Archive for September, 2011

United States Flooding World With Weapons

Friday, September 30th, 2011

The Congressional Research Service’s arms sales report came out this week, and, once again, the United States has proven itself to be the frontrunner in the death-dealing business. In 2010, more than half of all exported weapons came from America.

As sad as it must be to know your nation is the world’s biggest war-profiteer, it must be even worse knowing that a sizable portion of your fellow citizens look upon these figures with reverence. As if arming the world is something to be proud of… ‘Yes! We are helping the world’s people to gain their freedom and democracy via a barrel of a gun.’

Yeah, right. Is that the same democracy and freedom currently being enjoyed by Iraqis and Afghans?

In all seriousness, it’s time for Americans to wake up and see what they are doing to the world. Exporting war and weapons is no way to build peace. Nor is there any honor in making a living off getting people killed.

Transport Workers Union To Help Occupy Wall Street

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Just twelve days in, and the movement to hold bankers and corporations accountable to the public is picking up some serious momentum. A massive organization – New York’s Transit Union - just voted to help the movement to Occupy Wall Street. With tens of thousands of members, the activists on Wall St. can expect a surge in bodies, come Friday at 4pm.

Like freedom fighting figurehead Michael Moore believes, the revolution ignited on Wall St. will spread like wildfire. Moore describes the “army of Americans who are just waiting for somebody to do something”, and because of the demonstrations in New York, “the something has started.”

If your wondering why the so-called 99% are so upset, we can turn to eloquent words of wisdom from the man himself – Noam Chomsky:

The banks are bigger and richer than before with corporate profits reaching record levels, and unemployment is about the level of the Great Depression – I mean real unemployment. These people are saying, let’s blame the culprits and the institutions behind them – fiscal policies like taxation, rules of corporate governance, deregulation – it does set in motion a vicious cycle that is getting worse and worse.

If you walk down the streets of New York you can see very serious poverty and phenomenal wealth side by side, very much like a Third World country. Meanwhile, infrastructure is collapsing, schools are collapsing and all that keeps this cycle going.

And one factor contributing to these problems are the big money interests, which have been allowed to undermine democracy. Chomsky:

Each [presidential] candidate spends over US $1 billion. Where does that money come from? A lot of it comes from financial institutions. What gave Obama the election were primarily financial institutions’ contributions. They preferred him over McCain, they expected to be paid, and they were. It has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between elected officials and concentrated capital.

So, unless you are in the 1% who benefit the most from our distorted distribution of wealth and power – and face it, you’re not! – you should be out there protesting too. Get out there and let your voice be heard. Take to the streets and be part of a movement for greater social justice, because that is what democracy looks like!

Conservatives Cramming Crime Bill Down Canadian Throats

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

(‘Looks good, but do we really need a sink _and_ a toilet? Get rid of one or the other – and presto – room for one more guest!’)

Canadians are renowned for resilience in the face of adversity, able to bear freezing winters for the brief but sensational summers. It is this willingness to take the good with the bad which leads Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party to believe Canadians will stomach their new Omnibus Crime bill.

Bill C-10 – the government’s new crime legislation – lumps together nine previously introduced bills which never passed, now repackaged into one all-encompassing document.

However, you can forget taking any time to discuss the matter – the Tories have decided to limit discussion to just two days! This means the opposition parties will have their work cut out for them, trying to call attention to all the bill’s glaring problems in such a short period of time.

First, there’s the plan to crack down on Marijuana cultivation, imposing new mandatory minimum sentences for minor offenses. Come on, Harper, in a nation that boasts the highest pot usage in the developed world, you’re alienating a good chunk of the population (not that most pot-smokers are likely to vote Conservative).

But forget the votes. Instead, consider how the whole drug prohibition strategy has proven itself to be a complete and utter failure. Why throw more money into that hole? Just look at the thousands who’ve been slain along the Mexican borders – they’d still be alive if drugs were legalized and the criminal gangs were no longer fueled by the billions they earn off the black market.

If the Conservatives really cared about protecting society, they’d take a rational, proven approach, like decriminalizing all drugs. Portugal did it, and it’s been a resounding success 10 years on. Screw the DEAs and drug gangs… let them find new jobs!

But sound policies are not what Harper stands for. Instead, the priority seems to be to appease trade partners – like the US, who’ve been steadfast in their funding of the failed war on drugs for decades.

And where will all these newly criminalized Canucks be housed? Why, in Canada’s new super-prisons, of course. Taking another page out of America’s playbook, privatized prisons can be huge money makers offering juicy kick-backs, provided the population is willing to tolerate having minor offenders locked up with hardened criminals.

Last but not least, this new crime bill will let police gather information from ISP’s without the need for a subpoena. Right, because we’re all sure to be safer when law enforcement has access into the private lives of every single Canadian.

Meanwhile, the world’s economies are teetering on the edge, and crime across the nation is at a 20 year low, but Harper and his party seem intent on dropping a few billion bills to see a larger percentage of Canadians get imprisoned.

Sadly, the financial costs of bill C-10 may very pale next to the long term societal damage to be incurred should Canada continue to follow in America’s footprints – a path the Conservatives seem hellbent on sending us down.

Israel Expands Settlements, Might Annex Entire West Bank

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

(Here’s two minutes of self-righteous Israeli settler drivel that you’ll never get back.)

Israel has approved the construction of 1,100 more homes in the settlement of Gilo on the outskirts of Jerusalem, earning widespread condemnation by Palestinian and Western powers, including the EU and US.

The move follows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the UN, where he decried the Palestinians unwillingness to negotiate a peace deal. Well, no shit, Benji – it’s kinda hard to work out a deal if you keep grabbing land from the people you’re negotiating with.

But Israel’s slow, systematic creeping might turn into a leaping pounce, should a new bill pass in the Knesset next month. The bill, which comes in response to Palestine’s bid for UN statehood recognition, will decide if Israel should just go ahead and annex the whole West Bank.

Oh great. Palestine is poised to become an official nation in the eyes of the international community, and Israel decides the best course of action is to usurp as much land as possible, while they still can.

Well, the Palestinian’s bid with the UN was supposed to move forward stalled peace talks. If Israel gets their way, there most certainly will be peace between Palestine and Israel, but only because Palestine no longer exists.

Banning Public Marches, Blacking Out Internet

Monday, September 26th, 2011

The United Kingdom has banned public marches for a 30 day period. Oh well, it’s probably for the best given the upsurge of violent protests, right? Wrong!

It doesn’t matter that the bans are for a set period of time, or that they are localized to a few boroughs. Restricting the right to voice discontent, even for a single moment, in any place, is far too much!

The problem is the precedent the motion sets. The same mechanisms which ban public protests for a month can quite easily ban them indefinitely.

Sadly, the UK is not alone with their heavy handed approach to dealing with civil disobedience. In New York, many activists from the Occupy Wall St. movement found their cell phone service cut, reminiscent of the BART blackout that happened a few months ago in San Fransisco.

In the US, UK, and elsewhere, these sweeping restrictions in response to minor uprisings should not go unchallenged. Fight to stop them from taking away your civil liberties, because you will most certainly have to fight to get them back.

Be outraged! Don’t shirk your responsibility – speak out against the consistent expansion of police powers. Let your voice be heard about these and any injustices you see!

Brutality on Wall Street – Stanford Comes Alive

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

One week down, countless more to go for the daring dissenters from the movement to occupy Wall Street. Despite dozens of arrests, the protesters are holding strong, maintaining an indomitable presence near America’s financial heart.

Now, if you’re looking to be outraged, check out the above video that shows police corralling and pepper spraying a group of frightened females.

Ugh, that is entirely reprehensible. Absurd! The officer who did the actual spraying should be fired, and the police department deserves to be sued.

Whenever these badged bullies use unnecessary force upon activists it makes me long for the days when we view the whole police/protesters scenario like a massive Stanford Prison Experiment.

The Stanford case, if you didn’t already know, involved a 14-day study with 24 students split into two groups – half as the prisoners and half as the guards. The entire experiment was abruptly stopped after only six days as the test degraded to the point of prisoners being tortured by the designated captors.

In New York, the same situation is playing out right now. On one side, some humans have taken the role as activists, and most choose to simply exercise their rights of non-violent civil disobedience.

On the other side, some humans have been entrusted with the role of protectors – sworn to uphold the law. But, as Stanford alluded to, authorities will abuse the power they’ve been given.

So what’s the solution? Well, why not pass laws that make it mandatory for every single member from riot squads to make public a video feed of their actions. Put it all online – unaltered -  open to public scrutiny.

Like the protesters on Wall Street are finding out, the 1% who control most of the wealth are scared of the 99% who want greater equality. It is imperative that we – the regular people of the world – push back against the encroaching security state, now, while we still can.

And one great way to do that is to make it really easy for anyone and everyone to police the police.

****UPDATE****

The officer who point blank maced a penned in group of young women and then slinked away has been identified as Deputy Inspector Anthony V. Bologna. Follow the link for a few ways to file a complaint.

America is Arming Brutal Dictators

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Glenn Greenwald wrote a concise exposé into the hypocrisy surrounding Bahrain and the United States. As Greenwald details, the gap between President Obama’s words and the actions of his administration is quite substantial.

Here’s the abbreviated version:

President Obama, March 19, 2011:

We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy.

Reuters, March 16, 2011:

At least five protesters have been killed and hundreds wounded in a crackdown by Bahraini forces on Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch, yesterday:

Leading [Bahraini] political opposition figures have been sentenced to long prison terms, in some cases for life, solely for their role in organizing the large street protests.

The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, September 14, 2011:

[America's] DSCA notified Congress today of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Bahrain for Armored High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles, TOW Missiles and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support worth an estimated $53 million.

So, why on earth would the American government sell weapons to merciless thugs who will, most certainly, use them on the civilian population? Well, the answer is in the DSCA’s press release itself:

This proposed sale will … improve the security of a major non-NATO ally that has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.

In other words, Bahrain is loyal to America and it’s largest corporations. As long as the tiny country’s corrupt regime keeps playing the game, any butt-kickings issued by Bahrain’s security forces are free to be stamped with MADE IN THE USA.

Video Gaming for Peace

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Developers are working on a unique idea for a video game where players run around a war zone and shoot enemies. But instead of a gun, they’re armed only with a video camera! Interesting idea, like a trainer for photojournalists. Players can learn about framing shots, panning and zooming as they grab footage of combatants and civilians caught up in war.

While it’s an innovative concept, I was hoping they’d take the power of the camera one step further. Imagine a game where, instead of just being a passive war journalist, the footage you take immediately impacts the world around you.

For example, you’re in a war zone with your camera where you know there’s going to be a rocket attack. Your objectives are to record the incident from different vantage points.

First, you record the event from the side that fired the rocket. You catch it beautifully. A soldier drops back behind some rubble, his squad mates offering covering fire. A smoke trail leads from the rubble pile up the hill, towards a compound in a residential area. The rocket goes off and there’s a devastating explosion. Cut scene.

Now, you stop time and rewind it a bit, to get the perspective of the people about to be blown up. There’s a few rebels, one armed with a sniper rifle, shooting out the windows. In the kitchen, covering their heads, hides a group of terrified women and children. Bullets are ricocheting all around.

In comes the rocket, maybe in slo-mo for dramatic effect. Kaboom. The camera catches every gory, flesh-shredding detail in high definition. Lights out, people.

But the game doesn’t end there. The footage you shoot gets beamed to the game’s virtual global community, who scrutinize what they see.

So shocked by the horrors in your compelling video that the people from the invading nation decide to no longer tolerate this violence, and demand that their troops return home.

The soldier who fired the rocket also gets to see what he did, and he too is sickened by his own actions. The rebels also watch the clip, and they too decide to deplore violence. Overwhelmed with guilt and shame, combatants from both sides throw down their arms and urge their comrades to do the same.

So that’s the gist of the game. You go around with your camera recording the scenes of war, and as you do, the power of your camera brings an end to the fighting.

Maybe it wouldn’t be the most popular game, but it might help teach about the importance of exposing the war machine to a solid dose of transparency. If the entire human race could see, in real time, what is really happening as their armies fight, there wouldn’t be such a strong push towards massive, coordinated violent conflicts.

Fortunately, with every new day, we do gain more ways to drag the realities of war out of the shadows. And the more these atrocities get viewed by the global spotlight, the more peace will take hold of our planet.

Four Civilians for Every Enemy

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Death tolls since the beginning of the US’s non-consensual liberation of Iraq: about 20,000 for the insurgents/defenders and 4,500 for the invaders/democratizers.

Compare that to the number of Iraqi civilians who’ve been killed in the past ten years. Estimates range from 100,000 up to 1,000,000. Even at the conservative end, that’s four dead good-guys for every combatant.

And the stats coming out of Iraq are not uncommon for war zones. Armed conflict always hits the civilian population the hardest.

What this means for you war-hungry young men and women out there is: if you decide to enlist as a soldier of war, you’d better be prepared to kill innocent people.

Now, don’t worry. It will never get put to you that way. Just the opposite, in fact. You’ll be told – and you’ll probably believe – that you’re fighting to save and protect lives.

But, for every enemy you and your comrades slay, be sure to prevent the deaths of at least five non-combatants. That way you’ll make a net positive for the, on average, four or more innocent lives you just took.

*****

Then again, when you try to get into the math of it all, what really becomes clear is how millions of people are fighting and dying so that the super-rich can grow even richer.

It’s World Peace Day!

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Happy World Peace Day, everybody! ‘Tis the season for ceasefires, where we come together and look forward to brighter days… days when major global conflicts no longer exist.

This peaceful future really isn’t that far off. See, war is not a natural state of being for our species. Sure, we humans have inherently violent behaviors. And sure, life itself is intrinsically a struggle between organisms looking out for themselves. But that doesn’t automatically mean that large scale wars must exist.

In fact, as we’ll be seeing over the next few years, a lot of money goes into perpetuating earth’s major military endeavors. Take away some of the underlying factors behind conflict, and the drums calling us to fight will be muted.

Just imagine, if you will, what a 100% tax on profits from weapons manufacturing would do to the defense industry. It might prove to be a catastrophic blow!

Plus, with the advent of breakthrough technologies that will help humankind meet its basic needs, extreme poverty will soon be eradicated. This means armies will have trouble filling their ranks when there’s no more despondent to take up the arms.

But that won’t matter anyway, thanks to the Internet and social media. Our world’s people are coming together like never before, meaning there are fewer and fewer perceived enemies to fight all the time.

So, add it all up, and it means the tide will soon turn, and the power will shift. Down with the trillion dollar empire that enables war as a business. Up with the billions of humans who want the violence and killing to stop. World peace is coming!