Friday, May 07, 2004

Bill O'Reilly Threatens Canada with Sanctions for Harbouring Peace-Loving American "Deserters"

This man must have balls the size of Texas. Bill O'Reilly is actually threatening to lead a national boycott of Canadian products just because two Americans have chosen to flee the "undeclared war" in Iraq (Mr. O'Reilly readily admits that the war was undeclared himself, meaning it violates international law).

He even goes as far as spewing some thinly-veiled threats that will most likely ring hollow if cooler heads prevail:

"We respect honest disagreement, but undermining our military in the middle of the war on terror by providing sanctuary for deserters, lawbreakers is a hostile act.

Canada is totally dependent on the USA for its economic well-being. It best remember that in this very serious situation."

Mr. O'Reilly, I agree with you. We do depend on you to a maddening degree, but you must not forget that You depend on Us too. It is a two-way partnership and we are your largest trading partner. We share the world's longest undefended border; we signed on to your Free Trade Agreement and your NAFTA; hell, we're even willing to agree to the questionable FTAA, an accord chock-full of corporate loopholes that will decimate the environment and set human rights back a hundred years all the way from Alaska to Chile.

I appreciate the fact that you respect our right to have an opinion that runs counter your neoconservative Perpetual War Theory, but why can't you just leave us be? We're a sovereign nation and we have a great tradition of peace. When we send troops into a country, they're wearing the blue helmets of the United Nations, and we're damned proud of that. We don't just summarily invade places to forcefeed Democracy down their throats. We're a peaceful lot.

If you want to push away your best (and one of the only) friends you have in the whole world, perhaps we'll have to cozy up to the European Union a little more. They've got the technology, the democratic institutions, and even a sense that we must protect our fragile environment, which appears to be a lot more than you have these days.

About the torture (Rumsfeld calls it "abuse") of the Iraqi prisoners, we once had a similar scandal. Back in 1993, our Airborne Regiment was accused of torturing prisoners in Somalia while on a Peacekeeping mission, echoing the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal that currently threatens to remove your Secretary of Defence from office. Instead of just placing the blame on a handful of soldiers and a few token Brigade Commanders like you are currently doing in Iraq, we completely disbanded our Airborne Regt. in 1995. Canadians don't stand for torture, be it of our own citizens (like Canadian Mayer Arar, whom you deported based on scanty evidence) or one of our foes.

Now that an American suspect is being accused of having ties to the 3/11 Bombing, perhaps Spain will decide that you are harbouring terrorists and lay waste to your great nation, just like you did to Afghanistan when Saudi Arabians bombed your WTC. I know, I know. That is one of those crazy Canadian ideas. We borrowed it from the ancient Greeks--no, not rhetoric. It's called logic.

One last thing: I believe that everyone should have the freedom to worship (or not to worship) the religion of their choice. I can't say that I agree with "thugs" like Muqtada Al-Sadr because he could spark a sectarian civil war in Iraq after the transition on June 30th. Still, clothed in his ceremonial burial garb, "ready for martyrdom", he had the following to say during a Friday speech at a Mosque in Kufa.

"America claims that it is fighting terrorism, and not sponsoring it, and is spreading justice and equality among peoples and freedom and democracy. Now it is doing the same acts done by the small devil Saddam and in the same place where Iraqis were oppressed.''

Your heavy-handed, poorly planned, illegal war with Iraq doesn't seem to be getting any better, but you are making a radical cleric with a fundamentalist agenda into a hero of sorts to many Iraqis. Sort of reminds me of when you overthrew Mossadegh to install the Shah, only to have him overthrown by a Fundamentalist revolution. How did that turn out again?

Rumsfeld Backed into a Corner: Takes Responsibilty For Abu Ghraib Torture Controversy

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee today (live on CNN), U.S. Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld faced several tough questions from the bi-partisan Senators. After being asked if he thought that any new evidence of torture would surface, he admitted that there would probably be more incidences of torture reported. He explained this by saying that since there were six different investigations going on, they would undoubtedly uncover more allegations of torture. He even went as far as admitting that he had heard of some videotapes which documented the "abuse" (he refused to call it torture but it sounded a lot like a matter of semantics).

Waving his hands like magical talismans to ward off the difficult questions, he conjured up images of a man who is fearing for his own political survival. It will take more than just words to exonerate him from the repercussions of this scandal. Democrats and Republicans alike are calling for his resignation, or in the very least, an explanation as to why these horrible events were not reported to the Senate and to the American people as soon as they were discovered.

There are even signs that General Richard Myers attempted to censor the pictures before they aired on CBS. Although this fact was already reported in the news media before Sec. Rumsfeld testified, General Myers denied that he had attempted to surpress the photos. He said that he had only requested that CBS delay the release of the photos until a later date, in order to protect the lives of American troops.

When Senator Mark Pryor - (D-AR) pressed the issue, Secretary Rumsfeld interjected and explained that it was common in American history for the military to limit the release of certain information for a certain period of time in order to protect certain objectives in times of war.

Although Rumsfeld accepted full responsibility for the "mistreatment" of the Iraqis imprisoned at Abu Ghraib Prison but he also said that the actions were "unamerican" and against the values of the United States. He also denied any allegations that he might resign.

In the very least, Donald Rumsfeld may have taken a political bullet for incumbent U.S. President George W. Bush. Rumsfeld pointed out that he had not briefed President Bush with the proper information that would have enabled him to realize the severity and ramifications of the torture that went on at Abu Ghraib. This makes Bush seem like an innocent while Rumsfeld becomes the fall-guy, the one who didn't warn the boss when the smoke began to rise.

It will be very difficult to remove Secretary Rumsfeld from office but there were protesters who demanded the very same near the beginning of Rumsfeld's statement. They were escorted out soon after by security.

What really struck me is how Republican Senator John McCain ignored the potential political fallout and asked that Abu Ghraib prison be evacuated and demolished, as a symbol of how torture would never occur in Iraq again. He was echoed by some of the other Senators in demanding that this structure be torn down. It showed courage and I wouldn't expect any less from Mr. McCain. Although I don't agree with all of his domestic policies, he still has a backbone and he answers to the American people, not to the whims of his own Party.

This minute, the House of Representatives is beginning their questioning of Donald Rumsfeld. A Californian Republican Representative just indicated that all the attention being focused on the Abu Ghraib torture scandal is exactly "what the enemy wants" and compared it to Vietnam. Finally, the Republicans are drawing parallels with that last quagmire that the American government trampled into.

Economist Cover- May 6th

Courtesy of moderate conservative pundit and renowned blogger Andrew Sullivan, the Economist is asking for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation, flat out. He committed the cardinal sin of falling asleep during his watch and now he will have to atone for his transgressions, Old Testament Style. My prediction? Within a year, he'll be sitting behind a desk at Halliburton fantasizing about his political days.

Five Reasons Not to Smash Your Television

I've had a love/hate relationship with television for years. As a boy, I was drawn to the warm glow of the cathode ray tube and the two-dimensional images that flickered on our Hitachi screen. Socially awkward and frightened of my own intellect, I would immerse myself in the safe, happy world of "Degrassi Jr. High" or contemplate the enormity of the universe with Carl Sagan in his series "Cosmos". I noticed that every problem in TV Land could be solved within thirty minutes, including commercial breaks, and everybody made the right choice in the end. It was quite comforting, I suppose.

Years later, in the midst of my post-teenage rebellious phase, I began to scold my friends and neighbours about their natural fondness for television. (I've always been somewhat dogmatic, for better or worse) This was during my college years in Gaspé, that maritime village that calls itself a city. While my roommates would be watching "WWF Monday Night Raw", I would hide in my room reading Nietzche and feeling oh so superior. I know that this makes me sound like a pretentious fuckhead but I was 16 and I had to turn against the child I used to be, that TV-admiring little panic rat who lived in a virtual paradise.

Part of the reason that I turned away from the Blue Box was because of what it represented: I thought that it was a mind-numbing influence that eliminated the need for conversation, possibly signifying the death knell of modern civilization. If our eyes are fixed on the screen, we're not reading great literature or painting a watercolour: we're just absorbing the dreams of a hack writer who lives a stone's throw from Beverly Hills, or waiting for the Wheel to stop spinning so that we can guess the next letter.

Although I never really stopped watching the damned thing, I eventually reached the point where I couldn't watch a program without criticizing it for all it's flaws, or at least savagely denigrating the commercials that appeared every 10 minutes or so. Before long, my friends were tired of my posturing and let me know that I was being an ass. Soon, I gave up trying to criticize TV and just tried to ignore it.

Today, I am proud to say that I have reached a balance of suspicion and admiration for the "Idiot Box". I am still very resistant to commercials (except that Dairy Queen one where the baby kicks the father right in the crotch. That one is hilarious) but the following programs have won my heart. They are the reason why I don't smash my television. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: A highly-addictive form of fake television journalism that never ceases to amaze me. Host Jon Stewart serves up witty, acerbic commentary and interviews many high profile guests with a level of poise and honesty rarely seen on American television. Although the satirical news thing has been done before, the Daily Show just does it better than I've ever seen. In case you have any lingering doubts, take a swig of chocolate milk and try to listen to one of Stephen Colbert's segments without blowing the milk out of your nose. Rob Corddry and Steve Carell are also violently funny. It appears here in Canada on Comedy Central every night @ 11 PM EST.

  • Trailer Park Boys: True "Canadiana", this faux-documentary series covers the life and times of some troubled Nova Scotians and their near-brushes with law enforcement. Set in an authentic trailer park near Halifax, main characters Ricky, Julian, and Bubbles are always trying to stay one step ahead of getting busted. Some of their recent episodes include backyard wrestling, cars being flipped by a Ricky-piloted Caterpillar Loader, Ricky and Julian scheming to buy out the trailer park by growing thousands of outdoor marijuana plants, and a massage parlour run out of the park that attracts some negative attention. Combining comedy with some compelling characters in a familiar rural setting, this series is in it's fourth season. You can catch it on Showcase every Sunday night at 9 PM EST.

  • Hockey Night in Canada: The "coolest sport on earth" beamed live into living rooms and bars across this great nation. People watch HNIC almost religiously, regardless of their background or first language. I'm quite certain that this is the unknown "X-factor" that holds Canada together. Without it, we'd be nothing more than a former British colony that hugs the continental United States. Hockey is fast-paced, exciting, and has enough drama to rival any popular soap opera. Don't miss the slapshots, bone-shattering body checks, and if you're really lucky, double overtime that will leave you breathless. CBC is kind enough to provide HNIC throughout the hockey season. Visit their website for the Stanley Cup Playoff schedule (we're down to four teams!).

  • The Simpsons: Nearly ubiquitous animated weekly satire that pushes all the right buttons and takes no prisoners. Although the quality has been diluted over the years--they're running out of ideas but can you blame them?--the Simpsons are still good for a laugh from time to time. They've appeared on Fox for the past 15 years (Sundays at 8 PM EST) but I suspect that their broadcasting days are numbered. Enjoy their hijinks while you can.

  • Crossfire: File this one in the "Guilty Pleasures" category, right up there with Pay-per-View Porn. Crossfire is the American template for a political discussion program but it is more like watching a hybrid of Ultimate Fighting Championship and C-Span, complete with a bell that sounds every minute to signify a change of topics and bi-partisan hosts that can barely contain their contempt for one another. In a fairly obvious form of symbolism, they place the Democratic supporters on the left side of the stage and the Republicans on the right. When the shouting begins, you know that you're in for an enjoyable show (although they never really resolve anything because both sides refuse to admit when they're wrong). It still makes for some compelling television. Crossfire appears on CNN every weekday at 4:30 PM EST.

Honourable mentions include Elimidate (for the hidden voyeur in you) and Family Guy (although cancelled, you can still find FG on Teletoon at 10 PM weekdays).

Have I left any exceptional programming off this list? Please comment below.