Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Steve Jobs Is The New Darth Vader

Time is short and deadlines are near but I still had enough time to watch this hilarious Taiwanese video about Steve Jobs and the new iPhone 4.


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Monday, July 19, 2010

USA: Immigration Issue Could Split The Right

For years immigration has been an issue for the right wing to mobilize around - from the far-right vigilante groups like the Minutemen and the equally odious Tea Party movement to mainstream Republican governors, who bolstered their support during a period of mass unemployment and immiseration using immigrants as scapegoats. But it might yet turn out to be a pandora's box for the right wing in America.
As everyone knows, evangelical leaders have been a key component of the so-called conservative coalition, united around issues like abortion rights and same sex marriage. It seemed sometimes that the conservatives were an unstoppable monolith. Yet, an article in today's New York Times suggests that the big mobilizations against the immigration clampdown are creating schisms within the conservative coalition. With 15% of the large US Latino population self-declared evangelical Christian and with the majority as active Catholics, there is a danger that the politicization and mobilization taking place could push Latinos towards the left. US trade unions, for instance, have been vocal supporters of immigration reform to alleviate and normalize the status of the 12 million illegal immigrants living and working in the US.
“Hispanics are religious, family-oriented, pro-life, entrepreneurial,” said the Rev. Richard D. Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm. “They are hard-wired social conservatives, unless they’re driven away.
“I’ve had some older conservative leaders say: ‘Richard, stop this. You’re going to split the conservative coalition,’ ” Dr. Land continued. “I say it might split the old conservative coalition, but it won’t split the new one. And if the new one is going to be a governing coalition, it’s going to have to have a lot of Hispanics in it. And you don’t get a lot of Hispanics in your coalition by engaging in anti-Hispanic anti-immigration rhetoric.”

Land's point - absurdity about hard-wired social conservatism aside - is an interesting one and speaks to the pressure that evangelists feel. On the one hand, the Republicans were substantially discredited by the Bush years, with his neo-liberal tax cuts that failed to stop the economy's implosion and the widely perceived debacles in the foreign policy arena, from Iraq to Israel to Afghanistan. Of course the Democrats have a natural ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and the Republicans may well pick up substantial numbers of seats in the mid-terms - but it won't be on the basis of enthusiasm. And those most enthusiastic of Republicans - the Tea Party - are likely so crazy that their "insurgent" candidates in a number of states will mostly suffer ignominious defeat. All this speaks to a right wing that is weakened and divided. It's only against this backdrop, and the mobilizations of hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their supporters, that Land's bold talk of splitting the conservative coalition can be understood.
For progressives that offers some key lessons. It has been through mobilizations - not through waiting on the good will of the Obama Administration - that change has begun to take place. It will be through continued mobilizations that the conservative coalition will be fractured. It's also an opportunity to make broader links - something that the evangelicals understand. If Latinos are being driven away, it is also because they are being driven towards something. In California where Latinos likely voted in significant numbers to support the anti-gay marriage proposition two years ago there is the possibility of demonstrating that the LGBT movement understands the links between supporting immigrants rights and winning gay rights. In both cases it is about limiting freedom of choice and the right to a life with dignity. If the LGBT movement can demonstrate its principled solidarity it can not only help win a victory for immigrants' rights, it can also drive a deeper wedge, pulling Latinos towards reciprocating the support. That isn't to say it will be easy but the prize is so big that it is worth it. And a victory for both immigrants and LGBT people would be a massive blow to the confidence of not only the Republicans but the Democrats who have pushed hard to keep the movements in line behind Obama - even when he hasn't delivered so much as supportive rhetoric. Of course, in any crisis there is both opportunity and danger. There is always the possibility that, for instance, the LGBT movement doesn't support the immigrants' rights movement and is, instead, scornful of it. This may sound absurd but think about feminists attacking Muslims in placing like France and Switzerland, lining themselves up with hard-right anti-immigrant forces. If the oppressed don't unite, the right wing evangelicals could maneuver themselves into the leadership and steer it into a direction most advantageous to them - and with the most conservative outcomes possible. That could help cement the divisions between LGBT and Latino immigrants in a way that makes it much more difficult to overcome. Luckily, the recent mobilizations in the LGBT movement, post-Obama, have involved socialists in the leadership who are pro-immigrant and have a perspective of uniting the oppressed. Let's hope that they are able to find avenues to bring at least elements of these two movements together in a working relationship.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Carbon Trading Is A Scam




Carbon trading: another market failure

Lots of people have thought that creating a market to "trade" carbon emissions was always a scam. And there's plenty of evidence that scam is really too weak a word to describe how that market is unfolding. Back in March, The Guardian newspaper in the UK revealed that British industries were given lots of surplus credits - worth something like 66 million tonnes of CO2 - above what they needed. Companies are banking this free money (or free pollution) for future use. That means that they can sell their more expensive credits in the EU marketplace, while purchasing cheaper carbon credits from the developing world thus leveraging a profit in the same way that currency traders move money from more valuable to less valuable currencies.
Back in 2007 the Financial Times also noted that there was a lot of phoney-baloney going on in the world of carbon trading that made the scheme borderline useless and really a magnet for (legal) fraud and funny business.
The growing political salience of environmental politics has sparked a "green gold rush", which has seen a dramatic expansion in the number of businesses offering both companies and individuals the chance to go "carbon neutral", offsetting their own energy use by buying carbon credits that cancel out their contribution to global warming.
The burgeoning regulated market for carbon credits is expected to more than double in size to about $68.2bn by 2010, with the unregulated voluntary sector rising to $4bn in the same period.
The FT investigation found:
* Widespread instances of people and organisations buying worthless credits that do not yield any reductions in carbon emissions.
* Industrial companies profiting from doing very little or from gaining carbon credits on the basis of efficiency gains from which they have already benefited substantially.
* Brokers providing services of questionable or no value.
* A shortage of verification, making it difficult for buyers to assess the true value of carbon credits.
* Companies and individuals being charged over the odds for the private purchase of European Union carbon permits that have plummeted in value because they do not result in emissions cuts.
Francis Sullivan, environment adviser at HSBC, the UK's biggest bank that went carbon-neutral in 2005, said he found "serious credibility concerns" in the offsetting market after evaluating it for several months.
"The police, the fraud squad and trading standards need to be looking into this. Otherwise people will lose faith in it," he said.
Now, comes a kicker - as though you couldn't see this coming from a kilometre away - the EU has suddenly discovered that the carbon trading market is a very attractive outlet for money that the mob needs to launder. Since legitimate businesses have been using it as a scam for years, why wouldn't organized crime get in on the action. Watch in the future as the carbon trading market goes up like the real estate market and then collapses in a heap. Just like with the sub-prime collapse, the powers-that-be will somehow find a way to blame us for the debacle. Meanwhile, nothing will have changed in the level of carbon emissions.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Is Science On The Verge Of A Brave New World - Or A Nightmare?

This article on neuroscience and its relationship to social questions makes for an interesting read. It is extracted from a talk at the Marxism conference in Britain by Stephen Rose, an award-winning neuroscientist. Rose discusses the kinds of things that usually never appear in science magazines and journals, or even in the broader discussions in the media. For instance, he makes important points about the reductionism of neuroscience - this idea that our consciousness is simply a product of the mechanical/chemical functions of the brain. Of course the physical processes of the brain are important. But you cannot reduce us to our "central processor". We are embodied, for instance, which means that besides thinking "2+2=4" or "The blue sky is pretty today", we also are processing thousands of stimuli from every part of our body - maintaining the homeostasis that allows us to exist (for instance, constant temperature, the utilization of caloric energy), our other autonomic functions from our heart-rate to our balance - all of this is in addition to the full range of conscious sensations that we experience, hierarchize and sort at any given instant. And beyond the interactive macrosystems of the body, are the microsystems of the cells. The more scientists look into the functioning of cells, gene expression, protein functions and interactions, the actions of the organelles that make up cellular structures, enzyme function, etc. the more they realize what an unbelievably complex orchestra of interactions goes on to keep us alive. All of these elements - and their interaction with the natural and social worlds that we inhabit - are what make us as conscious beings. That's why I believe that the idea that some futurists have that we will "reverse engineer the brain" in a decade or two are hopelessly optimistic and naive as to the significance of doing so. A robot that has a human-speed parallel processor will still lack everything else that makes us human.
At a more mundane level this reductionism means reducing what are effectively social diseases of the mind to problems of brain function. Depression is seen to be somehow genetically coded or a brain disease, meaning it only needs to be treated with the right drugs to be solved. Same with other psychological disorders, or even the physical manifestations of social inequity, like obesity and diabetes. This is convenient for drug manufacturers but doesn't solve the social conditions that create depression or sets the foundation stones for the prevalence of schizophrenia amongst workers vs the rich.
Rose is also correct to point out that a significant portion of the cutting edge science is actually being funded and driven by the military - at least in the US and, perhaps, in Europe. DARPA - the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency - is a big funder of some of the most cutting edge science, including neuroscience. They are exploring things like mind control using electromagnetism, selective memory erasure through the use of enzymes as a means to allow soldiers to commit heinous crimes and not suffer PTSD, etc. Some of this stuff is quite frightening.
All of this is true and worthy of concern and comment. However, I can't help but feel that - at least in the article form of Rose's talk - he is missing the point a little bit. And I think that this is a tendency on the left, at least the Marxist left - to reduce all capitalist-funded and state-funded research to the potential and real negatives, such as those discussed above. Yet, this has the danger of making us look like Luddites. I remember distinctly, for instance, the dismissal of the significance of the internet in the 1990s. It's true that the internet didn't solve oppression, exploitation or the domination of the capitalist controlled mass media. It's true that the internet was invented and developed with the support of DARPA for more efficient military communications. There is no denying any of this. But if you were to tell someone today that the internet is unimportant and has changed nothing they would rightly think that you were off your rocker. As futurist US Ray Kurzweil is fond of pointing out, when he was at MIT in the early 1970s, the super-computer on campus took up a whole room and cost tens of millions of dollars. Today there is more computing power and greater access to information in a palm-sized iPhone, which can access "all of human knowledge" via the internet. And who could imagine the speed with which the scandals about G20 policing broke without smartphones, youtube and twitter? The internet and computing has, quite simply, transformed our relationship to information. The fact that you're reading this right now and that I'm engaging in a discussion based upon an article that was posted across the ocean is proof of that as well.
We have to take the same approach to the present explosive developments in neuroscience, biotech, genetics and robotics. There is a real sense amongst many people that these areas are on the verge of becoming the next IT. People, including progressive people, are very excited about the research into gene therapy. There have been big leaps, for instance, in the ability to treat macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa in rats through the use of viruses that carry the corrected gene. Those viruses then swap in the functional gene for the faulty ones in the retinas of diseased rats. Such rats have had a significant restoration of sight. Similar promise is held for ALS (a neurodegenerative disease, made famous with the film Lorenzo's oil), Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's along with new treatments for HIV/AIDS, cancer and even heart disease.
Now, a lot of this stuff has to be taken with a grain of salt and research to cure diet-related diabetes with gene therapy, for instance, is probably hogwash. And researchers are discovering that genetic is very much more complicated than simply reading a very long book and changing some grammar here and there. This has led to the development of new fields and new approaches such as epigenetics, proteomics and others. But to suggest that there aren't big strides being made because of the reductionism of capitalist science - both in its conceptual framework and its need to produce sale-able products - is itself reductionist and rather dogmatic. We need to be able to find the correct balance in our assessment of technological progress. And we need to see that capitalism still remains a very dynamic system, capable of significant advances technologically. It's just the chaotic and distorted way that those advances come about - in the US through the channel of the military (though this is different in Japan and China) - means that advances that should unambiguously alleviate the human condition and liberate us from drudgery and the horrors of disease, all too often only adds to the horror - with advanced weapons systems and surveillance technologies, for instance - or is reserved only for the wealthy. And the subordination of research to military purposes or to satisfy the drive for profit means that scientific advance is slowed or abandoned if it doesn't serve those ends. We are for more science and more funding for research but research to meet human needs.

Solar Rate Cut: Ont. Libs Biggest Idiots Under The Sun

After three months of watching oil from the Deepwater Horizon pour into the Gulf of Mexico, killing animals that are reliant on the Gulf eco-system by the truckload, and destroying traditional fishing cultures of the people who live along the Gulf coast - not to mention wetlands - can we finally make some serious investment in green energy?
Well, the good news is that global investment in wind and solar energy has continued to climb year over year and for the past two years constituted the majority of new power generation in North America, Europe, and China. China, who some tried to blame for all the carbon problems, has invested massively in solar and wind technology.
China had the largest addition of renewable power capacity, and the Asian economic powerhouse surpassed the United States as the country with the largest investment in clean energy.
China now produces about 40 per cent of the world’s solar electricity collectors, 25 per cent of its wind turbines, and three-quarters of its solar water heaters.
China's cities are still a smog and carbon-belching nightmare. But the picture of China as the main culprit just doesn't wash. The number that is often used to judge China is the absolute carbon emissions but this is dishonest since China has a population of $1.4 billion whereas the USA has less than a quarter of that total and Canada even less. It's more accurate to look at carbon production per capita and by this measure the USA - and even more so, Canada - are the bottom of the barrel. According to the Conference Board of Canada, a conservative business organization, Canada is the pits.
Canada is one of the world’s largest GHG emitters. Canada ranks 16th out of 17 OECD countries on GHG emissions per capita and scores a “D” grade.3 In 2005, Canada’s GHG emissions were 22.6 tonnes per capita, almost double the 17-country average of 12.4 tonnes per capita. Canada’s per capita GHG emissions were also almost four times greater than Norway’s, the top performer.
The primary reason why Canada's position is so terrible and getting worse all the time - the Tar Sands debacle. The next worse in line is, of course, the USA at 19.1 tonnes per capita. In the case of the United States the terrible record and worse response to the growing disaster of fossil fuels is especially poignant in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and Obama's pitiful $2 billion loans to the solar sector in response, even as oil companies get at least double that amount every single year in tax subsidies.
And it isn't the case the up here in the kinder, gentler nation that we're any better. Stephen Harper continues to pour subsidies into the oil sands project, destroying the Alberta watershed, poisoning downstream communities and jacking up Canada's carbon emissions when we should be reducing them. Of course, nobody is surprised that a neanderthal like Harper and his pals will be happy to ride a luxury handbasket into global warming hell.
But Dalton McGuinty leads the progressive Liberals. They don't hate the cities. They had an openly gay man in cabinet. The teachers unions like him. Of course, he is implementing the HST, which is a blatantly regressive tax grab. And in the area of energy policy and development, the Green Belt that was supposed to lead to greater population density - a necessity to make mass transit efficient and to reduce the need for automobiles - in the Greater Toronto Area is a total hoax that does nothing to reign in the developers. And now the Liberals have taken an axe to subsidies for the solar industry, cutting the price paid per kilowatt hour by more than 25% - from 80.2 cents to 58.8 cents per kilowatt hour. Of course, what the government should be doing is directly investing in solar infrastructure, rather than leaving it to the inefficiencies of market mechanisms. Just as they should be investing in infrastructure for electric vehicles. However, it makes no sense to cut solar subsidies at a time when fossil fuel subsidies for the Tar Sands are, if anything, rising under the federal Tories. McGuinty could easily fund the development of renewables and create jobs by taxing carbon producers and investing that money in Green industries. But that would mean taking on corporate priorities and redirecting them to meet social and environmental needs. What this rollback demonstrates is that McGuinty isn't willing to do that. He's more than happy to pass secret, repressive legislation to clampdown on civil liberties - he isn't willing to use his legislative powers to help save the planet.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

$114 Billion: Total Direct Aid To Israel

That special relationship that American and Israeli politicians talk about is very special indeed, to the tune of $114 billion dollars since the founding of Israel. That money has come in the form of direct military funding and economic aid. In fact, the $3 billion per year that Israel continues to receive - not counting loan guarantees - provides $500 per person to Israeli coffers. Given that 25% of the military funds - which now make up all of the financing - are allowed to be spent on Israeli weapons industries (the only country in the world that receives US military aid that is permitted to do so), this money has a huge multiplier effect in the Israeli economy. In fact, Israel is the world's ninth largest exporter of arms - an industry that has been entirely built with American taxpayer money. So much for the free market.
What this - self-described - conservative estimate demonstrates is just how key Israel is seen to American imperial interests in the Middle East. It also demonstrates that the America government, which plays a key role as a so-called arbiter in the Palestinian-Israeli non-negotiations, is not a neutral party at all. It's like your boss arbitrating a conflict between you and one of his managers. America has funded and supported Israel's theft of Palestinian land since day one. And it will continue to do so until the political cost is higher than the military and political benefit. Building the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement and - importantly - the growing movement to break the siege of Gaza, will help to turn the tide. Ending the funding to Israel would not only be a big victory for the Palestinian struggle, it would be a major defeat for American imperialism.


Congress Watch | A Conservative Estimate of Total Direct U.S. Aid to Israel: Almost $114 Billion

Arizona: Boycott America's Most Racist State

Back in 1993 the NFL pulled the planned Superbowl out of Arizona because the state government refused to recognize Martin Luther King Day. The pressure ultimately worked, the state instituted the day and were rewarded in 1996 with a Superbowl. But Arizona racism runs deep and MLK Day hasn't stopped the state from continuing in the vanguard of US racism - no mean feat in a country with so much of it. This is a state that bans "ethnic studies" in its public school, reinforcing ignorance of other cultures.
Back in April, Arizona's governor signed into law SB 1070, known also by its more polemical title "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighbourhoods" Act. It will become law on July 29. The law effectively legalizes and encourages racial profiling by the police. If you "look" like an "alien", the police have the right to stop and demand to see your papers. It is obvious towards whom this is directed - the significant state Latino population, who already suffered the effects of racial profiling, as this excellent editorial in the Washington Post points out.
This law isn't about solving the immigration issue; it's about scapegoating, an established practice in Arizona. For years, law enforcement agencies have criticized the Maricopa County sheriff's office for not serving felony arrest warrants in favor of conducting "saturation" sweeps in which hundreds of Latinos have been indiscriminately arrested in order to find undocumented immigrants. Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon has stated that "citizens are being stopped because they are brown," and in a letter to the Justice Department he asked for a federal investigation into Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio based on his "pattern and practice of conduct that includes discriminatory harassment, improper stops, searches, and arrests." And this was before SB1070 became law.
While there was an immediate and vociferous outcry from immigrants and immigrants' rights organizations, there are nonetheless ten other states, including Texas and Colorado, considering implementing a similar law. It is no exaggeration to say that this is the most draconian, racist immigration law to be passed in generations. Sadly, Obama has done little to disperse the myths of a crime wave by "illegal aliens" announcing that he would add 1,200 troops to patrol the US-Mexico border.
Not surprisingly, the media has been in lockstep with the most virulent anti-immigrant propaganda. Bill O'Reilly of Fox News ranted in May that "Phoenix is the kidnapping capital of the United States. Crime is through the roof. Drugs are coming across the border all the time. So what do you expect Arizona to do?" Except that every word out of his mouth was a lie.
Arizona's crime rate has been falling for several years, even as the number of immigrants to Arizona, both documented and undocumented, has been increasing.
What's more, study after study has shown that foreign-born immigrants are, in fact, less likely than native-born white Americans to commit crimes...
The endless repetition of the assertion, no matter that it is directly contradicted by the evidence, has nevertheless had its impact. When asked whether "more immigrants cause higher crime rates," 25 percent of Americans replied "very likely" and another 48 percent said "somewhat likely," according to the National Opinion Research Center's 2000 General Social Survey. This three-quarters of the U.S. population that believes there is a causal link between immigration and crime is significantly greater than the 60 percent of people who think more immigrants are somewhat likely or very likely "to cause Americans to lose jobs."
Not surprisingly the bloviating of scumbags like O'Reilly and right-wing, talk-radio agitators has had an effect upon attitudes towards immigration in America and in Arizona, with something like 67 percent of the US population supporting the Arizona measure. But even still a clear majority support legalization and "paths to citizenship" for immigrants coming into the country. According to this article by Justin Akers Chacón, such support remains large and solid, particularly amongst younger people.
A May 2009 CNN poll found that two out of three people supported legalization. A May 2010 CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll found that while there is a substantial increase in support for enforcement measures, 80 percent of respondents nationally support "creating a program that would allow illegal immigrants already living in the United States for a number of years to stay here and apply to legally remain in this country permanently if they had a job and paid back taxes."
Drilling down beneath the support for SB 1070 is also revealing. According to an America's Voice poll conducted in June, 84 percent of national respondents who supported SB 1070 also support comprehensive immigration reform that includes legalization.
The truth of these numbers can be seen from the fact that at the end of May somewhere approaching 100,000 people marched in Arizona in opposition to the law, while the "Stand With Arizona" rally in support of the law drew about 7,000 people. A national mobilization, called "Phoenix Rising", a week later drew less than 1,000 people. On May 1, over half a million people marched in over 100 cities across the US in support of immigrants rights. And back in March 200,000 marched in Washington to demand comprehensive immigration reform. And the numbers of union and community leaders speaking out against the law continues to grow, along with unions and others which have passed resolutions condemning the law. Given the attempts by some to use populist rhetoric about "American jobs" being stolen by immigrants, it is especially important that the union movement has come out solidly opposed to this law.
The outrage that the racist Arizona law has generated is leading to a broad-based and widespread move towards boycotting the state. In 2011 the Major League Baseball All-Star Game is scheduled to take place in Arizona. An open letter has been sent to Bud Selig, the MLB commissioner, calling for it to be removed unless Arizona drops the law. This has been signed by the president of the AFL-CIO, the union central representing millions of American workers and numerous other community leaders. A website has been set up to promote a national and international boycott of the state. Boycotts have been decided upon or are being considered in Seattle, Berkeley, Burlington, and Chicago.
This pressure is no doubt behind the fact that the Department of Justice finally announced on July 6 that it would challenge SB 1070 as unconstitutional. Obama also spoke out against the Arizona law on July 2, after too long a silence on the issue and a failure to deal with immigration reform for the first half of his mandate - though he used the rhetoric of the Immigrant Rights Movement to help get himself elected.
He also accepts the law and order discourse on immigration and suggests that illegals in the USA are criminals by definition who ought to be punished.
Ultimately, he said, "our nation, like all nations, has the right and obligation to control its borders and set laws for residency and citizenship. And no matter how decent they are, no matter their reasons, the 11 million who broke these laws should be held accountable."
Obama said those who entered the country illegally must admit they broke the law, register with the appropriate authorities, pay taxes, pay a fine, and learn English. They must "get right with the law before they can get in line and earn their citizenship."
As always, American politicians abdicate the responsibility of their own country in creating refugee crises. US foreign policy acts to create situations where immigrants seek to flee to somewhere more prosperous. Haitians flee Haiti because the US has prevented that country from developing independently (including generations of reparations that were paid to France for overthrowing French slavery) and kidnapped the countries' democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrande Aristide. The US overthrew, invaded or funded coups in countries throughout Central America - just this week sending thousands of Marines to Costa Rica, off the coast of Nicaragua. The US contributes to poverty and repression in Mexico through the support for maquilladora (free trade) zones and the crushing of independent unions and indigenous resistance by US corporations and US backed political actors. Almost every country in South America has experience an American-backed coup against reformist leaderships who seek to develop their countries and alleviate poverty. What's more, both Texas and significant portions of California were illegally stolen from Mexico in the first place.
Rolling back this present round of attacks, part of a longer-term assault in immigrants rights in America, where 11 million people (up to 5 percent of the workforce) are undocumented, will require dispensing with the whole legal-illegal language. This is about human rights and workers' rights since the wealthy have few obstacles to living wherever they want in the world. Defeating the Arizona law could be an important victory in the movement to roll back that assault. Take the opportunity to join the Boycott Arizona movement - write to Bud Selig, pass resolutions in your union, community, or school. Send a strong message that racism is unwelcome everywhere.

My Own G20 'Most Wanted' List

The Toronto Star is reporting that the Toronto Police have released photos of the ten "most wanted" vandals from the G20 demonstrations and riot of two weeks ago. I will at least give the police credit that all of the "suspects" at least appear to have been at the demo. There's no photos of the guy who got shaken down on his way to play medieval role playing games, swinging a foam broadsword. I suppose that's sort of a step forward.
Of course, it doesn't answer a single one of the questions that have been raised by concerned citizens about the suspension of civil liberties. About the horrid conditions and brutal treatment of arrestees, 95% of whom were never charged.
But more than that, if these guys smashed some windows and a couple of, cough cough, abandoned police cruisers, it is nothing compared to the damage of the real vandals at the G20. So, in the interest of balance, RedBedHead is releasing its own "Most Wanted" List. If you know the location of any of these thugs, just pass them along to my desk officer. We'll fill out a report and then get our agents on the case to track them down and arrest them.

WANTED FOR THUGGERY AND VANDALISM

1. STEPHEN HARPER


Don't let the cute kitty-cat fool you, this man is armed and dangerous. He is wanted for holding an entire city hostage, suspending civil liberties, and directing the cops to treat protesters like the enemy within. He's also wanted for funnelling money to the most destructive energy project on earth - the Alberta Tar Sands; for ignoring all democratic checks and balances; attacking women's right to abortion; and championing an economic austerity model that was adopted by the G20 and will lead to immiseration for tens of millions of people around the world. Since he organized the whole stupid thing, he gets to be number one.



2. BARACK OBAMA


He started off so well but just couldn't resist picking up bad habits. We all loved him and wanted him to succeed. The President of the United States has shown himself a willing participant in the murder of tens of thousands by commission and omission. He convinces us he was anti-war and then sent an extra 35,000 troops to Afghanistan. He told us he was for stimulus spending and bank accountability - and now he's moving towards austerity. He said he represented a new, cooperative model of foreign policy and then sent thousands of Marines to Costa Rica as a threat against Nicaragua, backed the Honduran coup, supporter bombings and massacres in Pakistan, gave the thumbs up to every crime that Israel could come up with. He reneged on his promise to rescind the odious Defence of Marriage Act, to support immigrants who face sustained assault by Tea Party, Minutemen and the whackjobs who ran half of the states in America. He reneged on providing real public healthcare and defending a woman's right to choose. The list of crimes continues for quite a while but this is enough for an arrest warrant. He's probably guarded by some heavily armed, sunglasses wearing thugs, so approach with caution.



3. WEN JIABAO


Wen Jiabao, China's Premier, may wear silly hats but this thug is all business back home. He has been involved with repression in Tibet and the Xinjiang region of western China. Then there's all that stuff about stealing organs from prisoners and dissidents. That's worth a few years in the big house right there, serving tea and crumpets to some Falun Gong supporters. Wen rules over a country that prevents freedom of speech and crushes dissent - except where doing so will lead to bigger explosions, as with the recent industrial strike wave.




4. SILVIO BERLUSCONI


His true nature was laid bare a long time ago but he's managed to avoid capture by constantly changing the laws of Italy to maintain parliamentary immunity. It helps that his control and manipulation of the media has made Italy the most unfree media climate in the western world. Besides being an all around SOB, he's also happily supported the war in Afghanistan and repression against trade unions and the left at home. He is in the process of implementing a serious austerity package against Italian workers, which, if he gets away with it, will immiserate millions. He cavorts with open fascists and has created an atmosphere in Italy conducive to the recent pogroms against immigrants and Gypsies. Luckily, it seems that he will soon be thrown out of office and will thus be easier to arrest.



5. NIKOLAS SARKOZY


He looks a bit like Clive Owen here but this guy has no charm at all. Besides his current package of austerity that has generated a massive general strike, he has also attacked immigrants, particularly Muslims at every opportunity. He is for repression, harsh nationalism, and attacks on workers rights and living standards.



6. DAVID CAMERON


The goofball "conservative with a heart of gold" Prime Minister of Britain is what the brits call a toff, which sounds like toffee, but really translates more accurately into rich, inbred bastard. This criminal mastermind is bent on recreating the terror of Thatcher and imposing it on the poor people of Britain. He's a racist, elitist scumbag and his assault on the National Health Service of Britain, as well as the broader public sector is set to be the most significant attack on the welfare state ever seen. Hopefully the people of Britain will give him a swift kick in the pants and his weak coalition government will fall apart. He's best sedated upon arrest or he'll try to charm you and ply you with some of those dreadful British breath mints.



7. TORONTO POLICE CHIEF BILL BLAIR


There's something Pinochet-esque about Billy boy in this photo. Give him the moustache and away he would go. He obviously revels in unbridled power and has a penchant for lying publicly and frequently. As the leader of the biggest street gang in the city of Toronto, he's not to be taken lightly. Don't try to approach him as he's sure to attack.



8. DALTON MCGUINTY


He's a liar. He's boring as shit. Somebody stop him before he passes more police special powers laws that he didn't pass and never really existed in the first place even though he pretended they did until it became politically inconvenient.



9. ROB FORD & GEORGIO MAMMOLITI


He's a bigot, a bully and an asshole who represents every vile, narrow attitude that porcine white assholes can possibly hold without being fascists. And he was number one scum when it came to fellating the TO police over what a wonderful job they did implementing their mini-police state.





Ah, Georgio, how long we have known and despised ye. All the way back to when you scabbed on the NDP same spousal legislation. So it was particularly rich when you put forward a motion to withhold funding from future Pride festivals because they permitted Queers Against Israeli Apartheid to march (under enormous pressure). Having assisted in denying same sex couples any of the rights of heterosexual couples for another decade or so is enough to warrant frog-marching this weasel straight out of city hall and into the hoosegow. But the fact that he fought to get to the front of the line, ahead of his long time arch-foe, Rob Ford, in sucking up to the coppers post-clampdown makes him a double-weasel.



10. MAYOR MILLER


There he is: Curly, Larry and Shemp. I'll leave it to you, trusty reader, to decide whom is whom. If we have to endure one more "progressive" mayor like Miller I'm gonna cack. I thought Barb Hall was bad enough - Christ, she was beaten by Mel Lastman! But this guy is worse. Sure, we were all excited when he deposed Mel "Noooobody" Lastman with his three dollar suits and world knowledge gleaned from reading the Sunday funnies. But by the time we got to Miller's second term it would be an understatement to say that the thrill was gone. He went after public sector unions last summer, forcing a strike and then demonizing them as he sought significant concessions - as though public sector workers are to blame for the sorry state of city finances (here's a hint: cut the police budget). Then he went out of his way after the G20 fiasco to congratulate the police on what a good job they did - before knowing the facts of the matter. He did later apologize for the martial law situation - sorta, kinda - at a community event in North York, out of the eye of the media but the damage was already done. Of course, he has done no worse than the other progressives on council who all voted to withhold funding for Pride unless they censored the political views of participants viz Israel and who all voted to applaud the cops for smashing heads and suspending our rights. Nice goin' Milly Vanilly. Get outta here, you punk. Do no pass GO, do not collect $200!



Well, that's it. It's a bit of an arbitrary list, of course. There were so many scumbags assembled in one city that, frankly, it's a surprise that the World Health Organization didn't send in a team to disinfect ole Hogtown. I never even mentioned Germany, for instance. Or Russia - whoa, he's a dirtbag though, ain't he? But I think that if we can nail these guys, make an example of them with some show trials, convict them in the media - hey, we could get Christie Blatchford to cover it - then it will discourage copycat scumbags from following in their path. Two-thirds of the law is about deterrence. Remember that, kiddies. Now get out there and hunt these bad boys down like the dogs they are.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Afghanistan: One Disaster After Another

NATO simply can't win for losing. Almost ten years into the occupation of Afghanistan and western troops are re-discovering the lesson that the Soviets learned before them (and the British before them and...): this country is the graveyard of empires.
As the 2011 deadline approaches for the withdrawal of troops from numerous countries including, supposedly, the US, Afghanistan is more in the grip of the Taliban insurgency than at the start. Obama's much vaunted surge into the cities a la the Soviets circa the mid-80s, appears to be failing spectacularly according to every measure. They haven't even managed to "pacify" the minor town of Marjah with thousands of US troops, and just today had to replace their hand-picked government representative as part of a "reform" effort. It's no wonder that the plans to implement a similar "pacification" in Kandahar city has been postponed indefinitely. The town still isn't safe for travel.
When the U.S. Special Envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke, and the U.S. Ambassador to Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, visited Marjah in late June to meet with local leaders, they were greeted with small-arms fire from Taliban fighters in the vicinity.
This failure is coupled with the British debacle of withdrawal from the town of Sangin with their tails between their legs. This was followed by three of their troops being shot and killed by a soldier in the Afghan National Army who was working alongside them. In the last 48 hours alone a total of 12 NATO soldiers have been killed in fighting, 8 of them American.
Alongside the military setbacks that are undermining the credibility of the American-led international occupation, the political situation has also become a disaster. Attempts to apply the Petraeus model of winning victory by bribing Pashtun tribes in the south is an acknowledged failure - without the hammer of the Shi'ites death squads as he had in Iraq to apply pressure on Sunni resistance fighters, there is little incentive to go along with the American invaders. It doesn't help that the government of Hamid Karzai is seeking a negotiated solution with the Taliban that can only mean an American withdrawal, or that the plan to "Afghanize" the conflict is in total disarray. A report in the Independent newspaper is a damning indictment of NATO's showcase strategy for withdrawal and stability.
The strategic plan of creating an Afghan security force to replace US and British troops fighting in Afghanistan is in serious disarray with local forces a fraction of their reported size, infiltrated by the Taliban at senior levels, and plagued by corruption and drug addiction...
And the way in which their capacity has been assessed over several years, during which time tens of billions of dollars have been spent on building up Afghan security forces, is so flawed that it has been scrapped.
Less than a quarter of the army and less than one in seven police units are rated as "CM1" – meaning they are capable of operating independently. Yet the true picture is worse.
With record levels of both civilian and military casualties and all of NATO's strategic bolts fired and missing, it's hard to see how anything can be salvaged. Nor is it clear that Obama or NATO has any alternative strategy on offer except to pray for time. What is clear is that if NATO is defeated in Afghanistan, it will throw into crisis the strategy of using NATO as a non-UN, American controlled force to multiply America's imperial reach - at a blood and treasure discount price. Such an end result can't be a bad thing. And the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan will be necessary for any reconciliation, rebuilding and true liberation for the people of Afghanistan to be possible.

The Many Betrayals of Barack Obama: Part 1




What happened to change we could believe in?

With mid-term elections looming this fall, there are a flurry of articles assessing the results and prospects of Barack Obama’s first term as president. Not surprisingly, given how high were the expectations of an Obama presidency. Who can forget those massive election rallies? “Yes, we can”, he boomed and hundreds of thousands repeated the words. These were words that came from the Spanish “Si, se puede” of the immigrants’ rights movement that mobilized millions the year before the election. And as a black man running for and winning the presidency in a land built by African slaves, he seemed to represent America turning a corner.
Obama said that he was against the torture and imprisonment without end that was most starkly represented by Guantanamo Bay’s Camp X-ray. He would shut it down within a year, he said. He opposed the “Defense of Marriages Act” that was signed into law by his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton in 1996, enshrining discrimination against gays and lesbians into law. He would end the war in Iraq (ahem, to divert resources to Afghanistan). He would finally bring public healthcare to the American people, 50 million of whom were without any insurance whatsoever, in an “industry” whose costs were ballooning every year because of the “market.” And, of course, he would turn around America’s economy, which was on the fast track to disasterville with the worst recession in the post-war era destroying jobs faster than a fire in a field of autumn corn.
At least that’s what he told us.

The First Betrayal
On election night, November 2008, not only did voters elect America’s first black president on a platform of change. California voters also voted on Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, which had previously been permitted and had led to a flurry of marriages, particularly in San Franciso. This immediately provoked a sense of outrage. And a sense of betrayal as it became clear that Obama would spare no effort to spare no effort to demonstrate his support for equality. In the lead-up to the vote in Maine, that was lost, Obama said not a single word in support of equal rights for gays and lesbians. And the Democrats didn’t use any of their electoral networks – there was a state election, along with the ballot on gay marriage – to promote equality. When Equality Across America was mobilizing a march of a quarter of a million people in Washington in support of gay rights, Obama advisors and Democrats not only did nothing to support the march, many of them derided it.
And now, the Obama Justice Department continues to aggressively defend the very Defense of Marriages Act about which Obama once stated: “Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does.” Even after a US District Court Judge ruled that DOMA was unconstitutional, it is expected that the Justice Department will appeal the ruling.

The Second Betrayal – Guantanamo
“As President, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists.”
So said Obama during the presidential election campaign. Yet, the prison at Gitmo is still up and running. And, as an article in the New York Times argued:
Stymied by political opposition and focused on competing priorities, the Obama administration has sidelined efforts to close the Guantanamo prison, making it unlikely that President Obama will fulfill his promise to close it before his term ends in 2013...
"...the administration is not putting a lot of energy behind their position that I can see,” said Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat....
[According to one senior official] “Guantánamo is a negative symbol, but it is much diminished because we are seen as trying to close it,” the official said. “Closing Guantánamo is good, but fighting to close Guantánamo is O.K. Admitting you failed would be the worst.”
The priorities of the Obama White House on this issue, in other words, are governed by cynicism and spin.

The Third Betrayal – Healthcare
Obama’s betrayal on winning a public healthcare system is really several betrayals rolled into one. For certain women’s right to have unhindered access to abortion has fared no better under Obama and he has, if anything given encouragement to the anti-choice by implementing an executive order excluding abortion services from the health reform. He did rescind Bush’s global gag order denying funding to international aid organizations that supported abortion services but he has done nothing to rescind Bush’s provider-conscience law in the US, which permits medical providers to discourage and deny women from access.
And the “reforms” as a whole are an unmitigated disaster for most Americans and a giant cash prize to the health insurance industry that has helped to make America’s healthcare system simultaneously the world’s most expensive and the world’s worst. This excellent article by Chris Hedges on countercurrents.org details some of the betrayals of Obama’s “reform” package:
The 2,000-page piece of legislation, according to figures compiled by Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP), will leave at least 23 million people without insurance, a figure that translates into an estimated 23,000 unnecessary deaths a year among people who cannot afford care. It will permit prices to climb so that many of us will soon be paying close to 10 percent of our annual income to buy commercial health insurance, although this coverage will only pay for about 70 percent of our medical expenses. Those who become seriously ill, lose their incomes and cannot pay skyrocketing premiums will be denied coverage. And at least $447 billion in taxpayer subsidies will now be handed to insurance firms. We will be forced by law to buy their defective products. There is no check in the new legislation to halt rising health care costs. The elderly can be charged three times the rates provided to the young. Companies with predominantly female work forces can be charged higher gender-based rates. The dizzying array of technical loopholes in the bill-written in by armies of insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists-means that these companies, which profit off human sickness, suffering and death, can continue their grim game of trading away human life for money.
TO BE CONTINUED...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Veil Ban: French Parliament Stuffed With Racists




French fashion: Is this woman liberated

Today the French Parliament passed a bill banning the wearing of face-covering veils in public. Now, if women are caught in public wearing a veil, they will be forced to pay a $190 fine and enroll in a "citizenship course." The justification for this repressive measure is that it is about protecting the dignity of women.


Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, said earlier this year that the full veil "hurts the dignity of women and is not acceptable in French society".
This, of course, is an enormous crock of you-know-what. First of all there are only perhaps 2,000 women in all of France, out of a population of 62 million people, who wear a full-face veil. But also, this is nothing more than cultural supremacism. Does it not hurt the dignity of women to have to wear high heel shoes and other torture devices? How about short skirts and tight clothes or multi-coloured oil-based creams and powders to emphasize their lips, eyes and cheeks and thus their sexuality? Is breast augmentation supportive of the dignity of women as human beings? Collagen injections? The face veil on women is, of course, an expression of the fact that women are oppressed. But so are these other feminine "necessities". The issue is a cultural and a racial one. It is about attacking an identifiable minority.

Life in France is "carried out with a bare face", Michele Alliot-Marie, the justice minister, said last week as she opened the debate in the National Assembly.
Face-covering veils "call into question the idea of integration, which is founded on the acceptance of the values of our society", Alliot-Marie said.
Alliot-Marie and Sarkozy would know, like ever French person, that the inability to integrate into French society is precisely why the immigrant ghettoes that surround major French cities periodically explode in riots and protests. The children and grand-children of immigrants are still not accepted as French and are denied equal participation in French society by French laws, French social policy and French attitudes. If Alliot-Marie and Sarkozy were truly interested in bringing immigrants "into the fold" they wouldn't be forcing women who wear the veil into their homes to avoid being punished. How is it liberating for a woman, supposedly oppressed by her husband, to face the coercion of the French state to do something that is unacceptable to her husband, her community and possibly even to herself.
This has nothing to do with women's dignity and everything to do with pandering to the far right and to sowing divisions at a time of heightened anger over French austerity plans. At the end of June there was a nationwide general strike and over 200 demonstrations, mobilizing some 2 million people, across France against plans to raise the retirement age. Deflecting people's anger onto immigrants has served the French ruling class well in the past - and the Nazis. In the 1980s it led to the dramatic rise of Jean Marie Le Pen's fascist National Front. The FN has been diminished in recent years but it could easily spring back to life with this kind of backlash.
That's why it is so dangerous that the French left has been utterly terrible on the question of the veil and the hijab. The opposition Socialist Party walked out of the vote in parliament, not because it opposes a ban per se, but because it thought that it should only be confined to government buildings. Apparently it is better to merely exclude these women from gaining access to social services. What if they were being abused and wanted to access help? Apparently they would have to disrobe first. But even the French far-left has not been consistent in supporting the right of women to choose what garments they will wear. The New Anti-capitalist Party selected a hijab wearing woman to stand on one of their electoral lists in the most recent election. Not only did this spark a huge outcry in the media, the NPA itself was split over the question, with the fight continuing. The French left must get clear on the question of the veil - it is a question of racism. And, just like in Afghanistan, we must give no quarter to the bombers who would "liberate" women  by invading their country, we must oppose attempts to "liberate" women by forcing them to give up their social customs against their will.

G20 People's Investigation

This initiative is an excellent idea. If the Tories and McGuinty won't hold an independent inquiry then the people should form their own independent inquiry as a focus for the anger that people continue to feel. If it can be connected to a campaign of mass mobilization, all the better. The Tories may be hoping that this issue is going to die in the summer heat but it seems clear that this particular fantasy of theirs isn't going to happen - not by a longshot.
There is to be a press conference today to launch the initiative - I'll keep you posted.


G20 PEOPLE'S INVESTIGATION

We are calling on the public to come forward with photos, video, and eye witness accounts of police violence against civilians during the G20 summits in Toronto. This evidence will be used to ensure that there are consequences for all those who beat and injured people, and for the masterminds who conspired to plan and give orders for the widespread police violence and repression that was experienced by thousands on the streets.
Can you identify these violent thugs?
Look at the images here. If you can identify one of these police officers, please emailg20policeviolence@gmail.com
Did you come in contact with the police or witnessed a police violence incident?
Please fill out this form and share widely with friends and networks. We know that 1,090 people were arrested and at least 275 were charged and are hoping to gain accounts of everyone of those as well as the intense violence that took place that did not result in formal arrests.
Do you have photographs of Police Violence?
You can share images through two ways:
  1. Email pictures to g20PoliceViolence@gmail.com (Will not be shared unless you give us permission to do so)
  2. If you've uploaded images on Flickr, please tag them #G20PoliceViolence
Do you have videos of Police Violence?
You can share images through two ways:
  1. Email videos or links to videos to g20PoliceViolence@gmail.com (Will not be shared unless you give us permission to do so)
  2. If you've uploaded images on YouTube, please tag them #G20PoliceViolence
If you would like to stay in touch, please add your email address to the mailing list (Scroll down on the tool bar to the right)

Crumbs For Solar, Feasts For Big Oil



The BP oil disaster is almost, but not quite, no really we're almost there, plugged. But even if it's stopped tomorrow, thousands of species of life face extinction in the Gulf, and wetlands and shoreline ecosystems are perhaps doomed for generations to come. Now would perhaps be a good time to review US energy policy.
Well, it seems that the Obama Administration is pro-active as always, acting with the same determination that sent 35,000 extra troops to Afghanistan in a surge that will maybe, possibly, or maybe not, end in 2011. Just recently Obama announced a series of loan guarantees totalling $2 billion to two solar power companies to build manufacturing plants and a solar-steam electricity plant.
Two billion dollars for solar power might seem like a lot of money, until you consider that, according to a recent NY Times article, tax breaks to the oil industry average about $4 billion per year.  Yet another environmental news source claims that tax breaks and subsidies were even larger.
During the fiscal years of 2002-2008 the United States handed out subsidies to fossil fuel industries to a tune of 72 billion dollars, while renewable energy subsidies, during the same period, reached 29 billion dollars...
The funds provided to renewable energy sources plunges further when one takes into account that of the 29 billion dollars, 16.8 billion went to subsidizing corn-based ethanol, an energy source that numerous studies have shown is not carbon neutral and has been blamed in part for deforestation in the tropics and the global food crisis. The remaining 12.2 billion went to wind, solar, non-corn based biofuels and biomass, hydropower, and geothermal energy production.
In other words, the US government spent six times the amount on direct subsidies to the oil industry than it spent on solar, wind, etc. Frankly, the authors ought to have removed all biofuels and biomass, which are of dubious value in reducing carbon concentration in the atmosphere. But more than that, this doesn't take into account government spending on roads, subsidies to the auto industry that aren't tied to producing carbon neutral vehicles, subsidies for suburban real estate developments that encourage a high carbon economy, etc. Never mind the $700 billion that is spent on the world's greatest polluter - the US military machine.
Put next to this, Obama's $2 billion loan to two companies looks like what it is, pocket change in return for a photo-op while doing nothing to prevent a future filled with more deepwater oil disasters as companies are forced further out to sea to tap into undepleted petroleum reserves.
A good place to start sending a message if you're an American is here. Here in Canada we have the slow motion BP spill known as the Alberta Tar Sands. You can find more information here and here.
Meanwhile, here's a video of some of the destruction wrought by BP:

G20 Cop: "If One Of Those Bubbles Touches Me, It's Assault"

Now that's what I call zero a tolerance policing model. Thank goodness that cop didn't have a taser.

Democracy: A Waste of Taxpayers Money

The Public Safety and National Security Committee met yesterday to debate setting up an inquiry into the decision-making that led to the G20 debacle. Unfortunately, the Conservatives on the committee prevented a vote being taken on the motion at hand by talking out the allotted time. Besides suggesting that any kind of public accountability would simply give a forum to "thugs and hooligans" they also suggested that accountability is just too darn expensive.
During Monday’s debate, the government side argued it would be premature to undertake a study and a waste of taxpayers money to hold hearings during the summer while MPs are supposed to be working in their constituencies."
Would it cost as much, say, as a $2 billion Summit in the biggest urban centre in the country? Or perhaps the problem is that the money would be used to spread anarchy since the NDP "seems to be lining itself up with anarchist groups" like Amnesty International and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, according to Tory MP Dean Del Mastro. Well, we certainly wouldn't want the government to spend money on anything that might cause anarchy.

MacLeans Magazine Is Right! Lock Up The Thugs!




Democracy makes MacLeans froth like a dog

I never thought I'd say that I agreed with that bile-oozing catalogue of demagogic, Tory-fellating asininery that is meant to be our version of Time Magazine. These toads give new meaning to trollness. That's why I was surprised to find myself in total agreement with this week's front cover title - "Lock them up: Why the G20 thugs don’t deserve any leniency - Canada"
Dammit, they're right. Those G20 thugs should be locked up and the key thrown away. Why just last week the US military killed a bunch of people in Afghanistan. And Harper spent $2 billion to host these miserable cretins, including the oppressors of Tibet (China), the blood-soaked British Empire (retired), and the god-awful French who still find time to keep their claws into parts of Africa, not to mention treating their own North African population like utter shite. Never mind that France, the US and Canada played an important role in deposing Jean Bertrande Aristide, the democratically elected president of Haiti, in order to replace him with death squads backed up by Canadian and UN troops - who committed a massacre in 2005 in Cite Soleil. These thugs came out of this summit with the plan to impose austerity (read: layoffs, tax breaks for the rich and massive service cuts for the rest of us) on the majority of the world's population. I mean, what would you call any group of people who lash out uncontrollably, leaving death and destruction in their wake - sociopath, perhaps but thugs will do for me.
Oh, wait. I misunderstood the article. MacLeans meant that WE are the thugs. Shee-it, what was I thinking?
"Only the professionalism and preparedness of police prevented circumstances from being much worse. Rather than an inquiry, we need further police effort to ensure every one of those lawless thugs is brought to justice."
Ha ha ha. Are these guys serious? They must have been drunk when they wrote this. Or, embarrassingly, it was written by some boob who'd only managed to catch Christie Blatchford's trollish and dubious take on events. Somebody ought to tell this writer, after all, that the government spent $1 billion on security, had 20,000 cops on the scene, and had infiltrated the main anarchist organization for over a year, and was therefore in on all the plans. If that's preparedness, then the bar has been set pretty low. But having ensured us that no matter what fuck-up the cops engaged in we were clearly hallucinating it or missing the point, the editorial dismisses the complaints arising from the largest mass arrest in Canadian history:

"It’s possible many of those arrested for breach of the peace were not directly involved in any violence. But they were released in a matter of hours. Canadians’ constitutional rights have survived the ordeal unscathed."
Let's see, 1000+ arrested, less than 20 charged with any offences. That's a charge rate of 2% - or rather, a failure rate of 98%. And given that the cops failed to do what they received $1 billion to do, the fact that they compounded that failure by suspending the civil liberties of everybody, doesn't reflect well on their, you know, preparedness. But, again, this utter failure to achieve any aims that one could regard as reasonable goals in the present circumstances - to permit business and normal life to continue uninterrupted by the G20 circus, to permit the citizenry to exercise their constitutionally enshrined right to express a dissenting an opinion - doesn't seem to disturb MacLeans Magazine, which fulminates that "whatever steps the police took to prevent [the black bloc from disrupting the Summit] were both necessary and welcome."
That's a pretty big blank cheque when, given the 5 metre high fences and 20,000 cops on parade - along with all the toys that the boys in blue love, from helicopters to sound cannons - there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that anyone was getting anywhere near the Summit. All the cops had to do was sit side-by-side at the fence, sipping tea, and poking through the holes with a stick every now and again and nobody would have made it over, let alone inside the Convention Centre. The truth is MacLeans has a deeper agenda at play here and it is one that ought to chill our spines if these cockroaches ever got the reins of power.
"The protection of free speech and assembly can only exist when there is proper respect for the rule of law. Legitimate protest acknowledges the existence of state authority while providing a different point of view. "
This idea that the citizenry must exist in a state of servitude to the state, accepting its authority no matter what, is frighteningly reminiscent of fascist ideology. What if the state is corrupt or serving interests other than your own? Should Nelson Mandela have "acknowledged the existence of state authority"? How about protesters during the Vietnam War? Or those who fought against the laws of the Canadian state that prohibited access to abortion - or criminalized homosexuality? Clearly, MacLeans either hasn't thought through the madness that they doth preach or someone should give them a very basic lesson in the precepts of democratic rule, in which the state exists to serve the sovereign people and not the other way around. Or perhaps they know full well what those precepts are and are just honest about their view of the role of those of us who can only access power through mass mobilizations. Our role is to shut up or face the justifiable consequences.
Crypto-fascist kookery aside, the MacLeans article is like a sad, over-told joke, proclaiming as has been done again and again that "the global protest movement appears to be losing steam." What are they talking about? The anti-capitalist movement that had it debutante ball at the Seattle protests in 1999? Somebody ought to update these guys on the history of the last ten years. It's been rather tumultuous what with multiple wars, both those that Canada has participated in and those that we have supported - like Israel's thrashing against anything and anyone who might have a problem with genocide. The cycle of mobilizations has certainly seen its ups and downs, such is always the case. But with the conflicts that mobilized people not ending. With growing anger at Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and their supporters int he wake of last year's invasion of Gaza and the more recent aid flotilla slaughter. And with the bewilderment and bitterness that the economic disaster of global capitalism is causing, it is hardly the case that the "global protest movement" is going away. With general strikes rocking Europe and with 25,000 marching in Toronto - the largest mobilization since 2003 - if anything there is a renewed vigour. In any case, none of us need worry about our civil rights or the issues of the day, the important thing is that the G20 leaders agreed a consensus on what next.
At the end of the day, debate over street violence, protest and police ought to be secondary to the summit’s practical achievements. And the G20 summit did conclude on a note worthy of some optimism: a pledge to cut government deficits in half by 2013. While this only applies to the most advanced economies within the G20, it is still a step in the right direction. Bringing the world’s major economies back to fiscal balance is crucial to closing the book on the Great Recession.
This is a fitting closure to an obtuse and delusional editorial. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman and others have noted, implementing austerity when the economy is still such a mess is merely a recipe for an even deeper recession, perhaps depression. The threat at the moment isn't inflation generated by too much deficit spending. It is deflation, particularly in the face of a dramatic shrinking of money supply by reining in government spending. The Japanese could teach us a few things in this department, having done the same thing back in the 90s, causing what became known as "The Lost Decade". In a recent NY Times article Krugman argued that there have been two major Depressions in the past 150 years and that we are entering into a third. And this Depression will be the result of foolish economic policy, ie. imposed austerity at a time when stimulation is necessary. Claims that the crisis in Greece or Ireland demonstrate the need to slash and burn public services, pensions and wages are not rooted in reality, but in a destructive dogma.
I don’t think this is really about Greece, or indeed about any realistic appreciation of the tradeoffs between deficits and jobs. It is, instead, the victory of an orthodoxy that has little to do with rational analysis, whose main tenet is that imposing suffering on other people is how you show leadership in tough times.
And who will pay the price for this triumph of orthodoxy? The answer is, tens of millions of unemployed workers, many of whom will go jobless for years, and some of whom will never work again.
To my way of thinking, people who deliberately inflict pain on others to demonstrate who is in charge is the very definition of thug. And yes, MacLeans, I agree: these thugs ought to be hunted down and brought to justice. Let's start with you.

Rich Default On Mortgages At Higher Rate Than Workers

Well, this New York Times article is interesting, given the dominant narrative that says it was the poor who caused the economic crisis by getting in over their heads with home borrowing. Seems that the wealthy are defaulting at higher rates. But then why should it only be workers who were affected by the entire dynamic of debt-driven economic growth that generated the boom of the first decade of this century? The entire logic of the boom that went bust in 2008 was based upon excessive borrowing and it was facilitated and encouraged by the US government, through the Federal Reserve Bank under the leadership of Alan Greenspan. In particular, following the dot-com bust at the end of the 90's, he pursued a strategy of rock bottom interest rates and a super-easy money supply that saved the economy from a recession at that time by encouraging the development of a housing bubble. For the poor, it was an opportunity to own a home. For the wealthy, it was an opportunity to own a massive home. But, as the article in the Times points out, the poor and middle income generally do what they can to hang onto their homes, while the rich are more likely to see them as a real estate investment that they let go without undo sentiment.
"Whether it is their residence, a second home or a house bought as an investment, the rich have stopped paying the mortgage at a rate that greatly exceeds the rest of the population.
More than one in seven homeowners with loans in excess of a million dollars are seriously delinquent, according to data compiled for The New York Times by the real estate analytics firm CoreLogic.
By contrast, homeowners with less lavish housing are much more likely to keep writing checks to their lender. About one in 12 mortgages below the million-dollar mark is delinquent.
Though it is hard to prove, the CoreLogic data suggest that many of the well-to-do are purposely dumping their financially draining properties, just as they would any sour investment.
“The rich are different: they are more ruthless,” said Sam Khater, CoreLogic’s senior economist."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Israeli Soldiers Destroy Palestinian Playground & Garden

And some people wonder why Israel is an international pariah. Here IDF soldiers guard a Caterpiller bulldozer as it plows under a children's playground to make way for the Apartheid Wall back in April. Stunning. As the father of a little girl who loves to go to the playground and play on the slide and the swings, I found the imagery particularly upsetting. The sooner this is ended the better.

Israel Exonerates Israel in Flotilla Massacre - But It Won't Stop Global Backlash


You've got to hand it to the Israeli government when it comes to chutzpah. They refuse to permit any independent inquiry into their massacre of nine humanitarian aid activists in international waters. Their own "inquiry" has reached the stunning conclusion that the only criticism that should be directed at the operation is that they weren't prepared for the potential for violence.
The report, however, praised the commandos who took part in the operation, saying they were justified in opening fire and killing nine people after being confronted by violent pro-Palestinian activists aboard one of the ships.
Huh? So, let me get this straight - commandos illegally board your ship, firing live rounds from the air and the sea and if you resist this violent assault then you are a "violent pro-Palestinian activist"? I shudder to think what a "better" planned assault would look like: drop a bomb and sink the ship outright?
Well, this bogus inquiry might soothe consciences in Israel where the population is used to killing innocents by the boatload to justify the theft of land from the locals. But in the rest of the world there are a significant number of people prepared to call "bullshit" on such a farce. As Phyllis Bennis, a widely read commentator on US foreign policy notes:
The ferocity of the massacre on the Mavi Marmara has forced even reluctant U.S. allies to criticize Israeli policy, some for the first time. For some countries, the reaction has been exceptionally strong. Turkey, responding to the murders on board the Turkish-flagged ship, withdrew its ambassador from Israel and announced a reduction in overall military and trade relations. Turkish President Abdullah Gul stated that "from now on, Turkish-Israeli ties will never be the same. The incident has left a deep and irreparable scar." Turkey then issued three demands to Israel as the price for restoring normal relations: apologize for the raid, organize an independent investigation, and significantly, to lift the blockade of Gaza. Losing or even diminishing Israel's longstanding relations with NATO's only Muslim-majority country, ties that included access to water, joint military exercises and a ready market for military exports, will have serious consequences for Tel Aviv...
NATO has yet to respond, but Turkey is reported to be considering a request to the NATO High Command to answer Israel's act of war against the Turkish-flagged ship with an act of collective defense as required under the NATO charter.
Even within the US establishment itself, Israel is increasingly seen as a problem, rather than a useful ally. According to this article in Palestine Monitor:
It [is] not surprising therefore to read that the Chief of the Mossad told the Knesset as recently as June 2010: “For the US, we have ceased to be an asset and become a burden.”
The effect of this growing pressure on Israel, and the growing momentum of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign is creating an atmosphere of frustration inside Israel, with the Israeli government proposing a new raft of laws meant to punish any Israeli professors who support the BDS campaign. Rather than squelching the campaign, it has instead drawn more people into opposition to the government's heavy-handed response.
And while there is a bunker mentality forming amongst a significant portion of the population, others are instead critical of the government for not ending the occupation. If the BDS campaign gains further momentum and begins to seriously impact the Israeli economy and visible cultural events and production, it will become clear to ever wider swathes of the Israeli population that the Occupation must end. It's clear that as much as the Israeli government wants to hand-wave and outright lie about what happened on the Mavi Marmara, it has only increased the international opposition and isolation of Israel.
Israeli campaigners believe the Gaza flotilla incident represents a tipping point in raising support for boycotts. Musicians including Elvis Costello, Gil Scott Heron and the Pixies have cancelled shows in Israel. Hollywood actors also snubbed Jerusalem's international film festival and internationally acclaimed writers have supported the BDS movement, which is gaining support in dozens of countries.
In early June, George Galloway announced that Viva Palestina, which was central to the last flotilla, will organize another, more massive convoy from both land and sea. The goal is to have 60 ships and 500 vehicles, including cars, trucks and buses. The convoy and flotilla will set out on Sunday, September 12. The world will be watching.

G20: Star Reporter Asks Obvious Question About Cop Infiltration

Could it be that someone in the media finally noticed the rather obvious point that if the cops had infiltrated the so-called violent anarchists for a year why couldn't they have prevented all the window smashing and cop car burning that happened during the G20 summit? Not to mention the 20,000 cops hanging around causing a city donut shortage.

Delays are excruciating for parents of G20 accused - thestar.com:
"At their court appearance on June 26, Crown Attorney Vincent Paris told the Star’s Francine Kopun the four are allegedly executives of SOAR. Paris said they were arrested as a result of an ongoing police investigation that began in April 2009. He alleged the group had a list of targets, including Metro Hall, City Hall, banks, Goldman Sachs, The Bay and the U.S., Russian and Indian consulates.

The joint investigation, carried out by the RCMP, the OPP, Toronto police and others, involved two undercover agents infiltrating groups in Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo and Toronto.

The infiltration raises an obvious question: If undercover agents knew so much about the plans of the groups that allegedly orchestrated the violence, how come thousands of police on the streets of Toronto couldn’t prevent it?"

BP Oil Disaster May Destroy Planet Earth!




After the Apocalypse, everyone will have tattoos 
on their faces and funny haircuts


Hey everyone, welcome to Monday! So, thanks to David Eng I was turned on to this article that is, like, totally freaky. You see, the BP oil disaster isn't just an environmental crime of gargantuan proportions and the latest strong argument for breaking our killer oil habit. It's also releasing the world's biggest fart and that fart is going to send methane gas across the world, leading to big, freaking explosions that cook us all. THE END IS NIGH! If you hate your job and your boss, now would be a good time to tell him/her to stick that compulsory overtime up their ass and to pour some sugar in their gas tank. What are they gonna do, fire you? Ha! We'll all be roast goose in a couple of days and then who'll have the last laugh? According to Terrence Aym this particular cook-out has happened a couple of times before in our earth's checkered past and the result: global wipe-out city, Biblical-style.
251 million years ago a mammoth undersea methane bubble caused massive explosions, poisoned the atmosphere and destroyed more than 96 percent of all life on Earth. Experts agree that what is known as the Permian extinction event was the greatest mass extinction event in the history of the world.
55 million years later another methane bubble ruptured causing more mass extinctions during the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum (LPTM).
The LPTM lasted 100,000 years. [3]
Those subterranean seas of methane virtually reshaped the planet when they explosively blew from deep beneath the waters of what is today called the Gulf of Mexico.
Now, worried scientists are increasingly concerned the same series of catastrophic events that led to worldwide death back then may be happening again-and no known technology can stop it.
The bottom line: BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling operation may have triggered an irreversible, cascading geological Apocalypse that will culminate with the first mass extinction of life on Earth in many millions of years.
Bummer. So much for that vacation I've been saving up for, now we're all gonna be dead and there won't be any fish in the lake where we rented that cottage. One more reason to hate BP - apocalyptic pricks.
But seriously, while this Terrence Aym dude is a crank - with a writing portfolio full of articles on "Bizarre UFO sightings", time travel, and the "Coming sun storms [that] could slam USA into 'Greatest Depression'" - and that makes this article just shy of funny a la The Onion, it's also annoying. Why? Because it contributes to the kind of anti-intellectual fervour that is the foundation stone of contemporary American culture and which writes off important and urgent truths, like climate change. I'm all for a good joke and for taking the piss out of most things but this isn't being pitched as a joke and there's nothing worse than a joke that isn't meant to be a joke. Not only because it makes guys like me who try to be funny feel a sense of shame that we've been unintentionally outdone by an idiot but because it delegitimizes the subject at hand. "You're just like the Weekly World News with that BP spill is the end of the world stuff." "Ha ha, yeah sure, we're all gonna die." Well, maybe we're not all gonna die and the world isn't about to release a cosmically huge, wet fart but a lot of sea animals are dying because of BP, and a lot of people are having their livelihoods and lives destroyed all along the Gulf coast. Because of this seemingly unstoppable debacle, the world's oceans are one step further down death row, as this article in Wired Magazine notes:
According to a simulation of planetary warming trends, failure to drastically cut greenhouse gas pollution within the next half century could choke Earth’s oceans for the next 100,000 years.
With warmer temperatures reducing its ability to absorb oxygen, much of the water would become barren and lifeless. Oceanic food chains could be profoundly disrupted.
"What mankind does for the next several decades will play a large role in climate on Earth over the next tens of thousands of years," said geochemist Gary Shaffer of the University of Copenhagen.
And even if this total disaster is avoided, climate change will kill millions of people as a result of shifting weather patterns and extreme weather events, primarily in the developing world. And that apocalyptic vision is well-researched by real scientists - and it ain't no joke. Nor is it a joke that crazy, flat-earthers, supported by the Wall Street Journal et al are still beating the tocsin claiming that there's nothing to worry about - except for climate journals that won't accept there articles. If you follow the WSJ link, the author is a guy named Patrick Michaels who makes his bacon by attacking the climate change thesis. In fact, he scooped up a handy $100,000 from an electric company that has a vested interest in opposing carbon caps. He's also a fellow at the right wing Cato Institute and was described as follows by the policy director of the Office of Science and Technology:
"He has published little if anything of distinction in the professional literature, being noted rather for his shrill op-ed pieces and indiscriminate denunciations of virtually every finding of mainstream climate science."
Notwithstanding that Michaels is a shill for big coal and flat-earther extraordinaire, noted by other climate scientists for misrepresentation and misinterpretation, if you read his article you will see what I mean about the attempt by the powers-that-be to dismiss real and solid science.
Boy, I think maybe I started the day a little grumpy. And now I've probably ruined your Monday too. To make it better I still recommend you tell your boss to stick the compulsory overtime up their ass - though perhaps you want to use an untraceable e-mail address. And maybe hold off on the sugar - we know how dangerous anarchists are treated.
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