Blog of Mass Distraction

Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Debate

The presidential debate will be starting a little while. I figure I might as well watch them, if nothing else, for the entertainment factor. Generally I can't stand watching Bush speak; something about him just really upsets me. And I don't like getting angry, it makes me rude and irritable and interferes with proper judgement.
The debates seem to carry some importance in the outcome of the election. It seems the appearance of the candidates makes a strong impression on the populace. Well at least the section of the populace that matters during the vote... which is actually a fairly small number. Because the vote is just reduced to a small number of swing states (and apparently the individual votes in other states don't matter), it's really a small percentage of the population that will determine the outcome of the election. It's sad that not more people participate in the election, but that's really a symptom of other problems rather than a problem in and of itself.
But back to the debates; they're really a total sham. No real issues will get proper discussion and the opponents will purely be posturing for position. Even the questions from the audience won't get to anything of substance. All the questions from the public had to be submitted for approval beforehand and anyone that tries to ask something other than an appropriate question will be cut off by the moderator (and, in all likelyhood, escorted out of the building).
It's no wonder that most Americans (and Canadians for that matter) have absolutely no inkling of the real issues and outcomes of international politics. When they go to this much trouble to make sure no one even mentions a taboo subject, the average person isn't going to know that the subject even exists, let alone that it needs serious examination and discussion. Again, things are a little better here in Canada, but not much.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Too much Bush-bashing?

I heard on CBC this morning that no sitting president has ever had as much criticism and venom published against him as the current president Bush has. It's rather indicative of how polarized everything has become. It's probably also why people have actually *asked* me for my thoughts on the current political situation (rather than me offering them and making everyone bored stupid).
A lot of the big media groups have questioned some of the Bush administration's policies, particularly those outside the US. They have not, however, asked the real hard hitting questions like "How can you expect anyone to believe you about Iraq when your Secretary of Defense was calling for an invasion 4 years before you came to office?" Of course you'll never hear a major media chain mention Project for the New American Century (PNAC), it's too, oh what's the word, blatant? Seriously though, publishing articles like "Bombing Iraq isn't Enough"? Are you kidding me?
But perhaps the Bush-bashing is getting out of hand. Granted it's pretty funny at times making fun of him, but it usually precludes a serious discussion of issues.
On that note, perhaps a comparison of Bush with a couple of his contemporaries, Kerry & Clinton, would be useful. So let's see:

Illegal Invasion:
Bush invaded Iraq without Security Council consent.
Illegal Invasion:
Clinton invaded Kosovo/Serbia without Security Council consent.
Bombed Iraq:
Bush used "Shock and Awe" to begin Desert Storm 2.
Bombed Iraq:
In enforcing the illegal no-fly zones, Clinton bombed Iraq for nearly a decade.
Supporting Terrorism:
Bush's administration helped oust the oppressive Taleban, to give power to the terrorist Norther Alliance/Mujahideen.
Supporting Terrorism:
Clinton's administration armed and helped the Suharto regime while it slaughtered the people of East Timor.
Illegal sanctions against Cuba:
Bush has imposed further harsh restrictions on Cuba and advocated regime change, in contravention to international law.
Illegal sanctions against Cuba:
The Helms-Burton Act, passed in 1996, further tightened the sanctions against Cuba, in contravention to international law.
Wealthy elite:
Bush was born into privilege in a wealthy family.
Wealthy elite:
Clinton is also among the top 1%, but eclipsed by Kerry who (with his wife) has assets of about $1 billion US.
Disregard for the UN and international law:
In the run-up to the war said the UN risked becoming irrelevant.
Disregard for the UN and international law:
Similar to Bush, Clinton's administration said the US "will act unilaterally when it must". Kerry also voted to give Bush the power to declare war illegally.

While internal policy in the US may vary somewhat, international policy of Democrats and Republicans is ultimately the same. The one thing Clinton had going for him was that he implemented foreign policy without isolating the US and angering its traditional allies. Bush is a cowboy thug and pisses off everyone; which is why the US, and the world, has become so polarized. But, ultimately, goals of international policy won't change under Kerry, though they may be implemented more subtly.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

The objective news media...

I heard an interesting piece on CBC a couple of days about Reuters complaining that the Ottawa Citizen and the National Post (both owned by Canwest Global Communications) have repeatedly changed words in their stories to specifically change the slant and meaning of the story. Moreover, this changing of words was done in accordance with a normal policy at Canwest to change specific words and phrases.
The recent specific incident involved changing the word fighters in reference to those in Iraq fighting the US occupation, to terrorists. They regularly make this substitution when talking about Palestinians fighting against the IDF and the occupation. The National Post is even more stark and it removes any references to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The example given in the CBC piece is as follows:

Reuters Original: "...the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which has been involved in a four-year-old revolt against Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank."

National Post: "...the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a terrorist group that has been involved in a four-year-old campaign of violence against Israel."

Frankly, this obvious bias is just a reflection of the handlers of these organizations. The Aspers run this Canadian media empire and they're terribly biased. It should be obvious to many people that criticism of Israel is just that, criticism of the government of Israel. If someone says "I don't like George Bush", do they automatically hate America? Of course not; and yet if a person criticizes Israeli policy they are automatically condemned by people like the Aspers as being anti-semitic. They claim that any criticism of Israel is a criticism of all Jews, and at the same time they claim to be unbiased and say they aren't racist (against Arabs).
This is all very ironic because the founder of Canwest Global, Israel Asper (who passed away last year), also founded an organization to create a Canadian museum for human rights. This is the same man who blames the conflict in Palestine & Israel purely on Arab intolerance. He says "there never was -- and there isn't now -- any such thing as Palestinian land." This, of course, ignores the dozens of UN resolutions condemning the Israeli occupation and treatment of the Palestinians.
It's very easy for Asper-run papers to dimiss criticism from others without addressing any of the issues by saying they are also pro-arab or anti-semitic. Criticism from Jewish sources, however, can't so easily be dismissed as anti-semitic; which is why it's just ignored and not discussed. Organizations like Jewish Youth Against the Occupation (with chapters in many cities), Jews for a just peace, Gush Shalom, and many others, as well as prominent, outspoken, individual critics of Israeli policy like Danny Schechter, Tanya Reinhart, Amira Hass, Uri Averny and Noam Chomsky, openly condemn brutal Israeli policy (and of course terrible attacks against Israeli civilians).
Noam Chomsky was called by the New York Times, one of the most important intellectuals alive today (right before they complained about the 'terrible things' he says). And yet, how often do you see one of Chomsky's many, many writings appear in the mainstream media?
Defense of Jewish rights is certainly needed and necessary, as there are still many real anti-semites in the world today and the Jewish people have suffered enormously throughout their history. There is also a very real need for the defense of the Palestinian people against their occupiers (the IDF and Israeli government). These two things are not in conflict with one another, and that's something that the Asper's don't seem to understand.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Woohoo! I got a GMail account and Canada won the World Cup. Can this day get any better?
Now, to be fair, my Hotmail account has been with me for many years now; almost since Hotmail was first introduced. And, unlike so many others, I don't really get spammed there. I've never put my email on usenet or used it for signing up on spam-lists or websites. It's actually pretty easy to avoid most spam, though bits and pieces have come through every now and then. Now I get almost none though... maybe Hotmail actually blocks some of it?

On a far more morose subject, the atrocity in Baslan with the school has everyone up in arms. But Putin's response, centralizing power in the Kremlin and cracking down on Chechnya, isn't going to make things better. The cycle of violence is horrendous, but it wouldn't be so horrible if soldiers only killed other soldiers. While all human life has value, killing of civilians, and especially children, is wrenches all compassion and humanity out of you.
I definitely respect and understand the people that object to capital punishment, but I don't happen to fully agree. I think in cases where there is some reasonable possibility that a person is innocent, then it should be out of the question. But some of the more prominent cases here, like Willie Pickton and Paul Bernardo, there are mountains of evidence and trials were merely a formality (to make sure they get due process). While I definitely think they are entitled to due process, I also think that since they have committed these acts and are completely without remorse and don't seek redemption, they shouldn't continue to live. The point of the criminal justice system is to protect people's rights and to reform and reintegrate criminals into society. They have sanctions put against them for infringing on others rights; but if reform is impossible and they have infringed to the extent of taking lives without conscience, then the sanction against them should be their own life.
Again, there have to be a lot of checks in place to make sure this isn't done in error and should only be for the absolute worst offenders. I can't explain all the restrictions here, and I don't think it would be a deterrent, but I do think it should be an option. In fact, in situations where it would be an option, having the bereaved family decide on whether the murderer should be spared capital punishment would be a good idea.

But enough about the sadness in the world. Good things happen too!

Monday, September 06, 2004

I was talking with someone recently about how we're influenced by our friends or those around us. Some people can certainly be negatively influenced by their friends, picking up negative stereotypes or bad habits. But looking at how I've influenced or been influenced by my friends, I think it has been rather positive.
The ones that come to mind first are two the helped me greatly expand my horizons. One, who is quite a talented musician, helped me learn to appreciate music on a new level. I used to be very select in the music I would listen to, but after hanging around my musician friend I've learned to appreciate and accept a broader spectrum of music and musicians. Even music I don't particularly like, or don't usually listen to, I can still appreciate the talent and skill of those performing.
My other friend, similarly, helped me appreciate art. More than just visual art but the arts in general and I think this really helped me grow as a person. Not only did I not appreciate arts before, I had a disdain for them. Now I can enjoy art and I have a deep interest in philosophy and I've rekindled my youthful interest in literature all because of the influence of my friend.
I've also influenced those around me and my influence almost always has to do with politics and the concomitant issues of discussion (freedom of expression, human rights, etc). I've managed to pique the interest of several friends with my open discussion of political views and events. And, though they aren't as deeply involved or invested in politics as I am, they have come to understand the importance of staying informed and comprehending the implications of political events and decisions.
I can think of a couple of other friends that have helped me grow and learn new things about myself. One that I met not too long ago helped me increase confidence and appreciate my writing ability. Another, whose friendship can be quite trying at times, has helped me increase my patience and understanding of others.
I can think of friends I've had that may have had some negative influence on me, but I don't really stay in touch with many of them. Even those that I do, having an understanding of that possible influence makes it much easier to be wary of watchful of their ability to affect me. And there's no reason to stop hanging around them just because they may participate in a few things I don't like.
There are, of course, others that I haven't mentioned and I can think of two off the top of my head. But I've made my point and I appreciate all my friends for helping me improve my character, however mild that improvement may be.