Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Seduction of the Indolent?

Providing proof positive that Americans have needed to delude themselves as far back as the late 1940s about the world, the following 'educational’ shorts were used to seduce unsophisticated moviegoers. These 'classics' were produced in 1948 [‘Make Mine Freedom’] and 1951 [‘Communism’]. The first short is unusual because, despite its high production values, it was a product of Harding College, a private Christian university located in Searcy, Arkansas.

Anti-Communist Propaganda [9:30]

American Propaganda 1951: Communism [10:40]

Both videos demonstrate the zeitgeist possessing America in the 1950s [and which appears to be back again in force], when anything was possible and saying 'America, my country right or wrong' didn't sound near as trite as it does now. Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Random Media, Part 87

The full version of this interview was even stranger because Wolf Blitzer just kept agreeing with the Donald as he went on venting about how dubya was the WORST President EVER. Trump correctly pointed out that the current administrations actions has resulted in nations traditionally allied with America to begin distancing themselves while neutral nations have begun to appear to dislike the US. He went on to suggest that the only viable solution for the ongoing debacle in Iraq is for America to declare victory and then immediately withdraw everything. [Like the 1970s t-shirt slogan' 'Do Unto Others, Then Split'] While this initially sounds absurd, it makes about as much sense as attempting to occupy Iraq for another decade or two.

The Donald Fires Off [73 sec.]

The Donald Fires Off - Funny home videos are a click away

And on a slightly different note, this video presents Mankiw's 10 principles of economics translated for the uninitiated [i.e. everyone without a PhD in economics] by Yoram Bauman. Originally filmed at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference session on humour [16 February 2007], this presentation was based on an article first published in The Annals of Improbable Research. The paper also goes on to provide a "constructive example" of how the exchange process can actually serve to make everyone involved worse off.

Principles of Economics, Translated [5:20]

For more material along the same line, please go to The Standup Economist.

On a slightly different note, the following video provides advice for aspiring young Marxists. The use of public source material and the Internet, while arguably technologically elitist, still allows for individuals who would otherwise be unable to connect to communicate. In the dark age ahead, communication will be central. The use of public source material is equally of use for the frugal radical but I suspect that if Bakunin were alive today, his take on the matter would be that 'Intellectual property is theft!'

A Guide for New Marxists [1:10]

I suppose the mere presence of this on my blog is enough to make certain members of Rabble turn me in to the proper authorities for 'head fixing.'

A Spectre is Haunting Europe -- the Spectre of Communism

Cartoons of the World, Unite! You Have Nothing to Lose but your Animators!

In a unique homage to the potential for subversion in the celluloid medium, Manifestoon assembles a number of classic cartoons from the Golden Age of cartooning between the 1930s and the 1950s to graphically illustrate The Communist Manifesto.

Manifestoon [8:17]

While American cartoons [specifically the work of Walt Disney's cartoon assembly line] have tended to be viewed as being merely a handmaiden to the fundamental capitalist virtues of consumerism, individualism and private property [See Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart’s How To Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic for deeper analysis], the creator of Manifestoon believes that "these ideas were secondary to a more important lesson — that of the 'trickster' nature of many characters as they mocked, outwitted and defeated their more powerful adversaries. In the classic cartoon, brute strength and heavy artillery are no match for wit and humour, and justice always prevails ... it was natural to link my own childhood concept of subversion with an established, more articulate version. Mickey running over the globe has new meaning in today's mediascape, in which Disney controls one of the largest concentrations of media."

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Just a brief follow up to 10 March 2007 posting ['More of the Same in British Columbia'] regarding Betty Krawczyk's questionable treatment by the BC court system.

She has been sentenced to ten months in the Alouette Correctional Center for Women in Maple Ridge, BC.

Betty will continue posting a blog to document her ongoing situation. The blog can be found at Betty's Early Edition.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

You Can't Hug a Child with Nuclear Arms

Protect and Survive - Nuclear Explosions Explained [1:29]

If you are netsurfing and a nuclear bomb detonates in your neighbourhood, you might want to give the following PIF a quick watch. [In case you came of age in the 1990s, PIF means Public Information Film. Apparently there are plans to start making updated PIFS that take the 'new realities' into consideration] Then go put out the bonfire that is your house, talk some sense into those nasty looters in front of what used to be your house, quickly dig a hole for shelter [or body disposal] behind what used to be your house, and kiss your ass goodbye.

Protect and Survive - What To Do After An Attack [2:31]

Despite the timeless wisdom that these highly entertaining and informational videos were attempting to impart me with, I couldn't help but think that during a nuclear exchange everyone I knew was going to die and the only survivors would be the politicians and military elite who started the whole damned thing in the first place. Oh, Karma where are thou?

Luckily, things are far less stable now and I don't have to worry about those nasty Russians dropping a few dozen megs on my humble chunk of the world. My only worry now is that rogue states might use nuclear, biological and/or chemical weapons, my own government will plan something weird, or the USA will make a serious grab for Canadian territory. [Please see War Plan Red - 'A 1935 US Plan for Invasion of Canada'] for confirmation that I'm not paranoid as I sound. And as ancient as War Plan Red sounds, the earliest invasion of Canada was proposed by Benedict Arnold in 1775. Later invasions took place in 1812, and smaller invasions were led by the Hunters' Lodges during the Patriot War [1837-1838] and the Battle of the Windmill [1838]. Finally, the Fenian's launched a series of raids against Canada between 1866-1871.

Monday, 19 March 2007

What Can I Say About Ann Coulter That Hasn't Already Been Said??

'Basically .. um .. it is like California with Baghdad as L.A..."
- Ann Coulter pithily summarizing the ongoing situation in Iraq.

California Dreaming? [1:34]

I'm increasingly getting the feeling that I'm watching Ann Coulter do a parody of herself when she does her 'commentaries'. I assume that when she does her the 'Ugly American' routine it's as if she's deliberately trying to stir up controversy and thus increase her own marketability at the same time. Then again, maybe she actually believes the nonsense that she's spewing. I'm not sure which idea is more troubling.

Bipartisan Politics and the Green Mind

Why is it proven so difficult for individuals with an interest in the environment to avoid being tagged as being fringe-dwellers or eccentrics? And why have the green efforts that have been adopted been neutered so readily? At what point does 'buying into' the System become 'selling-out' to the System? [Or is it all just semantic hopefulness if the System, given its basic instincts and logic, proves that it can never be trusted??] Might it do the ecology movement more harm than good if the movement collectively embraced the virtues of patriotism, thereby depriving those who have been traditional less ecologically-minded of their soapbox. After all, what is better for our nation and those within than actually having a functioning planet to live on? Or would embracing patriotism risk simultaneously incorporating the more unsavory elements of nationalism into the environmental movement? After all, many of the problems currently being experienced in the environment are derived from the colonialism that occurred as part of the industrial capitalism in the late 18th century. [Not to say that the world was a verdant paradise before the first halting steps at primitive accumulation of capital and mercantile capitalism in the 18th and 19th centuries, but the commodification and proletariatization were more destructive a force on the collective psyche then any event either prior or since.]

It has been said that only fools fight in a burning building and, looking at current events, I do believe that we have been sleeping through the our wake-up call.

For more information about the cartoon, please see Rustle the Leaf.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Tarbaby- 6 Million Years of Evolution in 1.2 minutes [1:22]

For further information, please go to Arcturus Design

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

The World's Worst Best Kept Secret

Should it come as any surprise that a time-honoured and pernicious institution such as slavery is alive and well and living in the developed world?? It is difficult to avoid news reports that remind us how the slave trade is still thriving across the developed world but a recent study reveals that slavery is a lot closer to home than is comfortable. While the nations in the so-called First World already have a lot to explain than just the traditional wage-slavery that most workers are forced into under industrial capitalism.

The struggle against slavery still exists in many forms and locations today. Racially-based chattel slavery has the closest resemblance to 'slavery' as practiced in the United States until 1865 and is still practiced in Sudan and Mauritania today. In other parts of the world, debt bondage enslaves entire families. Some families are forced to give up their children as payment of this debt. Factory workers in Pakistan, charcoal burners in South and Central America, and tenant farmers in the Indian subcontinent are all forced to offer up their productive labour as collateral against a loan which they can never hope to work off. This process commonly also entraps their children as well. Beyond mere debt slavery, however, the murky realm of child slavery, child sex slavery, and trafficking of sex trade workers from the developing nations to the developed nations of the West.

Contemporary Slavery in the UK: Overview and Key Issues
By Gary Craig, Aline Gaus, Mick Wilkinson, Klara Skrivankova and Aidan McQuade

A report recently released as part of a joint research project by the University of Hull [UK] and Anti-Slavery International for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation [JRF] confirms that slavery continues to exist in the United Kingdom as well as being prohibited under international law. While the UK marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the legal slave trade in Britain and her colonies, the new report examines modern forms of slavery, how it operates in the UK, and a detailed account of the circumstances faced by those who are enslaved.

[With the bicentenary of the British abolition of the pernicious trade in humans upon us this year the finest thing that could be done to commemorate it would be to revive the passion of the 19th century abolitionist and end the trade once and for all.]

[Ironically, the humanitarian and philanthropist Joseph Rowntree had a great zeal regarding the conditions of his English workers but has has much to account for regarding the conditions under which chocolate was, and still is, harvested in Africa. For more information, please see Bitter Chocolate: Investigating the Dark Side of the World's Most Seductive Sweet by Carol Off for more information]

The report shows that the contemporary slave trade in the UK operates in different forms, particularly as a result of trafficking. The different forms share an underlying exploitative relationship that has historically constituted slavery [e.g. severe and prolonged economic exploitation; lack of a human rights framework; and one individual maintaining absolute control over another through either the threat of violence or actual violence.]

About Human Trafficking [1:30]

David Batstone on Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery [4:55]

To view the video in its entirety, please go to FORA.tv

"The Little Guy'll Always Win...' Part 2

A moment of sanity in an otherwise frustrating and confusing world. CBC News has reported that Kevin Yourdkhani and his parents will be returning back to Canada at some point in the indeterminate future.

Family detained in U.S. granted permit to enter Canada
[CBC News as of 12 March 2007|6:01 PM EST]

"An Iranian couple and their nine-year-old Canadian son who have been held in a Texas detention centre have been given temporary residency permits to enter Canada. A spokesman for Immigration and Citizenship Minister Diane Finley said Monday the minister granted the permit because it was in the best interest of the boy.

Kevin's parents, Majid and Masomeh, (they've asked that their last names be withheld) first arrived in Canada 10 years ago seeking asylum, but were unsuccessful and were deported to Iran in December 2005. Kevin was born as they lived in Canada.

The parents said they faced torture in Iran and made another attempt to seek refuge in Canada with the use of stolen Greek passports. But on a flight to Toronto from Guyana on Feb. 4, a passenger suffered a heart attack and died, causing the plane to be diverted to Puerto Rico.

U.S. officials discovered their false documents and detained the family for five days before sending them to the T. Don Hutto detention centre near Austin, Texas, a converted medium-security prison that has been condemned by human rights groups and is the subject of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

A lawyer for the family says it will now fall to the Canadian and U.S. governments to negotiate the family's transfer to Canada."

On a side note, I just discovered that I've been misquoting one of the Texas Rangers unofficial mottoes, "No man in the wrong can stand up to a fellow that's in the right and keeps on a-comin'" I guess it was just that Abbie Hoffman's version seemed more appropriate in this situation.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

More of the Same in British Columbia

Sometimes it's difficult to watch so-called justice get meted out. An axiom of the legal profession observes that not only must justice be done, it must appear to be done as well. Bearing this in mind, some cases conclude themselves in such dubious manner that the conduct of the legal system [especially it's alleged 'neutrality' and 'impartiality'], as a whole, is thrown into question. [While Otto von Bismarck was correct in his assertion that 'to retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making,' he neglected that the agents of the court can directly affect citizens whether or not they respect its validity and/or moral authority]

On 24 January 2007, Provincial Court Justice Brenda Brown sentenced 16 of 25 protesters with contempt of court. The judge approved an out of court settlement for nine of the accused [$250 penalty or 25 hours community service and $1,000 legal in legal costs], while singling out the remaining six protesters for significantly higher penalties [$5,000 penalty or 250 hours community service and $1,000 in legal costs].

Judge Brown sentenced 71 year old First Nation elder Harriet Nahanee to 14 days in jail for refusing to apologize to the courts for her actions [e.g. contempt of court]. Despite several preexisting chronic medical conditions, Harriet was sent to Surrey Pretrial Centre. It is now believed that she developed pneumonia during her incarceration and was admitted to St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver immediately after her release. Harriet died in hospital on 24 February 2007 from pneumonia complicated by undiagnosed lung cancer thus rendering her one of the first [unintentional] martyrs of the B.C. ecology movement.

In a separate trial, 78 year old Betty Krawczyk, an environmental activist involved in earlier blockades at Clayoquot Sound, the Elaho and Walbran Valleys, was convicted of criminal contempt of court for her non-violent passive resistance at Eagleridge Bluffs. Final sentencing arguments were heard on 19 February 2007 with the crown recommending a 9-15 month prison sentence based on Betty’s previous contempt of court convictions and her three prior arrests at Eagleridge. Betty K has dedicated her life to fighting the use of civil injunctions in B.C. environmental disputes. [NB: The use of these injunctions by the courts result in contempt charges for what would otherwise be obstruction, mischief or trespassing charges under the Criminal Code. Injunctions give the granting judge the power to determine the ultimate fate of an ecosystem, and the authority to restrict any and all unauthorized personnel from being in the area in question.]

Betty K Speaks Prior to Her Sentencing [6:18]

[Betty displays a commendable equanimity when considering her situation. As mentioned in the video, the Judge scheduled to appear that day couldn't be bothered to show up.]

The following video was filmed prior to the destruction of Eagleridge Bluffs by short-sighted bureaucrats.

An Environmental Tragedy of Olympic Proportions [5:11]

For further information, go to The Coalition to Save Eagleridge Bluffs at Horseshoe Bay, the 2010 Olympic Games Watch or Eagle Ridge Bluffs Protesting

Friday, 9 March 2007

The New Normal or the Interim Reality?

It still pains me to consider how correct some of the dystopian SciFi of the 1950s and 1960s was in predicting that the world would eventually come to be run by corporations. It's not so bad that I'm going down to run down to the corner for a bag of Soylent Green with extra butter or anything, but the vicious world-wide retrenchment of the modern Keynesian welfare state [in the developed nations], the complicity of the state in sowing the seeds of its own destruction [the developed nations], the disturbing obliviousness of the general public is troubling. Equally disturbing, although for different reasons, has been the rise of materialist cultures in the developing nations as the nation-state that have been squashed by the transnational corporations [TNCs] and international regulatory bodies [such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.] Finally, the failure of workers across the world to mobilize against the forces that are rapidly crushing all opposition, co-opting dissent, and controlling much of the mainstream media. While the TNCs have successfully created unity for their shared class interests the working class is still divided by petty nationalism and the basic struggle for survival in an increasingly hostile world.

Knowing what is wrong and knowing what to do are two entirely separate things, however. As for what should be done, several basic options appear to exist, each representing an ideological corollary to Conway’s Law - any ideology tends to reflect the organizational structure that produced it.

1) Doing nothing. [As easy as this would be, the dominant socio-economic ideology across all of the industrialized nations - globalized economy - is behaving as responsibly as a 14-year old with a stolen vehicle.]

2) Modifying the current system. An example of such an idea would include the global implementation of the International Labour Organization's Core Labour Standards. These standards include:
- Freedom of association [the right to organize and collective bargaining]
- Abolition of forced labour
- Equality
- Elimination of child labour [which requires that one or both parents be paid a living wage]

3) A third option. A radical redistribution of wealth or some other plan as yet unknown??

Sunday, 4 March 2007

'The Little Guy'll Always Win if He's in the Right and Keeps on Comin'.'

The text of the preceding message reads as follows:
'Dear Mr. Prime minister haper [sic] I don’t like to stay in this jail. I’m only nine years old. I want to go to my school in Canada. I’m sleeping beside the wall. Please Mr. Priminister haper give visa for my family. This place is not good for me. I want to get out of the cell. Just pleace [sic] give visa for my family. My home land is in Canada, My life is over there. I’m also sleeping beside wasroom [sic]. Mr. Priminister [sic] haper [sic] pleace [sic] bring me and my family to Canada. Thank you so much.’

The nature of citizenship is becoming all too flexible in this unstable world. A thousand years ago most people spent their entire lifetimes within a short distance of where they were born. [While interactions and exchanges occurred between different cultures, they were primarily facilitated by specialized classes of individuals such as merchants and soldiers.] In the increasingly globalized marketplace, cultures are blending like never before and no precedents exist for dealing with it. At what point does a naturalized immigrant cease being a resident of their original country and ‘belong’ to the new country? [Or, more importantly, does an individual ever really 'belong' to a country in the first place?] At what point is it unreasonable to deport a naturalized immigrant? And is it ever reasonable to request the children of immigrant’s leave [as Germany is doing to the grandchildren [!] of the ‘guest-workers’ that it invited in during the prosperity of the post-war years].

In the increasingly unstable post 9/11 world, we will have to try and gain and understanding of how these newcomers fit into our society. The notion of Fortress America or Fortress Europe is logistically impossible and, given the negative population growth [and resulting loss of labour reproduction], new workers will be needed soon. An example of this need is demonstrated by the United State’s dependency on other nations for raw materials and labour. Talk of blockading the Mexican border, for example, is unrealistic because America needs cheap labour. Mexican workers put more into the system than they can take out and, more importantly, perform jobs that many American workers would refuse for higher wages. [See the mockumentary ‘A Day Without a Mexican’ for an entertaining albeit simplistic view of this issue. For more well-researched opinion, see 'Undocumented Immigrants in Texas: A Financial Analysis of the Impact to the State Budget and Economy - December 2006' by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts] A more immediate example of this problem has recently come about following the detention of a nine-year old Canadian boy named Kevin and his parents in the United States.

Kevin is Canadian by birth and acculturation while his parents are of Iranian ancestry and have been denied Canadian citizenship. As a consequence of inadvertently entering American territory during an emergency landing in Puerto Rico, Kevin and his family are currently being held at the T. Don Hutto Immigrant Detention Center in Taylor, Texas.

All Canadian citizens [and any non-Canadian citizen who is interested in seeing justice done] should send an e-mail to Peter MacKay <"MacKay.P@parl.gc.ca"> demanding immediate action and urge your friends and colleagues to join you in this call for justice.

For further information, please go to Democracy Now! or Verbena19

On a related note, Texans United for Families organized a vigil in December 2006 to assert the dignity and humanity of the families detained at the Hutto Immigrant Detention Center. The Center is operated by Corrections Corporation of America, a private, for-profit prison. By its own admission, the center is one of the first institutions of its kind, able to hold entire families who have been detained at USA border entry points. [Not surprisingly, this raises a number of legal and moral issues.] Children are housed in cells with their parents until such time as the Department of Homeland Security arranges for their deportation, they are granted asylum, or they manage to secure a bond for their release. The children are provided with no more than one hour of school and recreation per day, and many have lost significant amounts of weight and suffered illness since their initial incarceration. [While I don't know a great deal about Texans United for Families, it is reassuring to see that some Texans are willing to, as the late Molly Ivins suggested, stand up against the surge.]

Watch the videos here:

A Vigil Outside the Hutto Detention Center by Texans United for Families, Part 1 [9:26]

A Vigil Outside the Hutto Detention Center by Texans United for Families, Part 2 [9:56]

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Shaming the Victim

‘History has the cruel reality of a nightmare, and the grandeur of humanity consists in it making beautiful and lasting works out of the real substance of that nightmare. Or, to put it another way, it consists in transforming that nightmare into vision; in freeing ourselves from the shapeless horror of reality - if only for an instant - by means of creation.’

- Octavio Paz [1950]. The Labyrinth of Solitude

Given the breadth and depth of the inhumanity being perpetrated across the world, it is always surprising to me that it is practically impossible to experience sympathy fatigue. The more I discover about how the globalized economy is working to make virtual serfs of basically everyone [as Barbara Ehrenreich visualized it, the 'Brazilianization' of global society - a teeming underclass living in absolute poverty, a transparently thin middle class, and an even smaller ruling class], I'm still appalled, astonished and outraged by how the lower and middle classes are used against each other. The middle-class, such as it is in America, has been manipulated by fear and greed to despise the poor. Worse than this, by keeping the middle class in a state of perpetual fear and parinoia, they become unable to gain a fuller understanding of the state of the world and where it is going.

I have to admit a certain fondness for material goods but the time will soon arrive when we will be forced to make a decision regarding the continued viability of the planet and our place on it. Concern must be directed towards the burgeoning population across the world which, according to the latest United Nations study, is predicted to peak at an estimated total of 10 billion by the year 2050. [Of these, over fifty percent will live in urban/peri-urban areas and all population growth will occur in urban areas]. Scenes like those documented below will become increasingly common as the urban population expands and the world economy continues to be mercilessly right-sized by the irrational logic of capitalism.

Umoja Village [Liberty City] [7:14]
This documentary examines the situation faced by the squatters in Miami, Florida. Following a number of broken promises by the local government and corrupt practices by business developers, conflict erupts as a group of poverty activists take matters into their own hands.

For more information, please go to Take Back the Land.

St. Petersburg [Florida] P.D. Destroy Tent City [2:15]
St. Petersburg P.D. use box cutters to shred a tent city as the residents watch in shock. One homeless advocacy group described St. Petersburg as being the 'meanest city in the nation.' [Given the general ideological shift to the right since the 1980s, that must have been a real challenge][Video by Tina May]

For more information, please go to St. Pete for Peace