Monday, March 31, 2003

Radiohead Leaky-Leak Update

Well, the leak is great fun, but I have now confirmed that these tracks are not the final mastered version of "Hail to the Thief." I guess, we'll have to wait a little while longer for someone to leak the final album. We might not be able to depend on our fine friends in the media however. Apparently, Capitol/EMI's "watermark" technology has advanced tremendously, making it pretty easy for them to find out which individual copy of the album has been leaked...

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Happy Leaked Radiohead Day!

Well, it's earlier than I had thought. Also, it's distracting me from my papers and studying, etc. But, I am nonetheless ecstatic.

Good, fast leaked copy at http://www.idioteque.it/multimedia/audio.htm

Meanwhile, in Iraq, war rumbles on...

Friday, March 28, 2003

Miscellanious Remarks

1. Go visit the CBC Quebec Votes Website. I've been really impressed by the coverage on CBC's website. The local news is great, and now I don't have to buy The Gazette to keep up on Montreal stories. Huzzah for the Internet!

2. The alternative headline for this week's column was A Pox on the Ballot Box.

3. I am really tired.
Bollocks at the Ballot Box

You know what is on my mind of late, filling my thoughts day and night? It’s the same thing that I’m sure you’ve been ruminating on. It’s the same hot topic that I keep hearing students feverishly discussing between classes and that crowds of people are out debating in the streets.

That’s right – it’s the upcoming provincial elections!

That is a lie. I am only kidding. I am not really thinking about next month’s elections. Nor is anyone else impassioned about them. No one cares. The only time I have felt anything that even remotely resembles passion with regard to these elections was when I found out that one of my final exams would be held a day earlier because of them.

While I consider myself an informed and intelligent citizen who cares passionately about all facets of our democracy, big and small, I must admit that my on-the-fenceness regarding the provincial elections is actually apathy masquerading as on-the-fenceness. It’s not that I’m carefully debating the issues in my head; I just genuinely don’t give a darn. I have many other things on my mind at the moment, to which I have given higher priority. These include the war in Iraq, my exams, the poor Kurds, some papers that are due very soon, the way the fucking Canadiens can’t seem to keep a lead in the third period, and having outdoor sex now that the warmer weather is here.

In fact, I hesitated to even write a column about the provincial elections, because I can hear the sound of turning pages and clicking mice even now. And yet, glutton for punishment that I am, here’s a run-down of the parties.

Well, the one party that I was worried about getting in was the ADQ. The Action Démocratique du Québec was high in the polls last year, because its leader Mario Dumont refused to discuss either sovereignty or the constitution, issues with which the electorate en a plein le cul. Voters have since turned against them, recognising the ADQ as Quebec’s neoconservative cousin of BC’s Liberals and Ontario’s Tories. I was certainly never going to vote for them, and if they were high in the polls, I would strategically vote against them.

As a young(er) Anglophone, living in the Notre-Dame-de-Grace riding, Quebec elections were clear. Anglophones – with the exception of the Montreal Regional Health Board’s President David Levine – weren’t Péquistes or indépendistes, and therefore should vote for the Liberals or – if you were a kooky Anglo – one of the smaller parties (e.g. Bloc Pot, the Equality Party). Nowadays the lines aren’t that clear to me.

I’m not a separatist for the simple reason that nationalism of any stripe does not appeal to me, but now Premier Landry, in an attempt to attract non-sovereigntists to the PQ, has said that he will not seek to separate from Canada. Instead, he might, just maybe, perhaps, seek what he calls mysteriously a confederal union. I have no idea what that is.

Could I bring myself to vote for the Parti Québecois? Well, yes. (But without telling my parents.) Montreal has really flourished as a city over the past five years and the PQ should get some credit for it. As well, the PQ has been leading the nation on issues like gay rights and affordable daycare. Also, the PQ has kept tuition frozen and promised to keep it frozen. Huzzah!

On the other hand, the PQ has failed to deal with the current healthcare crisis. Failed miserably. In fact, the PQ seems to be actively chasing away doctors and nurses. My friends in medical school all plan to leave the province after they graduate. In fact, less than half of McGill’s medical school grads stay in Quebec after they’ve finished their residency. The PQ has had two mandates to fix the heathcare system; do they deserve another one?

Now then, what about the Liberals? Well, they stand for…uh. They want to…hmm. I’ll be honest, I have no idea what the Liberals want. If Jean Charest and company stand for anything other than not being the PQ, I wish they’d come out and say it. The Liberals have done little to distinguish themselves from the PQ, and yet, not being the PQ might just be enough to get them elected.

And so, I am apathetic about the elections. Unless the Parti Quebecois or the Liberals come up with something to convince me that one of their parties is better than the other, my current plan is to vote for David Fennario, who is running for the Union des Forces Progressistes in the Westmount-St. Louis riding (which includes the Concordia and McGill ghettoes).

Fennario, the playwright who wrote Balconville and The Death of Rene Levesque, has vowed to fly the red flag over Westmount if he wins. “I plan after winning to liberate and democratise Westmount. There are a lot of big, big houses there with only two people living inside, and they would make great co-ops. We can turn some of those huge gardens into co-op gardens,” Fennario told The Gazette earlier this week.

Now that’s an election promise that’ll get me out to the polls!

On the Fence appears Thursdays.

Monday, March 24, 2003

On the Fence on the Radio

That's right, J. Kelly Nestruck (me) will be on CBC Radio Montreal's Home Run today at 5:45 discussing my ambivalence/on-the-fenceness over the upcoming Quebec election. Tune in to find out what I don't think about the elections...
For those of you in Montreal, CBC Radio is available at 88.5 on the FM Dial. You can also listen to CBC radio online by visiting www.cbc.ca/audio.html and clicking on Montreal.
Bernie St. Laurent, here I come.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Blogging for Peace!

Hey folks... I'm not the only blogger out there who wishes that this war was not happening, who feels that this war is unjust and/or illegal, or who is concerned about the war's carving of a new world order. There's a whole bunch of us out there, and you can find a comprehensive list at peaceblogs.org.
The Empire Strikes Back

Here’s an interesting word: Empire. The word can be used to describe Ted Turner's media holdings or the state of New York. Darth Vader works for the Galactic Empire in Star Wars, and the horse that is the early favourite for the upcoming Kentucky Derby is called Empire Maker.

The word can be also used to describe the United States, and it has been for a long time. While it used to be only leftist academics and Marxists denouncing American Imperialism, mainstream journalists – without a hint of tongue in the cheek – have increasingly started refering to the “American Empire.”

Cue the Project for a New American Century. If you haven’t heard of them you should check out their website. The Project was formed in 1997 by a group of neo-conservatives, including some now-powerful folks like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz (now working in the Defence Department), Richard Perle (head of the defence advisory board), and Louis Libby (Dick Cheney’s chief of staff).

Back in the day, the Project urged the US to abandon the anti-ballistic missile treaty, pursue regime change in Iraq, and establish an American “constabulary” to police the world unfettered by world opinon or the United Nations. About a year before September 11, the right-wing think-tank grudgingly admitted that these goals would not likely be attainable until “a catastrophic and catalysing event…like a new Pearl Harbour” took place.

Well, The New American Century has now arrived. The ABM treaty is no longer, Iraq’s regime is being – ahem – changed, and the Americans are acting as the world’s constabulary. The Project’s main goal is continued world dominance by the United States, which they call the “Pax Americana.” William Kristol, director of the Project, described the Pax Americana as “benevolent global hegenomy.” Sounds like an Empire.

The Empire went to war yesterday night with the British and the Austalians on board militarily, and some smaller countries like Eritrea and Albania on board as part of what is being called a “coalition of the willing.”

But what happens to countries like Canada who are not supporting the Empire? What about those unwilling to take part in the preemptive war in Iraq? Well, over the past month, we’ve seen many examples of the Empire striking back at these naysayers.

Some of the backlash has been amusing, like the anti-French craze that is sweeping the nation. Congress has renamed cafeteria fries “Freedom Fries” and Representative Ginny Brown-Waite has introduced a bill proposing that families of Americans who died in France and Belgium in WWI and WWII be allowed to dig up their remains and have them shipped back to the States. Proud patriots have poured bottles of French wine down the drain and the Star-Spangled Ice Cream Company has started selling a flavour called I-Hate-the-French-Vanilla (to complement their Smaller Governmint and Nutty Environmentalist flavours). One irate fellow named Josh Wander has started an online petition to give the Statue of Liberty back to France at www.giveitback.net.

Also silly is the reaction to the Dixie Chicks’ apparently abhorent mistake of criticising Bush last week at a concert in London. The country superstars have since seen their radio airplay decline by 30 per cent. Events have been held across the United States where their CDs have been burned and smashed. One country radio station in Lousiana organised an event where a pile of Dixie Chicks CDs were crushed by a tractor. Representative Catherine Ceips of the South Carolina House presented a resolution yesterday that the country group perform a free concert for South Carolina’s troops and their families to apologise. The measure passed the House in a 50-35 vote. (I doubt that they will require System of a Down or Rage Against the Machine to do the same.)

All this is an amusing sideshow to the more sinister backlash that has been occuring. Last week, bugging devices were found in a Brussels building where an EU summit is to begin today; Belgian police identified the listening devices as American in an interview with Le Figaro, but have since gone silent on the issue. This is not the first time the United States has been suspected of spying on its European allies; two years ago, the European Parliament investigated reports that a US-led spy network called Echelon was snooping on the European business community.

Meanwhile, the American government has waged economic war on dissident countries. The Pentagon has withdrawn its funding of military contracts from anti-war Germany, and other countries have been similarly wooed or punished with the awarding or withdrawl of financially-lucrative American investment. Arab countries seem to have a starker choice: do want the American government asks you to, or get punished. Iraq’s getting the stick right now.

The American government has also allegedly been trying to punish Al-Jazeera, the Arab world’s CNN, for running stories that are not pro-American. After September 11, Colin Powell asked the emir of Qatar, where the station is based, to get Al-Jazeera on board with the war on terror, but the emir refused to interfere. According to cbc.ca, Al-Jazeera’s journalists now believe that the United States is again pressuring the emir, this time to shut down the station until the war in Iraq is over.

Since the war on terror began, the United States has been wielding its power more often than ever before. Whether you want to call it one or not, America has increasingly been acting like an Empire. I wonder what Canada’s punishment will be for not getting involved in the invasion of Iraq…

Welcome to the New American Century!

On the Fence appears Thursdays in The McGill Daily. You can contact Kelly at jkelly@cup.ca.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Come get some nice, hot, steamin' war!

Yep, ladies and gentlemen, the most anticipated battle scenes since The Twin Towers are finally here. Tune in to any channel to get a boring static shot of downtown Baghdad!
Is that a turret in the distance?
Is that an explosion or a tree?
The most amusing thing about this shot is how you can hear the birds chirping in the background, and the groan of morning traffic...

Monday, March 17, 2003

On the Fence: Biased, a Little Slanderous, and Proud of It
[Well, this column's a little outdated, but I hereby stick it up for yer benefit.]

It’s not really in my nature to kick a man when he’s down, but I do think there are a couple of interesting points to be made about the fiasco that is the crash and burn of Saeed Fotuhi’s SSMU campaign.

On Monday, President-wannabe Saeed Fotuhi printed up a bunch of posters that read “Slanderous and Biased” and placed them on and around McGill Daily stands around campus. Saeed was angry about The Daily’s decision to pithily denounce his candidacy and to print a letter from noted correspondent Lawrence W. Cinamon that referred to Saeed as a “schmuck.” (No word on whether Saeed was upset about my suggestion last week that he run for the presidency of the “Lame Society of Lameness.”)

Okay, Saeed’s presidential aspirations aside, is The Daily a biased paper? The answer is, of course, yes. And that is fine.

It amazes me that the old trope of journalistic objectivity is still being tossed around, as if the media has ever been anything but biased. Newspapers started out as the organs of political parties. The emergence of the penny press at the turn of the century simply switched editors and publishers’ allegiances from parties to commercial interests.

The occasional bit of brilliant, incisive journalism does occasionally slip through this imperfect system. But even these pieces can’t be said to be unbiased. In these most sophisticated articles, the bias is hidden in the style, format, layout, and structure of the piece.

But, let’s not single out poor Saeed for his naiveté. At the debates last week, it was presidential frontrunner Naeem Datoo who said, “the media is the media, and if it’s biased, it’s useless.” I would argue that a biased media is very useful, but it is only ethical when the bias is transparent.

What is nice about The McGill Daily is that it wears its politics on its sleeves. At the beginning of the year, it publishes The Daily Statement of Principles, which lays out all of its biases for the reading public. Similarly, The National Post may not publish a right-wing statement of principles, but it does gleefully revel in its neo-conservative bias; there is no effort to conceal it.

The actual danger to our relatively free press is in initiatives like CanWest Global’s national editorials in all the Southam newspapers. What is so unethical about them is that they try to conceal what they are: comment pieces written by the publisher. They disguise these corporate editorials and try to pass them off as something that they aren’t.

People like to pretend that the journalists they read or listen to or watch are unbiased, just like they enjoy pretending that their politicians are really speaking their minds. It’s a useful and perhaps necessary illusion to comfort us, but when push comes to shove we should recognise it for what it is – an illusion.

As for The Daily being “slanderous,” I believe le mot juste that Saeed was searching for was “libelous.” But why kick a man when he’s down?

Palestine

There was an interesting exchange in the Letters section of The Daily a few weeks back, after I used the word Palestine in an article denouncing the CSU’s jerking around of Hillel. At first, I ignored the debate figuring these letter-writers were missing the forest for the trees. But no, this was not the usual esoteric gobbledygook about obscure UN resolutions and boundary minutiae; it was about something that I actually care about – language.

It is important for writers to define the words they use. Back in 1948, Orwell lamented the increasing meaninglessness of words in political discourse; imagine if he was alive today to live in the era of globalisation, terrorism, regime change, and the only democracy in the Middle East.

Take the brouhaha that developed around the CBC’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Should Palestinians who blow themselves up in crowded Israeli cafes be called freedom fighters or terrorists? Are they martyrs, heroes, militants, extremists, rebels, suicide bombers, homicide bombers, ethnic cleansers, or performance artists?

I should not hide from specifics. I do not desire that the word Palestine become as semiotically blank as “Generation X.” When I wrote that I desired an end to the occupation in Palestine, I meant I desire peace and a fair two-state solution to that whole mess. Anything more specific I leave up to negotiators, professional letter writers, and Professor Rex Brynen to wrangle over.

Quote of the week
On Monday, MSNBC’s military analyst Dan Goure was comparing the massive strength of the American military to Iraq’s relatively puny forces. Said Goure: “It is so lopsided that it’s almost something you don’t want to watch, in a way.”

I wonder; if we all turn our televisions off, will this war go away?

On the Fence appears Thursdays.
Happy War...

Well, it looks like war in 48 hours.
I don't know what's going to happen. Some guy on ABC has just told me that "Saddam Hussein is the master of the unexpected."
Stay tuned...

Sunday, March 09, 2003

March is here

Well, the depressing month of February is come and gone, but the folks I hang out with are bluer than ever. This is because of a) impending war, and b) all this goddamn work one has to do in her or his last few months of University...

Spent last night at Copacabana in impassioned debate over Iraq, the Kurds, UN Security Council resolutions, necessary lies, genocide... All in all, not terribly fun, but very engrossing. There were some disagreements, but the overwhelming feeling was just one of: Ohmigod, this impending war is so depressing and sad! Has any other war been discussed at such length in public before it broke out? The war itself (if it happens; I hope not) will be one thing, but this pre-war debate and rhetoric and build-up is positively excrutiating.

Then, on the way home from the bar, I got into a tremendous, epic snowball fight. I threw the best-aimed snowball of my life at Phillip Todd's head. Phil followed this up by chasing me three blocks before finally tackling me and giving me a well-deserved snowjob. The snow war raged on between seven or eight Dailyites and Dailyite friends for a while on the cobblestones of Prince Arthur.

I may have banged my knee up a bit on the sidewalk, but that walk home was invigorating and fun. And that was great, because I haven't had a nice, clean, rolling-in-the-snow time in what feels like a long, long while.

If only Bush and Saddam could do get in a good Guerre Des Tuques...
Strikers had no Class, Man

Well, first off, let me say that I am officially off the fence with regards to Iraq. I was temporarily persuaded by some humanitarian interventionist arguments that an American overthrow of Saddam might help Iraqis emerge from tyranny, and bring democracy to the country. Alas, unlike what took place in Afghanistan with a coalition of countries involved, the current American plan is to occupy Iraq for at least two years, and have it run by a military government. Likewise, Bush has made it clear that he intends to sell out the Kurds in northern Iraq in order to appease Turkey. Plus, without worldwide support, the whole thing looks headed towards a divisive, devastating disaster.

It'd be nice if regime change helped the Iraqis, but it’s not likely. According to the Christian Science Monitor, out of the 18 regime changes the US has forced in the 20th century, only five resulted in democracy. Those aren’t good odds.

Sigh. I was optimistic. Back to the cold comfort of pessimism.

So, no war with Iraq. Right. Now what? Protests seem in order.

Yesterday's McGill student strike was an example of good intentions, bad idea. It divided the campus and most students simply ignored it. It shifted the focus of debate from how to prevent war, to whether or not students should skip class to protest the war. Again and again, I heard students say that they were against war, but didn’t understand how striking would help.

Among the classes that the hardcore strikers wanted cancelled was Professor Rex Brynen’s Peacebuilding poli-sci class. I won't belabour the irony, but I did want to commend Brynen’s clever decision to call yesterday’s class a "teach-in" in order to strategically avoid the strike issue. That Brynen should go into politics.

Not all of the classes that went on yesterday were quite so specifically peace-oriented, of course. But it is my assertion that education is, in many ways, the opposite of war. Some of the strikers had signs that read, "Books, not bombs." That’s my sentiment exactly, and that’s why I attended class.

The trouble, if you can call it that, with opposing a US war on Iraq, here in Quebec particularly, is that the prevailing sentiment is anti-war. 150,000 marched in the streets a couple of weekends ago. The provincial government has voiced its opposition, and the federal government has strategically dodged the question and worked towards uniting the UN Security Council. The only staunch warmongers to be found in Canada are in the press.

This leaves little room for adrenaline-boosting confrontational protests. So, the strike organisers turned the administration and/or campus security and/or students who crossed the picket line to attend classes into the villains for the day.

I remember the rush I felt as tear gas rained down in Quebec City two years ago. As my eyes burned, I felt truly alive, truly relevant, like history was being written right there in the streets. Back in Montreal, I kept yearning to feel that again; I couldn’t keep still. The world was so unfair and I was angry. It was months before I felt like myself again.

So what did the strike accomplish? I dunno. It seemed to me a clear example of how certain activists just have the wrong idea, and thrive on adversity instead of solidarity. Remember when, shortly after September 11, Bush said “you’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists?” I heard that echoed yesterday, as a striker told me that if I attended class then I supported Bush, I supported war, I supported the deaths of innocent Iraqis.

Whereas the peace marches last month were uplifting, yesterday’s protest was dispiriting. Take the unfortunate protestor who held up a sign reading “Honk for Freedom.” Alas, there is no freedom in Iraq. There ain’t going to be freedom for Iraqis, war or not, folks.

Sigh.
Oh, what the hell.
Honk.

—— —— —— —— —— ——

I don’t intend to comment on the SSMU elections this term, simply because I am graduating and the results don’t make no nevermind to me. However, this Saeed character is an absolute riot. Does he actually believe that putting up pictures of himself with L.L. Cool J, Jean Chretien, and “Jessy [sic] Jackson” is going to help him win the election? Maybe if he was running for President of the Lame Society of Lameness. Scram, scram, Saeed.

On the Fence appears in The Daily on Thursdays. You can email Kelly at jkelly@cup.ca.