I find myself torn between two lines of thinking. George McChimpy said that the disclosure of the secret domestic spying program was a "shameful act". That pretty much sums it up. But to expand on it a little is quite funny...
After the attacks of September 11th, 2001, George W. Bush decided that since the Patriot Act was so zealously adopted by almost all parties, that he could stretch his vast power even further, and contrary to what is in the Constitution, he decided he would allow his agents to eavesdrop and spy on American citizens without court orders. This makes his move highly illegal, a fact to which he and his handpicked senior psycophants like Alberto "Torturemeister" Gonzales strongly disagree with. Illegal move number one.
Now the fact that a highly secret illegal operation was leaked out to the press is an illegal matter. We know all about this from the recent Valerie Plame/Carl Rove scandal, and how high on the priority list that one was for the Bush administration to investigate and punish the offenders. So the leak in itself was an illegal act, number two in fact. So illegal move number two exposes illegal move number one, carried out by the Administration, and all hell breaks lose.
Of course, this time, they are rather zealous in their efforts to investigate the leak. In the Valeri Plame/Carl Rove scandal, the only thing important to Bush was keeping his good buddy Carl around. In this case, his illegal move is the result of the leak and so the holy quest of punishment to the leaker must be met with full fury.
Well I haven't been very active of late, but then I am on holidays, and not only that, but my big Christmas surprise was a healthy upgrade for my PC. This is very good, though it makes for a lot of backing up, restoring and re-installing. So far, so good.
I am also building another machine at the same time, so we will see how it goes! Only a few more days until New Years anyhow :)
Well Osama's Still Hidin, but his niece, Wafah Dufour, has been very busy doing photo spreads for the January issue of GQ magazine... I find it somewhat amusing that the most wanted man in America's niece is the prime story in such a popular men's magazine.
I have a new post up on the CBC Roundtable about the ongoing battle between Stephen Harper and Paul Martin on th issue of Canadian Unity. Check it out and be sure to read the other panelist's posts as well!
Much to the chagrin of King George and his Royal Court, the House will renew the "Invasion-of-Privacy" act by only one month, instead of the 6 month deal sought by the Administration. Several provisions of the current Patriot Act are due to expire December 31st, and naturally, the King is up in arms about that. The debate will now rage on in early 2006, and hopefully, more safeguards for privacy and civil liberties can be safeguarded against.
Bush indicated that he would sign the extension. “The work of Congress on the Patriot Act is not finished,” Bush said. “The act will expire next summer, but the terrorist threat to America will not expire on that schedule. I look forward to continuing to work with Congress to reauthorize the Patriot Act.”
I am amused by Bush's belief in how important this Act really is. I mean sure, there needs to be safeguards against the inevitable attacks comign from every direction, but the way he talks, the country will never be free from threat from terrorist attacks, so if things don't change, expect to have NO freedoms left forever... Heh. I think a permanent deal is very scary, and the LAST thing anybody besides King George wants. Especially considering they have already been spying on American citizens illegally for years!
A new angle on the election for me is something that the Green Party has proposed. You don't hear alot about them, so I thought it was time to toss their hat into the ring as well... Go check it out at the CBC Roundtable...
Just when we thought that Bush's acceptance of John McCain's addition of the no torture or inhumane treatment of prisoners to a contentious military policy Bill was a done deal, House and Senate negotiators agreed to a measure that would enable the government to keep prisoners at Guantanamo Bay indefinately on the basis of evidence obtained by coercive interrogations.
What this means is that evidence not permissable in civilian courts could be used to decide whether or not to detain prisoners at Gitmo Bay. The negotiators very quietly got rid of the ban on using this evidence in the original proposal from McCain. Basically, the new additions will render what McCain proposed unenforceable at Gitmo. So now the detainees have les rights than before it would seem...
It really looks as if the Administration is doing this because if they are not allowed to use evidence obtained through torture, then people can and will assume (or acknowledge) that in fact, prisoners are being tortured in US custody.
Against all odds, Montreal recovered from a 3-0 deficit to beat Ottawa in a shootout. Soudns amazing, and it is. Montreal has won only 4 of their last 14 games, a terrible skid since Kovalev went out for knee surgery. Ottawa is still the best team in the league, and Kovalev's first game back seemed to be a hell of a test! However, after a couple of quick power play goals against them, Montreal drove back late in the second period and in the third, Kovalev tied the game. Both goalies were busy, with Hasek stopping 33 of 36 shots, and the rookie Huet stopping 34 of 37 for the Habs. At this point, Kovalev had a goal and two assists in his return allowing him to reach the career 300 goal mark and 700 point mark in this game.
The shootout, which incidentally I really enjoy, was productive to say the least, though a terrifying prospect against a team stacked up like Ottawa. Kovalev scored once in the shootout, but the winner went to knew favorite, Pierre Dagenais, who I believe has several shootout win goals this season now.
Recently, the illegal spying and wiretap fiasco that should be a sure sign to thinking people that the Bush administration is absolutely losing it has lit right up. Thanks to Crooks and Liars, I found this piece from the Prez's mouth itself (emphasis added by moi)...
...there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.
Now this can be found in the transcript to a speech Bush made on Information sharing and the Patriot Act back in April, 2004. This man is reprehensible. He MUST be made accountable for the quickly lengthening list of lies and violations he and his administration are guilty of. To do nothing is almost as bad worse than accepting his decisions...
There is a video here on Canofun with the above quote and much more...
Right Wing Pundits in US Have a New Enemy... Canada
Somehow, we have hurt the feelings of many right wing mouthpieces in the US. Maybe it is Paul Martin standing up for an agreement that was welched on by the US, or perhaps it is the critical eye for which many people look at US Foreign Policy through. Either way, idiots like Tucker Carlson have had enough.
Last week, MSNBC host Tucker Carlson told his audience Canada "is like your retarded cousin you see at Thanksgiving." "He's nice, but you don't take him seriously." And that was just one of the famously right-wing political pundit's rants. "Anybody with any ambition at all, or intelligence, has left Canada and is now living in New York," he told his audience, insisting it was pointless to tell Canada not to criticize the United States. "It only eggs them on. Canada is essentially a stalker, stalking the United States, right? Canada has little pictures of us in its bedroom, right?" "It's unrequited love between Canada and the United States. We, meanwhile, don't even know Canada's name. We pay no attention at all," he said.
And your lack of intelligence is what, a good thing? Come off it. It is proven by the fact that others seem to think Canada is a haven for terrorists and that we allow them to enter the US to carry out terrorist activities... The thing is, the US needs scapegoats; someone to point fingers at. It was France before, when they opposed the US use of military power. The right wingers went out of their way ridiculing the French for their decision, going as far as renaming a popular potato snack "Freedom Fries". And you talk about Canada having problems and being a retarded cousin.
Then we have that anorexic poster-girl, Ann Coulter spewing drivel out about how fortunate we are to share the same continent as the US and that they don't need us. The fact of the matter is this. Canada is the biggest importer of US goods, period. We have been allies and friends for generations, and will continue to be so. However, it's starting to look like we won't simply roll over and play dead when something goes awry between our two great nation's policies, and big brother to the south doesn't like it when people don't agree with them...
So for Tucker, Ann and the discerning American traveller abroad, I give you this:
The Canada Kit
Now you too can travel the world in safety!!!
No offense to all of the good people I have become aquainted with south of the border. It is with you that hope rests.
I have posted a new piece on CBC's Roundtable regarding Health Care wait time campaign promises. Again, I cannot reprint the article, but it is a cinch to go check out, along with the latest posts from the others.
Right after George McChimpy comes out and says that leaking info about the secret operations set up to spy on his own citizens is shameful (er, let's prioritise the bit about what is shameful George), Alberto "Torturemeister" Gonzales, the US Attorney General hand picked by Bush, says that the President has the authority to do so.
To recap, Bush has allowed the NSA to intercept phone calls and e-mails of thousands of US citizens since the 9-11 attacks. However, a 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, makes it illegal to spy on US citizens without court approval.
“because it enables us to move faster and quicker. We’ve got to be fast on our feet... It is legal to do so. I swore to uphold the laws. Legal authority is derived from the Constitution”
Yeah, so you can circumvent the law you are swearing to uphold so that you can move "faster and quicker". There is a some good old answering there. Faster and quicker.
According to Gonzales, Bush has constitutional and congressional backing for "very limited, targeted" surveillance. However, as usual with the Bush administration, this description is so vague that it can be warped into almost anything they want... very similar to the torture arguement. Of course, they have to be calls outside of the country, or perhaps calls from people with "suspected" ties to Al Qaeda or other groups.
This administration continues to believe they are above the law, and wield uncontested power over not only their own population, but now others as well. We all know where that ends up going...
Each week, members of the BlogExplosion community can rent a space for advertising out to other members. This week, I am proud to annouce "Discuss It" is my new Featured Blog.
This is a great site with several different contributors. They like to discuss topics ranging from Politics to Social Issues, and it is well worth reading. Check them out here or by clicking the link on the sidebar! Stop by and leave some comments for Scott and the others.
Things can be taken out of context very easily. I was recently hit hard on my connection of Stephen Harper and the Iraq war, with Conservatives jumping out everywhere flapping a quote from 2003 at me from Paul Martin.
The quote from the North Bay Nugget, on April 30th, 2003 is as follows:
"I really think Canada should get over to Iraq as quickly as possible".
Fact of the matter is, Martin was talking about sending police, prison experts, legal aid, combat engineers and transport planes to help in the reconstruction. Here is the complete quote:
"I really think Canada should get over to Iraq as quickly as possible. There’s a huge need for front-line medical professionals. There’s a huge need for policing. And there’s a huge need for infrastructure rebuilding." - Paul Martin April 30, 2003
This has nothing to do with sending troops over, like Stephen Harper wanted to do.
"This party will not take its position based on public opinion polls. We will not take a stand based on focus groups. We will not take a stand based on phone-in shows or householder surveys or any other vagaries of pubic opinion... In my judgment Canada will eventually join with the allied coalition if war on Iraq comes to pass. The government will join, notwithstanding its failure to prepare, its neglect in co-operating with its allies, or its inability to contribute. In the end it will join out of the necessity created by a pattern of uncertainty and indecision. It will not join as a leader but unnoticed at the back of the parade." - Stephen Harper indicating that, if elected, Canada will join the US occupation of Iraq, Hansard, January 29th 2003.
"It was probably not an appropriate term, but we support the war effort and believe we should be supporting our troops and our allies and be there with them doing everything necessary to win." - Stephen Harper supporting the US-lead war on Iraq, Montreal Gazette, April 2nd 2003. Harper also called then-Defence Minister John McCallum an "idiot."
So as I see it, Martin still opposed Military involvement in the war, AND the occupation, just as he opposes the Ballistic Missile Defense program. As always, Canada has the possibility to help clean up after our big tough neighbours to the South, in a peace keeping or reconstruction role.
Thanks to searching out with Google, I finally found more of the Paul Martin quote here.
Typepad seems to have solved it's difficulties and apart from today's panelist posts being in queue for moderation before posting, it looks like we are back up and running just in time for the Debate tonight. It will be on CBC and CTV and will begin at 6:00 pm MST.
One year ago today, I wrote this on the original Zaphod's Heads MSN Space:
Obviously, not knowing really what I was going to write about, I basically introduced myself is some sort of cyber-geeky way to the world... or whomever may read it. It was kind of fun, and much more personal in a strange sort of way than now and way back then, I had met a few cool people who had cool Spaces. I will probably miss a few, but at first the list was very diverse:
At this point, I decided I had had enough with spam trackbacks and comments, and the inability to easily find and edit posts and switched over to Blogger. By now, my interests had began to leave the personal daily routine, and thanks to WWDN, I became interested in US politics and actually wrote e-mails to many of the US Senators regarding the appointment of Alberto "torturemeister" Gonzales as US Attorney General. My blogroll began to change (check out the lengthy lis ton the sidebar) as did the focus of my writing. Some of my favorite entries from the past range in style and content greatly...
Carling - Recently re-posted. These are a made up set of rules and a scoring system for icy driving :)
Why Kirk Rules - 100 reasons why Kirk is better than Picard... complete with pics that really say it all!
When the shuttle launched again, I blogged extensively about it, even earning myself a plug on AOL's news page for a few days. I helped raise funds for Hurricane Katrina victims and now, one year after all this started, I have begun my first coverage of a Canadian Election on the CBC Election Roundtable.
Admittedly, I am still a newbie when it comes to blogging, and definately a newcomer to the intricacies of Canadian politics (kind of strange considering how much I enjoy American politics) so this is a massive opportunity for me to learn a lot, and hopefully give some fresh insights into the election and campaigns.
In a major blow to the White House and the Republican leaders, the US Senate rejected attempts to reauthorize several provisions of the Patriot Act. Bush and Alberto Gonzales campaigned to make certain provisions of the Act permanent and to add new safeguards and expiration dates to two very controversial parts of the Act... roving wiretaps and secret warrants for books, records and other items from businesses, hospitals and libraries. The Senate said they would consider extending the Act in it's current form, but Bush and Frist refuse to accept this. The current provisions in the Act expire on December 31st.
This highly controversial Act pits security in the "War on Terror" against civil liberties of everyday American citizens. Recent developments show that Bush allowed the NSA to spy on American citizens without warrants. They monitor international phone calls and e-mails of hundreds if not thousands of citizens. The Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Arlen Specter announced hearings looking into this matter.
And people had doubts about the erosion of freedoms in the US and the impact of the Patriot Act on civil liberties?
*** UPDATE ***
It's just a bad day for Bush... This DailyKOS diary goes into some detail about how one day after Bush says that Congress saw the same Pre-War Intelligence as he did when they all voted it turns out that in fact, they don't get to see ALL of the intel he does...
"Some of the most irresponsible comments - about manipulating intelligence - have come from politicians who saw the same intelligence I saw and then voted to authorize the use of force against Saddam Hussein, These charges are pure politics." - Bush yesterday
WASHINGTON - President Bush and top administration officials have access to a much broader range of intelligence reports than members of Congress do, a nonpartisan congressional research agency said in a report Thursday, raising questions about recent assertions by the president. ...
The Congressional Research Service, by contrast, said: "The president, and a small number of presidentially designated Cabinet-level officials, including the vice president ... have access to a far greater overall volume of intelligence and to more sensitive intelligence information, including information regarding intelligence sources and methods." ...
The CRS report identified nine key U.S. intelligence "products" that aren't generally shared with Congress. These include the President's Daily Brief, a compilation of analyses that's given only to the president and a handful of top aides, and a daily digest on terrorism-related matters.
So if Bush and his top advisors get "extra" intel...
In a total about face, Bush has decided to accept Senator John McCain's call for a law banning cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of foreign suspects in the war on terror.
Bush said the agreement will "make it clear to the world that this government does not torture and that we adhere to the international convention of torture, whether it be here at home, or abroad."
I don't know, but why did it take so long for this to happen? We had DICK Cheney pleading with the Senate to exempt CIA operatives, and we had the White House threatening to veto the Bill. I think this should have been a done deal a long time ago! I think that if the US was serious about repairing their image with regards to torture and secret CIA prisons, they would have done this a long time ago.
As the one year anniversary of my blog approaches, I find myself thinking about various aspects of blogging, at least in the sense I attempt to perform it. In the beginning, I wrote mainly about day to day things, jokes and news stories that were interesting. As my interest in politics, and especially US politics grew, I found that the Blog was actually a serious outlet for thoughts and ideas.
As I grew as a writer, I realized that sources can be key, and even though it may not be the responsibility of the writer to justify his thoughts (I think the reader must make a call in most cases) it sure adds a load of credibility to the postings. I tend to provide links to articles pertaining to what I say as often as I can but then it's not always possible...
I have also noted that almost as a general rule, we like to surround ourselves with peers, and like-minded people. However, could this be defeating the purpose of blogging somewhat? After all, when we write something down that is opinion, perhaps we are trying to provide insight to others, or even *gasp* change their point of view a little! However, whenever someone on the other side of the fence makes an appearance, we tend to recoil, react or run! As a writer, I must be willing to do the same as I would expect readers to do. In the recent handgun debates, I found that a definate lack of research on my part was evident, and after a mix of some cool and some heated debate, I actually turned my train of thoughts around somewhat.
Of course, we don't want to write and be inundated with opposition, but the idea I am presenting is that it should at least be welcome, and that the writer has many of the same responsibilities as the reader, as far as integrity goes, and as far as debate goes...
Speaking of debates... the Leadership debate will be tonight in Vancouver. I am hoping I can tune in a channel or find an on-line source. Check the CBC Panel later for some thoughts on this...
I am very pleased to announce that I have been asked to join CBC.CA as part of their Election 2006 Round Table Panel. This will be a unique opportunity to put forth some of my views, ideas and observances of the Election Campaign, the Policies and Politicians.
I am very excited about this of course, and also somewhat nervous. However, I believe that when the nerves settle, and the excitement wanes, I can deliver some unique perspective on the Election and the issues involved!
The panel itself will consist of 5 bloggers, all of varying political interests and backgrounds. I may very well be the least experienced of the group, so perhaps this, combined with my enthusiasm will encourage younger people and others not normally involved in politics to take part in this Campaign and Election!
I will be posting approximately once a day, covering various aspects of the Campaign and there will be comments and discussions galore!
*** UPDATE ***
So it is possible for me tupdate or amend a post on the CBC Panel, however, it then goes into moderate mode again until reviewed.
I saw a headline on MSN that made me chuckle. It would seem that in their insecurity, the US is going to create "Viper" (Visible Intermodal Protection and Response - so it should really be VIPR) teams consisting of several Air Marshals, a sniffer dog for bombs, several transportation security inspectors and a local law enforcement officer. These teams will be a mix of undercover and marked security folks. They will patrol subways, train stations and other mass-transit areas.
The thing that gets me, is that they are still "Air" Marshals. Why not call them "Tunnel" Marshals, or "Transit" Marshals, or maybe just "Insecurity" Marshals...
The most difficult thing to do sometimes is agree when you have made an error. I have read a *lot* about handguns and the existing regulations in the last day or so, and after re-thinking my stance, I believe an outright ban is not the way to go. For a while, perhaps fear led me to believe so, but in the end, I realize several things that have made me alter my stance somewhat. I say somewhat because I believe the rest of the Liberal proposal is a good thing. It is sometimes difficult making choices like this, especially from a viewpoint where I do not own a handgun, have no desire to do so, and frankly cannot understand why others would want to. It is because of this that I had originally chosen my stance, even though I had suggested several times that a ban was probably not the best solution.
First, any criminal elements will still possess illegal weapons regardless of legislation. Also, banning handguns will only serve to ultimately increase the number of illegal weapons as well as diminish the freedoms and rights of law-abiding and good members of ourt society, something I tend to stand up for and in this case was wrongly attempting to defeat. Wanting to own a handgun and following legislation (both existing and proposed) does not mean that possessing the weapon is a bad thing.
That being said, I believe the best route to take is through enforcement and punishment. Banning aside, the Proposal does contain some very good ideas, including the new 250 officer unit from the RCMP to combat gun related crimes, and beefing up the Canadian Border Services with 75 new officers. Tougher sentencing as well as community awareness programs are all great ideas.
So with some minor amendments, I would still support the new legislation, as long as an outright ban is not included.
Wayne Gretzky will return to Montreal tonight for the first time as a Head Coach. He brings along a red-hot Phoenix team, riding a 3 game winning streak led by Ladislav Nagy and Mike Johnson. Soudns exciting, but Montreal hasn't been as lucky of late. With injuries to both Alexei Kovalev and Saku Koivu, Montreal sees some relief with the return of defensemen Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek.
The good news, Kovalav practiced with the team yesterday for the first time since his knee surgery. He will be heading out on the upcoming road trip with the Habs and is likely slated to play against the Wild on Saturday night.
Handguns. They have created quite a stir of late, especially considering the Liberal proposal to ban them completely in Canada. Of course, this is only a single aspect of their proposal, but one that gun advocates tend to jump on perhaps as overzealously as those opposing the very existance of these weapons. Judging from the vast array of comments in my last post, I felt it is best to re-explore the entire situation, than simply add on another comment. With all of the particulars aside, simply put, I think the negatives greatly outweigh the positives. Most of the positives in fact, seem to be of the nature where they could lead to negatives very quickly, though the advocates for possession of these weapons would likely argue against that. Also, we must leave out the acquisition and possession of these weapons illegally for now, and perhaps conclude with those situations.
The absolute biggest reason in my opinion, to own a handgun (legally) is for home defense and peace of mind. Now I suspect that most break-ins occur when a family is not home. If the family (or owner) is home, then I would also suspect that the person home is an elderly person that may or may not possess a handgun at any rate. Too often, these weapons could be used accidentally… when a teenager sneaks in late, or some such. We see it on television, but does it really happen in real life? What about the kids playing around when the parents aren’t home? I know guns are supposed to be locked up tight, but honestly, how many of us grown-ups knew how to get around our parent’s safeguards when we were younger? Kids will play, and even with strict teaching, they can easily forget in an instant and then accidents can easily happen. As shown here, the numbers suggest that accidental shootings involving children are nine times higher in the USA than in 25 other industrialized countries combined. Do we want these similar numbers in Canada? What about the average person, who is a mentally stable and honest upright citizen, who finds out his wife is sleeping with his neighbour? It is very difficult to judge how a person reacts in light of certain situations. With a handgun literally under the pillow, a stable person could easily become an unstable person, blinded by passions, and again, accidents (maybe even intentionally) can and will happen. If a person breaks into your home and you are away, a hidden handgun or gun case could easily be found and stolen, thus adding another weapon to the illegal side of these guns.
Some people enjoy using these weapons for practice or even hunting. As pointed out by others however, using a handgun for hunting purposes is really not as effective as using a long gun or rifle. I suspect the numbers of people really wanting to do this are much fewer than even bow hunters and trappers. For target practice? Sure that would be interesting, though these are likely the same people who wish to have a handgun at home, for security purposes (or to shoot their wife when they are found cheating on them). I do not believe having the ability to target practice with these weapons justifies their legality at all.
Yet others maintain that freedom is just that. Freedom. This is another attempt to control a population’s freedoms, and dictate what is right and wrong, good or bad, regardless of the reasons. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a staunch advocate of freedoms and the fewer rules we are forced to live by, the better as far as I am concerned. That being said, some things simply need to be regulated, controlled, or banned. We have speed limits set up based on various factors, including the volume of traffic, the actual road design specifications (most speed freaks don’t even think about this but I design roads, so I am rather intimate with it), weather conditions, road conditions, vehicle capabilities and general public safety. If we did not have limits, then it would be very difficult to design safe roads. Some people would drive so fast that they endanger other drivers. Some would drive so slow, that the same results would happen, though likely less horrific. This is an example of how rules and laws guide us, and yes, they infringe on our freedoms. You cannot drink more than a beer or two and legally drive. Another infringement on freedoms, but it is a damn good thing these rules are there. Society is no longer responsible enough in many aspects to make some decisions on their own, as evidenced by the increasing number of speed related incidents and deaths every year, even though we still have strict guidelines on limits. This could easily be the same situation with handguns, and likely is.
To me, handguns are designed for one purpose. Shooting people. Now, I didn’t say murder. They would most definitely not be allowed to be produced if this was the case. However, as more and more of them are produced, the chances of them being obtained illegally greatly increase. We can’t simply ban their production, because they are an integral part of the modern police force and military. Only allowing their production for these purposes would never work, as we are well aware that many and most arms can be sold under the guise of military sales but then there is no control over the weapons once they are sold.
So maybe an outright ban on these weapons isn’t a perfect solution. However, it is a guideline that can be put in place to help society limit the number of incidents involving these weapons in homes, as well as limiting to a smaller extent, the accessibility of them to criminal elements. A much more effective method of dealing with the criminal aspect is to increase and enforce mandatory jail times for illegal possession and use of these weapons. To me, this aspect is a much wiser step though it involves keeping the justice department on track. No early parole and no exceptions. You get busted with a handgun, it is off to the hooscow with you. If you use it in a crime of any sort, well you should expect to stay there for an extended period of time!
So if one child is saved, and one person cannot go to the range on a Sunday afternoon, is it worth it?
As part of the Blog Explosion community, I rent a small advertising space out to another member for a week. You can find this on the sidebar to the left. It is a fun way to share others' sites, and gain readers for your own!
This week, I am hosting a person who was actually my very first renter... EzineWriter from The Pivot Point Post, where they Build Smiles, makes a welcome return to my blog!
I want to apologize for my absenteeism for the last few days, and on through tomorrow. We are having our company's Annual General Meeting, and it has been a hectic few days of meetings, seminars and other good stuff. It's all capped off with a party tonight, so hopefully, I can get back to some comments and writing tomorrow!
CTV - It would seem that the province-wide effort to ban smoking in public places and government buildings is all a huge joke. As of January 1st, the Alberta Legislature building will keep the smoking areas in the building as well as the cafeteria... and in fact, Cabinet Ministers will be able to smoke in their offices! Of course, King Ralph, a smoker himself, says he will not smoke in his office.
This is absolutely ridiculous. Another move that shows the Alberta Conservative government is full of crap. They now have a two-tiered smoking policy in the province. Les Hagen, the executive director of Action on Smoking and Health says, "I think the decision undermines the Alberta government's own efforts to reduce tobacco use and to protect Albertans from second hand smoke". I agree completely with him.
I was a pretty hard-core smoker for almst 20 years, and my wife and I both quit cold-turkey nearly 5 years ago. I am now a staunch advocate for anti-smoking legislation.
Paul Martin has proposed a sweeping ban on handguns. I believe this is a great policy, and if carried out properly could actually help out in a situation that is only growing worse. Before the gun advocates jump all me, consider the fact that these weapons are built for one purpose. And it doesn't include grouse hunting. In the hands of the Police, or the Military, they are lethal at close range. In the hands of a collector or private owner, they may appear to be safe, but when the wrong person gets a hold of it, or someone loses their cool, trouble occurs.
Some of the Liberal proposal includes:
a new 250 officer unit from the RCMP dedicated solely to fighting gun-related crimes, as well as other organized crime and drug trafficking.
75 new officers at Canada Border Services to combat illegal importation of handguns from the US.
tougher sentences for gun-related crimes, by changing the Criminal Code to double the mandatory minimum sentences for such crimes.
encouraging community-based gun prevention, with help from a $50 million Gun Violence and Gang Prevention Fund to focus on youth at risk.
waving the re-registration fees for owners of long guns in order to encourage compliance with the Canada Firearms Program.
a gun amnesty and buy-back program that draws from an Australian model, including a gun stoppers initiative aimed at ensuring the turn-in of illegal weapons.
I think out of all this, the best is the tougher sentencing for gun-related crimes. The problem there is that these offenders should have to do their time... good behaviour and early release is rubbish. The increase in security at borders is good, but will probably not do that much. It is a shame. If the Americans want to have guns until they are pried from their "cold dead fingers" so be it... but frankly, we don't need them up here in Canada.
I have chosen two of my favorite handguns (from an entertainment perspective) as images. The Beretta 93 R features an extended 20 round magazine, and is capable of firing single shot or fully automatic 3 round bursts. It has a flash suppressor built right on, and features a fold down fore-grip for rock steady targetting. It is capable of firing 110 rounds a minute. The second image is the .44 Automag. Dubbed "Big Thunder by Mack Bolan writer Don Pendleton, this gun is as close to a rifle as a handgun could ever be. A close range shot from this massive weapon would likely shred a guy with ease. It could take down a black bear no problem, so against a human it is a devasting weapon.
Snappy and graphic sales descriptions to be sure, but tell me why they should be on the streets in Vancouver, Toronto or Red Deer. Tell me why *anyone* outside of the military should even have a chance of owning one of these killing machines...
Recently, I noticed I had a hit from a google search that really raised my eyebrows... The search was (word for word) "step by step guide to enslave a jinn". Not wanting to disappoint, I decided I would do some searching around and see just what is involved with the Djinn and their history... So let's get at it!
A Brief History of Djinn...
Djinn are powerful magical beings of Arabian descent. These creatures live in all area of the Arabia and in a similar way to Faeries of European legend, they are soul-less creatures that once were spirits of nature, created from smoke and fire. Throughout history, the Djinn took mortals as slaves, teachers, lovers and even food. By the time of Solomon, Djinn were very well known, and he had bound at least 70 of them to his service through the use of a special ring (or Talisman).
With the rise of Muhammed and the spread of Islam, the Djinn began losing power and lands. A great Council of Choice was held to determine a way to stop the Djinn from leaving the lands of the mortals forever. After much debate, it was decided that the Djinn and their followers must either side with the Islamic peoples, or fight them. Half sided with Muhammed and the rest did not. Once the choices were made, the Djinn were split between good and evil, and they were given the responsibility of a soul...
The Nature of Djinn
After the Choice, Djinn all received souls. They had to choose between being Muslim or Diabolical. They all possess uncanny powers of course, as evidenced by the desire of so many to put these creatures into servitude. Most Djinn can change their appearance to that of an animal and in fact retain some of the animal's characteristics, such as horns, tail or fur. Many Djinn have the ability to fly and most can create powerful illusions... The strictest forms of Islam eye the Djinn with great suspicion due to their magical nature. Naturally, Christians view Djinn as evil or minions of Satan and this can be used as a tool by truly evil Djinn to create enemies for the good Djinn.
Djinn live for a very long time, and increase in power as they age. They begin to master natural magical abilities, such as enchanting objects, prophecy and control over the weather and elements. Many younger Djinn fear that as the centuries pass, they will lose power and eventually become as mundane mortals.
The Djinn and Mortals
Obviously, the Djinn are far more powerful than mortals. At one time, they were worshipped as gods, however, they tend now to treat humans with the same respect and hospitality that they wish to receive. They are very careful about allowing Men to know their true nature, as mortals can bind them to servitude through the use of objects designed for this purpose. Sometimes, humans and a Djinni mate, either through choice or capture, and the offspring will possess some of the traits common to the Djinn.
Binding a Djinni
Men knowledgeable in the nature of the Djinn, and with the ability to know them are called Sahir. They would use Djinn either as slaves, or for knowledge and the Djinn themselves will seek out these Sahir for their own use as well. In order for a Sahir to bind a particular Djinni, they must create a Talisman to bind the Djinni too. They must also know the true name of the Djinni and have a part of the creature to use in the creation of the aforementioned Talisman. The binding can last forever, though there is always one secret request that if asked, will release the Djinni from service and allow it to kill the person who asked it.
Once the Talisman has been created, the Sahir must find or summon the particular Djinni and best it in some form of competition. The Djinni must accept this challenge, though both parties must agree on the nature of the contest. The length of servitude depends on how badly the Djinni is beaten in the contest... ranging from granting one request to many years of service.
Once the binding is complete, the Sahir can either give the Djinni a place to stay inside the Talisman or he can user the Talisman to summon the Djinni. Of course keepign the Djinni in the Talisman is very dangerous, as it is bound to the Talisman, and not the owner of the device. Once bound, a Djinni will try to break the servitude by causing it's master to accept the same challenge that the Djinni originally lost. If the Djinni wins, it may never be bound by that Sahir again, and may in fact kill the Sahir, depending on how it was treated during it's servitude.
Creating a Djinn Talisman
In order for the Sahir or magi to create a Djinn Talisman, it must Know the Djinn (it's name) and possess a piece of it such as a strand of hair. Each tribe of Djinn also have a particular material that the Talisman must be made of. The Diabolical or evil Djinn tribes (Shaitan, Ifrit and Ghul) use Cat's Eye, Emerald, Ruby and Iron. The Islamic or good Djinn tribes (Jinn, Jann and the Marid who choose good) use Agate, Obsidian, Jade and Copper.
Such Talismans can take many forms, but are best suited to the nature of the particular Djinni. Examples could be lamps, rings, bags, scabbards and other similar objects.
The Double Seal of Solomon
The Pentagram of Solomon
The Ceremonial Circle
What follows is merely hints at the proper rituals for summoning Djinn or other spirits and beings. This is not complete, not accurate.
The symbols used classically in summoning and binding these creatures include the Double Seal of Solomon or the Pentagram of Solomon amongst others. The ceremonial circle must be drawn towards that side to which the being who is to be called is attributed. The triangle into which Solomon summoned the rebellious demons must be made two feet outside this circle and three feet over it. The double seal and pentagram of Solomon must be drawn on a parchment of calf-skin, or otherwise on gold or silver, and should be worn upon the white vestment of the operator, together with the seal of the spirit, which must be exhibited on his appearance--to compel obedience and assumption of the human form. In addition to these characters, the secret seal of Solomon must be drawn with the blood of a black cock that has never engendered, on virgin parchment, the operator himself being clean within and without, having abstained from sexual intercourse for the space of one month and having obtained pardon for his sins by means of fasting and prayer. It is to be composed on a Tuesday or Saturday at midnight, with the Moon increasing in Virgo, and with burning of perfumes of aloes, resin, cedar and alum.
When invoking, the perfume should be incense only. Take care also that you have fire whensoever you make invocation, and fumigate only in the name of the Spirit whom you would call. When placing perfume on the fire, say: I burn this N. in the name and to the honour of N. When invoking, see that you hold the invocation in the left hand, having the rod of elder 1 in your right, while the ladle and knife should be at your feet. These things being arranged, place yourself within the circle; if accompanied, your companions should hold each other by one hand. When within, trace the circle with the Knife of the Art, and take up the rods one after the other, saying the Fiftieth Psalm, namely, Miserere mei. The circle being composed, perfume and sprinkle the same with holy water. Then write the characters at the four corners; let the Spirit be forbidden in formal terms to enter, after which begin the invocations, which must be repeated seven successive times. When the Spirit shall have appeared, cause him to sign the character which you hold in your hands, promising to come always at your call. Ask for whatsoever you deem suitable, and you shall be satisfied. Dismiss him with these words: Go in peace unto your places, and peace be with you until you return at my call. In the name, &c. Amen.
Obviously, all care must be taken and copious research must be made to ensure the correct name of the Djinni is obtained, and the proper materials are used in the creation of the Talisman. Not knowing the true nature of a Djinni could have catastrophic consequences...
References include The Book of Ceremonial Magic and the Ars Magica Roleplaying System. These are in no way complete and should not be attempted. This post is completely written in jest, and may or may not contain fact, *real* ritual magic or anything otherwise... It is purely for entertainment purposes.
A German man named Khaled al-Masri is suing the CIA for wrongfully detaining him and subjecting him to torture and other inhumane treatment. He was mistakenly identified as an associate of the 9-11 hijackers and was held for 5 months without trial or lawyers. The ACLU is representing him in his case where he is suing the CIA for at least $75,000 in damages, though his ultimate goal is to have the US government admit it's mistakes and apologise.
Khaled was entering Macedonia on a holiday when he was arrested and flown to Afghanistan.
How many others are in the same situation. Suspected terrorists... insurgents... This case is of monumental importance with regard to the CIA prisons and treatment of prisoners. If the CIA pays him off, how many others will step up for cash? They can't pay him off and in my view, must fight this in court. They cannot win, unless the court is as biased as the rest of the Administrations views on this. Looking back now, the CIA has asked for exemption with regard to the treatment of detainees (in other words, they can define torture as they see fit and use what means they want to interrogate detainees) and they have also been exposed with regard to the secret prisons in ex-Soviet Europe.
My previous poll was based on whether or not the CIA should be allowed to torture detainees, and the results were pretty lop-sided... According to 63 voters, 70% believe that the CIA should NOT torture detainees.
I think the bigger issue is still whether or not the CIA should be able to detain citizens of other nations (or even American citizens for that matter) without charges, lawyers or trial. I mean the gulags at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib are well documented now, and of all of those detainees, how many actually fired on US troops... or are proven to be members of terrorist networks? Not amny I would wager. In fact, if they were insurgents in Iraq, then they are POWs and should be granted POW rights. Oh I forgot... It's only a "War" on one side of the story.
This has happened in the past. Maher Arar, A Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was held by US officials without charges or lawyers and deported to Syria where he was imprisoned, tortured and made to confess to lies for many months. His accounting of the events is chilling, and I wonder how many others suffer the same fate at the hands of US prisons and detention centers now. He was tortured to the extent that he admitted travelling to Afghanistan and training with Al Qaeda, even though he had never been to Afghanistan in his entire life.
Perhaps in their holy zeal to contain the scourge of terrorists all over the globe, the CIA and other agencies have forgotten that a lot of middle-eastern nationals have fled their countries for reasons other than blowing up Americans... like religious persecution, political asylum and just plain hoping for a better lifestyle...
Apparently, Russia has struck a deal with Iran to sell up to 30 Tor-M1 surface to air missiles as well as other weapons. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov says this will not affect the balance of power in the region...
In light of the US strategy they have used in the past, that is the heavy air campaigns, I wonder at what sort of political game Russia is playing. I suspect this goes a little deeper than first meets the eye. In light of this, the Israelis who feel threatened by just about everyone it seems, are considering air strikes against the iranian nuclear installations similar to the strikes in 1981 against Iraq. Russia has also offered to enrich uranium for the Iranian civilian nuclear energy program as a safeguard against Iran using enrichment for weapons...
I understand that, but I imagine countries like Israel and the US will demand proof that this enriched uranium is in fact used for civilian programs...
We're not making it out of here alive, but neither's that thing...
Stardate 4968.1 The frigid winter has set in, but there is indeed hope on the horizon. The forecast doesn't even include the wind chill, but at least by week's end, it is looking warmer! Actually, I am beginning to think that the +2 degree Friday is some form if sick and depraved joke, offering light when there will only be darkness, salvation when only ruin will reign, and warmth when in fact the coldest is yet to come... Just happy the furnace was fixed, and it was relatively cheap to boot.
Seriously, I think I have to watch my all-time favorite movie, John Carpenter's "The Thing" again. Even the sharp crunching of snow beneath my boots brings back memories of this incredible movie... Whenever I look outside now, I don't see an Albertan winterscape anymore... Suddenly, I have been thrust into the deep cold that is Antarctica...
The furnace fan started making some noise a day or so ago. It wasn't bad, and really, I didn't think much of it. Yesterday, the fan started squealing off and on, and it got so bad last night that we had to turn the thermostat so low the furnace wouldn't come on to be able to get any sleep at all. The worst thing is, it is -20 out now, and I am missing work waiting for a furnace repair guy to come and bend me over with repair rates...
At least it isn't the heating elements, and I am pretty sure the motor is okay. Seems to be something with the fan drum in the back that is the problem, and sadly, I know little about taking furnace fans apart :( Last winter, we had to pay $300 odd bucks to get something else fixed on the darned thing. Looks like my gas rebate check will be going to this...
It has been nearly one year since I began my fun little writing project, so I think that since the snow has hit us here in Alberta finally, I will re-post my classic set of rules for Carling. This was one of my first entries that I thought was really good, and it is quite funny I think. Anyhow, if you live anywhere that has the miserable winter conditions and terrifyingly icy patches like we have, you may appreciate this one!
Well since I have somewhat invented the new winter sport, Carling, for us snowed in folks up here in Canada with no Hockey to watch... I figure I better set up a scoring system so we actually know who wins every day! This is actually quite difficult as there are so many factors involved it isn't even funny. I mean, you could be driving on virgin ice and snow, and the co-efficient of friction would be much different than a road that had been sanded slightly, or perhaps so icy as to not see it at all (black ice)...
Let's begin with the basics.
A good slide where you are unable to slow and stop is worth lots of points. +1 right off the top.
A sideways slide, where the vehicle actually changes it's trajectory is a bonus as you have obviously lost some control over the vehicle (apart from the ability to stop). +2 points for that.
Distance is important. Say every 20 feet you slide, you gain +1 point. This is really where the co-efficient of friction from the different surfaces comes into play. Packed snow, black ice, sanded fresh snow... it all affects this score.
If you happen to be lucky enough to slide into or through a controlled intersection or a stop condition... +5 points!!!! Yeah, this is a gold mine! Wait and watch the ensuing carnage as you are sliding sideways through a huge intersection, mentally calculating your score...
This is another great way to gain points. For every inanimate object EXCEPT another vehicle, you collide with, take a +1 point bonus. This means a white picket fence, a mailbox, a roadsign, a concrete no-post barrier, anything like that. A fire hydrant is a special circumstance since it spews water out and this reacts with frigid temperatures nicely to create a new playing surface for the next teams... so +5.
If you are lucky enough to hit another vehicle (CHA-CHING), you gain an instant +5 point bonus (not to mention a healthy hike in your insurance policy)! This is usually a rear-end style collision, so there may be different factors involved there.
If you hit a vehicle sideways, gain a +7 bonus.
If you hit a vehicle HEAD-ON, +10! It doesn't get much better than this, unless we start counting animate objects....
Arrrrr if you are most fortunate enough to slide into a train crossing and hit a train, gain +20 points!
If you hit an animal that will do little to your vehicle but end the life of said creature, gain +2 points.
If you hit an animal that is much larger, like a deer, elk, cow or BEAR, this will likely do considerable damage to your vehicle, so feel free to gain +5 points!!!
Remember, all strikes of animals and inanimate objects MUST be the result of a slide on icy road conditions. If you are drunk in the summer and you slam into a donkey that is eating grass growing on the shoulder of the road, it counts for nothing! You get a -100 for being a fool and drinking and driving!!!
I will give one example of a classic winter Carling match.
You are driving to work in the morning. It is dark, and the snow was falling all night. It is very cold and the snow has been driven on by a few folks now. Intersections are likely the Face-Off Circle of Doom this morning.
You approach the Face-Off Circle of Doom, noting your opponents on two of the three sides... Cruising at a safe 50 km/h, you approach and when you are about 60 feet from the lights, they turn yellow. OH NO!
Being groggy from staying up so late surfing the weeb and eating cheese, pickles and crackers all night, you hit the brakes, forgetting that it is your minivan that has ABS (anti-lock brakes) and not your 1984 Oldsmobile Tank. Begin slide.... You are about to slide 60 feet to the intersection alone, so lets say the total is 100 feet when all is said and done. (+5)You also begin to slide sideways, which is a real treat and always makes you spill your Tim Horton's coffee on yourself (+1 cause I am being nice) so gain +2 for the sideways slide and also another +5 for sliding through a red light and a controlled intersection! Total Slide Points 13!
Now what could possibly happen while you are sliding through the intersection? Well one of the opponents decided to go as soon as the light changed... He didn't see you sliding into the intersection sideways cause he was lighting his smoke and only saw the light change out of the corner of his eye. BAM! You hit him right in the side, (possibly causing tons of injury to him, but that is not scored in this game) so you gain +7 points. Of course, after the collision, your car is soemwhat out of control, so you proceed to hit the light pole on the corner, a small tourist information sign, and a fire hydrant (oooooh that's a mess) so for all that, +7 points. To top it off, your hub cap goes carreering off when you hit the hydrant, and strikes a homeless cat shivering in a store doorway, killing it instantly (+2). Total Collision Points 16!
So your grand total for that game is 29 whopping points! Pretty darn good actually!
*Humans are generally nice, so I will leave them out. You can create your own point scoring scale perhaps, and have a lot fo fun this winter tallying up your scores!!!*
Let's have a look at some of the accomplishments the Liberals have achieved in their 17 month stint in power, many of them campaign promises that they actually came through on...
Healthcare - $40 Billion invested
Childcare - Signed deals with every Province
Money for Cities - GST rebate given
Infrastructure - Done
First Nations - $5 Billion
Equalization - Done
Military - $13 Billion
Foreign Aid - to be doubled by 2011
Personal Tax Cuts
Corporate Tax Cuts
Post Secondary Education
The establishment of Gay Marriage rights throughout the country
The big kicker today on the news wire? The unemployment rate in Canada has fallen to a 30 year low at a mere 6.4%. Oh, and let's not forget that the day the Conservatives were trying to nail Paul MArtin to the cross for his failures in the NAFTA softwood lumber fiasco, he actually pressured the US into accepting the NAFTA ruling and decreasing the duty on Canadian softwood lumber from 18.9% to 0.9%...
All of these things seem to be very important to me, and all Canadians in fact. These are true Canadian priorities. If you vote for Mr. Harper, you are voting for someone who wants to take away people's personal freedoms, and would have led us, without a clue, into the ugly mess that is post-invasion Iraq.
"Those who would trade temporary security for essential freedom will soon have neither." - Ben Franklin
I was reading through Crooks and Liars and I came across the post about Deborah Davis. I read the bit on their page, and continued on to the site. As I read more and more of the story, I knew I had to tell others about this incident.
First of all, this woman did absolutely nothing wrong. In fact, the last time I checked, it is not a law that you have to carry ID on your person on a day to day basis at all. After all, if you go to the beach in a swimsuit there is nowhere to carry it anyways... Jokes aside, this woman was commuting to work as usual, and when a security guard boarded the public transit bus demanding to see IDs, she complied. The first time. After thinking about it, she decided she would not comply any more, and rightfully so. I would have done the same thing. The next time, when a security guard boarded the public transit bus and demanded IDs, she said she had one, but refused to show him. In the end, two Federal policemen arrested her and now she faces charges. All for trying to get to work on a public transit bus.
The site above really gets to the nitty gritty about this, but I can perhaps paraphrase a little. The checks for IDs are in no way increasing security. The guards were not checking a list of terrorists bad guys against the IDs, they were simply making normal folks comply. You see, normal folks have nothing to hide, so compliance should be a given. The problem arises when terrorists bad guys get fake IDs... you know, like the one's high school kids get to go to girlie bars, and buy smokes... Of course, they will comply. That is also a given. So does it work?
This is one of the freedoms that the US stands for (I forget I should not be telling Americans what they stand for even though the saying is "Liberty and Freedom for all") and in fact, all democratic and free countries stand for but it is being very quickly eradicated under the guise of Patriotism as fascism. Citizens and normal folk are no longer free to walk the streets without fear of forces demanding papers...
I wonder how many more essential freedoms and basic human rights will be removed before the rest of the Nation wakes up and says enough is enough. The population is being controlled by fear disguised again, as Patriotism. Citizens who oppose the war are unpatriotic. Citizens who question the government are unpatriotic. Citizens who do not show their papers are unpatriotic...
As part of the Blogexplosion community, one feature to help drive traffic and encourage readership to member's blogs is the "Rent my Blog" campaign. This is actually quite fun, and basically, members set a price to rent an advertisement for another member... Well this week, my featured blog is On the Left Tip.
On the Left Tip
RenaRF is extremely active in the progressive political world, and I am happy to say that she is a left winger with emphasis on accountability of the Bush administration. A key member of the Impeach Bush Coalition, she writes consistently well thought out pieces and contributes regularly to Daily KOS as well. For left-leaning views on American politics... Check out On the Left Tip! She has also been kind enough to host MY blog for the Rental of the week!
All opinions shared on this site are strictly my own. Some people may disagree and that is fine, but rude comments or overzealous debate will be curtailed. I enjoy civil discourse, and encourage independent thought. I oppose George W. Bush and his Wars based on lies.
Site design created by Zaphod. All written work and code is the intellectual property of Glyn Evans.
I have lived in Central Alberta almost my entire life, except for a 4 year stint when I was younger in Swaziland, and about 5 years in beautiful BC. I have a wonderful girlfriend and am expecting very soon! I work in the engineering field and enjoy writing in my spare time.