Friday, December 23, 2005

The Master of My Domain

I just gave myself an inexpensive Hanukkah present. For no real reason, I was curious to see what kind of site would turn up at the URL And you know what? It wasn't registered! I was shocked, because Jaymeister is often already taken when I try to register it as a login name at websites. I must have tried a dozen different variations of it to set up this Blogger account, before settling on a very random username. So I was quite happy to pay the nominal fee to register the domain name. Eventually I will have my own website at that address but, for now, and will forward you right here. I have a great sense of ownership now.

All this begs the question, "Why Jaymeister?" I wish I had an answer to that. At least three different people have called me that independently over the years - I guess the gets some kind of kick out of adding the suffix "-meister" to people's names. And since it's kind of catchy, and the most palatable of my nicknames, that is what I am. I have used the self-assigned "DiamondDog" at some sites where Jaymeister wasn't available, because it sounds cool and I really like the Bowie song. But no nickname is worthwhile if you give it to yourself, so Jaymeister it is. And now it's all mine.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Meet the Team

I would be remiss if I didn't take some time to discuss the most heated topic in Canada right now. Naturally, I'm talking about the selection of the Canadian Olympic men's hockey team. The debating and whining has already begun in earnest, and will probably continue for several years - and that's just if they end up winning the gold medal.

When it comes to hockey powers, Canada is number one by a very large margin. The percentage of participation in the sport here ensures that no talent will slip through the cracks, and most of the top athletes get into the minor hockey system. That isn't to say that we will win every tournament we enter, because other hockey nations have top flight talent too. But we're the only country that could legitimately field two or three teams and have all of them be gold medal contenders. And because of the depth of hockey talent in our country, there are always controversies about omissions from a national team, whether at the junior or Olympic level. But this year there seems to be more controversy over certain inclusions rather than exclusions. And the name at the top of that list is Todd Bertuzzi.

Personally, I'm appalled to have Bertuzzi represent my country on an Olympic stage, and so soon after the incident that will forever mar his hockey career and define his public life. Yes, he has served his suspension and has been examined by the legal system, so he should be free to continue his life and career. But that doesn't mean that we have an obligation to have him represent our country on the Olympic stage. In much of the world where they don't follow professional hockey, or the NHL, many will recognize Bertuzzi's name and associate Canadian hockey with thuggery. We have enough good players that somebody else could have filled his role more than competently. And although his form has improved over the past several weeks, you could make a case that his play for this season as a whole has not warranted a spot on the Olympic roster.

When it comes to hockey, it's hard to argue about anything with Wayne Gretzky. But the makeup of this Olympic team puzzles me. He basically started with the roster he put together for last year's World Cup, and picked all the same players unless it was clear that they couldn't play anymore. Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux, who had no business being on this team, "voluntarily" withdrew their names. But other veteran players who are having sub-standard seasons have retained their roster spots when younger, brighter talent could have been picked. Eric Staal and Jason Spezza should be on the main roster, not the taxi squad. Shane Doan was a curious pick, and probably the clearest example of cronyism on Gretzky's part. Because he's now a coach, being so close to his team day in and day out, it's harder for him to pick a team without one of his own players because he wants to show that he's looking out for them. Maybe he's doing this to inspire Doan, his captain in Phoenix, who has not done much of anything this season. But the Olympic team should not be the place to serve the interests of individual club teams. If he wanted to pick one of his own players, Curtis Joseph should have been it - except that he and Pat Quinn have issues going back to the last Olympics.

I guess you can't really come down too hard on Gretzky while he deals with the death of his mother. But he will certainly be in the crosshairs once February rolls around if the public doesn't see perfection. Hockey is the one sport in which we demand that, and it's good to see other sports organizations in Canada starting to adopt that attitude as well. It is very possible that we may end up in the top three in the Winter Olympic medal haul in Torino. But if we don't win hockey gold, the country will view our performance as a failure. And when it comes to Canadian hockey, failure is not an option.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

This Is Wire Tap

This shouldn't come as a big surprise to anybody who pays attention, but George W. Bush has done a monumental flip-flop on the issue of wiretaps requiring a court order.

"Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order," he said on April 20, 2004 in Buffalo, New York.

"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," he added.
Apparently, he was against breaking the law before he was for it.

I think, once again, opinion on this will divide along the lines of who trusts this president and his intentions, and who doesn't. For those who believe in him and his cause, no transgression of the law can be too great if it means achieving the ends that the White House propagandists spell out post facto. For those of us who are non-believers in the Almighty Bush, even the tiniest of improprieties is seen as another symptom of the virus that has infected the highest seat of power in the world. The evidence above says that Bush flat-out lied. Not about blowjobs, but about the power to circumvent the courts to monitor his citizens. This smells more of Nixon than of Clinton.

There is a certain arrogance that comes with power. It's everywhere. We know about it in Canada all too well, with the Liberal Party's "culture of entitlement" after lo these many decades in power. Patronage, cronyism, corruption, abuse of power - that seems to be par for the course. But the Bush White House has brought a new twist. Instead of denying wrongdoing, they put out campaigns to justify it in the name of 9/11. The PNAC crowd got their Pearl Harbor, and are milking it for everything it's worth and more. I'm not saying anything new here, but whenever something else comes up that brings the point home, it needs to be mentioned.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Too Little Time

Can't write much tonight - I'm bogged down in a work issue. But I wanted to draw attention to a couple of items. First, proof that you can sometimes be just a wee bit too competitive. Second, the U.S. is engaging in the most egregious torture imaginable to humankind.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Potpourri for $1600, Alex

A few random musings at the end of the weekend:

There's another case of conservative projection taking shape in Canadian politics. Many conservatives are complaining about anti-Americanism on the part of certain politicians and non-Right-thinking Canadians in general. But the kind of disdain they are attributing to others toward the U.S. is what they themselves feel toward Ontario and Toronto. Most of us who have questions about U.S. policy are not vindictive toward that country or its citizens, just critical of those who make policy. On the other hand, the Western conservatives in Canada truly despise their compatriots who are of a different political culture.

So, the U.S. government is now in the business of spying on its own citizens. That all seems to be par for the course when there is a president in charge who regards the U.S. constitution as " just a goddamned piece of paper." But what I find strange is that, in the same breath, Bush can talk about the necessity of the program, while criticizing those who made it publicly known. Huh? If it's justified, then why keep it a secret. Just telling your people that you're monitoring their phone and e-mails doesn't tell them who you're spying on specifically. But you'd have to be totally naive to think that every target of this NSA project is terrorism-related. For shame.

Yesterday I bought a computer desk from Ikea, and assembled it that day. And everything was great. Except that there was a little plastic piece missing. So I had to drive all the way back there again today just to take a number, wait to be called up to the desk, and ask for this little plastic piece. The gas to drive there probably cost over 100 times more than that little plastic piece. I have very little bad to say about Ikea - it's one of my favourite places to shop. (And the return trip allowed me to enjoy another 75 cent frozen yogurt cone, and have another whiff of those cinnamon buns.) But since they are in the business of selling unassembled furniture, they should include extra pieces of all the assembly hardware, to ensure that a good customer doesn't get shortchanged and have to make a long journey back to pick up a little plastic piece needed to complete the assembly. But I'm not bitter.

UPDATE: Hat tip to Mustard Man for providing this tidbit in the comments section. It appears that if there's real hatred, it isn't coming from our side of the border.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

One Down, Three to Go

Mid-December. Snow coming down. Coloured lights on every house. Seasonal music playing on the radio. It can only mean one thing: It's election debate time! I watched the French language debate tonight from Vancouver, and was actually impressed with what I saw, at least in terms of the format. The media questions to all the party leaders after the debate dwelled on whether the chosen debate format was too dry and boring for viewers, as if our electoral process should be turned into just another entertainment choice. But it seems to me that this debate in particular (and the one tomorrow night in English) was in just the right format, because the people who take the time to pay attention to such things in the middle of the Christmas season are interested in getting information. That is, the ones who are still undecided. The vast majority of people who are politically engaged have already made up their minds, and probably wouldn't mind a little bit of back-and-forth fireworks - the political equivalent to a hockey fight. Since I'm not party-committed, I enjoyed seeing each leader present his version of the straight goods.

This was a national debate but, for all practical purposes, it was directed at voters in Quebec. And Paul Martin didn't do himself any favours toward his ambition to retain his Quebec seats. He looked weak when responding to the question from the lady in Quebec who called his bluff on the Bloc=Separation rhetoric. Instead of stepping back and admitting his error, or laying in the bed he made and campaigning strongly on the point (either of which would have made him look more respectable), he resorted to weasel words. Despite his gyrations and inflections, Martin did not do anything to sway anybody in Quebec who had doubts about him or the Liberal Party. And Quebec could turn out to be Martin's Waterloo once all the seats are counted.

Stephen Harper spoke in credible French, but he still seemed uncomfortable expressing himself in that language. For a man who is cardboard at the best of times, he appeared almost straight-jacketed tonight. He was not able to convey his sharpness and passion as well as he will tomorrow night in English. But he effectively communicated his platform and standard talking points - as did Jack Layton. The problem that they both have is that there is very little they can accomplish in Quebec at this point in time, other than perhaps planting some seeds. While they both like to tell Quebec voters that the government scandals are all about the Liberal Party, Gilles Duceppe has ingeniously conflated AdScam with all of Quebec's other grievances with Ottawa over generations. So while Layton and Harper pile on Martin over the sponsorship scandal, they are unwittingly helping the Bloc. The fact is that none of the federalist leaders had any answers on the issue of how to bring Quebec into the constitutional family or providing long term stability to Quebec in confederation. This would have been a great opportunity for Harper to talk about a Conservative vision of renewed federalism with de-centralized powers, but he played it safe. (In fact, a lot of the platform presented by Harper goes contrary to hardline Western conservative values, and even what he himself has advocated in the past. Was that a compromise in the merger with the PC Party, or cloaking of a hidden agenda?) The Conservatives might not pick up seats in Quebec, but any Liberal loss is a gain for them. The NDP probably have more upside in Quebec down the road if the Liberals are deemed party non grata.

Tomorrow night the focus will shift to the rest of the country, and it will be interesting to see how the leaders play to a different audience. It will also be interesting to see if Martin is challenged to explain his asinine remark that a cut in the GST would be regressive. I'll be out tomorrow but I hope to catch a replay later on CPAC. Then we can forget all about this stuff until after the holidays.

P.S. If they are debating in a studio without an audience, and fielding questions from Candians that were recorded on tape, why do they have to be in Vancouver?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Silver Lining on a Dark Cloud

Tomorrow, the Iraqi people will head to the polls for their legislative elections. It is a momentous occasion in the history of that country, and we all hope that nobody is victimized in exercising their newly found democratic right. I don't expect there to be too many incidents of violence, and turnout should be pretty high. Let's face it, for people who have never had a choice before, this kind of election is pretty exciting stuff. I could go on and nitpick about the kind of choices they have, and how their constitution is rigged in favour of outside business interests and real world concerns like that. I have sincere doubts about whether the Iraqi system can hold together without an outside presence - and those of us on the Left believe it is being crafted that way by design, to ensure a permanent presence there. But I'll let that slide for now, because it's a time to celebrate democracy. We have plenty of shortfalls in our own democratic models.

This all brings us back to the question of whether the invasion of Iraq was a good thing. As we hail the new democracy in Iraq, we must remind ourselves that the war was deemed necessary because of WMD. Bush is now finally taking responsibility for the "intelligence failures", but at a time when he can show the world a positive by-product of his actions. The successes should make people forget about the transgressions, and any questions about the legalities of the invasion. So do the ends justify the means? I made a comment on another blog that I am happy that the war has led to Iraqis experiencing democracy, but that I also ride on the rails that were laid down by slaves. I think most people will agree that slavery in the U.S. was a terrible thing, but those same people still reap the benefits of slavery every day. The United States could not have become the economic and military superpower it is now in such a relatively short period of time if not for the great wealth generated on the backs of slaves for hundreds of years. Consequently, they wouldn't have the power to go overthrow rogue dictators and create democracies. So does that mean that slavery should now be considered a good thing? Doesn't history show that it resulted in a greater good? Wouldn't we all be speaking Russian or German if not for slavery in America? Ponder that for a little while.

It may not be a perfect analogy, but it begs a philosophical question about whether actions should be judged by their ethics or by their results. I hope the Iraqi people find peace and stability, whether Bush really has their welfare in mind or not. Whatever happens, it doesn't take him off the hook.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Another Year None the Wiser

It's my birthday and I'll rant if I want to.

I admit that my blogging lately has been a bit erratic. Over the last couple of weeks there have been a few days in which I did not post, and I feel guilty about that. Not that I have to answer to anyone except myself here, but I really wanted to commit to writing every day, even if I had nothing much to say, as an exercise in discipline and as a public diary of sorts. It isn't that my ambition to write has lost steam - far from it. But I must admit that in the last little while it has been a real chore to put something down in black and white, and I've found myself sometimes preferring to pursue other activities. I could write about those things, but they aren't conducive to analysis and discussion. At this point in time I would rather research decorating possibilities for my new condo than read news sites and political blogs. I've mentioned before how I sometimes run into blog fatigue, and I admire the people who can stick with the red meat day in and day out. But lately I've lost my taste for that kind of discourse, and my bullshit metre is pinning. There's a Canadian election coming up next month, and I'll be right into that, but just not yet. There's still a war going on but no meaningful dialogue, because the two sides of the domestic debate might as well be from Jupiter and Saturn. I'm getting a headache from the conflicting polls cited. I'm tiring of the mean-spiritedness and/or closed-mindedness on both sides of the coin. Like most blog participants on both sides, I'm disappointed in the ignorance of the general public. And I'm generally depressed about politics as a whole. I can't even bring myself to watch and ridicule Bill O'Reilly right now. But I'll get over it soon. There's an election to talk about - two actually, including Iraq. I'll have something to say about that soon enough. For now, I think I'll have a piece of cake. This rant is over. Back to the regularly scheduled dead air.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Tomorrow Never Knows

A former colleague at my company passed away suddenly this week at the age of 47, apparently from a massive stroke. I went to the visitation earlier today. The news of Drew's passing came as a complete shock to everyone at work, as he was probably the last person that we would expect this to happen to. He was slim, active, and healthy by any measure. He left behind a wife and two university-age children. He just left our company about a year ago after being there for thirteen years. I did not work directly with Drew (except a little bit in my first couple of years with the company), but we had a number of golf outings over the years, and I got to meet his family several times at company events. I think you'll find a needle in a haystack before you'll find anybody who has a bad word to say about Drew. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word - warm, friendly, a consummate professional and a great family man.

I don't know how much stress played a role, or whether there were genetic factors involved, but it really doesn't matter to the people who cared about Drew. To lose a loved one any time is hard, but exponentially so when it happens without any conceivable expectation. I got to chat briefly with his wife today, and she said the suddenness was very hard on the family, but a relief that he didn't have any pain or suffering. She was putting up a brave face, but she was having a very hard time as one would expect under the circumstances. Drew had a very large family, and many friends and contacts through work, so the visitation line was quite long (and this was the third of four visitations). I hope that brought some comfort to the family, even if just for a while. The funeral will be tomorrow morning.

I suppose that this is just another wake-up call about how fleeting life can be. My boss has been in a stunned state ever since we got the news. He and Drew were both VP's in the company, and just a month apart in age. My boss also lost his mother-in-law recently, and yet another VP just lost her mother - it has been a very tough couple of weeks for our company's extended family. But Drew's passing has given all of us pause, realizing that this could have happened to any of us. No matter how much you take care of yourself and plan for a long and healthy life, there are no guarantees. Drew was an actuary's dream, and that didn't help him. Still, we have to remind ourselves that it happens far more often to those who don't take care of themselves. And that it happens to bad people as well as good, but we only take note of the ones who were good. We don't have much power to live longer, but we have a lot of power to live better. And that is our responsibility. Drew was a fine example for us all to follow.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Very Short Trip

This has been a week of troubling stories in the news. The most bizarre of them was this one about the poor schlemazel with bi-polar disorder who was killed by an air marshall after storming off the plane and allegedly threatening to detonate a bomb. Or was he? According to his fellow passengers, he never used the "B-word", nor threatened the airplane or passengers in any way. It seemed to be a case of a mentally ill patient freaking out over flying, and the air marshall over-reacting to the situation - a tragic error as a by-product of our post-9/11 existence. But neither the air marshall, nor his colleagues, nor the White House will ever concede that a mistake was made.

I have nothing but the utmost admiration for the people who protect us on an everyday basis. Law enforcement is difficult, dangerous, and without many personal rewards - much like military service. And I think that helps to explain the bunker mentality that is prevalent among law enforcement personnel. Their skin tends to be quite thin when it comes to examination and criticism. Whenever an incident is made public in which common sense says that a mistake was made by police, every policeman and their superiors immediately get their back up as if they feel that every one of them is under attack. The same type of thing happens in the military.

In a way, it is an admirable display of loyalty and unity. But it's also delusional. Just because somebody works in a heroic vocation, that doesn't mean that all accountability to the public they serve is waived. And nobody is perfect. There are people in every profession who are incompetent, or corrupt, or who make an occasional mistake. Wouldn't it be better for the overall morale of a law enforcement community (or military outfit) to deal with the individuals involved and their actions, rather than be gripped by paranoia and complain about the messengers who report the story? Or to believe that those who criticize the incident in question somehow don't appreciate the work they do as a whole?

The death of Rigoberto Alpizar was a tragedy. I expect that President Bush and his spokesman will refer to Alpizar as another casualty in the war on terror, which I suppose he was. But I'm not convinced that this death was unavoidable, and can only hope that all the facts eventually see the light of day. To err is human. To ignore error, or whitewash it, is negligent.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

All Those Years Ago

December 7 and 8 mark two days of infamy in the 20th century. The attack on Pearl Harbor and the murder of John Lennon. While one event was clearly more significant in its scope and consequences, the other left an indelible imprint on many people's lives. I can't do the Pearl Harbor experience justice, so I'll talk a bit about Lennon.

Among the four Beatles, I think of George Harrison as probably the most impressive as a human being, but John Lennon was, by far, the most interesting among them. He was also the most human in many ways. He was intensely thoughtful, but with childlike impishness. His life and music were both erratic, and yet produced more brilliance than anybody could aspire to in a full lifetime. He took a stand against the Vietnam War, and got a special file at Nixon's FBI. This was a man who was kicked out of the house by Yoko Ono and basically wandered the streets of New York for a year. Then they got back together, and he abandoned his music career for almost five years to be a stay-at-home dad. And in between it all, he produced some of the most memorable music ever. And that doesn't even include his years with the Beatles, when he was the one who pushed the envelope (am I the only person who likes Revolution 9?) and inspired the others to do the same.

Lennon was killed just before my 13th birthday. He had just released his first album in five years, so I have no recollections of him as a living performer and can't say that his death left any impression on me at the time. But many others regarded the event as cataclysmic, not just the violent death of a pop star. Some have opined that the reason the death of Lennon was taken so hard is that it marked an official end to the idealism of the 60's, and a wake-up call for the baby boomer generation. Instant karma hit them right in the face. I believe there's something to that. There's also the sad irony of somebody who sang bout the virtues of peace and love meeting a violent end. But a lot of it was people coming to grips with their own mortality. Those who grew up with the Beatles could feel young and invulnerable no more. Could it also have been John's prescient lyrics? "The way things are going, they're gonna crucify me." (The Ballad of John and Yoko) "Shoot me." (Come Together)

John Lennon was a fallible homo sapien who contributed mightily to the culture of his time, and whose work will surely be enjoyed for centuries. He wanted to help create a better world, and he did make many people's worlds a little bit richer. Maybe he has found his own peace as well. Imagine.

UPDATE: Here's a piece that expresses these thoughts much better than I could ever hope to.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Election Haiku

Mr. Dithers says
Liberal Party's not corrupt
As his cheeks grow fat

Stephen Harper's coy
Smiles while we cannot see
Hidden agenda

Smiling Jack will use
Health card, not a credit card
But he'll have to wait

As for Gilles Duceppe
Nothing to say about him
Bloc-heads do not count

Monday, December 05, 2005

No-Diet Diet

This is an item that's too good to resist. After recent good news stories about the virtues of caffeine and chocolate, we now have the No-Diet Diet. Any of us who have gone through the trials of losing weight like to think that there's a magic bullet out there. But a professor at Brigham Young University has discovered that the best way to deal with cravings is to satisfy them. Steven Hawks managed to keep 50 pounds off this way. He calls his approach "intuitive eating".

As part of intuitive eating, Hawks surrounds himself with unhealthy foods he especially craves. He says having an overabundance of what's taboo helps him lose his desire to gorge.

There is a catch to this no-diet diet, however: Intuitive eaters only eat when they're hungry and stop when they're full.

That means not eating a box of chocolates when you're feeling blue or digging into a big plate of nachos just because everyone else at the table is.

The trade-off is the opportunity to eat whatever your heart desires when you are actually hungry.

My own experience was quite the opposite. I'd avoid having junk food in my home at all costs, because I know that it would somehow make its way into my belly, either by osmosis or some other metaphysical phenomenon. Everybody has their own comfort level when it comes to self-discipline. For me it was being disciplined enough not to buy unhealthy foods at the store, or not stop at fast food places. We have vending machines at work that I walk by every day. Well, not every day - I'll have a treat once in a while, but not very often. The point is, I've made a lifestyle change, but it is a change in the kinds of foods that I eat and in my awareness of calories and fat counts and things like that. What Hawks has done is sharpen his awareness of his wants and needs - to go for what he wants, but only when he needs it. That is an exercise in self-control. I think it's a very healthy approach to anything in life (well, most things), and could be a recipe for success outside of the realm of weight-loss. Very interesting. Any guinea pigs out there?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

More F's Than A's

Members of the former 9/11 Commission are going to release a report on Monday in which they will assess how the commission's anti-terror recommendations have been implemented so far. Their initial evaluation is not good.

Since the commission's final report in July 2004, the government has enacted the centerpiece proposal to create a national intelligence director. But it has stalled on other ideas, including improving communication among emergency responders and shifting federal terrorism-fighting
money so it goes to states based on risk level.


[Chairman Thomas] Kean and [vice chairman Lee] Hamilton urged Congress to pass spending bills that would allow police and fire to communicate across radio spectrums and to reallocate money so
that Washington and New York, which have more people and symbolic landmarks, could receive more for terrorism defense. Both bills have stalled in Congress, in part over the level of spending and turf fights over which states should get the most dollars.

That seems like legislative business as usual. Aside from the structural and procedural recommendations by the 9/11 Commission, there are still well-documented concerns about security at ports, power plants and chemical plants. In other words, there are plenty of vulnerable targets should terrorists wish to strike again, and plenty of opportunity. So the obvious question is: why hasn't that happened yet?

I have a couple of theories. We know that Al Qaeda's M.O. is to orchestrate these elaborate, multi-front operations, and they always try to pull off something original. They seem to take more pride in their ability to execute a difficult plan than in its consequences. So in their hubris, they might feel that the next attack on America will have to be something even greater and more improbable than 9/11. The more complex a plan, the more likely it will be thwarted by loose lips or good intelligence (9/11 notwithstanding), so some new Al Qaeda schemes might have been quashed before they could get off the ground.

But I have a conflicting theory on why the U.S. has not been attacked again. A couple of weeks back I wrote about one of the men responsible for the Madrid bombings having detailed information about the Montreal Metro on his laptop, and my speculation as to why Montreal might be a terrorist target. I hypothesized that contrary to conventional opinion, the point of terrorist attacks are to get countries to join the war, not to stay out of it. ("Maybe it's the terrorists who are playing the 'flypaper' game.") Since the U.S. is full throttle in Iraq, there was no need to waste resources there. However, as chatter starts to increase about troop pullouts and disengagement, that is when America is more liable to be attacked. Then they will be more eager to redouble their efforts in the war, and allow the cycle to continue.

I don't know what the answer is, but nobody should make assumptions about their safety from terrorism. There is a war on terror to be fought out there, and it can be fought sensibly. But the sensible fight has been delayed by the Iraq diversion, and it's hard to tell how many years it will take to get back on track. In the meantime, watch your back.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Weekend Leftovers

Well, it's been a couple of days. I hit the Friday wall on Thursday night, and then last night I had all kinds of homework to do. So now I'm back to my regularly scheduled drivel.

A lot of times when I come across something that might be worth blogging about - a news story or someone else's blog entry - I'll save the URL in the Notepad section of Yahoo Mail and get around to writing about it later. But I am starting to get a backlog in there, so I wanted to address some of what I've accumulated over the last few weeks for your reading pleasure.


Key Bush Intelligence Briefing Kept From Hill Panel

In a President's Daily Brief (PDB) on September 21, 2001, the president was told that the U.S. intelligence community had "scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda." The alleged ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were presented as one of the public rationales for the war in Iraq. "You can't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror," President Bush said on September 25, 2002. Despite repeated requests by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the White House has refused to turn over the September 21, 2001 PDB.

One of the more intriguing things that Bush was told during the briefing was that the few credible reports of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda involved attempts by Saddam Hussein to monitor the terrorist group. Saddam viewed Al Qaeda as well as other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime. At one point, analysts believed, Saddam considered infiltrating the ranks of Al Qaeda with Iraqi nationals or even Iraqi intelligence operatives to learn more about its inner workings, according to records and sources.

The article is lengthy, but very interesting in laying out some of the discrepancies between information gathered by the intelligence community and the public message put forward by the Bush Administration. This is an important point, because it show that the march to war was not simply based on "intelligence failures." There definitely were failures of intelligence, and even the contents of the mystery PDB's might be erroneous. But this is the information the administration had to work with, and they chose to present their case selectively. (More about that here.)


Facts vs Punditry; the Liberal-Conservative Debate

This is an elaboration of stuff I've talked about in the past, but written much more coherently. The reason the American MSM is seen to slant left is that facts and knowledge are liberal by definition.

The countermeasures that the Right demanded of the "mainstream" media, in outrage at the terrible liberality of a New York Times or Big Three network, is that factual journalism include conservative opinions about the story at hand, as "balance" to the presumed slant of each article. And they got it, in spades: there are few stories in today's press that don't include a conservative talking point from a conservative think-tank-based talking head to balance even a patently obvious and accepted fact. In the years of the Bush administration, much of factual "journalism" has positively devolved into a Monty Pythonesque Argument Sketch, with few scientific or other unambiguously factual stories that do not contain at least a token conservative figure to proclaim an unsupportable "No it isn't."

Conservatives like to point to studies about how many "negative" stories are on the news about Bush. But a story that reports bad news that actually occurred is just a reporting of facts. As Yogi would say, you can look it up. (Take note of the link within the link for an excellent expose of Michelle Malkin's dubious journalistic credentials.)


Whistleblower's Iraq claims to be investigated

A whistleblower's claims that reconstruction in Iraq has been rife with waste, fraud and abuse -- particularly in regard to a division of Halliburton -- will be turned over to the Justice Department, a U.S. senator said Friday.

We'll see what comes of this, if anything. The allegations of gouging and waste on the part of Halliburton subsidiary KBR aren't anything new, and the Republican Congress has not wanted anything to do with them. Having the Bush/Cheney Justice Department investigate this is like having the Liberal Justice Ministry investigating AdScam. In other words, this will likely be the last you read of this story.

(BTW, Canadian Conservative readers, fiascos surrounding fiscal mismanagement in Iraq make the Liberal scandals and mismanagement look like peanut shells. I'm not defending the Libranos in any way shape or form, but just putting things into proper perspective for you folks who look at the Bush administration as the Utopian model for our government to follow.)


I know I've left you with a large reading assignment today, but I had to catch up. Tomorrow I'll have something lighter. Or perhaps not.