The Joseph Wilson Affair

The Joseph Wilson Affair

That’s what they’ll be calling it, and for once it looks like Americans might wake up en masse and take notice. The Affair starts with a July 6 New York Times op-ed piece written by Joseph C Wilson, former U.S ambassador to Gabon. He went to Niger at the behest of Dick Cheney’s office to investigate a possible sale of ‘yellowcake uraniaum’ from Niger to Iraq. In it, Wilson doesn’t merely criticize the Bush Administration’s handling of pre-war Iraq intelligence, but makes a very good case that intelligence was deliberately twisted to suit the administration’s Iraq policy. Reading it, the Bushies must have been very worried.

Turns out they were very pissed off. On July 14th, conservative columnist Rober Novak revealed that Joseph’s Wilson’s wife, according to “two senior administrion officials”, is a “his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.”. If we assume Novak isn’t lying about this, and this information was in fact revealed to him (i have no reason to think other wise), then this is a major federal crime that could get these officials many years in jail. It’s been likened to putting a gun to the head of the agent. The first Bush actually passed the law that made this a serious offence. No doubt Bush will have no problems with jailtime, but hopefully some of the other criminals will get what they deserve.

So now another “senior administrion official” has told the Washinton Post that “…before Novak’s column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson’s wife. Wilson had just revealed that the CIA had sent him to Niger last year to look into the uranium claim and that he had found no evidence to back up the charge. Wilson’s account touched off a political fracas over Bush’s use of intelligence as he made the case for attacking Iraq.

There’s some link to commentary and links to all the original stories at Body and Soul.


Weekend Shows

Well, just in case it slips my mind, there are two shows of note this weekend. First. this evening, a good few people will be going to the Sapphire Club to check out old-school punk rock band “Jerk Appeal”, fronted by BarFly bartender “Ted Haircut” and his buddy Curt from the “Stitches”. Should be a good night of old-school punk rock.

But the bill of the weekend is undoubtedly Starvin’ Hungry with The Dropouts at Petit Campus on Saturday. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Starvin Hungry at the Barfly a few times, and they’re loud, intense, and remind me of why I got into punk rock all those years ago. The Dropouts were a big surprise for me one very busy Friday night at the Barfly a few months ago. They were completely unknown to me, and they came on like they’d been playing for years, but apparently these guys haven’t been “bar legal” for too long. Anyway, this is the show, and I’ll probably have an entry devoted to it on Sunday or Monday.

And, as of the end of the day today, I’m on vacation. Woohoo!

World’s Greatest Reindeer Drive

It’s fairly rare I spend a Thursday evening in, but last night it was just the ticket. Good thing, too, or I would have missed the The Herd, a true Canadian story of the “world’s greatest reindeer drive”. It’s hard for most of us to imagine what it would be like to drive 3,000 reindeer for 1500 miles from Buckland, Alaska to the Mackenzie River area of the Northwest Territories, but this film does a great job of recreating it. 62 year-old Andy Bahr, described by one of the characters as “the world’s best reindeer man”, began the trek on Dec 26, 1929 and was supposed to reach his destination with his crew and herd 18 months later. Six years later, he made it and was only 1 reindeer short of 3,000. The trials and tribulations of this massive undertaking were chronicled in Bahr’s journals, which are really the focul point of the story.

To give as an idea of what kind of conditions the herdsmen and the herds were subjected to, the filmakers give us an aerial view of the journey, showing us at once how awe-inspiring and forbidding the Arctic landscape can be, and use descendants of the original herd along to show their movements. They also use stand-in actors to recreate some typical scenes, but they don’t talk and instead journal entries from Bahr and a couple of his men are read by actors. Bahr’s journal entries are read by Graham Greene, and they are probably the best part.

Imagine that after a year of travelling the route from Alaska to the Yukon, they only managed to cover 200 miles, and had another 1300 miles to go before reaching their destination. They experienced 6 brutally cold arctic entries, often very low on supplies like food and wood. I watched this film and was completely engaged by the visuals and the voiced-over journal and letter readings.

This is a documentary film, but the director uses some dramatic re-enactments at times which may put this in that grey area called the Docu-drama. But this is really a straight-forward documentary account of what must be one of the greatest achievements of any herdsman. These guys who went to the North Pole first are famous, but for me the story of the directed movement of a herd of reindeer accross the Arctic spanning 6 years is simply one of the best stories of human achievment and endurance I’ve ever had the pleasure of “watching”.

If you get a chance to see this, do yourself a favour and watch “The Herd”

September 11 for Chile and New York

We’re not going to be getting away with forgetting what this day now means to people the world over. But before delving into the more recent 9-11, I’d just like to draw attention for a minute to what happened on “9-11-1973” in Chile. The first I heard about this was in my Sec V World history class with Miss Eckers (MCMHS 1982-83). Somehow I doubt if American students my age had ever heard about this, let alone known that their government at the time orchestrated a coup to oust a democratically elected President Allende. That’s what we learned then, long before the documents relating to the coup were de-classfied. As an angry and politically left-leaning 17 year old at the time, I saw this as proof the US were not a whole lot better than their Soviet counterparts. As far as I was concerned, if the US was capable of orchestrating such an event, which led to the deaths of thousands of Chileans and even some foreign nationals, then how could they have the moral upperhand on the evil Soviet Empire? This event was a tragedy and remains a moment of shame in the history of the US. Of course, adding insult to injury is they installed General Agusto Pinochet, a brutal dictator if ever there was one. What does it say about our lovers of “Freedom” and “Democracy” when they depose ademocratically elected leader and put in its place a brutal dictator? Just what one would think: the US really didn’t want a democracy in Chile if the felt their commercial interests would be compromised.

Though it wasn’t the first time the US has orchestrated the overthrow of a democratically elected government. All the Shahs Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror , a book I haven’t read yet, but was introduced to via an a fascinating interview on Democracy Now. Turns out Iran in August 1953 was the first time the US overthrew a democratically elected government, and this has had huge implications for the Middle East as a whole, and is probably responsible for the rise of fundamentalism in Iran which led to the ’79 Revolution. Again, the message was pretty clear. If US interests are threatened (ie, oil), we will not tolerate the will of the Iranian people and will install a dictatorship. As author Stephen Kinzer puts it:

“[i]t is not far-fetched to draw a line from Operation Ajax [the name of the coup] through the Shah’s repressive regime and the Islamic Revolution to the fireballs that engulfed the World Trade Center in New York.”

Which brings us to that tragic day 2 years ago, a day we will not soon forget. Taking politics out of it for a moment, lest anyone think I’m “for the terrorists” (there was a lot of that going in the weeks and months that followed that fateful day), my view is that this is as barbaric an act as it gets. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has made so many foreign policy blunders, that it’s hard to imagine that 2 years ago today the US had the sympathy of the world, whereas today most of the world hates or is actually scared of what the US has become. They’ve also stonewalled the commission investigating the attacks. Farcically, Henry Kissenger was first appointed as head of this commission, but had to refuse when it turned out he’d have to disclose any conflice of interest. Then, oddly, they appointed former New Jersey governor Thom Kean, who actually has business ties to Osama Bin Laden’s brother-in-law. Crazy, and it’s no wonder some families of the victims are crying foul.

To end this rant, and remember what a tragic day this was, here’s the most famous photo you’ve never seen. Horrible…..

The Amorphous American Mind

This Washington Post poll shows just how muddled the American mind has become. Somehow, 69% of Americans believe that Saddam “was personally involved in the September 11 terrorist attacks”, which would be funny if it weren’t so frightening. The Bush Administration has never actually claimed that Saddam was involved in the 9-11 attacks, but has repeatedly mentioned his name in the same breath as references to the attacks. How could this happen? An article in the same paper gives as good a reason for this as I can think of:

“Some Democrats said that although Bush did not make the direct link to the 2001 attacks, his implications helped to turn the public fury over Sept. 11 into support for war against Iraq. “You couldn’t distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein,” said Democratic tactician Donna Brazile. “Every member of the administration did the drumbeat. My mother said if you repeat a lie long enough, it becomes a gospel truth. This one became a gospel hit.”

The quote from Donna Brazile pretty much sums up how I saw their tactics in the runup to the Iraq War. What scares me is this as Orwellian as it gets. The Bush defenders in the article lamely say “”The intellectual argument is there is a war in Iraq and a war on terrorism and you have to separate them, but the public doesn’t do that,” said Matthew Dowd, a Bush campaign strategist. “They see Middle Eastern terrorism, bad people in the Middle East, all as one big problem.”. These people definitely understand how easy it is to manipulate the American mind.

It’s a great article, and as part of an effor on my part to document as much as possible of what I read on the ‘Net, I couldn’t help but devote a small entry to it.

Ric Burns’ History of the WTC

A real treat last night on PBS, a network I haven’t had access to in 11 years, but thankfully managed to get access to last night at a neighbour’s flat to watch Episode 8 of Ric Burns’ New York: A Documentary Film. I thought it was going to be an hour, but if I had known that its conception and construction were as epic as it’s destruction was tragic I would have known better. This was as riveting as historical documentaries get, rivaling in scope the work of Ric’s brother Ken, of “Civil War” and “Baseball” fame.

There’s a great story on the film at the Twin Cities Pioneer Press with a quote form Ric Burns which I think says it all about the WTC:

“It was quite literally the most massive projection of economic power anywhere in the world after World War II,” Burns said. “In it, you see all the same forces that reshaped the world, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, the World Bank and the Marshall Plan. It was connected at the start, in 1946, to that tremendous projection of world power.”

That Al-Queda would have chosen the WTC as a target for their most ambitious terrorist attack comes as no surprise. It stood for everything they despise about the US.

I have to get this on DVD.



Welcome to my little blog, a place on the Internet where I can document the goings on in my life and neighbourhood, one of the great places to live on the planet. It’s been 10 years for me in this place, and there’s rarely been a dull moment. The problem is those of us who live here often get a little insulated from the rest of the city, and lose touch with those unfortunates who live in more far-flung districts like St-Henri or NDG. A lot of time just gets sucked up in the neighbourhood, sucking back espressos at Laika, or meeting up with the rest of the ‘hood at BarFly, the last of dying breed. I’ll be writing plenty about this place in this space – not only is it the friendliest, dingiest, smokiest bar on the Main, it also happens to be a great place for catching local musical talent in any genre.

If you want to know a little more about me, my only other real blog can be found at K5, though I haven’t added anything new there in over a year. What do I hope to achieve with this blog? Perhaps a kind of living history, since without writing, most of my life will just pass into a kind of oblivion, and I feel some of what I experience in daily life is worth writing about.

So what to expect? Stuff about the neighbourhood, the bands I see at BarFly, the bands I see put on by the good folks at Greenland, Glasgow Celtic and football in general, some discussion of the insane political culture of our neighbours to the south of us. On the latter point, I’ll probably reference many articles originally linked frorm cursor. I’m a Linux System Administrator and have no love for Microsoft, RIAA/MPAA, or software patents. Clearly, there’s tons for me to write about so I won’t go on. Plenty of time for that I hope;-)

So that’s it for my first entry. Plenty more to come.