you obviously have


Right now I'm...

Listening to :
Nick Cave : Murder Ballads

Reading :
Defying Hitler

Occupation :

Weirdest Dream lately :
I dreamed I was on the "other side" when my Dad was passing. I spoke to him and made sure he was okay. Then I woke, and knew he was gone. 30 minutes later, we got the call from the hospital saying that his blood pressure had crashed in the last 30 minutes.

Currently working on :
A BTVS related story called "Long Goodbye" which deals with a member of the Watchers Council being vamped as part of an experiment.
Also completing my nanowrimo effort.



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o Noam Chomsky Archive
o Zmag
o Want to Know
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Of interest

o James Randi
o Sceptics dictionary
o Urban legends debunked
o JunkScience
o Numberwatch
o Museum of Hoaxes
o Free Encyclopedia
o Superstring Theory
o Steal This Book

Quality Smut

o Miss Tracys
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A blog for that outspoken and aggressive member of the Buffy Bulletin Board.
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   Saturday, April 26, 2003

My Dad is home

Yesterday, my dad was let out of the hospital, and he's now home. Even though I had been down to see him everyday, it's a huge relief to have him home.

I've noticed a few things about him though, which I didn't see when I was down in the Ward with him. His mind isn't really all there, which I hope is a function of the medication. He's always remained sharp, despite his advanced years. But now, he's forgetful, starts sentences and then loses track of what he was saying, puts glasses down and forgets where they are. The final straw came this afternoon, when he picked up the remote control and tried to speak into it like it was a phone.

Now I know he's on some incredibly powerful pain medication, but that kind of worries me. I'd hate to think he was losing his mind at this stage of the game.

His sister came over to visit today, which was nice, and my brother will be flying home next week to spend the weekend here. Again, that should give him something to look forward too.

I've been mostly able to deal with the problems here at home by focusing on the lifes of other people, family and friends. It's the best way to hammer home the point that life goes on, and allows me to gain some perspective on things. It's really the best (if not the only) way friends can be supportive right now, so my thanks go out to all those who help distract me from my life.

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John Doe : Risen

Risible, more like.
Alright, so I had nothing better to do and I watched the season finale of John Doe. So sue me. Actually, I should probably sue myself. I think I'd win.

I know I missed most of the season, but the recap at the top of the show told me pretty much everything I needed to know to appreciate the episode. If appreciate is the right word.

Futureman Crewmember Daniels of Enterprise plays an NSA agent who helps Doe, in what has to be some of the most convoluted and badly plotted scenes to have graced my television in some time.

There is a mystery man who we only see in profile for most of the show, and I have to admit that I was banking on him turning out to look exactly like our man John. Not so. The man turned out to be Digger

Surprised? Yeah, but also not really bothered. Since the show is most likely for the chop, I'd like to expound my idea of what John Doe was, and if anyone wants to share theirs in a comment that's cool.

I thought the show had a religious feel to it, and the scene in the library in the pilot episode reminded me of the classroom scene in Omen II. Damien, the young boy anti-christ, is unaware of his heritage, and in a history class gets into a confrontation with the teacher. It's very similar.

Anyway, it occurred to me that John Doe might be the literal anti-christ type figure. Some trivial notes : The Phoenix rises in flames, and is immortal. Doe was found naked on burned ground. Although helping people now, it would be an interesting slant to make his "destiny" evil. The non-deaf non-mute tells Doe that it would have been better if he'd been told the truth early on, but now he is not receptive to it. The connections with Istanbul.

All these things kind of made me think in that direction, although his scar reminds me of a symbol for an eclipse. The half circle is a planet, the small intersecting circle is another body, and the two lines represent a geometric sign for equivalent distance. Kind of like how the moons size and distance are exactly sufficient to cover the much larger, much further away, sun.

Yeah, it's completely whack job crazy, but it makes about as much sense as anything else on that show. I won't be sad to see it go.

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Getting into the Fray

No, it's not misspelled. About two years ago, Joss Whedon began a comic series spin off of his TV show "Buffy". Since I had heard rumours and stories to the effect that it was kind of linked in to the Season 7 finale, I thought it might be worth a read. But I'd never bothered to pick it up.

It's not that I think comics are childish and no self respecting adult would read them. Far from it. I guess it's just because I haven't read a comic in something like ten years, and back then I was a Marvel guy through and through. Superman could kiss my ass. Anything Marvel written by Chris Claremont, Frank Miller and the like, were the only things worth reading.

It became obvious though that Marvel couldn't continue to exist on the path it was heading, and I jumped ship like a lot of people.

Anyway, today I saw the first six issues of Fray going cheap, and rather than read them all in the shop (which always looks bad) I said fuck it, and took them home.

The storyline is very iffy. I can't really tell it's written by Whedon. It's not witty or engaging enough. And you can tell sci-fi is not his forte. The world he writes is more likely to be similar to 20 years from now, rather than 200. But there are some nice moments of slayer mythology in there.

Given how predictable some elements of the story are, I'm kind of amazed he took as long as he did with the later issues. I understand there was something like an 8 month wait on the last issue. I can only assume that it has something meaningful to the tv show in it, and he was reluctant to let it go, or he is really busy with other stuff. The story practically writes itself.

I'm not particularly inspired to go out and buy issues 7 and 8, which isn't a good sign.

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   Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Marathon update

So I spoke to a few people about my plan for next year. For the most part, they all think it's a good idea. As always, there were a few dissenting voices.

For one thing, there are plenty of other marathons I could run much closer to home, than actually going all the way to London. It's a little hard to explain why I feel that that is the one I should go for. It's not just that the London Marathon has a certain cachet but more to do with that particular course being the one that inspired me in the first place.

There's plenty of good reasons not to go to London. For one thing, there's no guarantee of getting an entry accepted. Also, my sister pointed out that it's unlilkely any friends or family will be able to go to support me. A fair point. But having stood by the side of the road at the last one, I noticed how people are incredibly supportive of the runners in general. And while I'm sure it's nice to see a friendly face appear every couple of miles (thanks to the Tube and the DLR) I don't think it's too important to the overall running of the race. Besides which, I'm sure my brother will be there.

Today my Dad went back into hospital, which was as scheduled. I went in with him, and stayed a while. He had brought Easter Eggs for the nurses, which they liked. (He's a real old fashioned gent.) We played some pool, and he cleared five balls in a row at one point, proving he hasn't lost his touch.

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   Saturday, April 19, 2003

London Marathon

Now I'm not the fittest guy you'd meet on the street. My gym membership is still paid up, but before today, I hadn't been in at least a few weeks. And most of my lifestyle now is spent either in front of some keyboard typing, or walking from point A to B. I don't have a lot of time for running or cycling anymore.

That wasn't always the case though. In my more youthful days, I used to be a long distance runner. While I never had the physique for sprints, I ran a lot of long distance races, getting to the Nationals one year. My trophies are still gathering dust on a shelf somewhere, and they haven't been added to in over 20 years or thereabouts. But I remember how good it used to feel, pounding away at the track with the sun beating down over head.

When I was in London the other week, my brother and I spent some time near the 17 mile marker on the London Marathon. It occurred to me at the time (though I didn't voice it) that it was a pity I had never run the Marathon in my younger days, when I was properly trained and had the exhuberance of youth to my advantage.

Then today, I saw a byline on the news that Michael Watson (the Former World Middleweight Boxer who suffered severe brain damage in career ending title fight with Chris Eubank) has finished the London Marathon after SIX DAYS.

And it really kind of hit me. It doesn't matter what time it takes you to complete the course. So long as you don't quit. And money raised is still money raised in a good cause, no matter how badly the race is run.

So I've decided (and I'm stating it here and now to re-enforce it) that I'm going to run the London Marathon next year. I'll be talking to friends and family about raising money for Cancer research (obvious really, given my Dad and all) in the next few weeks. But for now, today's session at the gym was a good start. Sure I'm not fit yet, but I'm not chronically unfit either. I'd like to get around the course in a reasonable time (something like 3 hours) but it doesn't matter if I don't.

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Driving down the Autobahn

Random drive by musings on German theme
My brother arrived in Germany the other day. He got through to me by cell phone, probably doing over 100k.p.h on the autobahn. I know he was planning to rent a big stonking 3 litre car for the weekend, and while he doesn't have his full license yet his girlfriend drives like a woman possessed.

She used to live in Germany, so they're going to stop by friends she knew. They all think my brother is German, because he has a Germanic name. Naturally, they are in for a surprise.

I like the Germans as a people. I've spent quite a lot of time there, and I was in Haar for the solar eclipse in 1999. Yet as friendly as some of their citizens can be, and as amazing as some of the architecture can be, (and as tasty as the beer can be) I can never forget about the war. Its imprint can still be seen in some of the unlikeliest of places.

They've not glamourised their history. You can visit the concentration camps, like Dachau (as I did) or the Buergerbräukeller beer house in Munich (site of the 1923 failed coup d'etat). Some of their shops and beer houses are run by old people who were alive during the war. If you don't speek German, and can find a few friendly people who speak English, they have some interesting stories to tell. Not so much about the war, but about how people viewed the Nazi party in the thirties and how they became popular and powerful.

Some very good text books have been written on the subject, but they are quite dry a lot of the time. I read a few when I was in school, but a lot has changed since then (including the fall of the Berlin Wall) and really there is nothing like talking to those who were there.

Similarly, when I worked in Switzerland with Autodesk, I was working with a translator from the former FDR (East Germany) who had been a soldier when the wall came down. It was interesting to hear how things had been perceived by the average Joe behind the wall. The day the wall came down, the troops were told to arm up and get ready. The average soldier thought this was it. They were being attacked and it was going to mean all-out war. A few paniced. And it turned out it wasn't war, but freedom (after a fashion.)

Germany's a nice place. Friendly people and fascinating history, even if it is scarred by recent events. I hope my brother enjoys his time there.

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Preparing for Easter

My sister, religious by nature, was observing the Lentan Fast. Not out of any regard for the poor in Africa or some other charitable cause. She gave up chocolate because she wanted to lose a few inches. Completely silly of course, since she's rake thin. (All that dancing.)

So she's been collecting all the chocs and bars and sweets that people normally give her, or she buys herself, and has been storing them in the back of the fridge. Yes, you guessed it. She's going to gorge herself silly on Sunday.

I know she has a bit of sweet tooth. We all do in my family. But I've refrained from buying her an Easter Egg because the one thing she doesn't need right now is more chocolate.

Then last night, completely out of the blue (just as I was about to start cooking something fishy for dinner, it being Good Friday and all) she bought me dinner. (She's the only one who knows about the recent financial calamity.) What a gal.

So of course, I'll have to buy her the egg she wants.

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   Thursday, April 17, 2003

Today was a good day

All things considered, today was a good day. The weather held off, and continued to be unseasonably warm. This morning, I took a long walk to clear my head and think some things through. Then in the evening, I went down to the hospital to spend some time with my Dad.

It's a 90 minute trip to get to there, and another 90 minutes back. And all told, I was with him for around 5 hours or so. He's still very weak, and his voice is barely a cracked whisper. He's in the final stages of his radiation treatment; the one where they up the strength and narrow the focus of the beam.

We were able to hold a makeshift conversation. Me being patient, and him occasionally using a pen and paper when necessary. He's trying to eat some solid foods, not just to keep his weight up, but to convince the doctors that he doesn't need an operation to put tubes in his throat. He really doesn't want to go under the knife.

He can't go out in to the sunshine or sit by the lake which is just outside his ward. The skin around his neck and chest area is burned away and hence too sensitive. He has this yellow liquid gunk that he has to apply to his skin a few times a day, for protection.

So we sat and talked as best we could until the evening rolled around, as it always does, and we went into the television room to watch the sports. (Big game on tonight.) There is a selection of cable/satellite/digital channels in the room you see. No expense spaired.

I wasn't watching the game so much as I was watching him. My chair was a little behind his, and to the left. With my hand resting on his arm, I noticed how the tubes and needles (now removed) had bruised a lot of his skin. The mix and match colours of the yellow dye and purple bruises. His beard (more white than anything else) is to all intents and purposes, a goatee like my own. He's never had a beard in his entire life, and he hates it now. But they won't let a blade near his skin.

When the game was over, and we were preparing to go back into the ward, he mentioned that there was an excellent chance that he'd be coming home tomorrow. The doctors had told him he could come home for the Easter weekend. I was very happy to hear that.

I didn't tell him that this morning, I found out I had lost 6000 dollars. It didn't seem important.

Today was a good day.

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   Wednesday, April 16, 2003


It can't be... it just can't be...
They said it couldn't be done. The one person who couldn't die... is dead.

I'm in shock and disbelief, desperately looking for the reset button. In a show that was ballsy enough to
find the nuke before the show's 23rd hour,
detonate it,
and in the current political climate suggest that there might be elements in the American Government that would pursue a war in the Middle East based on fabricated evidence to secure oil and energy resources and make lots of money...
Man, that's a lot of balls...

So although I think there HAS to be a reset button for this, the fact is I don't know for sure. And 24 is the one show I won't spoil for myself. Goddamn but that's good television...

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   Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Leaping to the wrong conclusion should be an Olympic sport

I've met some prize athletes, let me tell you.

Over the last week, I've been chatting online with someone about some faith based topics covering everything from dreams, depression, the nature of reality, the usefulness of meditation, affirmations, and all sorts of stuff.

Not in any real deep way, of course. There's a limit to what you can get through in the written word. But something that cropped up over and over was how this other person was pre-emptively pre-judging me, my thoughts, and my responses.

You have to understand, that I get that sort of thing a LOT. So you know, I make allowances for it. But when someone makes the same misjudgement repeatedly, well, that kind of gets my goat.

Everyone seems to think they are a great judge of character. And a lot of people just plain suck at it. I'm no exception. So often people are quick to jump to erroneous conclusions. It's just that lately it's been happening so much with me, that I've been forced to notice it more.

The most common feature is pidgeon-holing. That's where a reader takes a statement I've made, works out what group of people most commonly say that type of thing, assume I'm with "them" and attack or respond accordingly. This has the often-noted side-effect of placing words in my mouth which I didn't say in the first place, but which are often attributed to the extremist elements of whatever group I've been pidgeon-holed into.

In the words of Marwood, "Even a stopped clock is right twice a day." I think in times ahead, we're going to get to the point where we can't be blindly loyal to any single group, party, country or viewpoint. We won't be able to afford to pidgeon-hole those who say things we don't agree with. Just because someone is in the wrong party, the wrong country, or his skin is a different color, or he prays to a different god, doesn't automatically make him wrong. We need to watch the pidgeon-holing thing. Make sure it doesn't get out of hand. Try to understand exactly who we're talking to, not who we assume we know who we're talking to. Try to understand what they're saying, not assume we know what they are trying to say.

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We have one less cynic in the world.

As an inveterate sceptic, I don't believe in jinxing things. Or that there is a deeper meaning to co-incidences. (See Mikes serendipitous entry about his F5 key.) But I have to admit I had a small niggling thought in the back of my mind as I wrote a comment on this guys blog, congratulating him on finding the love of his life. That little voice said "You realise, of course, you're jinxing it right now?"

I have reading his blog for a long time now. Like all the other blogs I read, I first met him through the BuffyBB, homeplace of all the excellent people. And it was the first time I had slapped a comment down. I just wanted to congratulate him and wish him the best.

So I was upset (and a tiny bit irrationally guilty) to read that things had gone totally pear-shaped with him and his love.

Last night I heard the great news that things are better than they seemed. He'll probably update his blog with the details at some point, and when he does I'll refrain from commenting there about how happy I am for him. Just in case.

We have one less cynic in the world today. And I for one am happy to see it.

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Serenity NOW!

Last week, I was able to travel to London, England to see my brother. It was part of a much needed break on my part. Tensions and stress levels have been running high at home, and I needed to get out of the house. To decompress. My brother paid for the airfare, and I flew over to spend a few days with him and his girl. They laid out a treat, spared no expense. Good meals out, river cruises on the Thames, a trip on the London Eye, lots of drinking and generally good times. It really brought home to me how much I miss his ready wit and his insight. It also gave me a much needed refueling of faith, because I know how badly he was doing six months ago and how far he's managed to turn it all around in that time. That makes it easier for me to believe I can do it too.

I've known for some years that my brother was better than I was at a lot of things, and I envy him a little for it, as well as respect him. He didn't get any easy breaks. He had the same start I did. It would be ironic to me if it turned out he was just better at "life" than I was.

London is a great city. It kept me sane when I was living in a shitty suburb in England, knowing I could get to London in an hour. (And frequently did so.) I love its mixture of good resteraunts, history, high culture, and street life. As well as the incredible transport system. I've heard Londoners bitch about the Tube, and the DLR and the busses. They don't know how good they have it, the ungrateful shits.

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Shotguns are a point-and-click interface

The weekend of the 4th, I was away at a friends Stag-do. The main activities of the day involved a leisure complex, around 20 miles or so from where I currently live. It's a nice place, and we had an unseasonably warm and sunny day for it.

A couple of things marked this stag-do as unusual, not least of which was the presence of his fiancee. You can take this a few possible ways. Either she doesn't trust him to behave himself, and has him pussywhipped enough that she can demand a place on the stag, or she has him so pussywhipped she knows he'd never do anything sordid. Either way, his balls are firmly under her control, apparently.

A full days activities included some Kayaking which I hated, given my fear of drowning. Ironic, since I've learned to swim. But it's still a fear-factor thing. Then we had some Canadian rowing, which is in a bigger boat. Reminded me of Native American canoeing actually.

The highlight of the days events, for me anyway, was clay-pidgeon shooting. It was the first time I had ever fired a firearm (I hate guns) and I have to say it was pretty cool. I can see why they'd be addictive. Now the shooting wasn't as much fun as finding out I'm a natural at it. In the first 6 rounds, I had a hit rate of 100%. Pretty fucking cool for a first timer. After those 6 rounds, we had a competition between the 10 of us. I was narrowly beaten by a guy who had been shooting for years. Again, pretty damn cool. I can't put it down to beginners luck, but it might have something to do with all the time I've spent playing video games.

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   Thursday, April 03, 2003

Stories that have caught my eye recently

There's a lot here, and I doubt even the odd visitor is going to want to read all of these, so I'll synop them in a line or two. Of course, I think they're all worth reading, but maybe one or two will catch your eye.

The Iraqi War Quiz :
The Best type, because it cites and references all the required source material. This is a short quiz that asks the sort of questions the US media never seem to, and illustrates beautifully the difference between what the Bush Administration says, and what it does.

You just killed a family
I found it sadly ironic that only days after the US asked Israel for advice on roadblocks, the US shot and killed seven women and children. Was that quick study or what? This story in the Guardian points out how an eye-witness reporters version of what happened is ignored while the military gets to fudge the issue. Oh, the reporter in question works for the Washington Post.
Also of note in the story is how the internet and one dedicated reader managed to put the lie to the allies claim that it wasn't a US missile that hit the Iraqi marketplace.

The US doesn't want accurate reporting coming out of Iraq
The sacking and hiring of Peter Arnett was also worth noting. Nicely written piece from the Daily Times (Pakistan)
"Overnight my successful NBC reporting career was turned to ashes. And why? Because I stated the obvious to Iraqi television; that the US war timetable has fallen by the wayside." He added that he had made the same comments to television stations around the world. "The right-wing media and politicians are looking for any opportunity to be critical of the reporters who are here, whatever their nationality. I made the misjudgment, which gave them the opportunity to do so. I gave an impromptu interview to Iraqi television feeling that after four months of interviewing hundreds of Iraqis, it was only a professional courtesy to give them a few comments. That was my Waterloo."

BBC boss admits 'daily' mistakes in Iraq
In fairness to the BBC, they've been pretty good with the unbiased reporting. They've made mistakes, they admit it, but generally they've been reporting the good and bad pretty freely. Unlike SKY, say, who ignored Scott Ritter after the interview with him didn't go according to plan. His comments were reported by the BBC, and the credited Sky as the source.

Film of PoWs within Geneva rules
[T]he article [in the Geneva convention] does not prevent all photographs of prisoners, and newspapers and TV companies are not bound by the convention, which applies only to states or "detaining powers".
The defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, [...] condemned the parading of coalition prisoners of war on Iraqi television and the broadcast of film showing two dead British servicemen as "a flagrant and sickening breach of the Geneva convention". But article 13 does not seem to cover the bodies of soldiers killed in battle, since they are not prisoners of war.

British soldiers were NOT executed
This was after Blair had publicly said they were, when the families in question were told the truth. Sure enough, Blair had to retract the statement later.

Scott Ritter talks about the war
Scott is an electric speaker, very knowledgeable, very passionate. He's not a pacifist, believing war is sometimes justified, and he's not afraid to tackle complex issues. This story reflects his talk, and the way the he impressed the audience.

Support your troops
An interesting piece highlighting the discrepency between those people who want to support the troops by keeping them overseas in dangerous areas, and yet are strangely silent when the administration cut funding for veteran's health care and benefit programs by nearly $25 billion over the next ten years.

Scott Ritter, on why the US/UK may not actually win the war

This is one of those times when losing and not-winning, aren't exactly the same thing. He makes several interesting points about the type of warfare this is, and how superstates like Russia as well as America, have become embroiled in quagmire situations in the past.

And just because not everything about the war is deadly serious, a little humor :
Texas liberated in 2005.
The year is 2005. Now that UN troops have conquered the American homeland, ending a five-year reign of terror by the Bushites, the world can afford to catch its breath and try to understand how the nightmare started.

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This is not an anti-war site

While it's fair to say I hate this invasion of Iraq, and I think Bush is a soft headed tit who's a danger to us all, this blog is neither an anti-war site, nor is it an anti-American site. I don't comment on every single aspect of the war, and I have neither the time nor the inclination to educate visitors here to Americas legion of abuses past and present. There are better people than I to do that.

That said, my opinions on the invasion and the Bush Administration have caused some backlash by those who are unable or unwilling to stare some uncomfortable truths in the face.

The administration is not America. The people are America. Everytime I see footage from those very large anti-war marches, I am glad. That's democracy in action.

When I see footage of police in riot gear macing those demonstrators, or herding people into "free speech zones" it disgusts me.

It is quite possible to love America and the ideals it was built on, and still hate most of its actions today, especially in the areas of foreign policy.

Having lived for many years in a country riddled with terrorism, and having grown up in a country that was under martial law, I value very much the freedom to speak and say what I wish. Having spent some time in education, I feel passionately about encouraging people to think for themselves, and question things. Question authority. Question your teachers. Question the state. Question the church.

I happen to believe (and I know I'm not alone in this) that Americans are one of the most consistantly lied to people on the planet. As such, much as I love some American people, it can be very frustrating trying to show them that the world as they knew it to be, isn't actually so.

It's harder still when the people involved have been in the army or law enforcement, because they are basically immersed (more so than the average citizen) in a situation where you have to follow orders unquestioningly.

This means that sometimes, good people can be ordered to do some reprehensible things. And yet, the claim "I was only following orders" is not recognised as a valid defence. So it's very much a catch-22.

Most soldiers in the army are not there because they want to be tools of repression for a rogue state. They are there because they genuinely believe they are doing the right thing, making a positive difference. How sad it is that they are also among the people least likely to question if their goal is served.

I've lived in a bunch of countries over my life, and my world view is naturally more global than most. Neither east nor west. Neither democrat, nor republican.

As such, I don't have any knee-jerk reaction when it comes to pointing out the flaws in both the Bush and Clinton administrations. I've noticed a tendency to do that when I've seen Americans from different sides of the fence debate about the issues. The democrat criticises Bush. The Republican doesn't answer the charges, merely says "well how can you say that when Clinton did 'x'." The trend seems to be "automatic defense of my position, automatic retaliation on yours".

On a final note, because this is getting a lot longer than I thought it was going to be, I'd like to go back to addressing the issue of credibility. I've cited more than just Arabic news sources in my blog. Robert Fisk is an internationally known journalist. I've referenced stories from the London Times and Guardian, as well as the Mirror and the Observer. I also read some of the American press and papers from NewZealand and Australia.

It is an unfortunate truth that the coalition has been caught in more lies than the Iraqi administration. And by caught, I don't mean "Pravda" ran a story saying something else. I mean the US/UK retracted the story. Usually however, there is very little coverage given to the retraction in the mainstream media, as they are all busy with the next big lie. I'll do a piece later on some examples of that.

This doesn't mean I believe everything Iraq says, it just means that at the moment, they have more credibility than the US/UK. And considering what a bastard Saddam is, that is just a sad state of affairs to be in.

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