Thursday, September 28, 2006

Revisiting the Darfur crisis

I earlier mentioned that in lieu of the Sudanese government's objection to an international force, Middle Eastern Nations should rise to tackle the challenge of Darfur. While it would be nice if they could, most Muslim governments are either at odds with Sudan, do not have the military capabilities to lead such a mission, or most unfortunately, just don't give a damn about the suffering of their fellow Muslims if it is not tied to Palestine or Iraq, Israel or America.

That leaves the world with other options. One such suggestion, as mentioned in the Economist magazine, is for China to lead the mission. China has the power and capability and could also utilize this catastrophe to improve their clout on the world stage.

If this is still not acceptable to the Sudanese government, a last resort option I suggest is born from the fact that the Sudanese government has quelled the people of Darfur's basic human rights. The region of Darfur is predominately black African. A government must protect all of its citizens to the best of their ability, no matter what background they are from. Because the Sudanese government, rather than protect the people of Darfur, has made efforts to persecute them by aligning their own military with local janjaweed militias, the United Nations should, with immediate effect, consider Darfur a country to itself, with their own right for self determination.
Instead of dealing with Sudan, you're dealing directly with Darfur. A subsequent referendum should be held on whether to rejoin Sudan as one country, or become the independant state of Darfur.
I know it's a drastic measure, but the Sudanese government has left the world with little other choice. The mere threat of recognizing Darfur as independent of Sudan may just kick the SOBs in Khartoum into action.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The stuff in the NIE Bush doesn't want you to hear.

The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report is a collection of the view of all sixteen US intelligence agencies.

Bush is against any declassification of the NIE and describes his critics as "naive" for not understanding the war on terror.

From the BBC
"The leaked excerpts from the report were first published by the New York Times on Sunday.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Mr Bush condemned the leak, calling his critics "naive".

Declassification would let people judge the document for themselves," he said."

This last statement pretty much sums it up. He's against declassifying the document so people could judge it for themselves. Americans need to be spoonfed propoganda, and anything that is too damaging to GWB must be silenced or spun in a different direction.

Ask yourself, why is it dangerous for people to judge the document for themselves? Could it be possible that it exposes his gross incompetence and threatens his grip on power? That the recurring theme discusses the dangers he has created in the world thanks to his catostrophic judgement.

Without ever reading the document, here is my hypotheses on some of the things it says and what they don't want you to hear.

George Bush had no credible intelligence to prove that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He fabricated the information based on a previous rumour that had been disproved by Joseph William who had gathered foreign intelligence to the contrary in Nigeria. In response to the outcry by Joseph William downriding Bush's claim that Iraq had purchased enriched Uranium from Nigeria, the Republican administration fought back by leaking confidential National Security information and reveailing that William's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA agent.

Torture, as used by Iraqi police and informal militias, is now worse than at any point in time under Saddam Hussein.
The situation in Iraq is out of control and will not get better. All out civil war is inevitable unless drastic steps are taken.

Furthermore, Muslim resentment toward American foreign policy is at unprecedented levels and ensures chaos in Iraq that can possibly spread throughout the entire region.

It is more likely Iraq will fall into the hands of Islamists and break out into all out civil war than it is to become a functional and united democracy. If true democracy takes place, it is likely Iraqis will vote to break apart with mass migration similar to India and Pakistan during their separation following the deoccupation by the British. Such displacement will further fuel civil strife.

Iran, who posed more of a threat to the region than Iraq ever did, will continue to grow stronger. They have been emboldened by the Shia power vacuum the invasion has created and, through Hizbollah and Syria, threaten to spark a devastating regional war with possible nuclear repurcussions.

Terrorism, already spreading throughout the Muslim world's closest target, Europe, will grow worse. While Americans and Europeans will initially try to preach fairness and equality, growing Muslim resentment at Western foreign policy will act as a catylist for further terrorist attacks. This in turn will fuel hate crime throughout Europe, increasing the attractivenes of right-wing extremists parties such as Jean Marie Le Pen in France.

The Iraq war has diminished American respect throughout the world and in many ways, exhausted it in the Middle East. As a result, the United States has been sidelined in their ability to take a stance of intervention in places of humanitarian catastrophe such as Sudan. Islamist governments already in power use America's disastrous foreign policy decisions under George Bush as reason to block intervention. While Sudan continues to deny their genocidal war crimes in Darfur, they at the same time twist the world's call for intervention into their own rallying cry against any foreign crusade to occupy Arab land.

While staying the course in Iraq is essential for any chance of peace and democracy, these objectives remain impossible while George Bush is in power. For too many Muslims, he is the face of evil and fans the flames of their humiliating military inferiority. For the best chances of a successful Iraq campaign, a new and apologetic president not affiliated with the current regime needs to be implimented.

Further reccomendations to quell Islamic revolt and anger, and take the first steps to healing America's crumbling foreign affairs, would be to entertain preliminary charges against George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and other key administration and military figures through an international tribunal for war crimes. If the tribunal feels there is enough evidence to proceed, charges should be brought and trials should be held on the international stage.

* Please note: While I seriously doubt GWB or his associates will ever stand trial for their decisions, my thoughts are simply aimed to quell the damage his administration has done to America's image in the world.

Monday, September 25, 2006

It's Ramadan again

Ramadan feels similar to a kid going back to school. The homework is a pain, you might get a nasty teacher, but their is an exciting atmosphere where you get to tackle another challenge and see close friends again.
In Ramadan, the not eating is a pain, you might get a nasty headache , but their is a certain jovial family atmosphere. It rises to a sort of crescendo on the last days before you break the fast with relatives and sometimes friends.

On the other hand, there's the argument that faithful are told to fast so their minds are weaker and easier to manipulate. Cults are known to half-starve their followers in order to deprive them of a fully reasoning mind. A tired and undernourished brain is easier to manipulate than a well fed one. The fact that, at the hungriest and most desperate time of the day, the Islamic call to prayer (there is but one God and Muhammed is his prophet) blares over loud speakers as though a message of release. The most enjoyable part of the day, when the date squishes into your mouth and you take a huge drink, the message which is repeated over and over and over again, is right there.

That's not the official reasoning, however. One reason for fasting during Ramadan is to make people understand what its like to be very hungry so they can better sympathise with the poor. Almsgiving, (Zaqat) is the third of the five pillars of Islam.

It also makes people feel they have taken part in something. Like they have completed a harsh task, and having done so, are more a part of the religion.

I've spent the last four Ramadan seasons in Arab countries, the first in Jordan and Egypt, and the last three here in Morocco. Last year, my first as a Muslim, I didn't make a huge effort, which was certainly more than the two years previous. I sometimes had coffee to get rid of headaches in the morning, and when you cheat once, well, the whole game is up so you might as well have a yoghurt and a chocolate bar too.
This year I'm one for one so far. I figure if it starts to interfere with my work, I might cheat again. The plan is to work hard in the mornings, sleep in the afternoons, break the fast at sundown, let the bloated feeling settle, and get back to work.
Even a sip of water is considered cheating and thus ruins all the effort someone put throughout the day.

If you have an open mind, consider asking a Muslim friend if you could join them and break the fast one day during Ramadan. It's an enlightening experience and gives you a taste of what Muslims go through for a month every year.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The perfect mobile phone

It seems mobile phones get more intricate by the week. From the huge clunky military style unit which started off the craze, to the clunky carphones which cost so much you needed to take out a second mortgage, to your modern day pay-as-you-go pipsqueak with all the bells and whistles.

What would your perfect mobile phone be?


Obviously a camera with video capability would be standard, as high a quality as you could squeeze into the little sucker. Night vision included.
Size options, the normal slim mobile, or the big blackberry mini keyboard and a larger screen.
It would have the processing capacity of a modern day laptop.
Storage capacity similar to an IPOD.
Removable storage units like the ones in digital Cameras.
A home unit that hooks up to monitor and peripherals so the phone can be turned into a PC. The home unit would include a booster to increase speed and Ram.
In some Asian cities, cell phones have begun to tap into the wireless internet community and can make calls through programs like Skype. Such accessibility would be a standard option. Recognition of the cheapest possible call rate.
A GPS unit, with a car kit that speaks to you.
Shock resistant and waterproof.
Satellite phone for the middle of nowhere coverage.
Satellite internet capability.
For the larger version, the option of video games, like a miniplaystation, which could tap into the wireless community.
A video projector, as seen in this article, would be a cool option. As the projectors get more advanced, something with the power of a modern day projector would be amazing. You could project the information onto a screen and work on your computer or watch movies through high speed internet connectivity.
Why not have it replace car keys and house keys as well, using a special signal to unlock cars, and start them like the slide-in card keys do.
Car adapters which turn the phone into a speaker phone.
Thumb print identification/unlocking.
Attachable antenna for two-way radio communication.
Modern cars could include standard celphone options that hook right into the car. Diagnostic capabilities, fuel efficiency, time until next service.
Offshoot business options - Mobile car service teams who, while you're busy somewhere, can race in with a team, service the car, oil change, filter, anything else that needs servicing, and zoom away in the time it takes you to finish your grocery shopping. All thanks to the diagnostic tools. This could help manufacturers extend car warranties and be the much needed quality injection companies like Ford desperately need.

All right Microsoft, Linux, Nokia, Sony, Motorola, Ford, Toyota and Honda. I've given you a glimpse of the next generation of ideas as I see them. Now get working. I expect my car and mobile phone package to be ready by 2010.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Chavez claims Bush the Devil

While I might agree George Bush is a terrible president, in fact I could create an entire blog simply to bash his policy decisions. The deficit, inflation, anti-americanism throughout the world, alienating his closest allies, Valeri Plame, oil prices, Lebanon, Iraq, ... enough said!
But Chavez looks like the bigger idiot today. To get up on a podium, call George Bush the Devil, and say he smells sulphur in the air is childish and, well pathetic. You do a disservice to yourself Mr Chavez, and discredit every point you made in your ensuing speech by lowering yourself to such infantile name calling.
There is plenty of fodder to stand up in front of the world and call Bush an idiot, buffoon, liar or some clever spin on the axis of evil analagy. It would have been easy to embarass Bush's democratic Middle East stance by pointing out that the UN is only as democratic as the five veto wielding nations allow it to be and spin that into any number of his disasterous decisions. Some of this you did go on to point out, but all of your comments were undone by your Berlisconi-esque maturity level on the international stage.

Dion's G&M responses

While certainly not the worst of the candidates in the Globe and Mail Q&A so far, I don't think Dion hit a homerun either. He fielded very few questions, perhaps the least of all the candidates, and none of them particularly risque. His answers, while more concise than most candidates, were still a long way off from Findlay's who IMO, dominated the open forums thus far.
I'm still in the anyone but Rae or Ignaetieff camp. Cleverly, they have waited until the end of the pack to answer questions, if they answer them at all.
The Globe also did a survey, which was about as clear as mud. What I got out of it was that Ignatieff is leading now, but Rae and Dion are still within reach. I also understand that Rae has the most second ballot popularity and is favoured to win the big prize. In all honesty, if I had to, I'd choose Rae over Ignatieff because I totally disagree with Ignatieff's stance on Iraq. I want a Prime Minister who keeps a comfortable distance from the White House's current administration.
I'm hoping one or more of Dryden, Kennedy or Findlay drops out and supports Dion. While they are all impressive candidates, I don't see them winning. I do hope Findlay hangs on, pulls in a bit more experience and runs for the next leadership race because I do think she has the potential to make a great PM one day.

Monday, September 18, 2006

It's Dion's turn tomorrow

Tomorrow, it's Stephen Dion's turn. I'm hoping he answers my question.

Thank you for fielding questions today Mr Dion. Protests have recently taken place around the world to draw attention to the situation in Sudan's Darfur region. Former Canadian General Dallair, who led the tragic UN mission in Rwanda, has called for Canada to play a role in intervention. What do you see as the key challenges to the diffusing the Darfur crisis and what role do you see Canada as playing?

Hedy Fry: judgement of responses

In the Globe and Mail's question and answer today, Dr Hedy Fry fielded several questions. Something about her responses seemed overly thought out to the point of being irrational. She seemed to have a plan for everything from Quebec to green energy in Northern Canada to Afghanistan. I don't quite know why, but this bothered me. I'd rather have a politician not say they have a plan for everything we ask about, but rather to define the key challenges of an issue, penetrate more than just its surface, and provide one or more alternatives. This is especially important because even if the Liberals do win, it is likely to be a minority government. With a minority, plans go out the window and everything is give and take concessions, holding on by a string until the other parties get fed up and have another go at the cookie jar.
Hedy sounded like an inexperienced candidate for student council president, rather than an articulate and well thought out prime ministerial one. She tried to find the right answer to all the questions and impress everyone. Yet she rarely scratched the surface of an issue, or took on anything I would consider to be too challenging. At times I got bored and felt her rambling and dull. I also found it disappointing she took three hours to answer a limited number of questions that could have been done in half the time. I suspect Martha Hall Findlay went in with at least one pre-known question her friends sent in. Either that or she did her homework and quite cleverly studied the previous discussions. She seemed to have preplanned answers and responded in kind.
If it took Hedy Fry three hours to answer these questions, I suspect she hadn't done her preparation, which makes me think she wouldn't be organized as a leader.
If I were running, and I had the opportunity to field questions, I would be studying my ass off and have a commission of clever political minds around me to debate each question that has been asked so far. I'd also have friends send in pre-known questions so I can prepare answers in line with my political ideologies before the debate even begins. This is a serious fight for a serious position of power. Not a little game. Anyone who donated money to this woman in hopes of her mounting a serious Prime ministerial bid should be kicking themselves right now.

Chat programs, which to use

In University, about eight years back, the chat programs of choice seemed to be ICQ. The little flower in the bottom of my screen would flash and the speakers would blast out a high-pitched, "Uhoh," every time someone sent me a message.
I eventually moved onto Yahoo messenger, but after a few years, broken by intermittent travel, I gave up on Yahoo. The program seemed to get too complicated, with little applets for hundreds of applications. Games, chats, videos, funny messages, etc, etc. Yahoo messenger seemed to slow my computer down noticibly. It also made the system more unstable, and after a while, the computer started to freeze up.
So I switched to something simpler, a program which seemed to suddenly sprout up and is now a major competitor. Skype offered the basics I needed, and allowed me to make dirt cheap phone calls overseas. I like its simplicity, and since originally downloading Skype, small improvements seem to be made every so often, like smoother call quality, video conferencing and Skype in where I can buy a phone number in any country around the world. I haven't had the program crash on me, and though I've only used the camera twice, it hasn't crashed like Yahoo seems to do.
I also have google talk, because it is an even simpler program than Skype, and because Google tends to do things well. It is conveniently tied into my email account. Problems, I sometimes have delays when calling people. It waits several seconds before connecting, but afterwards the conversations run smoothly.
I prefer to only have the necessities running on my computer. The more programs, the more confusion and possible conflicts. Keep the basics running, and the rest will be easy.

Rebels Softball

Line up for spring season

Mark Huffman
Rich L
Matt D

Friday, September 15, 2006

Martha Hall Findlay: a refreshing surprise.

Out of nowhere, comes candidate Martha Hall Findlay. Previously, all the hype had been on other more famous (or perhaps infamous) candidates, and their main challengers. Ms. Findlay has responded, and in my opinion, primed herself to move up in the rankings and give the front runners something to be nervous about.

To make an analagy, many aspiring writers were pushed into the idea of writing, probably by a friend or relative who thought they wrote a good letter, or had an interesting story to tell.
But because their mother and best friend find them fascinating, doesn't mean they are. The aspiring writer might get to the step where they have four hundred pages of pouring their heart and soul out. But, as 99% of writers, me included, go on to find out. The publishing world aint that easy to crack.
I think the same thing goes for politicians wanting to become PM. A tight knit group of friends or political allies might tell them, "Hey, go for it, you have what it takes to be a great PM!"
Brison, Bennett, Volpe, Fry, and Ignatieff are all in this boat. They really believe that their group of friends is right and they can go on to lead the country.
With Findlay, I think we might have actually hit the one whose friends were right.

On her online G&M debate, she impressed impressed me. Although she didn't field my own question about General Dallair's intervention in Sudan, the questions she did take on received balanced, articulate and intelligent answers. She wasn't partisan sniping, and I have to say I agree with the majority of her stances. She got past the scratching the surface answers that Carolyn Bennett gave and said certain issues were important to her, such as the child development plan and health care, but not at the expense of a balanced budget. Some of her answers were long, which perhaps stopped her from responding to more questions. I'm sure she shied away from some difficult ones, but the ones she took on struck a chord of common sense in my books.

But there is bad news. I was hoping only one candidate would stand out and take on Rae or Ignatieff. Both of which I forsee losing badly in a federal election. Up until now, I thought that would be Dion.

I sometimes wonder if the core of Ignatieff and Rae's support is derived from people who want the Liberals to lose the next election. Some of the delegates may be disguised conservatives with an agenda. But another more serious issue could be that other star Liberals are hoping to sacrifice an upcoming election to the Grits in order to run themselves for the next leadership race when the party has rebuilt itself.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The candidates: Carolyn Bennett

The Globe and Mail is offering a live discussion with each of the Liberal candidates for the leadership race. On Wednesday, candidate Dr. Carolyn Bennett fielded questions, one of which was my own. See website for details:

Daniel Sturgis, Rabat Morocco: Thank you for fielding questions today, Dr Bennett. My question is, what was your stance as the recent war in Lebanon developed? If elected PM, would you consider sending a contingent of troops there as part of the peace-keeping mission?

Carolynn Bennett: Daniel, I think that Canada's number one job is promoting the dialogue that is necessary for an enduring peace in the Middle East. I think that the proposal for us using our navy to help stop the arms to Hezbollah is interesting. I had voted against the prolongation of our mission in Afghanistan in order for the government to have more flexibility in emerging issues, such as those in southern Lebanon.

Discussion of the answer. It was a bit of a Brian Mulrony answer. Our former PM, loved by some, hated by many, had a knack for responses that danced around questions without really answering them clearly. While I agree with her main point, that dialogue is important, and this in itself was a step in the neutral referee direction which I feel current PM Harper should have taken but didn't, she really just scratched at the surface of the issue where I would liked to have seen her show some deeper understanding. I haven't heard the idea of a naval contingent being discussed before, but regardless, it was my assumption that Hizbullah received most of its arms overland through Syria. A naval blockade wouldn't be all that effective and besides, would unlikely have a mandate to inspect the massive quantities of imports into Lebanon. Essentially, it would just be a sitting duck target if Hizbullah or Israel got angry and wanted to blow something up.
I also disagree with her stance on Afghanistan. We contributed to the mess over there, and it's our duty to see it through, not back out when the going gets rough. While I agree our strategy needs to be discussed, continually revised, and perhaps quickened so that we are more responsive to the changing dynamics of the country, not maintaining our presence as long as necessary could set a dangerous precedent.

On many of her other questions, some of which were very difficult and I'd also struggle to answer them. I found her answers to be less than satisfactory. I also found she answered very few questions in her allotted one hour. There was the question of the Gomery inquiry, where she responded by saying she wanted to build the party from the bottom up and some analagy about sunlight being the best disinfectant.
For me, the perfect answer would have mentioned that there are trillions of dollars in government spending. While the PM would like to keep their eye on every cent, it's impossible. The Gomery inquiry shows Canada is a healthy country where the government is held accountable. It in fact brought down a government, and the lesson I take from it is to keep a close eye on spending and instigate more checks and balances.

Carolyn Bennett as the next PM? She may be a likable person, but she doesn't have the political savvy to lead the Liberals effectively. I find her neither charismatic nor particularly engaging. From what little I've heard, her policies remind me of Jack Layton's.

While initially supporting Dion, I'm waiting to hear his debate. I'm rocking between three candidates right now, Dion, Kennedy and Dryden. With Dion barely hanging on in the drivers seat at the moment only because I see him as having the most popularity of the three.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Dallair suggests Canada lead Darfur Peace Keeping force

Dallair suggest Canada lead Darfur Peace Keeping force.

Former Canadian General Romeo Dallair, who led the ill-fated peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, has called for a rally encouraging the Canadian military to participate in a mission in the Darfur region of Sudan.

While I agree the situation is dire in Sudan, and definitely want something to be done about it, the problem with Canada entering Darfur is that Sudan's xenophobic government is willing to deflect its own incompetence by criticizing any foreign Peace Keeping mission as one of anti-Islamic occupation. A very dangerous situation to get into, and the reason I'm against Canada leading such a mission.

Unfortunately, the world's options are extremely limited. Any UN threat of sanctions seem to almost always be blocked by China or Russia, who are willing to look the other way when their vested oil interests are at stake.

The Sudanese government has already stated a deadline for 'already insufficient' African Union force to leave. They also balked and cried, "Western conspiracy," at the mention of a stronger UN peacekeeping force as the replacement. Unfortunately, due to Afghanistan, and especially Iraq, the West has used up all their credits of trust in the Middle East. The Sudanese government is not beneath exploiting this fact.

I see this as a chance for the Muslim leaders of the world to stand up and show some credibility. Sudan's surrounding Muslim country's couldn't be accused of a Western Christian conspiracy to occupy Arab land. While country's such as Canada could be invited to provide logistical support, any such intervention should not be Canadian led or extend beyond an assisting role.

The question is, are Muslim countries up to the task? Now is their chance to stop crying Western interference and actually do something to right a major wrong occuring in their own backyard. All the while they would be offering the Sudanese government a respectable way out of a very bad situation.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The truth about the Zidane incident

This is is how it happened on German TV

And this is what happened on French TV

And Italian telivision

And according to Fox News

Where were you on 9/11?

Share your memories of where you were and what you were thinking on September 11th, 2001. Read below for my comments.

The 9/11 aftermath

I agreed with the invasion of Afghanistan. The Taliban, as has been shown perhaps most clearly in Al Qaeda's recent statement thanking them for their support, were harbouring and abetting Al Qaeda. The Taliban needed to be dealt with. With the mandate to put a democratic government in its place and withdraw when the government could maintain control. I agreed with the mission, and still do, although I feel America, who led the world into the invasion, has especially lost their focus and turned away too soon.

Instead of a continuing effort and a relentless pursuit of Al Qaeda, Bush declared a second war on Iraq more than a year later. "We have to get rid of the threat of WMD."

But there were no weapons of mass destruction. The evidence was completely fabricated. The war was botched from the minute America declared victory.
In an effort to tie this into the war on terror, Bush claimed Saddam had links with Al Qaeda.
It has recently been announced that Iraq had no real links with Al Qaeda. Any links were coincidental, perhaps like the Bush family's closeness to the Bin Laden family.
Saddam a monster?
Most, if not all dictators are known for at least one heavy handed stifling of dissidence.
Tinamin square in China, the shooting at the riots in Addis Ababa. And the most serious current situation being the genocide in Darfur, against African Muslims.
But the world does little to intervene in such attrocities. Bush's arrogant behaviour weakened the UN, some even say made it into a joke, by going ahead with an "illegal" Iraq war. Not that the UN is willing to do much in Sudan. One of the big five "veto" nations always seems to look the other way when a major source of oil might be secured in the wake of ignoring mass murder. China and Russia seem to have particularly low ethical standards when their vested interests in volotile countries are threatened.

Before the war, I wasn't convinced at all that Saddam had WMD - mainly because I didn't believe a word George Bush said. But also because the UN couldn't find anything, despite their best efforts, they came up without a trace, and were saying they needed more time to be sure.

The warnings before the Iraq war - A shiite power vacuum will be created in the region. Iraq has no ties with terrorism. The war will create more terrorists than ever before. Iran will become the regional powerhouse. The Afghanistan rebuilding will be threatened by the loss of military force. Iraq will disentegrate into civil war spurred by sectarian violence.

All of these worst case scenarios are coming true. America, reverred as recently as when Clinton was in power, is now the most hated country in the world. If there was an idealogical battle between Bush and Bin Laden, sadly, Bin Laden, a murderer with a hate-filled and evil idealogy, is winning in every aspect.

One such catastrophic error was America's attack on an AlJazeera news stations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The result, the Arab media is now more Anti-American than ever. This coming at a time when winning the hearts of Muslims couldn't be more important in the war on terror. Stations like Al Jazeera are the prime fodder for stoking anti-American sentiment.

And Bin Laden is still in some hidden cave. Neutralized? He has no need to further plot or plan. America has done more to recruit terrorists by destroying their own image than he could have possibly hoped for.

September eleventh - five years on

Everybody seems to remember where they were when it happened.

Me, I had left Canada four days before the attacks occurred. On a stopover in England, I was staying at a friend's townhouse in the former coal mining village of Clipston. My first time to England, we were planning to see the famous Sherwood Forest of Nottingham later that day when Brian, an old travel friend, called me into his living room.
"Dan, hurry up, you gotta see this."
I figured ice hockey or something about Canada was on television. Why else would he be so adamant? On the screen, thick black smoke was rising from one of the towers. The BBC commentator kept saying a plane had flown into it. Before long, were interviews with eyewitnesses in the street. Panicked people, their voices cracking with disbelief at what they'd seen.
Maybe it was an accident, how could someone fly a plane into the World Trade Centre?
As those thoughts were going through my head, the commentator's voice grew loud. "Another plane has just crashed into the second tower." It showed the plane, along with footage of the ensuing fireball.
I watched with a mix of horror and fascination as the first tower collapsed minutes later, and then the second tower fell.
We sat in stunned silence. How many lives had just been snuffed out? Early estimates said up to 50,000.
An attack on America. Hundreds of things went through my mind, as petty as how the stock markets would be hit. Fears of another great depression, where people lost everything. It hit me like a punch in the gut. War? Conscription?
I'd planned to take two years, at least, to travel through the world. I wondered what problems I would encounter on the way. Would wars break out? Would borders close down? Would it soon be impossible to travel across Africa? Which countries had Muslims? Would they still be safe?
George Bush was in power, a man I despised from the moment he was declared president and insulted Canada in his innaugural speech. A man who I knew had no limit to his imcompetence. Arrogant, a cheater of democracy, a man monetarily tied to oil and defense contracts and in charge of the most powerful army in the world.
You're damn right I was scared.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Top ten reasons for voting Dion

10) He's actually lived in Canada for most of the last thirty years.
9) He speaks the best French of all the candidates.
8) He hasn't led a province into fiscal disaster.
7) His campain thankfully says nothing about, "Dion Days."
6) He wouldn't be George Bush's lapdog.
5) He might actually lead the Liberals back into power.
4) He's never emailed an investment banker with tips about upcoming income trusts.
3) He never wrote a paper on how a preemptive strike against Iraq was the right thing to do.
2) He pisses off the separatists, who all vote Bloc Quebecois anyway.

And the Number one reason to elect Stephan Dion

1) Americans can still refer to our Prime Minister as Steve, thus avoiding potential confusion at the White House.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Dion support button

Liberal Leadership Race comparison

Okay, so I've been procrastinating from my work on the Egypt chapter. The Globe and Mail, Canada's national newspaper, has been doing writeups on the various candidates for Liberal leadership, as well an article on the current Prime Minister. With the articles there is always a discussion forum for posters to write comments and discuss the issue. Not all of the candidates have been written up quite yet. I thought I'd do a poll based on the results of the discussions.

An article about the Bob Rae health plan.

Pro Bob Rae comments - 3
Neutral comments - 15
Anti Bob Rae comments - 29

Note: The majority of neutral comments were related to health care.

An Article about Scott Brison as a candidate

Pro Brison comments - 3
Neutral comments - 8
Anti Brison comments - 15

An article about Stephan Dion as a candidate.

Pro Dion comments - 20
Neutral comments - 7
Anti Dion commments - 6

A discussion about Stephen Harper's recent mediocre poll results

Pro Harper - 12
Neutral - 12
Anti Harper- 12

From memory - For Ignatieff, I recall a split between positive and negative comments, perhaps tipped more on the negative side due to Conservative partisan sniping. As in any Political open forum there always seems to be a degree of this sort of whining, and some of the negative and positive comments reflect that - such as the Dion debate drew anti-Liberal comments which I classified in the negative column. Such debates also tend to attract certain types of commenters more than others, ie - people who feel passionately one way or the other. I'm just reporting the numbers.
Hedy Fry had predominately bad commentary portraying her as a loose cannon, the comments section is no longer available.
In the Harper discussion, the topic seemed to spin off towards Afghanistan, which is only one facet of the decision making he is doing and I mostly discounted those comments as either neutral, or left them out of the count. Many of the comments on both sides of the spectrum seemed partisan sniping.

My conclusion falls in line with my previous assessment of the Liberal leadership race. That among the voting population, Rae is extremely unpopular. Brison and Fry are non-threatening candidates. Ignaetieff, while enjoying more support than Rae, still carries considerable political baggage for his Iraq support and apparant ruthlessness.
Dion's negative comments were predominantly Conservative whining and only a couple legitimately questioned him as a leader. One person mentioned his questionable English skills, but I might point out Chretien wasn't exactly a genius at the English Language either.

Smile of the day:
So, is Dryden left wing or right wing?
Neither, he was a goalie!

Tid bit of the month

I'm heading into the Egypt Chapter at the moment. In the six months I spent in Egypt, I lived on a dilapidated houseboat on the Nile for the first three months. One morning, I found a stinking and bloated dead body stuck under one of the pontoons on the porch.
I battled to learn Egyptian Arabic, had a romance with an Egyptian girl. After three months, I moved into an appartment with two American students just before the Iraq war started, which I use to reflect differing opinions of the war. At one point, I was caught up in an alleyway while vandalizing protesters were chased through by police. I try to portray the Arab world's anger at the invasion, which many felt was an unnecessary show of American might to further infuriate the fractitious Muslim world.
A recurring theme, which I might take out of the chapter, was the nightmarish hoop jumping I went through to get a new passport from the Canadian Embassy. While interesting to blog about, such travel troubles are hard to turn into enticing page-turning prose. As much as I want to expose the ridiculousness of the process, it may be hard to work in without sounding like a whiner, or worse, a bore.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A white bicycle.

A few months ago there was a story here in Morocco about a boy, whose poor mother couldn't afford to keep him, so, when he was three years old, she gave him to a family friend. The friend, a woman, worked as a legal clerk for the government. Instead of care for the toddler, she left him on the roof of her house and locked the door. He was left there with four dogs and thirty cats.

Three years later, a neighbour saw something on the woman's roof. Some sort of creature, ambling around with ragged, torn out hair, a mangled and scratched face and part of his nose bitten off from the cats and dogs. The neighbour thought the creature was some sort of ghoul or demon and, terrified, she called the police. The police came and the true story came out - the "adoptive mother" was arrested and the boy was taken to the hospital. He had survived for three years fighting over food scraps with cats and dogs. At the hospital, the first thing this unfortunate boy asked for was, "bicyclette blanche." It was the last good memory he had before going to live with this strange new lady, and one of the only comprehensible things he could say.

If you want to slog through the French, you can read the more detailed story here

The woman was going through the court last I heard, and the boy was being adopted.

This story made me think of the Austrian girl who was kidnapped eight years ago and held captive in a man's basement. She's gone live on the air today in a television interview. I'm keeping my ears open for more news on this poor child. He was at the military hospital about two minutes drive from where we live. After reading the article for the first time, I asked myself, how could someone be so evil? The fact that he survived is a miracle.

One more thing - The first thing he recieved from the hospital staff was... a white bicycle.

Dion makes his mark in the Liberal leadership race.

A full Dion write up is available at G&M.

Stephan Dion is a guy I can support. The current Tory government is muddling along. They are doing an adequate job, but not without a few controversial stances. I don't like how Harper seems too cozy with Bush. And as you can probably guage from my earlier comments on Lebanon, I really disagree with the supportive role he took for Israel.

Unlike some of the other Liberal leadership candidates, Dion doesn't come with the political baggage like Bob Rae's provincial economic mismanagment, or Ignatieff's support of the disastrous Iraq war.
His main weakness is that Quebec separatists don't like his strong federalist stance. While he may lose some Liberal support in parts of Quebec, his stance may well polarize the Quebec vote. In places inclined to vote separatist anyway, he will probably lose some of his limited support, but in districts more inclined toward Federalism, the negligent losses may be offset by potential gains. In our first past the post system, the possible polarizing effect on Quebeckers may actually turn into a Liberal advantage.

Dion has a chance to lead the Liberals to victory. As I said in an earlier post, Rae and Ignatieff threaten to hand the Conservatives an overall majority.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Perhaps they can teach something to Moroccans

See article on how chimpanzees learn how to cross roads safely.

Now, I know it sounds somewhat bad, but driving here in Morocco sometimes really makes my blood boil.
Let me start by saying there are some very intelligent people here, way smarter than me. But there are also some experiences which just leave me scratching my head.
Just today, I was driving down a nearby street. From an unseen dirt path not far ahead, a moped, with an old Moroccan man and his fat wife behind him, burst out into the middle of the road. He didn't slow down or even look to see if I might be coming.
I didn't hit him, or really have to brake hard, but I couldn't help but think, "What if..."
What if I'd left the appartment two seconds earlier?
What if I'd pressed the gas just a little harder all the way down that road?
The answer: The guys face would have been imprinted onto my damn hood and I'd be in a shitheap of trouble trying to explain what happened to the police.
The chimps figured this crap out, perhaps they should come to Morocco and teach some of the not so intelligent locals.