Blog of Mass Distraction

Monday, December 26, 2005

Happy Holidays!

Well it's Christmas time and lots of people are getting their holiday spirit on. Starting with the spirit of rememberance. There were commemoration ceremonies in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and other places for the tsunami that happened one year ago. I watched a portion of the speech given by Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The massive natural disaster brought forth a massive international aid response and more money is needed and being requested for the rebuilding and development efforts. This is all well and good, but I still see barely any news or regular information about the massive drought in sub-Saharan Africa. The only regular information comes from sources like the BBC. Canadian media seems to cover it sparingly (last stuff I saw in the paper was some time ago... maybe a month or more). So the aptly timed tragedy of the tsunami gets coverage because it makes for good tv; 5 million starving Malawians however do not.

The holiday cheer continues with Chad declaring a state of war with neighbouring Sudan.1 Chad was upset with an attack which the Chad government says came from Sudan and killed over 100 of its citizens. The Sudanese government has denied all involvement and said it does not support any rebel groups in Chad. The African Union and a group of Islamic countries have been working on trying to defuse the hotbed issue.

While Israel is celebrating the first day of Hannukah, the Israeli government has said it will declare war on Iran if the US does not take a harder stance with them.2 If Iran is not recommended to the Security Council by March Israel has said it will unilaterally deal with the problem. Israel will strike possible nuclear targets in Iran as it did in Iraq with the Osirak reactor bombing. The problem being that Iran has learned from this incident and there are many different sites for their nuclear facilities. Israel could begin bombing them anyway, but this will draw a swift and brutal response from Iran. Israel is of course trying to get the US to do the dirty work for her. Both current Israeli leader Ariel Sharon and returning leadership hopeful Netanyahu have said they will attack Iran if the situation is not resolved. When asked how far they'll go, Israeli Military Chief Daniel Halutz said "2000 kilometers" (the distance from Israel to Iran).
Iran of course is not the push over that Iraq was for the US (well, the former central government in Iraq anyway). Iran has a strong standing army and could easily attack Israel with ballistic missiles, not to mention American targets in neighbouring Iraq. Unfortunately, the pro-Israeli lobby in the US is probably strong enough to push the United States into some action. If not, the current Israeli leadership is likely nutty enough to follow through on its threats. And Iranian President Ahmedinejad's ranting about Israel being wiped out and the nonsense about the holocaust not happening certainly doesn't help the situation.
Iran is of course entitled to peaceful-use nuclear technology. But the merest possibility of Iran attaining nuclear weapons is enough to push Israel to react violently. Israel is the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons (which everyone knows thanks to Mordechai Vanunu).

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Peter Jackson's on a roll

I saw King Kong tonight. The movie was fantastic. At three hours it's quite a commitment; but with amazing action sequences, terrific performances, and an incredibly moving story, it's well worth the investment. It's a great, classic tragedy. And it's definitely worth seeing on the big screen, though I'll probably grab a copy when it comes out on DVD.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I love Canada

Those are the words that Stephen Harper apparently couldn't say. During the start of electioneering last week Harper, when asked if he loved Canada, hemmed and hawed while trying to answer. Martin of course pounced on this fumble and stated very clearly that he loves Canada. Moreover Harper has since stated that he likes the idea of privatizing health care when his party said that they would avoid it. As Harper continues to misspeak himself he further reinforces the impression that he wants to turn Canada into the 51st state. While we all love our American neighbours, we don't all want to live in the kind of environment they live in.
Harper also said that he would give more support to the military including reviving the infamous Airborne Regiment. For those unfamiliar with it, the Airborne Regiment was a group of specialized Canadian commandos. They were sent on various missions including one to Somalia in the early to mid 90s. During that mission one Regiment member named Clayton Matchee took captive a 14 year old Somali boy named Shidane Aarone. Through the course of a night he tortured the Shidane to death while his screams were ignored throughout the Canadian camp. During the investigation that followed it was found that many in the Regiment heavily abused drugs or steroids and there was horrible negligence during the torturing death of Shidane Aarone on the part of those in the camp. The Airborne Regiment was disbanded and Clayton Matchee was set to be tried for murder. But Matchee, in a failed suicide attempt, suffered severe brain damage and was found not fit for trial.

The Guvernator has allowed Stanley "Tookie" Williams to die. Williams was on death row for multiple murders for some 2 decades. He was however said to be completely reformed and had since committed his life to helping troubled youth stay away from gangs and violence. He had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize multiple times and wrote children's books, all while in San Quentin's death row. Not only was Schwarzenneger under pressure from many activist groups to save the reformed man's life, but the Governor knew the man personally. Before going to prison as one of the founding members of the Crips California street gang, Williams and Schwarzenegger worked out in the same gym. Schwarzenegger however was more worried about maintaining his waivering Republican support, which he almost certainly would have lost had he given clemency to Williams. With an election coming next year, and his overall support already stagnant, the Guvernator terminated any hopes for Williams (in a last ditch effort to prevent self-terminating his political career...)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Guns are bad, mmmkay?

Many people have been waiting to hear word on the fate of four men taken hostage in Iraq. The four men include a Briton, an American and two Canadians. They were working for a Christian peace organization in Iraq trying to help free captives and oppose the American occupation. They're being held hostage by a relatively unknown group calling itself the Sword of Righteousness and they threatened to kill the men if their demands were not met. Their demand ironically being the freedom of all Iraqi captives in US custody. Their original deadline was last Thursday but due to major international pressure they extended it to this past weekend. The international pressure has been coming from, among others, the Canadian government, Palestinian groups, international Islamic groups and groups within Iraq. The groups in Palestine were pleading to the hostage takers to not kill these men whom they called brothers because they helped them in their struggle against oppression. So far nothing has been heard since last week on the fate of the four captives.

The Liberals have made a big promise that has stirred some feathers at home. They've promised to ban handguns if re-elected. This is in contrast to the big promises made by the Conservatives so far: a 1% cut in the GST and $100 per month for child care. The handgun ban will not have any great impact on the current wave of gun violence in the city. It will, however, (or at least I think so) have beneficial long term effects. The illegal guns on street are coming from different supposedly legal (at some time) sources. One big one is smuggling from South of the border. Our beloved American neighbours also love their Second Amendment. There are however numerous gun dealers in Canada that sell handguns and many of these guns can end up on the street in the hands of misguided youth. Cracking down on the border smuggling of guns is dearly needed, but removing the local suppliers as a source of illegal guns is a good step. There are in fact gun dealers which sell handguns all across the GTA.