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Friday, October 29, 2004

Flipping the Osama/w.Caesar Coin 

Hmmm. A quick response to Charles Moore piece in the Telegraph the other day [reprinted below]:

Speaking as one of the "twerp" critics Moore mentions, as far as I can tell, while Moore goes on about how the right side [ours] of this global war has to be fought and won [Spain is out [Canada has always been too]; UK, USA and OZ are in], he doesn't actually show that w.Caesar *isn't* actually representing the flip side of the coin from Osama: fighting against Islamic fundamentalism and being a western, Christian, free market [albeit oligopolistic] fundamentalist aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.

Besides, the appeal to the crazy idea that it's immoral to criticize the man who had to clean up after 9/11 is just plain trashy rhetoric.

If Bush loses, the winner won't be Kerry

Daily Telegraph [October 23, 2004]

By Charles Moore

Earlier in the week, I was talking to a brisk, amusing, Toryish member of the Great and the Good. It had recently fallen to her to give away some prizes at a ceremony to do with helping the environment. Gripped with the desire to liven things up a bit, she said, she had dropped into her speech an aside about the "greatest human threat to the planet - Bush's re-election". There followed a moment's silence, and then a weird noise that it took her a second to recognise was tumultuous, orgasmic applause.



On the way home, she told me, she thought things over and felt uncomfortable. She did not repent of her dislike of the President of the United States, but she worried a little that people should feel so passionately, so certainly.

I think we should worry a lot. One of the criticisms thrown at George W Bush is that he is a menace because he believes that God is telling him what to do. A moral equivalence is set up, in which Osama bin Laden and Bush are presented as two sides of a fundamentalist coin. On Wednesday, a television programme tried to equate the Muslim Brotherhood, which advocates the violent destruction of all societies that do not conform to sharia law, with the American neo-conservative intellectuals who taught that people should revive their interest in Plato and the civilisation of the ancient Greeks. This is about as accurate as saying that the Nazi party and the Labour Party are the same, because both arose from the discontents of the working classes.

It is the critics themselves who are suffering from pseudo-religious certainty and superstition. Isn't there something self-righteous, slightly crazed, about directing such overwhelming anger at the man whose job it is to pick up the pieces of September 11 on behalf of the free world?

George W Bush as we see him today is a response to disorder, not its cause. Four years ago, he was the same as 99.9 per cent of Western politicians. He inherited the economic health and mental torpor of the Clinton years, when many people really had come to believe that the Western way of life was like a children's slide magically moving upwards towards ever greater pleasure and peace, in permanent defiance of the laws of political gravity. To the extent that Bush campaigned on foreign policy at all in 2000, his selling-point was that he didn't have one.

After some 2,500 Americans died in a day, he had to get one fast, so fast that he made some big mistakes. He resisted the idea of "nation-building", even as his policies of military intervention made it inevitable. Having had the maturity to choose able lieutenants, probably more intelligent than himself, in Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, he did not clearly adjudicate between their different versions of what ought to be done in post-war Iraq.

Understandably exasperated by the feeble multilateralism that had permitted genocide in Bosnia in the 1990s and hampered effective war in Kosovo, he did not see that determined unilateralism requires more, not less diplomacy. And whereas some conservative leaders resonate internationally (Margaret Thatcher was the patron saint of taxi drivers in six continents), George W Bush doesn't travel, literally or metaphorically.

But he has got the big idea. There is a global problem with Islamism. There is a problem of alliances between bad states and terror organisations that reach beyond state boundaries. There is an almost universal rottenness in the politics of the Arab world. There is an atrocious weakness or, as the UN oil-for-food scandal shows, worse than weakness, in many of the Western nations and international organisations that are supposed to help guarantee our security. And it is the duty of the most powerful nation on earth to do something about it.

The only big free country that has retained the untrammelled capacity to decide for itself has been decisive. The greatest terrorist hope about America - that it was not serious - has gone. And a huge, partly covert programme has begun to catch our foes and make us safer. It tempts fate to say it, but it is not mere chance that neither Britain nor America has suffered terrorist attack since 2001.

I don't understand what John Kerry or Jacques Chirac think should be done about terrorism. Or rather, I think they think nothing much should be done. Kerry compares terrorism to prostitution - a permanent affliction that can be mitigated, but no more. You can move a few tarts off the street, introduce more clap clinics, insist on curtains in the red light district, but in the end, the oldest profession regroups. It's a very French attitude, and it reflects a truth about human nature. But prostitutes, unlike Islamist terrorists, are not determined to destroy our way of life (in fact, they have strong conservative motives for keeping it ticking along). You can't say to Osama bin Laden, as you might to Madame Claude: "You're entitled to your little ways, but just be discreet about it, will you?" His little ways are death, our death. It's him or us.

So who gains if Bush loses? The Labour Left, of course, and the political power of the European Union, the Guardian readers who have been writing magnificently counterproductive anti-Bush letters to the voters of Clark County, Ohio, and every twerp who says with a trembling lip that Mr Bush and Mr Blair have "blood on their hands"; not to mention every corrupt, undemocratic, "pragmatic" government in the Middle East that longs for a return to stasis.

But some rather more fearsome people gain too, such as the man who said of Americans in a document discovered earlier this year "...these are the biggest cowards of the lot, and we ask God to allow us to kill, and detain them, so that we can exchange them with our arrested sheikhs and brothers". He is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and it is probably he who killed Ken Bigley. Such men believe they have already changed the government in Spain; they will claim at once that they have done the same in the United States. They will be right.

And who loses? Iraqis about to have real elections of their own for the first time, Afghans who have already voted with more than expected success, Iranians trying to assert their own democracy against its clerical corruptions. And us. What one can see in each twist of the Iraq story - don't send the US Marines into Fallujah, don't send the Black Watch to help the Americans, do give in to Ken Bigley's kidnappers - is exactly what is meant by defeatism, an actual longing to lose. Whatever you think of the war, why would you want that?

John Howard, who joined in the war, won again in Australia this month. I think that Tony Blair will do the same. And I suspect, though it is close, that George W Bush will win, too. Like them or not, all three have put themselves on the right side of a battle that has to be won.




Finis

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Thursday, October 28, 2004

No Two Term Bushes 

Stunning. Just stunning. It just occurred to me that if w.Caesar doesn't get elected next week [after being merely selected in 2000] then both Bush presidents will have been robbed of their silver-spoon birthright of a second term.

That bastard Perot stole Bush 41's second term by splitting the right vote and letting that reprobate Clinton in, allowing him to sleaze his way to a second term.

Or you could look at it this way. With an illegitimately low voter turnout for US presidential elections [Canada's federal turnout isn't much better], if the Republicans had simply mobilized just a marginally larger proportion of their actual members to vote, Perot's influence would have been countered and HW would have danced to four more years.

The same argument holds for the blame Nader front from the 2000 election.

But now. NOW! Now, we have a chance to stick it to the Bushes once again by keeping w.Caesar from getting his double-double.

And as much as Bill Minutaglio and Frank Bruni's biographies of w.Caesar note his hatred for that bastard reprobate Clinton for stealing his father's second term [honour thy father and all that], he'll likely only have himself and his fellow idealogues to blame for his lost second term. And his hardball idiocy with North Korea. And Abu Ghraib. And the constitution-free zone at Gitmo. And the missing WMDs. And the needlessly alienating with us or against us, dead or alive cowboy rhetoric. And the criminally neglected Afghanistan. And the back door draft. And pissing off the French. And the Haliburton pillaging. And praising George Tenet's fantastic job of the slam dunk Iraqi WMD case. And alienating allies. And and and and...


Finis

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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

New EU Cigarette Boxes: EEEEWWWW! [Get it? Ew?] 



image from http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/scaring_smokers

It's quite exciting to see the EU develop hideous cigarette box graphics and photos of the effects of smoking. Denial is such a powerful thing. Trying to ignore what you already know--but don't want to dwell on--is a basic human strategy for coping with distasteful things, like the true effects of how we destroy ourselves with smoking.

Odd, though, that Canada has had these images on cigarette boxes for several years now. BC's Ministry of Health has published the tobacco poster child for years as well: quite hideous.

See http://www.TobaccoFacts.org/order/posterchild.html

More disturbing information and images are at these sites:

http://www.TobaccoFacts.org/

http://www.GoSmokeFree.ca/

Finis

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Saturday, October 23, 2004

Suicide: The Province Style 



The Friday, October 22, 2004 Province newspaper front page red headline reflects that paper's continued diseased view of society. "Jumpers Snarl Second Narrow, Lions Gate Traffic." Suicide is an issue of traffic impediment, not a human suffering issue. To their "credit" though, at least with this cold view, they are appealing to their market of bridge users: pretty good business sense.

Pigs.

Finis

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Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Hong Kong as a Trojan Horse Capitalist Bait 

Someone recently mentioned an interesting perspective on the Hong Kong turnover to China in 1997.

Neo-liberal and not so neo-liberal capitalism proponents argue how great it is to use capitalism, greed, consumerism and free market forces to defeat the Chinese communist menace. It seems reasonable. Lure them with consumer goods, make them feel like consumers, then they'll consume democracy and throw out them Maoists.

Even still, the "loss" of Hong Kong to the godless hoards could be re-framed as a Trojan horse: let them taste the rich juices of hyper-capitalist, unregulated Hong Kong and it will work as a little insipid virus to transform their economy and political system to liberal democracy, thus further reinforcing Francis Fukuyama's assertion that history is over as there is no serious competitor to free market liberal democracy.

But what if China doesn't convert to our divinely-sanctioned political and economic system. What if the godless hoards can maintain centralized control with only limited market access. What if they really learned from Russia's eager embrace of a free unregulated market, which led to Mafia rule. What if they learned to include markets to a point, but to retain control of their society while managing a slow growth of a mostly urban middle class of consumers while keeping almost a billion citizens still in centrally-planned gulag-ish bliss.

What if China becomes something new that Fukuyama didn't envision: a capitalist dictatorship, much like a communist dictatorship, but with a McDonald's. And automobiles for the blessed party members [the new "middle class", a kind of expanded politburo with access to a Lexus]. What if China fools us all and keeps a kind of communism alive and leaves us wondering how constructive engagement could continue to be a paradigm of defeating this remaining evil empire. We couldn't toss constructive engagement, could we? How then would we sell all those hundreds of millions of American cars to those bicycle-riding Beijing yuppies?

Greed may be good for Gordon Gecko, but it may not defeat millennia of Chinese communitarian tradition that may somehow inject subtle legitimacy in a communist regime, despite what the Formosans say.

Ideally, I'd like to have a coffee with Fukuyama to mull this over. And I'd like to ask Karl Polanyi to join us.

Finis

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Deficits: They Used to be a Left Wing Tactic, Now Let's Watch the Right 

It's interesting to see the right-ward shift in fiscal policies of governments. Years ago, left wing Keynesian governments were often inclined to fund government with deficit financing while right wing governments stressed balanced budgets for fiscal and taxation responsibility.

More recently, the agenda has both shifted to the right and flipped in a freakish fashion.

As individualistic over communitarian values are rising, and government regulation, taxation and economic involvement are decreasing, the right has pushed the debate to the right. Now, more traditionally left wing governments are sliding to the right to advocate balanced budgets in part for the protection of the debt load of future generations. The 1990s in BC was a time of NDP reign that ended with two surplus budgets.

So the right succeeded in pushing the agenda rightward, causing leftist governments to seek middle ground.

But a perverse flip has also occurred. Right wing governments, not content with forcing left wing governments to advocate balanced budgets to spare "needless" taxation, have now begun to incur massive deficits. Gordon Campbell's crazy government in BC forced a deficit with a massive tax cut predominantly to the wealthy immediately upon installing their junta in the spring of 2001. w.Caesar's massive multi-billion dollar deficits to fight his monkey-on-his-family's-back war in Iraq will leading to some Campbell-style "tough choices of cutting domestic spending on social needs. Gotta fight the war. There's a group of folks out there...who wanna kill us. The hate our freedom. Gotta win the war on terror [an abstract concept, but whatever]. So social spending, which is for Keynesian wimps anyway, will have to be cut. Gotta love the neo-liberal economic pandering.


Finis

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MNCs and Governments: A New Cold War Proxy Relationship 

There's an interesting parallel or analogy between Cold War geopolitics and the ascendency of corporations' relations with governments in the 21st century global trade regime. In the old days, the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in proxy wars/battles in various battleground lands including the Koreas in the 1950s, Indochina in the 1950s to 1970s, and Latin America in the 1980s.

Lately it seems a new paradigm has emerged with a similar dynamic. A slim majority of the top 100 economies of the world are multinational corporations; in general they seem to be wielding a significant degree of power in the global trade regime. Governments need to join the WTO to retain access to global trade to avoid economic marginalization. In watching the trade wars between Fuji-Kodak over market access and Airbus and Boeing over subsidization, it seems that on some levels they are doing battle through their home state governments: Japan and USA in the first case, the EU and the USA in the second case. So are nation-states the new proxy battlegrounds for corporate proxy wars?

Finis

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Friday, October 15, 2004

A Dystopic Project for a New American Century 

The imperialist neo-conservative [neo-con] Project for a New American Century is a pretty terrifying doctrine, additionally so because they so boldly promote it--unashamedly.



Go see the Ted Rall comic at http://www.ucomics.com/rallcom/2004/10/18/

But about on November 2nd the US presidential election will be decided. Or not. My money's on not. The US electoral system is such a gong show.

What with the crime of being black in Florida in 2000 to new electronic voting machines this year, I have no faith that the absence of tens of thousands of UN observers throughout the 50 states means there will be no clear winner by midnightish west coast time on November 2nd.

In fact, the home of democracy is so unreliable in holding morally legitimate elections that I can't see them being the philosophical leader in spreading democracy around the world, like in Afghanistan currently, or Iraq in a few months.

God help us.

Maybe the gong show that is "governing" in "Israel" may shed some light on the future stability of governing in the USA. Ted Rall's comic insight is quite poignant. Maybe Canada's current foreign policy and defense reviews ought to take his creative output as key input about our new role as maintainers of civil peace in North America.


Finis

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