Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Leaving London

I think this might have to be my last post from London. We're moving to sunny downtown Hamilton on Friday morning. I'm sad but not because of any great attachment to the Forest City--I'm just a big baby and I'll miss the home we made here for 7 1/2 yrs. I hope our cat adjusts. She's already freaked out by the boxes and tape everywhere. I don't even want to think about how she'll handle the car-ride...we're just keeping our fingers crossed that she doesn't puke all over my father-in-law's leather interior. Then again, that's why god invented Gravol, right?

In the meantime, here's hoping you're all enjoying the holidays and that you get a good rest while you can. Hope & Onions: Hammer edition (Hammer time?) will be back soon :)

Read on, MacDuff!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Write your own caption :)

Tip to Liberal4Life:
Possible captions:
Feel free to add your own :)

Read on, MacDuff!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Congratulations, Evo!

Evo Morales appears to have won Sunday's elections in Bolivia! BBC is reporting that Morales has 42-45% of the vote; his closest opponent clocks-in at 33-37% (former Pres. Quiroga).

This is huge: Morales is Bolivia's first indigenous leader and he provides a strong voice for the country's poor, indigenous majority. Here's an indication of how much hope people have in Evo (The Observer):
'We're desperate. He's the only one who can change this terrible economic model,' says miner Juan Mamani, 45.
'On 18 December we'll crush the traitors who have sold our resources and lied to the people. Morales is our brother and we trust him, but he should beware of not delivering on his promises,' says another miner, dynamite strapped to his helmet.
To correct Bolivia's innumerable wrongs, Morales has pledged to secure indigenous rights by rewriting the constitution in an assembly to convene next summer. 'Indians actively took part in Bolivia's independence in 1825, but were excluded from its foundation, and since then have been second-class citizens. We were condemned to extinction but managed to organise ourselves,' Morales tells The Observer at 4am at the regional coca farmers' headquarters in Cochabamba.
Morales wants to nationalise Bolivia's huge gas reserves, the continent's second largest after Venezuela, currently in the hands of multinational companies. 'We will renegotiate all contracts - they are illegal, since congress has never ratified them,' he says. 'The state will recover the property of its natural resources, but we are open to foreign investment in exchange for a share of the business.'

Read on, MacDuff!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Why Rove hasn't been indicted yet

Murray Waas offers a very plausible explanation. On the night of July 9, 2003--after Joe Wilson's NYT oped appeared but before Novak outed Wilson's CIA wife:
... the voluminous material on Rove's desk -- including talking points, related briefing materials, and information culled from confidential government personnel files -- involved a different woman: Frances Fragos Townsend, a former senior attorney in the Clinton administration's Justice Department whom President Bush had recently named to be his deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism. [...] According to the accounts of their conversations that Rove and Novak gave to federal investigators, the subject of Valerie Plame came up only after they had finished talking about Townsend.
[...] Both Novak and Rove have told federal prosecutors that it was Novak who raised Plame's name, with the columnist saying he had heard that "Wilson's wife" had worked for the CIA and had been responsible for having her husband sent on the Niger mission.
"I heard that too," Rove responded, according to published accounts of what Rove told federal investigators of the conversations. Novak's version of what was said has been slightly different. He reportedly has told investigators that Rove's response was something to the effect of, "Oh, you know about it."

The key? Rove & Novak were scheduled to smear a different woman; they wound up discussing Joe Wilson's wife as an after-smear. Or so the story goes...

I'm still holding out for one more Fitzmas miracle. I know you're busy with Conman Black but you're a rockstar! C'mon: I know you have another'n in ya :)

Read on, MacDuff!

Friday, December 16, 2005

"Mr. Hetero" contest

I didn't believe it either: This is a real site by a Massachusetts Pastor who appears to begrudge his State's ruling on same-sex marriage. Tip to Sam Seder of Majority Report Radio :)

"Mr Hetero Promotions Presents the Mr Heterosexual Contest 2006: A Celebration of God's Creation"

Check out the "Events" for judging:
Strength - how many oprah magazines can you tear?
Talent - your choice
Intellectual - answering random questions such as your favorite heterosexual role model
Competition - name that food
ROFL...Oprah?! Heterosexual role model? I would kill to find out who those are. Bets on "Tom Cruise" :)

Read on, MacDuff!

Queer Eye Debate edition

Ok, I admit it...I was really bored by Thursday's debate. I don't think it was bad...just underwhelming. Nobody really made any news--for good or for ill--but it was nice to actually hear what they were saying. No yapping over each other or heated four-ways (I think the latter is still legal, btw).

Her royal ADDness remarked on the following...
  • Paul Martin: WTF was up with his hand gestures? Was he landing planes? Semaphore? Very weird.
  • Harper's clearly trying to learn Canada's "second" national language (word to the wise: don't call it our 2nd language) but he still didn't understand two of the questions. Layton went way overtime on two questions ("Mr. Layton, you know the rules"--that was very school marm'ish of the moderator). Layton appeared very at ease en francais. Much better than Alexa ever was, that's fer dern sure. Martin didn't stammer as much as he usually does (he's brutal with that in both languages). Overall, the three anglos seemed to do alright with the French.
  • Jack Layton and Stephen Harper arrived sporting (nearly) identical ties. Harper seemed more coiffed and loose than his usual helmet-headed self. Did someone send Carson Kressley over for a little pre-debate jujjing? Still a long way to go, however...something tells me Kyan would disapprove of all that "product" in your hair, Stephen. I recommend you podcast their weekly tips. And maybe get some hipster Ted glasses for good measure. [Ted's my fave, BTW & PS]
  • Layton definitely had the best response to the same-sex marriage question. I was a bit worried he'd go overboard with the personal anecdote stuff but it actualy worked for him. Very genuine and still got his points across to boot. Ditto for his response to homelessness.
  • Duceppe was big on the "punish the Liberals" line. I think he said the word punish 3 or 4 separate times. Again, AFAIK that's still legal :)
  • The Harper tax-cuts for the homeless shit would have been laugh-oot-loud funny if it wasn't so unfunny. Newsflash: hard to get jobs without address+phone#, buddy.
  • Breaking: Stephen Harper loves his kids; promises 'Parental Love Accountability Act'
  • Interesting that Thursday wasn't the gang-bang Martin debate. Didn't seem like it, but perhaps it was just because of the non-interruptus format. Unlike 2004, Layton seemed calm and appeared to split his barbs 1/3 Harper, 2/3 Martin. Duceppe was all punish-Liberals all-the-time. Ditto Harper.
  • I might have missed it but I don't think Martin self-identified with his party the entire 2h. I can't remember hearing him say "Liberals" or "Liberal party" all night. I'll pay better attention Friday...
  • Who's had an assful of the promise-keeping BS? What else do you expect them to say in response to "do you swear to keep your promises?" Do you triple-dog dare them? Honest? Huh? Huh? Jeebus.

Read on, MacDuff!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"Their propaganda machine is pretty darn intense"

"You got Arabic television stations that are constantly just pounding America, you know, saying, `America is fighting Islam. Americans can't stand Muslims. This is a war against a religion'...It's difficult. I mean, their propaganda machine is pretty darn intense. And so we're constantly sending out messages. We're constantly trying to reassure people."--George W. Bush, December 13, 2005

The caption: "Yasser Abdul-Hussein, 5, the son of slain Iraqi Sheik Abdul-Salam Abdul-Hussein cries during his father's funeral prossesion in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday." [The AP photo is credited to Karim Kadim.] I saw this photo next to Tim Harper's piece in the Toronto Star. Is this what you consider propaganda, W? Funny...maybe you'd better check with The Lincoln Group.

Pictures like these tell the real story of Iraq. Did anyone catch Canadian photojournalist Rita Leistner on The Hour, last week? Her pictures from Iraq were really haunting--particularly the women's psychiatric hospital in Baghdad. Rita and three of her peers have pooled their work into a new book, "Unembedded: Four Independent Photojournalists on the War in Iraq." I got a chance to hear Rita and one of her co-authors (Kael Alford) on The Majority Report, last week (you can listen to them here; their interview appears ~1/3 through the show). I hope those dudes at The Hour get their website up-to-date and post Rita's segment.

You may have seen Kael Alford in the CBC documentary "Beyond Words: Photographers of War." If you missed it the first time, you can catch it again Sunday, Dec 18 at 8pm EST (or Thursday, Dec 22 at 10pm EST). Here are some of Kael's thoughts on being a 'war photographer':
I thought I could illuminate things for people. If people understood what war looks like, they wouldn't want to have any part of it. I also thought that well, if we understood the process of war, why we go to war and how we get there, then we can understand how to disentangle the lead-up to war and use diplomacy and other means to solve problems. So I thought this is a good way to make the world a better place. I haven't given up that idealistic hope.

Read on, MacDuff!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

"He must think we're morons"

I'm still scratching my head over Bush's estimate of Iraqi casualties. I'm surprised (a) that he took questions at all yesterday and (b) that he would even venture a 'guess' when asked about the number of Iraqis killed in the invasion & occupation. What happened to 'we don't do body counts'? Ok, technically Tommy Franks said that. Still, I wonder how W's handlers felt about this. I mean, he didn't even call the 30 000 dead 'terrorists' or anything. Did someone's heart 'grow two sizes that day'? Not so fast...

Look, I won't go so far as to give him credit--please!! It's not like he took responsibility for the dead. I just thought it was a strange departure for him to even respond to such a question. Helen Thomas (Hearst News) has made repeated attempts to ask about casualties in the WH press briefings, to no avail. And the '30 000' estimate is just one estimate: The Lancet study pegged it at ~100 thousand, over a year ago. The 100 thousand figure was dismissed by some because it included deaths from all causes over and above those that would be expected prior to the invasion (e.g. deaths due to secondary effects of the invasion like malnutrition, infectious diseases, and infant-mortality were included; not 'just' bombing, etc.). The WaPo summarized the research group's methodology in Oct 2004:
...door-to-door survey of 988 Iraqi households -- containing 7,868 people in 33 neighborhoods -- selected to provide a representative sampling. Two survey teams gathered detailed information about the date, cause and circumstances of any deaths in the 14.6 months before the invasion and the 17.8 months after it, documenting the fatalities with death certificates in most cases.
Still, it has been over a year since The Lancet study came out. I wonder what would happen if the survey was repeated today, with the same methodology and analysis. I'm not dismissing the '30 000' estimate--I just want to clarify where these estimates come from. The 30 000 estimate is gleaned from press-accounts; The Lancet estimate was the result of 'household' surveys. The latter was peer-reviewed.

Obviously both estimates are heartbreaking.

Lest we worry that Bush has really changed or something, Peter Baker provides us with some classic W:
Faeze Woodville, 44, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Iran and now living in nearby Strafford, Pa., asked why he keeps linking the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to the Iraq war despite no evidence of a direct connection. The president said "9/11 changed my look on foreign policy" and he learned "that if we see a threat we've got to deal with it."
Woodville said in an interview afterward that she felt Bush ducked her question. "He must think we're morons," she said. "There is no link, and he knows it as well as I. And I and others in the audience are insulted that he thinks we don't read, don't think, don't have any opinions."

Read on, MacDuff!

Please flip-flop on me

I love a good flip-flop. They're totally under-rated. Herein, I declare "flip-flop" an honourific term!

I was thinking about the so-called Layton flip-flop on the Clarity Act (I know, I'm a couple of days behind on the whole campaign thing). Layton wanted to repeal the Clarity Act in 2004; now...not so much. You know what? That's a good, honest changing o' the mind. Most of his own party was against repealing the act in 2004, so it's not really a total aboot-face for the party. What's more, Layton acknowledges that the Act has broad support (even M. Bouchard! gasp!) and wasn't as really as divisive as he once thought. Good 'nuff. I'm 100% ok with that.

But you know what one of my all-time favourite flip-flops is? Missile Defence. Sure, sure, there were charges that Martin was merely "bowing" to NDP/Bloc pressure to resist BMD; there were Margaret Wente's bleatings about Martin's spinelessness (he "read the opinion polls and caved in"). Good! I was ecstatic that he "caved in" and f'g listened to the people of Canada on this issue. Even Linda McQuaig --no Martin booster she--gave Paul props for that one.

You know what flip-flop I am begging for? Security certificates. Those abominable things enacted post-9/11 in Bill C-36 ("The Anti-Terrorism Act") that allow detention without charge and secret trials. I've written about these disgraceful 'tools' before (twice) so I won't get myself worked up again tonight. It suffices to say: Get rid of those. No windy explanations necessary (especially if that wind has to come out of Anne McLellan...ughh....).

So I've made myself clear: I respect a good flip-flop when it "lands" in my general direction. Here's what I don't respect: the incomplete flip-flop. The unfinished turnabout. The artless dodge (or "No, I never!", as it's known in school yards). Think Stephen Harper and the invasion of Iraq. Everyone remembers Harper & Day's ridiculous op-ed in the Wall St. Journal: "Canada's largest opposition party, the Canadian Alliance, will not be neutral. In our hearts and minds we will be with our allies." And our fellow Progressive Blogger, "East-end Underground" has lovingly archived all the House of Commons stuff that Harper said in 2003. This is my "fave" from March 20, 2003:
We cannot walk away from the threat that Iraq's continued possession of weapons of mass destruction constitutes to its region and to the wider world. In the final analysis, disarming Iraq is necessary for the long term security of the world, to the collective interests of our historic allies and, therefore, manifestly it is in the national interest of this country.
[...] We in the Canadian Alliance support the American position today on this issue because we share its concerns and its worries about the future of the world if Iraq is left unattended.
And now? Well, as Harper responds to the Washington Times' drooly piece about him ("Gift from Canada?"), he doesn't even come close to completely rescinding his earlier support for the invasion:
On Iraq, while I support the removal of Saddam Hussein and applaud the efforts to establish democracy and freedom in Iraq, I would not commit Canadian troops to that country. I must admit great disappointment at the failure to substantiate pre-war intelligence information regarding Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction.
Umm...Stephen? Promise you won't get mad at me? still got a little bit of TP stuck to yer shoe.

If your think the TP joke was tasteless, just thank your lucky stars I didn't go with my first instincts! Clue: it had the word "dingleberry" in it.

Read on, MacDuff!

'Cornering the Dragon' & other Taiwan shenanigans

Well hmmm...this is very weird. Don't know what it means yet, exactly, but it looks like one of John Bolton's underlings is pleading guilty to some weird Taiwan dealings. Donald Keyser used to work at the State Dept. with Bolton. Keyser was caught failing to disclose his 'relationship' with a Taiwanese intelligence official. A lady official (not that that matters...ok, maybe his wife cares). Keyser was arrested in 2004 when the FBI caught him passing classified documents to this Taiwanese 'contact.'

Bolton has long meddled in the affairs of Taiwan and is a staunch pro-independence kinda guy. And by "staunch," I mean $100 Million slush-fund-staunch. In 2002, The Nation Magazine's David Cornreported that Bolton "submitted pro-Taiwan testimony to Congress in the 1990s without revealing he was a paid consultant to Taiwan. His work for Taiwan, it turns out, was financed by this slush fund." BTW, "acting as a foreign agent without registering as one" is highly illegal.

One more thing: Bolton, Cheney and Douglas Feith have what you might call an X-treme hate-on for China and see tremendous potential for a warmed-over cold-war. Hell, Rumsfeld and Bush were onboard with this pre-9/11 (remember the spyplane nonsense?). But all of that "ring around the dragon" talk seemed to abate with the war on terrah.

So, why write about this? Bolton's illegal lobbying slipped below the radar of 2 Senate confirmation hearings (once as undersecretary for arms control and once as UN ambassador). I just wanted you to know what this "Keyser" stuff was really about, in case you saw the headline. Keyser's not exactly a household name but Bolton's surely is. Or at least his moustache is unforgettable. Meeting adjourned :)

Read on, MacDuff!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Meese brains

This puts the "ew" in kewl [tip to]:

Scientists create mice with human brain cells

I, for one, welcome our new rodent-masters.

Read on, MacDuff!

Dion: Montreal's Happy Man

So the UN Conference on Climate Change has adjourned...enfin! Quite a rollercoaster ending, too--U.S. walkouts, surprise last-min objections from Russia...Montreal had it all, baby! From The Guardian, UK blog:
The agreement had come close to collapsing twice. The Americans threatened to walk out on the penultimate day of the talks – gambling on their ability to entice other countries away from the table too. The bet failed. The Bush administration remained isolated and was given a roasting in the US media. An about-turn was made.
The extraordinary antics of the Russians and the Saudis brought about the other moment of high drama. On the final night, the Russian delegate, a classic Soviet-era negotiator with close-cropped hair, pink skin and big glasses, decided he wanted to remind the world that Russia was important too by bringing the talks to a standstill for several hours on procedural grounds.
When a compromise was proposed, the Saudis, past masters at obstructing these talks, instantly objected. Catastrophe was averted when Moscow woke up and issued instructions to agree a face-saving formula.
You could hear the collective sigh of relief when the deal was announced. Margaret Becket, the UK environment secretary, said she was "thrilled", adding "we got everything that we came here to get".
Here's how the TorStar described Dion's delight:
Environment Minister Stéphane Dion appeared positively giddy when, just after dawn on Saturday morning, he banged down his gavel to close the United Nations conference on climate change. Dion's relief and joy were obvious, as he hugged everyone within reach in the massive main hall of Montreal's Palais des congrès, and hundreds of weary delegates from around the world stood and cheered. After two weeks of formal meetings, closed-door consultations, sleepless nights and then, in a final mad dash, more than 48 hours of intense negotiations, he had achieved what he wanted.
All the items on his to-do list as president of the meeting were checked off: He could declare a great victory for the Kyoto Protocol, and the Earth. "We delivered," he told reporters.
Environmentalists, too, were ecstatic. Elizabeth May, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, had tears in her eyes, as she praised Dion and "a set of agreements that may well save the planet."
Why the ecstasy?
[click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]
Because of the ironically named 'Action Plan'? Surely not. Well, despite the unambitious and somewhat non-committal 'consensus,' it consensus! The phrase 'herding cats' comes to mind. In the end, the conference delivered the first formalized (international) trading process for emissions--one that acknowledges realities in both 'developing' and 'developed' nations:
Dirty countries and industries pay; those who are clean collect. The higher the cost of emissions, the greater the incentive to cut pollution and become a seller. One lets developed countries and their businesses earn credits by investing in emissions-cutting projects in developing nations. Poor countries are salivating over an expected flood of technology that will help them to grow in an environmentally sustainable way. Another covers trades between developed countries.
Delegates also set in motion a plan to let tropical countries earn trading credits for preserving their rainforests. [...] Markets only succeed, though, if pollution limits are tough enough to make emissions expensive. That's why China, Brazil, India and all the poorer developing countries pushed the rich nations hard to start negotiating deep cuts, with a hard deadline.
It's also why environmentalists, while thrilled that pressure from the rest of the world finally forced the United States to accept the "dialogue" agreement, are not concerned it's so vague.
The BBC post-mortem includes *cough* mixed reviews:
Tony Blair to describe the final agreement as "a vital next step in tackling climate change", and his Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett to hail a "diplomatic triumph". It is why Guy Thompson of the Green Alliance could conclude "this... keeps Kyoto alive and builds momentum towards a legally binding global framework beyond 2012", why Greenpeace International's Bill Hare could declare "the Kyoto Protocol is stronger today than it was two weeks ago", and why Tony Juniper from Friends of the Earth could opine: "This meeting has made a historic agreement which will strengthen global resolve."
[...] The "Annex 1" parties still inside the Kyoto process - in other words, developed nations plus former Soviet bloc states minus the US and Australia - pledged to "initiate a process to consider further commitments for parties included in Annex 1 (i.e. themselves) for the period beyond 2012". They vowed to begin directly, and to finish negotiations soon enough that there is a smooth transition between the date when existing targets expire (2012) and the beginning of this projected second period of commitments. So far, so good. But Kyoto Annex 1 countries account only for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. So what commitments has Montreal wrung from the remainder?
Essentially, a commitment to further talks, an "open and non-binding exchange of views, information and ideas" which "will not open any negotiations leading to new commitments". [...]Europe and Japan win a commitment to further binding targets for those who already have them, while for Kyoto-sceptics and the developing world, the prize is a generalised dialogue which specifically excludes concrete targets. [...] Yes, the Annex 1 parties will talk about further targets and timetables. But in reality many of them have veered spectacularly off the course required to meet their existing targets, never mind future ones. The US, responsible for between one-quarter and one-fifth of global emissions, declines to sup in the same bar.
Crucially, there is little sign that countries like India and China, with their fast-growing economies and fast-rising greenhouse gas emissions, are clamouring to join the post-Kyoto party. As Indian Environment Minister Andimuthu Raja told the BBC: "Our emissions of CO2 are only 3% of the world's total, where we have 17% of the global population. "I do believe that the calls for developing countries to take up G8 abatement commitments... are misplaced, and responsive to agendas other than genuine mitigation of climate change."
A sober assessment of these factors has led to some less up-beat assessments of Montreal. "The signposts are pointing in the right direction, but let's not get too carried away," was the advice of Camilla Toulmin, Director of the International Institute for Environment and Development. "The big industrialising nations must be included in a future binding agreement, but the key to achieving this lies with the rich countries. They must lead by example, fully accept responsibility for creating the problem and produce a substantial development dividend."
{For more on China and its growing (self)interest in combatting pollution, please check out this article: "The recent benzene spill in China is opening many citizens eyes to environmental problems in China"--By Jehangir S. Pocha, Probe International.}

I'll let Simon Retallack (senior research fellow on climate change policy at the Institute for Public Policy Research, UK) sum it all up for us:
The agreement means that a second phase of the Kyoto protocol will now be negotiated so that industrialised countries will have a new set of binding targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions when the first phase of Kyoto ends in 2012.
That is a critically important decision. It sends an important signal to business that carbon constraints are here to stay and makes new investment in low carbon technologies more likely. That, together with the decision in Montreal to adopt a series of rules to implement the Kyoto protocol, including a system of penalties to ensure compliance, means that far from being dead, as sceptics proclaimed barely a year ago, the Kyoto approach is thriving.
[...] In Montreal, global cooperation on climate change has been given a new lease of life. Industrialised countries agreed they needed to go further to address climate change, while developing countries accepted the need to discuss what they can now do.
It was no mean feat for the world to come together without being blocked by the US and its very small band of oil-rich allies. Given the dire lack of movement on future action barely a year ago, this represents an important shift. But it is only a beginning.

Read on, MacDuff!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Falling star

This article by Mitch Potter made my face go 'all hot': "Accomplice to torture abroad? Syrians shocked by Canada's role in Maher Arar affair `They did the wrong thing ... And sent him to hell'" {emphasis mine}:
For an entire generation of Syrians, the word Canada evoked images so positive they often were expressed in a single impulse: I want to live there. Rich like America, but better, Syrians would gush. A bit cold, maybe, but what is cold when the world's most peaceful nation beckons with life-altering economic hope, absolute human rights and excellent winter coats. Can you get me a visa?
In the better-read quarters of Damascus, however, Canada's star is falling today, thanks to the growing suspicion of Canadian complicity in the tragic saga of tortured Syrian-Canadian Maher Arar. The suspicions are only sharpened by other questions of Canadian involvement in the cases of four other Syrian expats believed to have endured similar treatment in Damascene detention cells. Though conclusions of a Canadian inquiry into the Arar affair remain months away, Syrian human rights activists have seen enough testimony on the Internet to make up their own minds.
"We look at the situation and we don't recognize the Canada we are seeing. It is not a pleasant picture," said Ahmad Fayez Fawaz, president of the Human Rights Association of Syria.

[click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]
"If Arar is a citizen of Canada, is he not entitled to protection? We know now he is innocent. But even if had done something, Canada had the sovereignty to do the right thing and bring him to Canada for proper investigation. They did the wrong thing ... And sent him to hell."
[...] HRAS, the human rights association, raised early alarms upon learning of Arar's detention. Several months later, in early 2003, Maleh said he was contacted by the Canadian Embassy in Damascus and asked to represent Arar. During several meetings with Canadian officials, Maleh said he spelled out the torturous reality of the Palestine Branch facility. He said it was evident the Canadians in Damascus were aware of that reality.
"The Canadians in Damascus knew a lot. They knew everything. From the conversations I had, it was clear they knew about the Palestine Branch and what was happening there," said Maleh.
He has kept no paper trail of those encounters. He cannot recite specific dates, or name the Canadians he met. When asked repeatedly, he insists, "I had several conversations with the Canadians. I talked to them about torture in Syria. "The Canadians knew."
[...] Human rights activists confirm that Syrian interrogators have become more selective in the application of torture. Opposition figures and other political dissidents, though frequently detained, are now rarely subject to the same degree of harsh treatment they once endured, they say. But prisoners with Islamic backgrounds, which now comprise the vast majority of Syria's estimated 2,500 political prisoners, are handled without mercy.
"To this day they use torture, doing whatever they want without limits. But the Islamic prisoners pay the biggest price," said Maleh. "After Sept. 11, this regime believes that if you go to pray at the mosque, automatically you must belong to the Muslim Brotherhood. They are trying to send a message to America, `we are with you.' But a lot of innocent Muslims are paying the price."
So while people like Louise Arbour make us proud, we still have our moments of shame.

Read on, MacDuff!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Bully Bolton responds to Arbour

Shorter Bolton: "No fair! Don't look at American human-rights abuses; look away! Look away! Hey! What Burma's doing? And over there...that Zimbabwe guy is really abusing people."

Ugh. The American ambassador to the UN did not like what Louise Arbour had to say, in her (excellent) op-ed, "No exceptions to the ban on torture." (excerpts in yesterday's post). Here's what the Angry Moustache had to say in response:
John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, criticized Arbour, calling it "inappropriate" for her to choose a Human Rights Day celebration to criticize the United States instead of such rights abusers as Burma, Cuba and Zimbabwe. He also warned that it would undercut his efforts to negotiate formation of a new human rights council that would exclude countries with bad rights records.
"Today is Human Rights Day. It would be appropriate, I think, for the U.N.'s high commissioner for human rights to talk about the serious human rights problems that exist in the world today," Bolton told reporters. "It is disappointing that she has chosen to talk about press commentary about alleged American conduct. I think the secretary of state has fully and completely addressed the substance of the allegations, so I won't go back into that again other than to reaffirm that the United States does not engage in torture."
He added: "I think it is inappropriate and illegitimate for an international civil servant to second-guess the conduct that we're engaged in in the war on terror, with nothing more as evidence than what she reads in the newspapers."
Gotta love the manufactured outrage over the timing of Arbour's article (on Human Rights Day). And belittling her understanding of American abuses by suggesting that she's reading "nothing more" than news accounts. F-you, Bolton. The UN has no room for bullies like you.

As for his comments about Condi Rice's public disavowal of torture, Human Rights Watch had this to say in today's Guardian:
"Rice is wandering around Europe saying these things," said Caroll Bogert, of Human Rights Watch. "When they whisked the [detainees] out of Romania and Poland, where did they take them? Where are they now? Who are the disappeared?"
Ms Bogert said the Bush administration's earlier use of language and its attempt to define torture so narrowly it excluded many extreme interrogation methods, cast doubt on the new pledge to abide by international conventions. "They stretch all these definitions to their most elastic breaking point," she said.
Let's just hope Bolton doesn't do anything rash. Y'know, like throw a tape-dispenser at somebody and chase them through the halls of a Moscow hotel, shouting epithets.

Read on, MacDuff!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Robert Baer will take questions at 11AM

Ex-CIA spook Robert Baer will be taking questions online at the WaPo's discussion site. The film Syriana is based on his first book, See No Evil (movie trailer here). You can also catch Baer on last night's MSNBC/Hardball, thanks to

I think I first saw Robert Baer in the French documentary, "The World According to Bush" (aka Le Monde Selon Bush), which aired on The Passionate Eye, last year. They'll probably run it again on Newsworld but, if you can't wait, you can view it online at Information Clearinghouse. My favourite part of the documentary is when Carlyle's Frank Carlucci (former Sec.Def./director CIA) denies that he had any role in getting a defense contractor fired; he makes the denial and then veeeeery sloooooowly--and without averting his gaze from the camera--he takes a sip of water. It's the most evil "sip" I've ever seen outside of a cartoon or soap opera :)

Read on, MacDuff!

Canada's Louise Arbour: "No Exceptions to the Ban on Torture"

I love this woman :) From 1999-2004, Louise Arbour served as a Justice on The Supreme Court of Canada. Since then, she has served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Here are some excerpts from Arbour's Tuesday op-ed in the Int. Herald Trib., "No Exceptions to the Ban on Torture:" {emphasis mine}
The absolute ban on torture, a cornerstone of the international human rights edifice, is under attack. The principle we once believed to be unassailable - the inherent right to physical integrity and dignity of the person - is becoming a casualty of the so-called war on terror.
[...] imminent or clear dangers at times permit limitations on certain rights. The right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is not one of these. This right may not be subject to any limitation, anywhere, under any condition. [...] Particularly insidious are moves to water down or question the absolute ban on torture, as well as on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Governments in several countries are claiming that established rules do not apply anymore: that we live in a changed world. They argue that this justifies a lowering of the bar as to what constitutes permissible treatment of detainees. An illegal interrogation technique, however, remains illegal whatever new description a government might wish to give it.
[...] The trend of seeking "diplomatic assurances" allegedly to overcome the risk of torture is very troubling. The international legal ban on torture prohibits transferring persons - no matter what their crime or suspected activity - to a place where they would be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment (the non-refoulement obligation).
Faced with the option of deporting terrorism suspects and others to countries where the risk of torture is well documented, some governments, in particular in Europe and in North America, purport to overcome that risk by seeking diplomatic assurances that torture and cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment will not be inflicted. There are many reasons to be skeptical about the value of those assurances. If there is no risk of torture in a particular case, they are unnecessary and redundant. If there is a risk, how effective are these assurances likely to be?
But the problem runs deeper. The fact that some governments conclude legally nonbinding agreements with other governments on a matter that is at the core of several legally binding UN instruments threatens to empty international human rights law of its content. Diplomatic assurances create a two-class system among detainees, attempting to provide for a special bilateral protection regime for a selected few and ignoring the systematic torture of other detainees, even though all are entitled to the equal protection of existing UN instruments.
Let me turn to my second concern. An unknown number of "war on terror" detainees are alleged to be held in secret custody in unknown locations. Holding people in secret detention, with the detainee's fate or whereabouts, or the very fact of their detention, undisclosed, amounts to "disappearance," which in and of itself has been found to amount to torture or ill-treatment of the disappeared person or of the families and communities deprived of any information about the missing person. Furthermore, prolonged incommunicado detention or detention in secret places facilitates the perpetration of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. [...] Recourse to torture and degrading treatment exposes those who commit it to civil and criminal responsibility and, arguably, renders them vulnerable to retaliation.
Bravo, Madame Arbour :) To learn more about Louise Arbour and her work, please check-out this 2004 interview with Carole MacNeil (CBC Sunday). There is also a bio-pic movie, expected to air on CTV in 2006. "Hunt For Justice: The Louise Arbour Story" will recount Arbour's involvement in attempting to bring Bosnian war criminals to justice (starring Wendy Crewson, William Hurt and the guy from the Big Fat Greek Wedding movie).

Read on, MacDuff!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Global Women's Memorial

The Global Women's Memorial Society and the National Film Board of Canada have co-produced the Global Women's Memorial Web Project. Please take a moment to watch their film.

Today is December 6th, the 16th 'anniversary' of the Montreal Massacre: the day when 14 young engineering students--all women--were killed at L'École Polytechnique. The assassin, Marc Lepine, convinced himself that "feminists had ruined" his life.

The Global Women's Memorial Speakout film is impressive in its inclusiveness and scope. I was particularly moved by the Indigenous women of the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre (Vancouver, BC) and their perspectives (Bernie Williams, Elders Council; Vikki Peters, and Carol Martin, Victim Service Worker). Young Indigenous women are 5X more likely to die as a result of violence than all other women. The film includes some really sad personal accounts of police (and societal) indifference to missing and abused Indigenous women. [see also].

The film also included testimony from a Médecins Sans Frontières volunteer, Nicole Aube, who spoke of her time in the DR Congo, where she witnessed the consequences of rape--used as a weapon of war.

Since 1991, December 6th has been our official "National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada." Please consider attending a memorial in your area and/or viewing the virtual memorial produced by these talented & dedicated women.

Read on, MacDuff!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Harper's "Canadian Alliance"?!

Wow, the Guardian's Canadian correspondent really needs some help:
The same four men, including the Liberal leader and prime minister, Paul Martin, and Stephen Harper, the leader of the official opposition Canadian Alliance, are leading the four major parties.
Or maybe not. Maybe Anne McIlroy's breaking some news :) Oh! please tell me they're resurrecting the "CRAP" brand! That would be sweet...

I'm not generally crazy with McIlroy's dispatches from Canada; they often strike me as cobbled together from other 'headlines' and caricatures of goings-on. They don't usually bring any new analysis to the table. For e.g.:
Mr Martin, who appeared decisive and capable during his decade as finance minister, has been less sure-footed as the prime minister. He has gained a reputation for dithering over even small decisions and spending tax dollars on any programme that could help him to get re-elected. His party has also been hit by allegations of corruption.
However, voters don't seem quite ready to trust Mr Harper, a brainy Conservative who is battling an image problem. He can come across as angry and intense, and is working hard to appear more likeable.
[...] Both the Liberals and the Canadian Alliance need to win in Ontario to form a government. Canada's most populous province has been solidly Liberal in the past few elections, and the voters there are the ones that most need to be convinced Mr Harper can be trusted. The Canadian Alliance's strongest support is still in western Canada, especially Alberta.
Of course, the article is entitled "Cold calling." Get it? Get it? It's cold in Canada! What article about Canada would be complete without this extraordinary insight:
Candidates are having trouble hammering their lawn signs into frozen ground, and are building the possibility of travel delays into their schedules. In the far north, where temperatures have already dipped below -40 degrees Celsius, campaigning is proving particularly difficult at this time of year.
Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta run over to the Igloo Depot and beat the rush on block-heaters :)

Read on, MacDuff!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Disappeared: "Mistaken" CIA Rendition

Dana Priest's Sunday WaPo piece is going to make some people very, very upset: "Wrongful Imprisonment: Anatomy of a CIA Mistake; German Citizen Released After Months in 'Rendition'." Priest recounts yet-another story of someone wrongfully identified as a terrorist who was then "rendered" (whisked away to a secret prison and tortured):
[US President Bush] signed a top secret presidential finding six days after the 9/11 attacks. It authorized an unprecedented range of covert action, including lethal measures and renditions, disinformation campaigns and cyber attacks against the al Qaeda enemy, according to current and former intelligence officials.
We're all too familiar with this process here in Canada. Maher Arar is still seeking justice for what the US (and some Keystone cops-style RCMP bungling) condemned him to in a Syrian hellhole. While Arar was apprehended in JFK/New York airport, Priest describes the more-general CIA approach to rendition: {emphasis mine}
To carry out its mission, the CTC [CIA's Counterterrorism Center] relies on its Rendition Group, made up of case officers, paramilitaries, analysts and psychologists. Their job is to figure out how to snatch someone off a city street, or a remote hillside, or a secluded corner of an airport where local authorities wait. Members of the Rendition Group follow a simple but standard procedure: Dressed head to toe in black, including masks, they blindfold and cut the clothes off their new captives, then administer an enema and sleeping drugs. They outfit detainees in a diaper and jumpsuit for what can be a day-long trip. Their destinations: either a detention facility operated by cooperative countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, including Afghanistan, or one of the CIA's own covert prisons -- referred to in classified documents as "black sites," which at various times have been operated in eight countries, including several in Eastern Europe.
Priest's front-page scoop focuses on a German man who was "mistakenly" rendered. Meet Khaled Masri:
[click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]
Khaled Masri came to the attention of Macedonian authorities on New Year's Eve 2003. Masri, an unemployed father of five living in Ulm, Germany, said he had gone by bus to Macedonia to blow off steam after a spat with his wife. He was taken off a bus at the Tabanovce border crossing by police because his name was similar to that of an associate of a 9/11 hijacker. The police drove him to Skopje, the capital, and put him in a motel room with darkened windows, he said in a recent telephone interview from Germany.
The police treated Masri firmly but cordially, asking about his passport, which they insisted was forged, about al Qaeda and about his hometown mosque, he said. When he pressed them to let him go, they displayed their pistols. [...] The director of the [CIA's] al Qaeda unit supported [the rendition] approach. She insisted he was probably a terrorist, and should be imprisoned and interrogated immediately. Others were doubtful. They wanted to wait to see whether the passport was proved fraudulent. Beyond that, there was no evidence Masri was not who he claimed to be -- a German citizen of Arab descent traveling after a disagreement with his wife. The unit's director won the argument. She ordered Masri captured and flown to a CIA prison in Afghanistan.
[...] Masri said his cell in Afghanistan was cold, dirty and in a cellar, with no light and one dirty cover for warmth. The first night he said he was kicked and beaten and warned by an interrogator: "You are here in a country where no one knows about you, in a country where there is no law. If you die, we will bury you, and no one will know." [...] Masri's passport was given to the Office of Technical Services to analyze. By March, OTS had concluded the passport was genuine. The CIA had imprisoned the wrong man.
So what did they do with this new information? What do you tell Germany, exactly? The CIA and State dept. disagreed on whether or not to inform German authorities about their "mistake." The State dept. wanted to come-clean. In the end, Masri was flown to Albania and released; an Ambassador to Germany was tapped to give the Germans the bad news about what the CIA had done (May 2004). more thing: the US Ambassador requested that the Germans keep all of this to themselves, even if/when Masri "went public" with his story. Just how common is this?
The CIA inspector general is investigating a growing number of what it calls "erroneous renditions," according to several former and current intelligence officials. One official said about three dozen names fall in that category; others believe it is fewer. The list includes several people whose identities were offered by al Qaeda figures during CIA interrogations, officials said. One turned out to be an innocent college professor who had given the al Qaeda member a bad grade, one official said. "They picked up the wrong people, who had no information. In many, many cases there was only some vague association" with terrorism, one CIA officer said. [...] About a dozen men have been transferred by the CIA to Guantanamo Bay, according to a Washington Post review of military tribunal testimony and other records. Some CIA officials have argued that the facility has become, as one former senior official put it, "a dumping ground" for CIA mistakes.
Priest goes on to describe several more cases of 'mistaken identity': Mamdouh Habib, who was rendered to Egypt and tortured (cigarette burns, electric shocks, beatings); Mohamedou Oulad Slahi, a former Canadian resident who was rendered to Jordan and tortured; Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni who was rendered to Egypt. Madni was actually tossed around several prisons: Indonesia-->Egypt-->Afghanistan-->Guantanamo Bay.

As for Khaled Masri, he has reunited with his family and, like Maher Arar, is having trouble finding his life again. He is unemployed and carries the obvious stigma of having been a person-of-interest. He has a lawyer working on his case and much of Masri's personal account of events has checked out with other sources (bus driver, border guards, flight-logs for CIA planes, etc.). Also: "A forensic analysis of Masri's hair showed he was malnourished during the period he says he was in the prison."

Read on, MacDuff!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Doppleganger websites :)

OMG, this is awesome: compare Harper's Conservative website with his American counterpart. That poor, wee web-programmer...I'm so sorry you had to work on that, dude!

This link is via James Bowie (via Matthew Good's mblog). Sorry for the meta-meta but you have to see this!

Read on, MacDuff!

Send them some TENTS--Kashmiri earthquake update

This is unacceptable: it's been almost 2 months since the earthquake in Kashmir and they still don't have enough winter-tents. Forget "enough"; they don't even have 10% of what they need to make it through the winter! From the AP/Guardian UK: {emphasis mine}
A senior UN official warned today that 90% of the tents given to earthquake survivors in Pakistan are not equipped for the harsh Himalayan winter. Darren Boisvert, the official in charge of distributing shelter in the quake-hit areas, said the tents have not been "winterised". Nearly 420,000 tents have already been given out to survivors, but only 5,000 are fully "winterised", he said. Temperatures in the mountainous regions of Kashmir and the North West Frontier Province have already dropped below freezing and snow has been falling in many areas. Heavier snowstorms are expected over the next few weeks.
Mr Boisvert said that after the earthquake struck on October 8, hundreds of aid organisations brought in thousands of tents to provide shelter, but most of those tents were not adequate for winter use. "Winterised tents are expensive, they are hard to procure, and must be shipped from overseas," he said.

Read on, MacDuff!

Stepford Harpers

Ok, he's no wife exactly, but he sure is purty: meet Ralph Reed, head of the Christian Coalition. I would hasten to add that Dr. Reed may be in for some good'ol indictments for defrauding Native Americans (*cough* Abramoff *cough*) but that's not for here.

Thanks to Flashpoint Canada for drawing my attention to this G&M piece: "U.S. Religious Right Enters Electoral Fray: Bush ex-advisor appeals to faithful to get involved and get the vote out"

On the surface, Ralph is said to be pleading with Canadian "Christians" to vote for Harper. What he's really after is something like the American model of using Christians as get-out-the-vote footsoldiers (Stepford Harpers). He will also use them as ATM machines, but I'm not sure how well that will work up here (I'm not sure our new-ish campaign finance laws allow for much of that, but I'm not certain). I don't have the heart to provide excerpts from the article but I find it interesting that the Globe doesn't point out the casinos/fraud probe. Not very Christianish behaviour, but WTF do I know?

Read on, MacDuff!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Sy Hersh makes the rounds

A couple days ago, I posted a few excerpts from Seymour Hersh's latest New Yorker piece, "Up in the Air." As always, it's a definite must-read! Well, since his article came out on Monday, Hersh has been busy making the radio & teevee rounds and really setting people straight on the current state of Iraq. Watch/listen to him deliver the goods: it's Hersh-a-palooza :)

Hersh's TV appearances:
  1. CNN's Late Edition: download video from Dissent or Crooks & Liars
  2. Hardball/MSNBC: from Dissent
  3. NBC's Today Show: from Crooks & Liars
Radio interviews:
  1. Nov 29, 2005 Majority Report Radio: mp3 available at AirAmericaPlace (~1/3 way)
  2. Nov 29, 2005 Democracy Now radio (transcript + download mp3 or video)
Of course I'd recommend reading/listening to the whole Democracy Now interview but I want to make sure I point out something you may not hear/read in Hersh's other interviews: at the end of Amy Goodman's interview, Hersh alludes to more secret prisons, aside from those currently under investigation in Eastern Europe (the prisons reported by WaPo's Dana Priest). Hersh was cagey about it but promised to report in-depth really soon:
[click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]
AMY GOODMAN: Last question, and that has to do with your last section of your piece on this composite American Special Forces team, known as the S.M.U., special mission unit, in Syria.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, there's more than one. There's many of them. You know, there's more than a handful of these units. Some are in Syria, some are other places. These are combined teams that have been set up, so not any one service isn’t involved. And I think, you know, obviously we think that this government believes that when it comes to a high-value target, you know, a potential al-Qaeda or believed al-Qaeda target, we can do anything we want anywhere in the world. And the world's our playpen. And I can tell you right now, inside the American intelligence community, and I’m talking about high up in the community, there's a great deal of concern about these kind of operations, because our troop go in and do what they do to people they think are Iraqis -- I mean, al-Qaeda. And it's very rough. And they don't clear it with either the State Department or the ambassador in the country or the C.I.A. chief of station. It's a formula for chaos. And it's going on now. And it's been going on for quite a while, many months. And it's a new sort of step-up in the war. And Congress? Do they want to know? I don't think so.
AMY GOODMAN: And the S.M.U.s, where else are they? The special mission units?
SEYMOUR HERSH: In places where we think there's – you know, certainly in Iraq, and other places in the world where we think they can do some good.
AMY GOODMAN: By the way, do you believe that the secret prisons are in Romania and Poland, as Human Rights Watch believes, that the Washington Post won't name, but exposed?
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, Amy, I’m actually doing some more work on it. But I will tell you this, the C.I.A. prisons are there. There have been prisons, the C.I.A. has run prisons for many, many years around the world. And I’m sure terrible things happen. But that's actually not where the real game is. They're somewhere else.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Other places. I’m -- let me do my reporting, and I promise I’ll publish it, and I promise I’ll come and talk to you about it.

Read on, MacDuff!

Colbert Report: Adscam like Monopoly money :)

"Tonight, Canada's government falls. Will the streets murmur with quiet disagreement?"

That was Stephen Colbert's cold-opening to his show, Tuesday night. Both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert headlined Tues night's shows with some hardcore CanCon. You can check-oot Colbert's take on the fall of the 38th parliament at Crooks & Liars (WMP & QT formats available).

Read on, MacDuff!

Kyoto Daze Part III: A Mighty Wind

Welcome to Part III of my bumbling series on climate change. In "A Mighty Wind," I'll take a quick look at a not-so-new form of renewable energy. You guessed it: wind power. In Part I of my series on Canadian Policy & Politics, I alluded to the April amendments to the federal budget (Lib/NDP deals). You may have noticed this tidbit: "The federal government has also reserved $200 million to stimulate the use of wind power to generate electricity."

[click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]
I know it's only been 6+ months since that budget passed but something tells me that you've yet to be deafened by the massive expansion of wind-parks in your area. Ok, maybe in PEI. Those islanders are smart: they started in 2000! And now? PEI is working on exporting its wind power resources to the mainland. They've come a long way, baby :) Just 10 days ago our Fed. Min. of Environment (Dion) was in the province making promises to finance the cable needed for the wind-power export project:
Dion said Ottawa could put $30 million into the project. Dion used strong language to describe the province's plan to generate 350 megawatts of electricity by 2015. "I call it a radical change; I call it a revolution," he said.
But here's the rub: "Dion says the $30 million hasn't been approved by Treasury Board. He says he'll try to get that approval before a federal election is called, but he can't make any promises." Oy. Keep up the pressure, Islanders! Make sure whomever you elect commits to getting your cables! The rest of us should do likewise, of course.

And we're finally getting wind power in Ontario. Today the G & M reported that a Wind park will be built in Port Alma:
Forest company Kruger Inc. has been selected by the Ontario Ministry of Energy to build a 101.2-megawatt wind park valued at some $200-million. The park will be located in Port Alma, south of Chatham, on the shores of Lake Erie, Kruger said yesterday. The project, capable of supplying the equivalent electricity needs of 25,000 homes, is one of a batch of projects for renewable energy approved last week by the Ontario government. Under the contract, Kruger Energy Group, a division of the Quebec-based forest company, will sell the energy to the Ontario Power Authority for 20 years.
Well, that's something. But why is it taking us so long? The truth is that Canada is late to the game on wind power. During the last election campaign, the Sierra Club called-out the Liberals in their 'Report Card':
The Liberal promise to make Canada a “world leader” in wind energy is ambitious as Canada is far behind countries like Denmark and Germany. The actual Liberal target of 4,000 megawatts is less than half the NDP wind target.
It's true: we are behind. While Germany's made quite a name for themselves on wind power, Spain--whose emissions rose +41.7% from 1990-2003--is aiming to surpass Germany's use of wind-power by the end of this year:
Despite a temporary slowdown in 2005, Spain will see steady wind power growth through the end of the decade as it follows through on plans to reach 20,000 MW by 2010. Meanwhile, Germany continues to face market saturation, resulting in a steady decrease in onshore MW additions from 2005 to 2010, according to EER's European Wind Energy Country Forecast Data, released in November 2005.
[...] A group of smaller wind power markets are entering major growth phases for the first time: Italy, France and Portugal are all seeing MW added increases of over 80% in 2005. In 2005, France is expected to install 250 MW of new wind power capacity, while Italy and Portugal are each expected to add 450 MW by year end.
Wind power is literally sweeping Europe. And yes, I am just that corny :)

Well, that's all for my inexpert Kyoto Daze series. I might add more as our federal campaign lumbers along and each party reveals its enviro-policy. It will be interesting to see if & how the Greens, NDP & Grits retool their positions--and if Harper bothers to present an environmental policy this time! As always, please feel free to add your thoughts or admonish me for mine :) You can find Kyoto Daze Part I (Canadian Policy & Politics) and Part II (Car & Driver) just below this post (if you want to, that is!). Cheers!

Read on, MacDuff!