Saturday, February 25, 2006

The issues of our time

These are what I think are the three most critical global issues that we are faced with right now:

1) Ballistic Missile Defence
2) Climate Change
3) Extreme poverty and disease in Africa

With respect to ballistic missile defence, it is a hoax, a scam perpetuated by the military-industrial complex. It is powerful enough to lead Canadian politicians to lie through their teeth and support it, going against Canadian public opinion. It is an extremely dangerous and stupid plan which is not defensive but in fact offensive in intent. In contrast to what it's supporters say, it does involved the weaponization of space, it hasn't being proven to work, and it will spawn a new global arms race. These are verifyable facts. I am doing a lot of educating myself on this issue, and expect that I'll be writing about it quite a bit in the future.

The vast majority of independent scientists agree that man-made climate change is happening. So do all industrialized countries except for the US. The US signed Kyoto but has refused to ratify it. We will continue to ignore it at our peril. While we pat ourselves on the back for belonging to a country that supports Kyoto, let's remember that Kyoto is just a first step, a small first step. We will have to radically change our consumption and transportation habits if we are really going stop the coming catastrophe.

It is disgraceful, truly disgraceful, that there exists in this world such a profound gap between rich and poor. Even the poor here don't know what poor it when you consider the squalor in which the poor in the majority world, especially in Africa , live. If, as Gandhi said, poverty is the worst form of violence, then Africa is being massacred. People their die for AIDS and starvation by the thousands. Even more appaling is the reality that it is entirely preventable. If Western governments merely gave .7% of their GDP to financially support Africa, it would go a long way toward stifling this terrible scenario.

When I look at these critical issues, one thing that comes to mind is a huge disconnect. Around a trillion dollars will be put toward an insane missile defence scheme that will put us on the brink. Somehow, it seems to make more sense to some to support that expenditure, rather than spend a fraction of that saving lives in Africa. Therefore, I think these issues are not just about the bare-bones facts. They are about the kind of world we want to live in, and what we consider important. They are about what we value as human beings. They are about how we want out public money to be spent. They are about beating our swords into ploughshares.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

military-industrial complex

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The neocon prison blues

Salon has published more photos relating to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

The UNCHR has called on the US to either try the prisoners or release them, and to close the Guantanamo camp.

Juan Cole reminds us that the US's own Constitution demands what the UNCHR is calling for:

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

reader mail

I receive an interesting e-mail regarding my blog (I'm not sure which one) froma reader. I have deleted the name to protect anonymity:

Subject: Reply to your blogsite
Date: Sat, 11 Feb 2006 02:38:33 -0500
Whatever your perceived misconceptions about the Bush administration, you must first consider two facts.
1. Islam in general and more specifically radical Islam seeks the destruction of everyone who does not fit into their worldview, including you.
2. The UN cannot be trusted as a world governing body considering the oil for food scandal, and their total inability to stop terrorism.

While more rational people around the globe are indeed afraid of a total "fascist" state as you claim, your intent to give total power to the UN invites just such a condition.

Under our current supreme court, that uses international law instead of the constitution, the pillars of true freedom vs. totalitarianism are being slowly eroded.

You must understand that the reason the U.S. was created was to escape totalitarianism. The U.N. and Islamic "fascism" are the true enemies, not the current administration.

Here is my reply:

Date: Sat, 11 Feb 2006 14:16:36 -0500 (EST)
From: "Stephen Karr"
Subject: Re: Reply to your blogsite
With respect, let me correct a couple of your misconceptions.

Islam in general does not seek the destruction of everyone who fits into their worldview. There are Islamic fundamentalists who do. If I had my way, we would do away with all fundamentalism, regardless of which religion it is pretending to adhere to.

The UN, flawed as it is, is the best hope for world peace that we have right now. We live in an increasingly polarized world. We have the militarists and fundamentalists in the US on one side, and the same in the middle east on the other. I am guessing that you would say that the US should be allowed to play world police. Well, they already are, and have already created quite a mess. The problems with this, of course, is that the US is not a disinterested third party, but a highly involved military and economic player in world affairs. They are also are a notabel committer of greivous human rights abuses. As a result, they are hated in many parts of the world right now, not just in the Middle East. The oil for food scandal is troublesome to be sure, but is mainly brought up by dogmatic US neocons who don't want to be reigned in on their power trip. You may want to read this article on it: UN is unquestionably flawed as I said. The five most powerful countries on the security council have vetoes. What we really need is a world parliament without vetoes, with all regions having equal representation according to population. I am not talking about an all -powerful institution that will reach into all corners of peoples lives, but it would govern relations between nations. I would suggest reading "Age of Consent" by George Monbiot. We have a number of state actors in the world right now with nculear weapons, and all it would take is on small mistake to start a chain reaction and blow us all to hell. Missile defense is no answer. In fact, it is an extremely dangerous proposal to all of us. There is no guarantee it would work, and it would put all other countries on edge.

Tom, I think you really do believe that the UN and Islam are the real enemy, and not the US administration, but I strongly disagree. Polarization and ideological rigidity are the enemy. Radical Islam is powerful and frightening, but so is US neoconservatism. There are a group of people in the US, called the Project for the New American Century, and their goal IS global military dominance. This is not conspiracy theory; this is fact. They are a coalition of religious/social conservatives, ideological neocons and military profiteers. I'm going to give you a couple of links so you can learn more about them.

Make no mistake about it, the rise of fascism in the US is a great concern. Civil liberties are being slowly eroded as well, under the guise of protecting its citizens. Check this out:

Tom, we are living in very dangerous times right now, and what we need right now is the courage to ask questions -- of everyone. No authority must be above questioning.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Imagine peace

Watching the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics, I was pleased to see Yoko Ono talk about peace, followed by a rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine" by Peter Gabriel. I found myself very moved by that.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The innocent have nothing to hide

Everybody Knows

Canadian icon Leonard Cohen had five songs inducted into the Canadian Songwriter's Hall of Fame, including this one. BTW, Don Henley did a great version of it. Looking at the lyrics again, I see how some of them are very relevant right now. Hell, maybe all of them.

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that you love me baby
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that you've been faithful
Ah give or take a night or two
Everybody knows you've been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet
Without your clothes
And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

And everybody knows that it's now or never
Everybody knows that it's me or you
And everybody knows that you live forever
Ah when you've done a line or two
Everybody knows the deal is rotten
Old Black Joe's still pickin' cotton
For your ribbons and bows
And everybody knows

And everybody knows that the Plague is coming
Everybody knows that it's moving fast
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman
Are just a shining artifact of the past
Everybody knows the scene is dead
But there's gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
What everybody knows

And everybody knows that you're in trouble
Everybody knows what you've been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows it's coming apart
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Oh everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows

Monday, February 06, 2006

Harper's Cabinet

"Just mark my words. If they get elected, they are going to begin a massive review of programs and a massive set of cuts to government programs. And people are going to say, 'We didn't ask for this. Mr. Harper didn't say this is what he was going to do.'" -- Liberal candidate for Vancovuer-Kingsway David Emerson, during the 2005-2006 federal election campaign.

"Every man for himeself. The strong survive. The weak die. The rich get richer. The poor get poorer." Emerson, also during the campaign.

"I'm going to be Stephen Harper's worst enemy," he warned. "We're going to stir the pot and you better believe we are going to make a heck of a lot of noise." -- Emerson, election night.

Believe it or not, this man is now in Stephen Harper's cabinet. If I were a resident of Vancouver-Kinsway, I would be extremely pissed off right about now.

Mr. Emerson, will you fight to ensure the doomsday scenario you outlined won't ensue under Harper/

So is Stockwell Day. He's the Minister for Public Safety and National Security. Keep an eye on your civil liberties.

Gary Lunn is the Minister for Natural Resources. Stay on top of offshore oil exploration.

Also stay focussed on the Minister of Justice, Vic Toews, who apparently is a big fan of the notwithstanding clause in the Charter of Rights of Freedoms. Ergo, not a big fan of some of the rights and freedoms embodied in said document.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

If we don't think about it, maybe it won't happen

One foot in front of the other
One foot back to counter it

So the people of Surrey want the Port Mann bridge twinned, and they don't want to pay for it, so they can drive their single occupant vehicle SUVs to work while the world heats up. By way of explanation, Surrey is a Vancouver suburb, basically a bedroom community of about 500,000. I find it extremely disturbing that they are so self-centered that the only solution they would consider is twinning the Port Mann bridge so we can have even more cars on the road, spewing toxic crap into the air. (OK, I'm a hypocrite when I say that, but it has to be said).

We need less cars on the road, not more. We need transportation alternatives. We need to increase Skytrain use between Vancouver and Surrey. We need to encourage car-pooling. Don't be strangers; meet your neighbour. We need to encourage economic development in Surrey, and maybe also the idea that you can live and work in the same community.

This is the warmest winter I can remember on the coast, and it's been that way pretty much across Canada, I believe. Do the people in Surrey think about this at all? Conversely, do the prefer denial? It is not my intention to make assumptions about what the mindset is amongst the good citizens down there.

All I know is this -- I'm scared.

If everyone's a casualty
Then take your time there ain't no trouble
If the weather's fine and we're feeling crazy
There's always drinks and dancing in the rubble
I'm spinning and you're spinning
The world's spinning and we're laughing
And I'm charming, the devil's charming
And we're ruined but we're still building
And I'm selling and you're counting
The world's stopping but we keep going
And we're ruthless and we're cunning
And I'm heir to it all

-Matthew Good, Avalanche.

Emerging American heroine.