Saturday, June 19, 2021

Canada's Sickening Foreign Policy

 


Currently it's a bipartisan affair. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives are inflexibly devoted to Canada's role as a lickspittle yes-man to the USA's imperialism as well as to whatever it takes to serve various corporate interests such as mining or pharmaceuticals. Given the fact that the Conservative Party of Canada is dominated by morons and troglodytes, it's no surprise that they'll be worse than the Liberals on any given issue. But when you think about it, the differences are surprisingly negligible. Sure, a Liberal tried to rein-in the worst offensives of our mining companies overseas. But his own party sandbagged him. Sure Chretien kept Canadian ground troops out of Iraq. But he didn't do that out of any moral scruples. Chretien was smart enough to know it would be a disaster as well as clearly illegal. But pretty much the entire Liberal front-bench disagreed with him. T'was the Liberals (under Chretien) who got us into Afghanistan. They made Canadian soldiers fight, kill and die to prop-up an unpopular, unelected, super-corrupt cabal of rapist gangsters. 

Canada is governed by two major political parties. Both of them are unreservedly capitalist. The Liberals tend to recognize material reality and do not, therefore, deny the existence of global warming. They accept its reality while trying to combat it without doing anything that would set a precedent of limiting corporations' powers or profits. This is how we end up with toothless, voluntary and useless things like the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. The Conservatives appear to be at odds with reality and refuse to accept what their own eyes tell them if it conflicts with the moronic delusions that govern their miserable lives. They will withdraw from the Kyoto or Paris initiatives because they represent the existence of a problem that requires regulation of capitalism and limits to their profits. It's difficult to decide which position is more vile. Acknowledging an existential threat to civilization while doing nothing about it, or denying the obvious existence of said threat. (The NDP affects a "social democratic" ideology which says that the fruits of the economy HAVE to be shared with some degree of equity by the whole society. The NDP does this until it becomes a government-in-waiting party. In such cases, such as British Columbian and Manitoba, they have move rightwards to fill the spot vacated by a discredited Liberal party.)

Currently, under the figurehead leadership of mental mediocrity Justin Trudeau, the odious Crystia Freeland is currently engaged in the titanic hypocrisy of imposing sanctions on Nicaragua and Venezuela

Nicaraugua:

June 21, 2019 – Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada

In coordination with the United States, Canada is announcing sanctions in response to gross and systematic human rights violations that have been committed in Nicaragua. Canada is imposing sanctions against key members of the Government of Nicaragua under the Special Economic Measures Act. These sanctions send a clear message that the Government of Nicaragua’s ongoing human rights violations against its people will not be tolerated.

Since April 2018, the Government of Nicaragua has conducted a systematic campaign of repression and state-sponsored violence against public protests and the activities of opposition groups.

The Government of Nicaragua’s unacceptable conduct has been well-documented by international human rights organizations, including the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, as well as local human rights organizations.

Despite progress on the release of political prisoners, Canada remains concerned by reports of human rights violations. These include: violating the right to life, security, free speech, and free assembly. There have also been well-documented reports of extrajudicial killings, torture, and abuse of protestors. To date, those responsible for human rights violations have not been held accountable.  

Quotes

“Human rights violations in Nicaragua cannot continue with impunity. The Government of Nicaragua must be held accountable for its action and must bring an end to the current crisis through real dialogue with opposition groups. Canada will continue to stand with the people of Nicaragua and their legitimate demands for democracy and accountability.”

- Hon. Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs

Venezuela:

After democratic elections held in December 2015 saw a coalition of opposition parties win a majority in the National Assembly, the Venezuelan government proceeded to systematically strip the powers of the National Assembly. In January 2016, President Nicolas Maduro declared a state of emergency and has since been ruling by decree. During the spring of 2017 Maduro created a National Constituent Assembly (or ANC), which stripped the democratically-elected, opposition-led National Assembly of its powers. Countries from around the globe, including Canada, refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the National Constituent Assembly or any of its decisions.

As a result of the government’s systematic erosion of Venezuela’s democratic institutions and its grave human rights abuses, and in response to the Association between Canada and the United States that was formed on September 5, 2017, which called on its members to take economic measures against Venezuela and persons responsible for the current situation in Venezuela, the Special Economic Measures (Venezuela) Regulations came into force. On September 22, 2017, Canada listed 40 individuals linked to the Maduro regime and its actions against the security, stability and integrity of democratic institutions in Venezuela.

On November 23, 2017, Canada announced targeted sanctions against 19 Venezuelan officials under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act. These individuals are responsible for, or complicit in, gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, have committed acts of significant corruption, or both.

The presidential elections of May 2018, did not meet international standards to be considered either free or fair. As such, the electoral process and results were rejected by Canada and many likeminded partners as lacking transparency, legitimacy and credibility. On May 30, 2018, in response to further erosion of democratic institutions in Venezuela and the consolidation of President Maduro’s power through the illegitimate elections of May 20, 2018, the Special Economic Measures (Venezuela) Regulations  were amended to add fourteen (14) additional individuals, bringing to 70 the total number of Venezuelan officials sanctioned by Canada.

On January 10, 2019, Maduro swore himself in for a second term based on the illegitimate and anti-democratic elections of May 2018. His claim to the presidency was rejected by Canada, the international community, and the democratically-elected National Assembly of Venezuela; on January 15, 2019, the National Assembly declared that Nicolas Maduro had usurped the presidential powers. On January 23, 2019, the President of the National Assembly, based on article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution, assumed the interim presidency of Venezuela. To date, more than 50 countries, including Canada, have recognized Juan Guaidó as Interim President of Venezuela.

Since then, the Maduro regime has increased the persecution and repression of its political opponents and the Venezuelan people. Their oppressive actions include preventing relief supplies from entering Venezuela; the widespread arrests of hundreds of anti-regime protestors; censorship and suppression of freedom of expression; the use of the co-opted judiciary to pursue political leaders and civilians who exercise their civil and political rights; and the extrajudicial killing of dozens of people during protests against the Maduro regime.

The repressive acts of the Venezuelan government have been widely criticized in reports by credible sources, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; a Panel of Independent International Experts appointed by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States; the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch; and others.

The amendment of April 15, 2019 added 43 individuals to the Regulations, most of whom are high level officials of the Maduro regime implicated in the actions mentioned above. The amendment brought to 113 the total number of Venezuelan individuals subject to Canadian sanctions. Among those individuals listed on April 15, 2019, Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera was sanctioned for leading the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (October 2018 to April 30, 2019). He has since broken with the Maduro regime, and the amendment of June 25, 2019 has removed him from the Schedule to the Regulations.

Here's some pushback against these hypocritical complaints against Nicaragua:

Counterpunch Dan Kovalik:

It was only a matter of time before the US government and its compliant media would once again put Nicaragua in their sights. And, that time has indeed come.

Last year, the US House of Representatives voted unanimously in favor of the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act of 2017 (NICA Act) which would  cut that already-poor country off from loans offered by international financial institutions.

Citing the Alliance for Global Justice, Telesur reported at the time that “‘[t]he Nicaraguan government uses foreign assistance from the international financial institutions to support social spending on health and education which have become an ever larger proportion of the national budget.’” Telesur explained that the NICA Act therefore “poses a serious danger to the Central American nation’s economy and could result in a humanitarian crisis and waves of economic refugees that would flee toward the U.S. border, joining waves of migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.”

Currently, Nicaragua is the only country victimized by the US-backed Central American Wars which is not also a source of immigrants to the US. This is in no small part due to the Sandinistas’ effective social programs.  As for the Sandinistas’ social programs, eventhe New York Times acknowledged that “[m]any poor people who receive housing and other government benefits support” Sandinista President, Daniel Ortega.

Incredibly, as the US is preparing to build a wall ostensibly to keep out Central American and Mexican migrants, it is poised to exacerbate the very migration problem it claims to want to stop.  This simply defies all logic and notions of morality and decency.

As Noam Chomsky has opined numerous times, the US shall never forgive the Nicaraguan people for overthrowing the US-backed Somoza dictatorship in 1979, for militarily defeating the Contras and for then voting back in the Sandinistas in 2007.  The NICA Act is pay-back for such crimes.

But meanwhile, the NICA Act was getting no apparent movement in the US Senate and appeared to be a dead letter.  And so, right on cue, we witness violent protests in Nicaragua which closely resemble the violent guarimbas which have plagued Venezuela on and off since Nicolas Maduro was elected in 2013.  These demonstrations will surely be used as a pretext to revive the NICA Act in the US Senate.

Charles Redvers at The Greyzone:

Even Ortega critics, like Ben Waddell, have said that US agencies such as the National Endowment for Democracy have been laying the groundwork for insurrection by giving financial support to the Nicaraguan opposition.

In the middle of the crisis, its leaders traveled to Washington and Miami, funded by Freedom House, to meet right-wing Republicans like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz ,and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Student leaders went on to seek support from the extreme right in El Salvador, meeting officials of the Arena party.

More recently, they appeared at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, a bastion of right-wing militarism and pro-Israel extremism. What does all this tell us about their political intentions?

...

Third, while the deaths in the protests are a major tragedy, calling them a “massacre” gives credence to the exaggerated and cynically manipulated numbers being used by the opposition. A detailed analysis of casualties in the first two months, which eliminated double-counted and incidents unrelated to the protests, found there had been 119 deaths, divided equally between both “sides.” A recent official count logs 197 deaths by late July.

Ellsberg cites higher figures from reports by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR), but they lost any credibility they might have had by jumping to conclusions based on the work of the two local human rights bodies, which both have a long history of open bias against the Sandinista government. Paulo Abrāo, head of IACHR, far from being a neutral observer, openly declared his support for student protesters on May 19 when they had just violently held up a bus full of people returning from a peace demonstration, resulting in various injuries.

Fourth, like the opposition leaders themselves, Ellsberg refers to “peaceful” protesters and refuses to accept the violence which they perpetrated. This has included the murder of 22 police, plus many government officials and Sandinista supporters, the most recent a few days ago in Matagalpa. Several Sandinistas have endured gruesome torture.

She refers to the violent scenes when government forces managed to reopen access to the cities of Jinotepe and Diriamba, in which Sandinista supporters attacked priests and bishops. (Ironically, they were protected by a heavy police escort, the very police the bishops had earlier asked to be taken off the streets.) What she fails to say is how angry people were at the church being used as a place of sanctuary for armed protesters who terrorized these two cities for over a month, holding about 400 drivers and their vehicles hostage on the main highway.

The government would never have been able to remove the hundreds of barricades the opposition erected if they hadn’t had popular support to do so.

Ben Norton at The Greyzone:

Since Nicaragua’s socialist Sandinista Front returned to power through democratic elections in 2006, the United States government has poured many millions of dollars into right-wing opposition groups in the Central American country.

These US-funded NGOs have aimed to destabilize the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, and played a central role in a brutally violent coup attempt in 2018.

Nicaragua’s National Assembly responded to the Washington-sponsored violence and destabilization efforts by passing a law in October 2020 that requires organizations funded by outside governments to register as foreign agents.

The legislation is very similar to a law passed by the United States in 1938 known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). In recent years, Washington has exploited FARA to force Russian and Chinese media outlets and journalists working in the United States to register as foreign agents — in a bipartisan, Cold War-style political escalation against both countries.

Though Washington has had this legislation on the books for more than eight decades, and still utilizes it regularly, the Joe Biden administration has lashed out at Nicaragua for its decision to pass a similar law.

On February 8, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price, a former CIA agent, published a statement condemning the elected Sandinista government.

Price claimed that President “Ortega is driving Nicaragua toward dictatorship,” because the new foreign agent law led to the voluntary suspension of operations of a major US government-funded opposition organization in the country.

Price demonized Nicaragua’s democratically elected government as a “regime,” while stressing that the US government is “focused on empowering civil society.”

...

Price’s statement condemning Nicaragua came one day after the US-backed right-wing president of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, effectively declared himself a dictator, ruling without a Senate or Chamber of Deputies, hand-picking mayors, shooting journalists, and killing protesters.

Fixating on Nicaragua, the CIA staffer-turned-State Department spokesperson concluded his declaration with a thinly veiled threat: “We urge President Ortega to change course now.”

And now, Venezuela:

Sabina Becker on the achievements of the Bolivarians under Chavez:

Telesur is another of Chavecito’s great achievements: a public TV channel of international scope, the first of its kind in Latin America. Its purpose: to counteract the lies and propaganda of private media, including the US channels who helped to foment the coup and shape public opinion in its favor throughout North America. The local private media, after all, were co-authors of the Venezuelan putsch. Hence the documentary’s title!

And even now, even on the day of Chavecito’s funeral, the lamestream media up here are still blatting about what an evil “populist” he was, what a “dictator”, what a “strongman”. When the truth is that he was popular (not “populist”), the people dictated the constitutional order to him (and he obeyed!), and he was a strong man, two words, not a “strongman”. What IS a strongman? That putschist figure so beloved of US imperialism that they never hesitate to install their own wherever there are resources to be plundered by their corporations…and then get upset when he invariably goes off script. See Saddam Hussein, Augusto Pinochet, the Argentine Junta, etc., etc. THOSE were dictators. But as one young man points out shortly after the coup as the putschist police of Caracas are terrorizing the streets and gunning down Chavistas, in the three years that Chávez had then been in power, there had never been any repression. What the hell kind of dictatorial strongman doesn’t repress?

By the way, today is International Working Women’s Day. (Yes, this day has socialist origins. Surprise!) Do the women of Venezuela rejoice because a nasty, oppressive, wife-beating tyrant is dead? No…they mourn because they lost their greatest presidential ally of all time. Chavecito was a proud, self-proclaimed feminist. It was no empty vote-getting statement; he really did give them the political tools they needed to carve out rooms of their own. And the women adored him for that. He consulted with them, along with other social movements, in the writing of the Bolivarian Constitution itself. Previous presidents either pointedly ignored them, or only made the rounds to shake hands and kiss babies when it was time to divvy up the votes again between AD and COPEI. Voter apathy, as noted in the translation above, was huge before Chávez, and greatly diminished after.

Because of Chávez, being Venezuelan is now a matter of pride. Participatory democracy grew thanks to his efforts, social inequality shrank, poverty dwindled and the GDP rose. An impoverished country that used to import 80% of its food is now becoming self-sufficient again, as it was before the oil boom. And dreams were not only made, they came true. It’s not surprising, then, that the people have turned out in droves today, not only in Venezuela but all over the world, to pay homage once more to the man who turned the accepted order of things on its ear…and succeeded.

Sabina Becker translates from apporea.org:

A survey by International Consulting Services (ICS) found that 85.3% of Venezuelans disagree with the protests mounted by sectors of the Venezuelan far-right.

These violent actions, which involve roadblocks, have caused damage to state institutions, destruction, and closures of public roads and services, as part of a putschist plan against the government.

Simón Córdoba, representative of the consulting firm, told VTV that the survey, conducted between February 17 and 24, also showed that 81.6% of Venezuelans consider the opposition protests to have been violent.

91.3% of those surveyed said that preservation of peace and democracy are “very important”, while 54.8% stated that democracy is guaranteed.

52.3% of respondents affirmed that freedom of expression in Venezuela is very well guaranteed, while 54.2% said that human rights are supported.

65.2% say that the actions of the police have been in line with the law.

The ICS survey reached 1400 homes, has a margin of error of 2.7%, and a reliability rating of 95%.

Daniel Kovalik at Counterpunch:

As famed Latin American author Eduardo Galeano once wrote, “every time the US ‘saves’ a country, it converts it into either an insane asylum or a cemetery.” Of course, as we look over the wreckage left by the US in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Syria, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, we see that this statement is demonstrably true. And yet, now that the US is poised for another intervention, this time in Venezuela, the press is right there again to cheer it along.

Analyzing 76 total press articles of the “elite” press from January 15 to April 15, 2019, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) could find not one voice that opposed Trump’s regime plans in Venezuela. Meanwhile, 54 percent openly supported these plans.  Of course, this should not be all too surprising given the press’s usual complicity in past US war efforts — e.g., by pushing such war lies as the Gulf of Tonkin, the killing of babies in Kuwait, the WMDS of Iraq and the alleged Viagra-fueled rapes in Libya.  The current war lies are coming fast and furious from such outlets as CNN which lied about seeing Maduro forces lighting aid containers on fire at the Colombian border (it was in fact opposition forces which did so as the NYT admitted two weeks later), and which claimed that US puppet Juan Guaido actually won the presidential election against Nicolas Maduro when in fact Guaido never even ran for president.

What is quite stunning, however, is the total unanimity of the press in uncritically covering and supporting the ongoing coup in Venezuela. This is baffling because the same press outlets which have been rightly critical of Trump for all of his stupidity, lying and meanness, have suddenly found him brilliant, true and benevolent when it comes to Venezuela. This is particularly remarkable given that his partners in this crime are Neo-Con John Bolton; former CIA Director Mike Pompeo who recently joked that the CIA’s true motto is “We lied, We Cheated, We Stole”; and convicted liar Elliott Abrams.  As for Abrams, he is infamous for his role in the illegal funding of the Nicaraguan Contras; his covering up of the El Mazote massacre in El Salvador in which around 

1000 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed by US-backed forces; and his aiding and abetting the US-backed genocide in Guatemala.

And yet, somehow, we are to believe from our “free” press that this band of rogues is going to deliver democracy and human rights to Venezuela.

Canada is doing this in concert with murderous, corrupt, fraudulently elected and [at least] quasi-fascist countries like Honduras, Colombia and Brazil. As well as, obviously, the brazenly hypocritical, international menace, mass-murdering bipartisan monstrosity of the USA.

Any idiot can see that the countries targeted by the maniacs in Washington D.C. are so targeted not because of their alleged human rights abuses, but because of their independence. Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, ... they are all trying to resist the political-economic system demanded by the USA. This system is so despised that the people of Latin America (including Mexico) are constantly trying to reject it electorally (and when that fails) either militarily or with their feet by becoming refugees. At this very moment, mass protests have erupted in Colombia (where they are met with murderous police violence), the people of Chile have overthrown the neo-liberal constitution written by the corrupt, fascist traitor Pinochet. The people of Bolivia have resisted the neo-liberal electoral campaign of Keiko Fujimori  (daughter of thief and mass-murderer Alberto Fujimori) to elect a socialist president. Brazil is currently being run by fascist moron Jair Bolsonaro who used judicial fraud to incapcitate his leftist adversaries.

But Crystia Freeland (in continuity with the loathsome stephen harper) pretends not to understand this. As do partisan hack shithead Liberal bloggers.



Thursday, June 17, 2021

Books I'm Currently Reading or Just Finished Reading (A List For Any Potential Biography Writers)

 

Yes. How was this great man (me) 's thinking influenced? What were the influences on his way of thinking?@?!?*%?#!???

This is MY BLOG and I'll write about whatever I want to write about!!!!

First off is Lawrence Rothfield's wonderful The Measure of Man: Liberty, Virtue, and Beauty in the Florentine Renaissance. Basically, the book is about the ups and downs and eventual triumph of the Medici family within the context of the Tuscan city of Florence as an autonomous republic. Florence was a city dedicated to wool textiles and banking (as well as other industries). In the feudal era society was divided into "Those who pray, those who fight and those who work." This meant that the Catholic clergy were supposedly the highest members of society, followed by the warrior aristocracy, with the farming peasants being subordinate. Theoretically, society was a unified whole, with the clergy maintaining the purity of everyone's soul and therefore the possibility of eternal life. The aristocracy defended the society from outside enemies (especially infidel armies). And the peasantry provided the food that maintained the bodies of everyone. And, of course, everyone were all "Brothers and Sisters in Christ" and essentially equal in the eyes of the Lord. 

Aside from the fact that there is no God, this fantasy broke down in practical terms because the lower levels of the clergy were often staffed by despised illiterates with impoverished backgrounds; the heights of the Church were manned by the sons of the nobility, and the nobility itself operated more of a protection racket than they acted as protectors of their society. The nobility, being ordinary human beings born into positions of power and privilege, and therefore not having any special abilities beyond what they were trained to do, were at heart, incredibly insecure. They knew how to fight because they were trained at it from early childhood. The ability to fight was then based on this training and on their own inborn physical and mental capabilities. Their literacy and culture was often denied to the subordinate ranks and their whole self-perception as innately superior was based on excluding others from opportunity. They would always reinforce their supposed superiority by treating the people who provided their food and their income (from rent payments) as garbage.

Banking and profits from industry gave Florence's merchant class the liquid wealth to be able to afford education, luxury goods and (importantly) money for mercenary soldiers which they used to break the power of local nobles who attempted to extort payments in order to allow the city to export through their lands. As bankers, merchants and craftsmen, Florentine captialists were classed as "commoners" on the same level as peasants or wage workers. As such, no matter how wealthy they became they were despised by the nobility. Even when the Florentine's mercenaries successfully attacked and tore down the towers of the surrounding noblemen, there was still a socia gap that the nobility did everything in its power to maintain. 

This is taking too long. Suffice to say that Rothfield does an excellent job of describing the class conflicts and cultural tensions of Renaissance Florence, as they struggle to maintain their status as a Merchant Republic in the face of the wealthy banking family of the Medici's attempts to establish themselves as aristocratic overlords. It is an important story in the tale of Western Civilization.

Next up is The Italian Renaissance: Culture & Society in Italy (3rd ed.) by Peter Burke.

In this brilliant and widely acclaimed work, Peter Burke presents a social and cultural history of the Italian Renaissance. He discusses the social and political institutions that existed in Italy during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and he analyses the ways of thinking and seeing that characterized this period of extraordinary artistic creativity.

Developing a distinctive sociological approach, Peter Burke is concerned not only with the finished works of Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, and others, but also with the social background, patterns of recruitment, and means of subsistence of this ‘cultural elite.’ He thus makes a major contribution to our understanding of the Italian Renaissance, and to our comprehension of the complex relations between culture and society.

Indeed. Burke takes on much of the scholarship that has been produced since the first edition of his book came out many moons ago. There's been a lot more written about the continuities from the Medieval period to the Renaissance. A lot more histories centered on women as well as on everyday life. This is a very big book about many important topics (especially the changing social status of artists, from despised craftsmen to exalted super-star celebrities/geniuses who the most powerful, elevated members of Italian society were often forced to accomodate). Very comprehensive so far as I can see.

For instance, Leonardo da Vinci, when arguing for the inclusion of painting among the genteel arts of poetry and music, states how a painter can work while wearing fine clothes in dignified surroundings (I suppose one had to ignore the plaster for frescos and the smell of oils for oil painting!) whereas the sculptor has to get covered in marble dust, which, when mixed with the sweat from their labours makes the sculptor look like a baker.

I took a chance on a work of fiction: Rabbit Foot Bill by Helen Humphreys. This is the story told by a man who, when a lonely young boy, had a strange friendship with a reclusive odd-jobs man ("Rabbit Foot Bill" so named because he sells rabbit's feet which were once considered good luck charms) in his small Saskatchewan town. The boy witnesses his friend commit a murder and it obviously affects him. But as an adult the narrator comes into contact with his friend again and [to avoid spoilers I'll simply say] hijinx ensue.

The writing is good and the characterizations of the many minor characters are intriguing. My main problem is that the main character seems like somewhat of a cipher. He does make some decisions, but often seems to be carried along by events.  


Finally, I'm reading The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom by Graham Farmelo. A little while ago I tried to write some stupid science fiction about anti-matter engines and did a smattering of research and ended-up finding out that anti-matter had originally been predicted by British physicist Paul Dirac in his famous "Dirac Equation" which he wrote to reconcile special relativity with quantum mechanics. Evidently this was the first time that theoretical physics had predicted the existence of an undiscovered particle as opposed to explaining one that had been discovered in the laboratory through experimentation. Any writing about Paul Dirac soon brings up that he was a strange man. ("The strangest man" is how he was affectionately described by Niels Bohr.) (It's also almost always mentioned that Dirac and Cary Grant went to the same school together. I'm going to assume that readers don't need a link for Cary Grant. But who the fuck knows? Dirac was two years older so it's reasonable to assume they hardly knew the other existed. Especially since Dirac was so quiet and unsociable.)

Anyhow, the book is good telling of an interesting guy with a suprisingly interesting social life. The descriptions of the deep scientific ideas are fairly understandable for a moron such as myself. Faremlo does a very good job of situating Dirac's ideas and discoveries into the general progress of physics and quantum physics as a whole. 

So that's my recent reading in June in the Year of our Lord 2021. 

Friday, June 11, 2021

215 Children's Bodies Dumped in an Unmarked Grave

 

I'm a little late commenting on the CBC report that with the use of ground-penetrating radar, the  Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation has found evidence of 215 children buried in a mass grave on the grounds of a former residential school. But here are my thoughts:

I studied Canadian History in university and while we did read honest historical accounts of the sordid history of Indigenous and Colonialist encounters, it wasn't until I was on the discussion boards rabble/babble.ca and enmasse.ca that I heard about the mass graves; about Aboriginal children dying of abuse and neglect and the Canadian authorities not informing the parents, but simply burying the bodies in mass graves.

I remember at the time being staggered by the racist callousness of it. To not even want to bother telling the parents and knowing that the system was so racist that nothing would happen if they just "disappeared" the children as if they'd never existed. ("Disappeared" is --- I learned from political scientist Susan George --- a word, --- an intransitive verb, --- invented to describe the actions of right-wing Argentinian death squads against left-wing activists; to kill them and act as if they never existed. The word seems appropriate for describing the racist indifference of our Residential School authorities and the federal governments that were in charge of them.)

Imagine being a Residential School survivor! Imagine being a child in an environment where you were being abused, starved, sickened by diseases caused by malnutrition and filth, ... and knowing that your abusers routinely dumped your bodies in a pit on the school grounds if you succumbed! This is just another horror to add to those that produced all of the psychological problems of the First Nations victims of this horrible system!

Settler-society Canadians like to pretend that this is all in the past. Vermin such as the Globe & Mail's editorial board disgraced themselves by insisting that the cost-free words of stephen harper's apology have atoned for this atrocity.  More than that, they went on to say that harper's empty words excused his subsequent unilateral abrogation of our Treaties with the First Nations, as well as his arrogant, racist attempts to impose increased surveillance and control over their day-to-day lives!

When he stood in the House of Commons in 2008, and made an historic apology for Canada’s role in the Indian residential schools system, Mr. Harper asked for the forgiveness of the aboriginal peoples of this country for “failing them so profoundly.” His sincere words revealed a respect for aboriginal peoples and, in his words, “their rich and vibrant cultures and traditions.”

At the same time Mr. Harper tried to put the relationship between the federal government and First Nations on a new footing. His government has sought to bring about needed reform and transparency to First Nations governance. The respect and the reform go hand in hand, and they are equally welcome.

This is all of a piece with our media propaganda system: As they always do, our major newsmedia underplayed this latest evidence of the vile nature of Canadian society as it was reported. 

Although the world recoiled in disgust and amazement from what can only be seen as evidence of state-endorsed genocide, Canadian media at first treated this as a secondary story. The Toronto Star, as an example, chose to run its first story on the discovery of children's bodies on page 10 of its May 29 paper. The next day its follow-up story made page eight. The day after, the paper ran a picture of a shoe memorial at Ontario's legislature on page one but the story ran on page three -- and like the others made no mention of the role of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

The clear message: do we really need to care about this? It's an old, old story. People know there were abuses at residential schools. There was a full inquiry a few years ago. We'll quote the prime minister calling it "shameful" and report that flags were lowered for a day, but there are more important things to put on page one, like a hockey game or a sex scandal involving a retired Blue Jays baseball player.

Canada is Israel and the First Nations are our Palestinians. The difference is that Canada is a vast country and the settler population heavily outnumbers the Indigenous population. We are practising a more slow-motion genocide. We don't conduct mass-bombings of First Nations reserves because we don't have to. But notice how whenever the First Nations rise up (generally peacefully) to protest some particularly egregious racist insanity being inflicted on them (whether in Caledonia, Ipperwash, Oka, Gustafsen Lake, or Wet'suwet'en, or anywhere) propagandists for the Canadian state will start shrieking about terrorism and the "rule of law" and all sorts of hypocritical garbage.

Because they're racist idiots. Their racism and their stupidity and their greed and entitlement turn their brains to shit and they bray like idiots because they simply can't help themselves. 

The gatekeepers of Canadian mythology will continue to pretend that history didn't happen until the moment when it becomes impossible to deny it:

Credible stories have been circulating for many years about children who disappeared without a trace at Indian Residential (so-called) schools.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller now says those horrific places were not educational institutions. They were, in reality, labour camps, the minister admitted in a press conference.

After last week's grisly discovery of 215 buried children in Kamloops, we have physical proof of what we as a society should have acknowledged decades ago.

Many have spoken about the thousands of Indigenous children who died from disease, abuse and mistreatment at the hands of the government and churches. Despite apologies and a commission of inquiry, their testimony somehow never got the full respect it deserved. 

But, obviously, the truth is important for the First Nations. They paid the money to get the ground-penetrating radar experts to search for the bodies of their families and ancestors. And they will continue to find these mass graves because, just as the hypocrites in charge of our colonialist project want to ignore the cries for justice as long as they can, the First Nations want to fight back against them as hard as they can. And the horrible fact is that there are many more of these mass graves to be found. The continued racist arrogance and complacency and denialism of Canadian society, that continues to inform our racist justice system and all of our other institutions, continues the policy of slow-motion genocide. Exposing Canada's racist past (in our racist present) helps to weaken the edifice of Canadian colonialism and to re-direct the system back to the trajectory of justice that some members of Canadian settler society began to pursue in the late-20th Century (along with one noteable exception from the early-20th Century), especially in the Courts, where principled justices began to respect at least the letter of Canadian law and were thereby forced to rule in favour of the First Nations.

The last thing that I want to say is that anyone who tries to argue that this happened a long time ago and that Canada is a different place now, is that (besides the fact that the Residential Schools persisted into the the 1990s and, also, that the abductions of that system were replaced by the "Sixties Scoop" which a tragedy in and of itself) is that we cannot simultaneously say that while also "never forgetting" Canada's role in World War I, or any other parts of our history that we claim make us who we are today. If Vimy Ridge is a part of Canada's culture, then so is the racist brutality of our Residential Schools.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Flight or Fight

 

Now, I don't pretend that EVERYTHING about conservatism is answered by its adherents tending to have larger amygdalas (on average) than other groups in society. But I must say that I find it to be a highly useful theory. (Certainly, geographical and political-economic factors also play a part. People from small towns and rural communities tend to conservatism because everyone knows everyone else and people regulate their own behaviour to avoid ostracism. In big cities, people can "sin" in relative anonymity. As well, minorities ... such as homosexuals ... can find kindred spirits and form communities. Everyone is exposed to a greater variety of human behaviour; cultures, religions, sexual practices, artistic expression, etc. and often develop a greater acceptance of difference. Certain sectors of the economy are conducive to fostering attitudes we characterize as "conservative." The oil industry is an extractive, capital-intensive, polluting industry that involves some degree of risk, ... especially early on, ... but which can produce enormous profits for a small group of people. It tends to produce an insanely wealthy owner class who see themselves as the epitome of the capitalist dream. They buckle at the idea of having to care about the environment and they have the liquid cash to bribe politicians to refrain from imposing regulations on them. By definition their business operates in rural areas, where their relatively small workforces, already predisposed to conservative social values, are paid highly enough to identify with their employers and to see any attempts to tax either the industry itself or the high incomes it pays, as offensive. This produces the political cultures we see in Alberta and Texas.)

So, ... there. I don't think the notion of the larger amygdala explains EVERYTHING. However, smart people who study brains have established this correlation. Self-described "conservatives" have larger amgydalas. Which makes one more prone to feel threatened and to stimulate the "flight or fight" instincts. Smart people who study brains are also saying that brains are plastic and develop in response to stimuli. For instance; times of trauma make people more conservative. They amgydala gets larger through prolonged stress. Which makes sense. Times of stress are threatening. Constant threats stimulates the amgydala. You're less trusting. You're less likely to take chances (except for the occasional big chances necessary to get the fuck out of there). [This is a factoid that neo-liberal liberals and the "pwogwessives" who swoon over them should be aware of. When you subject the bulk of the population to insecurity and austerity you make it more conservative and reactionary.] Being stupid makes the world threatening. The noted correlation between conservatism and being a shit-head attests to this.

Anyhow, one day I was going to eat some pizza. And I decided that instead of reading from my laptop and having to scroll down with greasy fingers, I'd grab an old "Harper's Magazine" from off my bookshelf and open it to a two-page spread of small enough font that I probably woudln't need to even turn a page before I was done eating. And I grabbed the August, 2005 issue and ended up reading "None Dare Call It Stolen" by Mark Crispin Miller. And reading it, and all the detailed, documented, often criminal voter suppression and fraud committed by the Republicans (especially in Ohio) that it documents, I was struck by the contrast between the Democratic, liberal, progressive NON-reaction to this obvious "steal" and the over-the-top shrieking, hypocritical, self-righteous bellowing, invasion of the US Capital reaction of the (mostly shit-headed) fans of the (shit-head) Donald Trump over their claims of voter suppression and fraud, that are all based on hearsay and which have been denied by Republican state election officials, Republican governors and Republican judges appointed by Trump. I realized: It's not just "flight." It's also "FIGHT!" A conservative brain is more likely to fight than a non-conservative person's brain is. Not only do they feel more threatened all the time, they have a higher propensity to lash out at perceived threats.

This is problematic behaviour. But it's also a source of strength. When the working class was less divided, and when the border between being able to access food and shelter versus hunger and homelessness was much more brittle, sometimes we (the working class) had people with larger amygdala's who simply couldn't pretend that their bosses and their enforcers weren't the enemy. The culture was such that these individuals' "flight or fight" instincts were focused on the capitalist enemy. And I wouldn't doubt that some of these people were leaders (of a sort) in the class struggle. Now of course, capitalist-oligarchic brainwashing has been even more well developed. Very few working class blowhards are capable of recognizing the enemy. They've all been told to focus on immigrants, gays, artists, socialists. They've been told that trade unions are a threat to their well-being even though the massive historical evidence shows that to be a complete fraud. I'm not pretending that there weren't bigoted, reactionary idiots among the working class of the early-20th Century. Working men who saw their future with Henry Ford over Walter Reuther. I'm just saying that there was a greater CHANCE that we had more fighters on our side.



Friday, May 21, 2021

What Can We Do About Palestine?


So, the right-wing, fly covered turd, Netanyahu thought he'd consolidate his hold on his fellow extreme racist Israelis by attacking Palestinian Muslims at prayer in the Al-Aqsa Mosque during their holy season while also stepping up expropriations and evictions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem (to make way for extremist Zionist "settlers"). In retaliation for these atrocities, Palestinians in Gaza fired some homemade missiles into Israel which, obviously, made the insanely entitled Israelis feel "justified" in launching a massive bombing campaign, blowing up apartment buildings, media offices, medical facilities, schools and other critical infrastructure. One (intentional) result of this has been to make 58,000 residents of Gaza homeless. These are all clearly war crimes.

Israel gets away with this barbarism because they are enabled by the US government no matter which wing of the Corporate Oligarch Corruption Party is in power. Currently it is the "Democrats" under Joseph P. Biden. US coddling and enabling of Israel's Crimes Against Humanity has no firmer partner than Canada, where both the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party vote lockstep to support Israel against the world. (In cases where a country like, say, Australia, might abstain from a United Nations General Assembly vote to censure Israel for some particularly egregious cruelty, Canada will shamelessly vote against censure together with the USA and some tiny Pacific Island nations totally dependent upon the USA's largesse.)

[The NDP, has recently been pushed by its membership to declare its support for the Palestinian victims of Israeli occupation and apartheid. This has been a long, drawn-out process, with the grassroots having to constantly work away at the pro-Zionism of the party brass and leadership.]

And what of the general public? At present, a clear majority of Canadians favour Israel's interests over those of the Palestinians. [That is honestly what I'd absorbed from my very casual, but sustained, experience of opinion polls on this subject. Looking for a link to support that statement, I found this result which certainly contradicts it.] But these numbers have been cratering in recent years. Some Canadians will always support the Israelis over the Palestinians because of a moronic devotion to the Book of Revelations. Others remain steadfastly brainwashed by mainstream news, which is blatantly pro-Israel. But as Israeli behaviour becomes more and more inhuman, and the Palestinians (aside from firing a few rockets in the face of constant provocation and suffering), ... and, I suppose, the memory of The Holocaust fades in the public consciousness, ... it becomes increasingly difficult to see any justice to decade upon decade of Zionist land theft and collective punishment of Palestinians.

So, in response to the latest sickening abuses and slaughters by Zionists, against Palestinians, Canadian leftists and progressives have risen up to stage afternoon protests in many cities across Canada. But what else is planned? Because as I have explained, time and time again, .... and more importantly, as reality has demonstrated, time and time again, ... the present power structures are not terribly inconvenienced by isolated peaceful protests. Please note: We also call them "demonstrations." Because they demonstrate something. That something is supposed to be the numbers of people who will go on to escalate their actions if their demands aren't meant. Demonstrations by people who can't even conceive of escalating are demonstrations of impotence.

So how can we escalate? Deluge our MPs with emails and letters of protest and condemnation? Confronting our MPs with what they're actually supporting (if they're Liberals or Conservatives)? Blockading businesses selling stuff from Israel or the Occupied Territories? Prolonged protests outside of the Israeli Embassy and Consulates? Street blockades? Is anyone thinking of these next steps?

And while we obviously SHOULD commit to sustained activism in the face of the Crimes Against Humanity being perpetrated by Israel, it could be asked why this issue and not so many others. We still have the genocide in Yemen, where a Saudi blockade has already produced millions of deaths and millions more lives have been permanently maimed by malnutrition (and Justin Trudeau's Canada's still sells these monsters weapons!); There is still the malign neglect of First Nations' communities, where communities still endure unsafe drinking water, grossly insufficient housing, and other oppressions deliberately imposed by the Canadian state; There is still Global warming.  

The absence of an organized Leftist movement to win and use power results in our being locked in an endless cycle of reaction to oligarch depredations. We need to think seriously, and full-time about taking power.



Thursday, May 13, 2021

Latest Books

 

Currently I'm reading Freeman Dyson's Maker of Patterns: An Autobiography Through Letters. I got it from the library as an e-book and, not being familiar with modern technology, I didn't see the subtitle and thought it was going to be a summary of 20th Century mathematics and physics for laypeople. Instead it's excerpts from letters to his parents and his sister whenever he was apart from them. They start in the late-1930s and he'll be including stuff from the late-1970's. So far I'm only in the mid-1950's. But it's interesting nonetheless. Dyson helped to reconcile the Quantum Electrodymanic theories of Julian Schwinger and Richard Feynman. It's a very human account of the physics world in the immediate postwar period. Dyson writes about having to convince Robert Oppenheimer of the importance of Feynman's work. [INTERESTING: I looked for a link and found that Oppenheimer was praising Feynman in 1943. But by the time Dyson meets Oppenheimer the latter is unimpressed with Feynman's latest work.] He talks as an international scientist about the personal lives and struggles of male and female scientists from different countries in the chaos of the postwar/Cold War era. While I don't agree with all of his views, Dyson appears to have been considerably free of the racism and sexism that prevailed at the time. He rejected any notion that people from different parts of the world or of different sexes had differing levels of intellectual potential.  Even his accounts of travelling across the triumphant United States (by bus often, in order to see as much as possible) are interesting as you can sense the economic vitality through his words and his own thoughts as a British man from a comfortable economic background. 


Years ago I bought David Nasaw's biography of Andrew Carnegie at a Sear's bargain bin in Hamilton's Limeridge Mall. I started it and thought it was a trifle hagiographic but interesting. I gave Carnegie credit for being a principled opponent of war and government military spending. Then Carnegie competed for contracts to make battleship steel for the US Navy and I gave up the book in disgust. I took it off the shelf again a while ago and started over. I have to say that Nasaw is very fair to Carnegie. He argues convincingly that Carnegie's altruism was genuine, but also never fails to point out the man's hypocrisies and delusions. Essentially, Carnegie was a witty, charming young man who landed a job in a telegraph office and was able to make contacts in his city's (Pittsburgh) business community. Success as a telegraph reader led to promotion to telegraph operator, which led to work for a railroad company which led to promotion to a superintendent and so on. Carnegie eventually became a bond salesman and that all led to his becoming the owner and builder of the biggest iron and steel manufacturer in the United States. (I'd thought that Carnegie had been some sort of pioneering engineer/operator of a small steel firm and not a financial guy who drifted into the industry as a matter of happenstance.)

Anyway, obviously, Carnegie became a mega-capitalist. A peer of John D. Rockefeller. Together with his manager Henry Clay Frick, he crushed the union of his workers at his Homestead facilities. Carnegie believed that the political-economy which resulted in enormous wealth being concentrated in the hands of men such as himself was beneficial to society in the long-run. Men like him and Rockefeller were obviously men of intelligence and ability. They could direct their wealth into collective improvements (in Carnegie's case it was public libraries) which would have better social results than if it went to pockets of the thousands of replaceable men in his steel mills who would only waste it on better food, housing, clothes etc. Nasaw doesn't fail to point out the cruel obliviousness of Carnegie's urging his workers (who, after smashing their union, he has subjected to 12-hour a day shifts, seven days a week of heavy physical labour) to not neglect outside pursuits for personal development.

Finally, I got two books out on Athenian democracy. Thomas N. Mitchell's Democracy's Beginning: The Athenian Story.  What I got out of it was that there was some sort of crisis in Athens in the Sixth Century, caused by oligarchic domination and the subsequent impoverishment of much of the population. A respected patrician [that's a term from Ancient Rome but whatever] named Solon was asked to provide legislative changes that would bring some sort of balance back to Athenian society. Solon's reforms failed in the short run but they led to further reforms from later lawgivers which provided the basic structures that Athenian democracy was based on. This was self-rule, through a legislative assembly by all male citizens.  Later, in the war against the Persian Empire, the contribution of the poorest men as oarsmen in the Athenian navy gave them a feeling that they had just as much right as the wealthiest and the noblest in the leading of their City-State. Mitchell writes that democratic Athens tended to be led by members of the aristocracy and/or wealthy class, as these men had the education and self-confidence to take charge, but that the majority had to support them and - importantly - these leaders could be held accountable to the Assembly. (Mitchell points to the increasing lack of accountability today as being dangerous to social stability and democracy's integrity. I heartily agree. I ranted and raved about this problem during the harper years.) In the end, Mitchell says that Athenian democracy produced the lust for imperialism and the pig-headedness that produced the Peloponnesian War that saw Athens broken as a major power. The men in the Athenian Assembly repeatedly rejected opportunities for a favourable peace when a temporary victory produced offers for ending the war from Sparta. Athens would recover, but again squandered it's achievements by pursuing war with Macedonia in the late-Fourth Century. Upon their defeat the Athenians were forced to terminate their democratic institutions and were henceforth ruled by an oligarchy. 

I've only just started Paul Cartledge's Democracy: A Life. I'll try to remember to add my final thoughts at a later time. But basically Cartledge is so far talking about the rather hazy notion of "democracy" that was forming at the time (5th Century BCE) as opposed to the more concrete idea we have of what the term meant and how it operated in posterity. Cartledge will go on to describe the differences between Athenian democracy and "democracy" as it was subsequently defined and practiced in more recent times. He also says that he will differentiate between this concept of democracy and those proposed by [often] non-Western scholars who insist that democracy was not limited to Ancient Greece and Western Europe.