Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Random Note from a Random Day

It seems strangely symbolic that a landmark of Canadian history and culture, The Hudson’s Bay Co. is being sold to an American on the same day that Stephen Harper announces when his swearing in will be. Another bastion of Canadiana falls to the perpetually encroaching peril of American economic Imperialism as Harper prepares to move us closer to the US politically and ideologically.
Interestingly, Washington’s stooge in Ottawa, Ambassador David Wilkins had something to say about some of Harper’s plans to establish a Canadian military presence in the high Arctic. Wilkins said, “We don't recognize Canada's claims to those waters... Most other countries do not recognize their claim... We have agreed to disagree, and there's no reason ... to say, 'There's a problem that's occurring and we gotta do something about it.'”
(Why is it that when the US believes it must stand up for its security, it becomes a major cause celebre that must be dealt with, leading to nasty things like wars, invasions, and illegal import duties. But when other countries want to assert their sovereign rights and security, somehow to America it becomes a minor issue just to be forgotten about. Your security is a non-issue to us. But I digress.)
With this sort of public rebuke, one would have thought that Jean Chrétien was still Prime Minister.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Imperial Ambitions

So I lay in bed this morning finishing the latest Noam Chomsky book: Imperial Ambitions-Conversations on the Post 9-11 World. This is another in the series of books based around Chomsky's conversations with David Barsamian, where the conversation is transcribed, edited by Chomsky, footnotes are added, and the whole is then published. I've read a number of books by NC over the last couple of years (what, a dozen or more?) and this one has to be the most angry one I've read. Which, considering that NC persistently takes the most neutral-sounding tones when saying the most outrageous things about the Amerikan Empire, is really saying something.

The United States is basically what's called a “failed state.” It has formal democratic institutions, but they barely function.”(page 198). This is just one of the casual comments that NC tosses off that really is the result of an amazing rejection of the cultural conditioning and propaganda that an Amerikan citizen is subjected to. It is clear that Amerika is a failed democracy when you are not an Amerikan citizen—in fact, NC suggests that it might be nice if Amerika could achieve the democratic advancement of Brazil, or maybe Haiti, as both countries have managed to elect leaders who are clearly not members of the ruling elite (Aristide in Haiti, and Lula in Brazil). That outside/foreign observers where in place to monitor the last presidential elections speaks volumes for the sad state of Amerikan democracy.

That Amerikan democracy has failed so badly, even with the unprecedented commitment to free speech and right of assembly that Amerikans have, is astonishing. Chomsky attributes much of this failure to the development of propaganda under such people as Walter Lippmann (credited with the phrase “manufacturing consent”) and Edward Bernays (who said that “the more intelligent members of the community can direct the population through “the engineering of consent,” which he considered “the very essence of the democratic process”).

“It's interesting to look back at the 1920s, when the public relations industry really began. This was the period of Taylorism in industry, when workers were being trained to become robots and every single motion was controlled and regulated. Taylorism created highly efficient industry, with human beings being turned into automata. The Bolsheviks were very impressed with Taylorism, too, and tried to duplicate it, as did others throughout the world. But the thought-control experts soon realized that you could not only what was called “on-job control” but also “off-job control.” It's a fine phrase. Off-job control means turning people into robots in every part of their lives by inducing a “philosophy of futility,” focusing people on “the superficial things of life, like fashionable consumption.” Let the people who are supposed to run the show do so without any interference from the mass of the population, who have no business in the public arena. And from that idea grew enormous industries, ranging from advertising to universities, all very consciously committed to the belief that you must control attitudes and opinions, because the people are otherwise just too dangerous.

Actually, there are good constitutional sources for this view of the public. The founding of the country [Amerika] was based on the Madisonian principle that the people are just too dangerous: power has to be in the hands of what Madison called “the wealth of the nation,” people who respect property and its rights and are willing to “protect the minority of the opulent against the majority,” which has to be fragmented somehow.” (pp. 21-22)

All of which lends support to my feeling that democracy is not only in deep trouble, but is an ongoing and unfinished revolution in world affairs. Thus my support for the right of Quebecois to decide on separation. Not that I support Quebec separatism (in fact I figure that the leaders of the BQ and PQ are evil and cynical opportunists using the above techniques for their own ends at the expense of the citizenry of Quebec). But I do support the right of people to decide on how they shall be ruled. Hell, Rome reserved the right to elect a tyrant for a set term of office(even though it usually went very badly when they did...).

This is one of the greatest crimes of the Bush II administration; not their disdain for democracy—that has been bog standard for Amerika for at least the last century. It's that they've gone completely rogue, destroying the international structures that were actually working to reduce conflict worldwide, that were actually increasing self-determination in wildly diverse populations about the globe. Chile is slowly managing to bring sociopathic monster Augusto Pinochet to trial—hopefully before he dies and the point becomes moot. Hugo Chávez respects the reactionary courts in his country and does not prosecute the military officers who participated in the Amerikan-backed coup against his democratically elected government. Even South Africa, where the ANC managed to most amazing transition of power with a minimum of violence and recrimination.

One can't even imagine such a shift of power in Amerika. Or respect for the law like in Chile and Venezuela. Amerika, and this is mentioned in Imperial Ambitions, is a nation that is extremely susceptible to fear. And pretty much every time it's a fear of a group or population upon whose neck the Amerikan boot is pretty firmly placed. The destroyed, militarily insignificant Iraq, Panama, Nicaragua, Grenada. Each of these in turn has been seen (and sold) as a terrific threat to Amerika, a dagger pointed at its heart. And it has never been true, but the Amerikan public buys it—or at least enough to allow the jackboots of the Amerikan military to be planted on foreign soil.

So what to do, what to do. The answers are fairly simple—and fairly complex. But it all boils down to organize. Locally into small affinity groups, unions, discussion circles. Nationally into demanding our political parties begin respecting the democratic will of the people (a tricky balancing act, admittedly. Too nationalistic and the air raid sirens will be going off in Canada next). And internationally to continue organizing structures of law that will hold all imperial ambitions in check. So, you know, not really anything much has to be done....

Imperial Ambitions

Conversations on the

Post-9/11 World

Interviews with

David Barsamian

Metropolitan Books, 2005

Henry Holt and Company, New York

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Election Survey

Due to the fact that I am part of a marketing panel, I often get invited to participate in online surveys. This time it was MacLean's Canada 20/20 panel all on the upcoming election, plus I could win $500 for every survey I completed and possibly $1,000 if I completed all 8. Not bad I thought and my opinions would be used in articles for MacLean's. I completed all 7 with the 8th to be done a few days after the election. Tonight, January 26 I completed the 8th. Most of the questions were did I vote?; who did I vote for?; why did I vote for that party?; choosing a few statements such as strongly agree, somewhat agree, etc. Why did I find Mr. Harper scary? I replied that anyone who would sell us to the States, would put women "in their place" and is in the same part as Mr. Day is scary to me. The questions then turned to health care -- I'm worried; how I felt about health care in my province - dissatisfied; how I felt about the provincial government -- greatly dissatisfied; and so on. Pretty standard questions, pretty dull really.....until this one came up on the screen. This one that made me laugh...this one that I just had to share....

Do you have a strongly favourable, somewhat favourable, neutral, somewhat unfavourable, or very unfavourable impression, or have you not heard of Gordon Campbell?
Please select one response only.
Strongly favourable

Somewhat favourable


Somewhat unfavourable

Strongly unfavourable

Do not recognize the name

This question is even funnier when you think that even the police in Hawaii have heard of Gordon Campbell!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Trembling in Tremblant, Vacillating in Vancouver

So the world didn't end, the sun came up the next day and all, while not exactly right with the world, is at least in some kind of balance. The Liberals didn't implode, the Conservatives don't dominate, the Bloc is fragmenting, and the Greens hold on to a solid share of the vote (albeit <5%).
Harper is looking to bring in Meech and Charletown without taking it to the people (yeah, it's in the platform they released during the campaign). These changes might be enough to stunt separatist feeling in Quebec--but then, they might not. Increased provincial control--and the right to send representatives from Quebec to international organizations--reps with powers and standing on par with the federal Canadian rep--may well serve to feed the belief that Quebec really is a country. And frankly, it's not. It is only one of three founders of Canada, and would turn into Louisiana within two generations were they to separate. But cold reason never affected nationalist feeling, did it? If it did, Canadians wouldn't still believe that we are a sovereign nation....
Frankly it is way past time for a democratic revolution in this country. There is some whining that the three major urban areas denied the Conservatives their victory. Get over it; those three urban areas hold over half the citizens of this country.
Canadians progressively vote more and more on issues rather than for parties: Conservative policies and issues just don't resonate with enough Canadians at this point. And when we look south at how their policies would play out, we run pretty scared. But we don't vote for anyone. Rather, we vote for those we feel would do the least harm. Look for Harper to try the same propaganda attack used by the Americans--raise the fear level and offer yourself as a simple solution to the invented threat. I don't really expect it to work--after all it didn't work during Meech and Charletown--but I do expect it to be tried. Well, it might be democracy, but it is a pretty shabby version of it.....

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Swing to the Right

Stephen Harper should enjoy his moment in the sun. For a guy who’s the next Prime Minister, his government is not in a good spot.
His minority is more tenuous than the previous Liberal government. Consider that Harper’s Conservatives won fewer seats than Martin’s Liberals won in the previous election. Clearly, Harper was hoping for a majority and major breakthroughs in Ontario and Quebec. Heck, he did worse than even I thought he would. While there was some progress for them in Quebec, the Liberals held a lot of their ground in Ontario, winning the popular vote there and denying Harper his majority.
In fact the Conservatives won no seats in the country’s three biggest urban centers, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. There’s a decidedly urban/rural split to the Conservative vote. Could this be the start of a deep American-style polarization?
The Liberals showed surprising strength considering they ran a bad campaign and were plagued by scandals. While they suffered in Quebec, they fared better than expected. And thanks to Martin’s resignation, the Liberals will have a new leader facing Harper, possibly making Harper look like yesterday’s news.
The Bloc suffered the most. Expecting to do well, they lost seats and votes. Worse for them, the Tories established themselves as a federalist alternative in Quebec, and with the defeat of the Liberals, the Bloc’s biggest campaign issues, the Liberal party scandals in Quebec, are now off the table.
Even the NDP had some bad news to go with their good showing. Despite gaining a number of seats, they fell two seats short of holding the balance of power.
Where can Harper hope to gain support in the inevitable 2007 election? He won the West; the only place he can gain support is in Ontario and Quebec, and when he starts sucking up to Central Canada, he’ll lose the West. It’s a time-honoured Tory tradition. As Hugh Segal noted on the CBC last night, “When the Liberals are in power, the West votes Conservative. When the Conservatives are in power, the West forms a new party.” Both the Reform and the Bloc Québécois were born out of the self-destruction of the last Conservative government. (And let’s also remember that the last Conservative government, possibly the most corrupt government in Canadian history, ran, like Harper, on being fiscally responsible and promptly had a decade’s worth of the largest deficits in this country has ever seen. But I digress.)
Stephen Harper could be the 21st century version of Joe Clark, a brief Tory minority while the Liberals re-invent themselves. In order to win central Canada, he will have to stick to Ontario-friendly progressive issues (whatever few the Tories have) and abandon (or postpone) the more contentious right wing nut case items of his agenda. Even if Harper wins a majority next time, his days are numbered. He will continue to pander to central Canada as he must to maintain power, the West will feel alienated and the Conservative coalition will implode like it always does, setting the stage for another generation of Liberal rule. For good or ill, it is the natural order of things.
And Harper isn't helping himself by saying things like he “will start rebuilding this country.” Memo to the PM: the country isn't broken.
Does it need some tweaking some adjusting? Sure. It does not need rebuilding.
If Harper thinks he has a mandate for massive social change, he is woefully mistaken. He barely has a mandate to change the stationary.
Obviously, Canadians were weary of giving Harper a full mandate. They remember that if Harper had been PM three years ago, we’d be trapped in a dumb and awful war.
Canadians wanted to spank the Liberals. And they did. They also did not want to give Harper and his neo-con cronies free reign to run the country. And they didn’t.
There’s not a lot of good news to go around after last night’s election. Perhaps the worst news of all is that Stockwell Day might actually be prime material for a cabinet post.

Rep by Pop vs. First Past the Post

If Canada had a 100% Rep by Pop electoral system, last night's election results would have looked something like this:

124 seats (actual results) vs 111 seats (rep by pop)
103 seats (actual results) vs 92 seats (rep by pop)
Bloc Québécois:
51 seats (actual results) vs 32 seats (rep by pop)
29 seats (actual results) vs 59 seats (rep by pop)
0 seats (actual results) vs 14 seats (rep by pop)

Monday, January 23, 2006

A Modest Tax Proposal

There's been a lot of talk in this campaign about cutting the GST and/or cutting Income Tax. Which is fairer? Which helps out low and middle income Canadians the most?
Let me offer my own modest tax proposal -- let's scrap income tax and raise the GST.
Now before anyone calls the looney tuner on me, consider these numbers:

Canadian Government Fiscal 2004 Revenue
GST $28,200,000,000
Income Tax $84,800,000,000
Corporate Tax $27,400,000,000

Note that the GST revenue is almost exactly one third the amount of income tax revenue. So scrapping income tax and raising the GST from 7% to 28% would be revenue neutral.
Yes, 28% is a whopping tax to spend on purchases, but on the other hand there would no income tax deductions off my paycheque. For me personally, that's a savings of around $350 a month. Suddenly, my idea doesn't seem so wacky now, does it?

The GST is strictly a voluntary tax. It automatically taxes an individual based on the taxpayer's ability to pay. For instance:
- a rich person might spend $4000 on a wide-screen HD TV. That's $1120 in tax.
- a middle-class person might spend $1500 on an LCD TV. $420 in tax.
- a lower-income person might spend $500 on the last of the tube TVs. $140 in tax.

Clearly, there are some problems with my idea. Low-income Canadians who pay little or no income tax are not going to benefit from this scheme, so some sort of equalizing payment would have to be developed.
And rich people, some of whom will do anything to avoid paying taxes, will undoubtedly try to import goods from other countries to avoid the new GST.

But in fact, higher income earners should love the new GST. The higher the income bracket, the bigger the income tax savings.
And imagine the other savings. Imagine a vastly downsized CCRA, not spending money to track, compile and check tax returns.
No more income tax audits, and no more income tax forms. No more loopholes for smart accountants to exploit.

I think there's something here. Paul, Stephen, Jack... any comments?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

A Modest Electoral Reform Proposal

After watching all the Tweedledums and Tweedledumbers lo these last few weeks, I've concluded that Canada clearly needs some electoral reforms. To wit, I humbly offer these suggestions:

1. Whoever Wants to Be Prime Minister Should Be Automatically Barred From Seeking the Office
Clearly, the power associated with the office of a national leader attracts the wrong kind of people. One has to only look at our southerly neighbor to see the ultimate example.
Anyone who actually desires the office of Prime Minister is clearly not the sort of person we want running the country. As the famous philosopher Herman once noted: "The people capable of running the country are too smart to get into politics."
(And this goes along with the mood of most voters in the country. Very few actually want any of the current party leaders to be Prime Minister; either they feel they are left with little choice and must choose the lesser of four evils, or they are not voting for one party as they are voting against another one. I think we have to go back to the heady days of Trudeaumania to find the last time the Canadian populace was genuinely moved to vote for someone.)

2. MPs Should Be Chosen at Random from the General Population
To carry things one step further, anyone wants to be an MP should be barred from office. But then how would we choose our MPs? Via lottery. One citizen would be chosen at random from each riding.
This has the immediate benefit of a House of Commons that more closely represents and reflects the views of the national population.
For example: if 85% of Canadians are against the war in Iraq, it should work out that roughly 85% of our randomly-chosen MPs would be against the war.
If 52% of our population is female, then 52% of our MPs would be female.
If 4% of Canadians are lawyers, then the new House would only have 4% lawyers (as opposed to the 80% it seems we have now).
Parliament would resemble more of a municipal council or Territorial legislature, where various groups may form alliances for specific issues and votes, and a different set of alliances for a different set of issues. All votes would be free votes; there would no parties so no reason to vote along party lines.
Much like how the position of Speaker of the House is voted on by MPs, they would now also select MPs for Cabinet positions, including Prime Minister. (A single mother with two kids would be an excellent choice for finance minister. She would know how to balance the budget, as opposed to a millionaire business man who's so removed from real life that he's never in his life had to account for every cent. But I digress.)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

An Election? Really?

The other night I got a phonecall that showed up on my caller ID as being from a private number. I figured it was a mistake, but answered anyhow. A young woman replied to my polite "Hello?" by saying, "Hello, I'm from Joan Dinglefwap's office and we were wondering if we could count on your support on election day." "What party is she?," I asked. The young woman said, "Liberal." I promptly answered, with a bit of an edge to my voice, "No she may not!" The young woman, apparently fearing that she was about to be held responsible for all the peccadilloes of the Libertals, hastily thanked me and hung up.

While driving home last night, I was thinking about that conversation, and then I remembered the time when I was that young woman, twenty-odd years ago. As part of my Social Studies class in Alberta, we were required to spend some time helping in a political candidate's office, as there was an impending election and our teacher thought this would give us an excellent insight into the workings of politics.

So there I was, put to work by a bevy of middle-aged women. They politely directed me to take the phonebook and start calling, and to note beside each name what the response was. "Hello, I'm calling from PC Jim Floofbrane's office and I wondered if we can count on your support on election day."

Now, this was Alberta in the early 80s. Over and over, I heard "Yes," "Yes," "Yes". Then I came to one household where I went through my spiel to the man on the other end of the line. He said "What?" So I repeated my spiel. He said, "Ohhhh, I get it, you're calling from one of the political parties!" I allowed as how I was. He then said, "Well, hey! Like, this is an NDP household." I apologized promptly, but he said "Nah, nah, that's cool." I could almost hear him scratching his belly while he reached for another joint. Despite this unparalleled opportunity to discuss the Albertan anti-Christ, I too hastily thanked him and hung up. It was the only interesting thing worth reporting in my Social Studies essay.

Later the politician came in, and the ladies immediately flocked around him and began billing and cooing. I hadn't met him before, so he came over and introduced himself with one of those bone-crushing handshakes that politicians favour, while giving me an extremely sharp visual assessment at odds with his big grin. Then he dismissed as being of under voting age, and went back to flattering his faithful devotees. I did learn things about politics while working in that office, no question.

Then there was the time I worked for the Green Party in Victoria...but that's another essay.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Paper Tiger?

Faced with the occupation of Afghanistan, the colonization of Iraq, the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Haiti and the kidnap and forced expulsion of Aristide, and the triumphalist fascism of the Bush II White House, one could easily be lead to think that the New Amerikan Empire is an unstoppable juggernaut and that world domination is complete. But there is evidence that this may not be entirely true, and that what truth this position does hold may only be very short-term.

Amerika is facing the same problem the Roman Empire experienced; it's all well and good to have the most advanced, unstoppable killing machine the world has ever seen, but the cost of maintaining it simply overwhelms all other concerns. The breach of the New Orleans levees showed that the Bush regime neither cared about, nor was able to mobilize sufficient manpower to assist its own citizens. Amerika was compelled to accept help from outside its own borders to assist with the clean up and restoration of a city after a natural disaster.

True, this was not on the scale of the clean up of Indonesia after the tsunami, but Indonesia is a third-world country struggling with a violent secessionist movement and Amerika is supposed to be the most industrialized first-world country at the peak of its powers. Things are so bad in New Orleans that Hugo Chavez (the president of Venezuela) is pursuing a program of subsidising heating oil for the poor in the Amerikan south. I suspect that this is particularly galling for the Amerikan administration as they have already had Chavez overthrown once—but the Venezuelan military stayed onside with the democratically elected government and Chavez was re-installed as president, even calling and winning another election a few months after his ouster.

Events are spinning out of control for the Amerikan regime. Canada, quite possibly the most colonized democracy in the world and right on the Amerikan border, legalized same-sex marriages despite a major propaganda push by the Amerikan right. Focus on the Family, the mullahs of Denver, spent millions trying to mobilize enough support to stop the bill in the Canadian parliament, and failed. And although an Amerikan stalking-horse may be elected as the prime minister of Canada (Steven Harper—who got his start in the Reform Party which received funding and organizational expertise from the Amerikan right in the eighties), it looks as though he will only have a minority or slim majority to play with. Canadians, having been burned once by the Amerikan-dominated rule of the Mulroney Conservatives have no intention of giving another Amerikan sympathizer the keys to the kingdom.

In Colombia, the people have elected a native-born Colombian (a First Nations Colombian!) as president; a man dedicated to improving the lot of the poor and, more importantly, planning to legalize the production of coca. A little scary to think that Amerikan consumption of cocaine might be a problem best left handled in Amerika by Amerikans, rather than by the killing of Colombian peasants.

The biggest threat that Amerika faces these days is the steady push toward democracy by the peoples of the world. Despite its claims to the contrary, Amerika has, during the twentieth century, consistently opposed and overthrown emerging democracies around the world, preferring to install and support the most evil dictatorships in order to protect Amerikan corporate interests. The black humour of the situation is how those same corporations have systematically stripped Amerika and internationalized that wealth, and become stateless rather than Amerikan. The numbers show the progressive decline of economic mobility in Amerika over the last three to four decades, showing that the Amerikan Dream (anyone can become rich in Amerika! It's what you do, not who you are!) has been hollowed out, leaving only a thin, propaganda-supported shell.

But worse is the environmental over-reach evident in Amerika. Amerika cannot continue without empire, as their environmental load has exceeded the countries carrying capacity. Amerika cannot leave Iraq—without Iraq it has no control over oil. Saudi Arabia faces internal dissent and keeps funding those damned anti-Amerikan terrorists directly or indirectly, and besides, their biggest oil field has passed its peak production mark, so they aren't going to be much good for much longer. Venezuela (#3 supplier to Amerika) is in the hands of a Castro-friendly lunatic who is putting the needs of Venezuelans first (trading oil for doctors with Cuba). Canada (specifically Oilberta) is a known quantity, and is already fully exploited. Besides, although the Amerikan oil companies managed to break the back of Canada's National Energy Program once, there's no telling what those fag-loving B.C. Bud-smoking lunatics might try. They might even start thinking that they are a sovereign nation again!

But worse than the oil shortfall is the water shortfall. Amerika is rapidly running out of water and is looking north to satisfy its thirst. The Alberta government has been quietly pursuing a water diversion program for the last fifty years that would see water from Peace River north be diverted south into Amerika. The problem with that is that Calgary, a city of well over a million people, is looking to run out of water within a decade or two. The glaciers that supply the Bow River are less than 50% of the size they were even four decades ago. Studies at the University of Alberta indicate that the past century in Alberta has been the wettest in ten thousand years—and even while the wettest, Alberta has seen four droughts, including the Dirty Thirties. Without current levels of irrigation, Alberta south of Red Deer would be a barren wasteland, suitable only for rattlesnakes and prairie dogs (okay, that's all it's good for now, but there is a lot of industrial agriculture established there). It doesn't help that oil companies are removing millions of litres a year from the water cycle and dumping that water down old oil wells to force the remnants of oil to the surface. So the only way Amerika gets water out of Alberta is at the expense of Calgary....

Over in Ontario, the Great Lakes replenish themselves at the rate of about 1% per year. But already they are being drawn down at a rate greater than 1% per year, making current levels of usage unsustainable. In Manitoba, the water flows north, out of Amerika and into the Hudson Bay catchment area. The Great Thirst is coming to Amerika and a hell of a lot sooner than anyone wants to believe.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


So yesterday (Jan 16) was Martin Luther King day in Amerika. Must have driven the right fucking bananas. An entire day set aside to the memory of a man who rejected everything they stand for. Democracy Now ran almost an entire hour of excerpts from a couple of his speeches (available at—an amazing resource), speeches which show why King had to be executed—sorry, assasinated—in 1968. The actions of the Amerikan ruling class had pushed him through the struggle for civil rights in Amerika into making common cause with the oppressed of the world, and into recognizing and speaking about linkage with democratic and revolutionary movements around the world. To quote:

At this point, I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for really involve. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Viet Namese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create a hell for the poor. Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of god and brother to the suffering poor of Viet Nam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of Amerika who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world. For the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves Amerika to the leaders of our own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.

[“Beyond Viet Nam” 04 April 1967 @ Riverside Church, New York]

(Spelling and punctuation mistakes are my own, made during my transcription from the original speech)

King, by the end of his life, was no longer simply trying to right a wrong in Amerikan society. He seems to have been pushed into a true radicalism, a rejection of the ruling class and its agenda of suppression and control, and into calling for a revolution against them—coded as a “revolution of values” in his speech:

And so such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam but not beyond our calling as sons of the living god. In 1957, a sensitive Amerikan official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years, we have seen emerge a pattern of supression which has now justified the presence of US military advisors in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary actions of Amerikan forces in Guatemala. It tells why Amerikan helicopters are being used against guerillas in Cambodia, and why Amerikan napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

Increasingly by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken. The role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immese profits of overseas investments.


I suspect that King, Abernathy, and even Jackson were the reason for the funding of the extreme right-wing fundamentalist churches in Amerika. King was leading one wing of a movement that might actually have changed the essential nature of power and privelege in Amerika in the sixties. Too many people were becoming active in too many different organizations from civil rights to SDS, that they were forming linkages between them. And the logical result of these linkages? Democratic control over wealth and privelege. When King says;

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing oriented society to a person oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside. But that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed, so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.


There doesn't seem to be that much difference between King andCharles A. Reich's Greening of America (that would change the political structure only as its final act), the position of the Berkley Free Speech Movement (Mario Savio's speech is still extraordinarily moving and powerful—not the least because of his subsequent rejection of lionization), Students for a Democratic Society, or even the Youth International Party. As Dylan said; “there was music in the cafés at night/a revolution in the air” (Tangled Up In Blue).

Such thinking is pretty much mainstream today; Chomsky mentions that when he travels to “red states” to speak these days (itself a massive change in Amerika's willingness to be exposed to radical criticism), media manipulation, manufacture of consent, and the assumption that power is lying is the new baseline for discussion.

Nothing changes, really. Not without the will of the supressed. King's words are as hopeful and relevant as they were when he spoke them in 1967;

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation it will look across seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries and say “ this is not just”. It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say “this is not just”. The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay a hand on the world order and say of war that this way of settling differences is not just. This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defence than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. Th[ere] is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.


For more of King's speeches check:Pacifica Radio Archives.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Highly Illogical

Not that I have any burning desire to continue to poke fun at Stephen Harper, but what the heck.
A story points out that apparently Harper is a huge Trekkie (scroll down to the second half of the article).
"Like, huge," says a source. "And it has to be the classic series, from the 1960s - none of that Next Generation, Deep Space Nine crap." Okay, I'll give Harper a point for being a fan of "real" Trek.
How true this really is I don't know, but it readily sets up the tried and true "let's compare the candidates to Star Trek characters" joke.
Paul Martin is Scotty. Clearly, he's always whining about needing more power, but he's also trying his damnedest to keep his wee bairns flying. Unfortunately for him, it seems that the good ship Liberalprise is on it's last legs, no thanks to the evil Klingon, Commander K'Gomery.
Jack Layton is McCoy. He has a cure for everything that ails you, and most of them are just good old fashioned horse sense. He's always muttering that the rest of the crew don't follow his advice. He is always speaking the truth from the heart, and as always, no one listens.
Gilles Duceppe is Captain Kirk. Which makes sense in a way as Duceppe wants to fly his ship his way, damn Starfleet and its blasted regulations. He's not going to listen to some blasted bureaucrats from across the galaxy tell him what to do. He's going to take his ship and fly on a seperate course.
Finally, Harper is unemotional, his smile is forced, and he speaks in a monotone. His logic often fails him at critical plot points. Obviously, he is Spock. He even has the same haircut.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Steven Harper related to Ricky of Trailer Park Boys

A few mornings ago, after grabbing my morning coffee at Finnerty Express at UVic, I was on the way out the door when something caught my eye. Usually the front cover of the newspaper does catch my eye but this one made me laugh as well. There in glorious colour was a photo of Steven Harper beside a photo of Ricky of Trailer Parks Boys with the headline Steven Harper and Ricky of Trailer Park Boys Distant Cousins. Now this is Canada....but the image of back woods American, the faint sounds of dueling banjos still passed through my mind as I stood there. Is this news? Probably not. Is this a pot shot at Harper, who knows. Either way I found it rather amusing, and it confirms what I already feel.....Harper is one scary guy!!

Here's a link re Harper's Trailer Park Boys connection.

Jobs are Strange

You get out of school and think that your only need is to find a good job. Society seems to tell us that we must first go to school and then find that job. This is the reason for getting up in the morning. You learn, work at learning, then you work for money, and you try to work for a better position so you can earn more money. Not that long ago you learned your job and you worked at that job until you retired or died, which ever came first. If you made it to retirement you hoped that you had earned enough money to make it through your retirement years. Now you are lucky if the company you are working for is in business for five years. We all work on the edge, and we all try to earn enough money to live comfortably.
My father seems to think that you work for money so you can make more money, so you can pass it onto your children who will not spend it, but just use it to make more money, and then pass it onto their children, and so on, and so on. The goal of life is to make money, according to my Dad. Maybe he thinks it will be tallied up at the end of the universe, and some group of descendants will win a prize.
Money shouldn’t be the goal of life. The human race invented money. It was meant as a means of simplifying trade. How predictable that it has become so complicated. Economics is a confusion of math and what seem to be arbitrary ideas of supply and demand. The whole system of money runs on the idea that everyone can’t have what he or she wants, they must somehow earn what they get. Which brings us back to jobs...
One would think that the most important jobs, to the general public, would be the highest paid. I don’t believe that is the case. What is the most important thing to you? Eating is important. If you don’t eat, you die. Are farmers well paid? How about grocery store workers? Shelter is important. How well paid were the men that built your house or apartment? Protection is important. How well are the police paid, the armed forces? You get paid what people are willing to pay, and what you are willing to get paid for the work you do. How important is what you do, to someone else? If it is very important and only you can do the work, then you can ask for a lot of money. If anyone can do your job, then you aren’t worth as much cash or consideration.
Here we are, the whole human race, arbitrarily working for our wages. I have done a lot of jobs for my wages. I have been a babysitter, house sitter, pet sitter, cashier, bed maker, assistant manger, teacher, software tester, gardener, carpenter, digital ink & painter, illustrator, sculpture, painter and carver. These jobs, that seem many to me, are barely notice in the immense list of jobs that the human race has invented for itself.
Survival is the job that nature has given us. All the other jobs we, as the human race, have created for ourselves. What job makes each one of us happy? Well, that is something that each one of us has to answer for ourselves.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Nope, no resonance at all

The conversation rambled, roamed, and never ended up where you thought it should, instead taking some lunatic tangent and following its own strange logic. In other words, the essence of human communication; odd associations and unexpected connections twisted through with the unspoken and non-verbally communicated to created a web of consequence. Just like a democracy, communication is supposed to be messy, awkward and anarchic. And just like democracy, you have to always be on guard against those who call for an end to anarchy and strive for precision,for order, as this betrays the undercurrent of fascism that lurks within us all. Italy allied government with corporate power to create stability in society. But the cost was that people were ruled for the good of the corporate powers that be. Democracy, that messy rage of competing interests, of choices made for the common good rather than for the good of the powerful and influential disappeared. The consent of the public was manufactured by a confluence of state and corporate interests through an owned media. Because freedom of the press, as Hearst said, is only guaranteed to the person who owns one. So, for the good of us all we were told what to do, how to think, what to feel. Be afraid. Consume. Do your job. Don't think. Don't act. You are not a citizen, you are a consumer. Stir in some nationalistic feeling to keep the ranks of the military filled (and enrich the corporations supplying the military from the public purse) so you can pursue a colonial war for resources, and you create a toxic brew that poisons the body politic for generations. Italy still hasn't recovered. But thankfully, the rest of the world took note and we no longer bow to money and privilege, no longer ally corporate interests with those of the state. We would no longer wage wars to colonize other countries in order for corporations to exploit their resources over the wishes and needs of the local population. Because that would mean we've learned nothing from a history so recent that the bullets are still in the bones of the tellers.

Friday, January 13, 2006

smugging for the camera

You know, I like to feel smug as a Canadian. After all, I'm not an Amerikan, right? But, per capita, Canada uses more energy resources than Amerikans do. And when you consider how few resources I use--biking, walking or mass transit 19 times out of 20, reduced house living temperature, etc.-- then there must be a lot of Canadians out there using a hell of a lot of energy.
Now, I get the need for energy inputs. My brother runs a set of greenhouses that are heated by coal--starting in February, when temperatures still get down to -40C (or -40F for those of you who still haven't switched over). By doing so, he can stretch his growing season and thus bump up his annual income. But a big chunk of his annual goes towards purchasing energy--for the greenhouses, to drive his truck to market (last summer this ran some $200/trip. Who knows what it will cost this year), for his wife to drive to and from work (from my experience, this is about 5000 km/month. Yeah, a month.), to pay taxes to drive his kids to and from school (well, schoolbuses ARE mass transit of a sort....). The rat wheel is obvious; earn the money to pay for the energy to earn the money to pay for the energy.... But simplification is just not on the table for him. When I suggested that his wife drive a small, energy efficient Fourtwo, I was informed that that just wasn't on. "She needs/wants a big car, for the kids and stuff." Even when the majority of her driving is the classic one person/one vehicle. So generally, I am in favour of pretty much anything that breaks the consumption cycle. Even if it means forcibly deporting free-marketers to Amerika (HHOK, alright?) The manufacture of demand must somehow be broken--as we saw during the two world wars, it can be done. But as long as corporations own the halls of governance, we might be hooped....


Found this interesting fact in, of all places, Chris Turner's excellent sociological study Planet Simpson: How A Cartoon Masterpiece Defined a Generation.
Since 1950, the United States has used more resources than the entire human population of the world managed to consume prior to 1950.
And using a little extrapolation, since the United States, at 5% of the world's population, uses about 25% of the world's resources, which means that since 1950, the entire world has burned through 4 times the amount of resources than the entire human population of the world managed to consume through all of history before 1950.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Angelina is Having Brad's Baby: Do I Care?

Angelina Jolie is having a baby with Brad Pitt.
Why is this latest chapter in yet another Hollywood real-life soap opera all over the news? (It's the banner headline on Thursday's National Post... above the title, for gods sake.) Who cares? Or more importantly, why does anyone care?
A co-worker of mine was heartbroken -- heartbroken -- that Pitt's apparent fairy tale marriage to Jennifer Aniston ended. She blamed Jennifer for the break-up (she was firmly in the Brad camp), but was prepared to be mad at Angelina should she have somehow been involved.
That my co-worker could be so wrapped up in the private lives of three people that she has never seen in person, let alone met or interacted with, is something I find amazing in a vaguely disturbing sort of way.
For starters, we have absolutely no notion of any so-called celebrity's private life. None. Zippo. Nada. Jennifer Aniston seems like a perfectly decent and nice person. But is she? How the fuck should I know? Maybe she spends all her spare-time quietly visiting orphanages. Maybe she spends all her free time bitch-slapping her puppies. Maybe she doesn't even have puppies!
How can I feel justified enough to pass judgment of these people's live when I have no inkling about them that hasn't gone through a team of publicists, an airbrush artist, The National Enquirer and Mary Hart?
And why would I be interested anyway? They are not people I know, I have no vested interest in their lives. And yet millions or people are apparently keen to know every sordid detail.
I don't understand the public's interest in celebrity, but I do understand the media's: $$$. If people want it, we'll supply it. Entertainment reporters as drug dealers, magazine editor's as pimps. It's a crazy world.
Now, when Jennifer Aniston has Vince Vaughn's baby, call me.

Monday, January 09, 2006

NDP Release a Bingo Card for Tonight's Debate

It's a good thing that this is a bingo card and not a drinking game.

Phone Tapping: It's Not Just for Terrorists Anymore

These stickers are showing up on pay phones in the US.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

After Years of Government Downsizing, BC Faces Civil Servant Shortage.

According to this CBC report, the BC Provincial government is launching a campaign to attract new public service employees into the fold. The government fears a coming shortage of senior civil servants. Said Minister Ida Chong: "We realize it's important to attract, to retrain, to recruit people into the public service. And we're looking to brand the B.C. public service as an employer of choice."
Interestingly, the provincial government has just spent the last four years downsizing, deregulating and contracting out public servants. Said Mary Rowles, the research director for the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union, "It's never too late to build pride within the public service, but they've made it an uphill struggle for themselves after years of privatizing and freezing wages and making arbitrary reductions in ministry staff."
Ida, please check the listing in your dictionary under the word "irony."

Saturday, January 07, 2006