Saturday, March 31, 2007

Got Depressed Yesterday ...

I was reading The Great Mortality by John Kelly. It's about the great plague of the 14th Century, that wiped out at least one-third of Europe's population (perhaps a third of the Middle East, and some say half of China).

The Renaissance writer Petrarch at one time was moved to lament about the passing of all his friends, ... how Europe used to be crowded, but now the survivors were standing alone. I realized that humanity survived, ... though millions suffered horrible deaths. Horrible, anonymous deaths. But then, Petrarch died too. People fled in terror of the plague, but this was just fleeing a particularly unpleasant, painful way to die. But for the lucky ones, how many of them lived only to die of another painful sickness? of hunger? of sorrow? in war?

Life seems so very short to me now, and I don't have any great faith in the constructs that some have erected to argue for "eternal life." I'm certain that there is something more out there, but what it has to do with me, I have no idea whatsoever. Perhaps my existence and all that is so precious to me is as worthy of the universe's attention as the hunger of an infected marmot flea, spreading the "Black Death" as it frenziedly bites at its host, in a futile attempt to get blood past the blockage that developed in its digestive tract, which makes it impossible for it to do anything but vomit infected blood back into its host.

But, reading that book only made me reflective. What depressed me was this:

Since the mysterious explosion at the Shia al-Askari shrine in Samara in February last year, more than 100 Iraqis have been killed daily on average, without any forceful action by the Iraqi government and the U.S. military to stop the killings.
U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces working with them are also executing people seized during home raids and other operations, residents say.


“Seventeen young men were found executed after they were arrested by U.S. troops and Fallujah police,” 40-year-old Yassen of Fallujah told IPS. “My two sons have been detained by police, and I am terrified that they will have the same fate. They are only 17 and 18 years old.”

...

Others are killed by random fire that has long become routine for U.S. and Iraqi soldiers. Sa’ad, a 25-year-old from the al-Thubbat area of western Fallujah was killed in such firing. “The poor guy kept running home every time he saw U.S. soldiers,” a man from his neighborhood, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. “He used to say: Go inside or the Americans will kill you.” Sa’ad is said by neighbors to have developed a mental disability.

...

“It is our people killing each other now as planned by the Americans,” Abdul Sattar, a 45- year-old lawyer and human rights activist in Fallujah told IPS. “They recruited Saddam’s security men to control the situation by well-known methods like hanging people by their legs and electrifying them in order to get information. Now they are executing them without trial.”

...

Adding to the violence are U.S.-backed Shia militias which regularly raid Sunni areas under the eyes of the U.S. and Iraqi army. Residents of Fallujah, Ramadi, and especially Baghdad have regularly reported to IPS over the last two years that Shia militiamen are allowed through U.S. military cordons into Sunni neighborhoods to conduct raids.

Last month, residents report, more than 100 men aged 20 to 40 were executed by Shia militias in Iskandariya 40 km south of Baghdad and Tal Afar 350 km northwest of the capital. Another 50 were detained by the Iraqi Army’s fifth division, that many believe is the biggest death squad in the country.






We have heard of atrocity after atrocity committed by US troops themselves. The bush II regime spoke openly of the pursuing the "Salvador Option," meaning Death Squads, and we have seen evidence of Death Squads in action in Iraq. I've not doubt that most, if not all of these assertions are true.

It's no doubt true that the Iraqi people are living their short lives, all that I know that they'll ever have, in an unrelenting nightmare; Saddam's dictatorship, the Iraq-Iran War, the UN sanctions, and this unmitigated catastrophe, ... and this latest round of their nightmare has been 5-year's running with no end in sight.

And there's nothing we can do about it. Electing Democrats obviously wouldn't change anything significant (as the American people are beginning to understand). In the meantime, these people, and other victims of a hateful world system will continue to exist and die in needless, avoidable suffering.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Warts and All

No detailed plan can ever stand the test of reality without having to concede to circumstances at least once.

If the police and the military stay loyal to a government, there is no way that the citizenry can defeat them.

What is needed are simple ideas of justice, taken to their logical conclusions, informing everyone to whom justice is denied. Ideas that can outlast flawed and grasping leaders and their warts.

Ideas and tactics that can generate mass disobedience, even if only passive resistance en masse.

Ideas, principles and methods that can conform to the purest liberal principles while taking those liberal principles themselves to their logical conclusions.

Canadian anarchist thinker Susan Brown talks about that last little bit.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

RCMP Corruption Scandal

I obviously can't provide any more information than is at the CBC link that brought the story to my attention.

All I can do is offer groundless speculation, that there is a culture of corruption in Ottawa. A culture of corruption that promotes partisan goons like Zaccardelli (who is receiving the "goon" insult for his responsibility for the Mounties excessive use of force at the APEC Summit) who are more loyal to their political masters than to the people and the institutions that they serve.

Check out this CBC backgrounder on Zaccardelli.

And all this puts to mind the firing of diligent whistle-blower Shiv Chopra at Health Canada. He exposed the dangers of Monsanto's BGHT and was rewarded by being harrassed and driven from his job. Who is really controlling these "Mandarins"?

I'll say one thing for the USians, ... their political system is more compromised than ours is, but we don't have 1/10th the internet focus on the machinations of our political system that they do.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Prosecutors Scandal is a Big Deal

Just thought that I'd mention that I think the prosecutors scandal being uncovered in the United States is a big deal and it might very well signal the end of the bush II regime.

As Glenn Greenwald is trying to explain to the absolutely ridiculous Washington punditocracy, using the Justice Department as a partisan weapon against one's enemies (including using it as a tool for voter suppression), and preventing said Justice Department from prosecuting the extreme corruption of one's partisan allies, ... and lying about all of this under oath to Congress, ... is a big deal.

In the Greenwald link, there's some discussion about these Washington media stars groundlessly claiming that "the American People" don't want an investigation of this. To their great good credit, the vast majority of Americans do want this obscenity investigated. Just like the vast majority of them want out of Iraq. And for the record, the majority of that nation was always smart enough to reject bush II. ("Consent of the governed" indeed!)

And this appears to be big. HUGE. Because it's all coming out at once. The bush II regime has never been that smart. Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rove were never particularly prescient about anything in the past, ... except about how to insinuate themselves into the system to positions so powerful that they were able to prevent inquiries into their own corruption and incompetence.

But as the leaders, left to forumalate actual policy, and with no one to watch them and curb their excessess, they have produced one atrocity after another. And with a Republican Congress there was nothing to stop them from one obvious crime after another. That's all over now. There is going to be Legislative oversight, and Legislative investigation of this latest scandal, and their crude paw-prints are all over the place.

Whitehouse Press Secretary Tony Snow has babbled on at least a couple of occassions that bush II/the Executive Branch didn't have to turn over anything to Congress. That's false. bush II will have to turn over everything that Congress asks for. And that will be that.

I wonder, ... there is no two-thirds Democratic majority in the Senate. But mighten't ordinary Americans be able to initiate lawsuits against the members of this criminal regime after their term of office expires? Is the legislative path the only route to criminal prosecution of politicians?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Loyalty Oaths and Litmus Tests

A recent guest has been claiming that Leftists hate "the troops" because we want to see the Geneva Conventions respected. As proof of the hatred for "the troops" [in quotations because jingoists use the term in a thoughtless, knee-jerk fashion] felt by the NDP and the Liberal Party of Canada, my guest refers to the "fact" that all they want to talk about are possible abuses of prisoners in Afghanistan, and not at all about the conditions that "the troops" have to live and work under.

I'm not going to get into a stupid pissing contest about which side "supports the troops" more. I'm not going to get into that nonsensical framing of issues whereby contrary opinions are regarded as treasonous, where questioning of foreign policy becomes shitting all over "the troops."

Just to refute the claim that all (in this case) the NDP and the Liberals have never concerned themselves with our soldiers other than to condemn them for alleged abuses in Afghanistan, I provide this statement from the House of Commons:

There are tremendous problems in our country for veterans and their families, not just for the veterans of World War I, World War II, Korea, the gulf war and Afghanistan, but also for our modern day veterans, those who served during peacekeeping times and the cold war. An awful lot of them, almost 4,000 to be exact, have a problem with what is called the SISIP deduction. This was something that we in the NDP had in our veterans first motion, which was adopted by the three opposition parties in the House of Commons. Unfortunately, the Conservatives voted against it at that time.

We should remember what the Prime Minister said when he was in opposition. He said that when motions are passed by the House of Commons, that should bring the direction from government to the forefront. Unfortunately, not only did the Conservatives vote against our motion, but the budget completely ignored that aspect of the motion. When there is a $14.2 billion surplus and they are not going to help disabled veterans now, when do they plan on doing it?

There is a gentlemen in my riding by the name of Mr. Dennis Manuge, who has just started a class action lawsuit with a legal team, and with members of that lawsuit right across this country, to fight the government over the SISIP deduction. Many of our injured soldiers are now facing the choice of losing their homes and equity and being
forced into rental accommodations that, in some cases, are of a poorer standard.
These are people who volunteered to serve their country and unfortunately were
injured in the line of duty. What is being said to them? They are being told
that maybe we will get around to thinking about helping them.

When the government has a $14.2 billion surplus over and above moneys required for the day to day operations of government, one would assume that of all governments, this government, a government that reportedly likes to support the troops, would have looked at this issue very seriously, and if it did not want to accept the recommendations from the NDP then it could at least accept the recommendations from the DND ombudsmen.

Two of those ombudsmen have said that the SISIP deduction has to go and that with a $290 million investment this problem will be fixed. That amount is 1.8% of the
recently announced $14.2 billion surplus. One would think that in its heart of hearts the government would have come up with $290 million, not only honouring the motion passed by the House of Common but accepting the recommendations of two ombudsmen.

Just recently, Mr. Côté, the DND ombudsman, again wrote a letter mentioning that recommendation to the government. It is still being ignored by the government. For the life of me, I cannot understand this in view of the heightened awareness of our troops, those bravely serving in Afghanistan and around the world and those who have been injured and are coming home. Our troops went through one war. They should not have to go through another one when they get back home.

Reading

I bought the paperback version of Richard Evans's The Third Reich in Power: 1933-1939. I generally avoided reading about war history and the Nazis, because that all seemed to be the preserve of "history buffs" who were armchair generals and nerds. But a lot of important stuff happened in those military conflicts and it behooves me to get the details.

Oh yeah, ... I'm reading it too.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Harper's Uptick in the Polls

Recent polls have shown that Harper's Conservatives have increased their support levels among Canadians.

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's Conservative Party may have enough support to win a majority of seats in the House of Commons if an election were held now, two polls showed on Friday.

...

The new polls put the Conservatives at either 39 or 40 percent, on the cusp of majority territory.
Parties traditionally need at least 40 percent of the popular vote to win a majority of seats.
An Ipsos-Reid survey for CanWest newspapers and Global television, gave the Conservatives 40 percent, the Liberals 29 percent and the leftist New Democrats 14 percent. A week earlier, Ipsos showed only a 2 point Conservative lead. A Strategic Counsel poll for CTV and the Globe and Mail
showed the Conservatives at 39 percent -- 3 points higher than a week earlier -- and the Liberals unchanged at 31 percent.


Of course I find this depressing. But the question is: How to account for it?

I believe these poll results reflect the ability of people to become inured to the failures of neoliberalism if they are given no ready access to alternative points of view.

The media was far too kind to the glaring failures of the loathsome Paul Martin Liberals, and since Harper has only added incrementally to this form of political-economy, it would be the height of hypocrisy to suddenly turn on it.

Of course the media favours the Liberal Party. Except for the Aspers, most of these people are sensible human beings as well as being capitalists. They don't want to live in a political culture dominated by mouth-breathing, fundamentalist whackos. The Liberals are established, semi-competent political managers of neoliberalism.

But the point is that they have been unable to mount an effective criticism of Harper because his policies (under a minority government) have not strayed too far past the austerity and immiseration of Paul Martin. Harper has kept his idiot wing on a tight leash, and has appealed to what has turned out to be some surprisingly popular prejudices amongst the population (support for Israel's idiotic foreign policies, anti-feminism, and "support the troops" jingoism).

Canadians have been living in a fog since the 1980s, as the ratcheting-up of the class war has been disguised as being the product of objective, apolitical "harsh economic realities," when, in fact, it has been part of a concerted campaign of "rollback" of the gains made for ordinary people after 1945. Canadians, as workers, have been "broken" (to quote a pleasant enough economics professor from the C. D. Howe Institute) by policy-mandated recessions orchestrated by the Bank of Canada with the support of our parasitical financial sector.

The Chretien-Martin governments promised a return to the "good times" of the 1970s, (as well as the death of the GST and the renegotiation of NAFTA) but didn't deliver. Canadians were made to think that this was an unfortunate harsh reality too. That taming the deficits (which were created by the recessions engineered to "break" workers) would have to take precedence over desperately needed social spending.

Chretien-Martin slashed the public sector more than any other Canadian government before them, and they did it using a nauseating rhetoric of compassion that was rarely effectively challenged in the media. Homelessness skyrocketed, actual hunger became the experience of thousands in this, one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Deregulation of the economy also delivered stagnant wages, uncertain employment, and growing inequality. And all this misery, all these disastrous results were portrayed as effective economic management because it served the class that owns the newspapers and television stations.

Canadians came to see the surpluses that Martin racked-up year after year as evidence of government theft, rather than as a source for social investment. With their incomes stagnating, and with public services unaccessible (while still seen as bloated and wasteful sites for union feather-bedding) pressure mounted for tax cuts instead of social spending.

With the arrival of Harper's Conservatives, there is no way to legitimately decry his more obvious thuggishness and incompetence. It's the same ugly bullshit as the Liberals, just more honest in its intentions.

I'm not letting Canadians off the hook altogether. The evidence of the disastrous results of this economic delusion has been before their eyes for a long time now. Harris in Ontario delivered the same policy cess-pool, Charest in Quebec tried the same crap. Neoliberalism has failed because failure is inevitable when the goal is to treat workers as an expense to be discarded, and democracy is to be penned up like a veal calf, limited to selecting from a puny list of neoliberal economic managers of varying degrees of sanity.

The Left has to come up with a more effective narrative, and has to start identifying the important solutions to this perpetual economic crisis.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Appeal to "Reason"

Over at www.pogge.ca, a sub-normal intellect named "roundhead" shat out the statement that Jack Layton and Stephane Dion cared more about terrorists than they did about Canadian soldiers.

"roundhead's" exact term was "accused terrorists" but since this would mean that "roundhead" is only condemning concern for due legal process and that we not beat our prisoners and turn them over to be tortured, I'm reasonably certain that "roundhead" meant actual terrorists.

I asked "roundhead" to prove it, and, like the knuckle-dragging imbeciles at sda, the intellectual coward at "a turn to the right," and my recent visitor "breath of fresh air," this "roundhead" character is good at spewing out empty assertions, but not so good at sustained discussion.

A familiar discussion participant to me, one "Reason,"* decided to take up the challenge though. The exchange is here.

What I'd like to do is take apart "Reason's" last round of self-righteous hyperventilating on my blog, since I don't want to presume that I can make "pogge" a site for my pissing contests.


Of course you are done here thwap. It is a subject you have zero depth of knowledge in,



An empty assertion, nothing more. I can type words to that effect about you easily enough:

Reason, you know absolutely nothing about this subject.

See how easy it is? Let's continue.


and failed utterly to comment on the fact that roundhead's comments had merit.

Well, that wasn't my intention, to comment on the fact that "roundhead's" meritless assertion had merit. Like you, and the right-wing in general, you imagine that simply saying something makes it true. I'm sick and tired of accomodating this bullshit. Especially since the consequences of you lame-brains putting your "thoughts" into action have been so murderously disastrous for so many innocent people.


Simply dismissing fact that does not appeal to you does not make said fact go away.


[sarcasm]Tell me about it.[/sarcasm]


Sorry, but I am thuggish in response to the way you and others have treated me in the past,



Actually, the thuggery that I was referring to is your apparent blindness to the dangers of arbitrary justice and the abuse, torture, and killing of prisoners. These are the issues that the Left is concerned about, and to which you and your ideological soulmates are so indifferent. Without our [I mean decent people, not right-wing asshats] oversight, Western society would turn into more of a sewer of cruelty and injustice than it already is. That's what I was referring to when I said "thuggish."

Regarding my treatment of you in the past, I've got an idea: Why don't you fucking go back to those old babble threads and actually READ what I said to you?? I disagreed with you on many things but I was never unfair to you. I mentioned that I thought you had anger-management problems because I honestly do think that. No, I wasn't nice to you, but I never called you a baby-killer, or an ignorant stooge, or anything like the insults you love to send my way and which I am now returning in kind.

I'll admit that many people on babble were unfair to you. And that many on the Left are unfair to soldiers of any sort. But that wasn't me, and I don't think it's too much to fucking ask that you learn to differentiate between people. And, as I recall, you would ascend to a towering rage quite quickly after receiving a contrary opinion, fair or not.



and I care not wit if I insult you your or harm your sensibilities...


I can honestly live with that. I don't care a whit about your opinion of me. What I do care about is you and your brethen's annoying habit of setting the parameters of the debate merely by saying whatever stupid thing some cynical manipulator has conditioned you to say. Slandering opponents of the war as universally gleeful at the deaths of Canadian soldiers, universally blind to the crimes of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and their ilk. Because we don't cry out for the destruction of our civil liberties in response to non-existent threats, we're "soft on terrorism."

Fuck that, and to hell with you and people like you daring to lecture us about facts and arguments. The debacles that have been made of every major initiative you attempted ought to be proof enough that you have no credibility.



In point of fact, I intend to shock you back into critical thinking, instead of the sheepish nonesense you currently engage in.


Well, as you can probably tell by now, I find your presumption laughable. "Critical thinking" 'eh? How about this?

You and your team have had FIVE FUCKING YEARS to meet the VERY LOW expectations of the poor people of Afghanistan, and instead of doing that, 5 years later the Taliban is growing in popularity. The former Northern Alliance warlords who rule most of the country are brutes. Karzai's government is incompetent and brutal. NATO forces are trigger-happy and callous. Both the Afghan government and US forces torture innocent people, sometimes to death. Our anti-narcotics policies there were constructed with absolutely no thought to the alternatives that would be needed to keep poppy farmers from starving to DEATH. The foreign aid that got to Afghanistan was many only a fraction of what was so casually promised, and much of it leached right back out in the pockets of profiteering foreign contractors.

For these reasons, I am "critical" when I "think" about Canada in Afghanistan.


But you, dog-shit for brains, you think that some feel-good stories about building a school out of concrete blocks, or handing out a $50 bag of candy, or training judges who won't get paid and who will be shot if they ever honestly apply the principles we teach, or training police officers to be as brutal and incompetent and corrupt as the ones we trained (and are training) in Haiti, ... you think this is something worth fighting and killing for. You have faith in this mission?

We could have had a polite discussion about genuine accomplishments of the CF in Afghanistan, what with my "critical thinking" and your intimate familiarity of the subject. We could have had something besides talking past one another, but you and "roundhead" are more interested in slandering Jack Layton and the Left in general, ... you're more interested in calling us cowards, traitors, morons, etc., etc., .... well to fuck with politeness now. I'm pretty sure that all you'd have to offer are meaningless anecdotes, useless generalities, and wooden government propaganda. It's up to you to respond to my criticisms, based on documented facts, rather than it being my part to defend myself against your stupid personal attacks.



Let me know when you are done opinioning on other's thoughts (as you like to do),


I don't know what "opinioning" means, but I assume you want me to think for myself. I've been doing that for a long time now, asshole, ... how about you?


and instead would care to actually engage in serious discussion...



Aha-ha-ha!!! Well, seriously, the floor is yours ...


Of course, this is one of the reason why I was not welcome around you in the past... Despite being on discussion boards, that is exactly what you do not want.


Bullshit.


Oh, and for the record, I am a Canadian soldier, as you may remember for our dealings on that den of idiots at babble...


Yeah, I remembered that. I just figured as long as you were tossing out hurtful accusations, I'd join in the fun. Get the point??


Further, I am currently in Afghanistan. So it would seem that mine is one of the lives on the line for this mission. It would seem that my attitude towards the mission has not changed for all the dodging of IEDs and such. Nor has my disdain for ignorants such as yourself.

Posted by: Reason at March 23, 2007 07:53
AM


Let me close with this: One of the last times we communicated on babble, perhaps the very last time, was in a thread where some posters were being stupid about a Canadian soldier dying. I said that I would not engage in such shameful behaviour and that until there was evidence to the contrary I would assume that a Canadian soldier was just doing his or her job, and that maybe he or she actually thought they were trying to do good in the world. You were on that thread and you responded by saying that you liked me after that. It wasn't my intention to make you like me, since I'm pretty sure that I don't like you. But as a citizen, as a debator, I strive to be honest, fair, and open-minded. And I don't see that very much at all on the side of the poltiical spectrum that you seem to find most of your allies.

And I think the speed with which you decided that you liked me, and the ease with which you forgot that you liked me when we next met at sda is testimony to your underlying childishness. You become infuriated when you read something you don't like and you respond with barely suppressed rage and more importantly you toss "Reason" out the window.

But regarding what some on the Left think of soldiers, ... you can't really deny that many on the Right like to slander us as anti-semites, cowards, traitors, lovers of Saddam Hussein, ... and on and on, .... as scum basically. Well, if you guys can jump to conclusions, and if you guys can support governments that lie, steal, torture, and kill, then maybe it isn't so far off the wall for some on the Left to tar all soldiers with the same brush they use on absolute vermin like bush II or Stephen Harper. We don't have a monopoly on being unfair. Far from it.

Oh, and spare me the bullshit about all our freedoms coming from soldiers. More often than not it was soldiers suppressing the path to democracy and human rights, not fighting for it. This doesn't even require elaboration.


If you want to start over with me, I'm prepared to do that. Once again, the floor is yours.




*"Reason" used to post frequently at rabble.ca/babble, along with another CF member "Webgear." As I said above in my reply, he and I didn't usually get along, but I think an honest reading of our exchanges would show that I was always fair to him. He showed up with another moniker (which escapes me at present) at KKKate's site, where he misrepresented me and left off by calling me a "nauseating little troll." Somewhere within my words, "Reason" got it into his head that I was claiming that Native protestors at Oka and Caledonia were peaceful. I did not do that. Anyone who wants to look (unless the Kowardly KKKate has deleted the posts) can go find a thread called "The Flags of Caledonia" or something similar, and see for themselves.

The War on Terror is a New Kind of War II

So busy, ...

But essentially, it's argued that the "war on terror" is so new, that we have to give police all sorts of new powers to help them combat it. We have to get rid of the idea of individual privacy, habeas corpus, ... and well, getting rid of those two things seems sufficient for conveying the amount we're told we must sacrifice in order to defeat this new enemy.

But what, at the bottom of it, is this new enemy? It seems to consist of transnational organizations, organized in a cellular fashion (with some cells having merely assumed the brand name of the organization and acting in isolation) conspiring to commit violent acts against the general public to advance a political agenda.

[We can agre to disagree about just what this political agenda is: The reality-based community says that their goal is to force the United States to change its foreign policy in the Middle East, the right-wing says that they want to reconquer Spain and/or subject the entire Western World to the "Islamofascist" authority of a new "Caliphate" by blowing up a building or a subway train every now and again.]

Okay, anyway, ... what's so new about post 9-11 terrorism from the terrorism of the past? The law enforcement agencies of the West have kept terrorist lists for decades now. They've learned to cooperate to control and capture targetted terrorist groups in the past. What's changed?

When these cells are active in a specific country, they amount to criminal conspiracies. They'll do stuff like having all their members sign up for flying lessons (with the stupider among them telling the instructors that they won't be needing any taking-off or landing lessons!), they'll be trying to amass quantities of explosives and place them somewhere, they'll be planning on robbing banks, receiving criminally obtained monies from overseas, they'll be planning on capturing buildings and taking hostages.

The point is that criminal conspiracies aren't new. What 9-11 showed us was that a spectacular failure of various agencies to connect the dots allowed a group of terrorists to pull-off a major action that killed a relatively large number of people. But these were failures to efficiently utilize existing police powers and methods. The Madrid and London subway bombings were similarly major acts of violence, but they were also isolated events.

Does it justify the permanent removal of habeas corpus and freedom from the oversight of our states into our private lives, to fight this problem?

Two links I'll try to get to tomorrow:

http://www.counterpunch.org/bowden03012007.html

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200409/cullison

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The War on Terror is a New Kind of War ...

Or so we've been hearing since September 11th, 2001. I didn't have much time to blog today, but I'll put this up for my obligatory post for the day.

I just wonder what the hell they mean when they say that this is a whole new ballgame. Tomorrow I'll type a few words about why I don't think that international terrorism is this qualitatively different challenge from anything else that national and international law-enforcement institutions have had to deal with.

I hope.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

This Just In ... The Taliban Aren't Nice

Okay, for posterity's sake ...

When visting Canadian Cynic, I visited the link mentioned at this post, discussing how the right-wing, which could not move itself to comment on a Canadian lad of Iranian descent being held in a prison-like immigrant detention centre in Texas, for the sin of trying to flee Iran on false documents, but are now moved to tears by the sufferings of an Afghan child whose family had been killed by a Taliban suicide bomber.

The point isn't that these right-wingers shouldn't be concerned about victims of the violence in Afghanistan. The point isn't that they must be unaffected by that tragedy. The point is that in a case where all they would have to do to help a fellow Canadian would be to protest to the relevant Canadian and US officials, and get a young boy some decent living conditions, they couldn't move themselves. BUT: When it comes to a murky war, involving Canadian soldiers killing and dying, and Canadian taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars, the story of one tragedy in isolation is supposed to get us all to stay on the same page, to stay committed to this war, this expenditure of blood and treasure.

Now, I'm confident that a dishonest hack could point to my mentioning of "spending hundreds of millions of dollars" as some sort of evidence of the icy selfishness at the heart of the Left or something, but this is an easily-destroyed bit of garbage. The Canadian right-wing in general is on record as begrudging Canadian foreign aid to developing countries, or to spending money to meet our Kyoto requirements. If they think it's reasonable to say that Canada should refrain from giving money to corrupt, incompetent poor country governments, and aren't moved by anecdotes about starving children, deaths from easily-treatable diseases, and etc., then they ought to have the same scant regard for trying to keep Canada in a highly contentious war, propping up a corrupt, incompetent government, because the enemy that we're fighting is muderous. It's the same for their resistance to meeting our Kyoto obligations; they think the agreement is flawed, that the problem is a myth, and stories about all of Bangladesh drowning aren't going to change their minds.

I went to the blog CC linked to and posted the following:


Yeah, except you could easily find stories about Afghan or Iraqi children left orphaned and maimed by Canadian and/or US soldiers too. So what would Stephen Harper say to the children whose families were wiped out by NATO weaponry: “Don’t worry kid, the people who killed your family are the GOOD guys. That should count for something right?” The world isn’t as simple as you imagine it is.


This prompted the following response from one "Breath of Fresh Air":


You poor, gullible oaf. Of course the CBC prominently reports anything that goes wrong. It’s a war, do you think everything will be perfect? It’s funny when the truth emerges and the Taliban take responsibility for such events, the CBC never bother to covers that or issue an apology or retraction.


I posted a reply that has gotten me banned from "uninformed nobody"'s site, to the fact that BoFA was an idiot, and that the crux of the matter wasn't that the Taliban was bad, but that there are children crying in Afghanistan because of our bullets. That there are families going hungry because our soldiers killed their fathers. That there are villages empty because we bombed them into rubble. And that the larger reason that we are fighting there, to promote and protect a certain type of government, is itself dubious, because that government has proven itself incompetent and corrupt.

It's true, the Left is torn on what to do NOW in Afghanistan. We certainly advocate winding-down the military mission in Afghanistan, but we're honestly confused about what the best course of action is .... AFTER the US and its allies created the Taliban, AFTER the US armed and trained the Mujahedeen precursors to the Taliban to fight the Soviet puppet-government of Afghanistan, AFTER the US monsters the Northern Alliance and the Taliban subjected Afghanistan to years of horror before the Taliban emerged triumphant, AFTER the US supported the Taliban government in opposition to the demands of RAWA and Western leftists and feminists, AFTER the US carpet-bombing of Afghanistan in 2001 that devastated the country, AFTER the US support for the drug-running gangsters and rapists for the Northern Alliance, AFTER US meddling in the Afghans's "Loya Jirga" that saw their client Karzai installed over the local favourite, Zahir Shah, AFTER the US client Karzai proved impotent to control his Northern Alliance warlord allies, his corrupt, untrained, underpaid police force, or to wrest the promises of real aid from the lying Western governments who had devastated his country, ... AFTER this widespread incompetence, thuggery, and poison has seen a resurgence in the popular support for the detestable Taliban, ... yes, the Left is uncertain of how best to CLEAN UP THE MESS CREATED BY IMPERIALIST WESTERN GOVERNMENTS BACKED BY A VAST LEGION OF RIGHT-WING SHIT-HEADS.

The very least that imbeciles like "turn to stupidity" and "breath of fart" can do is just shut-up and quit with the anecdotes that wouldn't move them if the victims came from some other part of the world less important to US imperialists. Some people are trying to think here.

Workplace Democracy and the Public Sector

[For now] I've got a real job, and very little time at present, to do much work online. Here's my snippet for the day:

One way to give effective examples of workplace democracy in our society could be through the public sector. See if we can get the NDP onside with the idea of transforming the governance of the public sector thusly: Policy and general operating procedures are still the preserve of the goverment, but day-to-day operation and implementation is overseen by a governing board consisting of 1/3 management/administration (who are responsible for the system as a whole), 1/3 workers (who know better than anyone the ground level realities and possibilities of the organization) and 1/3 citizens (who are on the receiving end of the organizations services).

Each group gets equal voting weight on this board. Each group gets full access to relevant information about the organization/system in question.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Budget

Flaherty's budget was unsurprising. Lots and lots of tax-cuts to middle-class and upper-class Canadians, money handed over to the provinces for anything they desire, ... all in all a budget that reflects the revenue-collecting powers of the Canadian state (following the miserly Paul Martin regime) with over-generalized spending typical of a minority government situation.

Case in point: The Conservatives' tax rebate for public transit users. If people actually send in their receipts they'll get money back. Would people abandon their cars for the existing public transit networks in return for some money back at tax time? Probably not. But say that a significant number of people do elect to use public transit; do the municipal governments that pay for the services get the resources to handle the extra ridership? No.

So, a few organized people get a tax rebate and feel good. The Harper government gets a thin excuse to call itself "green," the government gives money away and doesn't spend it on a necessary service.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Today is Budget Day

Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty is pumped. Today is budget day, and Flaherty (suprisingly still a politician after his participation in the murderously incompetent and corrupt Ontario government of Mike Harris) believes that:

"We're going to resolve once and for all this continuing problem we've had, this bickering between governments in Canada about fiscal imbalance, ... We're going to restore fiscal balance on a principled long-term predictable basis in Canada."

Given the fact that Flaherty is both a moron and a liar, this is probably not even remotely true. My guess is that Flaherty will simply give this money to the provinces with no strings attached, thus crippling the federal government's future ability to fund national programs and giving neo-liberal provincial governments the freedom to give the money back to voters in tax-cuts, or to pay down their deficits, or any other version of the brainless sort of non-policy that is part of the neo-liberal campaign to drag Canadians' material standard of living down to that of the United States.

(By "Canadians" I mean, of couse, the vast majority of the population, who work for a living or who now subsist on our patchwork of social programs designed to keep the reserve army of the unemployed from rebelling. By "United States," I refer to the conditions of the vast majority of Americans who work long hours for low pay, who have shitty, or no health insurance, or who live in abject poverty. I acknowledge that their are Canadians who, under Harper, will see their living standards rise substantially, approaching those of the tiny minority of Americans who benefit so handsomely from wringing-out the lion's share of the wealth produced by their own economy by hook or by crook.)

What else will Flaherty be doing?

"The finance minister is also expected to introduce tax cuts and credits totalling about $3 billion that would give each taxpayer about $200 a year."

This is part of an already well-established process of destroying the surplus and the federal government's ability to fund programs that benefit the majority and that do so far more efficiently that does the private sector.

Flaherty says that it's up to the Opposition if they want to defeat this budget and force an election. The Conservatives are ready for an election, though it's not his sense that the public wants one. Indeed, as a minority government, Harper has assidiously been tossing money around (again, with no focus or direction, though it might come under nice-sounding titles making one think that it's going somewhere) and being "reasonable." Paul ("I raped Haiti") Martin jr. did the same thing when he was in a minority situation. Like Paul Martin, Stephen Harper is merely biding his time, hoping for a majority that will give him five years to abandon even the pretence of using the majority's money for the majority's benefit.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

RAWA Post -

Here's a link to a historically significant event: RAWA and other supporters celebrating International Women's Day, on March 8th in Kabul.

Those look like 2000 very brave, very admirable people. A beautiful scene.

Some might say that they have us to thank for removing the Taliban government that would have forbidden such a gathering at all in that country. That would be valid if it weren't for the case that (once again) we in the West were to a great degree responsible for setting up the Taliban in the first place. Second of all, ... well I could go on all day.

Just refrain from dislocating your shoulder while you're patting yourself on the back about Afghanistan, Canadians.

And, anyway, while me might want to be smug about our contribution to the liberation of Afghan women so that they can celebrate International Women's Day like that, we mustn't forget that in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, police brutalized several women, injuring three, in their attempt to arrest Jaggi Singh. Mr. Singh was threatening the existence of civilization by participating in the Montreal march for International Women's Day. As this participation in a political event was a violation of the unconstitutional restrictions placed on him, the police had no choice but to order everyone onto the sidewalk and then charge the participants, throw women aside, punching them, to get to Singh before he could destroy Canadian values more than he already had.

Y'know, sometimes you're living history but you don't know it. Some of those people celebrating in Kabul might just have thought they were gathering with friends at a hotel, and they wouldn't have sensed that they were participants in something of world historical importance, but they were.

And those cops who made such asses of themselves in Montreal might just have thought they were busting some brown-skinned trouble maker, never realizing for a second that they were giving their country a black-eye that will never totally go away. In 2007, three countries reported the violent breaking-up of rallies for that year's International Women's Day: Pakistan, Iran, and Canada.

Who are we going to liberate next?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Canadian Citizenship

I've been discussing the case of Kevin, the Canadian-born, Canadian citizen, of Iranian parents, who have recently been turned over to Canadian authorities following their incarceration at the Hutto Detention Centre in Texas. Kevin was born in Canada while his parents attempted to gain refugee status in Canada, claiming persecution in Iran. Their refugee application had been rejected by Immigration Canada and they had been sent back to Iran where the family claims they suffered imprisonment and torture, prompting them to attempt another escape. They travelled under counterfeit passports but were detained during an unscheduled stop in the United States, and that's where the story was until Canadian bloggers picked up on their plight and mounted a campaign for Kevin and his family's release.

I guess I should point out that it's pretty much been "progressive" Canadian bloggers who have been involved in all the recent efforts to rescue Canadians trapped in difficult political circumstances lately. The other example is the campaign to evacuate Canadians from Lebanon when it was being bombarded by Israel.

Then, as now, it also appears that it was "conservative" bloggers who were either indifferent to Kevin's plight, or downright hostile (during the Lebanon crisis) at the idea of expending Canadian resources to save "Canadians of convenience."

For my part, it feels a little arbitrary to mobilize myself for human beings whom I've never met, simply because they have Canadian citizenship. By that, I don't mean that I thought Kevin should stay in Hutto being treated like a criminal until he and his family were sent back to Iran and god knows what. I don't mean that I wanted those Lebanese-Canadians to remain trapped under the falling missiles of Israeli warplanes. If anything, I'd like to see all of those "illegal" aliens at Hutto who are simply looking for a better life for themselves and their families to be set free. I would have liked to have been able to help all of the people trapped in Lebanon. Privileging some people for their possession of a Canadian passport just seems a little artificial.

But, were it not for those Canadian passports, or that inherent Canadian citizenship, their would be no legal hook to hang their claim to our compassion (more accurately the compassion of our government) and therefore, compassionate people would have no ability to help anyone whatsoever.

So, while it seems a little strange, a little bit bizarre and Kafka-esque, to mount campaigns to save people by virtue of a shared identity with the temporary phenomenon of the nation-state of Canada, in this often cold, heartless world, we should use whatever tools we have available to do what good that we can.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Gag-law on Election Results

So the Supreme Court is ruling on whether it should be illegal to publish election results in Canada before the polls have closed across the country.

The details are here at the CBC.

For my part, I would like to know what the impact is on voters who will hear the results from Ontario and eastwards before they have made their final decision.

Does it discourage significant numbers of people?

Does it make some people irrationally decide to support the winning team (thus creating a majority government where ordinarily there would have been a minority)?

With modern technology, the only sure way to prevent broadcasting of the results would be to force all polling stations to keep a lock on their individual results until the polls closed on Vancouver Island.

This would give polling monitors and Elections Canada officials a very long working day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The US Housing Market

According to the CBC, the fears about the US housing market that alarmist pinko-lefties have been writing about for months, are starting to affect the financial markets.

Stock markets in Canada and the United States slumped heavily on Tuesday amid growing worries over the health of the U.S. housing sector

...

The Dow shuddered in the wake of a report that late mortgage payments in the U.S. hit a 3½-year high in the fourth quarter of 2006, and new foreclosures hit a record high.

...

In addition, the percentage of loans that moved into the foreclosure process rose to0.54 per cent in the last quarter of 2006. That topped the previous high of 0.5 per cent seen in the second quarter of 2001.

A big loser on U.S. markets was Accredited Home Lenders Holding Co., a company that makes subprime, higher-risk loans. The company's stock lost more than 65 per cent to end at $3.97 US on Nasdaq after saying it needed cash after paying $190 million US to its lenders.


I hope it holds off long enough for my mother to sell her house.

In other news, I dreamed about the old family house cat that died about thirty years ago. (Her name was "Dimples" after another cat that my mother had when she was a girl.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Taking it to my blog ...

On one of my infrequent visits to the racist hate-site s.d.a.dotcom, I decided to get involved in a thread about Jimmy Carter, Israel, and Nelson Mandela.

According to the right-wing version, in his book comparing Israel's policies in the occupied territories to South Africa's apartheid regime, Carter quotes from a fake letter from Nelson Mandela to the New York Times' Thomas Friedman, wherein the fake Mandela calls Israel an apartheid state.

Now, it might very well be true that Carter carelessly quoted from a fake memo. I don't know. Given the right-wing's track record so far (Harper's daycare policies, WMDs in Iraq, Jamil Hussein, etc.,) it might not be. I'm not about to spend yet more precious seconds of this too-brief existence investigating yet another of their stupid leads.

The fact of the matter is that even if it's true, it doesn't fucking matter. And it doesn't fucking matter because 1) Carter's book is not based on that letter to Friedman, and 2) Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu are both on record as condemning Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and comparing those policies to South Africa's apartheid.

I mentioned this, and was quickly met with an incoherent reply about Japanese kamikazes bitching about apartheid in World War II. When I said that Japanese kamikaze pilots weren't a very good example to use in this discussion, KKKate told me that I was off topic. I then replied with a clear and thorough demolition of her stupid attempt at an argument, to which she replied that she had not asked for my opinion.

It seems that when KKKate posts one of her smug, sneering, but ultimately incoherent and deluded attacks on the left, or progressives, what she wants to see are one sentence notes of agreement with her about the shameless stupidity of the left, and/or incoherent/irrelevant attacks on something else that the left does or says.

I say this with some certainty because in response to my further ON TOPIC debate on the subject (including an exchange with someone who actually had an argument) the frightened moron puffed herself up to say: "Perhaps I didn't make myself clear ...blah, blah, blah" and deleted my subsequent posts.

I can't be bothered to reproduce what remains of that lost thread here. Follow this link to the bottom fifth of the thread on the EnMasse discussion board: "Arguing with morons again" if you want to read it.

But the point is that, unsurprisingly, these right-wingers really do seem happiest in an echo-chamber.

What continues to nauseate me is that because of the relatively large amounts of visits to her shit-assed excuse for a political blog, this woman was actually featured as a web commentator on the CBC during a recent federal election. That a STUPID racist, warmongering, incoherent babbling lunatic like her got a national forum to pollute the marketplace of ideas in Canada is absolutely appalling.

Very well, then. I have the final piece of evidence that I need. I will go back there once in awhile to poke the animals in their cage, but wasting reason, facts and logic on them? Not bloody likely.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Saints Preserve Us

I was on John Amato's "Crooks and Liars" today, March 10th, ... and I just got overwhelmed with the absolutely degenerate state of the television newsmedia in the US.

We have some pretty big shit-heads here in Canada, ... Andrew Coyne, David Frum, Margaret Wente, Jeffery Simpson, Marcus Gee, Rosie DiManno, ... (you can tell I don't watch the news too much), but the level of air-headed insane stupidity that pollutes the US airwaves is unbelievable.

Bill O'Reilly? Glenn Beck? Michelle Malkin?

These people are pathetic, sick, stupid individuals. That they are allowed to get in front of a camera, with a microphone attached to them, on a regular basis isn't "objectionable," it's damning.

For god's sake, ... get your act together America! Flush this garbage and be done with it!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Mexican Agriculture

One has to read about post-NAFTA developments in the agricultural sector in order to understand the issue of "illegal" immigration to the United States. At least that's what I think.

So for today, I'm linking to two sources on the subject.

One is an interesting, but rather bloodless World Trade Organization report:

"Mexico’s Agricultural Trade Policies: International Commitments and Domestic Pressure"

and the other is:

"Mexico: Agriculture
Migration News Vol. 5 No. 3, July 1998"


Which is kind of old, but has a quick, easy-to-grasp description of the problems of the communal plots of the 1910 Mexican Revolution and the failure of the post-NAFTA adjustment programs:

The 27,000 ejidos in Mexico in the early 1990s included half of Mexico's arable land and provided homes for about three million farmers or ejidatarios. With their families, some 15 million Mexicans--one sixth of the population--were directly affiliated with ejidos.

Ejido farmers and their heirs retained the right to the land only as long as they actively worked and lived on it, which anchored many rural Mexicans to the land.Ejidos internalized rural population growth, resulting in ever-smaller plots as the rural population increased. The ejido system clearly failed to prevent rural poverty, and increasingly was unable to produce enough food for Mexico. However, land for the peasants had been a rallying cry of the Mexican revolution and preserved rural peace, so there was a tension between those who wanted to maintain the status quo and those who wanted to abolish the system.

Corn played a special role in the debate over ejido reform. Fifteen million Mexicans depend at least in part on corn production. Most are dry-land farmers, meaning that, if there is insufficient rain, they get a small crop. Until 1994, the government offered to buy at about twice the world price all corn produced and delivered to Conasupo offices. In 1994, the Procampo program substituted cash payments to land owners of about $100 an hectare for delivered corn.

The hope was that farmers would use the cash payments to invest in irrigation and other improvements necessary to switch to other crops. Some hoped that corn farmers would quickly switch to labor-intensive fruits and vegetables that could be exported to the US. But producing high-profit and high-risk fruits and vegetables requires more than labor. It also requires seeds suited to local lands, inputs such as water, fertilizers and pesticides, and a capacity to quickly cool and ship harvested crops long distances. In many cases, dryland corn farmers did not have the capital or expertise to produce fruits and vegetables for export markets.



And, I know that I said there'd only be two links, but what the hey ...

"Mexico's corn farmers see their livelihoods wither away
Cheap U.S. produce pushes down prices under free-trade pact"


Happy reading.

Have a super day.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

DFAIT: "Help us help Haiti."

This page offers information and requests feedback. Answer honestly and make your CSIS file bigger.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

I'm so happy to be in Canada ...

That's what a visiting speaker from Murray Bookchin's Institute for Social Ecology said at a presentation I attended at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario a number of years back.

She was reacting to the level of sophistication of the questions from the audience following her presentation. Evidently, when she spoke at US campuses, the questioners revealed an inability to let go of numerous stultifying preconceptions about the inevitability of "free markets" for solutions to economic and environmental problems, as well as notions of the inability of ordinary people to run their own affairs.

I hadn't been particularly impressed by the questions. They seemed to be logical and relevant enquiries about the subject just presented. I was struck by how happy the speaker was to not have to reinvent the wheel during this discussion. It was depressing to think that the listeners at US campuses, who would probably be among the most "liberal" of the student population (choosing to go and hear a presentation about anarcho-eco-socialism for the evening's activity), that is itself one of the most "liberal" demographic groups in the United States, would have such a narrow outlook on the possibilities of society.

I don't remember as many details, but we had another speaker from the United States at McMaster, talking about the Gulf War of Bush I or Latin America, who responded similarly to the Social Ecology speaker, during the question and answer period. He was happy to be in Canada and not have to hear useless questions about fanatical Arabs, evil Cubans, or similar drivel. Stuff he would have to inevitably slog through on US campuses.

I mention this because I've just finished reading a disturbing article in the latest issue of Z Magazine. It's called "Execution Class" by Gary Olson, and while it first appeared way back in 1988, something tells me that things have only gotten worse on US campuses since then, as the spirit of brazen stupidity and lying of the Reagan Administration has been built upon by successive waves of vermin like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, FOX News, and now, the unelected bush II regime. (The article is not yet available on line. Buy the magazine!!!)

Olson taught a class on international political economy at a small liberal college in Pennsylvania, in which he took the class through an eye-opening examination of the imperialist agenda of US foreign policy. To his dismay, it turned out that a majority of the class (who had all written essays professing belief in the sordid, cynical roots of the international system) agreed with the few honest contrarians who had written essays supporting what the US was doing.

For the most part, his class admitted that they didn't care about the nasty stuff their country was doing. It was necessary to keep resources cheap. To keep tropical fruits and vegetables cheap and available. To make sweat-shop labels affordable. It was necessary to keep these beautiful American youngsters in the manner they'd become accustomed to. And it was necessary to preserve a world system that would allow them to go on and become "rich" in the future.

Olson manages to change some minds the next day by having these students graphically put their theory into practice in a highly charged "execution" of an African classmate who volunteered to stand in for the hundreds of millions of people these callow youth wished to condemn to unrelenting oppression, poverty, and occasionally, violent death. There was a human face standing before their materialistic bravado, and the majority of his students changed their minds about their value system.

As a Canadian, my response was that such open expressions of callous greed, shallowness, materialism, would not have happened on a Canadian campus. Not because Canadians are more moral, or intelligent, or compassionate, or whatever.

I say this because I believe, as I've believed ever since the debacle of Hurrican Katrina exposed the callousness and incompetence and open racism of the bush II regime, that the political culture in the United States has become deformed by the monopoly on the public mind of late-capitalism, and that only there would people be raised in a culture that celebrates nothing so much as getting rich and stomping on anyone who would get in your way.

And you would get "rich" in order to buy "stuff." Wealth wouldn't necessarily bring culture, or respect, or influence. Like laughing idiots, people are to repeat the joke: "Whoever dies with the most toys wins," except that it wouldn't be a joke.

Canadians have to grapple with Quebec nationalism. What makes a nation? Is Canada a nation? Should it be a nation? If we're to be a nation, we obviously can't force everyone to conform to one uniform culture. Thanks to Quebec, Canadians are forced to be open to the reality that diversity exists, and we're forced to take concrete steps to respect and preserve diversity.

Thanks to relatively strong provinces and to historical chance, there is a still-relevant social democratic political movement in this country, and that in turn has helped create viable public programs that are living proof of the promise of collective action. As well, the social democratic parties have provided needed political support to the Canadian labour movement, that has itself given valuable support to alternative social justice movements. I wish that the NDP would lean even more favourably towards labour (and quit with the anti-labour stuff), but what they have done, as frustratingly limited as it is, has also been crucial.

Canadians aren't less gullible, more intelligent, more compassionate, less greedy, less callous than Americans. But the political culture is such that open professions of muderous, callous, materialism are still unacceptable. While many Americans are quite vocal about their anti-Arab racism, and their joy over their "kicking ass" in the Middle East, there are far fewer Canadians who express their support of our presence in Afghanistan in such terms. Most Canadians imagine that we're helping in Afghanistan, and fewer want us to be there to kick Muslim ass. (I'm aware that many in the US believe they're bulding democracy in Iraq, and only a minority are naked racists. What I'm saying is that I think that our openly racist warmongers are a smaller proportion of the population than are openly racist warmongers in the United States.)
And I believe this is so because our political culture is less celebratory of mindless patriotism and mindless consumerism, and arrogant indifference to the rest of the world.

The bottom 30% of our country's intellect (the Free Dominion, SDA, "Common Sense Revolution" types, are working to infect our political culture here. But they lack the financial resources to build the network of hacks that advances original (if ridiculous) ideas that the US right-wing has, and they are forced to temper their racism, fascism, and cruelty, to conform with our less debased political culture.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Haroon Siddiqui - "Pakistanis advise Ottawa to open backdoor channels with resistance"

A fine editorial from Haroon Siddiqui on Pakistani views about Canada in Afghanistan.

Basically, the consensus is that we screwed up and we should get out of there.

But the opening line near the beginning is chilling:

"BRUSSELS–As Canadian and other NATO troops in Afghanistan nervously await the widely expected Taliban spring offensive, there are two distinct views on what the best course is for the future."

If popular anger against trigger-happy Western forces (see below) and the corrupt Karzai government has gotten worse over the winter, it stands to reason that this spring offensive will be worse than last year's fighting.

Even if Canadian soldiers avoid being blown away by US fighter-pilots on speed, they might still suffer casualty figures larger than ever.

Obviously, this won't faze Stephen Harper's fan base. They're on record as being totally uninterested in Canadian casualties until they've reached at least 5,000 soldiers. But the rest of the voting public (the sane majority) will not look to kindly on the government's that put Canadian soldiers into a slaughterhouse for no good reason.

This Canadian Press report on our efforts to train Afghan police ought to help us understand the choices of Afghan peasants and the reasons for the Taliban's resurgence.

"There are some parts of Afghanistan where the last thing people want to see is the police showing up," said Brig.-Gen. Gary O'Brien, former deputy commanding general of police for the Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan.


"The police (in some areas) are corrupt. They are part of the problem. They don't provide security for the people. They are the robbers of the people."



Assuming we really care about these issues (our police training in Haiti has yielded a miserable harvest for many years running) the fact of the matter is that we're right now being associated with a brutal and corrupt regime.

That has genuine ramifications for the here and now and for the spring offensive.

I never notice when things go right ...

That's probably because I'm busy worrying about the consequences of the things that went wrong.

In the latest incident, militants late Sunday fired on a U.S. base in Kapisa province, just north of Kabul, prompting the air strike on Jabar village. The strike hit a civilian home, killing four women, four children between the ages of six months and five years, and one elderly man, said Gulam Nabi, a relative of the victims.

Friday, March 2, 2007

What is the impact of economic inequality on political equality?

This is a subject that has been on my mind for years and years.

I believe that democracy and human rights are essential for a happy, prosperous society.

We have, I believe, genuine political rights in the West, including democratic rights.

But the political sphere is constrained by massive inequality in the economic sphere.

Politicians (or our political system) must appeal to those with the power to hinder or harm the economy of the society that might dare to legislate against them or their greater preponderance of resources.

I believe that it is possible to peacefully diminish the power of anti-democratic captialism through our present political process.

We can do this by establishing the human rights of workers within their workplaces, giving them all the powers there, that they possess as citizens within the broader society.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Al Gore and David Suzuki

North America's right-wing (stupid as usual) has been working itself into a lather over the respective popularity of the campaigns against global warming of Al Gore and David Suzuki.

For my money, Al Gore is not an inspiring figure, but he's evidently made a compelling documentary and somewhere inside feels deeply about the environment.

But an oil-financed Tennessee "think-tank" has exposed that Gore's 20-room mansion has a huge energy bill. The impact of this scandal has been muted by the fact that Gore pays a premium to access renewable energy and also works from out of his home.

With David Suzuki, the Canadian right-wing bloviates that he and his crew aren't cycling their way across Canada on his national tour of presentations and rallies against the dangers of global warming. Instead, Suzuki and company are driving around in a bus. I guess they could have taken a station-wagon, but, actually, I think the stupidity of the right-wing's complaint is self-evident.

But let's deal with their genuine (but stupid) outrage on these issues and their practical silence on the issue of the squalor that wounded Iraq Invasion veterans are suffering in at military hospitals in the USA.

Even entertaining the idea that Gore's and Suzuki's supposed crimes, and the environmenatlist movement's silence about them were all true, at the very most this would mean that Gore, Suzuki, and environmentalists aren't doing all they can about global warming.

It doesn't prove that global warming isn't a real danger. That's a totally different subject.

But the veteran's hospitals scandals establishes one very true thing: That the bush II regime, and the right-wing bloggers do not care about "the troops." That is the fundamental significance of this silence. Global warming might be (is probably) a genuine threat. If Gore, Suzuki, left-wing bloggers don't really care as much about it as is posited, it's a different subject. But the whole "Support the Troops!" jingoism is itself entirely undermined by their betrayal at the hands of the bush II regime and by their supposed loyal worshippers.

The disgraceful treatment of Iraq Invasion veterans is a proven fact, and so is the indifference of the North American right-wing to their plight.

These people are scum and there is no way to justify their continued ability to influence the wider society. They should be this unfortunately large minority that should be pitied and scorned.