Archive for August, 2011

Gaddafi Gone, Assad Next?

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Libyan rebels have taken the capital city of Tripoli and arrested two of Gaddafi’s sons. Reports are claiming Gaddafi has fled the nation.

What fantastic timing! NATO can claim responsibility for the regime change – even though they went there to ‘protect civilians’ – showing the world what can happen if and when they’re given permission to move on to Syria. (The term ‘move on’ is used here loosely, as NATO forces will likely remain in Libya for years.)

Forget waiting to see what comes of the regime change. Who cares if Libya’s new government is as corrupt as the last. Tunisia,Egypt – they’re both flourishing democracies now, right?

Let’s just go guns blazing, or rather, bombs dropping, into Syria. Why bother even considering alternatives when there are lives to be saved by killing people?

Canada Trying to Trim Military Fat

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

With major trading partners teetering on the brink of economic collapse, Canadians have been looking for ways to tighten belts. A great place to find unnecessary expenditures is with the military, since the only wars we’ve been fighting lately are the ones we make ourselves.

A new report outlines ways to do just that – cut 5-10%, or over a billion dollars, from our bloated defense budget. The report takes aim at the bureaucracy, opting to fire civilian staff and merge departments without compromising front-line integrity.

Still, these recommendations are going to be a hard sell, as it will require shaking up the military establishment. Without significant political pressure, these proposed cuts could easily be ignored.

This is where the Canadian public comes in. Already sick of the Afghan war, it’s time for Canadians to really make some noise and let our political leaders know we don’t want or need politically organized armed conflict anymore.

Sure, one billion in slashed spending is a great start, but we want the cuts to go far deeper. There are better ways to invest our precious treasure to improve the world.

These billions we blow on death and destruction could instead be used for building wells, spreading solar cookers, or feeding and schooling children. Rather than focusing on killing off the “bad guys”, we could be helping to strengthen the world’s communities, making it so they are able to handle their own affairs.

It’s time we moved beyond our roles as peace-keepers to become peace-builders, attacking the root causes of conflict instead of just the symptoms.

Crowdsourcing Helps Form Iceland’s Consitution

Friday, August 19th, 2011

What do you get when you cross 25 regular Icelanders with hundreds of Internet users? Iceland’s new constitution!

After the island nation’s economic collapse in 2008, Iceland has seen a strong upsurge of social movements, many of which have called for a revamp of the aging constitution. But not just any rewrite will do – the process needs to be led by ordinary citizens – so that is exactly what they’ve been doing.

Iceland’s small population of 320,000 elected 25 assembly members from 522 ordinary candidates (including lawyers, political science professors, journalists, and many other professions), who in turn opened their process up to the public in an unprecedented fashion.

It’s amazing to see such a completely transparent process. Online users can easily follow early revisions of the constitution and instantly offer their feedback. So far, more than 1,600 propositions and comments have been received, all of which are given due consideration by the 25 Constitution drafters.

Good on them! Iceland is showing the world the power we’ve been unleashing with our emergent technology. It is only a matter of time until transparency and democracy aren’t just niceties to be optional from governance – they will actually be expected and demanded from all the world’s leaders.

Plus now the Icelandic people have a legitimate excuse to Tweet and Facebook all day – because they are trying to be founding fathers!

Canadian Conservatives Consider Bolstering Big Brother

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

(Big Harper is watching you.)

Not one to shy away from the motto “Freedom is Slavery”, Stephen Harper and his conservative cronies have been drafting a new bill intent on making it easier for law enforcement agencies to peer into the private lives of Canadian citizens.

The bill deals with “lawful access” rules, giving police expanded influence for compelling Internet service providers to disclose customer information without a court order. The bill would also ban telcos from admitting that they have provided any such information.

Oh, great. That’s exactly what we need. More sweeping police powers. Why not install CCTV’s in everyone’s home while you’re at it, Mr. Harper?

No, actually don’t. That was just sarcasm.

We Canadians are doing fine already. Crime rates across the nation have been dropping for over a decade now. Sacrificing our precious civil liberties won’t likely help this trend.

The Conservative’s lawyers and lobbyists might be able to draft a bill that dances around the problem of being unconstitutional, but they’ll never prevent it from being unnecessary.

US Taxpayers Funding Taliban

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

In what can accurately be described as a colossal fuck-up, the U.S military estimates that $360 million in U.S. tax dollars has ended up in the hands of the Taliban and other criminals.

We all know that the war machine needs to manufacture their enemies, but this is ridiculous! I mean, come on Defense Industry, at least try to be a little more covert when creating people to fight.

It’s like they’ve been getting away with industrialized murder for so long that they’ve completely lost all respect for the dissenting ability of the American public.

But who can blame them… if $20 billion can go unaccounted for in Iraq without any major uproar, then a mere $300 mil should be no big deal.

While these tremendous fortunes are gone forever, not all is lost. Like Dr. Ron Paul says, people are waking up to the silliness of America’s bloated military spending and are no longer willing to just blindly accept anything in the name of defense.

It’s only a matter of time until the majority of humans, everywhere on earth, see war for what it is – a giant waste of lives and money just to hurt ourselves. And this is precisely why institutionalized armed conflict will soon go obsolete, paving the path for peace to overtake our planet.

Cheap Smartphones Flood Developing World

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Smartphones are one of the most empowering tools on the planet. They provide a portal to the Internet’s fountain of knowledge and they allow access to the world’s communities via social media.

When everyone on earth can afford a smartphone, a more just civilization will be upon us.

And that day is arriving faster than many may anticipate, thanks to companies like China’s Huawei, who released an $80 smartphone into the Kenyan marketplace earlier this year.

So far, over 350,000 Kenyans have gained access to the smartphone known as IDEOS, which runs Google’s open-source operating system – Android – and gives users access to over 300,000 various apps.

Some of these apps are opening huge doors for ambitious Kenyans, like Medkenya, a tool that puts a library of health information at the user’s fingertips and performs other helpful tasks like guiding the ill to hospitals.

Another app, called M-Farm, lets farmers broadcast product prices and locations to the world via SMS. Other similar agri-apps can help diagnose and track the spread of crop diseases via crowdsourcing.

By empowering individuals and uplifting small businesses and farmers, low cost smartphones are sure to be one of the most integral tools to ever help ease humanity’s burdens.

It’s really happening! Our world is getting better by the instant, at a faster pace than ever before. Pretty soon the dark days of feckless infighting and battling over basics will be behind us.

We’ll soon enter a new era where we can focus our energy on more fruitful endeavors, like allowing the the human spirit to flourish throughout the universe.

Buffett: Tax the Super-rich

Monday, August 15th, 2011

(Awww yea, Omaha’s Oracle makin’ it rain all up in heyah!)

The world’s 3rd richest man put out an op-ed piece in the New York Times saying it is time to stop coddling the super-rich.

It’s not the first time Warren Buffett has played the paragon for other uber-wealthy to follow – last year he urged other billionaires to follow him in pledging most of their fortunes to humanitarian causes.

Buffett starts off his diatribe by highlighting the hypocrisy of the struggling US economy:

OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

[Preferential tax breaks] and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Buffett goes on to note how, despite the what the republican noise chamber may echo, higher taxes don’t necessarily scare away investment:

I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain.

People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

To finish off his thesis, the billionaire Buffett laid out his plan:

[F]or those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

Wow! How stunningly refreshing. If more people ended up like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett after amassing such huge fortunes, our world would likely be a more peaceful, prosperous and just place to live.

US Drones Kill At Least 160 Pakistani Children – Report

Monday, August 15th, 2011

A damning report released this week from the UK’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism highlights another blight on America’s foreign policy. Since 2004, United States drone attacks over Pakistan have killed 2,292 people, including at least 160 children.

Ugh! That is so deplorable! How can anyone whose ‘side’ does something like that still feel like they’re the good guys?

How? Probably with some kind of rationalization techniques like this: ‘Mumble, mumble… gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet. Grumble, grumble… it’s the cost of our freedom.  Grumble, mumble… America, FUCK YEAH!

Well, probably not quite like that. But whatever mental and ethical tap dancing it takes for someone to somehow justify these deaths, you can be assured that it’s still being done right now.

Since President Obama has taken office, there has been 236 strikes on Pakistan. This means the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate is ultimately responsible for snuffing out Pakistani lives at the press of a button once every four days!

Good on the report’s authors for helping to blow the lid on this covert war. The more the world becomes aware of these ongoing atrocities, the sooner humankind will be able to move beyond this shameful period in our history.

Canada Ramps Up Sanctions on Syria

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

The Canadian government announced today it will be expanding existing sanctions on Syria. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said that Canada will freeze the assets of more people and entities associated with the Syrian government, including the Commercial Bank of Syria.

“The Assad regime has lost all legitimacy by killing Syrian men, women and children to stay in power.” said Baird, “This campaign of terror must stop.”

I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately Assad and his band of thugs have been panting themselves into a corner with blood.

Facing down the choice between an angry mob demanding their heads and an international community who will likely charge them for crimes against humanity, it is no wonder Syria’s regime chooses to continue the massacre.

But the bloodbath won’t continue forever.

There’s been talks of Turkey issuing ultimatums for Assad to end the uprising within two weeks. Analysts also predict NATO is preparing for attacks on Syria, because their intervention has been going swimmingly well in Libya.

So if sanctions and interventions are ineffectual, then what’s the solution? Where’s the hope and optimism that I’m supposed to be espousing here?

Well, for one, the Syrian people will persevere until they get the reform they deserve, giving us another testament to the indomitable human spirit and lending inspiration to other repressed peoples of the world.

As well, the proliferation of portable technology and social media will make future uprisings more prevalent and effective.

But the most important thing to take away from the Syrian situation is a lesson: never allow too much power to concentrate into too few hands, because it will likely cost many lives for the people to take the power back.

Woeful Waste: Losing a Hypersonic Plane

Friday, August 12th, 2011

DARPA – America’s advanced research group – lost their $308 Million dollar plane during yesterday’s test flight over the Pacific ocean.

The Falcon HTV-2 – a vehicle that works more like a rock with wings than an airplane – gets launched into the atmosphere with detachable rocket boosters before plummeting back to earth at up to 20 times the speed of sound.

One potential use for the project is – what else – a super weapon capable of delivering a 100o-pound payload to anywhere in the world in under 60 minutes.

Because that’s exactly what the world needs – another way to kill a large number of people on a tight deadline.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for scientific pursuits, even those with no obvious use, since many discoveries happened by accident and you never know what beneficial developments might arise.

But when your economy is in the tanks, and much of the world depends upon you for stability, perhaps it would be prudent to put super-plane projects on the backburner while more pressing issues – like your crumbling infrastructure and struggling education systems – get to sit in the front seat.

On the other hand, if you consider the $20 Billion or so that has gone missing in Iraq, the cost of a lost plane seems like a trifle.

I guess the best thing to do would be to expose the entire Defense Industry to a solid dose of transparency. That way the taxpayers can judge if their money is being used effectively or not.

Of course, if that ever happened, the whole scam might come crashing down and we’d be without large scale armed conflict in our world. And then how will the poor war-profiteers make their billions?