Back from Vacation

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I had to take an unforeseen vacation and was unable to post for a while, but now I’m back and will have a new post today or tomorrow!

Something Stinks in the State of Sweden

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Julian Assange at New Media Days 09 in Copenhagen.

Image via Wikipedia

​Swedish authorities issued an arrest warrant for Julian Assange on Saturday, alleging rape and molestation, and then promptly withdrew it this morning, not even a full day later.  In withdrawing the warrant, chief prosecutor Eva Finne stated that, “I don’t think there is reason to suspect that he has committed rape.”

There is something rotten about this entire affair, and I can’t help but agree with Julian Assange who called it a “dirty trick.”  In fact, it does seem to have the stench of payback about it, especially since there are very few allegations more universally destructive to a person’s character than rape and molestation, and nothing would be more beneficial to the American war machine than the destruction of his character in the eyes of the world.

Julian Assange is in many ways the worst kind of enemy for the corrupt and unprincipled.  He is a man of unquestionable intellect and skill who could have become wealthy by applying himself to the defence and further empowerment of the current political and corporate élite, instead he has sacrificed his life to a cause that threatens them.  He has taken a very principled and ethical stand against those who are neither ethical nor principled.  He has devoted his life to the values of freedom and justice and in the process put himself at much risk to see them upheld.  Their only true recourse is to paint him in the same light and make him seem no better than them in the eyes of the public.

Even before Sir Francis Bacon penned the phrase, “knowledge is power,” it was well-known that those who controlled the facts, controlled the world.  This has never been more true than it is today, if not more difficult since an event in a remote part of Afghanistan or Iraq can be broadcast around the world in seconds.  In an effort to maintain control of the facts, the political and corporate élite resort to tactics of interpretation, otherwise know as “spin.”  What information they cannot stifle, they spin, often with the implication that they are the only body with the ability to safely and accurately interpret the facts, while any “civilian” interpretation could threaten the security of the entire nation.

People like Julian Assange and his whistle-blowing website, Wikileaks are a threat to the establishment’s control and authority because they open the facts to public interpretation.  What was labelled as an attack on insurgents by an American Apache helicopter is suddenly available for public consumption and interpretation.  The rocket launcher that warranted the attack becomes visible as the telephoto lens of a well-known journalist.  Because the government initially attempted spin the truth in the opposite direction, it might prompt some to question if the attack was not a deliberate attempt to silence a journalist.  Suddenly, the political and corporate élite around the world can see their ability to control the flow information and its interpretation put in jeopardy.

Julian Assange is the most dangerous man in the world in the eyes of the powerful because he threatens their control of the facts.  His release of “sensitive” documents and files to the public gives us all equal access to the same information as the so-called “élite.” It gives us all the ability to decide on the truth of things and opens democratic process to some real debate about governance and policy.  Wikileaks is in this way the greatest champion of democracy.  It levels the field and opens the democratic debate as was initially intended, however contrary it runs to the will of the world’s current “élite.”

And so today, we are left with what appears like a transparent attempt on the part of his opponents to discredit him and taint all his actions with the stench of these unfounded allegations.  Thankfully it seems that this particular act of character assassination was aborted and hopefully unsuccessful in the long run, but it is not likely to be the last.

I just hope that Julian Assange doesn’t accept any cigars from strangers since the CIA might have some exploding ones left over from the Castro plots.

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How to Lie with or without Statistics – Right Wing Politics 101

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many marching mountiesToday, Stockwell Day revealed to the world how all the statistics gathering organizations that have been relied upon for so long are woefully inadequate when put against the gut instincts of a single political party.  The entire science of statistics has been proven a waste of time and all of those great mathematical minds that contributed to it over the centuries were nothing more than a group of numbskulled fools who, had they merely waited a few centuries, would have found their science to pale in comparison to the mystical wisdom of Stockwell Day and his fellow Conservatives.  It’s a good thing then that they are scrapping the long census form since they can glean more knowledge from Canadians — possibly by rubbing Stephen Harper’s bare belly — than any statistical tool could hope to.

In all seriousness, Stockwell Day today revealed to the world that, in his party’s opinion, the entire statistical community is wrong and that crime is on the rise in Canada and that they will continue to fight against it.  This is an example of the worst kind of politics, and thanks to the sensationalism of the media, it will probably work in the Conservatives favour regardless of the fact that it is based on all out lies.

Sadly, this is not really something new.  Right-wing politics have always been a reactionary thing, requiring a grand inciting incident to mobilize and attack.  These incidents vary only slightly, and they tend to revolve around a perceived threat to the citizens such as criminals, terrorists, high taxes, the erosion of family / religious values, or a military / economic opponent.  There are others, and they all tend to be the typical fare for the conservative speech writers as they can easily incite strong passions among the population.  Unfortunately, they also tend to be issues that act as a divisive force within society and tend to cause fissures between people as opposed to bringing them together.  But then, that is the aim.  To create fear and conflict to mobilize the troops.

There is always conflict and fear in the conservative platform, the sense that there are monsters lurking about and that someone must build a wall against them.  This approach is based upon a fundamental understanding of life and human nature, since there are always uncertainties in life, and we all carry insecurities based upon our fear of them.  If a person can be convinced of being in imminent danger and then offered a cure against that threat, then they become ingratiated and immensely more pliable to the desires of their saviour.  This is how the right-wing platform works.  The farther right you go on the spectrum, the more overt and distasteful this can be, such as the racially motivated tactics of the skinheads and neo-nazis, but the aims are the same.

Stockwell Day and his Conservative Party are attempting a two-pronged attack with this latest announcement.  First, they are playing upon the fear most people have of crime and offering up their party as the great protector against the criminal hordes sweeping in from the plains, while attempting to excuse their scrapping of the long statistics form by discrediting the science of statistical analysis.  The fact is that every major organization gathering crime statistics today have shown a drastic decrease in crime over the last decade, and contrary to Stockwell Day’s announcement and media sensationalism, we live in a safer society than we did twenty years ago.

The reality is this, Stockwell Day lied, and is unable to produce any kind of proof to support his position.  He is simply engaging in the age-old right-wing strategy of scaring the population into the voters both.

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Water is a Human Right

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Golden TapToday, nearly 2 billion people live in regions where fresh water is considered to be stressed and every eight seconds, one child dies of a preventable water-borne illness because their parents did not have enough money to pay for clean water.  Fresh water is rapidly becoming a scarce resource, and not just in the developing world.  It is in this climate that many nations of the world, including the European Union stand behind a United Nations attempt to make water and sanitation a human right.  Many nations that is but Canada and the United States who are rejecting this resolution outright.

What is the official reason for their opposition to this proposal?  The Canadian government is blaming the United States, saying that it would be unable to prevent our neighbors to south from “sharing” our water.  You might not be surprised to learn that this is an outright lie.  Canada cannot be compelled to “share” or otherwise give their water away except perhaps where they share bodies like the Great Lakes.  The reality of their opposition is the same as the United States’.  If water is made into human right, the ability to make colossal profits from selling fresh water to desperate nations and individuals will be practically eliminated.

Private companies around the world are already making shameful profits on the sale of water, and Canada is arguably home to the majority of the world’s fresh water.  Canada’s banks as well as large private and public investors are seeing a massive opportunity to exploit a natural resource at the expense of anyone who can afford it and everyone else be damned.  In 2006, bottled water alone made $100 billion for investors, a number that will only increase as the water shortage grows more critical.  The only thing that Canada and the United States are opposing is the ability of private industry to make massive profits in a world desperate for clean, safe water.

Because water is currently an enforceable human-right, the for-profits are clamoring for investment opportunities.  CIBC, one of Canada’s largest banks has released a report citing the inadequacies of Canada’s first nations water supplies as a good opportunity for private investors.  The World Bank and the World Trade Organization are promoting privatization as the solution to the world’s water crisis, opening the door for massive multinational profit ventures who will benefit from the misery of the others.  Anyone who believes that the for-profit approach will benefit anyone but the wealthy and end up exerting undue influence over large swathes of the world’s population is seriously naïve.

There will be those who will buy into the message of the Canadian government in some misguided nationalist pride, but will seriously miss the point.  Canada’s refusal to recognize the world’s human rights to clean fresh water and sanitation affects its own citizens as well as there are no such protections for Canadians in their own laws.  This means that our government’s stance could see Canada’s own citizen’s denied the right to clean safe water and sanitation based on economic circumstance or place of residence.  Canada’s first nations are already living in such as situation with over 100 reserves under water-boiling orders and large scale inadequacies in their infrastructures.  Furthermore, incidents such as the Walkerton contamination remain only marginally punishable and definitely repeatable since we have no inalienable rights to fresh water.

Canada’s refusal and outright opposition to the United Nations attempts to recognize the human right to fresh clean water and sanitation is a move to protect the wealthy profit seekers.  It is a shameful example of how the rights of even its own citizens pales in comparison to its unshakable connections to the corporate and banking communities.  If the United Nations is unable to provide this basic human right, people everywhere will have their access to water turned into profit ventures and eventually only those with the money and influence will have access as prices steadily increase.  We cannot allow water to become another division between the have and have-nots, the rich and the poor.

Toronto Appeal: No More Police State Tactics!

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Check out this petition in the Socialist Voice and sign it if you are concerned about the police action that took place at the G20 meetings in Toronto and join in the call for a public inquiry.

Many Canadians are concerned about the affair as it constitutes an overall shift in the role and powers of the police.  The first few lines of the petition say it best:

The police response to the protests against the G8/G20 in Toronto was the largest mass arrest in Canadian history, surpassing the 1993 Clayoquot Sound logging blockade.

It constituted the most far-reaching single assault on political rights in the Canadian state since the War Measures Act of 1970…

On Saturday, June 26, the mass arrest of protesters began. The pretext for this crackdown was the limited property damage in protests that day, which was similar to recent hockey riots in various cities but treated very differently, as pointed out by journalist Linda McQuaig.

Here is a link to the petition: Toronto Appeal: No More Police State Tactics! Please sign it if you share the concerns of many other Canadians and people around the world who are also concerned about the increasingly heavy handed tactics used by police to segregate the leaders of G20 from the peaceful protesters who are simply exercising their democratic rights to free assembly and free speech.

Peaceful protests have always been considered a part of the democratic process, but in recent years there has been a concerted effort to curtail those rights through nondemocratic and covert means.  Canadian police were caught at Montebello, Quebec a few years ago dressed as “Black Bloc” members with rocks in hand.  No doubt their aim was to discredit the protests by inciting violence.  This time it is not clear if they managed to infiltrate the “Black Bloc,” but again the violent actions of those few idiots was used to shut down all demonstration even though their violence was far from the main body of the peaceful protesters.  They could have targeted the rioters alone, but they have hidden behind poor rhetoric and lies to justify their attack on the peaceful crowds.

If you want to an inquiry into the matter of the police action, please sign the petition, here is the link again: Toronto Appeal: No More Police State Tactics!

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McCarthy’s Ghost and the Right-Wing

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US propaganda posterWith the coming of Canada Day, I am compelled to explore an issue that both frustrates and fortifies me at the same time.  It is an issue that can trace its roots back to the politics of the early Cold War, but has since permeated every institution and household in our society.  That is the dismissive rhetoric and socio-historical distortionism practiced by the right-wing when any discussion arises about the left-wing call for reform in the social and economic order.  One only has to look at the recent debate over health care reform in the United States to catch a glimpse of these tactics in action.

One aspect of the conservative philosophy has always been about maintaining the past into the future. This is understandable as there is some comfort in uniformity and sameness, but in reality, it is an untenable position when you consider the history of the last hundred or so years.  History and the social consciousness will change over time, and the problem of the right-wing is to make that change seem as unpalatable as possible.  In their effort dissuade the people from following Russia’s lead after World War II, the American propaganda machine kicked into overdrive and was so effective that even now, in the time the “War Against Terror,” socialism and communism are two of the most dangerous words in the United States and much of Canada.

Propaganda well executed is an affirmative defense against the truth.  In the words of Lenin, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”  This has been the reality of the Cold War propaganda which has become so institutionalized that there is no longer any truth beside that created by the government’s sensors and speech writers of the fifties and sixties.  McCarthy‘s ghost lingers in the souls of Canadians and Americans who, to this day still fear that the Soviets are lurking in the shadows, ever ready to steal their microwaves and televisions.  Political and philosophical arguments are cut short by the right-wing’s clarion battle cry… “Communist!”  It rings loudly in the ears precisely because of the lies and the fear that they have created, lies so potent to have become standard fare in the education of our children and in the mass media.

In North America and most NATO allied nations, our version of the Russian Revolution is so skewed by the misinformation fed to us in school and through the media that we concentrate the whole of communism on the authoritarian excess of Stalin who not only derailed the democratic reforms intended by Lenin and Trotsky, but reversed most of the positive achievements of the socialist movement.  We no longer understand that democracy is a central and fundamental component of all communist and socialist thought, and we concentrate instead on Stalin’s insane regime which had little to do with communism and everything to do with type of  personal gain more familiar to capitalism.  The reality is that Stalin usurped the Revolution for his own ends, and used communism as a mere label, a falsity by which to differentiate Russia from the West.  It was his own genius way of creating an enemy to support a state of constant alert, much like the one created by the United States after 9-11 with their colourful alert system.

Stalin had hoped that an ever fearful populace, thoroughly aware of the us-or-them, East versus West, communist versus capitalist dichotomy that he created would be more easily controlled and accepting of his authoritarian rule.  He was essentially playing the same game as the Americans who were busy building an empire which they  justified by the ever-present Soviet threat.  In some ways, each was complicit in the others game.  Stalin’s Soviet “communist” rhetoric played well in American propaganda flicks and the typical American chest-thumping was as beneficial to the Soviet misinformation campaigns.   Both countries were born of violent revolutions, so both needed a constant enemy to survive, and they each filled that role for the other.  Unfortunately, the true socialists and communists were the victims, our goal of social justice, universal equality and true democracy for the people was painted over black in the propaganda war of two nations and demonized to the point of obscurity.

The haze of lies is so thick now that entire generations have been indoctrinated through our schools and mass media, and we are faced with more than a simple dissemination of our message.  It is not enough to simply promote and disseminate our beliefs as we face the type of attack and dismissal leveled against Obama and those who supported his health care reforms.  So much suspicion and distrust has grown out of the web of lies woven over the last fifty years that we must also fight the way our belief system is perceived by the public.  It can be extremely disheartening when my opinions are dismissed outright or to be labeled as unCanadian because I want a better future for all Canadians as well as the oppressed around the world. It is painful to hear someone calling Hitler a communist and then have to deal with their slurs whilst trying to explain that Hitler and the Nazis were an extreme right-wing group that hated all things leftist, including communists and visa-versa.  The capitalist’s propaganda machinery was extremely successful in their attacks on the socialism and it is a constant struggle to break through the chains of their misinformation campaigns.

But then I do take some inspiration from all of this.  The right-wing and their capitalist masters have spent a great deal of time, not to mention their precious money on an effort to wage war on and crush the left-wing, a war that they have not won.  We are still here and we are still battling for causes such as social justice and universal equality.  We have stood firm and have been a catalyst  for a great deal of social, democratic and economic reform around the world, including within our most vicious battleground, the United States.  But our victories and our survival aside, what heartens me most is the validation given to me by the right-wing capitalist establishment.  That’s right, through their efforts to stifle our voices and the pains they have taken to try and turn us into radicals and extremists in the eyes of the people, they have validated the worth of our movement.

They know we are right, that our cause is just and so they fear our message, otherwise they would not have spent so much to shut us up!

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Greenwald’s Spotlight on Lamo and Manning a Much Needed Reality Check

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Logo used by WikileaksImage via Wikipedia
There has been a great deal of coverage regarding the detention of Bradley Manning for his alleged leak of video and documents to the Wikileaks website, much of it centered around Julian Assange and the Wikileaks website.  While I am a fan of Wikileaks and Assange’s firm devotion to his convictions, there has not been enough of a spotlight focused on the questionable actions and ethics of the individual who ratted Manning out.  However, Glen Greenwald at Salon is exploring the issue very thoroughly and has written a story that provides some insight into the Lamo – Paulson connection and the somewhat twisted history they share and the less than pure motives that seem to lurk behind Lamo’s actions (see the story here).
Greenwald asks some very interesting questions and then does a very thorough analysis of the issues raised.  Admittedly, I agree with him very strongly that sites like Wikileaks perform an extremely valuable service, and the sense that I get from this article is that Lamo’s ratting out of Manning seems to be motivated by little more than an extreme case of narcissism.  Lamo is the type of attention seeker that craves notoriety from as wide an audience as possible, and Poulson has acted as his blowhorn for years.  Turning on Manning was simply his latest attempt to garner said attention, most likely believing that his name would be forever etched into the annals of history as a the great American Hero who risked all to save his beloved countrymen while Poulson got the inside track… the all important scoop.
One of the most interesting issues raised in the article to my mind, besides the Lamo-Paulson vanity connection, are the statements by Manning in Lamo’s logs that illustrate his belief that he was acting as a whistleblower and not as a “spy” or “traitor” as Lamo has repeatedly labeled him.  Statements such as the following serve to highlight Manning’s noble intentions and his desire to provide people with the truth of what he saw as criminal and immoral behavior on the part of his government in the Middle East.  He believed that by leaking these documents and videos, the truth would be “out in the open… it should be a public good.”
Lamo: what’s your endgame plan, then?. . .

Manning: well, it was forwarded to [WikiLeaks] – and god knows what happens now - hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms – if not, than [sic] we’re doomed – as a species – i will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens – the reaction to the video gave me immense hope. . . - i want people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.

To me, Manning’s intentions are to inform the public so that they can exercise their democratic freedoms in an educated manner.  This is the very soul of democracy and reaches to heart of what Wikileaks represents and what whistleblowers are motivated by.  It is precisely because ill intentioned individuals, organizations and government bodies seek to silence such people that Wikileaks exists, and thank God for that.  We cannot make informed democratic decisions unless we know the truth behind the “facts.” This is why freedoms such as those of speech, association and the media were encoded into the constitutions of democracies everywhere, and it is scary that so much circumvention of these freedoms has taken place that whistleblowers and Wikileaks need to exist at all.
At any rate, Glen Greenwald’s story is an excellent examination of this issue, and I strongly recommend it for anyone wanting to understand the issue from a different angle or anyone already following the same chain of logic.  It is well researched and extremely informative.
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