Archive for December, 2006

Is organized religion still good for society?

First, allow me to reiterate (if the title of this post wasn’t clear enough) to those in the organized religion crowd who may be reading this, that I am not speaking about whether religion is good for you personally.  I have plenty of friends who are devoutly religious (I grew up in a small town, so that’s to be expected) who never pass up an opportunity to explain to me that their religion is a ‘friendship with Jesus’ and that it has completely transformed their lives.  So if right now you’re drafting an e-mail/blog post to me that makes that argument or a variation of it, you’re missing the point. 

Here, I’m talking about the benefit of organized religion from a social or anthropological perspective.

Continue reading ‘Is organized religion still good for society?’

If we’re going to hang Hussein, there are others who deserve the same fate

The Western world, the blogosphere, the mainstream media and even the alternative media are in a massive celebration at the news (available here) that the former Iraqi dictator will be hanged.

This, of course, is perfectly understandable.  I too feel that humanity will be better off without him, although, I do have significant reservations about glorifying such punishment as it invariably leads to bloodlust of Homeric proportions.   That said, putting the issues of whether this will quell the violence (as the US president suggests will happen) or whether capital punishment in any scenario is justified aside, let us assume that Hussein deserves this fate.

Since just about everybody (myself included) believes that Hussein deserves some manner of horrible fate, it is worth taking a moment to apply this relatively simple moral conclusion to ourselves and see if the empathy we claim to have for Hussein’s victims, is universal and worthy of being called empathy.

Let me begin by saying that empathy, in order to be genuine, MUST be universally applied.  It is disingenuous at best to state that we have empathy for one group of oppressed individuals when it suits our convenience and then to turn around and show little to no empathy for another group of oppressed individuals when it does not suit our ends.

So, if we’re to hang Hussein out of empathy for the horrors visited by him upon his victims, we must also have empathy for victims of other similar villains.  Even a basic understanding of history and current political affairs shows that we have little such empathy.

Continue reading ‘If we’re going to hang Hussein, there are others who deserve the same fate’

Dion has already learned more than MacKay did

The CBC is reporting that Liberal leader Stéphane Dion has vowed to undo any changes the Conservatives impose on the Saskatchewan Wheat Board.  In addition to being a good policy, this tactic also has the virtue of pleasing one of the two men without whom Dion could not have ascended to the Liberal leadership:  David Orchard.

I’ve had lunch with David Orchard on several occasions and I can tell you that he is not to be underestimated.  Orchard did not endorse Dion for leader until after the deadline for signing up members had already passed, but even with than hindrance, Orchard was able to deliver much to Dion.  Orchard was able to mobilize his massive organization so effectively that on the convention floor in Montreal, Orchard actually had 150 deligates in his pocket – which is about as many deligates as Volpe had, and more deligates than Martha Hall Findlay had and those two were able to actually sign up members to vote for them.  Orchard basically sent some e-mails out and I got a phone call from his brother Grant and with that relatively small effort, he made himself one of the most important players in the election of Dion as leader.

So, what does this have to do with the Saskatchewan Wheat Board?  Orchard, a Saskatchewan farmer and a strident supporter of the Board, would not tolerate the mortal weakening of this collective bargaining tool.  Now Dion could have ignored the issue as he’s shown little interest at all in the Board up until now, but maybe this shows that Dion has already decided to learn from the mistakes of Peter MacKay who, as leader of the PC Party, underestimated Orchard and earned for himself an eternal gadfly as a reminder of a betrayal which just will not go away. 

Keeping Orchard happy may just be one of the smartest things Dion has done since being elected leader.  Now, this doesn’t mean that Dion will be a good leader, however it does demonstrate that there may be some truth in John Stuart Mill’s statement that “Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.”

Don’t end domination, change your position in it

I was visiting my cousin in Toronto recently and anybody familiar with the Toronto subway knows the plethora of advertising which nearly wallpapers all surfaces.  Most of the advertising was fairly standardly attempting, little by little, to instill various consumerist memes into my mind.  However one ad stood out in my mind.  It was a plain text poster for a credit and investment firm and it simply said:

“Rejoin the haves”

This is precisely the reason why capitalism as we practice it cannot succeed forever.  So, according to this ad, the goal you and I strive for should not be to stop or reduce or ameliorate the gut-wrenching, nausiating inequality which characterises our society but rather is merely to change our position within it.  Instead of being the oppressed and wishing to end all oppression, we ought to wish and hope and work for a time when we can be the oppressors.

This is a little bit like saying that the only real problem with spousal abuse is that I’m not the one who’s doing the beating.

Paulitics Resources updated

I’ve added a new section to the Paulitics quotes resources.

Think Marx was a bit weird, or out of date?  Well, he did have some pretty insightful things to say.  For instance, Marx said:

“[The bourgeois] has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation.”
-Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto

Click here for more….

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Propaganda in Action: The Death of Pinochet

It always puts a smile on my face when I find a case of propaganda in action.  To those who doubt that capital influences media, consider the following:

This is what the Western media is saying about Chile’s U.S.-sponsored ex-dictator Pinochet who murdered thousands of Chileans in pursuit of power and capitalism.

The Globe & Mail‘s headlines on the subject were:

Supporters Mourn Ex-Dictator Pinochet 

The poor dictator was just misunderstood and his death is a tragedy on par with the loss of any other head of state, I suppose.

Chile Deeply Divided Over Pinochet’s Legacy

This article is almost entirely from the perspective of the mourners.  So, for instance, instead of talking about what Pinochet did in relatively concrete terms (the CIA documents are mostly declassified and the true brutality of his crimes are now available for anybody who wants to read about them), this article starts off by saying that Pinochet’s “supporters say [he] saved Chile from Communism.”

Also too, I think most objective reports (which I’ll touch on below) show that Chile is anything but divided about Pinochet.  Only the select elite are predominantly in support of the brutal dictator.

The Toronto Star who conservatives derride as left-wing, shows its true colours as just another lackey of the Western powers and capitalism in their characterization of Pinochet’s death and funderal.

Government Booed at Pinochet Funeral

This article is basically just the second Globe article because both are AP articles.  But the headline here conveys the message perfectly:  the leftist government of Chile has apparently done something objectionable to dishonor Pinochet at his funeral.  This is clearly an act of propaganda in and of itself.  If the Allies had been booed at a fictional funeral for Adoph Hitler, any Western newspaper which focussed on the few misguided individuals who did the booing would have been ruined.

A Long Life of Controversy

This article humanizes Pinochet by talking about such trivial factors as where he was born, when he married and so forth.  It completely glosses over what exactly Pinochet did to get power, who supported him, and what he did once he seized power.  But what’s more, if somebody had described a non-US-supported dictator such as Stalin or Hitler as characterized merely by “controversy” their career would have been effectively ended.  Such behaviour would have been rightly derrided as akin to calling John Wayne Gacy a “troubled performer” who had aspects worthy of praise as well as aspects worthy of scorn.  Clearly neither Gacy nor Pinochet have any redeeming qualities.

Time Magazine, not to be outdone, had the following article:

Pinochet’s Long Goodbye

This article again tries to portray Chile as actually divided over Pinochet’s death.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have UK-based paper, The Independent which deserves kudos for writing an article entitled:

Crowds Take to the Streets to Celebrate Pinochet’s Demise

This article is one of the only ones that I found which describes what was actually happening in Chile.  They write that the streets were “filled with a cacophony of car horns and cheering” celibrating Pinochet’s death.  They also are one of the only ones which don’t gloss over Pinochet’s crimes against humanity.

In the Soviet Union, Pravda was very good at examining non-governmental points of interest, but would never criticize the state.  Does anybody continue to doubt that in the system we have set up for ourselves, the media is just as subserviant and just as much a tool of propaganda as in the Soviet system?

The only difference between our system and theirs is that in our system it isn’t the state but rather is capitalism and the behaviour which was undertaken in its name which is beyond investigation.

The hypocrisy of anti-copyright campaigns

This video, which I’m sure we’ve all seen, is the crown jewel of the “respect copyrights” campaign.

The blatant hypocrisy of the companies and government agencies which sponsor either the MPAA or this campaign is far reaching to the very foundation of capitalism.

This video (and its campaign) has 2 premises both of which are either hypocritical or just plain stupid.

These premises are:

#1) what is illegal is also inherently morally wrong.

First, every thinking person knows that what is illegal or legal has no bearing on what is moral or immoral and this has been a known fact since the days of Plato.  Marxists believe that, while the practice of capitalism by definition is legal, it may still be immoral to allow people to starve to death and die all the while others go with too much food.  What’s more though, this argument can also be made from a right-wing point of view.  Right-wing, anti-abortion activists would argue (and they do frequently argue) that while abortions are legal, they are nonetheless immoral. 

So on this point, the anti-piracy campaign is just talking out of its ass because most politically engaged people on all sides of the political spectrum recognize the fact that the law does not equal morality.  So this premise is just plain stupid.

#2) You and I shouldn’t make our decision to share music based on a cost-benefit analysis.  We should make our decision not in terms of what is the best, most economical decision for us, but rather for what is the best for the industry.

Capitalism is based on the very idea of each person behaving in their own best interest through rational, cost-benefit analyses!!   That’s just how capitalism works. 

Union Carbide made a cost-benefit analysis and decided that if it just cut on safety measures and moved its operation to India, then it could save TONS of money even if it cost people their lives. The result: 20,000 people DEAD because of the Bhopal disaster caused by Union Carbide.

British Petrolium (BP) made a cost-benefit analysis to intentionally allow its pipelines in Alaska to corrode through sheer negligence because it knew that the resultant oil spill would hike up oil prices globally and net the company an overall profit even after paying for repairs.

Ford Motor Company learned in the early stages of production that its Pinto model would explode under certain circumstances and would be expected to kill  people.  Ford decided that it would cost more money to do an $11 repair on all of its models than it would to pay for lawyers to fight all the personal injury and wrongful death suits that would result from their car.

Chevrolet made basically the same decision with regards to their Malibu model.

Moreover, each of these 4 examples are just the really popular ones that have been published widely. Most cost-benefit analysis is so common that it doesn’t even get reported on. For instance, every single capitalist company makes decisions everyday on how low they can pay their workers — ex. “Is paying starvation wages worth the extra cost in lower employee retention and higher training costs?” etc… — in order to make a profit.

Using the biblical (and original) definition of hypocrite, we see that a hypocrite is somebody who imposes standards on others which they refuse to accept for themselves. So the very companies which support the MPAA in this campaign are by definition hypocrite since the very way they make money is founded upon the necessity of cost-benefit analyses while they advocate that we refrain from the same practice when it will cost them money.

If capitalism can use cost-benefit analyses at the cost of peoples LIVES in order to save money, then I sure as hell can use a cost-benefit analysis at the cost of their money.  And, what’s more, I won’t feel the slightest bit of guilt because of it. In fact, I’ll do you one better: taking money away from companies which can do such things is perhaps the most patriotic and beneficial act you can do while sitting at home in front of your computer!


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