Sunday, June 29, 2008

Belated Reflections on Obama's FISA Failure

You can search this blog's archives to know that I've never been a fan of Barack Obama. He's an establishment Democrat politician, a player within a sick system and an elitist, disconnected party. From his speech at the 2004 party convention, to his choosing uber-idjit Joe Lieberman as his "mentor" in the Senate, he's shown himself quite willing to play the game. Therefore, it's no huge shock to my system to hear that Obama's vote on the FISA "compromise" was on the side of the devils. The president will apparently have vast new spying programs and the telecom giants will have a precedent to violate US-American citizens' rights to privacy if their glorious leader tells them they should. Plus there will be amnesty for past law-breaking.

What's disappointing is that underneath all of that corrupt, establishment garbage is an inherently classy guy. A guy who you can tell is nauseated by a political culture that squeezes months of life out of ridiculous controversies about flag-pins. At least that's the impression that I get. While the end results are just as monstrous, I think Obama's choices are the result of infection from the Washington establishment and not from any inherent fascism. Like Pham Binh says in "The Mendacity of Hope":

Rather, it's because Obama has made a series of political choices, the cumulative effect of which is real change we can believein because we can see it before our very eyes. He might have set out to change the system, to change the way politics is done in this country, but it is the political system that has changed him.

Well if you want to change that obviously stupid culture, you have to start big. FISA could have been a place to make a big stand and find out that the culture you despise isn't so powerful, that the people are behind you (aside from the bottom 25% who reveal their contemptible uselessness by clinging to their faith in miserable rotten failure bush II), and that what you perceive as "the center"is really just some arbitary intellectual point between the thoroughly deluded and discredited system and reality.

Unless of course, Barack wants those powers for himself. Unless he really is as sick as the system he inhabits, totally, without deviation.

The time for electoral politics in the USA is past. It ended in 2004. Americans with their heads outside their asses are going to have to come up with something else.

I've been busy, and this post as stayed semi-edited for three or four days now, and I might as well just post it as it is and toss in these two links that I don't remember the relevance of anymore!

http://www.counterpunch.org/reed06242008.html http://www.counterpunch.org/reichel06262008.html

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Another Case of Market Failure

From the generally depressingly racist Hamilton Spectator comes a decent bit of local journalism:

"Trouble in the Fruit Belt"

Essentially, CANGRO a local canner of locally-grown fruit products is closing, primarily due to foreign competition:

It was a pragmatic decision on the part of CanGro, owned by American private equity firms Sun Capital and EG Capital Group.

Quite simply, the products can be made cheaper elsewhere.

Many union reps, growers, economists and even consumers reluctantly acknowledge the canned products put out by the plant, Del Monte fruit cocktails and the like, were approaching their best-before date. Consumption of canned goods is near stagnant (about 2 per cent growth a year), fruit production costs (particularly labour) are escalating, and the plant, while it made money, was not considered efficient in global terms.

The part about stagnant canned-fruit sales is unproblematic. I remember liking canned peaches, but the syrup was needlessly sweet, so I don't buy them anymore. If people are simply deciding not to buy canned fruit, well, there's nothing that can be done to force us to do so.

On the other hand, it says that sales are stagnant, not declining. Sounds like the average hourly wage since the early 1970s if you'd ask me. If it's good enough for working people then it oughta be good enough for a Canadian business, no? Regardless, the same amount of people seem to be buying this product. So who is going to provide it for them?

That's where it gets a little sticky for me. Labour costs are escalating? Agricultural wages in Canada are relatively modest compared to the average Canadian wage. Furthermore, the work is often difficult and tiring. What are we comparing these wages to? Enslaved alien labour in the fields of Florida? Indentured peasants in South America, India or Africa? Super-exploited Chinese workers? Given the hellish nature of much of the rest of the world economy, being "considered efficient in global terms" has a bit of a chilling edge to it.

Well, okay, big deal, a canning operation in Ontario shut down, the skeptic might say. But there's more troubling implications for this. The article states that local fruit growers are going to switch to growing fresh market fruit varieties of peaches and etc., now that the canner isn't buying their production. But there are stresses involved in this transition:

But changing direction in fruit production is a long, expensive process.

Trees can take years to come into production, and the return on investment can be even longer. Many tender fruit growers were already grappling with plum pox -- a virus that has plagued the peninsula for about eight years --when the plant announced it would close.

"We were just crawling out of that and then this came," said John Thwaites, a Niagara-on-the-Lake grower. "We've gone through the expense of replanting and we have to live with the loss of that lost market. It won't be until four years from now when these trees start bearing fruit that we'll start recovering."

As well, there's the impact on the workers and the community. In all, about 280 full-time jobs in the area have been lost. Coupled with the de-industrialization in the rest of Ontario, this represents a considerable loss to the area. Again, this move appears to have been predicated on the fact that a profit-driven corporation has discovered that (for whatever reason) wages are lower in other parts of the world.

This is what I mean by "market failure." One of Canada's best (and one of its few) areas of agricultural lands is under stress, local communities are devastated, all so that "investors" can take advantage of lower wages, taxes, and regulatory regimes in other parts of the world. Based on a very narrow calculus of value, the sustainability of the Niagara fruit-belt is put under needless strain.


A Horrible Thought

Youtube seems like one of the most popular places on the net, attracting a large and broad range of people.

But it's also there that I've read some of the most hateful garbage; racist, homophobic, murderous militarism, etc., ... as well as first-class stupidity. It makes you doubt any lingering faith in the quality of humanity.

I consoled myself for a second by thinking that the majority of people don't have computers and internet connections, but then I realized that it appears that the majority of people who do appear to use them to type garbage and vacuous nonsense, therefore, if all the world's people were to get online, the mental pollution would be gargantuan.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Any Right-Wing Shit-heads to Answer this Question?

Just what the fuck have we been doing in Afghanistan for SEVEN YEARS that we haven't been able to pacify the country yet?

Please explain yourselves. Obviously I could go to a website hosted by "Canada's Worst Government," but I'd like some independent analysis to explain to me why a desperately poor people with low expectations for material comfort couldn't have been made to acquiesce to the Karzai government yet.

Certainly, the Taliban was the government, and its members haven't been wiped-out, but the insurgency is growing year by year, not shrinking. If this is supposedly the fault of Musharraf's Pakistan, well all I can say is that Paul Martin knew Pakistan existed when he signed-up for the invasion. Harper supporters must also concede that the region is a snake-pit of illogical borders, ethnic, sectarian and tribal rivalries, and therefore, they have to have some good plan for getting Canadian soldiers embroiled in such an environment.

So, to the one or two individuals who might see this; what do you have to say for yourselves?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Juan Cole on the extent of the disaster in Iraq

The Real State of Iraq


By now, summer of 2008, excess deaths from violence in Iraq since March of 2003 must be at least a million. This conclusion can be reached more than one way. There is not much controversy about it in the scientific community. Some 310,000 of those were probably killed by US troops or by the US Air Force, with the bulk dying in bombing raids by US fighter jets and helicopter gunships on densely populated city and town quarters.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Gahh!! Late Sunday Evening Post

Just to say that I did something ... um. Well, I was going to talk about a Maclean's article that my partner read, ... or Barack Obama's silliness on civil liberties, ... or about some books I'm reading, ... but I think that I'll just go finish the dishes.

Oh. I think I'll check out some traditional Chinese medicine about my chronic fatigue.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Defence of Canadian Cynic

I don't have a lot of time today, so I think that I'll reprint what I just submitted at "Atheist Conservative," ... in response to his and others' condemnation for Canadian Cynic for not providing respectful dialogue with the nazis and fruit-cakes of the Blogging Tories. Here goes:

I think some of you are labouring under the delusion that the BTs deserve some sort of substantial, respectful critique.

They don't. They deserve exactly what CC gives them, hence his popularity.

Case in point, smalldeadanimals' celebratory link to that moronic anti-global warming book where the guy compared the earth's atmosphere to a sealed thermos.

As far as respectful discourse and dialogue goes, nonsense. For decades now, I've watched and listened as right-wing blowhard bullies have shouted and shamed the left into defensiveness or silence. Since the end of the 1970s the right-wing has gone from strength to strength with no real opposition, and we see the bitter fruits with us today.

The right-wing hardcore is comprised of really stupid people. Frightfully stupid people. The people too stupid to invent cover stories for their bigotry and class warfare the way the Liberals do. They are a blight on society. They're the lead-paint covered toys in the market-place of ideas. It's high time that they were mocked and scorned into the oblivion they so richly deserve.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cato the Elder?

Perhaps I should imitate Cato the Elder and his obsession with Carthage by ending each blog entry with the declaration:

"The Liberal Party Must Be Destroyed."

Lately I've been dwelling on how Liberal supporters, just like Democratic Party supporters, all have their heads up their asses, pining for their shining white knight, Stephane Dion (who did less than nothing on implementing our Kyoto Accord obligations as environment minister) or "gasp!" "swoon!" Michael Ignatieff, to save us all from the nasty, evil, corrupt Conservative Party of Canada, the same way that US-Americans imagine that the lying Obama or the war-mongering pandering Hillary Clinton is somehow going to radically change the course of elite-controlled US politics.

Here's an excellent essay from CounterPunch on that particular US-American delusion, that also speaks to the broader insanity among liberals in general:

"The 2008 Election: Of Whales and Worms" by Dennis Loo

For the well-meaning people who are feeling this way, I have this question: How can the same Democratic Party, and the same specific individuals, who have co-operated in, permitted and/or legalized the Bush regime’s atrocities – including torture and war crimes – now tell us that the candidate that they endorse is the solution to the horrid things that this system and these individuals have themselves facilitated and colluded in?

...

If elections really were a solution to these towering, world-historic crimes, how can it be so simple to fix these horrors as pushing a button and electing a new president and vice-president?

Why aren’t real collective efforts and civil resistance by the American people needed in a time when both major parties and the mass media have betrayed the people, when lie after lie after lie pass without comment, the liars caught red-handed are excused, when unjust wars and unspeakable practices are routine, when reason and science themselves are under attack, and when the country is in more danger than the conditions that sparked the American revolution and when the fate of the planet hangs in the balance?

...

We don’t need hope based on wishful thinking.

We need hope based on cold, hard facts and cold, clear-eyed realism.

We need hope based on an understanding of how this system actually works and how political power is actually exercised.

People have to get over naïve ways of seeing the world.

Just because he’s black, he’s going to change things?

Just because he’s smart and Bush is stupid? Just because he’s hipper than Dick Cheney and flatfooted George Bush? Just because he can write books and Bush needs a coloring book entitled The Presidency for Dummies?

Is this – true though these things are - what ultimately, decisively, matters?

If you think so, think again, because so much is at stake.

The whole world is at stake.



Indeed. Capitalist politicians have created this system. Electing those among them who are smart enough to lie and say what decent people want to hear isn't the answer to the problems of capitalism. The stakes are too high for that nonsense. Grab your fucking brains people.

(ETA: Jeeziz Fucking Kryst!! Why does blogger feel compelled to change the font colour to snot-green just because you make it a quote or change the style????!!!????)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Step 6: Strategic Protesters

If they're going to be effective, that is, if they're going to make government's uncomfortable, protests have to be something more than a moment of shouting in a specific location, with all the proper permits and etc. that can then be promptly ignored by the powers that be, protests have to disrupt business as usual.

I'm not a proponent of violence, so I think the best form of protest is a peaceful occupation. OCAP have done numerous versions of this tactic, mainly to good effect, usually to achieve a very specific goal. Protesters should take over some government building and stay there until their goal is reached. In extreme cases, private property (say of a weapons manufacturer or corporate criminal) can also be occupied.

The best people to do this are the unemployed, university students during the summer break, and retired people.

Corporations take our consumer dollars and fund lobbyists and other public relations hacks to influence the government and the political culture. We don't have their resources. If we are to have full-time activists they should, must be, people who can commit to long-term endeavours.

Instead of deriding the unemployed, or idealistic young students, when they protest we must all recognize and defend their ability to do the job for the rest of us, tied to some debt bondage of one form or another, jobs, families with young children, etc. cannot do. Obviously retired people should have our respect for their wisdom and their passion.

The people who can take the time out of the rat-race should be used strategically by the left to achieve its goals.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My First PRIDE

The little lady was organized enough that we didn't miss Hamilton's PRIDE march this year. I've been meaning to go for the past two years.

Now that some of the bigger battles have been won by others (like the parade isn't attacked) I'm brave enough to show my support. The two of us and our soon-to-be-one-year-old marched beside Hamilton's GLBT community as our little contribution to their statement of dignity and freedom.

We had a good time, then we got in the last hour of the Hamilton Anarchist Bookfair across town after a lovely walk on the Bayshore Trail.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Step 5: Limited Lawlessness

A problem for revolutions is that they destroy the respect for order that keeps society peaceful. I'm not saying that if you remove the police, everyone, especially the poor, is going to go berserk. But there are anti-social elements, and what's more, there are people with a bone to pick with authority from excesses in the past, AND there are going to be groups that disagree with the revolution. Once you've destroyed the restraints of the law the only way to suppress genuinely dangerous elements will be through physical violence, which will inevitably distort whatever sort of movement you're trying to create.

At the same time, when you're trying to protest a lawless state with out-of-control cops, it's ludicrous to expect to accomplish anything if they're going to send in agents provocateurs, or to conduct preventative arrests, or if they're going to launch mass-arrests followed by strip-searches, brutalization and sweeping punitive restrictions on your freedom of movement.

But when you confront a lawless state and its agents, you can't expect that they'll respect anything. Once you decide to confront them on their own grounds you must expect to be harassed and attacked.

That's why it should be announced that your protest has a specific goal to accomplish (I'll talk about that some other time) and it should known by any police who are sent out to thwart it, that should they engage in any illegal suppression of the protesters' rights, then in this particular time and this particular space, there indeed does exist a "Charter-Free Zone." It is limited to the extent of the protest, and any agents of the state who, through their illegal activities have nullified their right to demand obedience to the rule of law from the protesters.

Such a movement, when it forms, should obviously recognize that it's leaders and members will be henceforth targeted by the state and should take measures to ensure their relative safety in all other locations and times as well.

But when they are arrested (as they probably will be) they must be able to truthfully argue that their violations of the written law were in response to illegal actions by the government against them first. Juries can be convinced of first: The justness of the cause itself (for example protesting against corporate-rule treaties) and their reasons for their tactical law-breaking.

One thing for other leftists to do is to stop mindlessly condemning all violence perpetrated by anti-capitalist forces (from the removal of office furniture from the offices of neo-liberal political goons to road blockades to physically resisting arrest) as being unacceptable and discrediting. The less of this stupid "tut-tutting" that we have to deal with, the easier it will be to make our case to the rest of society.

The less we will have to deal with activists who have worked up "violence" into their heads into being a line that, once crossed, means the abandonment of all sense and restraint. It's possible to keep your bearings, because smashing a lamp is not the point of no return.

Friday, June 13, 2008

It All Comes Back to My Hatred of the Liberal Party

The difference, obviously, is that the Conservative Party of Canada is comprised of bat-shit crazy loons, deluded closet-cases, utter morons, and absolute pigs, whereas the Liberal Party of Canada is comprised of cynical con-men, a few pompous asses, and self-deluding cannon fodder. But for the most part, these two parties (the only two allowed to English Canada by the mainstream press) see eye-to-eye on most important issues. The Liberals are better able to hide their nausea-inducing characteristics better.

A perfect example is the ignorant bigotry spewed by Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre on the day of Stephen Harper's formal apology on behalf of the Canadian government for the atrocity that was the Aboriginal Residential Schools Program. The witless fool babbled:

"Now along with this apology comes another $4 billion in compensation for those who partook in the residential schools over those years," says Poilievre, in a clip circulated by the Liberal opposition.

...

"Now, you know, some of us are starting to ask: 'Are we really getting value for all of this money, and is more money really going to solve the problem?'

"My view is that we need to engender the values of hard work and independence and self reliance. That's the solution in the long run - more money will not solve it."


Obviously stupid drivel. But pay attention! Who is paraded around to register their disgust with these disgusting remarks? The Liberal Party of Canada!

Anita Neville, Liberal aboriginal affairs critic, called Poilievre's comments "disgraceful" and "ignorant."

"I invite him to take a tour of many of the First Nations communities in this country and see how people are living.

"The irony of something like this on the day of the apology... . And I fear it reflects an attitude or a view that is prevalent among many members of that caucus."

How touching! How truly enlightened! But waitaminnit, ... what party was in power for most of the 20th century when the residential schools were kidnapping children only to abuse them and have a third to half of them die of tuberculosis?

The Liberal Party of Canada.

What party presided over the squalor and misery that Neville wants to now show Poilievere?

The Liberal Party of Canada.

Aside from the Kelowna Accord (and lord knows whether that money would have actually done anyone outside a narrow strata of politicians, government bureaucrats, and comprador FN leadership) the Liberal Party of Canada has done nothing for the First Nations.

I'm observing all these pathetic US-American liberals investing all their hopes in the vague rhetoric of Barack Obama, reciting the litany of crimes of the Republican Party and forgetting how much damage their own Bill Clinton did, and more and more, the sad-sacks who comprise the "Liberal" blog--o-sphere here in Canada sound just as pathetic and just as deluded.

I vote NDP with my eyes open. They're a step in the right direction and thank god we've got one. One way to be able to vote for sexual freedom, non-fascist social policy, and genuine commitment to vestiges of the welfare state, and to not split the progressive vote (as Buzz Hargrove is so enraged about) is for all the progressives who vote Liberal to pull their heads out of their asses and look at what that goddamned puke of a party DOES as opposed to what it SAYS (usually when it's in opposition).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Step 4: It's Mainly About the Majority

To want to make the world a better place according to leftist principles, you're going to have to want to make it a better place for the majority. At the same time, I agree with the liberal principles of protections for minorities. But it depends on what kind of protections for what sort of minorities.

Practically speaking, the privileged minority has blanket protections for its wealth and power. These protections allow it to harm the interests of the majority in a very real way, as opposed to the inconsequential way that many feel they are impinged upon by having to respect (say) the sexual freedoms of the minority that is not heterosexual.

But it's mainly to make the lives of the majority of people better that is the aim of the socialist project. And any successful revolutionary movement must have the support or at least the acquiescence of the majority. This is crucial for avoiding the dictatorial excesses of the Marxist-Leninsts who only carried out a sort of coup.

I've got to get back to my dishes.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Step 3: Raise Your Kids Right

The best democracies would be those where people are raised not to take ANY shit from authority, while at the same time they're considerate and thoughtful of others. Selfless occasionally.

Seems that nowadays, people like watching "American Idol," "The Apprentice," and "Hell's Kitchen" and all those other "reality" shows where people get humiliated and denigrated because we're all a bunch of servile, selfish rats.

Works out well for the bosses. We consume what we're told and we do what we're told.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

R.I.P. "Designated Protest Zone"

T'was a good blog. Daev was a good blogger. Now they're gone. "Sniff."

I mean that sincerely.

Step 2: Don't be Crazy

One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and continually expecting a different result.

So, if 47 years of protests hasn't changed something, ... odds are that more protests are going to be just as ineffectual.

Let's face it: Mass-murdering, anti-democratic goons aren't going to tremble in their booties if you tell them that you'll stand with a few thousand other people and yell about them for an afternoon.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Step 1.a) Get Your Allies On-side

The first group of people we have to win over are the left-Liberals and the social democrats. These are people who are most open to sharing our values and who might be open to receiving the news that the system is rotten to its fundamentals.

Let's not kid ourselves; neo-liberalism has been a disaster even for the middle-class. The middle-class is shrinking. We have a lot more toys these days, but at the cost of environmental devastation, a continually deteriorating standard of living in the Global South, and we only afforded these new toys (digital entertainment, air travel, bigger houses, etc.) through increased debt.

It was neo-liberalism that has created the recent food crisis internationally. The elites have been in the policy drivers' seat for decades. Any political meddling (subsidies for corporate agriculture) has been among elites and has been accepted by most practical policy-makers. (The strong do what the will and the weak accept what they must.)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Step O: Have an Alternative

I guess a prerequisite to my laundry list of ways to change the world is to have an alternative to offer people when you insist on revolutionary change.

What will make the world a better place and will avoid the structural problems of our present socio-economic system.

I've blurted out here and there that we need to expand democracy and be fanatics about individual human freedoms and rights at the same time. So we should insist on the right to free speech and to protest, and draw lessons from the significance that neo-liberal capitalism cannot grant these rights and freedoms. But we should also expand democracy, specifically into our workplaces. The areas where we spend a great deal of our lives and where most of our rights and freedoms are subordinated to a boss, or bosses in a hierarchically structured system.

Now I've got to reply to Scott ...

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Step 1: Identify & Communicate the Extent of the Problem

this is going to be the first in a soon-to-be-discontinued series of snippets of my ideas about peacefully achieving revolutionary change in Canada.

The first thing we have to do is to communicate to ordinary, a-political or non-revolutionary Canadians not only the extent of the problems we're facing, but the significance of its nature.

For example:

It's not like Paul Martin Jr. was a flawed democrat who cared about his constituents in Montreal, and who de-funded public health care and destroyed Haiti's government out of some misguided priorities. Paul Martin Jr. was a member of the political and economic elite. He ran a company Canada Steamship Lines, under the flag of a poor country in order to avoid Canadian taxes and labour legislation. He's a capitalist, with capitalist values, which are primarily about maximizing profit over everything else.

Capitalist politicians see the desires of their own class as being more important than anyone else's. Therefore, destroying public healthcare for the interests of the private insurance business, robbing workers' paycheques to gouge them for "Employment Insurance" premiums while giving tax-cuts to the wealthy and to business, subsidizing the oil industry regardless of hard-won Kyoto Accord requirements, ... all are par for the course.

Stephen Harper isn't a "conservative" who cares about the social values of his reactionary constituents. He's a paid shill for the oil and private insurance companies.

Bah. I'm too tired to develop this line.

What I'm trying to say is that voting Liberal or Conservative isn't about voting for "sensible social democracy" or "tax-cuts and law and order" or whatever people who vote this way imagine that they're doing.

It's voting for ecological suicide, class warfare, imperialism, ... and a whole host of other perversions.

What we have to do first is point out to people how these things aren't unpleasant outgrowths of our political system, they are essential foundations to it. In the way that I'm always going on about death-squads and their significance. The suppression of protesters at neo-liberal economic conferences isn't due to police over-exuberance and excessive "security." It's based on the fact that neo-liberal capitalism is built on a totalitarian mindset that believes that people (if they are workers, or simply non-capitalists) aren't worth shit.

Friday, June 6, 2008

How to defy the will of Parliament

So the House of Commons passed the bill that says that US war resisters should not be deported. But it came with the help of the Liberal Party of Canada, which must mean that nothing practical will come from this. Nothing to make the US government mad at the Canadian government anyway.

It still has to pass the Senate, and then be signed by the G-G. Meaning it's technically still legal for Harper to deport these people trying to avoid being dragooned into an illegal war.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Withering Economy

Mike Whitney on CounterPunch:

The troubles in the financial markets will be with us for some time. The massive expansion of credit has created numerous equity bubbles that are unwinding at an unpredictable pace. Author James Howard Kunstler calls the present process "the remorseless algebra of a deflationary death spiral". That's about as close to a perfect description as imaginable. There's bound to be considerable disagreement about the origins of the bubble and who is to blame. Was it the Fed's "low interest " policy following the dot.com bust in 2000, or the lack of government regulation in the securitzation process, or was it just the natural corollary of a political system which invariably bows and scrapes to Wall Street?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Listening to Obama's "Victory" Speech

A bunch of crap. Cult of personality indeed. They didn't clap for "a new and better America," ... they clapped for his announcement of his victory.

He spent loads of time talking about vague "change."

Trying to mend fences with ego-maniac Hillary Clinton. He's got good writers, but nobody outside America really cares.

This really is a historic moment though.

But it's like the story of this gigantic eggshell sitting in the middle of town. It's huge. Everyone talks about. But it's brittle-thin and there's nothing inside of it. But the trumpeters keep blaring about it.

"Chart a new course for America!" ... Uh, what does that mean exactly?

I'm With the Wingnuts on this One. And ...

Canadian Cynic agrees with Scott's Diatribes and Dr. Dawg that Mark Steyn's travails at the hands of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal are nothing to care about at all.

Dr. Dawg's reflections are particularly poignant for me:

Surely everybody on the planet must be talking about the Mark Steyn Trial of the Century. And Human Rights Commissions, the Spanish Inquisition redux, coming soon to your own door. (Worse!) This hed just about says it all, doesn't it?

Well, as they say, welcome to the real world, kiddies. No, the Steyn auto-da-fe is not being widely reported, except by the usual suspects. The irons are not being heated, the gallows rope is not being tested, the whips are not soaking in brine, the cold, dank cells are not being outfitted with new batches of mouldy straw.

The thing is, I experienced the same sort of let-down when I traveled to Ottawa to raise awareness of three CANADIAN CITIZENS who were TORTURED in Syria and Egypt, seemingly at the REQUEST of the CANADIAN GOVERNMENT. At the end of it all, despite a large media presence, most people didn't know about it and the CBC's big story was about the woman fired for giving a "timbit" to a customer's baby.

Just because the majority don't know, and [probably?] don't care, doesn't make it unimportant. I'm with the wingnuts in opposing anti-hate legislation. A position shared with Glenn Greenwald:

People like Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant are some of the most pernicious commentators around. But equally pernicious, at least, are those who advocate laws that would proscribe and punish political expression, and those who exploit those laws to try use the power of the State to impose penalties on those expressing "offensive" or "insulting" or "wrong" political ideas. The mere existence of the "investigation," interrogation, and proceeding itself is a grotesque affront to every basic liberty.

...

Empowering the State to proscribe and punish speech is not only the most dangerous step a society can take -- though it is that -- it's also the most senseless. It never achieves its intended effect of suppressing or eliminating a particular view. If anything, it has the opposite effect, by driving it underground, thus preventing debate and exposure. Worse, it converts its advocates into martyrs -- as one sees from the hero-worship now surrounding people like Levant and Steyn, who now become self-glorifying symbols of individual liberty rather than what they are: hateful purveyors of a bitter, destructive, authoritarian ideology.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Opening Scene of "Transformers"

I'm a good, progressive intellectual man. I'm deep. I'm not into all this mainstream Hollywood blockbuster bullshit man.

Okay, ... well, I've made it pretty clear that I like to get high and watch good CGI. And it's true, that I saw scenes from "Transformers" when I was at the Hamilton drive-in theatre watching a triple-feature that featured "The Simpson's Movie," Michael Moore's "Sicko," and, unfortunately, the last Bruce Willis "Die Hard" movie. (That one was fucking ridiculous, with the F-17 [whatever] fighter jet being unable to nail a tractor-trailer driving alone on a highway overpass and etc.), I could see over on another screen that they were showing the "Transformers" movie. I have to admit that I was pretty impressed with the CGI modeling. Those giant gleaming machines really seemed to be integrated into the scenery. So, I got hold of the movie for home viewing and watched it. Yes, I expected it to be simplistic, escapist nonsense, and it was. The CGI was also quite impressive.

What's motivating me to write this entry though is my response to the opening scenes. They take place at a US military base in Qatar. One of the "evil" robots shows up there and steals info about US military weaponry and then destroys the base. But before that all happens, we're shown scenes of good-natured US soldiers, including one of the movie's heroes, who are happily going about their vague duties with innocent, American exuberance, or (from the commanding officer) intelligence or professionalism. The future hero appears to have a friendship with an Arab boy, showing, I suppose, that not all Arabs are crazed killers and haters of American freedoms.

Unspoken of course is just why there should be an American military base in Qatar. Why we (or, more accurately, US audiences) should simply accept that these bases are there and that there's probably a good reason for it. The Americans are the "good guys" after all. There are evil terrorists there, who hate Israel, America, and freedom and capitalism in general.

In reality, there are US military bases in the Middle East and around the world to project American power against any forces that would challenge American control over their natural resources. In reality, these bases aren't there to protect the locals against inexplicably evil terrorists. They're there to serve American interests, and these interests require military protection because these interests are usually opposed to the welfare of the local inhabitants.

But I remember as a child viewing depictions of US military power, and the US government, as this powerful force for good in the world. I'm sure that there are youngsters today watching movies like "Transformers" and ingesting this benign if hazy notion of what this military power is all about. It's not about powerful, professional, heroic good-guys, possessed of awesome power, and governed over by noble men of integrity like the innocent president asking for his Hostess Ding-Dong, or his driven Secretary of Defense (played by Jon Voight). It's something else entirely.