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November 30, 2007

Films You Need To See

Does your brain feel empty? Feel the hankering for some elucidation? Is there an inexplicable urge to cut through the obfuscation with some straight up reality? Have some time to kill? Well then...

(this post is frequently updated)

"Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land"
Provides a striking comparison of U.S. and international media coverage of the crisis in the Middle East, zeroing in on how structural distortions in U.S. coverage have reinforced false perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.





"The Corporation"
In the mid-1800s the corporation emerged as a legal "person." Imbued with a "personality" of pure self-interest, the next 100 years saw the corporation's rise to dominance. The corporation created unprecedented wealth but at what cost? The remorseless rationale of "externalities" (as Milton Friedman explains, the unintended consequences of a transaction between two parties on a third) is responsible for countless cases of illness, death, poverty, pollution, exploitation and lies.

"The Power Of Nightmares"
Compares the rise of the American Neo-Conservative movement and the radicalIslamist movement, making comparisons on their origins and noting strong similarities between the two. More controversially, it argues that the threat of radical Islamism as a massive, sinister organised force of destruction, specifically in the form of al-Qaeda, is in fact a myth perpetrated by politicians in many countries—and particularly American Neo-Conservatives—in an attempt to unite and inspire their people following the failure of earlier, more utopian ideologies.

"Orwell Rolls In His Grave"
Critically examines the Fourth Estate, once the bastion of American democracy, asking "Could a media system, controlled by a few global corporations with the ability to overwhelm all competing voices, be able to turn lies into truth?..."





"Why We Fight"
An unflinching look at the anatomy of the American war machine, weaving unforgettable personal stories with commentary by a who's who of military and beltway insiders. Why We Fight launches a bipartisan inquiry into the workings of the military industrial complex and the rise of the American Empire.

"Loose Change 2nd Edition"

A comprehensive and critical examination of events leading up to, including and immediately following September 11, 2001. This film at the very least provides overwhelming evidence as to why there needs to be another independent commission to honestly and realistically get to the truth of what really happened that day.

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November 29, 2007

And Now Your Moment of Reason


Today, a tale of two activists. One rational and one completely deluded.

Recently Noam Chomsky and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu were among the speakers at a conference in Boston sponsored by Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian organization.

(See Democracy Now for audio/video/transcript.)

Both of their talks focused on the Israel-Palestine conflict, coinciding with a US sponsored summit (or more accurately, a US sponsored exercise in hypocrisy) on the conflict attended by everyone involved except the democratically elected Hamas, who wasn't invited.

Prof. Chomsky, being the rational, humanist sort of guy he is, starts with eloquence:
Before saying a word, I’d like to express some severe personal discomfort, because anything I say will be abstract and dry and restrained. The crimes against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and elsewhere, particularly Lebanon, are so shocking that the only emotionally valid reaction is rage and a call for extreme actions. But that does not help the victims. And, in fact, it’s likely to harm them. We have to face the reality that our actions have consequences, and they have to be adapted to real-world circumstances, difficult as it may be to stay calm in the face of shameful crimes in which we are directly and crucially implicated.

At once humble, forceful, rational, scathing, responsible and compassionate. He goes on to draw similarities between apartheid South Africa and Israel, and recalls some history involving US support for the Israeli Apartheid State and repression of Palestinians.

he concludes with this:
...in the coming weeks and the longer term, there’s plenty of educational and organizational activity that will have to be carried out among an American population that happens to be largely receptive, though deluged with propaganda and deceit. And it’s not going to be easy. It’s never been easy. But much harder tasks have been accomplished with dedicated and persistent effort.

A fine conclusion to a presentation devoid of rhetoric, fantasy, delusion or arrogance.

Now for your dose of rhetoric, fantasy, delusion and arrogance. Enter Archbishop Tutu. He starts out well enough, graciously accepting an apology from St. Thomas University for having cancelled a speaking engagement of his because of comparisons between Israel and South Africa.
But then he gets loopy. At once reinforcing the fantasy of Israeli's being the chosen people of god and celebrating the violent nature of his god. Speaking of South Africa:
We were able to revive and sustain our people’s hope for their vindication and the ultimate triumph of good over evil, of freedom over injustice and oppression, by our references to our biblical traditions.

Which biblical traditions are those? The tradition of god the murderer? The tradition of god the genocidal maniac? The tradition of god the sociopath? No no, of course not. Instead he engages, like every other Christian leader in existence, in selective memory. Later he says god will come to save us:
Yes, our God will come down to open the prison doors and lead our leaders from prison and lead our leaders back from exile, for we had learned from our Jewish tradition that God, our God, is notoriously biased, forever taking the side of the weak, the oppressed, the downtrodden, against the kings and the powerful oppressors.

And God vindicated us. Apartheid’s rulers bit the dust, as all oppressors have done always, for this is a moral universe. Right and wrong matter. It cannot happen that evil, injustice and oppression can have the last word. No, ultimately goodness, justice, freedom—these will prevail.

So, god, the bloodthirsty god of the Bible, Koran and Torah is responsible for the end of Apartheid. Not human beings all over the world who took a moral stand and forced the South African government to change, but god. Gee, thanks big guy. Nice work. Funny how god is quite selective in who he saves. He never seems to explain why he lets things like the Holocaust or the Rwandan genocide to happen, or the Iraq War to continue. Luckily AB D. Tutu is around to clear things up.

His main point seems to be that faith and belief in a vengeful, irrational deity who has decreed the Jewish people above all others to be his chosen people will somehow set Palestinians free. This is completely absurd. Is this not one of the main reasons why the Israeli Apartheid State exists? Isn't this the common cry among Israelis, that they have a right to the land because god said so?

Granted, this sentiment is being exploited by military-industrial forces intent on power, and the segment of the Israeli population supporting the settlements seem unable to understand that they are being manipulated.

Chomsky's speech is conductive to justice and change because he places responsibility where it belongs: with human beings. Tutu simply perpetuates confusion and superstition and continues to unwittingly justify the very situation he claims to be speaking out against.

(post updated Jan 30)

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November 28, 2007

Finally Proof that Canadian Cell Phone Service Sucks (or FIPOCACEPONESS for short)


Contained within a report from the CBC about high cell phone rates in Canada is this information:
According to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, a typical American uses about 800 voice minutes a month, double that of a typical Canadian. In 2006, the government-mandated Telecommunications Policy Review Panel found this is because of "a persistent and growing gap between the rates between the two countries."

If we look at the average cost of 1 year of service in both countries, about $570 for Canadians and $635 for the US (both in USD) , and factor in that we talk about half as much, we're paying almost twice as much.

And that's only comparing Canada with the US. When we go to Europe things get crazy.

What about oh, I don't know...say, Denmark? In 2006, the average monthly price was $6.10. Six bucks a month! About $73 USD a year. And with 95% saturation, the Danes probably aren't holding back on the airtime (although I couldn't find any data on this). I'm going to assume that Danes are talking lots more than Canadians, and extrapolate that we're paying at least 10 times more on cell phone fees than Denmark.

I hate Telecoms.

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November 23, 2007

Put Away Your Plastic


Today is Buy Nothing Day. So don't, unless you're out of weed.

For more info see Adbusters.

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Futile Political Maneuver of the Day


Members of the Commonwealth of Nations yesterday voted to suspend Pakistan's voluntary membership in the organization.

Futile? From Wikipedia:
In recent decades there has been a mutual decline of interest in maintaining active intra-Commonwealth relations, and the organisation's direct political and economic importance has declined. Realist critics have argued that in the 21st century the organisation is an inherently arbitrary alliance with members that are united only through a historical accident of British colonialism. They argue that the organisation lacks a balanced membership, and point out that it is very unusual for any international organisation to exclude highly important regions of the world such as most of Western Europe and South America from membership. Indeed, many Commonwealth members look increasingly to regional partners, non-Commonwealth as well as Commonwealth, to form their most important alliances.

Futile it would seem. Unless you're an athlete. The Commonwealth Games are the second biggest international sporting event after the Olympics, so maybe the strategy is that once Musharraf sees all those angry Pakistani weightlifters, he'll come around.

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November 22, 2007

When Is A Taser More Than A Shock?


In her latest article for the LA Times, Naomi Klein connects the dots between the horrifying death of Robert Dziekanski and method of what she terms The Shock Doctrine, where corporations and governments use the perception or the reality of a crisis or emergency to push through policies that in times of quiet reflection would never see the light of day.

Read the article and then buy her book.

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The Mangling of Logic pt. 11


Quote:
"Well, as I say, he has done more for Democracy in Pakistan than, than any modern leader has, and one of the reasons you’re seeing the blowback that you’re getting in Pakistan is because of the reforms that, that President Musharraf has put in place."

Jeebus. Musharraf is a dictator. D i c t a t o r.

His reforms are oppressive. O p p r e s s i v e.

Here's the first paragraph in his Wikipedia entry:
General Pervez Musharraf (Urdu: پرويز مشرف) (born 11 August 1943, Delhi) is the current Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army, military ruler and President of Pakistan. He came to power in 1999 by effecting a military coup d'état and has suspended the constitution of Pakistan twice; since then, he has been actively supported (through military and monetary aid) by western countries including the United States. He took power on October 12, 1999, ousting Nawaz Sharif, the elected Prime Minister, dismissed the national and provincial legislative assemblies, declared martial law, assumed the title of Chief Executive and became Pakistan's de facto head of government, thereby becoming the fourth Army chief of Pakistan to have assumed executive control. Later in 2001, Musharraf appointed himself to the office of President of Pakistan.

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. 2+2=5. Your head will now explode.

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November 21, 2007

Enough With The Fucking Tasers Already


This is getting stupid. In Chilliwack, B.C. yesterday a man was wrestled, hit with batons, pepper-sprayed and tasered by Mounties. From the Vancouver Province:

RCMP went to the 45800-block of Airport Road after receiving complaints of a man acting erratically in a Chilliwack rental store on Monday.

The 29-year-old man, who is known to police, became "extremely agitated, aggressive and combative" at the outlet, said RCMP Assistant Commissioner Peter German.

"The pepper spray, the baton and the Taser were all engaged. To what extent any of them had any effect on the individual, again, we don't know at this point, but that's what the investigation will be looking at."

Well geez, mystery of mysteries. Pepper spray, taser, baton... critical condition. Connection? Too early to say.

Luckily for everyone involved, the victim isn't dead this time:

The man was "vocal and conscious" after the arrest, said German.

He could not say how many times the Taser was used and whether the other weapons also contributed to the man's injuries.

Commissioner German goes on to say:

"Any police officer, and I include myself in that, is always reluctant to use physical force and it's always a last resort to use physical force. You try to deal with people in a non-aggressive manner. But there's a reason why we are armed."

But that reluctance is exactly what having a weapon like the taser negates. You're reluctant to use a gun because you might kill someone. To use the baton because someone might end up bloody. But the taser doesn't kill most of the time, nor does it leave the victim visibly bloody or battered. It leaves marks, but usually under clothing where the cops, and any witnesses who happen to be around won't immediately see them.

Besides this incident and the one in which Robert Dziekanski died, there is this, and this, and this, and this.. and many more. In fact, in Canada at least 18 people have died after being shocked by a taser since they were introduced in 1999.

As far back as 2004, Amnesty International did a study on taser abuse by Canadian and US police. These abuses have been happening now for years. According to AI (referring to Canadian cops):
...there is currently a review by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police into police use of tasers...

And what was the conclusion of this review? Nothing, it seems. A search on the C.A.C.P. website of resolutions adopted in 2004, 05 and 06 for 'taser' and 'stun gun' turned up nothing. Zip.

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Sweat Shops For Jesus


Unlike the sisters in this picture, who have voluntarily (and inexplicably) given their lives to what they earnestly believe is god and embraced poverty (although not really, since the church provides them with all they need) and so happily toil away for no pay, the sweatshop workers in China who manufacture religious icons for sale in the US, slaving for 15 hours a day at 26 cents an hour (before deductions), didn't.
At the Junxingye factory in China, the mostly-young women—including several 15 and 16-year-olds—making crucifixes are forced to work 14 to 15 ½ hours a day, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 or 11:30 p.m., seven days a week. There are also frequent 18 and 19-hour shifts ending at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. Before shipments of crucifixes must leave for the U.S., there are even mandatory, all-night 22 ½ to 25-hour shifts from 8:00 a.m. straight through to 6:30 or 9:00 a.m. the following morning. Workers are routinely at the factory over 100 hours a week, including being forced to work 51 hours of overtime, which exceeds China’s legal limit by 514 percent. Young women go for months on end without a single day off.
And:
Workers paid just 26 ½ cents an hour, less than half China’s legal minimum wage of 55 cents, which is itself set at below subsistence levels. Workers earning just $2.12 a day and $10.61 a week. After mandatory deductions for primitive company dorms and food, the workers’ take-home wage drops to a shocking nine cents an hour, 74 cents a day and $3.70 a week. Workers toiling 91 hours a week are paid just $30.61, which is only 43 percent of the $70.71 they are legally owed.

All so these guys (among others) can make a profit on the average christian consumer's braindead desire to collect as many icons as possible, cuz lord knows the more statues of Jesus and the virgin you've got, the fluffier your retirement cloud is going to be.

Ironically, these Chinese workers would be imprisoned or tortured or worse if found to be participating in the religion they slave for.

Ah, Christianity. Champion of the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden. Unless they get in the way of making some cold hard cash.

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Is The Platypus A Cliché or Am I Just Opinionated


I've just been reading some of my old posts and have to admit that I have a taste for the platitude. Not the Platypus (which may be edible but don't even try). He manages to generate his own banalities just fine.

No, I mean the fondness I seem to have of broad, generalizing and judgemental little sum up paragraphs at the end of many of my posts. Some examples:
The kowtowing Harper government needs to defend Canadian citizens' rights no matter who they are or what they are accused of. We are not subject to Orwellian US law. Omar Khadr has the absolute right to be tried by jury in Canada. (link to post)

It's time to outlaw these obviously lethal weapons. There is no way to prevent this from happening again except to prohibit their use completely. (link to post)

...at least that would give you lots of time to dream up clever new ways of saying "price gouging". (link to post)

OK, maybe it's not that bad, and really it's kinda fun. I mean, that's the point of these damn blogs isn't it? Being able to spew your junk and crap out into cyberspace and let it run free, just like the Platypus, running wild mocking god at this sexy state if its evolution.

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November 20, 2007

The Tragedy of Omar Khadr


Omar Khadr, a then 15 year old Canadian citizen captured in Afghanistan by the US in 2002, held at Guantanamo Bay and labelled an 'enemy combatant', will will soon face a Military Commission 'trial'.

The incidents leading to his capture: (from Wikipedia, links intact)
On July 27, 2002, 15-year-old Khadr was in a compound near Khost that was surrounded by US special forces. According to Master Sgt Scotty Hansen of Utah, "we [sent] a couple of Afghan interpreters to go in and talk to them because we didn't want to be storm troopers unless we had to." The two interpreters were shot "point blank in the face," however, according to Sergeant Layne Morris, after which "all heck broke out," according to Hansen[6]. Sergeant Layne Morris was injured early in the skirmish. The Americans called in a devastating air strike, such that no survivors were expected. Khadr, however, survived and allegedly threw a grenade, which injured Sgt. Christopher Speer and led to his death, and injured three other members of the squad.[4] Omar was shot three times, and left nearly blind in one eye.

Unlike most other inmates at Guantanamo, charges have been laid against him, first on Nov. 7th 2005 with conspiracy, murder, attempted murder and aiding the enemy. Then on Feb. 2nd 2007 more charges were brought: murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, spying, and providing material support for terrorism. These were then dismissed and then later reinstated. More...

Read the above account of his capture and tell me if these charges make sense. Conspiracy? To what, protect himself? Spying? On who, the Taliban? Murder? And what of the "...devastating air strike, such that no survivors were expected."?

He was 15 fucking years old, having been indoctrinated by his father into a militant mindset, in a country ravaged by war and colonialism for decades which had just been invaded illegally under false pretenses by the most powerful army on the planet. What's he going to do, tell his dad to go to hell, I'm joining the Salvation Army? Maybe, to fit with the circus of legal limbo he finds himself mired in, he should have been charged with 'the audacity not to have died on schedule'.

In 2006, Khadr was finally granted permission to see his lawyers. But subsequently this right has been redacted:
Omar Khadr fought for the right to consult with Canadian lawyers since his arrival at Guantanamo.[32] In 2006 Dennis Edney and Nathan Whiting were given permission to visit him at Guantanamo. However, in late October, the new Chief Defense counsel barred Edney from visiting Khadr, or attending his trial.[33] According to the Associated Press Edney was barred because he has criticized Lieutenant Commander Keubler's efforts.

From Edney:
"It's a travesty of justice. It's dark politics that's what it is. The office of the military defence counsel is giving the impression that it's working in Omar's best interest when they're denying his fundamental right to choice of counsel."

While detained, Khadr suffered inhumane treatment. From Amnesty International.:
...he says he has been beaten, “short shackled” (wrists and ankles chained together to a fixed point on the ground), exposed to extreme temperatures, held in isolation for prolonged periods and threatened with rape. An expert on the mental health of juveniles in correctional facilities... concluded that Omar Khadr’s symptoms were “consistent with those exhibited by victims of torture” and he had a mental disorder “including but not limited to post-traumatic stress disorder.”

And the official Government of Canada response to the whole situation? There is this inexplicable ruling:
In August 2005, the Federal Court of Canada issued an injunction barring Canadian officials from conducting any further interviews or questioning him on a variety of the grounds including that his rights were not being adequately protected.

And pathetically from then Defence Minister Bill Graham:
"It is an unfortunate reality that juveniles are too often the victims in military actions and that many groups and countries actively recruit and use them in armed conflicts and in terrorist activities. Canada is working hard to eliminate these practices, but child soldiers still exist, in Afghanistan, and in other parts of the world."

But strangely, Canada's involvement in Afghanistan continues unabated despite the prevalence of child soldiers there. What do you suppose 'working hard to eliminate these practices' means in this situation?

The kowtowing Harper government needs to defend Canadian citizens' rights no matter who they are or what they are accused of. We are not subject to Orwellian US law. Omar Khadr has the absolute right to be tried by jury in Canada.

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November 19, 2007

I Laugh At Pain


Well, I would if there were any. The gig on Saturday went great and my finger held up fine. No trauma.

I think the duct tape suit of armour I wrapped around it definitely helped with the discomfort level. That and sacrificing a bit of ghost note finesse. I barely felt a thing, although I can still feel the nerves repairing themselves when I put pressure on the cut.

Dealing with trauma is the forté of modern western medicine.

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November 16, 2007

Ban Tasers Now


On Wednesday a video was released of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant, being tasered to death by the RCMP at the Vancouver airport.

Watch part 1: The guy is clearly pissed about something. Turns out he'd been waiting for 10 hours for his mother. But his mother couldn't get in to the secure holding area that he was in, consequently didn't see him come out with the rest of the passengers, waited a while longer and then left thinking her son had missed the flight. Robert, meanwhile, is freaking out because he apparently speaks no English (cheers to the woman who tries to communicate with him, but confuses Polish with Russian) and is wondering why his mother abandoned him in this foreign land. So he freaks out.

Watch part 2: He freaks out more, throwing a computer. Security comes but hangs back, waiting for the big guns. The RCMP make their entrance, walking into the room. As they enter, you can hear " say "They say something to Dziekanski, whereupon he throws his hands up in what seems to be a gesture of resignation and walks over to the right with his back against the wall. The police then surround him, something else is said, and then begin tasering. They do it at least twice, the second time sending him flying out the door. They then pile on top of him and hold him immobile. All through this he is screaming. Then, at 5:34 of the second part, watch the cop on the right. What is he hitting with his baton? Is it Dziekanski's head? Then you see the cops realize they've killed him.

Watch part 3: Code red. It looks to me like he was asphyxiated from behind, from force to the back of the neck. I don't think the tasering killed him.

From the Toronto Star:
Traveller Paul Pritchard, who shot the video, said officers seemed to come prepared to zap Dziekanski.

"As they ran in, I heard one of the officers say, `Can I Taser him, should I Taser?' before they actually even got to Mr. Dziekanski," said Pritchard, who lives in Victoria.

But why is this information missing from the Vancouver Sun's transcript?

And...

Surrey-North NDP MLA Penny Priddy said that the "screams of a dying man echo throughout the country" and that Canadians wanted answers before more lives were lost.

"Is it standard operating procedure for the RCMP to use Tasers when there is no obvious physical threat?" she asked Day in Parliament.

Good question. Put a supposedly non-lethal weapon in the hands of cops, give them free reign to use it, and sure enough non-lethal turns into lethal. Apparently they were acting in accordance with RCMP guidelines:

The four officers involved are still on active duty following an internal review, according to RCMP Cpl. Greg Gillis, a training instruction in the use of Tasers.

Gillis said the review did not show any concern that the officers acted punitively or outside their regular duties. If it had, he said, the officers would likely have been relegated to desk duty or suspended.

This is absurd. A man who was not resisting, had hurt no one, was unarmed and acting calmly when confronted by police was tasered long enough for him to die. So an officer's duty is to taser frustrated, impatient people to death?

It's time to outlaw these obviously lethal weapons. There is no way to prevent this from happening again except to prohibit their use completely.

update: In relation to the transcript of the event being scrubbed of the dialog between the RCMP officers, they've been withholding the video since July. Understandable, since it looks so bad. Their reason of tainting witnesses is rational. At least they didn't destroy it.

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November 15, 2007

Badge + Evil Corporations = Bananaguns

Man, I really like bananas. They're yummy, nutritious, convenient and a sexy yellow. They go great with peanut butter and chocolate, match my blog's color scheme, and there's no plastic packaging to deal with. Just a great food all around. But back in the spring the lovely banana and I parted ways when Chiquita admitted to hiring paramilitaries in Colombia to keep the local population properly in line with it's feudal operations.
In court documents filed Wednesday, federal prosecutors said the Cincinnati-based company and several unnamed high-ranking corporate officers paid about $1.7 million between 1997 and 2004 to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, known as AUC for its Spanish initials.

The AUC has been responsible for some of the worst massacres in Colombia’s civil conflict and for a sizable percentage of the country’s cocaine exports. The U.S. government designated the right-wing militia a terrorist organization in September 2001.

Their punishment? A $25 million fine, irrationally payable to the US Government. Not the Colombian victims, but into the gargantuan red, white and blue money pit.

By the way, Chiquita used to be known as The United Fruit Company, a textbook study of corporate power, racism, exploitation and violence.

So unless I come across a non Chiquita branded fruit of the Musa, yes I have no bananas.

But yesterday a lawsuit was brought against Chiquita on behalf of victims of the paramilitaries. From Democracy Now:
The American fruit giant Chiquita has been hit with a new lawsuit on behalf of victims of Colombian paramilitaries. Earlier this year Chiquita admitted to paying one point seven million dollars to a right-wing Colombian paramilitary group on the U.S. terrorist watch list. On Wednesday, nearly four hundred Colombian plaintiffs filed a civil suit seeking almost eight billion dollars in damages. Plaintiff attorney Jonathan Reiter said Chiquita should be held accountable for the killings it helped fund.

Chiquita says it fell victim to an extortion attempt and made the payments only to protect its employees. But a private investigator hired by the plaintiffs disputed Chiquita’s denials. The investigator, William Acosta, says his findings leave no doubt over Chiquita’s complicity.

Chiquita is already facing another lawsuit from relatives of one-hundred forty-four people killed by Colombian paramilitaries. The company has paid a twenty-five million dollar fine to the U.S. government but none of the money has gone to the victims’ families.

So here we have a corporation who's operations in Colombia rely on co-operation with paramilitary groups to protect their assets. Coincidentally, Colombia is at the center of the US' s misnamed war on drugs, with billions flowing into that country to supposedly combat cocaine production. A cursory glance at the correlation between the rising cost of the drug war and the rising use of cocaine in the US indicates the futility of the program (unless, of course, the purpose isn't to stop the drug trade but to control it, then it makes morbid sense).

Do you think that maybe one of the main reasons that there are paramilitaries in the first place is because of the war on drugs?

The real results of the drug war and corporate agribusiness are the marginalization and exploitation of the local populations, pitting them against each other using manufactured and artificial crises as part of a program of control and domination.


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November 14, 2007

Back In The Saddle

So, for those that don't know, I'm a drummer. When I cut my finger requiring five stitches a couple of weeks ago, I knew I'd be out of commission for a while.

A few days ago, I tried playing for the first time since it happened. I jammed with some friends for an hour or so. My finger felt OK, but when I changed the bandage I could see that there had been internal bleeding. Not good, I thought. So I laid off the playing.

Last night, I got a call to do a few shows with Shane Phillips at Bar Italia, starting this Saturday. I decided to do it, mainly because Shane is real cool and the rest of the band is great. The bass player Tino and I used to go to music school together, and played in the same bands years ago when we both lived in Edmonton, and he's a blast to play with. I also reasoned that a few more days of healing will be enough for my finger to take a night of playing.

We'll see. You can too! Come to the show.

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Holy Crap - A New Condo!


A new condo development at Yonge & Bloor in downtown Toronto seems to be causing mass insanity. People waiting in line for up to 2 weeks for yesterdays opening of the sales office.

As people were standing in line, the price of the most expensive units actually rose $millions before their eyes. Many people at the front of the line were expected to flip their condo instantly to the people at the back of the line.

And for those too busy or without an umbrella:
The people lining up are mostly real estate agents or people being paid by them to hold their spot in line. Though they wouldn't say how much they were being paid, some hinted they were being paid between $2,000 and $3,000 for the week.

Here we are in Toronto with a housing shortage, with moderately priced rental units being hard to come by. According to this report, over 250,000 Torontonians spend over one third of their incomes on rent, and 71,000 families are on the waiting list for affordable housing.

Madness.

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November 13, 2007

Canada's Arctic Another War Casualty?


Late in 2006, Stephen Harper pledged to assert more strongly Canada's claims in the north after a US submarine was found travelling unannounced through Canadian waters. But last night, the CBC reported that most of the air force missions patrolling the north have been cancelled.

It seems that Harper is suffering from the same delusions that George Bush suffers from, namely that the military is inexhaustible and that he just needs to speak his desires and they will manifest themselves.

In reality, Harper is putting the sovereignty and safety of Canada at risk by committing our military so deeply in Afghanistan.

It's called the Department of Defence, remember?

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November 12, 2007

1/4 of Homeless In US are Veterans


A case study in willful negligence:

The Associated Press reports that veterans comprise 1/4 of the homeless population in the USA.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a public education nonprofit, based the findings of its report on numbers from Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau. 2005 data estimated that 194,254 homeless people out of 744,313 on any given night were veterans.

Extrapolate to 2007, with the war in Iraq becoming deadlier every day, the US economy in deep trouble and the chasm between the rich and poor growing to obscene proportions. Things aren't looking any better.

And yet Bush can say (and his speech writer can actually write, and his staff can actually sign off) this with a straight face:
All of America's veterans have placed the nation's security before their own lives. Their sacrifice creates a debt that America can never fully repay.

If you can stomach it, skim over his Veterans Day speech. It has approx. 8 paragraphs about veterans out of a total of, oh I dunno, lots. Over 50. The rest of it is ridiculous and mostly insulting to veterans.
Over the years these extremists have used a litany of excuses for violence: the Israeli presence on the West Bank, the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, the defeat of the Taliban, or the Crusades of a thousand years ago. In fact, we're not facing a set of grievances that can be soothed and addressed. We're facing a radical ideology with inalterable objectives: to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world. No act of ours invited the rage of killers -- and no concession, bribe, or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder. On the contrary, they target nations whose behavior they believe they can change through violence. Against such an enemy, there is only one effective response: We will never back down, we will never give in, we will never accept anything less than complete victory.

In one paragraph he rewrites history, denying veterans or their families accurate historical perspective, and insults their intelligence. GODZILLA IS COMING! Then he says he'll never stop sending people to die because there is no hope for any other course of action.

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Nothing To See Here, Move Along


OK kiddies, it's experiment time. Your mission: visit the Government of Canada website and time how long it takes you to find a mission statement about the war in Afghanistan.

Ready? Go!

...alright, I know it's Monday and this is a lot to ask, so let me save you some time. On the front page, there is nothing about Afghanistan. No links to any information. There is a big banner inviting you to join up with the military, but it's not clear why.

After trying a search for the words 'Afghan mission', this is what came up. No mission statement, no explanation of what the fuck we're doing there. Another search for 'Harper Afghanistan' reveals a little more info, with links to Harper speeches concerning Afghanistan, but again no mission statement.

Why is the government making it so difficult to find clarification on the war? Maybe because there is none.

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November 11, 2007

Amexicanadica


Lately the Loonie has been acting loony. As of the 9th, one Canadian dollar is equivalent to $1.06 USD. As a matter of fact, only the Euro and British pound carry more weight. In fact, the Canadian dollar has risen over 20 cents in value against the USD in less than a year! 'Holy crap!' you might say, 'There's deals to be had!'. And you'd be right. And you'd also be in harmony with your fellow Canucks. After watching news coverage for weeks, most of what I've seen is the consistently recurring story of how this affects shopping, with Canadians unanimously and gleefully crossing the border to cash in. There's a story here and there about the difficulties manufacturers and exporters are having, but that's pretty much the extent of the coverage.

But surely there's more to the story than this. What else is happening in the world of currency? Well, as one goes up one goes down. The US Dollar is in free fall as it sinks deeper and deeper into debt. Currently in debt to the tune of $9 trillion! That is a big fucking number. $9,000,000,000,000.00. Or as Hal Lindsay at globalresearch.ca puts it:
A million seconds is roughly 12 days, whereas a billion seconds is approximately 32 years.

We understand dollars. And we understand time. So it would take 12 days to pay back a million dollars at a dollar a second. But if you started right now, you'd pay back a BILLION dollars, at a dollar a second, in the year 2039.

A trillion seconds is roughly 32 thousand years. At a dollar a second, you'd pay back a TRILLION dollars in the year 34007.

The U.S. debt stands at $9 trillion. If my calculator is working, then at a dollar a second, the U.S. could be debt- free in the year 290007.

The point of that little exercise was two-fold. The first was to clarify the sheer volume of the debt; the second was to demonstrate the possibility that anybody in government really believes we can ever pay it off.

Each U.S. citizen's share of the national debt works out, according to the National Debt clock, to $29,947.50. That means the average American family of five owes, collectively, $149,737.50.

It also means that unless the average American family of five has a net worth of at least $149,737,50 in assets excluding liabilities (they don't), America is already bankrupt.

These two conditions when viewed separately don't immediately seem related. But when you consider that the US's astronomically accruing debt (add another$1.49 billion for today, and tomorrow, etc.) is to a large extent the result of it's thuggish resource grabs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Canada's soaring dollar is largely the result of soaring oil prices making the Oil Sands in northern Alberta ridiculously profitable, you start to see some connections.

It's unlikely that the price of oil would be so high without the wars in the middle east. The Canadian military isn't in Iraq but they are fully engaged in Afghanistan, fighting along with the US under the utterly ridiculous mantra of bringing democracy at gunpoint.

(By the way, try going to the Government of Canada website, doing a search for 'Afghanistan Mission' or something similar and see how far you get. Go ahead, try it.)

Now consider that The US Federal Reserve is 100% privately owned and the Bank of Canada is 98% privately owned, meaning that the money supply for both countries - the printing, issuance and ultimately it's value - is controlled by private individuals. What do private individuals who control large corporations do? Lots of things. They do compete but they'd rather not have to, a monopoly being much more efficient. They like to buy each other out, they like to merge, they like to enlarge their power, they like to grow, they don't like public scrutiny, they like to dominate. But unlike most other corporations, their growth is intricately tied up with government. Governments provide revenue streams, like income tax, which go to pay the interest on money lent to the government by the central banks. The interesting thing is, the goals of these central banks are diametrically opposed to the goals of democratic government: the former seeks more power, control and secrecy, and the ideals of the latter are freedom, justice and openness. However, since the government is in debt to the central banks and have given up the control of their own monetary systems, the democratic ideals are pushed aside in the interests of economic responsibility.

As Naomi Klein shows us, the conditions for corporate growth and governments implementation of policies to facilitate it are never as favorable as during a crisis or emergency, while people's attention is turned elsewhere. But mass media has proven that you don't need to shock people to distract them. Pacification works just as well, it just takes longer. It could be argued that pacification is required for the more stubborn dissenters, who may see past the shock.

Historically, Canada has tended to see itself as being in the shadow of the USA, and consequently Canadians have developed a strong sense of being different from Americans, particularly in areas of war, colonialism, shared public responsibility and political diversity. Americans, on the other hand, would be hard pressed to find Canada on a map. One population intensely aware of the other, and one virtually indifferent. One requiring pacifiers, the other shock treatment.

Why? For the creation of the North American Union, which our collective governments, along with Mexico, have been negotiating for a few years. One government, one monetary system, one set of laws and regulations, with all of them being reduced to the lowest common denominator (read efficient). All lorded over by one big central bank, privately owned of course.

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November 06, 2007

The Torture Beat Goes On






















The baffling confusion that the US government displays over whether or not torture is a bad thing continues unabated. The latest chapter has the latest Attorney General candidate Michael Mukasey claiming that he's probably the only person in the world who doesn't know what waterboarding is or how it's done. Keep in mind that he's been nominated to replace Alberto Gonzales, who resigned in disgrace after, among a host of other illegal actions, enabling Bush & Co. to engage in torture.

Now to be fair, Mukasey can't really say that waterboarding is torture because if he did, he'd have to prosecute the people who nominated him for the post. Specifically, he'd have to prosecute George W. Bush for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

So the beat goes on. Waterboarding and other torture techniques continue to be used with impunity by the US and it's allies. So just for perspective, here are some members of the torture club that the US has so eagerly joined:
Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Augusto Pinochet, Pol Pot, The Chinese Communist Party, Ho Chi Min, Saddam Hussein, Benito Mussolini, Suharto.....etc, etc, etc.

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November 04, 2007

Join The Army! Lose Your Mind! Have A Nice Life!


After my last post, I came across this story in The Edmonton Journal about Afghanistan veterans not getting needed mental health care.

Jeez, do I ever feel guilty. Here I am, eating up precious health care resources for my measly little cut finger while returning soldiers, fighting for my freedom, safety and access to universal health care (because that's really what we're there for, not for pipelines or natural resources or because the US told us to), are left out in the cold.

OK, aside from the criminal actions of the Canadian Government inside Afghanistan, when will politicians learn that if you're going to send people to die or be injured or suffer a mental breakdown because they're job is to kill people with the supposed reason of promoting democracy, freedom and our 'superior' way of life, you've gotta take care of them and prove that our system is worth the death and destruction when and if they come home.

Once again the futility, injustice and inhumanity of war becomes clear.

Is this concept really so difficult to grasp? The US has shown over and over that they are incapable of caring for their veterans properly, and in fact purposefully put them in harm's way, which obviously is tied to the insurance and profit dominated health care system there. But here in Canada, with universal not for profit health care, this is absolutely inexcusable.

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