Blog of Mass Distraction

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Get the Message

Gmail and Hotmail have been really crappy lately. Hotmail in particular for the past week or two, but Gmail in the past couple of days as well. I figure it's probably growing pains or something since Hotmail has greatly expanded it's services and Gmail has massively increased the number of available invites. But it's terribly frustrating logging in and then getting an error message when I try to read my mail. Or getting a "Server too busy" message when just trying to log in. I realize these are free services and what right do I have to complain, yada yada, but really, if you're going to do something at least do it right. It seems the one to make this transition without a hitch is Yahoo. I have a Yahoo account, but I barely use it. Now that I think about it though, it seems my problems with Gmail have been limited to my laptop (I love my iBook). Maybe it's a Mac thing... who knows?

I completely forgot to mention this before but the Paul Martin government has done an about face on North American Missile Defense (aka NAMBLA). He's given an unequivocal no to Canadian participation in the program. Well not really, the 'no' is for Canadian political support of Missile Defense, but in reality Canada is supporting the program in everything but name. Canada has already agreed to share intelligence information from NORAD and if Canadian sites or land is needed for the program, Canada will undoubtedly allow the US military use of this land. So really, Canada is supporting the program but not taking a seat at the table to help direct the program, which seems pretty foolish. But this is purely a political move by Prime Minister Martin. He knows there is little appetite for Ballistic Missile Defense in Canada and figures that most Canadians don't understand that Canada has already signed off on most of the plan anyway. This is a bit of a blow, however, to the US since the US government and military knew that Canada would give the technical support needed (it's not like Canada can refuse, the US would just take what it needed if it came right down to it). But the US was really looking for political support and it appears that's the one thing it won't get. Now as dumb as it may seem to support this thing technically but not take any managerial control or responsibility, I'm still kind of happy that we aren't supporting it, as I've outlined before I just think Missile Defense is a waste of money. Now if there were a viable working system, that would pose an increased risk to countries like Iran and North Korea, where the US might then attack with impudence, but I don't think there'll be a working system any time soon... if ever.

Oh in just a one off note, there's a movement called Free Stanley that's trying to get the Stanley Cup awarded to the best amateur team currently playing. The Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson has personally endorsed this idea, which seems kind of significant since the Cup was originally awarded by her predecessor the late Lord Stanley for excellence in amateur hockey. In particular, there was a proposal to award it to the best womens team in North America, which I personally think is a great idea. Don't think it'll happen, but still it's a nice thought.

In Health News Today

There was a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv a couple of days ago. I belive 4 Israelis were killed and a dozen or more injured. This was really testing the patience of the Israeli military, though they've come out publicly saying they feel it's most likely the Syrian based Islamic Jihad movement. Though it does seem to have caused an impasse in some military talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. Even with this attack, it seems the tenuous cease fire is still alive, though the health of the state of Syria is continually in question.

The Pope has also been in ill health lately. The Vatican said that he was doing well and was trying to send an upbeat message, but how well can he be when he's breathing through a hole in his throat?1

I've also heard quite a bit lately about the avian flu. This is causing a lot of worry because of a fear it may make a more full jump across the species border and infect a lot of humans. It has infected and killed a few people, and there's been at least one reported case of human to human infection; but the problem is not imminent yet. The fear with the flu is that it can very easily mutate and pick up material from other flu viruses. The strain of flu involved can very easily mutate because, it doesn't have a so-called spell checker. Many other DNA based organisms, humans included, have certain functional genes that allow for checking of the DNA that is produced through cell replication (mitosis). In fact cancers can occur when there is a mutation in these genes in a particular cell (also happens with genes for apoptosis, etc. but I digress...). The strain of the flu virus does not have these genes so it can mutate and adapt very quickly. Scientists say we've been up for a majorly devastating flu for some time now (like the flu epidemic that hit in the early 1900s). Just something to think about.

1. The Pope had a successful tracheotomy.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Caring for the people

Internationally a few things of interest happened lately, there was of course the Iraqi election outcome, but I'll get to that in a minute. In North Korea, Kim Jong Il's government has confirmed to the world that it possesses nuclear weapons. In response, the United States has razed every city in the small nation, completely obliterating it... well not really. They're instead continuing the 6 member nation talks to try to get the North Korean government to disarm. I really think Kim Jong Il is one of the most disgusting and heinous leaders in the world. Not because he hates America or anything (which I don't really think he does, considering his obsession with American culture), and not because he's seeking nuclear weapons, but because he's doing that and much more at the expense of the people of North Korea. I don't know much about the Ethiopian famine in the 80's (I was too young at the time) but I shudder when I see pictures and video of the people in North Korea starving and withering away.

In Palestine, an attack on Israeli settlers was followed by Mahmoud Abbas sacking some of the top security officials in the PA who were members of Arafat's old guard. The move was greeted with great appreciation by Sharon's government. Sharon's government also approved another set of settlements in the West Bank.
A little north of there, the Lebanese people were protesting against their Syrian occupiers. Lebanon had a three day general strike (others referred to it as three days of mouring). The Syrian government continues to protest its innocence and is now trying to find those responsible for the assassination.

In Iraq, as expected, the election outcome has given the strongest share of power to the Shiites and the Kurds. Interim Prime Minister Allawi said the election was a great victory even though he's not expected to be Prime Minister for much longer. The successful elections have not stopped the violence however. Explosions, attacks and car bombs continue to kill dozens of people every few days. Furthermore, successful elections don't make a country, most Iraqis are still without power, jobs or running water. And considering how much influence some of the hyper-capitalist corporations have had in determining policy, I'm not sure how long it will take to restore these things to the Iraqi people.

Finally, Gmail is now giving a load of invites to everyone and almost everyone I know either already has a Gmail account or doesn't want one. So I'm giving away my invites. Anyone interested can contact me... don't know if anyone will bother... oh well...

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Not as I do

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri was assassinated yesterday in a car bomb attack in Beirut. Hariri, a billionaire construction magnate who was good friends with several world leaders and had close relations with the ruling house of Saud in Saudi Arabia, was Prime Minister of Lebanon twice, and resigned both times over disputes with Syria. Lebanon is supposedly an independent country, but since Syrian troops entered the country to stem violence between Muslims and Israeli backed Christian groups, Syria has largely controlled the country.
Hariri taking leadership is largely credited with helping bring Lebanon back from civil war on to the road to development. He was a very popular leader and well supported, including his anti-Syrian rhetoric.1 Because of this it has been suspected that Syria was involved in the assassination. Syria denies this and an up-to-know unknown Palestinian militant group claimed responsibility for the killing. These claims are being dismissed however and the US has seized upon this opportunity to continue its condemnation of Syria. The US has withdrawn its ambassador to Syria and said that Lebanon must have the right to self determination. The US has said Syria must withdraw its troops from Lebanon...
Ok, so right now Syria is denying it had anything to do with this assassination and, really, it would have been stupid for them to orchestrate it. They are occupying the country, but Hariri was a populist leader and the Lebanese people would not stand for a stunt like this. Moreover, Hariri had strong ties to many other countries and governments and that could only harshen Syria's standing in the global community (not great as it is). Furthermore, because there's no evidence right now... who's to say someone else didn't plan this. Besides, this act of violence has helped the US exert pressure on Syria. Both the US and Israel are occupying foreign lands with their military forces. Both have exerted military might to prevent or deter the self rule and self determination of other peoples. Israel in Palestine and the US in so many other places, like in Iran which I mentioned in my last post.
So the US policy is really: Do as I say not as I do.


Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Gall's in Your Court

Just when you think the Republican party can't get any more shameless they come along and dazzle you with their brazen stupidity. Jeff Gannon a conservative reporter, and apparent rookie in the White House press core, shot to attention when he was given the opportunity to ask questions to the president and was asked to appear in a federal grand jury investigating the exposure of Valerie Plame, wife of an ambassador, as a CIA undercover operative. During this investigation Gannon received copies of CIA documents which were restricted to a few select people.
All this would be fine if Gannon were an ordinary right wing journalist... or at least it wouldn't be that suspicious. But as it turns out, Gannon is not a journalist at all. The "news agency" he works for Talon News, is actually the run by editor Bobby Eberle who runs Eberle has direct ties to the Republican party and major players in the Republican party. Most of the 'news' that Talon puts out is just Republican press releases and talking points. There was also a revelation of the Bush administration paying out hefty sums to conservative journalists and pundits who didn't reveal they were being paid.
In all this, Gannon (which he admitted isn't even his real name) appears to be just someone who thought he could profit from a little public deceit. Gannon has no credentials as a journalist and after many bloggers did a lot of research on who he is, it turns out he can't even hold down a stable job. His real name is James D. Guckert and after simply deciding to be a reporter, he was admitted to the White House press gallery. This, more than anything, is what is suspicious and damning. Even if Guckert and Eberle were setup up as a phony right wing news group independently, wouldn't there be a problem with someone having no credentials and an assumed name getting into the White House and standing in front of the president? You'd think that in our age of background checks and fingerprint scanners that this would be an awful lapse in security; that is unless it was intentional.
This is really a continuation of the entrenched policy of deceit in the Bush White House. The most galling thing is their mind numbing determination to stick by their lies even when they're exposed to openly and blatantly. While Guckert has left his position with Talon, he continues to insist he's a legitimate reporter and there's nothing suspicious about him being granted daily press passes with no credentials under an assumed name. Unfortunately this will probably be forgotten in some time, just like all the other atrocious and deceitful things different American administrations have done; though it is a testament to the efforts of the blogging community. Perhaps that's one way it will be remembered.



The Walmart chain has decided to close its store in Jonquiere, Quebec. This also happens to be the only fully unionized Walmart store in North America (the employees joined the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada 6 months before). Walmart representatives claim that they cannot sustain the store profitably with the demands the union is asking for so it must close. The union has asked for mediation and said this is a violation of labour laws. The store will remain open while this legal quarrel plays out.
The Walton family business has a long history of union busting and there have been several notable incidents of poor treatment of employees. It's another on the list of companies that I personally boycott. I don't usually talk about it much (well not much any more) but most of my friends know about it. Walmart, however, is one store I think everyone should boycott. Even Bernard Landry, Parti Quebecois leader, has said he won't shop there any more... yeah, like he ever shopped there... But the point is valid, I really would like to see a national boycott of Walmart. I don't really think it will happen though, because people with lower incomes can't seem to help but shop there even though they know how awful a store it is.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

More Good News

A cease fire was agreed to by Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas. While the leaders were in Egypt they managed to negotiate a cease fire, which Hamas promptly said it was not bound by it. But I'm not certain how long the cease fire will last since just last week the Israeli government seized land in Jerusalem using some decades old law.1 If Sharon's government keeps talking about peace while taking actions like this I doubt there is much chance for a lasting end to the violence. Israel's persistence in taking land and maintaining the wall which is widely regarded as illegal, give a rather bleak vision of the future.

In an absolutely brilliant move by Hugo Chavez and the aging Fidel Castro, an exchange program has been setup between the 2 countries. Venezuela is sending some 50,000 barrels of oil to Cuba to help it's ailing economy (which has been subject to illegal sanctions by the US for decades). In exchange 15,000 Cuban doctors are working in Venezuela in poor and remote areas. Some in Venezuela (including some doctors) are outraged by the deal, but then a lot of people there are outraged by everything Chavez has done to uplift the poor and needy in his country. PAHO has come out with strong support for the agreement. Cuba has highly regarded education and health care systems (especially compared with the rest of Central and South America). This combined with it's struggling economy has made Cuba a massive exporter of doctors. Cuba sends more doctors to third world countries than the WHO. So Venezuelans that have never had a medical check-up before can now see doctors and have doctors visit them in their homes. Free medical care for thousands of poor and indigent people... amazing!