Saturday, September 30, 2006

Arguing the Big Question

Mathmaticians, eclectics and atheists all get caught up in the discussion about whether or not God exists, or at least if God doesn't exist, how anything exists at all.

I found this interesting. Jason's Religion post including a documentary by Richard Dawkins, the author of The Selfish Gene and coiner of the word "meme". It discussed how silly religious fervour can seem considering that, even if they are right, how do people who believe in God know that they're right besides simply believing that they are right, having a kind of willed ignorance to all other possibilities?

In that documentary, Dawkins argues that it is illogical to believe that both science and religion can be right, since so much of religious belief (such as miracles) defies logic. This article discusses how mathmaticians have tried to prove the existence of God using math, going beyond using the Aristotelian "principle of sufficient reason" which suggests that nothing in this universe could exist unless there was something else that defied causal rules (that things are created by something else or by a breakdown of their component parts, into new units). The idea of an "unmoved mover" is false or at least not the only way, since it is possible for the universe to have always existed (even though it is impossible for the human mind to fathom what infinite time is like).

As I read what one of the characters writes in her diary within the novel Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland, I was reminded of the debate again:


It is not every day that I question the existence of everything but occasionally that kind of skepticism can be refreshing. I believe that time always existed but I don't know. I don't believe in the concept of a "first moment" although whether it is an accident or a miracle, I think it's pretty amazing that life has gotten to its current complexity. If evolution happens inch by inch as Darwin suggests, then we must have started somewhere. Maybe the world started over again after Dinosaurs. Were they just a little experiment? OUR universe may have been created out of other universes but matter did not come out of nothing. What continues to hold it all together is many mysteries put together.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Schism in Iraq

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"I'm the Pope!"

"No! I'm the Pope!"

"Uh, actually, I believe that he is the Pope, as a matter of fact."

"...Ramadan starts Monday!"

"No, it already started this weekend!"

In Iraq, there is one more reason to hate your neighbour. Not like it's anything new for one group to blow up the mosque of the other but perhaps that's not the kind of "charity" that Ramadan calls for. And now there are some serious discrepancies of authority between Shiites and Sunnis.

They already have enough issues to disagree over, from adjustments to their charter how the profits of their oil will be spent once things settle down (if they can ever get the country on the roll) but now this. The clerical conflicts are showing themselves in how Muslims celebrate the holy ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan.

Like the Western Schism that temporarily fractured Christian unity (for at least the second time), the flaring animousity between at least two groups of Muslims in Iraq is now heightened by a disagrement over dates, during this annual celebration of peace. Sunnis started observing fast on Saturday, while the Shiite-led government declared Monday the start of Ramadan, taking Grand Ayatolla Ali Al-Sistani's word for it.

In 1378 there was what is known as the Western (or Papal) Schism in Christianity. Those in the Western hemisphere regarded the Pope d'Avignon as the legitamate Pope while in the Eastern hemisphere, the authority of the Roman Pope reigned supreme. However, just as the "Schism" between Sunnis and Shiites is more a political, rather than a theological problem, so was the Schism between Roman and French Catholics. The whole conflict took 29 years to resolve.

Will it take that long for people to start getting along in Iraq?

Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki was kinda hoping that Ramadan would be a good excuse for Iraqis not to kill each other, at least for a month.

"Isn't it ironic? Don't you think?" -Alanis Morissette

News Reviews

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Iran is in Trouble, So are We

Imagine that there are several groups of kids on the beach. Some are throwing rocks in the water. Others are building sand-castles. Those that build them close to the water have them taken away, then they are disappointed. The biggest kids have the best supplies, digging moats, adding figurines and building elaborate draw-bridges to ensure that no unwanted intruders can get in. Then once they are done building they look around and decide they don't want mounds of dirt made by five-year-old girls around their fortress. Instead, they feel like being bullies. They don't want mud-castles made by other kids, so they kick them down. The smallest children run away to their parents, crying. Their parents tell them not to play with the mean kids: "It's time to go home and you've spent too much time in the sun anyhow," they say. Eventually there are only the big kids and a smaller group still working on their sand castle left. The big kids walk over to where the others are and cross their arms, sending a message through their body language that the beach is theirs now. What options do the skinny kids have? They can either take their castle down or have it kicked down.

News sends a pre-emptive message.

On Sunday, Time magazine reported that the US had given the message to its personnel to be ready to blockade Iranian ports, should they need to. Whether or not that's actually true, reporting that that was the case could be America's way of saying to Iran: "you are in imminent danger." The funny thing is, by heightening the tension, is the US military reacting to danger, or are they creating a dangerous situation? When you figure someone is dangerous and you've backed them into a corner, what are the chances that they are going to do something even more dangerous then? Power can be used for good or evil. Nuclear power is a hotly coveted resource and whoever has it basically has gold. They also have a potential weapon. But in this case, if the US were to attack because they decided that danger levels were too high to risk security, would they have provoked or "prevented" war? If so, then not only in Iran in trouble, so is everybody else.

Maybe it's just a bluff. Sometimes I wonder if the media is as powerful as tanks and troops are, or more. Is it possible that the media's purpose is to supply the rumour mills with enough disinformation to embrace the world for when the unbelieveable actually does come true? When fiction becomes fact? When word becomes flesh?

For example, now that the US has invaded Iraq, more people remember that it was accused of possessing weapons of mass destruction than the fact that none were found.

It's not like Iran hasn't had plenty of time to arrange negotiations that haven't taken place. However, basically the only option that has been set on the table has been to stop nuclear enrichment pronto. It seems like a drag to suddenly give up on the biggest achievement of your country in its own eye, but the international community has repeatedly said "no" to Iran's nuclear "program" whether they're doing a fine job or not. Somehow they just don't like the idea of Iran being a superpower in the Middle East. (Iranian President Ahmadinejad did, after all, say that Israel should be "wiped off the map").

If the US is serious about war, things could be serious. A military campaign to blow up nuclear facilities doesn't sound healthy, to say the least. They don't have troops to deploy on the ground but they don't need them. It would just be a heavy military campaign involving lots of bombs from the air. Leaders must now make some pretty quick decisions. Something is rotten in the metropolitan of Iran.

Is this "world war III"?
UPDATE: Mahmoud Ahamadinejad came to New York for a U.N appearance where he came to talk about the obstacles facing world leaders. He also hoped to see American citizens "face-to-face" but because of the work schedule circumstances, he couldn't. He complimented Americans for being "good-willed" people and made reference to the fact that many of them care about the fate of humankind, believe in God and in the sense of justice. He reviewed the points that he raised during the UN assembly regarding how he felt about the international system. Specifically, that the consequences of WWII has negatively impacted some nations in the global system since we still operate with an implicit notion that the victors of WWII should have more rights to rule the world and world affairs rather than that equal rights should be granted to all within the international community. As a result, justice has been and continues to be "hurt". "Regretfully, there is great mistrust among the nations and people today because they feel they are unable to find and achieve their rights through national forums." Therefore "media has an important role to play" because "media upholds the rights of people. For media supports peace and security as well as stability. Therefore media must call for peace and justice for justice will benefit everyone. Nobody except those who are selfish will benefit from injustice. The vast majority of people by nature seek justice. I hope that in the very near future we will bear witness to the establishment of a true sense of justice in the international system along with peace and love and permanent peace in the world."

However, it seems instead that media often shirks from this responsibility to achieve justice. Writers have to pay bills too, and that often means towing the line and completing an agenda. It is strange how despite what every piece of media says about this man and how we should hate him as an enemy, I agree with what he is saying. We need to somehow come up with a solution to do away with superpowers who pressure smaller nations as to obstruct them from achieving justice. There are 52 countries seeking justice. So what does this mean? Should some nations have special rights in the Atomic Energy Agency, or should every nation have the same right to enrich uranium?


Monday, September 18, 2006

Grass Through Concrete

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On Thursday Sept 14th I viewed an outdoor cinema about a very relevant topic to my generation: ecocide, or the loss of green space. The screening took place in downtown Guelph, George’s square, where Ed Video hosted Grass Through Concrete: The Struggle to Protect the Red Hill Valley, a video documentary by Maia Iotzova that includes interviews with activists, natives, community members and individuals concerned about the expressway currently being built right through one of Canada’s largest urban parks.

The slogan that politicians used to sell the highway project was that the Red Hill Valley Parkway would be “more than just a highway” implying that motorists could enjoy nature while they polluted it with their exhaust and sped over bridges built on the destruction of forestland. However, apparently they didn’t really need to ask for any democratic imput on it. Less than a quarter of Hamiltonians voted for Mayor Larry Di Ianni, who is the leading perpetrator behind the project. Somehow he managed to sidestep numerous land treaties, environmental regulations and the Federal Preservation Act and fulfill himself as a “roll up your sleeves and get the job done kind of guy” by starting construction of the Red Valley Parkway.

The movie shows some of the 40,000 trees to be cut down being ripped right out of the ground by what looks like a giant machine fist while angry bystanders wail. Despite the active attempts of Hamilton residents to organize protests, ceremonial fires and tree-sits, they are strategically removed and demoralized by police and other officials. There are some peaceful, understanding moments exchanged between cops, as in the one scene where they let a peaceful reverend go who merely came to sing and lead a walk through nature one last time, but for the most part, they come off as what one man who is being arrested screams at them: brutal “traitors.”

My favorite part of the film underscores how tax dollars can be misallocated to turn agents of the law against the very citizens that they’re meant to protect. You see the director herself, stopped by security guards for trying to deliver food to one of the tree-sitters. He says she can’t go any further. She then asks if the security guards would deliver the food to the bottom of the tree for her. She smiles and interacts with the sweetest politeness, though inside she was probably seething. They say “we’ll hold it here and he can come down and get it” implying that they’ll use it as a lure to arrest her friend. When she asks why she can’t go herself one of them says “this is private property” to which she corrects them: “no it is not, sir.” The land is actually public property, or at least it was. When she asks him to repeat his claim that the land is private on camera, he simply repeats “No comment.”

The film is a touching and sad portrayal of a truth that is only starting to take hold in the minds of most youth, whose children won't see what they saw of life and nature. The small group of us viewers sat in chairs set up on the concrete, longing for the grass we know exists somewhere in the real world. People walked by curious as to what the impassioned speakers on the screen were talking about. We ate free popcorn and drank hot chocolate and there were occasional hoots and hollers from the people as they identified with the views of those featured.

The protesters discuss what they felt to be a betrayal by the agents of the law, as they are arrested and removed for standing up against what they see to be the real crime. In a discussion, one of the native speakers explains how politicians and legislators use words such as “justice”. He says it’s “justice” but they are “dividing the word.” In terms of how they want to compromise over agreements that offer freedom and sustainability, for them it’s “just us.” And you want to talk about “democracy”?? What is democracy: “dem are crazy!!” The man cites countless examples of land claims that are simply ignored because of the bullheaded attitudes of politicians who, despite over 40 years of research showing the highway project to be damaging both environmentally and economically, choose to go through with it anyway.

That this park was home to 600 different plant species, 25 mammal species including fox, deer, mink and southern flying squirrel, 24 species of fish, that it runs all the way from the Niagara escarpment to Lake Ontario and that many residents were unaware of its existence before the highway was proposed is a shameful example of how we neglect our natural environment until it is eaten up by urban sprawl. Despite the fact that it is supposedly part of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve, huge sections of the escarpment were literally blown out of the ground to make way for the highway, sections of the creek were rerouted, the Bruce Trail was rearranged, a PCB landfill site was re-opened, ancient native burial grounds were disturbed. As a result, a lung in the middle of a city notorious for its steel mill and its air pollution has basically been removed.

Maia Iotzova was present after the screening to answer questions from the audience and encourage us to find out more by joining Friends of Red Hill Valley. As a Fine Arts graduate from the University of Guelph she applied some of her cinematography skills along with several others to make this documentary. It wasn’t entirely intentional but after gathering so much footage of the event and experiencing something that she suggests was important but very “difficult” she managed to put together something that was very moving on a shoestring budget. She also learned the importance of not giving up. In person she seems very concerned, caring and determined. How terrible it is that something like this could happen! Even though those involved didn’t stop the expressway from going through, all the heartache was worth it because it is something that they did, and still believe in. As one fire-keeper in the film said, to stand by and just let something like that happen would be “just wrong.”

Not only will the taxpayers of Hamilton pay for the loss of a natural green space now that it is already being taken away, The Silouette reports that they are also suing the government and Sheila Copps for $75 million dollars for putting the Red Valley Expressway under an environmental assessment. The issue has been studied over and over. The studies have all said the same thing: an expressway like this will not bring more money into the city, it will not lessen the traffic problems, it will be hazardous to the environment, the health costs associated with poorer air will be astronomical and so therefore there is NO REASON WHY AN EXPRESSWAY SHOULD BE BUILT! Yet, as humans, apparently we have an insatiable desire to build more and more. It’s my way: the highway. Who said anything about democracy?

Concerning democracy (we're not crazy are we?), the moral, if there is a moral, is to pay attention to your green space. Protect it. There may be environmental regulations in place yet it takes the will of politicians to enforce them. It takes the will of citizens to pressure politicians into enforcing them. If you view "progression" and "development" in terms of short-term economic value (and people with short-term memory will), that often masks the value loss of environmental degredation, health and standard of living for the future. So don't get too caught up in the concrete jungle to remember where you food and air comes from. Make peace with the earth. It's where you came from and where you go.

Environment and Movies

Friday, September 15, 2006

You're Trying to Eat Dinner but you Sister's a Nurse

And she won't shup up about the birth she just witnessed. She just started in the maternity ward. You're trying to focus on your stew. Then there are other medical stories to relate. Furthermore, your mother is an eye doctor and the two find the table a perfect place for anecdotes about patients:

"They had to remove the plascenta vaginally!"

"Some doctors are brutal."

"So much cutting you could hear it crunching and the scissors squeaking. It was so loud!"

"So they almost killed her?"

"You could just see it quivering in a pool of blood."

"It's head looked like two heads, with a little head on top. It wasn't like a cone-head. It was a head, then a lump."

"It's like squeezing a grape."

"My patient was complaining that she was in so much pain..."

"...but her eyeballs were frozen (with anaesthetic)."

"Her pee-tube came out then she was felt bubbles coming up and she was frothing."

"They said it was because they were supposed to have her sitting up, not lying down."

"It was SO cute!!"

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Is Healthy Really Hot or is Thin Just In?

If it's really that disgusting to be bone-thin, then why are most models built like gazelles?

I guess this means Kate Moss will be out of a job (again).

In an effort to force the fashion industry to promote a 'healthy' body type, Madrid has banned the use of skinny models for their shows, using the BMI (body mass index) as a criteria for hiring women to walk the catwalk. As a result, almost one third of the models that tried out were turned away.

One might wonder if this is a senseless or responsible move on the part of organizers. I mean it's one thing to run your Dove commercials about natural body types, make love talk about love humps etc. but this is Madrid! Less is more! The show must go on! Let's see some ribs! When someone says "she's hot!" the 'average guy' would think of someone who looks like Paris Hilton (or talks like her). That's natural isn't it? Or is it?

Should the fashion industry really take the blame and the brunt of responsibility for eating disorders? Do teens and girls really look to models to be their role models, and if that drives them to having an eating disorder, is that because they have some other mental disorder? Is beauty formed by 'beautiful' models, or is it a perversion in the eye of the beholder?

Well, putting some criteria into the fashion industry to guard against illness isn't a new idea, nor is it unwarranted. Adi Barkan, an Israeli fashion photographer and model agent expressed experiencing anorexia in his clients and was consequently avalanched with calls from girls suffering from the disease. He then made the BMI a standard for his recruits and successfully legislated it in Knesset in December 2004.

Sometimes life and art come dangerously close but no one actually wears the flamboyant dresses strutted on stage. Aren't fashion shows simply that? A facade? Perhaps they are a fantasy that people believe in too strongly. People want to live the dream and get a magazine makeover, even at the expense of eating so lightly their stomach starts eating organ tissue to survive. It's too bad. I mean, if people imitate the show Jackass, wouldn't you consider them one?

Well, we are a culture of extremes. It seems that we have a weight obsession on both the light and heavy side. While about one out of five children are forecasted to be obese in North America, most tweens think being a twig is cool. Why does fashion, which is an art, have to imitate life even when it physically can't? Because life imitates fashion and we are always seeking styles that conform to our day-to-day settings yet we try to conform too much to settings on screens.

Personally, I'm unconvinced of the direct connection between what superstars say and what we do but I do think advertising has a hand to play in how we see the ideal figure. Beauty has become an artificial image, airbrushed to "perfection". So some of us give up and over-indulge. We know that our eating habits are unhealthy but we tend to overeat. What's scary is that on the other hand, eating too little is used as a tactic to lose weight instead of exercising, choosing good foods and getting lots of sleep. It stems from a psychological disorder or 'body dismorphia' where a person sees themselves as much fatter than they actually are. If that's because fashion designers portray an untrue image of what's humanly possible than I suppose that the least we can do is start promoting a healthy body type in the media the way Dove has spear-headed a campaign to do. Project a healthy medium and tolerance for different shapes. I think an attractive body type is someone like Daniela Hutchova, but she exercises for a living to be that way. Not everyone can be her. There are also a myriad of attractive body types because not one size fits all.

Let's stress comfort and self-esteem over avant-guard Nazi diet regimes. It may be up to the designers to decide on this one but perhaps they should consider reforming dress to the dimensions of reality and who's flaunting it rather than fantasy -the way past ages have gotten rid of such body-contorting devices as the corset.

Otherwise, our habits of viewing may just consume us to death.

News Reviews

Monday, September 11, 2006

Love as a Philosophy of Being

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This weekend I went to a wedding held at a gorgeous Roman Catholic church. The organ played Pachabel’s Canon and the singer's voices rang through the cathedral with Ave Maria. We stood for the bride and groom and prayed for them several times, always doing the unfamiliar (to me) motion of the Father, the Son, and the holy Spirit over our foreheads, right, left and centre chest. (I had forgotten how involved the community was in ensuring the love of husband and wife).

At one point the photographers were apparently encroaching too closely on the holy tabernacle. Perhaps that is what is was, or perhaps the priest was simply a grouchy old jerk, but nevertheless, he suddenly changed the mood of the service by yelling: “I am sick and tired of telling you to take your camera and go and sit down!” Everyone was stunned, no less the photographer, who was scurrying to get the hell out of the church entirely. (Partly perhaps so that she would be there already for the group photo that was to follow the service). It was funny to watch the cinematographer, who slowly backed right out of the service. A few moments later, as if to validate himself, the priest resumed his self-righteous sermon: “it is very unfortunate that some people don’t understand the true meaning of a wedding.” At that point I felt that it was very unfortunate how some people don't understand the concept of tolerance, or diplomacy -how low an opinion of him he had convinced me of. From this impression, I no longer felt that this was a man of kindness or of good spirit. Instead, he seemed like one to read the holy book and feel very little holiness, other than the hollow sound of his own voice.

Regardless of that, the wedding itself was very beautiful. The bride and groom got a loud cheer for their kiss, they exchanged rings and officiated their union by signing the agreement. What was very significant to me throughout this whole proceeding as well as to the incident with the angry priest was something it said in the program about the religious basis of love: “He who knows not love knows not God. For God is love.”

It seemed to me very possible that there are people out there who fear something that is very alien to them. They fear redemption and hold a guilty conscience about the status of their spirit, without getting to know what love is at all. Perhaps I am one of them.

I have been single for a long time and it can be very lonely, but being around so many friends and people who were in love put me in a mood to examine this aspect of life and realize that it’s not a thing that can be lacking in the natural environment but rather something you feel inside. Even non-religiously, or at least in a pre-Christian sense, having “good thoughts, good deeds, good actions” (the Zoroastrian imperative) is about love. Love is so many different things, which is why the Greeks have so many different words for it covering the brotherly love, to the platonic relationship to the erotic. For example, here are a few quotes of what famous people think about love.

So with my problem, or rather, obstacle of being singular, after watching and hearing the speeches of the bride and groom about being around good people and thus maintaining good company, I figured that I cannot wait for the right situation to come along, expecting someone else to add to my destiny somehow, but rather become more comfortable with myself so that I can feel love and be supremely good to others so that I may “find” it everywhere. That way I should never feel alone. Additionally, I will grossly increase my chances of finding something special about someone, by listening, and caring about them and making them less alone by identifying with all the little things about them, rather than gazing idly and thinking ideal thoughts about some shapeless mass of feelings that I don’t actively seek to take part in. It is the little things, like the man who puts toothpaste on his wife's brush when he wakes up before her.

I also realized it's easier said than done. At the reception after a few drinks, all the girls in dresses suddenly looked immaculate. I began engaging in conversation with several, or I would talk to one then flit absent-mindedly to another. There was a particular girl who I asked to dance for awhile then proceeded to make a few tactless moves towards. I forgot her name for starters. Then there was the fact that I couldn't pay attention to her for more than a few minutes without being distracted. Eventually it ended up with her observing that I was "completely retarded". I asked what I had done and asked her for tips, which further lowered her opinion of me and she said she "didn't want to talk about it". As a final preterito, she screamed "have fun being single!" and I went home alone. But, I suppose if I never find a special love or learn to be less self-absorbed or to curb my wandering eye or improve my moonwalk, I will strive to do at least as she says. As Dr.Thomas Fuller says "all things are difficult before they are easy." If I only knew the girl's name who became hateful towards me, I might thank her for reacting. It certainly was a wake-up call.

Being able to love is about being able to be happy in the first place. When you constantly want the world to be different and to feel different than you do, then you have nothing to hold on to, nevermind another person. Alternatively, if you have a moment to stop time, to focus on one person, to stop stressing, to listen, to indulge, to not be scared or pressed to care, to do it out of will, because you sincerely want good for another, then you will find love. If you continue with this mission, it has been shown to last for a lifetime. “Until death do us part.”


Friday, September 08, 2006

Chronicles of Coca-Cola: From Cocaine to Coffee

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The popular drink has quite a history. It has been used to boost morale of political parties, encourage family values, sponsor sports, or simply sell like crazy. The largest growing demographic for its purchase in recent years is among Chinese youth. Every Christmas you can see polar bears and Santa Claus drink it on TV. It used to actually contain cocaine until 1929. (1) Now, if you need something that will remove the rust on your hubcaps (or give you an ulcer), get out your coke bottle.

During World War II, Coke had the interests of American soldiers in mind. The Coca-Cola company set up 64 bottling plants around the world and Robert Woodruff sent an order to: “See that ever man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca Cola for 5 cents wherever he is and whatever the cost to the company".

Coke sponsored the 1936 Nazi Olypmics when Hitler sought to showcase the physical superiority of the Aryan race.

After the US entered the war in 1941, Max Keith could no longer get Coke to produce syrup for Germany (there was an embargo) so he created a new orange drink called Fanta (short for “Fantasie” or Fantasy) specifically for the market of the Third Reich, which was later bought by Coke in 1960. (2)


In English class we called that "circumlocution".

But not everyone loves the corporation responsible for Coke. In poorer countries, citizens have fought with it over how it has damaged the quality of basic resources like water and monopolized the market, executing evils like these.

Now Coke will apparently dabble in another vastly traded commodity: coffee.

It announced it will open up a new brand of specialty and convenience coffees and teas in both the high-end specialty coffee and convenience markets. With its new brand “Far Coast” it will offer freshly brewed espressos and lattés in cafes and restaurants. A concept store under the
same name is scheduled to open in Toronto on Sept 22, 2006 where customers will be able to choose from a wide variety of seemingly exotic blends. Now I suppose you could make your Far Coast coffee with Dasani water, and you would have a 100% Coca-Cola product.

Coffee-in-a-box, a ready-made solution for distributing coffee and tea, will make its way to convenience stores under the brand name “Chaqwa” (from “cha” and “qawah”) which means coffee and tea in Arabic and Mandarin respectively. (3)

There are many problems with the trade of coffee, from how much the growers make, whether they employ or enslave children and how well they are protected to treat the environment with respect for sustainability.

It is up to you how and who you support which in turn controls the fate of the world's producers through your consumer habits. We may live in a democratic country but we also live in a global economy, where our dollars count for a kind of power others can't afford. What you sip reflects who you give your money to. Remember that who you give your money to will one day control what you sip.



Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Military Boneheads

Needless to say the military is responsible for some pretty dumb moves, this weekend was the highlight of idiocy. U.S. marines killed one Canadian soldier and wounded 30 others by accidentally strafing them with "friendly fire" 30 minutes before the troops were to launch an attack on Taliban forces.

It wouldn't be so bad if this were just some freak accident. But you'd almost think that the US military was secretly working for the Taliban or something. Remember back in 2002 when the U.S. soldier Harry Schmidt accidentally dropped bombs killing four Canadian soldiers? Yeah, now added to that, this is a piss-off. This means that of the 32 Canadian deaths (including diplomat Glyn Berry) in Afghanistan, almost one sixth are the direct result of U.S. soldiers. Not enemies. Not terrorists. Not Taliban fighters. Canadians are getting killed by soldiers that are supposed to be on the same team.

What a weekend! On Sunday, it was enough of an army boot to the face to lose four soldiers all in one day (making it the bloodiest day with the highest casualties for Canada since the war started in 2002) but then some American hero high on war mania comes in and guns a few more down. Whoops!

Now, before I do any more soldier-bashing, let's try to figure out who the real boneheads are. Military strategists? Generals? Politicians? Whoever sent our country to Afghanistan! Or at least those who voted to extend our mission until 2009 -people like Stephen Harper and Micheal Ignatieff. Now that we've commited our troops to this NATO force, it would be irresponsible to pull out and leave others hanging dry, as Hedy Fry argues. However, it's just as boneheaded to keep going on this mission without a little evaluation. By raiding civilian homes and destroying crops, soldiers are creating greater strain on the country and pushing simple peasants to take up arms. Over the last century, how much of the occupation there would you categorize as "successful"? And what has it accomplished? Perhaps we should ask Russia.

We are so badly coordinated to lead our own military, nevermind control someone else's, nevermind rid the world of terror and enlighten the opium-rich landscape, where supposedly everyone is "Taliban".

I guess we have to question whether all soldiers are all getting the same memos, as in "do not shoot the guys with maple leaves emblazoned on their military uniforms".
This is fuel for NDP leader Jack Layton's fire. Many across this country are finally questioning Canada's mission abroad with a simple question: "What are we doing there?" Of course Layton is "playing politics" by appealing to common sentiment by proposing the issue be brought to a referendum but he has a point: Canada's role in Afghanistan has changed from a mission of diplomacy and rebuilding to plain violence -which is for the worse, and in terms of democratic involvement, who ever asked us whether we wanted to participate in war?

Events like this often erroneously reaffirm that the enemy is dangerous and thus we need to commit more resources to war when manipulated by the media and politicians. The enemy is out there. Rah, rah, rah! Let's scrap welfare and buy more tanks! I think the inconvient truth might be: WE are our own worst enemy.

UPDATE: Two weeks later on Sept 18 the death toll among Canadian soldiers is up to 36 due to a string of bombing attacks including one in Herat by some anonymous motorcyclist. It seems to be growing exponentially.

News Reviews

Friday, September 01, 2006

To Whom it May Concern: A Letter Concerning my new Employment

Kind ladies and gentle men,

After a long and arduous search, I am pleased to present you with the most welcome news of my nearest employment. I will follow my heart to the heart of the town, where an offer fit for the crown is now appointed to me, or rather: I to it. This morning I made my follow-up call and received my prize. The job was offered, it was not a guise! I went to great lengths to get away and scour the market with only dour consequences for so long. I spent my sixpence succumbing to scams and scattering my CV idly but now that is all gone. Hark! It is not all for naught!

I have worked hard and received hardness of work, chasing down pillows and de-ruffling ruffles, cleaning desktops and scraping barrel bottoms to please and appease, accommodate and estimate, clear and accrue charges, settle scuffles, muffle noise, offer toys and whirlpools for expectant guests. I was not made to be a maid and although that has not been my chief role, I have bade farewell to the chief, acquiring from him a civil promise of patronage, in the form of a reference letter. Answering phones and reporting numbers unencumbered me with organizational skills multifaceted, though now this role I am ready to basket it. I ding the bell for my call of leave.

Now it seems clear I can remain nearer, committing my good efforts at such convenient proximity to my future home! I am anointed with the lucky grace of being placed in a proper position with excellent benefits befitting my excellence, be they self-proclaimed or not. It is also in juxtaposition to my desired skill set. Though not identical in exactitude to my plentitude, it is safe to say this is a great day. I could have almost bet that I couldn’t achieve it, though I did, in my own way. Not finding a job can be rough, considering it is made up of snake-skin rejection. However, (and that is how it is done), all it takes is one handshake, and the deal is sealed, the battle won. This acceptance is my elation!

With probity in mind I now give thee and all others concerned adequate notice of my exit for this entrance. As a result, I will be out of my current post, watching the ghosts and graves of night shifts and living a spendthrift existence. I will be resurrected towards the light of a daytime schedule but only after serving students, guests and grooms by providing them with rooms for the remainder of their stay, and for mine, which is approximated at two weeks henceforth.

Thank you all for your endurance of attention, your stamina of spirit, your ebullience and earnestness. Sincerely, it has been an interesting if not perverse experience working in the hotel industry. Nothing lasts forever except time itself, which merely gets lost by weaving through its own coil. Well, my time has come to check out. So in haste I tie fresh reins to my chariot, to ride on to bigger and better things in a larger sphere of socialization.

With my left hand I bid you adieu, with my right I gesture good morning…and welcome to the all new professional me!

At liberty,
Sir Barrett

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