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.



o Holz
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o Information Clearing House
o Greg Palast
o Noam Chomsky Archive
o Zmag
o Want to Know
o What Really Happened
o Guerrillanews
o Spin Sanity
o Media Whores On Line
o TV News Lies

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
o Kirstin Archives

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A blog for that outspoken and aggressive member of the Buffy Bulletin Board.
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   Friday, December 31, 2004


Luke 21:1-4

The tragedy in the Far East has led to some criticism of the wealthier nations in the world. The Bush Administration seems to feel that the condemnation was aimed at them specifically.

I guess that's an easy assumption to make, when you run dead last in the rankings.

But then, that's just it.. It all depends on how you calculate these things.

In real dollar terms, the US gave more than any other country in foreign aid in 2002 and 2003 and 2004. Before that, since about 1992 I think, Japan was the number one contributer in real dollar terms.

Clearly, this is the method favoured by the Bush administration when it comes to working out how generous they are.

But you see, these things are relative. Which is why I cited the passage from Luke above. It's clear that America gives a lot of Foreign Aid. But do they give enough?

What percentage of its gross domestic product does the United States annually allocate as foreign aid to Third World countries? I offer my students five choices:
(A) One-tenth of one percent, (B) One percent, (C) Five percent, (D) Ten percent, and (E) Twenty-five percent.
Incredibly, about half the class chooses C, and most of the remaining half pick D and E. Two or three 'unpatriotic' students in each class pick A or B.

The correct answer is A.

- Quote taken from an economics professor, I believe. (Will look it up later)

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is a group of 30 rich nations that counts development aid. The OECD figures show that as of April 2004, none of the world’s richest countries donated even 1 percent of its gross national product.

Norway was highest, at 0.92 percent; the United States was dead last, at 0.14 percent.

The worlds richest countries have pledged to do much better. When the world's governments met at the Earth summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, they adopted a programme for action under the auspices of the United Nations -- Agenda 21. Amongst other things, this included an Official Development Assistance (ODA) aid target of 0.7% of gross national product (GNP) for rich nations, roughly 22 members of the OECD known as the Development Assistance Committee (DAC).

Bit of a gap there, between 0.7 and 0.14

Now the guy who made the comment that got Bush and others in a tizzy, was Jan Egeland, from Norway. Of the worlds richest countries, they gave proportionately the most. They've met and exceeded their 0.7% target. Maybe he felt that entitled him to comment on others. Maybe he just felt 0.7 percent was too little for anyone, regardless.

In a recent speech, President Bush declared, "We are a compassionate country, and we are generous toward our fellow citizens." It is a favourite pitch with American politicians in both parties. But is it true?

In its Human Development Report, 2003, the UNDP measures a Human Poverty Index (HPI) for seventeen developed countries; it measures deprivations in four dimensions.

On this index of human poverty, the US ranked dead last out of seventeen countries. {United Nations Development Programme, Human development report, 2003 (Washington, D.C.: Oxford University Press, 2000): 248, 342.}

If we measure compassion "toward fellow citizens" in terms of income inequality (conventionally measured by the Gini index) we get the same result. The US has the largest value for the Gini index amongst developed countries. {World Bank, World development report, 2003 (Washington, D.C.: Oxford University Press, 2002): 236-7.}

I will compare the funds allocated to 'foreign aid,' the index by which Americans most often measure their generosity towards poor countries. The total funds allocated by the United States to 'foreign aid" in 2003 amounted to 0.11 percent (note the position of the decimal) of its gross national income. That is easily the lowest ratio for the twenty-four members of Development Assistance Committee of the OECD. {World Bank, World development report, 2003 (Washington, D.C.: Oxford University Press, 2002): 290.}

On the ground, matters are much worse. Nearly one-third of this aid (around 3 billion dollars a year) goes as grants (no obligation to pay back) to another developed country, Israel, to buy the most advanced weaponry in the US arsenal, from US manufacturers. That's 3 billion a year, every year. For US weapons.

So foreign aid (excluding arms money to Israel) is 0.08% of GDP

Of the remainder, hefty though the amounts are, how much is given with no strings attached? By that, I mean, how much is given in terms of actual aid and assistance, as opposed to (say) "Let us build a base here, or we cut off your aid." or "Let us refuel here or we cut off your aid" or "To hell with what your population wants, sign this or we cut off your aid".

You get the idea. I'll leave that last part for the interested reader to discover.

Next week, we'll look at how much money is spent by America attacking and bombing other countries, as opposed to helping other countries. </sarcasm>

(4) comments

Loving thy Neighbour

Now what sort of Christian message does this send?

Way to go Kansas.

Wouldn't you just hate your religion to be judged harshly due to the highly publicised idiotic actions of a retarded minority?

(1) comments

Be careful how you pronounce it

So what's a shi'ite ?

Since it was asked in a comment below, let me explain quickly what the deal is with the Sunni and the Shi'ite tribes in Iraq.

Sunni Muslims: They are mainstream traditionalists. They constitute a 90% majority of the believers worldwide, but in Iraq they are a minority. (20%)
They have learned to keep their faith within secular societies, adapting to a variety of national cultures, including the old Iraqi regime. (Which was secular, remember.) They were given disproportionate power by Saddam in the old regime. This was a shrewd move, designed to keep appease radical religious fundamentalists who would want to overthrow the secular government and replace it with a theocracy.
Bin Laden and Al'Qaeda wanted to overthrow Saddam and install a theocratic government, much as the Taliban (an offshoot puritan Sunni sect) had been installed in Afghanistan.

Shi'ite Muslims: A small minority of Islam. They make up only 10% of the muslim world. They are a minority in nearly all muslim countries, except for Iran, where they are the state religion, and Iraq where they are about 60% of the population. They split from the Sunnis over a dispute about the successor to Muhammad. They would be considered conservatives and fundamentalists. Their leaders promote a strict interpretation of the Qur'an and close adherence to its teachings.
They believe in 12 heavenly Imams (perfect teachers) who led the Shi'ites in succession. Shi'ites believe that the 12th Imam, the Mahdi (guided one), never died but went into hiding waiting for the optimum time to reappear and guide humans towards justice and peace. They would have difficulty holding and promoting such beliefs in a secular society.

It is not really fair to say that one of these sects is more militant than the other. Neither is really the "bad guy". The extremists and cult-like breakaway sects (like any Jewish sect or Christian sect) are the ones to blame.

For example, the corrupted form of Sunni Islam promoted by men like BinLaden, embraced by the Taliban and the current government in the Sudan differs from other forms of Sunni Islam in these key areas :
1) They believe in "takfir wa hijr" which means they hold it impermissible for a Muslim to live in a country not governed by Islamic law without seeking to overthrow and make it Islamic. Otherwise they should immigrate to a place which is truly Muslim. This is totally against the Qu'ran, and a relatively recent belief.

2) Any Muslim government which does not abide by Islamic law is therefore really godless. Such a government should be overthrown and its leaders killed.
Again, totally against the Qu'ran. This belief resulted in most of the violence of Islamist groups being aimed at other Muslims. This belief is descended from the Kharijites, an early Islamic sect responsible for assassinating the Imam Ali. They are considered dangerous heretics by both Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims alike.

3) They insist in regarding Christians and Jews as infidels rather than "people of the book" as they are called in the Qu'ran. They are therefore willing to withdraw their protection and even persecute them. This is the reason why there has been so much violence against Christians in both the Sudan and in Egypt.

I hope that tells you a little something about Sunni's and Shi'ites. They're not the enemy. They're not the "bad guys".

(0) comments

Islam for Dummies

Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Some comments I read recently, coupled with stories like this one made me want to take a quick time out to run over some of the basic tenets of Islam.

I say again, a couple of points, as a matter of record. 1) I'm an atheist. 2) I was raised a Catholic. 3) I don't hate Catholics, Jews or Arabs and don't have an "agenda" to support one particular faith.

Islam teaches respect for others beliefs, and says it is wrong to proselytize i.e. promote their faith looking for converts. In the Qur'an, Allah told Muhammad that "You certainly cannot guide whomever you please; It is Allah who guides whom He will. He best knows those who accept guidance." (28:56). Muslims can explain Islam to followers of other faiths, but it is up to Allah to guide those whom he wishes to.

Islam promotes peace.

Islam forbids suicide. Despite what you might hear (such ridiculous tales of 77 virgins and the rest) the Qur'an clearly states: "Do not kill yourselves as God has been to you very merciful" (4:29). Only Allah is to take a life. Since death must be left up to Allah, physician assisted suicide is not allowed.

Islam promotes living in harmony with other races and religions.

Islam regards Abraham as the father of their religion. They worship the God of Abraham.

Islam says there have been many prophets, such as Moses, and Muslims think Jesus was one of them. (His teachings being co-opted after his followers after he ascended to Heaven.)

Islam believes both Jews and Christians have strayed from or misinterpreted the Word of God, but that basically, they all worship the same God. The God of Abraham and Moses.

Islam believes Muhammad to be THE prophet, in much the same way the Jews see Moses as being THE prophet, as well as the last prophet.
As such, the shahada (testimony) states the central belief of Islam: "There is no god but God (Allah), and Muhammad is his Prophet." So they are similar to Jews in promoting the Oneness of God, as opposed to Christian trinitarianism.

The shahada is one of 5 main pillars of faith in Islam. The others are Daily Prayer, Giving alms to the poor, Fasting, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in your life.

Islam also shares the Judaeo-Christian concepts of guardian angels, the Day of Judgment, general resurrection, heaven and hell, and an eternal life for the soul.

Islam believes Jesus did not die on the cross but was taken up bodily into Paradise.

Islame believes in the existence of Satan who drives people to sin.

Islam believes that Muslims who sincerely repent and submit to God return to a state of sinlessness.

Islam also teaches that all people are considered children of Adam. Islam officially rejects racism.

Islam also teaches that Alcohol, other drugs, eating of pork, Gambling etc. should be avoided.

Ramadan is the holiest period in the Islamic year; it is held during the entire 9th lunar month of the year. This was the month in which the Qura'n was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. It is a time at which almost all Muslims over the age of 12 are expected to fast from dawn till dusk.

Jihad is one of the most misunderstood words in the West. It is not a religious or holy war. It refers rather, to the internal struggle the devout must face in order to achieve their goals.


There's plenty more I could add, but I think that's enough to give a taste of it.
If you would like to know more, and do not think you could read the Qu'ran for religious reasons, I would highly recommend the book "The History of God" which covers the rise and spread of Judaeism, Christianity and Islam from an historical neutral point of view. (An impressive achievement given that the author used to be a nun.)

If you would like your faith not to be represented on the world stage by those whom you consider false practitioners, then I think it behoves you to ensure you do not fall into the same trap, regarding other faiths and creeds.

(7) comments
   Thursday, December 30, 2004

They catch on quick, don't they?

Seems like the Russians are embracing the concepts of capitalism in new ways all the time. According to BBC News, Russia has announced that it will no longer ferry US astronauts to space for free. It has been doing so for two years. From 2006 the US will be expected to pay.

It should not come as any great surprise, really. With the shuttle grounded and NASA getting little to no support from the current administration, and the astonauts up there having to ration supplies, it's clear that the ISS is only linked to Earth by the Russians. You want an astranaut in space? You must pay, comrade. Rocket fuel ain't cheap you know. You want to eat while you're up there? That'll be extra. Still think you can get to Mars comrade Bush? Bwah hah hah hah....

Before anyone get's their unmentionables in a twist, they have stated that they'll wait to see if NASA meets its May deadline to get the shuttle program going again.

And they won't be asking for dollars (since Nasa is cash strapped anyway, and the dollar ain't what it used to be). So they are looking into bartering for the man hours they currently owe for other work.

America's response hasn't been made clear yet. Personally, I can't wait to see it.
File this under "Lessons refused to be learned" : You can't go it alone.

(3) comments

Merry Christmas, of a sort

When they say "Bon Noël", or "Bon Noel", is that somehow taking "Christ" out of Christmas?

Despite my fathers absence, we had a good christmas at my parents house. I flew back home late last night, and spent some time reflecting on how the week went.

My brother bought a santa claus suit, and dressed up at Midnight on Christmas Eve. It was a nice surprise, and he gave everyone a single present to open before the morning. His girlfriend was on the "naughty" list, so she got something special :)

To give an example of just how cool my brother is, he took some photo's of himself doing traditional Santa stuff. Like eating the mince pie, having the drink, and placing presents under the tree. (All with the digital camera)

Then when the neighbours children came by on Christmas Day, he told them that he had left the camera out, along with the traditional plate for Santa. And that Santa took some photo's of himself. Well, the kids were delighted to see real hard core proof of Santa's visit. I think they all wanted to do the same next year. I suspect a lot of Dads are going to have to buy Santa suits next year.

Two particular pictures were taken, which he's going to use next year on Christmas cards. One of santa with the drink in one hand (to go to those on the "nice" list) and one where he's flipping the finger (for those on the "naughty" list).

He's a funny guy, and he put a lot of effort into making things go smoothly, doing a lot of the tasks normally left for my father, such as prepping and cooking the turkey and the carving afterwards. Dad would have been proud.

(0) comments
   Wednesday, December 29, 2004

So is BitTorrent dead?


Now maybe you're not the sort of person who used to use the BitTorrent service for downloading. If you were, then you could have been watching The Incredibles on 5.1 audio DVD over Christmas. (A copy of the Disney DVD hit the net the week before Christmas, I am reliably informed).

For those who don't know, BitTorrent is the latest and greatest way to download large files quickly from the internet. Obviously, this system has been waylaid by individuals who trade in music, movies, and television shows. I hear that in the US, most fans of the Battlestar Galactica series have already seen the episodes, thanks to BitTorrent. (The series starts on Jan 14th in the US).

A few weeks ago, the MPAA made the fatal mistake of trying to take down all the websites which serve the "torrent" files. They had some success. The sites hosting the torrent files were not doing anything illegal really, since a torrent is not a copyrighted work. But it's hard to face legal threats against a monopoly when you're just an individual. And in the US, let's face it, Justice can be bought with a nice big cheque.

So for the moment, the traditional well-known torrent sites, like have gone away. And the MPAA is probably thinking "excellent" and "we did it".


Those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are condemned to repeat them. Specifically, the bit where making DeCSS code illegal led to the whack-a-mole days where the code sprang up EVERYWHERE, even on T-shirts, and the cease-and-desist letters couldn't keep up. Or the way shutting down Napster led to the creation of Gnutella and eDonkey and Kazaa, which meant more music is traded illegally now in a DAY than was traded by Napster in the average calander month.

Attacking the torrent sites has done only one thing. Forced the evolution of a better system. Just as Napster had a central server which could be attacked (and it's people sued) as its primary weakness, this led to Gnutella and the rest, which did not have that weakness.

In just a few weeks, we will see the launch of eXeem, which will combine the best qualities of Gnutella and other P2P technology, with BitTorrent. A series of dynamic trackers passed quickly back and forth between a virtual cloud of peers. No central point. No weak spot. And no way to stop it.

There are 5000 beta testers working with this right now.
And when it goes public in about 20 weeks, give or take, the MPAA is truly fucked.

(4) comments
   Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Top 10 Moments in Sci Fi

As decided by Sky TV

I was watching this run down on BSkyB's flagship channel, where they were detailing the top 10 moments in Sci Fi.

I'm going to list them here, but I have to disagree with some of them. And after I think about it some more, I'll put my own top 10 up. But for now, here they are, and feel free to comment:

10) From "Empire Strikes Back" : Vader's reveal "Luke, I am your father"
Probably the most startling moment in the original trilogy, this was the thing which shocked the audience the most, and caused multitudes to wonder if it was true. The fact that Vader is Dutch for "Father" apparently never gave anyone the heads-up.

9) From "Blakes 7" : The ending of the finale.
Cited by JMS as the best ending to any show, ever. Like any SF effort by the BBC, its budget was around 50 cents an episode. But what made this show amazing, was the writing. I remember revisiting the show in the late 90's, and my father (who didn't like SF as a rule) telling me that this was really good. Any doubts you might have that the show was kiddy fare, is dispelled in the first episode when you discover a political dissident is framed by the administration on kiddie-porn charges, and mindwiped.
This show was all about how one man could fight the system. Except he lost! Hah! The final episode ends with the hero being killed by his eponymous best friend, and all the rebels get shot. Long live the Federation!

8) From "The Matrix" : The Bullet Time sequence
At the time, a truly revolutionary scene. Even Keanu's wooden performance couldn't detract from this amazingly fluid camera technique. It's a shame that the german version of the movie can't do justice to Trinity's wonderfully brusque "Dodge This!" instead having her say "Only a machine!"

7) From "Quatarmass And The Pit" : Opening the Pod
Again, a classic SF movie, with more emphasis on plot than effects. As such, this is the first one that I really have issues with. I don't think this belongs on the list. Granted, the way the movie takes you by surprise.. thinking it's an unexploded WW2 shell, before revealing it's true alien nature, is a cool shock to those who didn't know what they were getting. But the actual opening of the Pod, IS let down by the effects.

6) From "Planet of the Apes" : The Statue of Liberty reveal
This scene has been lampooned so often now, it's hard to remember how powerful it was when we first saw it. From the brain of Rod Serling, if memory serves, this twist ending hit the audiences hard, leaving most of them in shocked silence. Tim Burton can suck Rod Serlings big one.

5) From "Doctor Who" : The Dalek invasion of Earth
Now, I'm a fan of the Doctor. I think that show had some terrific moments in it, and when it was good, it was very very good. But this? No no no no no no. The Dalek Invasion of Earth wasn't that good a story. The reveal of the Dalek coming up from the water, was "meh!" tv. But then, I never found them scary anyway.
I guess a large part of this had to do with not seeing a lot of the early Doctor Who stories, and encountering them in novel form. The series translates better into the written word in many ways.
So no, if you had to pick a moment, the first time he regenerates is probably the one to go with. It changed the show forever, and was unique in SF, lending beautifully to the series' longevity.

4) From "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" : The communication via music scene
No one, who has seen this movie, can forget the five note tonality which represented the "let's make contact" theme. Dah dah dah -- DAH DAH. Seeing this in a stereo theatre in the 70's, when the base kicks in and rumbles you in your seat... Awesome moment.

3) From "ThunderBirds" : The opening titles.
I have nothing to say, except, whoever picked this is doing some serious drugs. Marionettes in the top 10 of SciFi?

2) From "Alien" : The Chest Bursting scene
Talk about your terrifying moments. You just know that in today's world, a moment like this would be featured in every promo and advert for the movie, because todays coke-addicted advertising execs love blowing their wad in some bizarre premature ejaculatory frenzy. Must be all that soggy biscuit playing those freaks do.
For a first time viewer of this movie, who had no idea what to expect, this was the scene that made you proud to be a man. Just knowing you'd never be pregnant, looking at your belly, knowing something was growing inside of you, and having this memory in your head... God, it was GREAT to be a man.

1) From 2001 : Hal goes mad.
Open the Pod Bay doors please Hal.
This moment, I think, is put in there for those technophobes who still think digital watches cause cancer and the betamax is trying to kill them. Again, totally fabulous movie, but this moment doesn't deserve to be here.

So there they are. I'm sure everyone has their own favourites. I'm going to have a think about mine, and put them up later.

(0) comments
   Monday, December 27, 2004

Democracy In Iraq

In True American Style

I knew the alleged democratic regime in Iraq was going to be a fictitious pipe-dream. A puppet on the end of American strings. But I've got to admit, it's nice to see them being so upfront about it...

America has very kindly offered to "adjust" the election results in Iraq next month.

The Sunni are a minority, though they had a lot of power under Saddam. The Shi'ites are a majority. So you would be forgiven for thinking that there might be a tendency for the Shi'ites to have a majority in the new assembly.

Washington has suggested that the results could be adjusted to benefit the Sunni minority if there was a low turnout in Sunni areas, which lead to the Shi'ites winning by an "exaggerated majority".

For some strange reason, perhaps having something to do with an understanding of Democracy, Iraq's election body has called this unacceptable. Farid Ayar said: "Who wins, wins. That is the way it is. That is the way it will be in the election."

It's nice to see that someone understands the concept of democracy. Of course, we also know that it's as easy as Apple Pie to say one thing and do another.

(1) comments
   Saturday, December 18, 2004

Only in silence, the word. Only in darkness, the light

Fuck you, SciFi Channel.

I had been working on an entry about Earthsea, the mini series run on the SciFi channel during the week. And it just got to the point that I was too angry to write.
Now, I see from Aint It cool News that the author has spoken publicly about the awfulness. And she no doubt covers it better than I ever could.

So a couple of brief points is all I want to make.

"Miss Le Guin was not involved in the development of the material or the making of the film, but we've been very, very honest to the books," explains director Rob Lieberman.

I firmly believe that this statement could, in conjunction with the awfulness of the mini-series, result in real loss of sales. And that lying scum-fuck of a director should be made to pay, in court. Heavily.

The Earthsea Trilogy is a wonderful wonderful series. I still read it regularly. If you are the sort of person who reads, and enjoys a good book ... look these up. With compelling characters, some philosophy, some sense of doom, some fear, some tragedy, some loss, some friendship, you get the sense at the end that you have read one of the great true stories. A real legend.

(0) comments
   Thursday, December 16, 2004

Random Thought

Wouldn't it be great if the NRA were as passionate about every right, and not just the second amendment ?

"You can have my rights when you pry them from my cold dead hands."

Now that's a slogan I could get behind.

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Death knell of the dollar

If I had any lingering doubts about the collapsing dollar, they were dispelled when I read this as the most consistant thing to come out of Bush's mouth is good ol' Texas style bullshit.

From the man who said "We don't want war" and "Support our troops" and "They hate our freedom" and "We never said there was a link between Saddam and Al Quaeda" comes the latest whopper "The policy of my government is a strong-dollar policy". A Whopper so big, it should appear on a Burger King menu.

Even leaving aside that Bush's knowledge of economics is poorer than the average C student graduating High School, and his advisors are getting rich by promoting supply side economics and permanant tax cuts to the super rich, he actually goes so far as to insist that countries who are worried about the trade defecit merely need to buy more US products.

Someone needs to point out to Dubya that American manufacturing ain't what it used to be. And I'm not just talking about car plants in Flint. This year is the first time in ages that the US bread basket states have come up short. This year, America will be a net importer of food. And I don't think a rush of hyper-obeseity is to blame.

So it's time to start learning Mandarin and Cantonese. The worlds next superpower is just waiting for the current one to roll over and breath its last. And the economic indicators are that it won't be a long wait.

(0) comments
   Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Manchild and the Major

"Facts? You can prove anything with facts!" - Homer Simpson

Last night I went drinking with some friends, and a friend of theirs whom I was meeting for the first time. He is a major in the US Air Force. Now the Major is a very nice guy, very friendly, very funny. But I had mixed emotions about the evening by the end of the night. We had discussed various topics but obviously politics and the war were among the more lengthy topics. On some things we agreed, and on some we disagreed. It was nice to see that there was some common ground between two people of such different political beliefs. (The Major is a rational, if extreme, conservative.) Topics we agreed upon included the luxury of pacifism, and defence of the family, the Soprano's, and armour piercing bullets for deer hunting, the M4 versus the M16, shooting armadillos with nightscopes.

But on the areas where we disagreed... oh boy.

I knew neither one of us was going to convince the other to change his mind over only a few hours, so rather than try to be persuasive in making any points, I was directing my questions more towards why he thinks the way he does. And trying to understand where he was coming from.I'm not sure I was entirely successful, but I think I had never before realised just how incomprehensibly vast the difference between our idealogies actually was.

We spoke, for example, about the recent shooting of a wounded Iraqi in a mosque. The Major told us that the comments going around the troops was that the only thing the soldier had done wrong, was not shooting the journalist when he realised he was on camera.

We spoke about the involuntary service extensions, and calling up troops who'd already served their required terms. He agreed that it sucked. But then, he is also in favour of a draft. (I had thought that the common military mindset said that a volunteer army was preferable.)

We spoke about the United Nations, and agreed that it was mostly toothless, but disagreed totally as to why.

That led us onto a discussion about the Veto, Foreign Aid, and eventually, to the US war on Nicaragua involving the Sandinista's.

On the Veto, I pointed out that the US used its veto more than any other country. And that countries like Iraq are only in violation of UN Resolutions because they don't have the power to veto things they don't want to do. If America didn't have the veto, it would be in violation of more resolutions than any other country.

The Major's argument was a variation on the "Democracy is 2 wolves and a sheep deciding what's for dinner". His attitude was that the US had to have the right to veto those resolutions which are harmful to America and/or it's interests.

We disagreed on where the line should be drawn, of course. Not every proposed resolution is along the lines of America's unilateral disarmament or some other nonsense. And historically, the US has not applied it's veto along those lines. (I'll get back to that point in a minute.)

On Foreign Aid, we had different views on what aid constituted. The Major saw nothing wrong with the idea of giving Aid in exchange for favours (contracts, tax exemptions, military bases, etc...). I had the curious notion that charity should be given freely, not charged for.

But we disagreed hugely on how much aid the US actually gives. The Major had a vastly over inflated idea of how much the US gives. And he wasn't going to take my word for just how wrong he was. (Relates to above point. Getting there slowly.)

Lastly, the Nicaraguan situation. Now, I'd had a bit to drink at this point, so I wasn't prepared to swear blindly that I had my facts right. (I could have been misremembering some names and dates.) But when the Major insisted there was never a campaign against Nicaragua, I was taken aback.

Now to put the three points together, I think the Major is a very intelligent guy, who has been taught a certain history about the US and it's politics and it's policies. And that picture is consistant, so he's comfortable with it. It makes sense.

But it is incomplete. And when you look at the missing parts, in detail, that consistancy breaks down. So the Major doesn't look.

For example, when we did the Veto conversation, I mentioned how the US veto'd a resolution which said that all countries should obey international law. He was unaware of it, and maintained that either I was wrong, or it was not as simple as I made it out.
Or (not a veto) recent events where the US was refusing to spend any money to safeguard Russia's nuclear arsenal (which many thought was a more likely source of rogue nukes than Iraq.) . Again, he refused to believe it.

The common thread was that the Major beliefs, and facts in the real world, did not co-incide in all areas. And where they were at variance, his beliefs about the world took precedence over facts.

How can you get a guy like this (who supports Bush, and thinks Bush supports the troops) to realise for example that the Bush Administration cut veteran funding and veteran benefits? How do you introduce a very well indoctrinated guy, to reality?

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