Friday, December 17, 2010

Link of the Day: An interesting socialist analysis of the Cancun climate conference: Patrick Bond of the University of KwaZula in South Africa, writing a Socialist Project bulletin, says that Climate Capitalism Won at Cancun, But Everyone Else Loses, as unworkable elite proposals set back the fight against global warming.

(“Most specialists agree that even if the unambitious Copenhagen and Cancun promises are kept (a big if), the result will be a cataclysmic 4-5°C rise in temperature over this century, and if they are not, 7°C is likely. Even with a rise of 2°C, scientists generally agree, small islands will sink, Andean and Himalayan glaciers will melt, coastal areas such as much of Bangladesh and many port cities will drown, and Africa will dry out – or in some places flood – so much that nine of ten peasants will not survive.

(“The politicians and officials have been warned of this often enough by climate scientists, but are beholden to powerful business interests which are lined up to either promote climate denialism, or to generate national-versus-national negotiating blocs destined to fail in their race to gain most emission rights. As a result, in spite of a bandaid set of agreements, the distance between negotiators and the masses of people and the planet grew larger not smaller over the last two weeks.

(“To illustrate, smaller governments were ‘bullied, hustled around, lured with petty bribes, called names and coerced into accepting the games of the rich and emerging-rich nations,’ says Soumya Dutta of the South Asian Dialogues on Ecological Democracy.”)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

UN Security Council Chamber in New York.Image via Wikipedia

Link of the Day: Read an Article from the Canadian newspaper, Windspeaker, outlining 13 reasons why Canada did not merit a seat on the UN Security Council. Most have to do with the Harper government’s shoddy treatment of the rights of native people in Canada and around the world.

(The article is written by four prominent men in the field: Grand Chief Ed John, the North American representative to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Matthew Coon Come, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), Warren Allmand, P.C., O.C., QC, former minister of Indian Affairs and former president of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, currently teaching international human rights at McGill University, and Paul Joffe, international human rights lawyer.)

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Friday, December 10, 2010

My Log 239 : The film Inside Job is an amazingly detailed analysis of the economic meltdown and who caused it

It was entirely appropriate that on the same day that I watched Inside Job, the remarkable film dissecting the corporate crooks at the heart of the economic meltdown, President Obama should have achieved the biggest sellout of his career in office so far by agreeing to continue with the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans.

What is left of Obama’s promises during the election? The candidate of change? The man who was going to change how business is done in Washington? The scourge of the lobbyists?

Words fail me. But they did not fail Charles Ferguson, who wrote, directed and researched this amazing film. Relentlessly, Ferguson lays out the facts of the American economic situation in 2008, and with a bewildering series of factual quotes, statements and advice given to the government and the biggest financial institutions by a variety of highly paid officials, he lays the blame for it all where it belongs --- on the people running the government’s supervisory agencies, on the CEOs of the biggest banks, insurance companies and (for want of a better term) institutions whose sole purpose in life, apparently, has been to accumulate more and more wealth into as few hands as possible.

I admit I am not an unbiased observer of these events, or of this film: I have believed since I was a youth that banks and insurance companies stand at the apex of the political devils I would like to see slain. I have quoted many times my high school teacher, who, in a rush of enthusiasm during one class, said to us schoolboys during the last days of the war, “There will be no millionaires in the future, you know. That is over.” A slight mistake of judgment on his part, but one that I wish had proven to be entirely true.

Anyone who, like me, has always believed that the the process of money making more money, is inherently evil, will see in Ferguson’s film the apotheosis of his dreams. Capitalism has finally been revealed for all to see as a system of governance that depends on human greed, pride and manipulation, and is thus inherently at odds with more humane ideologies that take into account that we are our brother’s keeper, and that everyone, by virtue of his or her existence, should have the right to a decent standard of living, to a job, food, clothing and shelter, and enough leisure to allow for the exercise of one’s inherent talents, whatever they may be.

This doesn’t even enter the capitalist mind, preoccupied as it always is with its objective of paying dividends to its investors, and (as the Ferguson film shows so clearly) of maintaining a world free of any interference in the wealth-producing system.

The so-called leaders who established the conditions for the recent meltdown include certainly Reagan, Thatcher, the Bushes, father and son, and Bill Clinton, who put the crown on the developing process of deregulation, and used the occasion to reduce social and welfare benefits payable to those who have fallen behind in the rat-race.

These leaders allowed sharp businessmen to create the instruments of accumulation which, ipso facto, meant a reduction in the amount of created wealth that was available for social benefits. I recall writing about this some years ago when reviewing the remarkable book, The Short Twentieth Century, by the British historian Eric Hobsbawm. Hobsbawm commented on how foolish was the prevailing assumption that a nation that was creating more wealth in the 1990s than it had in the 1970s, was nevertheless supposed to be no longer able to afford social benefits that had been affordable in the 1970s. Why had this happened? Because the private sector, these kings of enterprise who have since plunged the world economy into chaos through their greed, had managed, with the connivance of right-wing leaders, to obtain control over a greater proportion of the wealth created by the work of ordinary citizens.

And they weren’t about to share it….

This is the story so brilliantly told by Ferguson in his film. As one sits and watches this unfolding of the story of corporate greed, and stupidity from the so-called arbitrators and officials who should have been warning of the approaching holocaust, one’s heart literally sinks into one’s boots. How can such a thing have happened? How can we have elected leaders so opaque, so insensate in their right-wing ideologies, as to pull the whole pack of cards down around all of our necks?

Perhaps the greatest shock in the film comes at the end, when Ferguson remarks that the new administration in the United States, rich in promise of change, takes office, and nothing really changes. Why not? He asks. The answer is sick-making. “Because it is a Wall street administration,” he says. Then he runs through the list of personalities who have already appeared in the film as villains in the creation of this chaos, who have been appointed by the U.S. government under Obama to keep on running things. Summers, Paulson, Geithner….the list goes on an on, as it had previously in Michael Moore’s film Capitalism, A Love Story. Moore devoted a whole screen to pictures of the dozens of executives from the one firm, Goldman Sachs, who had been seconded over the years into the ranks of government turning the U.S. government, for many years past, into a sort of Goldman Sacks hierarchy.

The only thing I can think to suggest in face of the revelation of such infamy from government and business, is to recommend a reading of Howard Zinn’s remarkable book, A People’s History of the United States.

Zinn details how the elites in control of American society at the time framed the constitution so that they could control the emerging nation, and establishes that they have been running things ever since, in their own interests. But there has always been a tradition in the United States of vigorous opposition to the control of the elites, on behalf of which many thousands of protesters have died.

Unfortunately, a friend with whom I watched Ferguson’s film kept asking me, “Where is the protest? Where are the protesters?” A question to which I have no ready answer.

Faced with conditions that in former times might well have led to revolution, the people appear to have been bought off, or brainwashed, or something, cowed into silence before what confronts all of us.

Thank heaven, also, for Julien Assange and his heroic decision to publish the reality of government behaviour in the modern world.

I am also reminded of Arundhati Roy’s wonderful conclusion that “the only thing worth globalizing in the modern world is protest.” We should get busy on that job….

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Link of the Day: Julien Assange seems to be victim of a frameup: Read Killing the Messenger: Corporate Media and Politicians v. Julian Assange and Wikileaks by Liam Fox, from, giving details of Assange’s supposed “crime” in Sweden, and of his accuser, a woman with ties to US-financed anti-Castro and anti-communist groups. For more information, see also

Monday, December 6, 2010

Julian Assange at New Media Days 09 in Copenhagen.Image via Wikipedia

Julian Assange, whom Tom Flanagan wants dead

Link of the Day: Vancouver lawyer files a complaint against Tom Flanagan, Harper advisor, alleging Criminal Code violation in call for assassination of Wikileaks' Julian Assange. Read Georgia Straight story, by Charlie Smith.

(The lawyer, Gail Davidson, wrote: "Flanagan managed Harper’s campaign to become leader of the Canadian Alliance party and then of the Conservative party. He managed the Conservative party campaign for the 2006 election and was the communications consultant for the Conservatives during the 2006 election campaign…. (he) was speaking as a man of authority who is called upon to advise the most powerful people in Canada. It is only reasonable to assume his incitement to assassinate Julian Assange may be acted on.")

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Link of the Day: Guess who believed in open diplomacy?: The President of the United States, of all people! But it was Woodrow Wilson, almost a century ago. Read a fascinating article on the historical need for Wikileaks, by Lawrence Davidson, of the Department of History, West Chester University, Pennsylvania

(“Can one imagine circumstances in which diplomatic interaction necessities secrecy? I am sure one can. However, those circumstances should be exceptional. They should not constitute the norm. And, there should be clear criteria as to what constitutes such circumstances. Arriving at those criteria should be part of a widespread public debate over a seminal right–the right to know what your government is doing in your name. At this point you might ask, what widespread public debate? Well, the one that supporters of Julian Assange and Wikileaks are trying desperately to begin.”)

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My Log 238:Crees open Embassy in Nation of Quebec:, though they have always insisted Quebec is not a nation

Oatmeal Rapids on the Rupert River, Quebec, Ca...Image via Wikipedia
One of the magnificent rapids on the beautiful Rupert river, before the Crees sold it to Hydro-QAuebec

It is amusing --- in some circumstances one might call it slightly alarming --- to observe how effortlessly the leaders of the Cree Nation, as the eight Cree villages in Quebec now style themselves, have switched their policy towards the nationalist claims of the province of Quebec.

In the 1990s, the Crees published a groundbreaking legal study of Quebec claims to sovereignity, called Sovereign Injustice, in which one of the major arguments advanced against Quebec separatism was that the province of Quebec, whatever else it may be, cannot claim to be a nation without the agreement of the many non-French-speaking people who live in the province. Of these, the indigenous people are probably the most important, for they have an authentic claim to be the owners of much of the territory of Quebec. The study did not deny there may be a French-Canadian nation, but it did deny that this nation is contiguous with the province of Quebec.

I wrote a popular version of this immense legalistic study, called Never Without Consent which also rested largely upon this argument that Quebec in itself is not a nation, and never will be until the separatist agenda of a minority of the French-speaking population has been embraced by the substantial non-French population of the province.

The most extreme expression of this view is the argument tendered by opponents of separatism that if Quebec does separate, the only land it would be free to take out of Canada would be the narrow strip along the St Lawrence, with which they first entered the Canadian confederation --- the rest, including the vast reaches of the north, being lands to which Crees and others have priority claim.

This became an article of faith with the Cree leadership during the years of their maximum opposition to the repeated damming and dyking of their territory by the Quebec government and its agencies.

But magically, it seemed, this article of faith was abandoned when immense amounts of money were dangled before the leadership, embodied in the so-called Paix des Braves. This is a new arrangement with Quebec under which the Crees have agreed to carry out sections of the original James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, that Quebec has just never bothered to implement, through, it seems, as much as anything, sheer indifference. In future, Quebec will pay the Crees to fulfil these unfulfilled promises themselves --- a startling new interpretation of the meaning of treaty promises.

Suddenly, Ted Moses and other Cree leaders were proclaiming from the housetops --- or should that be treetops or hilltops?--- that they were making a nation-to-nation deal with Quebec. Since Quebec, in the Cree policies, was not a nation, how could this be?

Simple. Merely by saying so. Overnight, without, so far as I know, any debate among the people, Quebec was recognized as a nation by the Crees.

This recognition has been taken a step further in recent days by the opening of what the Crees call an Embassy to the Nation of Quebec. Although the Crees of Quebec are not a numerically significant element in the Canadian political scene, they have established a leading role for themselves in the minds of non-indigenous people, largely through their once-staunch defence of their great, wild rivers against the overwhelming power of mindless technology. Thus, their establishment of what they call an Embassy in what they now call the Nation of Quebec , will not be particularly welcomed by those forces across Canada which believe that a separate
Quebec, torn from the bosom of Canada, will not be in the best interests of this country, nor of this continent.

Among those who have in the past argued that the Crees should be treated decently by authorities that historically treated them with contempt, this sudden switch of allegiance will be added to an earlier switch, when supporters of a free-running, wild Rupert River equally suddenly found themselves side-swiped as the Crees decided to sell their great river to Hydro-Quebec.

Politics, as the old saying goes, does indeed make strange bedfellows.

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