back and forth and in what form. Wake up, Jak! This is just a bad nightmare.

As was to be expected with so much money involved, the compensation payments for victims of the September 11th attacks are under critical scrutiny, with claims of bias and unrepresentation (why aren't the victims of the Oklahoma bombing, or the embassy bombings included, for instance?) Recipients are expected to receive upwards of $1 million a piece; that is just about $1 million each more than the victims of US terrorism in Central and South America, in Palestine, in Iraq, in Sudan and in Afghanistan are expecting to receive.

LBJ's and Nixon's fascist Vietnamese lapdog died this weekend. I think that's all the time I need spend on that.

Bad news for big Bill Clinton. He has been barred from arguing cases at the US Supreme Court. Not that Mr $200,000-a-speech-Clinton was actually looking for a job as a lawyer, but still it is a real slap in the face.


A major retirement in the world of sumo! American-born Akebono has retired at age 32.