Archive for the 'International 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

How ‘non-news’ news stories reinforce the status quo

untitledIn a classic episode of the popular television sitcom The Simpsons, the notoriously crooked and amoral attorney Lionel Hutz famously advised the Simpson family that facts were of secondary importance to their case since, according to him, there is a big difference between ‘the truth’ (said with a frown in a somber, serious voice) and “The Truth” (said in in a charismatic, happy way with a smile).

If it was not abundantly clear before, it is certainly the case that now more than ever before, we need to draw a distinction between ‘the news’ (said with a frown in a somber, serious voice) and “The News” (said in in a charismatic, happy way with a smile).

I would like to suggest that ‘the news’ ought to be a normative conception of the newsworthiness of an event (or lack thereof) based upon its objective impact to entire cities, nations and/or the globe.  Conversely, I posit that “The News” ought to be taken as a realist view of the news wherein the newsworthiness of an event (or lack thereof) is based solely on an observation of what is or is not reported in the mainstream press irrespective of normative, logical, moral or ethical considerations.

In other words, under the first conception of ‘the news’, while some events may be personally ‘significant’ (such as the death of a loved one), the newsworthiness of an event would be conditional on sociological or political significance.  Thus, for instance, the death of Jon Bennet Ramsey would not have been news, however charges of Boulder Police incompetence in handling the case or corruption would be considered news.  Conversely, “The News” does not encourage critical thinking about the news or the nature of the stories generated.  The news is the news is the news.  What is newsworthy is simply what makes the news.

While this is hardly a Socratic deduction to make, it is a crucially important one because far too much of the criticism of the mainstream media from both the left wing [1] [2] and the right wing [3] [4] today is based simply on exposing real or apparent lies, distortions and untruths.  This is not to say that exposing lies or distortions in media is not a worthwhile endeavour, but rather that it is limited.  It is limited because it ignores the far more omnipresent fact that a news story may be factual and accurate and correct but that it may nevertheless reinforce the status quo, dominant ideologies and systems of hierarchy and oppression.

An example of a factually correct, accurate and truthful “The News” story which I would like to suggest serves to reinforce the status quo is the story of Brandon Crisp.  Recently a Caucasian Ontario boy named Brandon Crisp was found dead after having run away from his home after his parents forbade him from playing his game console.  Since his body’s discovery, a media sensation has erupted.  The police have conducted autopsy reports and have postulated that he died falling from a tree while the media has spent inordinate resources speculating how long he would have survived after the fall.

A brief search reveals the extend of the media frenzy which has now reached the international press.

brandon-crisp-news

This, of course, is nothing new.  There is, in my opinion, substantial albeit as-of-yet only circumstantial evidence to support the thesis of a “Missing White Girl” phenomenon [5] [6].

With the realist conception of newsworthiness based on “The News“, not only do stories which have no impact on the city, country or globe become news, but since newsworthiness is predicated circularly on what is reported as news, the mere fact of a given “The News” story making news headlines is often itself enough to cause more news headlines in other publications.  Here, the problem arises in that there are only so many column inches available and only so many resources in terms of editorial and reporting staff for any given publication, that in selecting these factually correct non-news stories amidst the torrents of incoming factually correct global events, editors necessarily leave out genuine news stories.

0743284550The death of Brian Crisp, while undeniably a tragedy for his family and friends, does not impact the sociological or political existence of his city, country or the world.  But, in focusing on this one death or on the latest ‘missing white girl’ case or on the latest house fire — since doing so is necessarily done to the exclusion of other events — consumers of mainstream media are left with the false impression that the most pressing problems facing society are particular, parochial and individual rather than systemic, global and societal.  The public is, in short, instilled daily with the right wing neo-conservative thesis postulated by Francis Fukuyama that ‘history has ended’ [7] [8] [9] despite the fact that, strictly speaking, nothing factually incorrect has been reported.

In closing, to illustrate this point, consider for yourself whether people would have the same impression of the greatest problems facing society if any of following stories — all of which it is important to note were omitted by the media in part because of ‘insufficient space’ — were reported in place of the death of Brian Crisp.

18 million die annually due simply to poverty [10] [11] [12].  As a corollary, it could also be noted that the vast majority of these 18 million are non-Caucasians living in Afria despite the fact that Africa is perhaps the richest continent on the planet.  It could also be reported that the poverty of Africans amidst the wealth of Africa is due largely to conscious and deliberate policies instituted by the West during the colonial period and which have been continued into the neo-liberal era.

18-million-dead-due-to-poverty-news

While 18 million people — predominantly Africans — die annually due to poverty, the European Union subsidizes every cow in the EU by $2.50/day which is more money than 75% of all Africans live on [see: Williams, Jessica.  50 Facts that Should Change the World.  Cambridge: Icon Books Ltd., 2004.  p. 46-51].

The largest humanitarian crisis in the world today is not Iraq, nor Afghanistan nor Darfur in the Sudan, but rather Somalia [13].  There are now more refugees and more displaced people in Somalia than in Iraq, yet the West is positively uninterested in fixing the situation.  But, despite this, capitalists and their apologists regularly praise the ‘economic miracle of Somalia’ as a glorious experiment in Anarcho-capitalism [14] [15] [16].

If this is the Tories’ idea of protecting children, I’d hate to see their idea of not protecting them

It’s funny how the Tories will talk the good talk of defending children when it suits their ideologically narrow world view only to turn around and actively exploit even more vulnerable children by having them guard our military assets and killing machines.  It’s of course, not ‘ha ha’ funny, but rather more on the sardonic side.  If this is what protecting children means to the Conservatives, I’d hate to see their definition of not protecting the children.

An excerpt from an article by Thomas Walkom in today’s Toronto Star:

“Back in 2002, Canada signed on to an international treaty aimed at rehabilitating child soldiers.

In fact, Canada was the first to ratify the so-called Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty that requires signatories to give special consideration to captured enemy fighters under the age of 18.

The treaty says they are to be segregated from adult combatants. As well, those who capture children must make every effort to reintegrate them into society.

[…]

Amir Attaran, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, and Andy Knight, a University of Alberta political scientist, make the case that, in Afghanistan, Canada is running afoul of the very treaty it once championed.

I first heard the pair on CBC Radio’s The Current. Yesterday, I phoned them up. Attaran, who has been a vocal critic of Canada’s detention policy in Afghanistan, points out that government documents released in a court case last fall show that Canadian troops in Kandahar indeed capture child fighters, only to turn them over to Afghan security forces for what is usually a brutal interrogation.

That, he says, is a clear violation of Canada’s international obligations and – depending on how the children are treated by the Afghans – almost certainly a crime under Canadian law.

Citing press reports, Knight told me that there is also some suggestion of Afghan teenagers being used, with NATO co-operation, to guard military facilities.

A national defence spokesman told me yesterday that the Canadian Forces hand over suspected child insurgents to the Afghan authorities who incarcerate them in a juvenile wing at Kandahar’s main prison.

But the two human rights experts say this isn’t sufficient. They say that when Canadian troops capture children, they should hand them over to UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund. It operates a rehabilitation centre in the country for former child soldiers and so far has successfully demobilized 7,400.

Confidential documents released as part of a court case brought against the government by Amnesty International point out that Ottawa is well aware of the UNICEF project. Yet none of the minors captured (and thanks to the ongoing federal court case, we know there have been at least three) has ended up there.

[…]

“Canada was once at the top of the heap in this regard,” says Attaran. “Now we’re keeping company with those at the bottom.”

As a Marxist, I’m obviously not prone to quoting from the Bible, however one quote does spring to mind:  It’s the Biblical definition of the hypocrite outlined in Matthew 7:4:

“cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then
thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

Progress for same-sex rights in Cuba

Today marked a great victory and the promise for substantial future progress for our gay brothers and lesbian sisters living in Cuba.

https://paulitics.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/cuba-same-sex-marriage.pngAP reports that:

“Cuba‘s gay community celebrated unprecedented openness — and high-ranking political alliances — with a government-backed campaign against homophobia on Saturday.

[…]

“Cuban state television gave prime-time play Friday to the U.S. film “Brokeback Mountain,” which tells the story of two cowboys who conceal their homosexual affair.

“Prejudice against homosexuals remains deeply rooted in Cuban society, but the government has steadily moved away from the Puritanism of the 1960s and 1970s, when homosexuals hid their sexuality for fear of being ridiculed, fired from work or even imprisoned.

“Now Cuba’s parliament is studying proposals to legalize same-sex unions and give gay couples the benefits that people in traditional marriages enjoy.

“Parliament head Ricardo Alarcon said the government needs to do more to promote gay rights, but said many Cubans still need to be convinced.”

The significance of this move from a political perspective should not be overlooked. There is not a single Latin American country that recognizes same-sex marriages due to the high religiosity of the Latin American culture.

Thus, when we look at the recent good moves on this file in Cuba in concert with the multiple attempts by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to make Venezuela the first country on the face of the planet to explicitly recognize same-sex marriages in the text of the constitution, it is clear that socialism, when done right, is a way forward for everyone.

There’s still a lot of work to be done throughout Latin America for the GLBT community, and we should especially make sure not to let the governments — even allied socialist governments — guide the agenda. But, I think, there is very good reason for optimism given these developments.

Oh shit…

The political situation/catastrophe of contemporary Italian politics is apparently well on its way to becoming an ongoing series of coverage here at Paulitics.

Earlier in the week, I reported that Rome’s new (self-proclaimed) neo-fascist mayor Gianni Alemanno was proudly greeted with straight-arm fascist salutes and cries of “Duce! Duce!” (the Italian equivalent of the German “Führer”).

If that wasn’t enough to make you say “Oh shit…”, how about this one: Rome’s new fascist mayor makes his first policy pledge:

Rome’s new mayor promises purge of migrants:

“Gianni Alemanno, 50, a firebrand neo-fascist and the first Right-wing mayor of the city since the Second World War, vowed to make Rome ‘secure’ as he was sworn into office after his election at the weekend.

[…]

In a sign of things to come, after Mr Alemanno’s election Mr Berlusconi declared: ‘We are the new Falange.’

The original Falange (or Phalanx) was the Spanish fascist party, founded in the 1930s, whose doctrine was adopted by General Franco.

[…]

The new mayor said that his first action would be to begin “immediate expulsions” of the 20,000 immigrants in the city with criminal records.

[…]

Mr Alemanno was the youth leader of the fascist Italian Social Movement and wears a Celtic cross, a symbol of the extreme Right. However, he said he wore the cross only as a religious symbol, and in tribute to Paolo di Nella, a far-Right activist who was stoned to death in a Rome street protest 25 years ago.

Mr Alemanno said he was sick of the ‘continuing search for [my] dark side’, adding: ‘I am bitterly upset from a personal point of view at this demonisation.’

[…]

Graziano Halilovic, a spokesman for one of Rome’s biggest settlements of Roma gipsies, said: ‘We fear there will be night-time raids on the camps. We want a safe city too. Some of our members have heard their parents’ stories of fascism.’

Mr Bossi said on Wednesday that immigrants had to be hunted out, and that if reforms were not forthcoming, his followers would take up arms.

“We have no fear of taking things to the piazzas. We have 300,000 martyrs ready to come down from the mountains. Our rifles are always smoking,” he said.

Mr Alemanno has promised to tear down a £12 million museum around the Ara Pacis, an altar to the Emperor Augustus.”

Happy May Day?

Today is May Day, the original Labour Day throughout the world (including Canada and the U.S.).  And, despite the conscious policy decision to divorce Labour Day in Canada and the U.S. from May 1st, the day should still hold meaning for us to reflect on the democratic victories that our struggles have won but also on the work that needs to be done.

So, in the spirit of the importance of recognizing how much work we have yet to do, how’s this for a ‘happy May Day’?

From The Guardian:

“Italy’s new parliament met for the first time yesterday with applause for Rome’s mayor-elect, Gianni Alemanno, a day after followers celebrated his triumph with straight-arm salutes and fascist-era chants.

Alemanno, a former neo-fascist youth leader, took 54% of the vote in a run-off on Sunday and Monday, crushing his rival, Francesco Rutelli, a deputy prime minister in the last, centre-left government.

[…]

On Monday night, the area around Rome’s city hall rang to chants of “Duce! Duce!”, the term adopted by Italy’s dictator, Benito Mussolini, equivalent to the German “Führer”. Supporters of the new mayor gave the fascist Roman straight-arm salutes.”

But, despite this little tidbit of news that I came across today, May Day wasn’t all bad news this year.  Earlier today on the internets, in my travels amongst its many tubes, I found a fantastic list of Marxist webcasts by university professor named Ron Strickland.

So, if any of you comrades need to wash the unpleasant taste caused by seeing modern-day Italians give fascist salutes, I recommend one of two things:  Booze; or Marxist webcasts.

I for one have decided to partake in both.

You can access Strickland’s Marxist webcasts here.

Happy May Day comrades!

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.

A *Really* Inconvenient Truth: ‘Green capitalism’ is an oxymoron

.

oxymoron-eco-capitalism-2.pngI recently came across an interview with Joel Kovel, the man behind A Really Inconvenient Truth and Enemy of Nature.

Joel Kovel is an eco-socialist who critiques Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth not from an environmental skeptic position, but rather on the contrary, he critiques it from the left.

The interview is well worth the listen to if you get the chance. However, I do suggest that if you’re going to listen to it, do it soon because I’m not sure how long the radio program will be hosting the file.

You can access it here:

.

or you can access it here.

.

.

.

.
.

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.

bush-abdullah.png

bush-mubarak.png

bush-musharraf.png

carter-hassan-ii.png

carter-the-shah.png

carter-the-shah-ii.png

 ford-pinochet.png

ford-suharto.png

johnson-park-chung-hee-marcos-nguyen-van-thieu.png

nixon-armas.png

 nixon-marcos.png

reagan-fahd.png

reagan-marcos.png

reagan-martinez.png

roosevelt-batista.png

roosevelt-somoza.png

 and….

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

 rumsfeld-hussein.png

 cordell-hull-trujillo.png

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


Resources:

home page polling resource

Click below to download the

Paulitics Blog Search

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Canada License.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in the comments section beneath each post on this blog do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the blog's author and creator. Individual commentators on this blog accept full responsibility for any and all utterances.

Reddit

Progressive Bloggers

Blogging Canadians

Blogging Change

LeftNews.org

Paulitics Blog Stats

  • 863,959 hits since 20 November, 2006