Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Divisions, Equality, Wars, and Peace

In October of 2009, in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly, Evo Morales said that "Social peace cannot exist if economic inequalities still remain."

Lenin has written that "Social democracy knows that as long as society is divided into classes, as long as there is exploitation of human by human, wars are inevitable."

Fidel castro has written, "End the philosophy of plunder, and the philosophy of war will be ended as well."

The message is clear; peace cannot exist as long as there are pre-determined and forced divisions. Equality is the only option, Equality is paramount to our survival and to respect for life.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Picture of A Society Asleep

I wrote this thinkpiece, or rant, or article quite a few months ago, but am putting on the blog just now.


A New York City hip-hop artist once wrote that "sleep is the cousin of death", and so if sleep is the cousin of death, then fatigue and exhaustion must be its correlatives.

On the bus and on subway trains we see people seemingly miserable, struggling, and half-hearted in their approach to daily life. The majority are immigrants, poor single mothers, the disregarded, disadvantaged, and underprivileged working class, competing in a contest of survival for the lowest paying, most undesirable blue-collar jobs that earn them less than the cost of living. The remainder are the middle class which are divided into two groups: thousands of faceless students emerging from private universities and colleges with $ 40,000 clouds already over their heads, for the simple "privilege" of holding a useless, generic undergraduate degree.

Along with them are the lower-wrung rat race "urban professionals" who pursue happiness in the form of fiance status and furniture they can't afford, and whose only comforts are pumpkin spice lattes, Stephanie Meyer novels, and a bottle of Merlot. The simplistic conversations about their dogs and their trips to Europe, and their regurgitation of everything the media feeds them from pop culture to status-quo politics, helps you understand the obliviousness and indifference which dominates the thinking of western culture. An isolated people who don't smile at strangers, collectively carrying the gloomy weight of soul-bleaching subservience and conformism. All of them pressured and stressed by the pervasive burden of competition, have they any choice but to become jaded and dejected, demoralized and hopeless? Fidel Castro once wrote, "there is nothing in this world as bitter as a people who go to sleep in liberty, and awaken in slavery." The citizens of the West think they live in the most just and equal societies of the world, yet they are victims to the hoax of the two-party system "democracies" which control their lives. Neo-democracy, as I refer to this system, is a system based on individualism, selfishness, and isolation which breaks down the social fabric, and makes the population tired, lethargic, cynical, and confused.

We live in a world where we concern ourselves about a healthy and robust economy, but not about healthy citizens. We live in a world where people absolutely must get their Tim Horton's or Starbucks coffee in the morning even if it means wasting thirty minutes of their day waiting in line to get it. We live in a world where you get a free handy picnic chicken bag wiht your KFC mega meal, and the latest ice cream flavours are peppermint stick, Festive Eggnog, Apple Pie, and Santa's Milk and Cookies. We live in a wold where body wash has you feeling ready to take on your day, and where "revolutionary" is understood to explain what the new stain remover can do for your bathtub and your old silverware. We live in a world where people are consumed with tomorrow night's results of So You Think You Dance, or the next episode of Heroes, when imperialist wars and occupations are ravaging the Middle-East, and the majority of resource rich countries. We live in a world where shopping carts get shelters, and homeless people don't.

We live in a world where the poor are forced to shop at Wal-Mart and other mega discount department stores, because these stores are the only ones to offer products which are affordable to them. The way these mega discount store corporations keep prices exceptionally low is by externalising costs. They externalize costs by paying low employee salaries, by providing little or non-existant health insurance, through mass production and mass distribution, with cheap oil from Iraq, and cheap production labour from China, Mexico and many other countries. They externalize costs by making Indigineous and poor working people pay when neoliberal governments give corporations permission to exploit lands and extract natural resources that don't belong to them, for free, and by receiving permission for 100 % repatriation of profits. They make everything else, and everyone else pay for their profits. The wealth and natural resources of the people are handed to corporations on a silver platter. So the planet, the indigenous, and poor working people are the ones actually paying for the true costs of production all along the chain of extraction, production, and distribution, and not the consumers paying the ridiculously low prices for these products. But, since poor working people, third world immigrant families, single mothers, etc, can afford to buy these products only from these mega discount stores, they are keeping these corporations alive, healthy, and wealthy. And, because they are the ones, vassals to plunder and exploitation, paying for the true costs of production in the first place, the very victims of this system then become the market which perpetuates the same vicious cycle of destitution. In other words, their poverty and desperation feeds their own misery and exploitation; as consumers they are fueling the very system which destroys them as workers.

We live in a world subjugated by a cycle of perpetuating poverty.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Quote of the Week - Oct 26th

"Despising the bourgeoisie, and yet belonging to it, they add to its strength and glory.... The lives of these infinitely numerous persons makes no claim to the tragic; but they live under an evil star in a quite considerable affliction; and in this hell their talents ripen and bear fruit.... The few who break free seek their reward in the unconditioned and go down in splendor. They wear the thorn crown and their number is small." - Hermann Hesse.

"I will return and I will be millions." - Tupac Katari.

Thanks Raul.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The New Age Hippie Revolutionary??

The Sustainable movement, in my opinion, is unstoppable because it combines so many different shades and branches of social justice. It is a personal, economic, political, and social philosophy all in one convenient, organized, and politically sexy portfolio. Green, vegan and vegetarian, environmental, equality, anti-corporate, fair trade, anti-capitalist, sustainable are all terms that relate to this movement, and together they form the splendid new-age fusion of environmental crusader, hippie, and revolutionary.

Having thrown this idea into the universe for everyone to share, lets join together to coin a new term to define this new human of the future. "At the risk of sounding ridiculous", as Che Guevara has said, I request your input and suggestions for this proposal which may seem dreamy and gung ho. I say it with absolute happiness and spiritual liberty, because its a good thing to be in love with the movement.

Have fun with it.

Happiness, The Inner-Activist, and the Collective Community Quest of Fair Trade and The Sustainable Movement

As a young activist one of the first things I notice in social justice circles is the significant absence of an understanding of the necessity to link the struggle for social justice with that of environmental justice. There is also an overinsistence on political change with insufficient weight granted to the subsequent need for economic change. It is unrealistic to expect political progress without first targeting capitalism for what it is; a system based on capital, money, and profits. And, it is equally as impossible to weaken that foundation of capital and profits, without first seriously questioning and altering our consumption habits in western society. How can we claim to be activists, or revolutionaries for great political and social change internationally without first changing the most basic and fundamental elements of our lives? These fundamental aspects of our lives such as the products we buy, the clothes we wear, and the food we eat must necesarily be the starting point. Before we change the world, we must first change ourselves, change our lives, and change the habits that define us as uninformed and unconcerned consumers.

These two factors, the environmental emphasis, and the necessary focus on our consumption habits, bring the question of fair trade into context. Supporting and understanding fair trade can generate a lot of personal happiness and satisfaction in living a non-corporate, and sustainability oriented lifestyle. It is not just a matter of figthing against the system, but of rejecting the most basic elements that bind us to it. On a daily basis, if we are drinking Tim Horton's or Starbucks coffee, or handing out plastic bottled water at solidarity events, then we are simply not identifying the problem at its roots. By keeping our corporate life habits unchecked and unchanged we are supporting NAFTA, we are supporting free trade, we are behaving hypocritically as our indifference and disregard continues to feed the system of consumption that perpetuates the very injustices we are fighting against in the first place.

Free trade by nature enslaves people into dependence, and fair trade by nature liberates people; it liberates people not only because it pays them exponentially higher prices for their products, but because it gives them a choice, a choice to offer their children a quality education, a choice to always have enough to feed their families with no concerns.

Part of our political position must be a staunch opposition to free trade, and fair trade is the exact opposite, the direct alternative to free trade. Fair trade, however, more than a poltical philosophy, is a lifestyle choice, almost a spiritual choice. And so because our alternative lifestyle choices are relevant at such a personal level, whether that be buying fairtrade, living green and sustainable, boycotting corporate products, or even making the move to being vegan or vegetarian, they allow us an opportunity to be proud about the way we live, and to be happy in the struggle. Being an activist or revolutionary, fighting for social justice of any kind, or simply living a progressive lifestyle often requires a lot of discipline and sacrifice, and sometimes that level of committment can be very difficult. But our dedication to social justice should not be a committment beyond recognition of our happiness, and it is not selfish to want things for ourselves, as long as they are not ignorant or detriment to the greater good. Being happy is the first step, first and foremost because it is human nature to desire it, and because happiness is humanity's most valuable gift, but also because we can never be fully effective in the struggle without it. We have to fight for what we believe in with dedication, but we have to attain fulfillment while doing it. It is the happy and complementary union of two elements in physical and intuative expression through our daily routine.

We must appreciate and embrace the beauty and richness of this social justice struggle, and we must take the challenge of the 'inner revolution' as a quest for personal change, as "an opportunity to live a future-self now, a future-self that offers a deeper acceptance of our humanity." That personal connection with the movement, provides us with comfort, and happiness that is almost necessary to making the full leap, the full committment to an alternative life and/or revolutionary activism. It is something lodged within our psyche, something spiritually tangible that we can identify with directly at anytime, perhaps when nothing else seems within reach, or when the struggle is at its most difficult moments. This binary ethos bridges the inner-self with outer challenges, like a sort of crossbow that combines the spiritual with the ideological. It is reaching a level of inner peace and comfort in the transition from treading water to dwelving into the deep. Our inherent lives begin to sync in harmony with our social, political, and humanitarian aspirations.

Another very important characteristic of the sustainable movement is its strength in existing through a collective identity and orientation. People love to, and want to feel like they belong to a greater common entity. That is why we must talk to neighbours, we must discuss with our co-workers, friends, and family on a daily basis, we must exchange ideas, stories, and solutions to help broaden the fabric of our social project. All of our social justice, environmental, sustainable living, anti-corporate initiatives, etc., must be based on complete and uncompromised inclusion. Fair trade is a socio-economic model rooted in community building at the local, national, and international level. Fair trade theory often talks about creating a link between northern consumers and marginalized southern producers, but we also need to emphasize the more simple connection from people to people, the action of an equal, reciprocal exchange. We must be a people of community and togetherness who complement the growth of each other's livelihoods in tangible and positive ways. Fair trade is proof that a smaller-scale, grassroots, and symbiotic economy can not only sustain, but enhance the collective threads of our human community. The sustainable movement, while creating a very profound and deep-rooted sense of belonging, participation, and community, allows us to become the living agents of what we believe in.

Monday, September 28, 2009

ALBA: Latin American Integration for Political Sovereignty and Economic Independence

A Brief Overview of ALBA's Values, and 21st Century Sustainable Ideas

The dysfunctional, status-quo, market-oriented system has given Latin America nothing other than economic and social crisis for decades, focusing solely on foreign investment, and measuring national progress and living conditions by inaccurate growth rates. It is an unrealistic model of infinite growth, precisely at a time when we need to immediately and considerably check our consumption habits, and slow the exploitation of the planet. Evo Morales has said that "Mother Earth cannot be a piece of merchandise.... Under capitalism, we are not human beings, but consumers. Under capitalism, mother earth does not exist, instead there are raw materials."

As both an economic and a social alternative, ALBA will work to develop a completely different way of reshaping society, focusing instead on the development of human capital, namely through improved health and education. These social programs emanating from ALBA, known as missions, operate in many South American countries, even many which are not official members of ALBA. The Cuban 'Yo, Si Puedo' reading and writing campaign, for example, has wiped out illiteracy in Venezuela and Bolivia, Bolivia being the most recent announcing itself free of illiteracy in December 2008. 'Operacion Milagro', a program to provide free eye care procedures and restore eyesight has benefitted more than one million eight hundred thousand people in 35 countries across Latin America, Asia, and Africa. And, directly in the field of education, the formation of thousands of doctors, technical professionals, and engineers free of charge is strengthening the social and communal fabric of Latin America. The creation of Bolivarian universities in Venezuela to promote social embodiment, and the introduction of Indigenous universities in Bolivia are strong examples.

As a 21st century alternative, ALBA must encourage and support cooperative workplaces with democratic decision-making, and smaller-scale, local, and sustainable production and consumption. Financial and technical collaboration between nations will provide cohesion to existing state industries and newly-acquired ones, to strengthen industry in general, and to prevent the flight of foreign capital, and subsequent instability and unemployment.

ALBA, in contrast to other regional trade organizations, is putting forward cooperation in trade of goods and services for sustainable resources and food security, toward the goal of self-sufficiency for the continent. This begins with the development of local and national agriculture and industry to end foreign dependence. Most of Latin America, and especially South America, is an area where forests and rivers are plentiful, and where the land is extremely rich in natural resources, from a large variety of food crops, to natural gas, oil, and minerals. Despite this tremendous natural wealth, Latin America is heavily dependent on imports, namely food imports, a trend which must be urgently reversed; as Jose Marti has said, "a people that cannot produce its own food are slaves; they don't have the slightest freedom. If a society doesn't produce what it eats, it will always be dependent on someone else". Food sovereignty, by extension, will serve to protect traditional and indigenous culture, subsistence, and employment. In other words, if the peoples of Latin America wish to attain genuine and permanent independence, they must first and foremost break the economic chains of neo-liberalism. Capitalist globalization is attempting to turn Latin America into another cookie jar, and ALBA must be there as the necessary alternative to reclaim the continent's markets and resources, not in competition with the rest of the world, but in collaboration, to ensure that the economy serves as a tool for the prosperity of people, and not the other way around.

Ideologically, ALBA will help to build anti-imperialist solidarity in a tangible way, and not just in rhetoric. ALBA serves as an engine for the battle of ideas, as a means to disseminate the human values of love, truth, justice, equality, and community, to break with the invisible cage of selfishness and individualism, qualities which are inherent in the culture of capitalism.

One of the main components working in concert with ALBA will be the Banco Del Sur (or Bank of the South), which will serve as a necessary feature, for the time being, to counter the capital power of the traditional international finance and lending institutions. The Banco Del Sur will provide countries and people with an alternative to weaken the economic grip of, namely, the International Monetary Fund(IMF), The World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank(IADB), and to minimize the influence of the World Trade Organization, at least in Latin America and the Caribbean. Typically the IMF, and the World Bank, etc. will hand out loans packaged with conditions of economic structural adjustments, trade liberalization, and privatization, and often with extremely high interest rates. The Banco Del Sur on the other hand will charge very low interest rates, and will be geared toward social programs and development. The original founding members of the Bank are Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Ecuador. One of the main tenets along with the initial idea for the bank is that each member is assigned one vote, regardless of the size of its financial contribution. On Sunday Sept.27, 2009 the second Africa South America Summit (ASA) took place on Isla Margarita, and in addition to expanding South-South solidarity across the Atlantic, the original seven Banco Del Sur countries concluded the formalized creation of the bank, with a start-up capital of $ 20 billion. Hugo Chavez even floated the idea of adding African countries as members in the future to expand the bank under the new name of BancASA. Chavez also announced intentions to create PETROSUR oil company, an intercontinental oil giant to serve the peoples of Africa and South America.

Simply put, we proclaim ALBA for liberty, because self-sufficiency is self-determination.

The current brutal military coup in Honduras, which continues its attempts to cut down the peaceful resistance on a daily basis, has attacked not only Hondurans, but the Bolivarian movement as a whole. This aggression has reaffirmed with absolute certainty that the reactionary forces of the hemisphere will not tolerate social advancement, and will not go quietly, or peacefully. The relevance of ALBA suddenly becomes even more imperative, and undeniable.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

100 Days of Honduran Resistance - A Canadian Solidarity Perspective


On Saturday Sept.26, 2009 the Latin American Solidarity Network Toronto (LASN) held a day long teach-in, with panels on Honduras, the Venezuela-Colombia dynamic, and North American foreign policy in Latin America. Despite a modest turnout, the gathering was hugely successful with very enthusiastic interaction, and valuable dialogue, as inspiration was generated, connections were cultivated, and strong commitments reaffirmed. It really had the feeling of being a momentous, and very significant meeting, as many people pointed out during the discussion. Everyone dispersed afterwards having taken away something positive. It was a great exercise of solidarity building.

It was an important event for LASN which had just recently sent a three man delegation to Honduras to help with the resistance efforts, which have been sustained now for more than 90 days without pause, in response to the military coup of June 28th, 2009. The report back from the three companeros who had the opportunity to work firsthand with the resistance movement provided valuable insight to Toronto activists in helping to understand the important dynamic of what is taking shape in Honduras as we speak.

Honduras After 100 Days

One of the most consequential elements of the standoff at this time is that the balance of forces has been clearly established. After three months of confrontation a few things have occurred. The coup regime has shown persistence, and is unyielding despite significant international political pressure. The resistance movement has demonstrated even greater resolve, and even in the face of severe repression, the people have committed themselves to a decisive struggle. All Latin American governments have strongly condemned the coup-makers and have demanded the return of President Zelaya, the majority of them unconditionally so. The international solidarity community has completely and whole-heartedly supported the resistance, and will continue to do so until a conclusion is reached.

The military regime, not surprisingly, has come down hard on the resistance with the violent dispersal of daily mobilizations; water cannons, tear gas, beatings, live rounds have been common place, even reports of chemical weapons being used against the Brazilian Embassy where president Zelaya has taken refuge. Killings, injuries, arbitrary detentions, and disappearances have been daily occurrences. Not to mention the media has been silenced, internet access has been restricted, and curfews have been imposed since day 1. These numerous, blatant human rights violations have been documented and condemned by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, European countries, and even the Organization of American States (OAS), which is not always sympathetic to leftist causes to say the least. The U.S. government however, while mildly disapproving of the coup and quietly asking for the return of President Zelaya, has done so only behind the guise of the San Jose Accord, an agreement pushed and written by the U.S, with Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Costa Rican President Oscar Arias as the token conciliatory figure. The traitorous, watered-down San Jose accord is not even a mediated dialogue, but rather a one sided power-sharing deal which extends a gold-plated olive branch to the Micheletti regime, and sets a terrible precedent in Latin America by rewarding military coups instead of punishing them. Beyond labeling the situation in Honduras as a coup, and not even as a military coup, the U.S has done nothing concrete to reverse the coup, and has said nothing about the rampant human rights violations which have been condemned by so many other organizations worldwide.

All these factors lead us to an apparent stalemate.

However! Drawing from momentum, from international opinion, from the reports of those who have witnessed Honduras in transition from up close, and from the unshakable determination of the resistance, it would seem that the political initiative now lies in the hands of the Honduran people.

Most likely, if the coup had not taken place on June 28th, the people of Honduras would probably have been satisfied with President Zelaya's progressive reforms, and with the hope that the promise of the referendum on a constituent assembly, as proposed by Zelaya, would bring greater change in the near future. Roberto Micheletti, the de facto military president, has said that what is taking place in Honduras is not a coup, but a "constitutional succession". Perhaps it was not a good idea for the far-right to overreact. They are obviously uneasy, and very nervous about the Bolivarian process, but perhaps they would have been better off with a few liberal reforms, rather than with an entire people, infuriated, and ready and willing to take matters into their own hands.

Capitalist motivated military reactions to social progress have a tendency to take things too far, to take things beyond the point where people will just let things slide, or forget about it, either out of fear, or simply because time elapses. By doing this, they are instead fueling the fire they wish to extinguish. To a degree, western democracy now has become synonymous with injustice, and repression. In Latin America, many of these so-called democracies have introduced laws against "terrorism". In El Salavador, the fascist ARENA party has used this law to suppress social movements fighting against the privatization of water. In Chile, allegedly Latin America's most exemplary democracy, the government of Michelle Bachelet has used an "anti-terrorist" law against the indigenous Mapuche people in their struggle. In Colombia, a similar law is used regularly to ruthlessly expel indigenous communities and campesinos from their traditional lands, to make room for monoculture crops. And, most recently the APRA party government of Alan Garcia in Peru has also made use of a law against "terrorism", in June, 2009, to put down indigenous protests against the granting of exploration and exploitation contracts in the Amazon. These perverse reversals of justice, often coinciding with legislation required by free trade agreements, are all carried out to honor neoliberal commitments.

Naomi Klein has written about cultural warfare, or genocide saying that it is “part of a system....with clear intent not of attacking individual persons but of destroying the parts of society that those people represented” or a “clear and deliberate region-wide strategy…to uproot and erase the left,” a declaration of war against an entire culture. The same historical pattern seems to be repeating itself in Honduras today; curfews, arbitrary detentions, shootings, killings, disappearances, restrictions on all freedoms, including media and the right to organize. Pinochet's Chile, or any other of a number of military dictatorships that have terrorized Latin America in the last 60 years, have far more similarities than differences to the current regime in Honduras. What these historical precedents have in common with Honduras' current regime, is the criminalization of protest.

What they are attempting to carry out is an attack against a social vision, against an alternative culture, they are telling people that they are not allowed to fight for social justice, that they are not allowed to stand against capitalist and neoliberal domination. When mass violence and human rights violations are required to maintain a government, or a system, whether that system be religious, economic, or political, any such attempts to derail social movements amounts to cultural warfare. There comes a point when it is no longer just a struggle for certain elements of social justice, but literally a fight for your very existence, a fight to preserve and save a way of life, and the people of Honduras, it seems, whether it be within the context of humanity's fight, or within the context of ALBA, have realized this to the fullest extent.

Che Guevara has aid that "there is nothing better to give solidarity to a people than a U.S backed invasion," and the same can be said about a U.S backed military coup. The failed 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela proved exactly that. The June 28th coup, it seems, has really brought the various social forces of Honduras together in unity. The resistance at this time is rallying behind the slogan of the reinstatement of President Zelaya, but what is most significant is that they have decided for themselves, that a true emancipatory process has begun. The resistance has already declared some districts liberated. To borrow from the brilliant vice-president of Bolivia, Alvaro Linera Garcia, perhaps Honduras is preparing to go through its own "point of bifurcation"; when a decision is made by a people to physically take the revolutionary process to the next level, in one concrete, discernible, and definable action. The people of Honduras at this point, have to either take that route, or understand that they will be forced to tolerate further injustice if they do not make the commitment.

The conclusion is that the Honduran people, and by extension the peoples of Latin America and the world, are reaching a decisive moment in their history, a crossroads in the struggle. Another possibility if the conflict does not head acutely in one direction or the other, would be a behind the scenes U.S. brokered power-sharing deal which will simply squander the efforts of the resistance to the capitalist abyss of stagnancy and regression, and will force the Honduran people to head down the road of unjust neo-democracy. So Honduras cannot rely on the rhetoric and promises of the international political community, and they also cannot rely on the simple reinstatement of president Zelaya. It doesn’t really matter if Zelaya is reinstated, because the struggle is not about a presidential face, it is not about symbolically removing or reinstating a token figurehead. Overthrowing the coup at this point must mean eliminating the School of the Americas influence in the country, permanently, and dismantling the corrupt, right-wing elements of the military. There will be no change unless their capacity for repression is removed.

The resistance’s organizational structure for its regional and national assemblies is very highly developed and efficient, a well-oiled union and dialogue of diverse social movements in solidarity, comparable in some ways to the process which took place in Oaxaca, Mexico, from June to November of 2006, with the A.P.P.O (Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca), a model which has been considered one of the highest forms of organized resistance. For Honduras, perhaps the answer to managing their country and their communities after the dust settles, is simply a slight variation of their instinctive response to the coup’s repression, the rebellious popular power in motion they have created as their means of struggle. Fidel Castro has said that “ history has demonstrated that great solutions have only emerged from great crises.” For resistance movements all over the world during transitory or emancipatory processes, it can be said that the question is not simply about taking power, but about knowing what to do with that power. The people of Honduras with their high level of organization, and with their political maturity throughout this confrontation, have clearly proven that they are in fact ready and willing to take on the responsibility of creating a permanent and meaningful solution.

Solidarity with the Honduran People!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Continued Media Misinformation on Honduras

A July 30th article in The New York Times by Ginger Thompson entitled "De Facto Leader is Said to Back Deal in Honduras" claimed that de facto president Roberto Micheletti is reaching out to Costa Rican president Oscar Arias in an attempt to bring an end to the month old crisis in Honduras. The New York Times reports that Micheletti has expressed support for the 12 point "San Jose Accord" outlined by Arias, which would allow President Zelaya to return to his country with limited powers.

According to the article, "The officials said Mr. Micheletti warned President Arias that he had not been able to persuade other parts of the Honduran government, or the leaders of the Honduran business community, to go along with the proposal. So he asked Mr. Arias to consider sending a prominent international political figure to help him stem the fierce opposition." This means simply that the dynamic of the situation between the military government and the international community will remain unchanged, only the tone of the crisis is being adjusted, and the media interpretation and presentation of information regarding the conflict is being altered; the media story is being remodelled or rearranged.

In other words, the coup government continues to receive only a mild slap on the wrist, and the situation remains the same, as the near legitimacy of the military coup government endures with the inaction and neutrality of the international community. What is meant by neutrality is that most influential countries have condemned the coup in rhetoric only, and have done nothing to actually pressure or dislodge the illegal coup government. The U.S. for example has "condemned" the coup and acknowledged that Manuel Zelaya is the democratically elected President of Honduras, yet at the same time have said that the coup was not legal, but that it also wasn't illegal. This means the U.S. State Department has refused to officially label the incident as a 'coup d'etat', which would by law force the U.S. to suspend all financial support to the country, be it military or economic "aid". The U.S. has cut $ 16.5 million in military funding, but continues to flow $ 180 million of economic "aid". Experts have argued that cutting economic aid would hurt the population of Honduras directly, which is not entirely true. The complete suspension of economic support to the country could hurt a certain number of Hondurans, but only in the
long-term, and under the current far-right illegal government, the people of Honduras would never benefit from that money anyway. U.S. economic "aid" doesn't help in pulling ordinary citizens out of poverty, it serves only to assist private interests and foreign investment.

To further that point, it is noteworthy that the article also twice mentions business in the same breadth as political figures; "the Honduran business community" and the powerful "business leaders in Honduras". To be sure the military coup plotters have no interests other than the interests of the Honduran elites and of multinational corporations, and will attempt, as U.S. and international economic "aid" would have it, to re-establish and maintain an acceptable economic order. In fact the article goes on to mention that "one of those whom officials mentioned as a possibility" for a prominent international political figure to help solve the stalemate inside Honduras, "was Enrique V. Iglesias, a former president of the Inter-American Development Bank." The Inter-American Development Bank is the Latin American equivalent of the IMF or the World Bank, a facilitator of foreign interests, and is widely reported to have played a prominent role in the overthrow of democratically elected President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide in a 2004 coup d'etat in Haiti.

The article also mentions the legal position taken by the military government; "Honduran lawmakers and the supreme court have said that it was a mistake for the military to have forced Mr. Zelaya into exile, but that the accusations against him are valid. And they argue that the only way he should be allowed back is to face trial." This is a very weak, unimaginative attempt to try and paint a convincing legal argument against Zelaya's return. Lets take a closer look at the realities of the situation vs. the media distortions being presented daily, and the flawed legal logic of the coup government. The following are extracts from an article on the NACLA website (, written on Monday August 3rd by Michael Fox entitled 'Honduras and Washington: A Few Contradictions':

"Along with many U.S. papers, the Post (The Washington Post) has painted Zelaya as a Hugo Chávez-backed caudillo, attempting to overtake the powers of the Honduran government. The Post quickly echoed the talking points of the coup plotters that Zelaya was ripped from office because he was attempting an unconstitutional referendum to extend his term in office. In fact, the Honduran President was actually planning a non-binding referendum that according to the Spanish news agency, EFE , asked the Honduran people if 'during the general elections of November 2009 there should be a fourth ballot to decide whether to hold a Constituent National Assembly that will approve a new political constitution?'"

Now the legal side.

"According to a legal memorandum prepared by Micheletti supporters on June 29 and available on the website of the conservative Virginia-based think tank, Americans for Limited Government, the Honduran Supreme Court had found the referendum 'illegal', because the Honduran Constitution explicitly states that certain Constitutional articles cannot be reformed; such as those that 'refer to the type of government, the national territory, the presidential term and the prohibition of serving again as President of the Republic.' The Supreme Court thus inferred that since a Constituent Assembly may have attempted to reform these articles, it was unconstitutional. Therefore, they said, a referendum on the possibility of holding a Constituent Assembly was also unconstitutional."

The coup plotters in this declaration are explicitly saying that they assumed Mr. Zelaya may have attempted changes to the type of government, and to presidential term limits, and therefore they were justified in staging a military coup. This sounds eerily similar to the aggressive preemptive logic of the United-States.

The position of the Honduran coup government, and the media statements mentioned above, thus far have all been based on lies, false accusations, and assumptions. Since Zelaya's ouster over a month ago, the mainstream media namely The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Spain's El Pais have all juggled their lies and misinformation. Zelaya has been kicked out of Honduras either because of his close ties with Hugo Chavez, because he was operating with recklessness in planning an "unconstitutional" referendum for a constituent assembly which he had not yet carried out, and/or because he was planning to try and pass a constitutional amendment to extend his term in office. Now in early August, the military government in a public address has made allegations that Guerrillas are being trained in Nicaraguan encampments, with the support of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Hugo Chavez, and the FARC(Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.) It is amazing, ridiculous, almost amusing how the elites and the media have decided to just throw in the FARC, almost as an added bonus; why not include them as well? The web they are trying to spin is to link all the forces opposed to neo-liberalism in Latin America, as a sort of big, incredible, socialist alliance of guerrilla subversion. In the past week alone, the media has reported that Colombia has found arms that belonged to the FARC, arms that had undoubtedly been provided to them by Venezuela. They have resurfaced a story which made headlines in March of 2008 when Colombia had bombed a FARC camp inside Ecuador and allegedly retrieved laptops containing information that provided absolute proof that Venezuela had been providing funds and facilitating arms deals for the FARC. And now, they claim that Guerrillas are training inside Nicaragua with the support of President Daniel Ortega, of course Hugo Chavez, and the FARC. They see opportunities to link different stories together, and to inculpate several groups simultaneously through various networks of misinformation. This latest attack on Honduras is not just an attack against Honduras, it is an attack on a continental social movement that is growing, an attack on the will of Latin Americans everywhere.

The Times article goes on to quote an unnamed official; "'Today is an important day,' said one of the officials who spoke about Mr. Micheletti's call to Mr. Arias. 'President Arias essentially has Mr. Micheletti calling to say he thinks the San Jose Accord is a good framework." So all of a sudden Mr. Micheletti, the leading representative of the de facto, illegal, military coup government is a goodwill ambassador, a brilliant messiah with a solution to a nasty, unworkable conflict. The media is trying to twist the story and to portray Micheletti almost as a unifying figure, or at least as a promising, moderate element of the coup leadership. The situation is almost comparable to that of Israel and Palestine; allow the aggressors to commit the injustices, and then glorify them for making insignificant, arrogant, hypocritical concessions.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The National Post gets Zelaya/Honduran Crisis Wrong!

On June 28th, a military coup in Honduras sent democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya into exile in Costa Rica. An article in the National Post from Saturday, July 25, 2009 entitled 'Exiled Leader Briefly Steps into Honduras - Symbolic Foray' by Ivan Castro and Sean Mattson doesn't give the full story of the real reasons behind the coup.

Over the past weekend of July 24-25-26, the Honduran coup leaders and military generals of that country imposed an
18-hour curfew on the area bordering Nicaragua where President Zelaya was set to attempt a re-entry into Honduras on Saturday. On this occasion the Honduran army released a statement saying; "we can't be responsible for the security of people who, by inciting generalized violence in the country, may be subject to attacks even from their own supporters who may have the sole aim of turning them into martyrs." So according to the coup plotters, Manuela Zelaya in a matter of weeks has gone from democratic reformer to inciter of violence, and this despite the fact that Zelaya has said on several occasions that he wants peace and stability for Honduras. The second part of that statement, a preposterous suggestion that President Zelaya may be killed by his own supporters if he re-enters Honduras, amounts to nothing less than a not so subtle threat of assassination against him.

The article also quotes U.S. State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley as saying, "we have said to President Zelaya on a number of occasions, that right now we think the focus should remain on the current negotiating and mediation effort of Oscar Arias, and that any return to Honduras would be premature." U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also made similar comments in the past few days, warning Zelaya that an attempt at returning to Honduras would be imprudent and reckless. The negotiating and mediation efforts mentioned, advocated by the U.S. through President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, is simply a strategy of appeasement requiring almost complete concessions from Manuel Zelaya, in an attempt to mollify the Honduran people and the international reaction and solidarity campaigns. The initial proposal ironed out by Oscar Arias included some very questionable and unfavorable conditions for the Honduran people. The agreement essentially amounted to a
power-sharing deal which would set a horrible precedent in Latin America, as far-right ruling elites and military generals would be emboldened with the knowledge that staging a military coup will get them a power-sharing deal at the very least.

In typical slandering predictability and unoriginality of reactionary media, the article also claims that "Mr. Zelaya was toppled and sent into exile in a June 28 coup after angering critics over his alliance with Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan President." So as the media continues with its insistence that Hugo Chavez is exporting poisonous politics all over Latin America, this article makes no mention whatsoever that the real reason why President Zelaya was forced out of Honduras militarily is in fact because he had called for a national referendum on a constituent assembly.

Zelaya during his presidential campaign in 2005 and early 2006, ran on promises of economic empowerment for the citizenry, and of empowering the people socially, culturally, and politically, a formula together which he refers to as citizen power. His progressive policies in the past few years have included a sharp increase of minimum wage, free school lunches for children, and the lowering of the price of public transportation. He has also talked about citizen participation, which he claims is the reason why he had called for the referendum on a constituent assembly. This is a program which the rightist military and ruling elites of Honduras simply could not tolerate. Those are the real reasons behind the instability in Honduras.

"We have to reverse this coup, and I plan on doing it peacefully. With my presence in Honduras, the people will surround me and the soldiers will lower their rifles." - Manuel Zelaya.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Media Accuracy on Venezuela Essay from 03/2007

An addition to go along with the Media Accuracy on Venezuela essay I posted a few days ago. This one was written in March of 2007. They were not meant to go together as part 1 and part 2 but are relevant to one another. Follow the Media Accuracy on Venezuela 03/2007 link.

The United-States of America Continue to Deteriorate

President Obama really begins to show his true colours in July. As his healthcare reform proposals become increasingly watered down, it seems obvious he is being bought out by the health insurance companies, either that or he is making like Paz Estenssoro and buckling under the pressure of the establishment.

So while Obama's cowardly, unprincipled politics of betrayal take their course, the same story of despair continues to repeat itself for the United-States; war spending, grossly insufficient healthcare, and rising unemployment.

Obama for all his talk of diplomacy and leadership by reaching out to the international community rather than aggressively making enemies, has actually increased war spending from the Bush era by 4%. At least 40 million Americans today are without health insurance, and 14,000 become uninsured daily. The unemployment rate is over 10% in 16 states, and over 15% in Michigan.

Just another reminder of why the United-States is such a great example of what capitalism really means.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Quote of the Week - July 20th

"If the international community allows this coup, authorizes this coup, it is also authorizing society to rise up and to choose the path of insurrection." - Manuel Zelaya.

Unquote of the week - July 20th

"I don't believe that government can or should run healthcare.... Any plan I sign must include and insurance exchange, a
one-stop shopping marketplace, where you can compare the benefits, costs, and track records of a variety of plans."
- U.S. President Barack Obama.

President Obama believes healthcare should be a one-stop shopping marketplace.

Media Accuracy on Venezuela Essay

Hi Everyone! I finished writing this paper about two months ago but am just posting it now. Check out this essay by following the MediaAccuracyonVenezuela link on this page. Feedback and discussion are encouraged as always. Solidarity!

Saturday, July 18, 2009


"Stop sleeping, stop stagnating, stop crying. Trees are dying at the roots."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Quote of the Week - July 13

"How we organize reflects our goal." - Walden Bello.

"Later for the talk we need action,
Silence is golden but the violence is platinum." - Talib Kweli.

"As Jose Marti would say: 'a people that cannot produce its own food are slaves; they don't have the slightest freedom. If a society doesn't produce what it eats, it will always be dependent on someone else'.... We want an agrarian practice that transforms farmers into guardians of the land, and a different way of farming, that ensures an ecological equilibrium and also guarantees that land is not seen as private property." - Joao Pedro Stedile (Via Campesina regional co-ordinator for South America)

Notes From July 14/09

We do not strive to be included in status-quo political structures to negotiate the terms of exploitation, but instead to "transform the very political order in which they operate." (Sonia Alvarez, Evelina Dagnino, and Arturo Escobar.)

Reclaim the land and regain spaces through organized resistance, protests, and occupations, declare and establish Humanity Zones, and defend them with the right to bear arms democratic.
The political has become environmental whether we admit it or not. It is no longer a competition with, or a race against capitalism, but simply a necessity to stop it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Quote of the Week - June 15

"There was a time when it appeared that science would solve all of humanity's problems. Today, we've discovered that that's not the case. The challenge becomes harder because we also can't refuse to try. Science is going to have to solve a lot of problems that science itself creates. Saving the species will be a titanic undertaking, but it will never be possible through economic and social systems in which the only things that count are profit and advertising." - Fidel Castro.

“The thirst for profit without limits of the capitalist system is destroying the planet. Under capitalism, we are not human beings, but consumers. Under capitalism, Mother Earth does not exist. Instead, there are raw materials.” - Morales.

"Progress to those who see the light. Charity to those who tremble at its rays." - Marti.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Quote of the Week May 25-31

"Its liberty or its death, Its freedom for everybody or freedom for nobody."

“Climate change has placed before all humankind a great choice: to continue in the ways of capitalism and death, or to start down the path of harmony with nature and respect for life." - Morales.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Quote of the Week Apr.6-Apr.12, 2009

"Was she told when she was young that pain would lead to pleasure,
Did she understand it when they said,
That a man must break his back to earn his day of leisure,
Will she still believe it when he's dead?"

Monday, March 30, 2009

Quote of the Week Mar.30-Apr.5, 2009

"Treading water gets you nowhere, Time to dive into the deep."

"I have no patience for unemotional red!"

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Quote of the Week March 23-29 2009

"A beard has a practical advantage: you don`t have to shave everyday. If you multiply the fifteen minutes you spend shaving everyday by the number of days in a year, you`ll see that you devote almost 5,500 minutes to shaving. An eight-hour day of work consists of 480 minutes, so if you don`t shave you gain about ten days that you can devote to work, to reading, to sport, to whatever you like."

Monday, March 23, 2009

The News on March 23rd, 2009

The Canadian chapter of the plunder story made a big splash when it was announced that the Neo-Liberal Conservative Party government took an important step in continuing to sell off the social property of Canadians, as it decided to sell
Petro-Canada, the state-owned oil company, to the Calgary-based Suncor corporation. This reafirms once again that the ruling conservatives think the country's future lies in coddling the market, and that Canada's assets and resources should serve in bolstering private wealth. The article in question, in The Globe And Mail newspaper, states that "The deal would create a new champion in the Canadian Oil patch and unite two of the biggest players in the oil sands of Northern Alberta, provided the companies can stickhandle their way around federal legislation once thought to make Petro-Canada immune to a takeover." Stickhandling in the oil patch sounds like good righteous fun, and implies that the merger effort found a legitimate, ethical way of conducting the deal without any innapropriate pressure on the government, but in reality Suncor could simply "get around the law by appealing to the federal government for a change to the ownership rule." The pro-market government and big business team have combined once again to rip off national wealth by profiting from the recession crisis to transfer PetroCan at a bargain base price, even potentially toying with company names and wording in structuring the deal as a reverse takeover, where Petro-Canada, technically speaking, would be taking over Suncor. Because "other potential suitors have approached Petro-Canada in the past", unsuccessfully, other short-sighted, unilaterally interested sources have suggested, quite distastefully, that the takeover might produce "an "awkward" situation for the Harper government" rather than create concern about accountability to the Candian public, as it should. Either way you look at it, the merger amounts to either aggressive lobbying, or simply to an opportunistic handing over of national assets. This is a perfect example of how capitalism continues to further the legalization of plunder, in this case with the elimination of the last vestige of public involvement in Canada's billion dollar resource.*

Another article in the same newspaper is entitled "Ottawa, Banks Take Action to Rescue Mortgages", as if all these government rescue packages in the world's industrial nations are really aimed at helping people. It states: "The five big banks are all taking a more flexible approach in an effort to avert mounting defaults and bankruptcies, which would increase credit losses and eat into bank profits. Toronto Dominion bank, for example has been working with CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.) to determine how it can modify loans to help its customers." In other words, the big banks and government agencies are working together to ensure the banks lose as little money as possible, and CMHC is a watcher and guarantor of corporate profit.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has announced that "as many as six million families are expected to face foreclosure in the next several years, and millions more are likely to have difficulty making their mortgage payments." That is a projected six million families that will lose their homes in the upcoming years. Calculated at 3 members per family that is at least 18 million economically displaced people within the United-States, and that is a conservative estimate; probably more than 20 million Americans falling out of the middle-class and into the ranks of the poverty. In both Canada and the United-States, in the case of banks and governments combining to help save mortgages, the options for homeowners will be either a temporary
short-term deferral of payments, extending the term, lowering the monthly required payment, or adding already missed payments to the mortgage balance. All these options might prevent families from physically losing their homes, but it will only extend debts for a longer period of time, benefiting bank profits in the long term, and to an extent where many people will be forced to keep making mortgage payments well into retirement age, and in certain cases will see people unable to ever fully pay off their mortgages.

In war news, the number of civilian casualties attributed to pro-government, coalition, and NATO forces in the Afghanistan War rose by 39 % between 2007 and 2008. It is difficult to even contemplate progress in a country where people have to concern themselves everyday about whether or not they will live to see tomorrow.


* In this particular case, the process of deregulation is seemingly more elegant and subtle in the face of a generally unpoliticized and uninvolved Canadian public.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Quote of the Week

"I was thaught that diginity, morality, and truth are unconquerable weapons."

"Circumstances have their influence on a person; life helped me."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

York Strike 2008-09

For a period of 3 months, between Nov. 6, 2008 and February 2, 2009 Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) local 3903, contract faculty, teaching assitants, graduate assitants, and research assistants from York Univeristy, went on strike to protest unacceptable wages, the instability of contractual work, the underfunding of their university, and the subsequent questionable quality of education that stemmed from these issues. The predictable reaction from the university, from most of the media, and from a majority of unenlightened students was that the union was 'holding the students hostage'. It was an interesting and particularly siginficant strike in Canada's organized labour history for a few reasons. The first and most obvious feature of this stoppage is that it was a considerably long one; I think most people, including those directly involved, did not expect the strike to go on for as long as it did. Another factor which made this strike exceptional is that local 3903 employed unconventionally emphatic and efficient methods at the bargaining table, which surprised and disoriented the University's negotiating team. Many other factors need to and will be further examined, but from whichever angle this strike is observed, it is one that exposed many different shades on different levels of Canadian politics.

What immediately differentiated this strike from others past in Canada were the advanced bargaining practices employed by the local. An article in The Globe And Mail dated Feb.2, 2009 states, that "....the local refused to allow anyone from the national office to participate in bargaining with York management,....The local engaged instead in "participatory bargaining,"* a process that involved giving several grassroots members a voice at the table rather than just leaving bargaining up to the local's executive committee....For York negotiators this created confusion, with no clear lines of authority or indication of who was calling the shots for CUPE, said an official close to the talks. At one point, he said, the local had 25 members at the bargaining table."1 This highlighted differences between local 3903 and CUPE national, differences in principles, tactics, and political approach. This rank and file means of operating during negotiations demonstrates that the local felt the umbrella did not have a good pulse on the sensitive peculiarities of its situation with the university, and maybe points to a larger symptomatic lack of trust between CUPE locals and its national leadership (in general). To be sure, 3903 took a more precocious, disciplined, and uncompromised approach to the collective bargaining sessions, and not the customary, passive status-quo practices which seem to always favour the powerful employers. The fact that the local used out-of-the-ordinary methods seems to have paralyzed the university representatives, who did not know how to respond. Perhaps then the university made the conscious decision to wait for the government to intervene, to put an end to the local's overly socialist way of conducting business.

One of the recurrent themes throughout this long labour action was the issue of chronic under-funding for education throughout the province at the post-secondary level. Tyler Shipley, spokesman for local 3903, often spoke about these system-wide deficiencies which became a central issue later on in the dispute. This issue of underfunding for post-secondary education was certainly further exposed and brought into mainstream attention during the strike, something the university executives and provincial government probably wanted to keep out of the spotlight. The union's success in bringing these issues out in the open constituted an important victory for the strike effort. The teachers' direct line of struggle is through the union, and in their humble demands for job security and decent living wages, but more importantly the strike provided them with an opportunity to campaign for the sake of our students, and to fight for the quality and integrity of post-secondary education in Canada. It provided them with a channel through which they attracted media, and attention from the public eye, and through which they were able to expose the truths, to a certain degree, about the dysfunctional nature of Ontario's university system. Toward the end of the conflict, even York University President Mamdouh Shoukri admitted that there are system-wide issues that need to be addressed. The facts are as follows:

Ontario has the worst record of all the provinces for university funding in Canada. Ontario's level of funding for universities compares to U.S. states with the lowest levels of funding in that country, which means that the under-funding of Ontario universities ranks not only among the worst in Canada, but among the worst in all of North America. And, Ontario's prominent universities have some of the worst student-teacher ratios in North America. This, in turn, forces the hiring of auxiliary workers with no job security, and subsequently diminishes the quality of education. The chronic under-staffing also affects prep-time, the quality of grading, and the quality of lectures, and limits the accessiblity of professors, T.As, G.As, and R.As.

Generally, people are falsely under the impression that colleges and universities are strapped for cash, when in fact they are not. Tuition fees are thousands of dollars per year, coming from thousands of students, not to mention bookstores, residence fees, etc. Tuition in Canada is very expensive, ranging from $ 2,000 to $ 2,500 per term for universities, and is perceived as inexpensive only because tuition for colleges and universities in the United-States can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Furthermore, Canadian universities are considered to be under a public education system, when in reality they are not. The vast majority of Canadian universities are public only in so far as they receive some public funding, but they are privately owned and operated. In other words, the post-secondary education system in Canada is one in which the government provides subsidies to support massive private wealth.

The Vulture Strategy

Throughout the three month stoppage at York University, the administration conducted itself in a very predictable way, and within specific tactical guidelines which were clear from day one. The union probably knew as well as anyone that the university was not going to make any sort of reasonable offer and would hold out for as long as necessary, because to them the standoff was about money far more so than it was for the union, and simply because they knew they could afford to, and knew they would get away with it. As was pointed out earlier, Canadian universities in general are very financially comfortable, especially the countrie's most prominent ones, the biggest universities in the big cities. Even more specifically Toronto area universities have experienced higher demand and steadily rising levels of enrollment and applications for several years, a long-term trend that will readily continue. Furthermore, it is fact that university enrollment increases in time of economic downturn as people lose their jobs and often go back to school in order to train for new vocations. In other words universities are recession-proof businesses which are not affected negatively by the monetary pressures of a financial crunch.

From the outset the university knew that several factors would play in their favour. First, they knew that one-dimensional public opinion would go against the striking teachers, and primarily it did, without examining the facts and without analysing the situation for themselves.** Secondly, they knew that the media would be either on their side, or at least would present an incomplete version of facts. The media instinctively tended to stress how long the students were out of class for, and not the true nature of the fundamental reasons behind the strike. And third, the administration knew that the government would eventually intervene if they held out long enough. So, the vulture strategy is that of making meager offers at the bargaining table and waiting either on the union to starve, or on the government to pass legislation. One common argument by the administration throughout the conflict was that the university did not have enough money to fulfill the teachers' demands, even though these demands were based largely on job-security and funding issues and not pay-raise oriented. Their claim was that they didn't have enough money because of the current recession, and because of the financial losses resulting from the strike, but as we saw with the reasons discussed in the previous paragraph, these arguments are null and void. It did, however, simultaneously have enough money to keep making unreasonable offers and to drag the strike out for almost three months. If the financial losses from the strike were so devastating to the university's coffers, then it surely would have been in their interest to make a fair offer and to end the strike as soon as possible, something the administration was clearly unwilling to do.


During the late stages of the strike, the local had dropped many of its demands and was willing to settle with York, the university side was made aware of this, but continued to hold out knowing government would step in; a few days later the Liberals spearheaded the back-to-work legislation. The university's handling of the conflict was very unethical, and very unjust. In general, it is unethical that universities are run as businesses and not as institutions of quality public service as they should be. Another example of why healthcare and education should never be allowed to run on a for-profit basis. The
2008-09 York University Strike was also a symbolic action because it affirmed, not necessarily the strenght of public unions at leadership levels in this country, but certainly the increasing grassroots efficiency and militancy of CUPE locals across Canada.

Democracy, and the right to strike, and unions, are there for a reason. They exist to make sure that the millionaire C.E.Os and executives do not always get away with whatever they want, and often what they want is very unreasonable, and very unjust. In this case, the situation was particularly sensitive because it imperiled the education of several thousand students, and so the union received sharp and scathing criticism. Universities have a lot of money, yet they choose to skim off the top, they choose to run their establishments as businesses rather than as institutions of higher learning; the fact that Canada's prominent universities have some of the worst student-teacher ratios in North America is case and point. And, governments also have a lot of money, they also have a lot of expenses, but education and healthcare should always be the top two priorities, and clearly this episode has shown that in Canada, government does not provide enough funding for post-secondary institutions. Yes, amongst many other issues the union was asking for more money, even if only to remedy wages which are below the poverty line, and yes, the union technically did make the decision to go on strike, but the University left them no choice. When the powers-that-be glue your back to the wall, you have no choice but to fight back in the name of decency and social justice. So as much as it was peceived that the union was doing a huge disservice to the students by going on strike, lets hope that in the future, government does not side with big bussiness so eagerly, and that public opinion does not pass judgement so quickly, and let it be shown that a little respect for collective bargaining, organized labour, and the right to strike can go a long way in fixing the ills inherent to a system. Allow democratic processes to take their course, and good things will inevitably come.


* The terminology "Participatory Bargaining" does not need to be put in between quotation marks. The innuendo puts an unneccessarily derogatory and condescending spin on a legitimate and progressive political exercise.

1. Karen Howlett, "Aches From York Strike Expected to Linger", The Globe and Mail, Feb.2, 2009.

** Generally, people don't chew, and taste, and evaluate information, they just swallow what is fed to them.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Tragic, Contradictory Beginning of 2009: War, Obama, and Economic Collapse

First the Good News:

Obama and the Wave of Optimism

As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United-States, several million American people mobilized to witness the event, while millions more shed tears in front of television screens accross the country. The touching moment evoked similar reactions in countries all accross the world. The prevailing sentiments were hope, joy, a sense of brotherhood and solidarity, and relief that perhaps a better time is coming.

By looking at him, and by listening to him speak, beyond the fact that he is a remarkable speaker, one gets the impression that Barack Obama is in fact honest, and that his intentions really are authentic. But it was clear during his inauguration speech that maybe, he was already beggining to make concessions; it was obvious he said certain things he didn't want to say, but felt he had to say them. It is easy to recognize in him intelligence, resolve, good judgement, and maybe even a reasonable and acceptable sense of justice, but will he, compelled by the establishment, be pressured into making questionable social, ethical, and moral decisions? It is certainly appealing and uplifting to believe in the sincerity of his intentions to make the world a better place, but will capitalism, and the armies of private finance, the lobbyist-infested, corporatist bureaucracy of the United-States, and the billion-dollar greed canons aimed at his head make it impossible for him to do so? Plainly, is the system of injustice just far too entrenched to even allow him to make a difference? I believe in Barack Obama the man, but it is a little bit more difficult to believe in Barack Obama the President of the United-States of America. Lets all hope that he will be courageous enough to bite the bullet, for the sake of the planet, and for the sake of humanity.

Now The Bad News:

The Economic Collapse

It took the conservative right politicians and the dishonest, self-serving media several months to admit to a recession, and even though they have now allowed the fact into mainstream conciousness, they will never admit the true depth and severity of the predicament; that it is a catastrophe and not simply a recession. Capitalism is a social arrangement based not on people, but on finance, which is fuelled by highs and lows, by hypothetical investments, computer transactions, idle wealth, and superficial substance, a castle of cards in a world of cement, flesh, and oxygen, and recession is only a polite term for the disaster state of an already perilous and instable system.

The economic collapse of 2008-2009 was caused by too much greed, too much spending in the wrong places, too much credit. So much time, money, and energy were spent on tax cuts, free trade, and countless measures, creations, and funding to assist open markets, and to privatize security, warfare, and reconstruction. So much credit was granted to those who could not afford it, while governments and corporations cut corners and skimmed off the top on social spending, health insurance and pension plans. Imperialism and corporations were siphoning so many resources, so much wealth and profit, that the world could no longer afford to keep the system afloat. Trillion dollar war-spending exacerbated the situation. Unplanned excesses eventually lead to inevitable imbalances.

When the millionaires realized the machine had gone into overload, their instinctual reaction was to spend money to remedy the situation. The U.S. government handed out hundreds of billions of dollars on rescue packages to save banks, lenders, creditors, and corporations of all sorts, in essence all the same players who were responsible for the economic crash in the first place. Now that Obama is in office, an additional $ 800 billion stimulus package is expected to be pushed through.

Here are the facts on the United-States' current finacial situation:

President Obama's economic stimulus package will be at a cost of $ 800 billion, approximately. Fortunately, much of that money is slated to address much needed social-spending; divided between green initiatives, namely alternative energy and energy efficiency projects, school funding, state money for healthcare and education, and an infrastructure-renewal package. Unfortunately, some of these funds will be wasted on tax cuts of $ 1,000 for most households, at a time when the government can ill-afford to spend money on useless and unnecessary measures. Mercantilist logic dictates that tax cuts must be handed out in order to boost the economy, even in the contemporary United-States where basic needs such health care and education are unaffordable to the poor majority. A secure, stable, and healthy society, with fair and reliable employment, and low-cost quality education and health care, is much more productive and effective than a cluster of individuals who simply have $ 1,000 more to spend.

Despite the stimulus package the reality is that the damage is already done. The upcoming deficit is projected to reach an absurd $ 1.2 trillion, which would represent and unprecedented 8.3 % of GDP. Unemployment will reach 9 % by 2010, a ridiculously high number for an industrial "advanced" country. All this from the world's economic and political leader.

Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson writes that "getting into deficit is easy, even alluring: climbing out of them is difficult."1 The means to escape deficit; "tax increases and spending cuts that almost no American is willing to even contemplate today."2 In other words, wisdom to fiscal responsibility at a time when fiscal irresponsibility is the root cause of the existing problem. He continues by refering to the U.S. as "the debtor, against those from whom it must borrow. After all, Americans cannot possibly finance these new debts themselves, since they could not even finance the old ones."3 So it is again a case of the United-States spending money they don't have.

The Continuing and Deepening Disaster in Afghanistan

On the imperialist front, the media continues to paint the Afghanistan and Iraq wars as rebuilding efforts, when really they are closer to destruction efforts, and they continue to refer to the United-States' strategic world markets and resources control missions as the Middle-East Peace Process, when really it is the Middle-East War Process. So the first deception, the first set of lies, is that the invasion of Afghanistan is actually a mission for progress. For quite some time now major discrepencies in the integrity of the rebuilding efforts have been reported in countless news articles and reports by independent agencies*. An article in The Globe and Mail newspaper, dated Jan 9, 09, stated, "The Chief Review Services report - dated December, 2007, but released only recently after a scrub by government censors - suggests the Kandahar PRT had trouble finding a role for itself alongside the Canadian military, which was busy fighting a counter-insurgency war.....The evaluation says the military pulled the PRT's protective detail at one point in 2006 because soldiers were needed to prepare for a Canadian-led offensive against the Taliban. That left the PRT's efforts hamstrung for a time."4 Reconstruction mission, or rebuilding effort, are simply eloquent and progressive-sounding titles for a purely military, interventionist, and imperialist occupation. Also from the Chief Review Services Report; ""The force protection company was taken away from the KPRT by the (commanding officer) of the battle group to be used as a line infantry company during Operation Medusa. This severly reduced the KPRT's freedom of movement and led to the curtailment of most... activities external to Kanadhar City for the duration of this (rotation)" - until about July or August of 2006, the report says."5 Again, this further demonstrates how the title of reconstruction mission doubles as a cover to legitimize the interventionist occupation of a sovereign country. Worse, the occupation is mandated by a token body of capitalism, the military organization and imperialist facilitator known as NATO.

The second deception and set of lies is that the mission is making progress. In terms of establishing security and a proper "democracy" in the country, well, another article states that "Afghanistan has delayed its presidential election by three months, saying the country needs time to improve security before going to the polls....The Independent Election Commision of Afghanistan announced the move yesterday, saying it hopes the arrival of additional foreign forces, expected later this year, will help stabilize the country...."Without security, there can be no election," said election commision chief Azizullah Lodin."6 A report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, stated ""Against this background, there is a risk that it will not be possible to hold elections, or voter turnout may be below the minimum necessary for the ballot to be valid," wrote John Chipman, the institute's director-general."7 Perhaps the December 2004 election of president Hamid Karzai was pushed through by a Washignton hasty to legitimize the justification of the intervention process even under unsuitable conditions, but since the current situation in the country cannot support one, clearly the mission is suffering setbacks, and not making progress.

Despite being experts in interventionist wars, NATO forces at this point are proving incapable of even gaining the upper hand militarily. In terms of fighting, in terms of deaths, in terms of bombings, in terms of overall violence, NATO and U.S. forces have proved incapable of establishing security in most of Afghanistan. The same article states that "Afghanistan has seen an increase in insurgent-led violence, particularly in the southern part of the country....nearly a third of Afghanistan's 364 electoral districts aren't safe."8 and that "Seven years after the U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban, Afghanistan is plagued by insurgent attacks and suicide bombs. A newly emboldened Taliban is asserting itself in southern Afghanistan, making last year the deadliest for foreign forces since the invasion."9

Certainly the imperialists are not experts in establishing stability, and free and fair elections, (even when they do manage to run some sort of electoral process they are always elections under occupation, and therefore undemocratic) but the fact that they fail to advance even militarily definitely outlines the catastrophic failure of the mission, at least from a humanitarian point of view. Or, the United-States and its lackeys have decided that the most effective way to profit from Afghanistan is to keep the War at an inconclusive standstill for as long as reasonably possible, and to continue to reap benefits for transnationals through private security and reconstruction contracts, and the necessity of constant supply from arms manufacturers. Perhaps the
military-industrial complex is no joke.

Into the eighth year of the invasion of Afghanistan, the situation is worse than the previous year and continues to worsen. it is impossible to candidly speak of any type of real progress, in a country torn by violence and desolation.

U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged to send up to an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan over the next 18 months.

In Canada the war at home is being felt as well; while public funding is being drastically cut in many key areas, the cost for the "rebuilding" project in Afghanistan is projected to cost as much as $ 18-billion by 2011.

The Conservative government of Canada since re-election has now managed to pass a budget laden in tax cuts which favours business, and spurns the Canadian working class in their most desperate time of need. They also intended to roll back democratic processes by attempting to outlaw the right to strike for public employees. And they attempted to remove public funding for political parties, which would expose a relatively clean Canadian political system to further corporatism, corruption, and lobbying.

Newly released statistics have revealed a harsh reality for Canadian soldiers, that 1 of 7 Afghanistan veterans go on to suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Although they are relatively few, lest we forget our kindhearted Canadian brothers and sisters victim to imperialist wars.

In January of 2009, among soldiers in the U.S. army, there were only 16 deaths to 24 suicides, which means that more American soldiers are taking their own lives than being killed by enemy forces. A very unfortunate and telling statistic for the U.S. military.

There were a registered 129,000 job losses in Canada for the month of January. That same number is 600,000 in the United-States.

(I have not even touched on the continued and intensified Israeli apartheid assault on the starving and besieged people of Palestine, or on the Ontario Liberal Government's suspension of the right to strike against public union CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) 3903 through a back-to-work legislation. There is much more that could be written about.)

The People of the World must ambitiously embrace the realities of 2009 with vulnerable open arms, and a very heavy heart. But they must do so consciously with the knowledge that progress is imminent, with positive energy, and with a little bit of fury and fire in their hearts.


1,2,3. Jeffrey Simpson, "Their Deficit, Our Prespective", The Globe And Mail, January 9, 2009.

*Namely a report by the Senlis Council, "Stumbling Into Chaos: Afghanistan on the Brink", November, 2007. But, also many others.

4,5. Steven Chase, "Afghan Rebuilding Efforts Slowed by Poor Planning", The Globe And Mail, January 9, 2009.

6,7,8,9. Jane Armstrong, "Afghanistan Delays Presidential Vote by Three Months", AFP reprinted in The Globe And Mail, Jan 30, 2009.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Stroll Through Dufferin Mall

Walking amidst this colony of consumer robots, waiting for their coffee, in line for their life-saving lottery tickets, as a woman walks ten feet ahead of her unmindful two year old son not even paying attention to him, and a man contemplates a
freshly-squeezed juice stand thinking only of the health benefits of a smoothie but oblivious to the fact that he's concurrently making corporations richer by doing so, with oranges and mangos probably coming from the fruit company corporate monopolies of banana republic Central America. Yet, we are all bamboozled participants victim to the system that surrounds us, and all these thoughts are going through my mind as I enter wal-mart. Later on, picking vegetables, moving ten paces faster than the sluggish public around me, I see a disoriented elderly lady almost spinning circles in anxiety, terrified of how fast the world moves, and every person I see has no idea what is going on around them, as a short middle-aged lady is getting upset with the not-so-graceful movements of the woman in the wheel-chair because she is taking up too much space.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Quote of the Week

"Let justice roll down like waters, And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." - Amos 5:24