Archive for April, 2011

NDP Surging Forward in Polls

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

With an election just around the corner in Canada, several polls are showing the New Democratic Party as being either tied or ahead of the Liberal Party.

Jack Layton and his progressives are poised to see their representation in the Commons increase from 36 to 60 seats, much to the dismay of the Conservatives who were seeking a majority government.

How exciting! With the NDP as opposition party, perhaps the Canadian government will more accurately reflect Canadian values, where over 70% of us support medicare, affordable post-secondary education, generous social assistance, human rights, genuine EI, and eliminating poverty.

If nothing else, maybe the Conservatives won’t find it so easy to increase war spending and import America’s failed drug prohibition policies. Ah yes, a man can dream, right?

 

Public Pressure Protects Canadian Internet

Friday, April 29th, 2011

One day, the net will bring our world together enough to redistribute power and usher in a new era of peace and prosperity. Until then, we must vehemently protect our free Internet from forces conspiring to restrict the flow of information.

Being vocal is one of the best ways to safeguard our precious Internet, as confirmed by a recently leaked cable which notes how Canada’s Conservative government delayed introducing copyright legislation in early 2008 due to public opposition.

The document states how then-Industry Minister Jim Prentice told U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins that cabinet colleagues and Conservative MPs were worried about getting public scorn by chasing copyright reform:

Our contacts downplayed the small – but increasingly vocal – public opposition to copyright reform led by University of Ottawa law professor Dr. Michael Geist.  On February 25, however, Industry Minister Prentice (please protect) admitted to the Ambassador that some Cabinet members and Conservative Members of Parliament – including MPs who won their ridings by slim margins – opposed tabling the copyright bill now because it might be used against them in the next federal election.  Prentice said the copyright bill had become a “political” issue.

See… this is what democracy looks like! Making noise, and lots of it. It’s about large groups of people, united and motivated by the same issue, rousing enough rabble to draw our politicians’ attention away from their high-paying special interests long enough to effect change.

We need to stay eternally vigilant in our struggle to keep the ugly stench of bureaucracy and corporate greed from destroying our beautiful Internet.

Monstrous Truths

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Here’s a 1000 words offering keen insights into the human condition, coming from Virus Comix by way of picture:

My two favorites: the one that shows how weak institutions can be, as well as the one which highlights the potential significance of one person.  But each demonstrate a depth of wisdom belied by the whimsical appearance.

JFK’s Peaceful World

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

US President John F. Kennedy was a courageous man and an eloquent speaker. In 1963, Kennedy shared the following inspiring words describing humankind’s untapped potential in a commencement speech at the American University:

I have chosen this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived, yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace.

I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children. Not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women. Not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.

Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it unreal. We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade, therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants.

World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor. It requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance. So let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable, and war need not be inevitable.

Yes!!! Awesome! No wonder JFK was so well loved.

Heinous Hemp Hypocrisy

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

As incredible as we humans are, and amazing as our accomplishments have been, we’ve still some major injustices left to eradicate.

While not as pressing as say, Israel’s oppression of Palestine, an issue that is not given its due credence for its crimes against humanity is… drug prohibition. Yes, the war on drugs is a tragedy of the utmost proportions for many reasons, of which here are two:

First, we’re spending billions a year on soldiers, cops and jails to fight drugs, while the only tangible results are the creation of a gigantic black market to prop up powerful organized crime syndicates.

Second, we’ve actually been stifling our world’s GDP by not harnessing the full potential of a few highly beneficial plants, like Cannabis and Coca, which could each be multi-billion dollar businesses on their own.

So why does the war on drugs persist? Surely not because it has been successful. Today, even though narcotics are cheaper and stronger than ever before, prohibition does far more damage to society than the drugs they vilify.

No, what it boils down to is that these beneficial plants are being made illegal because of their very usefulness. Cheap and plentiful, they offer tremendous competition for other billion dollar industries – a notion vibrantly described by the writers at Absolute Despotism:

Marijuana’s probably bad for you, but so is shoving pine cones up your ass. The reason marijuana’s illegal and pine cones aren’t, is because you can’t use pine cones to make paper… But in the 1930’s a new machine called a “decorticator” made it profitable to produce paper from hemp. So profitable that Popular Mechanics called hemp the “New Billion-Dollar Crop” and reported  “10,000 acres devoted to hemp will produce as much paper as 40,000 acres of average [forest] pulp land.”

Well a lot of people, including newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, owned a shit load of timberland, and because people don’t like it when new technology comes along and fucks up their business, Hearst started calling hemp marijuana, and launched a newspaper campaign to ban his competition. It worked, and even though the American Medical Association was against banning marijuana (seriously), in 1937 it was outlawed. So thanks to people like Hearst, marijuana was outlawed to prevent competition from hemp.

Hearst was just one powerful guy in the paper industry. Now picture similar rich tycoons within Cannabis’ other competing fields, like oil, cotton, pharmaceuticals, alcohol and tobacco, and we begin to see the real reasons drug prohibition is still around – big money in a few pockets.

But here’s the good news: the sham known as drug prohibition is being exposed to a growing audience. Soon, in the same fashion that alcohol prohibition was demolished, enough of us will stand together against further injustice and bring the world’s war on drugs to a well-deserved end.

 

 

Exposing Torture to Transparency

Monday, April 25th, 2011

More than 700 leaked secret files on the Guantanamo detainees lay bare the inner workings of America’s controversial prison camp in Cuba. Files obtained by the website Wikileaks have revealed that the US believed many of those held at Gitmo were innocent or only low-level operatives.

The leak depicts a system often focused more on extracting intelligence than on containing dangerous terrorists or enemy fighters. The documents also reveal US authorities relied heavily on information obtained from a small number of detainees under torture.

The Pentagon said the files’ release could damage anti-terrorism efforts, mostly because they expose the hypocrisy and inherent flaws of US foreign policy, where terrorism is used on innocent people in a bid to reduce terrorism.

Yemen Uprisings Bearing Fruit

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Three months of fierce pro-democracy protests in Yemen have yielded some concrete results. Yesterday, President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to relinquish his hold on power.

The resignation comes via a plan brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council and endorsed by the official opposition coalition, giving Saleh’s regime 30 days to transition out of office.

The deal, while an excellent sign of progress, is not without some issues. One being the offer of immunity to Saleh and his family. The second being the 30 day window, which Yemenis fear might be used by Saleh to hang on to power.

Still, it’s great to see that another brutal dictatorship in the Middle East is set to topple. Long live freedom and democracy!

Israel’s Brightest Back Palestine

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

(The sign makes a point, but rarely does violence solve anything.)

Dozens of Israeli intellectuals and artists have signed a petition calling for a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders and an end to the occupation. Included are 16 winners of the nation’s highest civilian honor – the Israel Prize.

This handful of influential thinkers are the latest to join a movement that’s been growing within the Jewish community and across the world, as the atrocities caused by the State of Israel come to light.

Israel’s continued human rights violation are outlined by Al J’s Marwan Bishara in his piece describing The Middle East’s oldest dictatorship.

Bishara starts with a brief history of the Israel-Palestine debacle:

Since its inception at the end of the 19th century, Zionism preached self-determination for the Jewish people in “their” homeland. In reality, Israel has directly or indirectly driven Palestinians out of their homeland, confiscated their properties, rejected their right to return to their homeland despite UN resolutions, and occupied and colonised the rest of their homeland for the last four decades.

Throughout, Israeli military and security services ruled over another people against their will. They oppressed, tortured, exploited and robbed the Palestinians of their land, water and most importantly, their freedom.

He goes on to describe the Apartheid type conditions within Israel and occupied Palestine:

The settlements, the bypass roads and the industrial zones it built, are exclusively for Jews. Israel and its various Zionist organisations have built over 600 towns, villages and other form of settlements for the Jews, but none for the Palestinians – not even those it considers part of its own citizens, who make up almost one-fifth of its population.

Bishara concludes with the following thoughts:

Peace is possible between Palestinians and Israelis on the basis of one state, or two independent states divided by the 1967 borders. It’s however not tenable nor moral, let alone revolutionary, for the Palestinians to be forced into accommodation or peace with Israel’s occupation or its colonial dictatorship.

Our planet is waking up, growing interconnected, and exposing the suffering which has prevailed for too long. The Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people is just one of these injustices to be resolved as we usher in a new age for humanity.

ColbertPAC Morphs Into SuperPAC

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

(Suck it, Federal Election Commission!)

Like a Phoenix from the ashes, Stephen Colbert’s newly founded ColbertPAC was axed by execs only to rise again from the sea of red tape.

Lawyers from The Colbert Report’s parent company Viacom were afraid that using resources from the popular fake-news show would be a violation of federal election law, which says corporations cannot donate to PACs. However, thanks to last year’s ‘Citizens United‘ ruling in the Supreme Court, corporations can now donate unlimited funds to political issues in the form of a SuperPAC.

Slap a new cover letter onto the old forms designed for actual people, and voila, a corporation is free to further any political agenda it may have. Sounds a bit sketchy, right? Surely this could easily benefit powerful business institutions at the expense of the population, so how could US lawmakers enable such an egregious affront to democracy?

Sadly, the answer is that they’re only doing what their predecessors have been doing for years. Legislation like Citizens United are just the latest in a century’s worth of incremental power grabs. Big business has been systematically buying more and more influence over the American political system for so long that they now have more control than ever before.

As frustrating and scary as it is to see corporations exert such tremendous influence over the electoral system, we cannot be too critical of regular Americans for allowing their political and economic institutions to run amok. Sure, the US people ultimately accountable for their government, but they’re up against some powerful and complex forces.

We can, however, remain hopeful that, as the dehumanized face of corporatism reveals itself to the American public, they will come together to enact revolutionary changes to their country. Until then, we can support boat-rockers like Colbert, and let the unfettered United States of Corporations serve as a example for us to try and avoid.

Some Success Seen in Syria

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

It’s been over a month of brutal suppression, but protests in Syria are finally beginning to pay off.

Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has appointed a new governor in the central city of Homs. More importantly,  Al-Assad also issued a decree ending nearly five decades of emergency rule, abolishing the secretive state security courts.

A third decree said citizens would be granted “the right to peacefully demonstrate” and noted that this is one of the “basic human rights guaranteed by the Syrian constitution”.

While these decrees are essentially lip service without way to enforce accountability with the security forces, they’re still a positive sign that one of the Middle East’s most authoritarian regimes is cracking under the pressure of people power.

Massive protests are expected tomorrow in more than 40 cities across Syria. Good luck, freedom fighters!