Thursday, September 27, 2007

They are going to shoot

Voices from cyberspace: how Burma's bloggers are bearing witness to the unfolding revolution
Published: 27 September 2007

Dawn 109,Rangoon

A lot of rumours are flying around Yangon [Ran goon]. I am getting awfully paranoid. The military has been ordered to shoot. I heard... that "they have been ordered to shoot." Even now, a co-worker is saying: "They are going to shoot." I just saw with my own eyes that more than 500 monks... have marched on Bo Gyoke Aung Sand Road. There were other people too, walking along the side, holding hands, holding Buddhist flags, singing and clapping hands. They were chanting: "To the uncountable living beings living in uncountable universes to the east, May they be free of danger, May they be free of anger, May they be free of sufferings, andMay their hearts be calm and peaceful. May there be peace on earth."

Kto Hike

All over Rangoon, thousands of people are marching on foot, some on bikes, from 26th Street to 33rd Street. Soldiers in police uniforms are using tear gas bombs, officers are shouting orders to fire just above peoples' heads. Guns are firing continuously. Students from Main University Road are now marching towards 80th Street. On 26 September, a Buddhist monk was beaten to death by plain-clothed thugs while he was praying at the Shwe Dagon Pagoda in the centre of Rangoon. The dead body was carried back to the Sadu Monastery in Kyee Myindine. My part-time duty is working on Emergency YGH... at about 2 pm, 5 patients were coming to our Emergency... for gun shot wounds... 1 patient died on spot on arriving at hospital... 4 r still bad in Diagnosis... The patient's attendant said he was not in d line of protest... they were chatting and watching d protest line and sitting on Cafe Bar near Shawe Dagon Pagoda... Government military car was crossing to d protest line and randomly shot all of them...

Sein Khaloke

Buddhist monks are chanting: "All humans be free from killing and torturing, Our compassion and love spread all over country" and "Peace on earth".

Mya, Rangoon

A monk who took part in the protests came to us and told us about his experiences. He said: "We are not afraid, we haven't committed a crime, we just say prayers and take part in the protests. We haven't accepted money from onlookers although they offered us a lot. We just accept water. People clapped, smiled and cheered us." The monk seemed very happy, excited and proud. But I'm worried for them. They care for us and we pray for them not to get harmed.

Mg Khar, Rangoon

The current situation can lead to civil war because the junta still holds the power and the opposition might use this opportunity to launch an armed struggle. We want things to change peacefully, not through a civil war. But if there's no way to avoid the armed struggle, the people will choose it and the conditions in our poor country may become worse. International pressure, including from China and Russia, is very important for the future of Burma at this moment.

Soe Soe, Mandalay

I am not sure where these protests are going to lead, but I am sure it's not at a good sign. Many people are expecting a great change soon. I am not sure if the monks will be joined by students, workers, or even soldiers. We are very insecure because we don't know what the government is planning. There is some news in the government-controlled newspapers that the monks are trying to agitate the public. This can be a big excuse for them to start attacking the monks. I hope there won't be any bloodbath this time like there was in 1988.

Kyi Kyi, Rangoon

I am really sorry for our country and our people because we are under the control of the wicked junta. We haven't got arms, we wish for peace, a better future and democracy. We are hoping that the UN Security Council will put a pressure on the junta. We are so afraid.

David, Rangoon

Now the junta is reducing the internet connection bandwidth and we have to wait for a long time to see a page. Security forces block the route of demonstrations. Yesterday, the junta told people in Rangoon and Mandalay not to leave their houses from 9pm to 5am. I think if the junta decides, they will cut off communication.

Thila, Rangoon

Riot police and soldiers are beating monks and protesters at the east gate of Shwedagon Pagoda. They are starting a crackdown by all means. Regardless of this, just after noon, about 1,000 monks from a nearby monastery started a march to Shwedagon Pagoda.

Yi, Rangoon

I saw a truck full of police with guns, which looked like AK47. The military junta has been making us miserable for nearly two decades.

Eyewitness, Rangoon

Riot police started to chase the monks and beat them up. Then about 200 were hauled off onto the trucks and driven away. About 80 monks were taken away.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

the revolution

will now be frenetic

what to make of this

Much transpires in Caledonia of late.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Canada tried to "bribe" African countries to reject U.N. decleration on indigenous rights: CanWest

Last week, after the African countries announced their support for the revised document, a senior official with the African Indigenous Caucus accused Canada of having tried to use aid as a bribe to keep them on side.

"By approaching Africa, which had so many problems, and trying to use aid as a tool, Canada was committing a crime," said Joseph Ole Simel, caucus co-ordinator, according to UN note-takers.

Stonechild murdered over gun deal?

Stonechild killed over gun deal, hearing told
Darren Bernhardt
CanWest News Service

SASKATOON -- The notorious freezing death of Neil Stonechild 17 years ago was a murder calculated to keep him from testifying at a trial, and had nothing to do with police, a commission hearing was told Wednesday.

A career criminal, known as X to protect his identity, told the Saskatchewan Police Commission in Saskatoon that a gun deal gone bad led to Stonechild's murder by a man against whom he was scheduled to testify.

A second man set to testify about the ill-fated deal was shot dead four months later, X added.

"I never ever heard anything about the cops. If they took him to a field and kicked the shit out of him, there'd be somebody making a fuss about it (in the prison system)," he said.

The first time he heard of possible police involvement was "on the news" when the story broke in early 2000, said X.

The 34-year-old is in a federal penitentiary and appeared Wednesday handcuffed on the stand. His former cell mate was the person against whom Stonechild, 17, and the other man were to testify, he claimed. The cell mate, known as AA, either performed the killings himself or ordered them after learning the men "ratted him out," said X.

"He (Stonechild) was taken out of town and beat up. That's what I heard. He (AA) basically said all rats should be dead and they got what they deserved," said X. "And he said Neil was lucky that's all he got."

Asked what that meant, X replied: "Freezing to death rather than a bullet to the head."

Back in the 1990s in Saskatoon, AA and his brother and their friends were feared by everyone, said X, who worked for them by delivering drugs, kicking in doors to collect on debts, "protecting hookers and holding guns to people's heads," he said.

"It was known by everyone that if you went against (AA and his brother), you paid the price," he said, adding, "I'm risking my life by sitting here now."

He learned of AA's link to Stonechild in 1996 but never went to police out of fear of retribution. His family begged him not to testify Wednesday but X said he's no longer afraid of AA.

"I've tooken (taken) my licks. I'm at the same calibre now," he said.

Climate change nothing special: 500 scientists

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new analysis of peer-reviewed literature reveals that more than 500 scientists have published evidence refuting at least one element of current man-made global warming scares. More than 300 of the scientists found evidence that 1) a natural moderate 1,500-year climate cycle has produced more than a dozen global warmings similar to ours since the last Ice Age and/or that 2) our Modern Warming is linked strongly to variations in the sun's irradiance. "This data and the list of scientists make a mockery of recent claims that a scientific consensus blames humans as the primary cause of global temperature increases since 1850," said Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Dennis Avery.

Other researchers found evidence that 3) sea levels are failing to rise importantly; 4) that our storms and droughts are becoming fewer and milder with this warming as they did during previous global warmings; 5) that human deaths will be reduced with warming because cold kills twice as many people as heat; and 6) that corals, trees, birds, mammals, and butterflies are adapting well to the routine reality of changing climate.

Despite being published in such journals such as Science, Nature and Geophysical Review Letters, these scientists have gotten little media attention. "Not all of these researchers would describe themselves as global warming skeptics," said Avery, "but the evidence in their studies is there for all to see."

The names were compiled by Avery and climate physicist S. Fred Singer, the co-authors of the new book Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years, mainly from the peer-reviewed studies cited in their book. The researchers' specialties include tree rings, sea levels, stalagmites, lichens, pollen, plankton, insects, public health, Chinese history and astrophysics.

"We have had a Greenhouse Theory with no evidence to support it-except a moderate warming turned into a scare by computer models whose results have never been verified with real-world events," said co-author Singer. "On the other hand, we have compelling evidence of a real-world climate cycle averaging 1470 years (plus or minus 500) running through the last million years of history. The climate cycle has above all been moderate, and the trees, bears, birds, and humans have quietly adapted."

"Two thousand years of published human histories say that the warm periods were good for people," says Avery. "It was the harsh, unstable Dark Ages and Little Ice Age that brought bigger storms, untimely frost, widespread famine and plagues of disease." "There may have been a consensus of guesses among climate model-builders," says Singer. "However, the models only reflect the warming, not its cause." He noted that about 70 percent of the earth's post-1850 warming came before 1940, and thus was probably not caused by human-emitted greenhouse gases. The net post-1940 warming totals only a tiny 0.2 degrees C.

The historic evidence of the natural cycle includes the 5000-year record of Nile floods, 1st-century Roman wine production in Britain, and thousands of museum paintings that portrayed sunnier skies during the Medieval Warming and more cloudiness during the Little Ice Age. The physical evidence comes from oxygen isotopes, beryllium ions, tiny sea and pollen fossils, and ancient tree rings. The evidence recovered from ice cores, sea and lake sediments, cave stalagmites and glaciers has been analyzed by electron microscopes, satellites, and computers. Temperatures during the Medieval Warming Period on California's Whitewing Mountain must have been 3.2 degrees warmer than today, says Constance Millar of the U.S. Forest Service, based on her study of seven species of relict trees that grew above today's tree line.

Singer emphasized, "Humans have known since the invention of the telescope that the earth's climate variations were linked to the sunspot cycle, but we had not understood how. Recent experiments have demonstrated that more or fewer cosmic rays hitting the earth create more or fewer of the low, cooling clouds that deflect solar heat back into space-amplifying small variations in the intensity of the sun.

Avery and Singer noted that there are hundreds of additional peer-reviewed studies that have found cycle evidence, and that they will publish additional researchers' names and studies. They also noted that their book was funded by Wallace O. Sellers, a Hudson board member, without any corporate contributions

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

one of Canada's greatest poets


John Newlove

I. In this cold room
I remember the smell of manure
on men's heavy clothes as good,
the smell of horses.

It is a romantic world
to readers of journeys
to the Northern Ocean-

especially if their houses are heated
to some degree, Samuel.

Hearne, your camp must have smelled
like hell whenever you settled down
for a few days of rest and journal-work:

hell smeared with human manure,
hell half-full of raw hides,
hell of sweat, Indians, stale fat,
meat-hell, fear-hell, hell of cold.

2. One child is back from the doctor's while
the other one wanders about in dirty pants
and I think of Samuel Hearne and the land -

puffy children coughing as I think,
crying, sick-faced,
vomit stirring in grey blankets
from room to room.

It is Christmastime
the cold flesh shines.
No praise in merely enduring.

3. Samuel Hearne did more
in the land (like all the rest
full of rocks and hilly country,
many very extensive tracts of land,
tittimeg, pike and barble,

and the islands:
the islands, many
of them abound

as well as the main
land does
with dwarf woods,

chiefly pine
in some parts intermixed
with latch and birch) than endure.

The Indians killed twelve deer.
It was impossible to describe
the intenseness of the cold.

4. And, Samuel Hearne,
I have almost begun to talk

as if you wanted to be
gallant, as if you went
through that land for a book -

as if you were not SAM, wanting
to know, to do a job.

5. There was that Eskimo girl
at Bloody Fall, at your feet,

Samuel Hearne, with two spears in her,
you helpless before your helpers,

and she twisted about them like
an eel, dying, never to know.

Omar Khadr

The Unending Torture of Omar Khadr

JEFF TIETZ / Rolling Stone 24aug2007

He was a child of jihad, a teenage soldier in bin Laden's army. Captured on the battlefield when he was only fifteen, he has been held at Guantanamo Bay for the past four years — subjected to unspeakable abuse sanctioned by the president himself Jeff Tietz

In July 2002, a Special Forces unit in southeast Afghanistan received intelligence that a group of Al Qaeda fighters was operating out of a mud-brick compound in Ab Khail, a small hill town near the Pakistani border. The Taliban regime had fallen seven months earlier, but the rough border regions had not yet been secured. When the soldiers arrived at the compound, they looked through a crack in the door and saw five men armed with assault rifles sitting inside. The soldiers called for the men to surrender. The men refused. The soldiers sent Pashto translators into the compound to negotiate. The men promptly slaughtered the translators. The American soldiers called in air support and laid siege to the compound, bombing and strafing it until it was flat and silent. They walked into the ruins. They had not gotten far when a wounded fighter, concealed behind a broken wall, threw a grenade, killing Special Forces Sgt. Christopher Speer. The soldiers immediately shot the fighter three times in the chest, and he collapsed. When the soldiers got close, they saw that he was just a boy. Fifteen years old and slightly built, he could have passed for thirteen. He was bleeding heavily from his wounds, but he was — unbelievably — alive. The soldiers stood over him.

"Kill me," he murmured, in fluent English. "Please, just kill me."

His name was Omar Khadr. Born into a fundamentalist Muslim family in Toronto, he had been prepared for jihad since he was a small boy. His parents, who were Egyptian and Palestinian, had raised him to believe that religious martyrdom was the highest achievement he could aspire to. In the Khadr family, suicide bombers were spoken of with great respect. According to U.S intelligence, Omar's father used charities as front groups to raise and launder money for Al Qaeda. Omar's formal military training — bombmaking, assault-rifle marksmanship, combat tactics — before he turned twelve. For nearly a year before the Ab Khail siege, according to the U.S. government, Omar and his father and brothers had fought with the Taliban against American and Northern Alliance forces in Afghanistan. Before that, they had been living in Jalalabad, with Osama bin Laden. Omar spent much of his adolescence in Al Qaeda compounds.


Curious Fisk article

Robert Fisk: Even I question the 'truth' about 9/11
Published: 25 August 2007

Each time I lecture abroad on the Middle East, there is always someone in the audience – just one – whom I call the "raver". Apologies here to all the men and women who come to my talks with bright and pertinent questions – often quite humbling ones for me as a journalist – and which show that they understand the Middle East tragedy a lot better than the journalists who report it. But the "raver" is real. He has turned up in corporeal form in Stockholm and in Oxford, in Sao Paulo and in Yerevan, in Cairo, in Los Angeles and, in female form, in Barcelona. No matter the country, there will always be a "raver".

His – or her – question goes like this. Why, if you believe you're a free journalist, don't you report what you really know about 9/11? Why don't you tell the truth – that the Bush administration (or the CIA or Mossad, you name it) blew up the twin towers? Why don't you reveal the secrets behind 9/11? The assumption in each case is that Fisk knows – that Fisk has an absolute concrete, copper-bottomed fact-filled desk containing final proof of what "all the world knows" (that usually is the phrase) – who destroyed the twin towers. Sometimes the "raver" is clearly distressed. One man in Cork screamed his question at me, and then – the moment I suggested that his version of the plot was a bit odd – left the hall, shouting abuse and kicking over chairs.

Usually, I have tried to tell the "truth"; that while there are unanswered questions about 9/11, I am the Middle East correspondent of The Independent, not the conspiracy correspondent; that I have quite enough real plots on my hands in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Iran, the Gulf, etc, to worry about imaginary ones in Manhattan. My final argument – a clincher, in my view – is that the Bush administration has screwed up everything – militarily, politically diplomatically – it has tried to do in the Middle East; so how on earth could it successfully bring off the international crimes against humanity in the United States on 11 September 2001?

Well, I still hold to that view. Any military which can claim – as the Americans did two days ago – that al-Qa'ida is on the run is not capable of carrying out anything on the scale of 9/11. "We disrupted al-Qa'ida, causing them to run," Colonel David Sutherland said of the preposterously code-named "Operation Lightning Hammer" in Iraq's Diyala province. "Their fear of facing our forces proves the terrorists know there is no safe haven for them." And more of the same, all of it untrue.

Within hours, al-Qa'ida attacked Baquba in battalion strength and slaughtered all the local sheikhs who had thrown in their hand with the Americans. It reminds me of Vietnam, the war which George Bush watched from the skies over Texas – which may account for why he this week mixed up the end of the Vietnam war with the genocide in a different country called Cambodia, whose population was eventually rescued by the same Vietnamese whom Mr Bush's more courageous colleagues had been fighting all along.

But – here we go. I am increasingly troubled at the inconsistencies in the official narrative of 9/11. It's not just the obvious non sequiturs: where are the aircraft parts (engines, etc) from the attack on the Pentagon? Why have the officials involved in the United 93 flight (which crashed in Pennsylvania) been muzzled? Why did flight 93's debris spread over miles when it was supposed to have crashed in one piece in a field? Again, I'm not talking about the crazed "research" of David Icke's Alice in Wonderland and the World Trade Center Disaster – which should send any sane man back to reading the telephone directory.

I am talking about scientific issues. If it is true, for example, that kerosene burns at 820C under optimum conditions, how come the steel beams of the twin towers – whose melting point is supposed to be about 1,480C – would snap through at the same time? (They collapsed in 8.1 and 10 seconds.) What about the third tower – the so-called World Trade Centre Building 7 (or the Salmon Brothers Building) – which collapsed in 6.6 seconds in its own footprint at 5.20pm on 11 September? Why did it so neatly fall to the ground when no aircraft had hit it? The American National Institute of Standards and Technology was instructed to analyse the cause of the destruction of all three buildings. They have not yet reported on WTC 7. Two prominent American professors of mechanical engineering – very definitely not in the "raver" bracket – are now legally challenging the terms of reference of this final report on the grounds that it could be "fraudulent or deceptive".

Journalistically, there were many odd things about 9/11. Initial reports of reporters that they heard "explosions" in the towers – which could well have been the beams cracking – are easy to dismiss. Less so the report that the body of a female air crew member was found in a Manhattan street with her hands bound. OK, so let's claim that was just hearsay reporting at the time, just as the CIA's list of Arab suicide-hijackers, which included three men who were – and still are – very much alive and living in the Middle East, was an initial intelligence error.

But what about the weird letter allegedly written by Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian hijacker-murderer with the spooky face, whose "Islamic" advice to his gruesome comrades – released by the CIA – mystified every Muslim friend I know in the Middle East? Atta mentioned his family – which no Muslim, however ill-taught, would be likely to include in such a prayer. He reminds his comrades-in-murder to say the first Muslim prayer of the day and then goes on to quote from it. But no Muslim would need such a reminder – let alone expect the text of the "Fajr" prayer to be included in Atta's letter.

Let me repeat. I am not a conspiracy theorist. Spare me the ravers. Spare me the plots. But like everyone else, I would like to know the full story of 9/11, not least because it was the trigger for the whole lunatic, meretricious "war on terror" which has led us to disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan and in much of the Middle East. Bush's happily departed adviser Karl Rove once said that "we're an empire now – we create our own reality". True? At least tell us. It would stop people kicking over chairs.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

All that is alive merely evaporates

Russia unveils its ‘vacuum bomb'


September 11, 2007 at 5:21 PM EDT

MOSCOW — Russia has tested the world's most powerful vacuum bomb, an explosive device unleashing a destructive shockwave with the power of a nuclear weapon, the military said on Tuesday.

The bomb is the latest in a series of new Russian weapons and policy moves unveiled as President Vladimir Putin tries to reassert Moscow's role on the international stage.

"Test results of the new airborne weapon have shown that its efficiency and power is commensurate with a nuclear weapon," Alexander Rukshin, Russian deputy armed forces chief of staff, told Russia's ORT First Channel television.

"You will now see it in action, the bomb which has no match in the world is being tested at a military site," the state-controlled channel said. It showed a Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bomber dropping the bomb over a testing ground. A large explosion followed.

Pictures followed of what looked like a flattened multi-storeyed block of flats, surrounded by scorched soil and boulders.

"The defence ministry stresses this military invention does not contradict a single international treaty. Russia is not unleashing a new arms race," the channel said.

Such devices generally detonate in two stages. First a small blast disperses a main load of explosive material into a cloud, which then either spontaneously ignites in air or is set off by a second charge.

This explosion generates a pressure wave that reaches much further than that from a conventional explosive. The consumption of gases in the blast also generates a partial vacuum that can compound damage and injuries caused by the explosion itself.

"The main destruction is inflicted by an ultrasonic shockwave and an incredibly high temperature," the report said. "All that is alive merely evaporates."

"At the same time, I want to stress that the action of this weapon does not contaminate the environment, in contrast to a nuclear one," Mr. Rukshin said.

Poetry is...

By Poet Stephen Brockwell

I hesitate to start with definitions, but it’s fair that you understand what I mean when I talk about poems, poets, and poetics. Many take these terms for granted, but the residual math student in my brain can’t resist searching for useful, stab-in-the-dark definitions of these terms. For the sake of inclusiveness (which will be of value later), I think of a poem as a gathering of gestures that a spectator (visual) or audience (auditory) – reader, viewer, listener – experiences as “poetic.” The Greek root of the word poesis suggests making or creating, but I prefer the implied reciprocity of gathering. A poem is never simply made up, never created from nothing; it is always assembled, put together from parts. This is, of course, true at many levels – the simplest, sound and word, are the subjects of this session; the increasingly elaborate gatherings, and gatherings of gatherings, we’ll think about later: line, sentence, utterance, trope, form, poem.

But let’s return to the gestures. I’ve said that I want to be inclusive – I want to include visual poetry, dance, painting, architecture. It may seem too inclusive to use the word gesture for the raw material of poems. But I don’t believe it would be wise to draw sharp distinctions at this point. Do we want to demand, for example, that a tone poem should simply be called a symphony? Do we want to insist that the calligraphic script of traditional haiku serves only as ornament? Do we want to draw a fixed boundary between poetry and song, and thus excise medieval ballads and Shakespeare’s songs from our repertoire of poems? I don’t think we learn much by drawing such boundaries without first thinking about what might be lost if we do.

A gathering of gestures is poetic if it holds certain aesthetic properties that would be absent if the gestures were gathered differently, or if they were presented by themselves. Let me point out that this notion of a poem hearkens back to Aristotle’s definition of tragedy. In The Poetics, Aristotle defined tragedy as an imitation of an action that is serious, complete and of a certain magnitude. Some might say that a work of art is poetic if it is whole, indivisible, and integral, or that it should be open, ambiguous, and inventive. The important point is this: the pleasure in a gathering of gestures depends on the spectator or audience. Poetry is ultimately subjective – no single human can authoritatively pass unequivocal judgments on a poem or a body of work. Besides, passing judgment is not the poet’s primary function; passing judgment is a secondary function as the poem’s first reader.

Poetics is the articulation of particular arts of gathering gestures. I like the sound of that, but I think it’s insufficient. It invites the lurking difficulty in this terminological exercise. What’s art?

I think of the poet as nothing but the poem’s first listener or reader, the person who for the first time takes up the gathering, beholds it, re-gathers it and takes it up again.

Poetry begins in the body as sound. The abdomen, diaphragm and lungs propel the breath; the larynx and vocal chords vibrate; the pharynx, oral, and nasal cavities resonate; the lips, tongue and palate articulate – wind, string and percussion in a single blood-and-bone box. Our subtle and elastic vocal apparatus is capable of a greater diversity of sound than any other acoustic instrument that I can think of (if you think of an acoustic instrument that can produce a wider diversity of sounds than the mouth in full flight, tell me). We have taught, or been taught by, our bones, tendons, cartilage, muscles, nerves and neurons to distinguish between ah and eh?, bah! and be, and to make art from such distinctions and their playful variations. The private reader who rides a bus, book-in-lap, whose swinging irises signal their immersion in a text, partakes of the sound of poetry even in silence. I would leave it to a neurologist to prove the following intuition: the act of reading stimulates the same parts of the nervous system that produce and recognize speech.

The first act that fastened sound to a thing, an action or a state of mind is almost certainly lost to us, which is too bad because it was the first mighty good poem. It's easy enough to think of the obvious: a cry of pain or pleasure becomes a sign for pain or pleasure; a … The fundamentals of an interesting poem would have found expression in the first utterances (if there was a big bang of language) – stimulating, memorable, contagiously repeatable sound, a mind-grabbing trope, speech: a poem.

Visual representation of sound ... think of the pictographic quality of hieroglyphics and oriental characters.

Tangible versus intelligible: a dog finds dirt tangible because it can put it in its mouth; it cannot make dirt intelligible. Is language necessary for intelligibility?

At the atomic level of sound, a poet needs to walk with his tongue in stop-motion through the spaces between one sound and another, between vowels in a diphthong, between the consonants in “diphthong”, and between syllables in a word. See Fenolossa on time and transitive verbs. See Ormsby on "Poetry as Isotope."

A poet is the kind of person who will, in the course of an hour or two, hunt for the longest, richest single syllable for the pure pleasure of feeling the sound in the mouth in the same way that a baby squishes applesauce in its fingers: blenched, droughts, fraught, strains, stretched, straights, strengths. A poet – and a decent reader of poetry – must enjoy the sound and taste of these words. Let me clarify what I mean by the taste of a word: I mean its mouth-feel, its physical presence in the mouth, its effect on the tongue over the only apparently brief moment of its existence between other words.

Word as act; word as thing. Certain words seem to resemble what they signify. The word stretch, for example, takes a long time to say. I've heard that the Dutch word for stretch has the same properties. Plato's dialog Cratylus concerns this topic. Cratylus believes that words were once much closer to things in themselves. Hermogenes believes that words are nothing but conventional associations between sounds and things that are established by agreement. I'm of the opinion that many poets are willful cratylists - they want to believe that poems invoke directly what they refer to. Some do; I have no doubt about it. By the way, this goes well beyond simple onomatopoeia. See Genette on Valery (and Cratylus).

Even if poets must accept the conventional nature of language, I think they do so grudgingly. A good poet compresses the distance between signifier and signified to a point, a white dwarf star that shines, out of view, like the phosphorus at the bottom of the sea in A. M. Klein's “Portrait of the Poet as Landscape.”

Things to consider for the workshop:

Carefully choose a single syllable word that you find particularly beautiful, ugly, sonorous or discordant. Describe the physical properties of the word in clear and simple language. Write a brief critique of the word; explain why you find the word heavy, light, gorgeous or gaudy.

Bp Nichol's “Drum and a Wheel” depends for its effect on an asymmetrical moving frame. Pick a simple phrase and put it through a similar procedure.

Think about Rimbaud's “Voyelles”. Pick a few of your favorite consonants and write a few lines for each.

bp Nichol's "Cycle #22"
Peter Van Toorn's translation of Rimbaud's Voyelles
Rimbaud's Voyelles
Eric Ormsby's essay "Poetry as Isotope"
Ernest Fenolossa "The Chinese Character as a Medium for Poetry"
Gerard Genette's "Valery and the Poetics of Language"
Louis Zukofsky's "Peri Poietikes"
George Johnston's "Shadowy"

Weston on the dance of the seven veils

Lifting veil on voting
Elections Canada enforcing changes Conservatives passed

As Canadians mark the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Stephen Harper is apparently mad as hell over Islam's veiled voters, and isn't going to take it anymore.

What got the otherwise fun-loving PM fired up was a press release from Elections Canada stating veiled Muslim women will be able to vote in the coming federal byelections in Quebec.

Naturally, driver's licences and other photo ID used by most voters to confirm their identity at the polling booth are of little value with only a pair of eyes behind a Muslim niqab.

Instead, a Muslim woman not wanting to unveil can now qualify to vote by producing a second piece of non-photo identification approved by Elections Canada.

Alternatively, she would be entitled to a ballot if both she and another registered constituent in the same riding swore out affidavits.

The same rules will apply to all future federal elections.

"I profoundly disagree with the decision," Harper reportedly said at the end of his recent meetings with Pacific Rim leaders in Australia.

"I have to say that it concerns me greatly because the role of Elections Canada is not to make its own laws, it's to put in place the laws that Parliament has passed. So I hope they'll reconsider this decision."

Otherwise, the PM warned, "Parliament will have to consider what actions it's going to take to make sure that it's intentions are put into place."


All of which sparked much heated controversy in other political quarters (and some truly lamentable journalism).

Quebec Premier Jean Charest wholeheartedly agreed with the PM, calling the matter a "bad decision."

Lawrence Cannon, the federal transport minister from Quebec, said: "Political correctness has superceded common sense. These are the kinds of things ordinary people don't understand."

One of the reasons ordinary folk might be confused is that most of the aforementioned commentary from Harper et al is at best misinformed.

Elections Canada didn't "decide" anything new.

In response to inquiries from reporters covering the federal byelections, the agency simply reiterated the government's "statutory requirements regarding the identification of electors wearing face coverings."

Far from the federal electoral office "making its own laws," as the PM claims, it is simply enforcing changes to the Elections Act passed by Harper's own government last year.

Those changes were based on hearings and an extensive report last year by a parliamentary committee which, in turn, was reviewing the 2005 recommendations of the then-chief electoral officer.

After all that, parliamentarians decided in their collective wisdom that the best way to deal with the veiled voter issue was to find other ways for Muslim women to vote.

If the prime minister "profoundly" disagreed with that decision, as he now says, he forgot to mention it at the time his government was passing the legislation.

The other problem legislators have recognized is there really isn't much of a problem.

More than 80,000 Canadians voted in the last election by mail-in ballot, no facial recognition required.

As numerous Muslim groups have been quick to point out in the past few days of controversy, there are maybe 50 women in all of Quebec who wear the eyes-only niqab.

And all of them, we are told, are used to showing their faces at banks and other places that require official identification.

Lift the veil on this issue and the problem is entirely in the eyes of beholders.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

When the revolution starts to go off the rails

September 5, 2007
Caracas Journal
A Culture of Naming That Even a Law May Not Tame

CARACAS, Venezuela, Sept. 4 — Goodbye, Tutankamen del Sol.

So long, Hengelberth, Maolenin, Kerbert Krishnamerk, Githanjaly, Yornaichel, Nixon and Yurbiladyberth. The prolifically inventive world of Venezuelan baby names may be coming to an end.

If electoral officials here get their way, a bill introduced last week would prohibit Venezuelan parents from bestowing those names — and many, many others — on their children.

The measure would not be retroactive. But it would limit parents of newborns to a list of 100 names established by the government, with exemptions for Indians and foreigners, and it is already facing skepticism in the halls of the National Assembly.

“I need to know how they would define those 100 names,” said Jhonny Owee Milano Rodríguez, a congressman representing Cojedes State. “For example, why not 120? This seems arbitrary to me.”

Mr. Milano, 55, said his first name, Jhonny, spelled as such, was inspired by the international ambience of the oil town in eastern Venezuela where he was born. Owee, he said, was erroneously entered in the birth registry instead of Oved.

The bill’s ambition, according to a draft submitted to municipal offices here for review, is to “preserve the equilibrium and integral development of the child” by preventing parents from giving newborns names that expose them to ridicule or are “extravagant or hard to pronounce in the official language,” Spanish.

The bill also aims to prevent names that “generate doubts” about the bearer’s gender.

Some of Mr. Milano’s colleagues in the National Assembly, which is controlled by supporters of President Hugo Chávez, include Iroshima Jennifer Bravo Quevedo, Earle José Herrera Silva and Grace Nagarith Lucena Rosendy. Legislators need to approve the bill before it becomes law.

Whimsical names can also be found in other Latin American countries. Honduras has first names like Ronald Reagan, Transfiguración and Compañía Holandesa (Dutch Company), according to the newspaper El Heraldo. In Panama, local news media this year reported name-change efforts by an Esthewoldo, a Kairovan and a Max Donald.

But Venezuela’s naming tradition rivals or exceeds that of its neighbors, many people here say. Some first names in Venezuela include Haynhect, Olmelibey, Yan Karll and Udemixon, according to a list compiled by the novelist Roberto Echeto.

Other names here easily roll off the tongue in English, like Kennedy or John Wayne, or in Russian, like Pavel or Ilich, reflecting influences from the cold war era.

Municipal clerks’ offices, where parents register their children, have become forums for debating the possible restrictions.

“The children of my cousins are named Keiserlin, Jeiserlin, Keifel, Yurubi, Arol Kiling,” said Leidy Marrero, 29, a budget analyst. Ms. Marrero named her newborn daughter Mariángela, combining María and Ángela.

“It’s a question of taste,” she said in an interview at the clerk’s office in the San Bernardino district of Caracas, explaining her opposition to the measure. “It is a parent’s right.”

Some parents exercise that right more liberally than others.

Software searches of the voter registry find more than 60 people of voting age with the first name Hitler, including Hitler Adonys Rodríguez Crespo; eight Hochiminhs, among them Hochiminh Jesús Delgado Sierra; and six Eisenhowers, including Dwight Eisenhower Rojas Barboza.

Unusual names in Venezuela are often grist for awe or humor, but the issue is also politicized, given President Chávez’s gusto for renaming things, with critics of the bill claiming it would enhance his government’s naming authority in a realm where the fancy of parents still holds sway.

One of the president’s first moves was to change the country’s name from Republic of Venezuela to Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Part of Avenida Páez here has been renamed Avenida Teheran in a nod to Iran. The currency, the bolívar, is to be called the “bolívar fuerte,” or strong bolívar, starting next year.

In an editorial, the newspaper El Nacional described the measure as “malicious.”

The authorities may yet bend to public will. Germán Yépez, an official with the National Electoral Council, said the measure originated after children were given names like Superman and Batman. Still, he said in comments broadcast on radio, he welcomed “this type of positive reaction and suggestions.”

Not everyone denounces the bill. Temutchin del Espíritu Santo Rojas Fernández, 25, a computer programmer, explained that his first name was inspired by the birth name of Genghis Khan, often spelled Temujin in English. He said he frequently had to correct the spelling of his name on official documents.

And in Venezuela, where the tax authorities require name and national identity number for every purchase needing a receipt, pronouncing and spelling out Temutchin del Espíritu Santo can get tiring, Mr. Rojas Fernández said. “With a name this complicated, you lose time,” he said.

“It also creates social problems,” he continued. “When interacting with others, not everyone can pronounce your name. I have to pronounce my name five times and spell it twice.”

José Orozco contributed reporting.

The word "Exclusive"

just doesn't mean the same thing anymore.

Veil removal not required for fed vote

Thu, 2007-09-06 01:36.

John Elston
(Reporting by Brian Lilley, CFRB Ottawa Bureau Chief)

It was an explosive issue during the last provincial election in Quebec, now it is back. Elections Canada is ruling that Muslim women will not have to remove their veils in order to vote during the September 17th by-elections in Quebec.

A new federal law, which received royal assent in June of this year, will require Canadians to prove their identity before casting a ballot. Voters will be asked for government issued photo-id before being allowed to vote. Those without the required id can provide two other pieces of acceptable identification or have another voter in the district vouch for them.

While Muslim women will be asked for photo-id such as a driver's license, they will not be required to remove their veil. A spokesman for Elections Canada tells CFRB that women may choose to remove the veil but if they opt not to, they can simply provide a second piece of identification in addition to the driver's license. Women who choose not to unveil will also be given the opportunity to swear an oath and have another voter vouch for them, but Elections Canada says two veiled individuals will not be allowed to vouch for each other.

DATE: 2007.04.10

Muslims face unveiling Tory bill in Senate would require voters to show government-issued ID

Veiled Muslim women might be forced to show their faces at the voting booth if a government bill quietly making its way through the Senate becomes law, says Canada's new chief electoral officer.

The bill, which has passed through the House and is being studied by a Senate committee, would require voters to show government-issued photo ID at the polls.


Marc Mayrand says the bill, if passed, would plop the controversial issue of the veil, which created a stir during the recent Quebec election, on the lap of Elections Canada.

"If it passes, it will have to be addressed," Mayrand tells Sun Media. "We have to review the situation."

The bill also allows for alternative identification authorized by Elections Canada. Those without identification can have someone else registered in the same polling division vouch for them by swearing an oath.

The Muslim Canadian Congress sees no problem with the bill.

"We believe that no one who covers their face should be allowed to vote," says congress founder Tarek Fatah.

"If men came up wearing masks, they would not be allowed to vote, so why should women covering their faces be allowed to vote?" he asks.

Fatah says Muslim groups causing a stir over the issue of veils at the voting booth want to increase hostilities between the Muslim community and the rest of Canada.

The NDP has opposed the legislation, dubbing it "a Big Brother bill" because it promises to hand personal information over to political parties and candidates.

Public outrage forced Quebec's electoral officer to reverse a decision that allowed Muslim women to wear the niqab at the voting booth.


Marcel Blanchet received calls from voters threatening to disrupt the election by wearing masks and Halloween costumes to polling stations.

Mayrand says Blanchet faced an "exceptional situation" that could have spun "out of control."

Voters are currently not required to show photo ID during federal elections.

Under the bill, Elections Canada would be required to create lifetime identifying numbers for the more than 22 million voters. Birth dates would also be included on permanent voters' lists, updated yearly and available to parties and candidates.

Federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddard has raised concerns about including birth dates on voters' lists

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

On the Road turns 50

Where have you gone Jack Kerouac?

Today is the 50th anniversary of On the Road
The purity of the road. The white line in the middle of the highway unrolled and hugged our left front tire as if glued to our groove.
In no time at all we were back on the main highway and that night I saw the entire state of Nebraska unroll before my eyes. A hundred and ten miles an hour straight through, an arrow road, sleeping towns, no traffic, and the Union Pacific streamliner falling behind us in the moonlight. I wasn't frightened at all that night; it was perfectly legitimate to go 110 and talk and have all the Nebraska towns--Ogallala, Gotehnburg, Kearney, Grand Island, Columbus--unroll with dreamlike rapidity as we roared ahead and talked. It was a magnificent car; it could hold the road like a boat holds on water. Gradual curves were its singing ease. 'Ah, man, what a dreamboat,' sighed Dean. 'Think if you and I had a car like this what we could do. Do you know there's a road that goes down Mexico and all the way to Panama?--and maybe all the way to the bottom of South America where the Indians are seven feet tall and eat cocaine on the mountainside? Yes! You and I, Sal, we'd dig the whole world with a car like this because, man, the road must eventually lead to the whole world. Ain't nowhere else it can go--right? Oh, and are we going to cut around old Chi with this thing! Think of it, Sal, I've never been to Chicago in all my life, never stopped.'
'We'd come in there like gangsters in this Cadillac!'
So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars'll be out, and don't you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what's going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.

When I killed a seagull in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut

The trigger pulled and nothing happened but the guy I was with laughed and said I had to cock it, like in the movies, and then I felt the power. The gun exploded in my arms. The seagulls continued to circle char snared on nets left bare by the Hudson Bay tide. I aimed again, eye up the thick barrel of the shotgun following the corkscrew flight path of one seagull as it descended and ascended.

It burst like a small firework of feathers and dropped into tall grass rimming the shore. It lay like a contorted angel, one wing a mangled blood bone feather mess. A small thread of red traced a path from its eye down its soft neck and its beak opened once. I was told to crush its skull with a large stone.

I had swallowed the tequila worm earlier in a shack owned by NHL player Jordin Tootoo’s parents that sat a few kilometers from Rankin Inlet down a dirt road kept smooth by men in pick-up trucks with a tire tied to the tailgate through tundra that flowed over the edge of the world.

Nunavut falling apart

A former colleague at Sun Media has an interesting story today that quotes from an internal Indian Affairs document that says Nunavut is falling apart:

"Nunavut faces a particular governance and human capacity challenge," the report reads. "Urgent social issues threaten to seriously hinder development and governance and to leave a generation behind."

Sounds a bit alarming, but then Nunavut has been on financial life support from the beginning and its well-known social problems are legion. But are things seriously coming apart? Inuit were relocated to the far north, as in the case of Resolute in 1955, to assert Canadian sovereignty so it is still in the interest of Ottawa to ensure Nunavut thrives.

The story also says that: "Enhanced surveillance with space-based satellites, new measures to drive economic development and fast-tracked settlements of Native land claims are included in a sweeping Arctic sovereignty plan that could be launched with a "major reference" in this fall's Speech from the Throne."

I wonder what Native land claims the government is referring to? Nunavut was the product of a massive land claim deal.

This don't look so hot for Harper and co.

So the Naumetz and Mcgregor hit parade continues....

Fine print made ads legitimate, Tories say
National party commercials tagged as candidate messages

Tim Naumetz and Glen Mcgregor
The Ottawa Citizen

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The federal Conservative party
presented television commercials produced for its national campaign in the 2006 election as advertising for local candidates by tacking fine-print lists of candidates and ridings to the end of the ads.

The costs of the ads, broadcast in Quebec and Ontario, are part of the $1.2 million worth of advertising that has sparked a court battle between Elections Canada and the Conservative party and led to a brewing political storm over allegations the party exceeded its total campaign spending limit.

The ads, some of which invoked the Liberal sponsorship scandal by stating they were paid for with "clean money," are also the subject of an examination by federal Elections Commissioner William Corbett. His investigators began looking into the spending after Conservative candidates attempted to claim reimbursements for the costs as part of their local campaigns.

One commercial, among eight TV ads and two radio spots obtained by the Citizen from Elections Canada, features a group of Canadians in a diner watching a TV with images of Paul Martin, Justice John Gomery and former public works minister David Dingwall. The ad became familiar to voters across the country and featured Judge Gomery's quote about a "culture of entitlement" in the sponsorship scandal.

The ad also features Mr. Dingwall's equally-infamous quote, "I'm entitled to my entitlements," made during a Commons inquiry into his expense account as president of the Royal Canadian Mint.

The only reference to local Conservative candidates comes at the end of the ad, which says, in small lettering, that it was authorized and paid for by the official agents in seven electoral districts in the Greater Toronto Area. The candidates are not named. The name of one of the ridings, Vaughan, is misspelled as "Vaughn."

The dispute between Elections Canada and the party hinges on whether the ads were intended to promote local candidates, or whether they were part of the national campaign.

A Citizen review of campaign spending for all parties in the election found that the Conservative party transferred large sums of money, up to $50,000, to more than 50 candidate campaigns, primarily in Quebec and Ontario.

The Tories set up an intricate system for the candidates to use the money to pay the party for radio, TV and other advertising. Under orders from party headquarters, official agents for the candidates involved were required to fax signed copies of bank transfer instructions to the party, which a party financial officer later used to instruct the candidates' banks to forward payments for the ads.

Several candidates told the Citizen the process was intended to allow them to claim 60 per cent of the advertising expenses in rebates from Elections Canada.

The scheme also might have allowed the party to spend money on advertising outside its $18.3-million overall campaign limit by channelling the costs through the ridings. The party ended the campaign $270,000 under its legal limit.

Elections Canada has rejected the rebate claims from candidates, saying they have produced no evidence they actually contracted the advertising themselves and that local ads are intended to benefit individual candidates.

The party says the ads are legitimate expenses incurred by their candidates because they carry the fine print identifying the official agents of the campaigns that the party says funded them.

"Our tag lines are clearly identified," said Conservative party spokesman Ryan Sparrow. "These ads were paid for by local campaigns, and that's our party's position."

But Elections Canada says the tag lines listing the official agents are "not relevant" in determining whether the ads are legitimate expenses for the candidates.

"Under the Canada Elections Act, for costs to be claimed as an election expense by a candidate, the property or service for which the cost was incurred must be used to directly promote or oppose a candidate during an election period," said Elections Canada spokesman Serge Fleylel.