Archive for the 'American Politics' Category

A friendly note to America from a Canadian: Quit saying you’re the “envy of the world”!

untitled2Dear America,

You are bombarded every day with your media telling you that you are “the envy on the world”.

I’ve travelled to almost every Canadian province and spent considerable time in four of them.  I hate to burst your bubble but, contrary to your belief that you are “the envy of the world”, no Canadian that I’ve ever met — even in the most conservative parts of Alberta — has ever struck up a conversation with me saying:  “You know who I’m really envious of?  The USA.”  In no conversation I’ve ever had, even in conversations about America, has any Canadian, European, Aussie, Kiwi, Mexican or Asian that I’ve ever met said to me “Jeez, it really sucks that we’re not Americans.  I’m so jealous of them.”

I sometimes wonder if it’s just that you don’t realize how ridiculous this claim is.  The rest of the world can’t help but notice that no two people can even agree on why America is the envy of the world but that there is a compulsion to recite the refrain every day nevertheless.

The Jacksonville Progress publication yesterday seemed to suggest that America is the envy of the world because of its “people and for the God-given principles of freedom”.  (Apparently God only gave freedom to America, therefore the rest of the world is envious).

In a state of the union address, your outgoing President claimed instead that it was America’s economy that was the envy of the world.  (Apparently China’s nearly double or triple the US’s GDP growth rate isn’t as economically impressive or envious).

While, on a more ridiculous mindset, this news site seems to suggest that America’s peaceful exchange of power is what makes it the “envy of the world”.  (Apparently no other country has yet mastered that whole ‘democracy’ thing the Greeks were talking about 2000 years ago).

So you don’t even know why the world is supposed to be envious, but you just know that they are.  Am I the only one who sees how insane that is?

So please, America, take this in the nicest way possible, but if you ever plan on not being seen as a nation of fools (which you are not) and if you ever intend on repairing your image after 8 years of Bush, you absolutely have to stop saying that you are the envy of the world.

Signed,

A Canadian

Two more now confirmed war crimes to add to Bush’s tally

Despite a complete media blackout on the story in Canada, the U.K. and the United States, the dean of the U.S. White House Press Corps, Hellen Thomas, recently received a great deal of online attention for daring to state the obvious.  By most accounts, the attention began on the popular social networking site reddit.com, which managed to raise several thousand dollars to send Ms. Thomas flowers for what was seen as her daring question for White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.

The ‘obvious’ thing that Thomas pointed out is, of course, that revelations of evidence (both photographic and otherwise) of the use of WWII-era torture techniques as well as evidence that U.S. President George W. Bush personally signed off on approving torture, necessarily means that President Bush lied when he said the U.S. does not torture.

However, even this somewhat subdued (yet obviously true) fact, has been met with a virtually complete media blackout.  One could even push the envelope even further in this matter though, and if North America had a critical press, Ms. Thomas’s question would not have been seen as either particularly extreme or controversial.  Rather, on the contrary, if Ms. Thomas wanted to be even more accurate, she could have also pointed out — with equal confidence — that these recent revelations on torture means that George W. Bush is, by definition, a war criminal and that this is but merely one of two items which came to light in the past two weeks which constitute war crimes on the part of the U.S. President.

The other revelation, which was covered somewhat in the mainstream press, was the revelation that U.S. President Bush blessed (and assisted through military aid) the expansion of the illegal Jewish settlements in Palestinian occupied territory.  Of course, acquiring lands through conquest constitutes not only a war crime but constitutes what Robert H. Jackson, chief prosecutor for the United States at the Nuremberg Trials, claimed was the “supreme” war crime.  This latter fact, yet again, was not mentioned in the mainstream media in North America or the U.K..

So, if you’re keeping track:  that’s two war crimes revealed in as many weeks.  The press has not only glossed over both revelations, but to the extent that Helen Thomas’s rather subdued and tame question about lying (rather than war crimes) has been addressed online or elsewhere, it has been treated as somehow radical.  Don’t get me wrong: Thomas deserves the utmost credit for posing her question in a forceful manner, but let’s not kid ourselves here — the lying is nowhere near as bad as the war crimes.

McCain tries to bash Obama, ends up looking like a fool

From AFP:

“In a formal written statement, McCain also took a shot at Obama, the Democratic front-runner who renewed his offer to speak to leaders of US foes without preconditions in a campaign debate with rival Hillary Clinton in Texas.

‘So Raul Castro gets an audience with an American president, and all the prestige such a meeting confers, without having to release political prisoners, allow free media, political parties, and labor unions, or schedule internationally monitored free elections,’ McCain said.

[…]

“Meet, talk, and hope may be a sound approach in a state legislature, but it is dangerously naive in international diplomacy where the oppressed look to America for hope and adversaries wish us ill.”

I’m not sure if this kind of statement is Orwellian or simply unadalterated ignorance coming from a man who recently stated that Vladimir Putin was the President of Germany, and that he’d just returned form a meeting with German President Putin not too long ago.

Either way, perhaps the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party is in need of a history lesson.  U.S. Presidents have long histories meeting with brutal tyrants, dictators, presidents for life and absolute monarchs quite regularly, not one of whom ever once had to release political prisoners, allow free media, political parties, and labor unions, or schedule internationally monitored free elections in order to have the meeting with the U.S. President.

Here are just a few examples of U.S. presidents meeting, shaking hands or dining with some of the most brutal human beings to rule nations since the end of the Second World War.  My personal favourite is the one of LBJ meeting with brutal authoritarian dictators Park Chung Hee of South Korea AND Ferdinand Marcos of The Philippines at the same time.    Meeting with one brutal dictator is all well and good, but when you’re so overbooked that you’ve got to double up on your meetings with brutal dictators, now that‘s art.

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 and….

Official meetings on behalf of the U.S. President:

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See also:

The U.S. embargo against Cuba was never about ‘democracy’

Bush names terrorist sympathizer as new ambassador to Nicaragua

Holy red-baiting, Batman!

Naomi Wolf on the end of America and the rise of fascism (audio)

Kettle calls the teapot black: Bush calls Cuba “criminal”

Reality Check: What you’re not supposed to think about 

Who’s afraid of human rights? Conservatives apparently

The U.S. embargo against Cuba was never about ‘democracy’

“Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct; nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record.”
                                                                                           -George Orwell, 1984

castro.pngThe progressive blogosphere (or at least what passes for ‘progressive’ these days) are awash lately in discussions about Cuba and the sudden decision of Fidel Castro not to seek the office of President of Cuba in the upcoming election.

Everywhere in quasi-progressive press and blogs, people are finding the courage to ask:  Why is there still an embargo on Cuba?  The problem is not the question — in fact, the question is the correct one.  The problem is that the corporate press — from which the blogosphere generally takes its cues — has managed to cripple the debate by intentionally leaving out an important detail about the long-standing, crushing U.S. embargo against thebush-with-turkey-in-crotch.png tiny island nation.  Namely, the U.S. embargo against Cuba was never about ‘democracy’ or human rights and the U.S. officials at the time that the embargo was enacted, were open and frank about this fact.

But you wouldn’t be able to tell that from the media reports about the recent events in Cuba.

What follows is a small sample of media reports.

The Associated Press [AP] reports that:

Asked by reporters at the State Department if Washington planned to change its Cuba policy now that Castro has stepped down, Negroponte replied: “I can’t imagine that happening anytime soon.”

[…]

We would hope that the departure from the scene of Cuba’s long-ruling dictator Fidel Castro would allow for a democratic transition. … We would hope that his departure would begin this transition,” Casey told reporters.

But he added that the United States is troubled by signs that Cuba’s leadership envisions this as a “transfer of authority and power from dictator to dictator light—from Fidel to Raul.”

Still, he said the Bush administration remains willing to help support the Cuban people in a true transition to democracy. [emphasis added]

The New York Times ran a report which, despite standing at 686 words, only mentions the embargo on Cuba once and even then, only in a dismissive context.  The Times reported:

Mr. Castro, whose photograph looks down from billboards across the island, is both revered and reviled by Cubans. In criticizing him in public, Cubans stroke an imaginary beard instead of uttering his name and possibly running afoul of the authorities. Those who praise him most often cite his investments in education and health care, and they agree with him that the country’s economic woes are caused not by neglect from Mr. Castro but by the trade embargo imposed by Washington.

Huffington Post contributor Sarah Stephens wins the Orwellian prize for her piece, on two grounds:

#1) Stephens writes that South Africa’s post-Apartheid democracy was “born with the help of U.S. sanctions”.  This is the height or Orwellianism.  It was precisely the U.S. that supported economically and politically the racist Apartheid South African regime up until the very end when it became politically impossible to continue to do so.  In fact, Ronald Reagan openly called Nelson Mandela a “terrorist” and here in Canada, even as late as 2001, we still had elected Parliamentarians such as Rob Anders calling Mandela a “terrorist”.

#2) If you read through her piece, it is interesting to examine why she believes the embargo should be lifted.  The reasons why Stephens believes the embargo should be lifted are not because of the massive loss of life it has caused in Cuba (more on that below).  Rather, the reasons she believes they should be lifted are:

a) “the Cuba embargo sullies our image around the world”

b) “[the Cuba embargo] undermines the national interest [of America].”

c) “The embargo sacrifices the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens to travel.”

d) “[the Cuba embargo] trade sanctions cost U.S. businesses about $1 billion annually”

e) “[the Cuba embargo] den[ies] U.S. citizens access to vaccines and other medical treatments.”

f) “Enforcing the embargo drains [American] resources from the war on terror.”

Based on the above reporting, one could be forgiven for assuming that the embargo has #1) been reluctantly pursued in the interests of the Cuban people and democracy; #2) that only crazy pro-Castro communists believe that the hardships of the Cuban people are actually caused by the embargo; and #3) that the reasons the Americans should now lift the embargo is because it’s hurting Americans.

There is no need for conspiracy theories to debunk these claims that the embargo was designed to foster democracy.  Had any of the media outlets reported on the actual openly stated reasons for issuing the trade embargo — reasons given by U.S. government officials at the time, the reality would be all to obvious.

A brief history of the events leading up to this is illuminating:

viva-fidel.png1953-1960: Castro, contrary to popular belief now, but openly acknowledged at the time, was anti-Soviet during his revolution against the brutal U.S.-backed Batista regime.  Indeed his reform proposals were initially were pro-democratic and anti-Soviet.  (see, for instance, the work of Jules Benjamin and Noam Chomsky for more on this).

January, 1960:  The United States begins its first attempts to overthrow the popular Castro regime through assassination and, later, by invasion and terrorism, and re-install a client regime.

1960-1962:  The U.S., having now pushed the previously anti-Soviet Castro into the Soviet sphere, now begins to characterize Cuba as a threat to the United States (itself a laughable concept) by arguing it is a ‘proxy’ or ‘base’ of the Soviets 90 miles off the tip of Key West, Florida.  This, of course, ignores the fact that the U.S. was engaged in actions against Cuba as early as 1960 long before any Soviet relations had been established.  Noam Chomsky, in his work Hegemony or Survival writes:

Washington was concerned that Cubans might try to defend themselves. CIA chief Allen Dulles therefore urged Britain not to provide arms to Cuba. His “main reason,” the British ambassador reported to London, “was that this might lead the Cubans to ask for Soviet or Soviet bloc arms,” a move that “would have a tremendous effect,” Dulles pointed out, allowing Washington to portray Cuba as a security threat to the hemisphere, following the script that had worked so well in Guatemala. Dulles was referring to Washington’s successful demolition of Guatemala’s first democratic experiment, a ten-year interlude of hope and progress, greatly feared in Washington because of the enormous popular support reported by US intelligence and the “demonstration effect” of social and economic measures to benefit the large majority. The Soviet threat was routinely invoked, abetted by Guatemala’s appeal to the Soviet bloc for arms after the US had threatened attack and cut off other sources of supply. The result was a half-century of horror, even worse than the US-backed tyranny that came before.

jfk-on-phone.png1962: United States President John F. Kennedy orders a case of Cuban cigars for his own personal use.  Upon hearing that the cigars had reached U.S. territory, Kennedy promptly begins the embargo under the explicit justification that Soviet presence there posed a ‘grave’ threat to the United States.

1962-1990: The U.S. engages in decades of terrorism, bacteriological warfare and biological warfare against Cuba.  This ranges from the poisoning of the domestic Cuban pork and chicken supply, the attempted destruction of the Cuban cash crop: sugar, and the October 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner by Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles who currently live in the United States despite their terrorist past.   Cuba, having been denied its traditional markets for sugar export, becomes a ‘favoured export partner’ with the Soviet Union.

1991: The Soviet Union collapses.  Following this collapse, the entire stated justification for the Cuban sanctions are now officially satisfied.  Given the reason stated by the U.S. government for issuing the sanctions — Soviet threat — sanctions should now be lifted as there is no longer any Soviet threat in Cuba.

1992: The George H.W. Bush administration increases the sanctions.  Bill Clinton, running to unseat Bush in the election, also promises harsher sanctions.

1993: Average caloric intake in Cuba plummets by 1/3 in 4 short years.  (see Victoria Brittain, “Children die in agony as U.S. trade ban stifles Cuba.” The Guardian (U.K.), March 7, 1997)

1994: Mortality rates for Cubans over the age of 65 increase 15% over 2 years.

clinton.png1996: U.S. sanctions increased yet again under the Helms-Burton Act which U.S. President Bill Clinton gleefully signs into law.  The new harsher sanctions,  are now justified under the new, post-1990 mantra of ‘democracy’ — the same mantra which, if you read the press reports, you would believe was always the justification for the sanctions.  In fact, as Orwell famously wrote, this history must constantly be ‘brought up to date’ because any detailed look at the original justifications quickly discredits this contention.

1999: Severity of U.S. sanctions increased yet again under U.S. President Bill Clinton’s watchful eye.

2008:  Bloggers uncritically believe media’s insinuation that the embargo has always been about democracy and human rights.  Few liberals bother to research the topic.  Instead, they accept the premise and support ending the sanctions regime because it’s hurting the United States.  Conservatives take the matter further and support continuation of sanctions as a means of collective punishment, then turn around and deny that sanctions have any effect on the Cuban economy, but rather that Castro is to blame for all problems.  Socialist bloggers, anarchists and freethinkers are left staring at each other in disbelief.

See also:

Propaganda in Action (Series)

Che Guevara: Cuban revolutionary or puppy-eating serial murderer?

Kettle calls the teapot black: Bush calls Cuba “criminal”

On intellectual honesty and the Cuba debate

Idiocy doesn’t cease being idiocy because it’s published

Bush names terrorist sympathizer as new ambassador to Nicaragua

A database search of all mainstream news outlets suggests that this announcement has gone completely unreported in both the United States media (source) and the Canadian media (source), however some publications in Europe published the story.

The story, in case you missed it because you don’t read the European press, is that U.S. president George W. Bush has just appointed Robert Callahan as the United State’s Ambassador to Nicaragua.  Callahan was John Negroponte’s (the former Ambassador to Honduras) right hand man, spokesman and speachwriter while the two were co-ordinating the operations of the Contras in Nicaragua during the 1980s.

Some background information:

-The World Court ruled in their 1986 verdict in the case of Nicaragua v. United States, what the whole world already knew:  that the Contras constituted an illegal terrorist movement and that the United States had violated international law by funding the Contras.  The World Court ordered the United States to pay reparations to Nicaragua; reparations which the United States has refused to this day to pay.

-Callahan and Negroponte were co-ordinating terrorist activity from the embassy of Honduras, launching attacks against Nicaragua from the diplomatic immunity of a foreign embassy — itself an illegal act.

Injury:  Naming an internationally-recognized terrorist sympathizer as ambassador to the country he used to help terrorize.

Adding insult to injury:  When Callahan was operating against Nicaragua’s government during the 1980s, his boss’s efforts were centred around trying to overthrow and/or assissinate then-Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega.  Guess who was just elected Nicaragua’s president last January after a long hiatus?  Answer:  Daniel Ortega.

Usually ambassadors are formally ‘received’ by the head of state of the recipient country.  How awkward will that introduction be:  “Hi.  You don’t remember me, but I worked hard to try to illegally topple your democratically-elected government and assissinate you while I was stationed in Honduras in the 1980s.  How do you do?”

What’s next?  Bush to appoint Orlando Bosch and Posada Carriles as co-ambassadors to Cuba? 

Is Harper trying for a record? 3 instances of hypocrisy in 3 weeks.

For your consideration: Three items of hypocrisy from the government of Canada all occurring in the past three weeks.

Item #1:  Organ donation = good.  Gay organ donation = bad.

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According to the CBC, Canada’s Conservative government changed a federal government policy in order to forbid homosexuals from donating organs.  The catch?  There’s four of them:

a) The government of Canada neglected to tell key groups and medical professionals involved in minor, unrelated fields — fields such as organ donation — that the organ donation laws had been changed.

b) The government of Canada is still willing to accept homosexual women’s healthy organs, just not homosexual men’s healthy organs.

c) The government of Canada is still willing to accept homosexual men’s healthy organs provided they abstain from homosexual activity for a period of 5 years (although our gay brothers can take solace from the fact that, presumably,  the government has no problem with them engaging in ‘relations’ with women during said five year period).

d) The government of Canada is still willing to accept without question wildly promiscuous heterosexual men and women’s organs as well as the organs of heterosexual couples who engage in anal sex.

Item #2:  Canada opts out of UN global anti-racism conference because… racism will be discussed.

The government of Canada just announced that it will not be attending the annual UN global anti-racism conference because one possible topic will be:  anti-Arab racism and specifically anti-Arab racism in Israel.

The catch?  Talking about the racism of our enemies towards us and our allies is fine and good and worthwhile.  Talking about the racism of our allies towards our enemies is beyond the pale, a waste of time and, to quote a government official, a “gong show”.  Incidentally, the government isn’t alone on this front.  Former Liberal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler aptly summed up the party line of both major parties in Canada when he said last year, with a straight face and unquestioned by the mainstream media that:

“the most virulent of hatreds [is] namely, anti-Semitism.” (source)

more-equal-than-others.pngThus, hatred isn’t all equal.  Hatred towards our allies is the “most virulent of hatreds” while hatred of our enemies is somehow less “virulent” or horrendous.

Or perhaps we’re just reading too much into this.  Perhaps all hatreds are equal but some are just more equal than others?

Item #3:  Canada says threatening the world with nuclear weapons is unacceptable…. except when we do it.

Last April, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated publicly and unequivocally that given  “the kind of values it [Iran] stands for…  I think our allies have a completely legitimate case in being concerned about a regime like that gaining access to nuclear weapons.” (source)

dr-strangelove.pngSeems reasonable.  The government of Canada would never support an offensive, bellicose regime having nuclear weapons.  It’s true that our allies may have nuclear weapons, but they would never be offensive or bellicose with them nor would they threaten to use them except, as has been official policy since the end of the Cold War, in retaliation against a nuclear attack.

The catch?

It turns out that an official NATO panel consisting of highest-level representatives from our nuclear-equipped allies (representatives including Britain’s former Chief of Staff Field Marshal the Lord Inge and the United States’ former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Shalikashvili) have just released a NATO policy document advocating a more aggressive, bellicose and offensive nuclear weapons stances for NATO.  This policy document includes reversing long-standing NATO policy and advocating in favour of first-strike, pre-emptive nuclear strategies for NATO.  The dossier also advocates “the use of force without UN security council authorisation” under some circumstances (source, source, source)dr-strangelove-2.png

Just as an aside, if a panel of Iran’s highest officials and generals just advocated Iran adopt such a position towards us, how do you suppose the North American media would react?  Do suppose maps would still bother depicting a chunk of land called “Iran” located in between Iraq and Afghanistan?

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See also:

Propaganda in Action: The Iranian Hostage Crisis

Propaganda In Action: Canada as a force for peace in the world

Is socialism violent or is liberalism hypocritical?

The hypocrisy of anti-copyright campaigns

Israeli lobby group has begun to pay students to agree with Israeli policy

Top 5 things I saw in America which, as a Canadian, freaked me right out

I’m back from my vacation down in the United States, and will return to blogging with regularity as soon as possible.

To celebrate my return to this frigid, yet comparatively sane country, I felt it worthwhile to relay a list of five items which I saw during my travels which the locals thought was perfectly normal (I presume), but which freaked the heck out of me as a Canadian.

#5

A trucking company which hauls all manner of freight throughout the deep south of the U.S. which calls itself a “Christian company” (the very idea of which seems as bizarre to me as a “Christian dog”) and which requires that its trucks to carry religious and political messages. The messages I saw included:
It’s not a choice, it’s a child
and
God loved us so that he gave his only son.

#4

A breakfast creation in upstate New York called “Stuffed French Toast”. What does “Stuffed French Toast” entail, you naïve non-American might ask? It’s French Toast (which, keep in mind is cooked in butter) stuffed with bacon, eggs and processed cheese (which they proudly call ‘American processed cheese’, I presume, to distinguish it from real cheese which could, after all, be French and/or offer unAmerican nutritional content). But here’s the kicker: on top of your “Stuffed French Toast” cooked in butter, you will find… a square of butter.

#3

A massive billboard in South Carolina just outside of Georgia which read:
“Victory is great, but honor is greater. Defend your Southern heritage.”

#2

A letter to the editor pasted proudly on a business door in Key Marathon, Florida by the business owner discussing how immigrants today are a disgrace to immigrants from the start of the 20th Century. The letter details how people need to read history because in 1901, when the business owner’s grandfather came to the country, he didn’t ask for any government handouts like modern immigrants are asking for. So modern, non-English-speaking immigrants are greedier than the immigrants from 100 years ago and thus do not recognize the value of hard work and don’t appreciate why America is great. (I’m not concocting a straw man here, this is, as best as I can recall, the structure of the argument). Apparently, nobody told the letter-writer that in 1901 NOBODY got government handouts (other than cheap land which WAS aimed at immigrants) because there weren’t significant government social programs until after World War II.
I guess the purpose of the letter was for other people to read history, not for the letter writer to read history.

#1

Casa D’ice, a restaurant located near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which features political messages as their signature claim to fame.  Among the political messages they put up under their restaurant’s name and proudly reproduced on their website include:

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Tariq Ali on Chavez, Venezuela and the struggle against neoliberalism (audio)

socialist-podcast.pngEpisode #5 of the Paulitics Podcast has now been released. This episode features a talk by noted radical intellectual, Trotskyist and salient figure with the New Left Review publication, Tariq Ali.

Ali’s talk is loosely on the topic of his 2006 book entitled “Pirates Of The Caribbean: Axis Of Hope” and features a fantastic discussion of Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela including both the challenges to the revolution  and the successes of the revolution.

venezuelan-flag.pngchavez-and-supporters.pngAlso in the episode, I take some time to despell some more myths regarding the constitutional reform package.  I despell the myth that the reform package was hugely centralizing or authoritarian by pointing out that several of the reforms were actually decentralizing and libertarian in nature.  In fact, some of the proposals, including the proposal to decrease of the central government’s share of taxation revenues so as to increase the share of the revenues for the various states, and the reform of the central bank are all things that the Ron Paul fanatics have been clamoring for in the United States.

To listen to Ali’s talk or to download the episode, click here.

To find out how to subscribe to the podcast and have episodes brought to you automatically, click here.

To view past episodes of the Paulitics Podcast, click here.

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America: Just an awkward stage?

This is quite possibly the best one-liner comment on the social networking site reddit.com that I have ever read.

Short.  Precise.  Deliciously revolutionary.

“America is at that awkward stage. It’s too late to change the system from within, yet too early to shoot the bastards.”

That pretty much sums up my thinking on the subject, with the sole possible caveat that I’m not entirely convinced that it’s really too early to shoot the bastards.


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