Wednesday, December 31, 2003

This image could not be published in an American newspaper, magazine, or any other media broadcast, because it depicts American casualties in Iraq. The Bush Administration has decided that this could negatively affect public opinion of the Iraq War and decided to censor all such images. If you are an American citizen, please save this image onto your hard drive and show it to your friends. Freedom of the press is protected by your constitution and you should not give it up so easily.
Aristotle spoke of using "logos" as a means of winning an argument. It is one of the forms of rhetoric, which can be defined as " faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion." Rhetoric is designed as a method of convincing others to bend to your will and to influence public opinion. Luckily, this knowledge has not been lost in our times, thanks to the incredible memory of our politicians. They know that when all else fails, you can run a campaign ad that dumbs down the issues, you can slander your opponent, and you can probably win the votes you need to stay in office for four more years.

South of the 49th parallel, our American friends are getting ready for the Primaries, where the Democratic Party will vote for a candidate to run against Bush in the fall of 2004. It is at times like this that I wish I was an American, just so I could vote against George W. Bush, the cancerous force that is eating away at America's moral character and ruining any hopes for world peace. Sadly, I am Canadian so I must devote my energies to voting against Paul Martin, the Liberal leader with a fondness for corporate rule and a supporter of the ill-fated American Missile Defence Shield.

When I mentioned rhetoric, I failed to offer a concrete example. Here is an ad released by the "Club for Growth", an American non-profit organization that was "...founded in 1999 to elect pro-economic growth fiscal conservatives. That organization forwards campaign contributions from its members to the most free-market oriented candidates in targeted congressional races." It is laden with excellent rhetoric and will be sure to mislead thousands of American voters.







What they are saying is that Democrats want to raise taxes, and since middle-income Americans are going to pay more taxes with a Democrat in the White House, we should obviously vote in a leader who instituted billions of dollars of tax cuts for the rich. Independant studies of Bush's economic policy have shown an alarming disregard for the bottom 80 percent of the American population. The majority of his tax cuts were aimed at the wealthiest individuals in America, specifically those with incomes $500,000 and above. Obviously, the only way to pass off such a tax cut is by convincing everyone that they'll all make a better living that way, and rhetoric makes this possible!

The 30-second "Club for Growth" television ad also associates Howard Dean with several Democratic candidates who lost previous elections. These other candidates failed to win for mixed reasons but it is foolhardy to try and compare the 2004 election to those in the past. By labelling the Democratic party as a lost cause, some swing voters might be convinced to back the winning candidate, and thereby lead their nation into four more years of questionable leadership. Also, in these other elections, the incumbent hadn't put his country into the largest deficit in history (a record $380 billion USD). Bush has been the architect of some of the most questionable acts in American history, including removing two sovereign powers without declaring war, putting his country to the brink of bankruptcy, and failing to capture Osama Bin Laden by wasting his time pursuing pre-emptive strikes and intimidation of "Rogue states".

The "Club for Growth" is not part of the American Republican Party but since the Republicans serve its special interests, the Club is glad to knock down any opponents to GOP rule. Hopefully, the American public will realize the harm that George Bush and his cut-taxes-at-all-costs Republican minions have caused to their great nation. When you cut taxes, you must cut spending accordingly, and by cutting spending, the working class will suffer the most. How many millionaires take the bus? When do you see Bill Gates bleeding in the lobby of an overworked, underfunded charity hospital? Unless we tax the wealthy at a sufficient rate, the rest of us will feel the sting of going without.

My father is fond of saying that if income taxes existed when Karl Marx was writing his manifesto, there would never have been a communist revolution anywhere. Obviously, you must temper your actions with logic and I am not saying that we should blindly vote against whoever supports the status quo, but I think that in the 2004 election, the decision should be simple--just don't vote for Bush! He is a media whore, a man who has never had to go without, an heir to a multi-million fortune, and a former National Guardsman who went AWOL. What he isn't is a leader. Visit for more ammunition.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

I was reading about John Taylor Gatto, the 1991 New York City school teacher of the year, and I was most amused about how he responded to the award--he quit his teaching career and began a life for himself on a farm with his wife. Although he quit teaching, he didn't stop trying to help us learn. He is the author of several books on the perils that forced schooling are inflicting on generations of students all around the world. These days, he is an advocate of home schooling and a supporter of the Libertarian party.

From what I've seen, the core of his argument is that going to school crushes your individuality, teaches you to use external measures of self-worth, and neglects to properly prepare you for a healthy, fulfilling life. Instead, it collates and sorts photocopied graduates to be filed in the Human Resources department of our corporations.

Although I have had some positive learning experiences in my time, I would agree for the most part. I have always enjoyed reading on my own and learning from my parents (who are both teachers, giving me an unfair chance!). I only questioned the idea of going to school when I was five years old and vowed that I would hide underneath my bed when the bus arrived to cart me off. That thinking was long dead, until now.

I know that if I want to write for a living, I'll have to go back to Concordia University eventually. (McGill missed out on a great prospect when they scoffed at my mountain-range chart of high and low marks...they vary from 19 in Vectors and Linear Algebra to 100 in History of Western Civilization) The diploma I receive in Journalism won't teach me to write--it will teach me to pull my punches at the behest of an editor, to follow the "rules", and to make deadlines and get real world experience in the field. So far, the only real journalism I've ever done is for Spec Newspaper, and only an op-ed piece on the 2001 FTAA summit in Quebec City. Unless you count this blog, of course.

I wish I knew a lawyer who's well versed in international law because I have a whopper of a question. I'm wondering if the United States is voiding its lease in Guantanamo Bay by holding "enemy combatants" in a prison there.

According to what I've read about the history of how the U.S. acquired the right to use this slice of Cuba for its own purposes, it appears that the original lease stipulated:

"(a) The area must be used only for a coaling and naval station."

Guantanamo Bay has been occupied by the U.S. since 1898. Since they are clearly using it for purposes beyond those sanctioned in the original agreement, it should technically become null and void, or at least it seems so. If there are any lawyers who I've caught reading this, please send me a message in the msg board to the right & help me to understand the legal logistics of this thing!

I just read an article in by Linda Chavez. She is the President of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a "think tank" that tries to promote the assimilation of immigrants and cultural monoversity (the opposite of diversity?). They also oppose affirmative action programs, certain types of education ("racialist 'Afrocentric' curriculum of dubious merit", as they say on their mission statement), and they absolutely reject bilingualism. It is a good thing that we don't have a branch of CEO up here in Canada! The Quebec government would be in an uproar. Assimilation? English only? It wouldn't fly up here.

After reading her Dean article, I decided to write her a letter and call her on her background information. She says that Howard Dean is proving to say things recklessly and then she tries to use this as a cattle prod, using his misquotes to jab at his nomination chances. Where I took offense was when she says "But to say that Americans are no safer with Saddam behind bars is just plain strange." Then, I began to lose track of my focus and I descended into a rant about her organization. I hope to receive a reply. If she responds, I'll see if I can post it up here, to allow her a chance to defend her potentially-heinous organization.

Here is the letter, unabridged.


I was reading your article about Howard Dean's "wacky" and "irresponsible" statements and how they may hurt his chances during the 2004 election. This is a matter of speculation, however since George W. Bush is the architect of two foreign invasions & the world record holder for both the "Largest Deficit by an American President in History" and the "Most protesters opposing American President in History", there is a good chance that the Democratic candidate will win by a slim majority. Whether Dean will be the nominee is a matter to be seen.

The capture of Saddam Hussein is a triumph for human rights and justice since he and his brutal regime must be judged by an internationally-sanctioned war crimes tribunal. His capture doesn't necessarily mean that America will be safer. Ba'ath Iraqi Fedayeen and other Saddam loyalists are not the only players in the Iraqi insurgency (resistance). Shi'ite Fundamentalist militia and other agents are also involved in the guerilla warfare and other assymetrical tactics versus the American occupiers.

For this reason, Howard Dean was right to say that America wasn't safer with the capture of Saddam Hussein. The troops occupying Iraq will still face resistance for the months or years to come.

Also, Al Q'aida has not been subdued. The attack on Pakistani President Musharaf may have been one of their operations. Osama Bin Laden remains at large.

Let us not forget North Korea, which has taken a harder tack since America refused to make a non-agression pact and chastised North Korea for its nuclear programme. This is also a danger to the United States and a member of the Axis of Exil (With Iraq removed from the list, has the White House considered a replacement? Syria or Iran? The choices!).

Plus, Taiwan has a referendum coming up which has angered the Chinese Communists. They are committed to reuniting with Taiwan but there is a Taiwanese Separation movement that has gained control of the government. If Taiwan declares itself a sovereign nation and is accepted by enough states, China could go to war to seize what she sees as her possession. This uncertain time calls for calm and mutual respect. Foreign policy must be done with concern for other nations and their interests.

So, long story short, the capture of Saddam didn't necessarily make America safer. It did, however, give President Bush a feather in his cap which he will carry into the 2004 election.

I saw your website (CEO) and I wanted to say that my province (Québec) is bilingual. We love speaking both French and English. Most of my population speaks two languages and we have cultural and economic links with Europe as a reward. Instead of trying to melt down your population into a congruous mass, why not celebrate everyone's culture and background? Why assimilate and attempt cultural genocide?

With a small minority of Americans still hindered by the taint of racist beliefs, it is necessary to have programs like affirmative action. Since many of the policies of the past were against visible minorities (before the civil rights movement), many families are still trying to achieve the American dream and make a better life for themselves. What is your explanation for the CEO stance against affirmative action and for assimilation?

Please comment.


Philip Shearing

Linda's group also has the vaguely conservative acronym CEO (meaning Center for Equal Opportunity), possibly to represent the Bush administration. After all, former CEO Cheney now has the opportunity to give no bid contracts to his friends at Haliburton, former CEO Bush is reminding Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin that before Canada-U.S. relations are to equalize, we'll have to sign on to a missile-defense treaty, and poor Colin Powell just got the opportunity to survive cancer thanks to a lengthy operation. Out of all the Bush minions, Mr. Powell is one that I respect. (And Condoleeza Rice equals just a question mark. I am truly indifferent to her)

Friday, December 12, 2003

I just joined the NDP. I figure I might as well get started on fighting to defend Canadian democracy, since with Jack Layton leading the charge, we actually have a chance of winning the next election. Get out there and check out the NDP for yourself! You might not be as right wing as you thought!

Just to inject a little humour into the post below, take a look at Paul Martin's opinion on the Canadian Flag. Like I told you, he is a corrupt swindler! Even voting Conservative doesn't look that bad when you realize at least the Conservatives don't pretend to have a social conscience like Paul Martin's Liberals do.

Today, Paul Martin showed us that he is somebody that we can all agree to Vote Against. He is soon to be the official Prime Minister of Canada and he has begun to brandish his blade. Some veteran politicians have already felt its sharpness, including former Justice Minister Martin Cauchon and former Defense Minister John McCallum. Cauchon and his pipe dream of decriminalizing marijuana will probably be forgotten by Paul Martin's Conservative-in-Liberal's Clothing leadership, since Paul knows who butters his bread, and it is definately not the pot smokers of Canada. Until the public shows some sort of solidarity on the pot issue, we're going to be forced to run from the law and enrich organized crime for the years to come.

John McCallum was a likeable Minister of Defense, content to sit back and ridicule the American invasion of Iraq without any qualms. He has been punished by being delegated to the role of Veteran Affairs minister, a toothless agency who's aim is to thank veterans for their sacrifices, ie. pat them on the back and try to convince them that losing a leg in Korea really made a difference.

It is still to early to begin trying to say that Paul Martin is a horrible Prime Minister...staring at watch...ok, how about now? After all, he has given me a couple of reasons to fear the next couple of years already, and he has barely been sworn into office.

  • Suspicious Move #1- He is trying to imitate our neighbours to the south! He is going to create a "Ministry of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness", mirroring the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as if Canada is a major target of a terrorist attack. It is precisely by not buying into the "perpetual war" rhetoric that we have avoided being attacked by global terrorists. People know that Canada doesn't invade or occupy; we don't arrest people just because of the colour of their skin; we don't claim to own God (ie. God Bless America); by aping the American colossus, we risk being pulled down in its wake.

  • Suspicious Move #2- Martin is cosying up to companies This is not altogether surprising, considering that Mr. Martin made his fortune in the private sector and obviously has some debts to repay, but do we have to lead our universities hand-in-hand to sure corporate control? The website of the Prime Minister's office promises to "(foster) the creation and growth of innovative Canadian companies by more effective commercialization of university research and better access to early stage financing." This will mean that any research that doesn't lead to corporate profits will be put on the back burner. By buying into the argument that the free market will provide for us all, we are going to close the door on developments that are beneficial to humanity but not to commerce.

  • Suspicious Move #3- He is trying to seduce the Bush Administration Also promised in his announced changes to government, Paul Martin is going to create "...a new Cabinet Committee on Canada-U.S., chaired by the Prime Minister, to ensure an integrated, government-wide approach to Canada-U.S. relations and to be supported by a Canada-U.S. Secretariat in the Privy Council Office." Doesn't our embassy in Washington already perform this role? What does he mean by an "integrated, government-wide" approach? Are Canadian politicians going to learn to chant U S A in classrooms nation-wide? Is he referring to the frequent criticism of the Bush Administration by the braver members of Parliament over the past few years? This sort of talk is disheartening in a nation that prides itself on being "strong and free". When somebody covers your mouth, you're not experiencing freedom.

Love him or hate him, Jean Chretien has turned out to be a monumental leader. He slashed our social programs and education system in the early 90's and then metamorphized into a global pacifist and liberal moderate over the past year, vowing not to drag Canada into Iraq, attempting to legalize gay marriage on a federal level, and even courting the idea of decriminalizing small amounts of pot.

Sadly, Paul Martin has succeeded him, and if we are to remove him from the office of the Prime Minister, we'll all need to pull together. It will be tough to choose a new candidate but we've got at least a year before he holds a general election. Jack Layton, Godspeed to you & please don't give up fighting the Martin Menace.

Maybe we've been stricken by a case of bad karma. By giggling at the follies of Bush, with his "largest deficit in American history" world record & his obvious attempts at pandering to the lowest common denominator, we've been awarded a kick in the teeth in the form of Paul Martin, a spineless imp focused on winning back the favour of America. I think I'm going to do the unthinkable and actually vote NDP.

Now, enough of this unproductive ranting. I've got to get ready for a Hot Hot Heat concert @ Club Soda (7 PM, tickets are $15 CAD). Cheers!

Monday, December 08, 2003

Today was a bewildering day. I was unable to post anything to this blog for hours (the kind folks @ Blogspot must have been conducting some server maintenance!) and I only gained access to my soapbox just now.

This morning, I wanted to comment on the bombing that killed 9 Afghani civilians (all children). The strike was aimed at a "suspected Taliban terrorist" and was apparently supported by "very clear, actionable intelligence". I know that this Blog spends a little too much time focusing on the "usual suspects" (American soldiers & the Pentagon's war machine) but I couldn't let this slip past without mention. The "friendly fire" wasn't what shocked me the most--sadly, this sort of thing has been happening for years in all parts of the globe--what really caught my ire was the way the U.S. Military spokesman, Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, responded to the event.

"They're pretty understanding...They've been through years of war. They're not happy, but I think it meant a great deal to them that my commander, Gen. Austin, came out and personally expressed his condolences."
He also went on to say that although the U.S. forces were trying "to make sure (they) didn't hurt anybody besides (the suspect)...unfortunately, it's an imperfect art."

Calling firing on human beings from a distance an "art" makes a mockery of human life and of art itself!

Removing the Taliban government from power was necessary but this constant search for Al Q'aida isn't being carried out properly. They should be using the international legal & criminal organizations like Interpol to apprehend terrorists (George Soros is a proponent of this theory).

Then again, Afghanistan is a large mountainous country ruled locally by warlords. Much of the territory is beyond anyone's reach, not even local police, so that is why I suppose the military would be best suited for the job of tracking down the terrorists guilty of countless heinous acts. I'm not a tactical expert. I know that Canada is currently serving as the peacekeeping force in Kabul and apparently keeping order and trying to make a difference. I hope that we are welcome in their country.

Above all, if we just fire first and ask questions later, we are bound to strike some innocent people and create the template for future terrorism down the line. This applies to Afghanistan just as much as Iraq or any other country that we consider a terrorist state. People don't forget when they lose a father, or a child, and every life in the world is equal. If we want to truly combat terrorism, we must remove the reasons for supporting these groups--just like the cliché which remains from the Vietnam war, we must "win their hearts and minds" if we are to regain the security and peace we cherish. If we have the support of the majority of the people, they won't allow terrorists to blend into their population and they will be apprehended and dealt with accordingly.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Whenever I feel in need of a spiritual jello-shot, I just point my browser to the Tao Teh Ching, the great work by ancient Chinese scholar Lao-Tzu. He makes a lot of sense, even to a jaded modern reader such as myself.

"WHEN the world is in possession of the Tao,

The galloping horses are led to fertilise the fields
with their droppings.

When the world has become Taoless,

War horses breed themselves on the suburbs.

There is no calamity like not knowing what is enough.

There is no evil like covetousness.

Only he who knows what is enough will always have

The "Tao" that he refers to is something nearly beyond comprehension, because by definition, it is simply the origin of all life and existence. Taosim does not preclude monotheism since God could conceivably exist and nowhere in the Tao Teh Ching does it say that there is no God. It does say that by trying to assign rituals to spirituality, you are losing the essence of what is pure about your faith.

Failing Tao, man resorts to Virtue.

Failing Virtue, man resorts to humanity.

Failing humanity, man resorts to morality.

Failing morality, man resorts to ceremony.

Now, ceremony is the merest husk of faith and loyalty;

It is the beginning of all confusion and disorder.

As to foreknowledge, it is only the flower of Tao,

And the beginning of folly.

Therefore, the full-grown man sets his heart upon

the substance rather than the husk;

Upon the fruit rather than the flower.

Truly, he prefers what is within to what is without.

There is even a tiny shred of proof that the Canadian way is the way of the Tao!

WHAT is in the end to be shrunken,

Begins by being first stretched out.

What is in the end to be weakened,

Begins by being first made strong.

What is in the end to be thrown down,

Begins by being first set on high.

What is in the end to be despoiled,

Begins by being first richly endowed.

Herein is the subtle wisdom of life:

The soft and weak overcomes the hard and strong.

Just as the fish must not leave the deeps,

So the ruler must not display his weapons.

Since our military is cut off at the knees by lackluster spending and antiquated weapons, our country is weak militarily. Still, we have never been conquered (not even in 1812 when our American friends tried to slip a few thousand troops across the Great Lakes and up the Richelieu) and our place in the world is well respected. I feel much safer with a weak military than I would if we were occupying foreign countries against their will and flexing our might worldwide.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Tonight, I watched "Das Experiment", a German film based upon the true story of the Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971. It recounts the tale of a group of test subjects that are divided into two groups--half prisoners, the other half "prison guards". It was conducted in order to "...see what the psychological effects were of becoming a prisoner or prison guard".

Stir-crazy is an apt term for the way the prisoners reacted to the confinement and abuse doled out by their "guards". The lines between reality and fiction began to blur as the study went on and the catastrophic results that came after the sixth day should have been expected.

In real life, the Stanford experiment was halted on the sixth day because the lead researcher realized that "...(the) prisoners were withdrawing and behaving in pathological ways, and in which some of the guards were behaving sadistically".

I won't ruin the punch of the movie by doling out all the twists and scenes that wind up "Das Experiment" but it will suffice to say that the ending is grim and bloody. In the real experiment, there was a rebellion fomenting by the fifth day and some prisoners had lost all sense of reality. Some even begged a visiting chaplain to contact a lawyer to ask for "parole". They were so convinced that their imprisonment was genuine that they even joined in chanting "Prisoner 819 is a bad prisoner..." at a prison guard's behest, when #819 was removed from his cell for beginning a hunger strike!

I think that the reason this movie was so chilling was that this is the sort of thing we subject millions of people to for various reasons. According to the Stanford Prison Official site, currently there "...are more Americans in jails and prisons -- both men and women -- than ever before in history." Considering that many of the prisoners in Federal and State custody are there for non-violent drug offenses, I think that the current prison system will do nothing to reform felons. In fact, it probably creates more crime than it suppresses since the unbearable conditions would break down any healthy mind. Imagine what it is like to endure 36 months of solitary confinement? It boggles the mind.

I wish that somebody would put the guys responsible for corporate crime into the same cages that they put the rest of the prisoners in. Then, perhaps somebody would speak out against this cruel and unusual punishment.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't lock up criminals, or individuals that are a danger to society. I just think that by treating inmates like animals, we are allowing the evil within us to take control. By torturing inmates with sleep deprivation, physical abuse, and solitary confinement, we are losing part of what makes us human. If you don't believe me, watch "Das Experiment", and see for yourself. (While you're at it, read Human Rights Watch and their section on Prison life around the world)

The American election is still more than a full year away but the Democratic nomination is keeping my eyes glued to Google News. Every columnist, every pundit, heck, even weather ladies are choosing their favourite potential Democrat to oppose George W. Bush in the 2004 Presidential election. The Daily Show likens them to a "herd" and that isn't far from the truth. Nine different people all seek to embody the spirit of the American Democratic party, or as we Canadians call it, the "lesser of two evils". After all, Clinton was a Democrat & he bombed a lot of foreigners too. He knew how to push the Cruise missile button when it suited him. So, for you Republicans out there, don't think that you're the only ones to be blamed for American imperial policy.

If I had a gun to my head right now and you asked me to choose a Dem to go up against Bush, after emptying my bladder and whimpering a bit, I'd probably go with (Wait, do you want the idealistic choice or the pragmatic choice? This is a tough one) Howard Dean/John Kerry. Dean is more resolute and brave, standing nearly alone against the Warmongers in Congress who supported Bush's attack on Iraq. Kerry seems a little more slick and I think he'd have more of a chance of winning. So do we live in a happy little dream world and go with the Heart (Dean) or do we chug back an espresso and study the Wall Street Journal with our minds (Kerry)? Tough call.

Luckily, Canada doesn't have the trouble of choosing a new leader. He's forcing his way in, nearly done sticking Jean Chretien's head on a pike and hungry for fresh blood. Paul Martin is his name and he only uses his right hand when he waves. Yes, he wants to reconcile with the Americans. After all, he is a multi-millionaire businessman & avid investor (he used to own a steamship company, etc.) so obviously Bush Inc. appeals to him more than the vaguely European socialist policies of the Liberal government in the past. With his hands on the wheel, expect Canada to head straight for the treacherous rocky straits of Republicana. We are going to shift to the right but hopefully the NDP can stay lucid long enough to grab some seats from the Liberals, and maybe the Bloc Quebecois will put aside skipping out of the Canadian Confederation long enough to help veer us to the left.

What has left-wing thinking brought us, besides an enormous tax burden on our entire population? Public health care, a decent education system (with tuition rising, mind you), and a lot of jobs for bureaucrats to count how many geese there are in Winnipeg. Still, I'd rather pay higher taxes and not anger the rest of the world by building bombs & dropping them on those who oppose us. Yesterday, I saw an interview with Mr. McCallum (sp?), Canada's current defense minister. When asked why our government spends so little on our military, he tried his best to sound diplomatic & not anger or offend our British & American allies. What he should have said was Why build up for war when everyone wants peace? Nobody is burning Canadian flags in the streets, vowing to kill the mounties with Rocket Propelled Grenades...Since we don't have an empire, since we don't go around signing deals with dictators, since we don't own everything, we're not a major target.

We have won their hearts and minds by being a good example of a democracy that defends everyone's right to exist. I hope that Paul Martin remembers this when he begins savagely turning the wheel to the right.