Monday, May 30, 2011

Rupert Murdoch - World Economic Forum Annual M...Image via Wikipedia Rupert Murdoch

Link of the Day May 30 2011

In yet another remarkable article, one of many they have been publishing recently, the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine exposes the right-wing propaganda machine Fox News, owned by Rupert Murdoch, run by the sinister Roger Ailes, whose unscrupulous specialty has been to make propaganda sound like news. Read the article, written by Tim Dickenson, here.

(“What Nixon did – and what Ailes does today in the age of Obama – is unravel and rewire one of the most powerful of human emotions: shame,” says Perlstein, the author of Nixonland. “He takes the shame of people who feel that they are being looked down on, and he mobilizes it for political purposes. Roger Ailes is a direct link between the Nixonian politics of resentment and Sarah Palin’s politics of resentment. He’s the golden thread.”)

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

My Log 257: Arthur Goldreich dies in Israel : I remember him as a courageous fighter, and a superb orator

Pile of rocks started by Nelson Mandela and ad...Image via Wikipedia
Pile of rocks worked on in prison by Nelson Mandela

I see that Arthur Goldreich has died in Israel at the age of 82. He was remembered in a Globe and Mail obituary as a romantic revolutionary, but I remember him as one of the most eloquent, riveting orators I ever heard.

He is certainly a man who deserves to be honoured, because he was one of those white activists in South Africa who, in the 1950s and early 60s identified themselves with the struggle for freedom of the black people of the country, who were being treated as worse than animals by the Africaans government and its lunatic policy of apartheid. Goldriech was a rich, Jewish architect, one of a number of remarkable Jews who joined the African National Congress, and did not shrink from it when armed struggle was the only action left open to them.

Rivonia was a wealthy suburb of Johannesburg, where 19 leaders of the ANC were arrested on July 11, 1963 in a house owned by Arthur Goldreich called Liliesleaf Farm, that had been used as a hideout place for ANC leaders. Mandela had previously been imprisoned on various charges, and was not among the 19 arrested, but when the trial occurred he was among the leading accused. It was at this so-called Rivonia trial that he made his famous speech to the court in which he said:

“This is the struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and experience. It is a struggle for the right to live. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society, in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunity. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But, if needs be, my Lord, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

With that he was sentenced to life imprisonment, and was not released until 1990, after 27 years in Robben Island prison. A man of such moral courage that he dictated the terms of his own release.

Five or six white Jews were among those arrested, along with two Indians, and several Xhosa, symbolizing the fact that the ANC programme was for a non-racial South Africa.

Goldreich and his friend Harold Wolpe bribed a guard during their imprisonment who allowed them to escape. They hid in various safe houses for two months, and finally escaped from South Africa by posing as priests. They went to England, and on arrival directly to the annual conference of the Labour Party, which was already underway. That is where I heard them speak to one of the many side meetings that always took place at this conference, where their presentation of the facts of South African life electrified the crowd, especially when presented in the golden oratory of Goldreich.

I interviewed Harold Wolpe after that meeting, and became a close friend of him and his wife Anne-Marie in succeeding months. He has always been my model of what a hero should be. He had been for many years a solicitor who had represented the ANC leaders in the many court cases that were brought against them, often, but not always, for the most trivial offences. He ran through for me the legal history as he had experienced it. It was a shattering story because although they often succeeded in winning victories in court, the apartheid government saw to it that the laws under which they had succeeded were changed so that they could never again win under those laws. One by one, in this manner, the outlets for peaceful protest were closed to the oppressed black Africans, until, if they were to resist at all, no outlet was open to them except armed rebellion. That they formed a wing of their movement devoted to armed struggle was against all their inclinations: in fact, since the party had been founded in 1912, they had always tried to follow lawful and peaceful means to express their programmes, but were prevented from doing so.

At this time I also became a close friend of the ANC’s representative in England, Robert Resha, a man whose only wish in life had been to become a sports writer, but whose treatment by the government, simply because of his skin colour, was so barbarous that he was forced to enter politics if he was to retain any dignity at all. In those days a black man could be stopped at any time and required to produce his pass: Robert was arrested 28 times on pass offences, I remember him telling me.

Goldreich did not linger too long in England, but left for Israel, where he lived the rest of his life. According to the Globe obituary, he was always bothered by the fact that he had never paid the guard the bribe he had promised him, and after South Africa gained its freedom, he returned there and paid off this debt of honour.

Harold Wolpe and Anne-Marie lived for several years in England, Harold became an adult education teacher somewhere in the north of England, and returned to South Africa after liberation. Today his memory is honoured in that country by a Harold Wolpe lecture that is given every year on some important aspect of South African life.

Robert Resha died while still a young man, only 53, before liberation had been achieved. He had lived a most frustrating life, touring around the world trying to drum up physical and political support for the cause of the ANC and African freedom. He was a wonderful man, the only man with the qualities to have become a Prime Minister I ever knew, yet one who could never aspire to such an office. Sadly, he fell into some political disagreement within the ANC, and the occasion of his death was mentioned in the ANC newsletter only in an abrupt two-line item. Some reward for a lifetime given to the struggle. But he was honoured at a special service in St.Paul’s cathedral, presided over by the leftwing cleric, Canon Collins.I have heard that his memory has been rehabiklitated since liberation was achieved. I certainly hope so. His sidekick in the London office, Raymond Munene, a poet, became a professor at the University of California in Los Angeles for several years, and on his return became the champion of Xhosa literature, a professor at the University of Natal, and a writer much honoured for his contribution to the African cause.

I have always regarded my friendship with these men as one of the most important events of my life. They were all people ready to put their lives on the line when the crunch came. Not only South Africa, but all of us, owe a great deal to them and the honorable lives they led.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Headquarters of the NSA at Fort Meade, Maryland.Image via Wikipedia Link of the Day 1, May 17 2011 If there is anybody out there who still believes the USA is in a position to lecture other nations about democracy and the rule of law, two articles recently published should disabuse them. First, Jane Meyer in The New Yorker for May 23 offers an astounding account of the National Security Agency, the world’s biggest and most secretive agency for intelligence-gathering; and of the whistleblower who is being prosecuted as a traitor for trying to alert the public to the Agency’s breaking of the law. Read her article, The Secret Sharer, here. It is astonishing. The second article is linked to in the item below.
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Goldman Sachs Tower, at 30 Hudson Street, in J...Image via Wikipedia Goldman Sachs tower

Link of the Day 2 May 17 2011: Matt Taibi writes a remarkable article in Rolling Stone: The People vs. Goldman Sachs: A Senate committee has laid out the evidence. Now the Justice Department should bring criminal charges

(“They weren't murderers or anything; they had merely stolen more money than most people can rationally conceive of, from their own customers, in a few blinks of an eye. But then they went one step further. They came to Washington, took an oath before Congress, and lied about it.”)

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Monday, May 16, 2011

My Log 256: On the lookout for the first ducklings and considerations of instinct, and what the hell it is.

Two Mallard ducklings (Anas platyrhynchos) at ...Image via Wikipedia

For the last three weeks or so I have been watching carefully, as I cycle around Dow’s Lake and the canal, for the first family of ducklings to appear. The earliest date I have ever spotted such a family was May 13, but for some reason this year I was hoping to beat that record.

No such luck, I’m afraid, although I identified many couples among the ducks who looked like they could become proud parents at any moment. Pure imagination, of course.

About he only interesting things I saw during these weeks were some loons, which one can depend on turning up during the migratory year. At least, I think you can. And I think they were loons. Can’t be altogeher sure, of course.

My concentration on ducklings got me to wondering about the method of their birth, emerging from an egg. And that set me to wondering how a duck knows that if she sits on this egg, it will produce a small baby. The only reason I could come up with was that it is instinctual, they just have an instinct that this is the way to do it? Instinct? Does it exist somewhere in the living organism, or is it like that other puzzler, among humans, the soul? Personally, I always deny that there is any such thing as a soul. No one has ever seen it. No one knows where it is to be found. In fact, most people find it impossible to describe exactly what it is. Therefore, it seems to me there is a good case for whichever philosopher it was who claimed that to talk of a soul was simply a way of talking about something. The ghost in the machine, I think is how this bloke described it.

Well, what the hell is instinct? When I tentatively suggested it is something inbred, one of my friends said, ah, yes, but the duck knows to sit on the eggs by having seen it done before, it is a learned behaviour.

Really? That surprises me, if it is so. It would be like saying that for a goose to set out on a migration route to some place it has never been before would be a learned experience. Impossible to have learned it if he has never done it, right?

I looked up various definitions of instinct, and since I tend to reject anything that might be described as faith-based, I veered towards the scientific description.

If anyone is interested, the American Heritage and Science Dictionary says that instinct is an inherited tendency of an organism to behave in a certain way, usually in reaction to its environment and for the purpose of fulfilling a specific need. The development and performance of instinctive behavior does not depend upon the specific details of an individual's learning experiences. Instead, instinctive behavior develops in the same way for all individuals of the same species or of the same sex of a species. For example, birds will build the form of nest typical of their species although they may never have seen such a nest being built before. Some butterfly species undertake long migrations to wintering grounds that they have never seen. Behavior in animals often reflects the influence of a combination of instinct and learning. The basic song pattern of many bird species is inherited, but it is often refined by learning from other members of the species. Dogs that naturally seek to gather animals such as sheep or cattle into a group are said to have a herding instinct, but the effective use of this instinct by the dog also requires learning on the dog's part. Instinct, as opposed to reflex , is usually used of inherited behavior patterns that are more complex or sometimes involve a degree of interaction with learning processes.

So far so good. But where the hell is this instinct? Can I touch it?

It makes me think of a young woman friend of mine, a recent mother, who, every time I see her tells me she has moments of unexpected pure joy, as for instance, when her baby smiles at her. This is something she didn’t expect, although it is also something that many people would describe as part of a mother’s instinct. Yet it is known many woman don’t have this particular instinct, but prefer not to have any children at all.

Don’t ask yourself questions that require knowledge to answer, Boyce. You are too dumb for this game.

Meantime I continue to look out for the first ducklings of the year.
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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Link of the Day: Pepe Tells it like It Is

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 01: Citizens hang off a lam...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
New Yorkers celebrate the judicial execution of Osama

The estimable Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times Online, tells it like it is: there is a new form of neo-colonialism, and it is called “humanitarian war.” Read his article, Bin Laden Out, Gadaffi next here.

(“In the whirlwind of lies and hypocrisy engulfing the Osama bin Laden hit job, the key justice-related fact is how an unarmed man, codename "Geronimo", was captured live then summarily executed in front of one of his daughters - after a lightning-quick invasion of a theoretically ‘sovereign’ country.”)

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Log 255: I meet an old friend, a movie line I have always regarded as the essence of sleaze since I first heard it in 1945

Cropped screenshot of Dan Duryea from the trai...Image via Wikipedia Dan Duryea in the film Scarlet street

One of my sons, Thom, who is a walking encyclopedia of the movies, has this remarkable gift of being able to quote hundreds of lines he remembers from movies. I have never been able to do that, but I do remember a lot about various actors and actresses I saw when I was a kid. One of these, an actor who for me typified the essence of sleaze, was the actor Dan Duryea.

And the particular scene of his which has stuck in my mind was in a long-forgotten movie in which he was playing as the lover of Joan Bennett, playing a sultry temptress who was no better than she should be. At one climactic moment Bennett says “If I had any sense, I’d leave you.”

To which Duryea responds by slapping her across the face, back and forth and emitting the immortal line, “But you haven’t got any sense, see?”

Or at least, that is my memory of the line. But what do you know, just tonight on Turner Classic Movies I am watching a drama in which another of my childhood favorites Edward G. Robinson plays a meek, foolish little man , long married to a nagging wife, who makes an acquaintance with a lady of the streets played by Joan Bennett, and becomes totally infatuated with her. The man from whom he was rescuing her when he first ran across her was played by Dan Duryea, but as her friendship with Edward G developed she pretended Duryea was her roommate’s boy-friend.

Robinson was a part-time painter: to get away from his wife’s nagging, and to establish his relationship with Bennett, he hires an apartment and moves his paintings into it. Robinson starts to steal from the firm to which he has given 25 years of impeccable service, to pay for Bennett’s constant demands for money. Duryea persuades Bennett she should sign the paintings and pretend she was their creator. They become an instant success, but naturally, the idyll is over when the little man hears his inamorata tell Duryea she really loves him. Subsequently she tells Edward G. that he is a pathetic little creep whom no woman could love, and in a fury he stabs her to death.

It is in the runup to this that I heard that line I had carried around with me since the 1940s, the line that exemplified the essence of movie sleaze. But now I have to report my memory was slightly faulty. The line is as I remembered it, except that it does not conclude with the emphatic “see!….” But you don’t have any sense,” was all. Not quite as effective, I have to confess, as my line.

Naturally, to please the movie censors, although it was Dan Duryea’s character who swung for the murder, Edward G.’s conscience would not let him alone, and the movie ends with him as a bum dragging himself through the streets of New York with his lady friend’s voice insistently declaring her love for the other man.

Afterwards Robert Osborne said the film was rejected by the New York censors when first released because of the excessive violence of the stabbing. But the kerfuffle about it created such attention that when it finally was cleared for release in September 1945 the movie drew huge crowds everywhere it showed.

The name of the movie is Scarlet Street, an obvious attempt to impregnate it with a sense of shocking sin.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Link of the Day, May 10, 2011: U.S. now into extrajudicial executions

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...Image via Wikipedia The exrajudicial executioner

In an article entitled The Targeted Assassination of Osama Bin Laden, Marjorie Cohn, an acknowledged expert in international law, establishes that the United States until the presidency of Bill Clinton formally opposed extrajudicial executions as being in violation of American concepts of justice. Thus, she writes, President Obama should not have said, “Justice has been done”, but rather “retaliation has been accomplished.”Read her article here.

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Log 254: Canada: no prospect of social change, since even our leftwing leaders would sooner drop dead than utter the word socialism

Plaque recording the location of the formation...Image via Wikipedia Plaque commemorating the foundation of the British Labour Party by the trades unions in 1900

I have to confess it in my eighty-fourth year --- I am never going to live in a country that can expect drastic political change.

That has been made obvious by the recent breakthrough of the New Democratic Party being accompanied by the even more pronounced dominance of the Conservative party, now ready to govern almost unchallenged for at least the next ten years. Could anything be more depressing for a guy with my outlook?

I grew up in what I like to think was a socialist country, New Zealand in the 1940s. Our Labour government was elected in 1935, when I was seven, but they performed excellently, especially considering that most of their ministers were self-educated working men.

In fact, it was from that government that I developed my preference for politicians from the working class. When I moved to England I discovered the Labour Party there, although led by the upper middle class products of universities, also had its good admixture of working class activists, most of whom learned their political techniques in the labour movement.

Thus the Labour party in those days was a party which varied between supporting the status quo and injecting some realism into the search for an egalitarian society.

I have lived in Canada since 1954, off and on, and have long since become accustomed to the dominance of capitalist-oriented political parties. Mind you, I have always recognized that the very existence of the NDP has been a major influence in the differences, such as they are, between this country and the United States. But anyone who thinks that an NDP government will in anyway transform Canadian society is out to the races, as we used to say. In case you haven’t noticed, leaders of our so-called socialist party, many of whom I have interviewed in the last 50 years, would sooner drop dead that utter the word socialism.

There are countries whose residents can hope for drastic change in their lifetimes. Most them would be within what we have grown accustomed to calling the Third World. Of course sheer weight of numbers will dictate that dramatic change must come to India and China, but if I had written this a few months ago I would probably not even have mentioned the Arab countries of the Middle East, who now seem to have entered waters so uncharted that whatever will emerge is anybody’s guess. That it could take a socialist direction does seem unlikely.

Most African countries seem to be mired in corruption, and their economies seem to be irrevocably in the grip of the capitalist drive that has led to globalization with all its problems. Capitalism doesn’t give a shit about poverty: in fact, its very success depends on robbing poor nations of the resources they are sitting on, and keeping them poor. The only thing that matters to the capitalist world is that its growth-ethic be undisturbed, no matter how absurd it may be to imagine that it can go on forever.

That probably leaves only some Latin American nations that have recently shown signs of shaking off the old imperial controls. Countries like Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia possibly Argentina, with some hope for such as Uruguay, Chile and even Paraguay and Ecuador. A leftist orientation seems to have taken root in some of these nations that could, in the longer term, possibly lead them to creating some sort of economy analogous to what exists today in Scandinavia.

Of course any move leftward by any nation on earth must expect immediately to meet the ferocious opposition of the United States, for whom interference in the affairs of other nations seems to have become almost a reflex action. Their recent invasion of Pakistan with the intention of kidnapping, killing and disposing of the leader of a small terrorist organization is just the latest in a long line of interventions, and will certainly not be their last.

All of this leaves Canada more or less on the sidelines, so far as the possibility of social change is concerned. We can forget about it for the next ten years, and even longer, except that the Harper government will be active during all these years in imprisoning people for minor offences in terrible inhumane prisons from which they can be depended upon to emerge --- if they ever do emerge --- embittered, angry, and criminal in intent.

What a prospect!

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Link of the Day: Global Corporate Crime Wave

This is the world we live in. Jeffrey D.Sachs writes about “The Global Economy's Corporate Crime Wave.” Welcome to the glories of capitalism, which is the core belief of Stephen Harper.

(“Money talks, and it is corrupting politics and markets all over the world….Every Wall Street firm has paid significant fines during the past decade for phony accounting, insider trading, securities fraud, Ponzi schemes, or outright embezzlement by CEOs. A massive insider-trading ring is currently on trial in New York, and has implicated some leading financial-industry figures. And it follows a series of fines paid by America’s biggest investment banks to settle charges of various securities violations.”)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My Log 245: Unseemly American jubilation of dancing in the street over the death of an adversary

U.S. Declaration of Independence ratified by t...Image via Wikipedia: US Declaration of Independence, the hypocrites' charter

I thought maybe it was just me, but I am happy that I have heard one person on TV, and read one letter to the editor by people who share my distaste for the horrible American jubilation at the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Okay, the guy is dead. Okay, he wasn’t a nice man, he was a killer himself. But surely I wasn’t the only person who felt it was beneath the dignity of the President of the United States to announce that he had personally ordered and had carried out the murder of this man, living in a foreign country which was never notified of the attack. Killed, the body secured, then dumped at sea. Was this some kind of Mafia operation?

For a while, as I registered my feeling that there was something wrong with this celebrating in the US streets, I began to be overcome by a creeping fear that maybe I was, sub-consciously, some kind of closet Christian. A fate worse than death, I would say.

Anyway, not to keep making jokes about my unexpected compassion, there were also political reasons for my feeling that the news should be met with a decent, hands-off dignity. The fact is, the Americans have always, since the day the 9/11 attack happened, made too much of it. They acted as if no one in the world had ever suffered a similar disaster. Of course, the number of people killed was exceptionally large, but that was a result of a circumstance which even the terrorists involved could never have expected, the total collapse of these tall buildings in New York. Without that unexpected event, the death toll would have been about the same as in many such incidents that have happened over the years around the world. In other words, the only exceptional thing about the attack was that it happened on American soil, and took the lives of American citizens. As we know, the assumption in the United States is that an American life counts more than does the lives of any number of other nationalities.

Thus, the assumption that the death of the so-called (but even this is unproven) mastermind of the incident is an event of epoch-making importance because it is somehow an act of American revenge for the death of Americans is all of a piece with the assumption that the original attack on the World Trade centre was an event of exceptional importance because it happened to Americans.

It is all, I suppose, part of the colossal error of judgment by George W. Bush to launch the United States into a “war on terror”, and to declare that whoever was not with them was against them in what he called a war on evil --- as if evil is waiting out there, armed to the teeth, and ready to launch an assault at any moment on the Army of the Good, comprised of young Americans.

Consequent on this colossal misjudgment has come the building of the special prison at Guantanamo Bay where people who have never been charged can be kept incarcerated indefinitely; and that, too, presupposes a change in the underlying concepts of justice administered through the rule of law that the United States always boasts is its peculiar contribution to the goodies in this world.

In describing these peculiarities of the US system of government, I am inexorably forced back on to one overwhelming fact: the basic document by which the US system of government was established, known as the Declaration of Independence, not only dedicates the nation to the concept that all men are created equal, but was drawn up --- no doubt with tongue firmly implanted in cheek --- by slaveowners. This is a contradiction, or, if you like, an hypocrisy, that has informed the whole history of the United States ever since it was founded. And its existence has led inexorably to this moment where the people are dancing in the streets because their president has presided over the illegal murder of an adversary.

It makes me shudder, this while thing.

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My Log 254: Brace yourself: four years of Harper majority are not going to be pretty, or easy: we are in for it, and no mistake

Well, this is one of those days that I celebrated in my last entry, when the political opposition sweeps us all aside and bestrides our politics with menacing threats to change the country. I have been through it all before so many times I have lost count.

First, it was Sid Holland, the malevolent leader of the New Zealand Nationalists in 1949. Then it was the appalling right-wing Churchill in Britain in 1951; then on to the lunatic Diefenbaker in Canada in 1957; on to the disgusting Brian Mulroney --- you name ‘em, I remember them all with dread and dislike. And a recognition that somehow I and we have survived the worst they could do.

Now it is this terrible person, this cold, calculating fish, Stephen Harper, who has never made a secret of his contempt for what I call the good, social values of Canadians, who is ready to ruin our political landscape with his fighter jets, his mega-prisons, his slashing of the social agenda that still sort-of separates the less fortunate Canadians from the street corner begging bowl.

They aren’t going to be pretty these next four years; and worse is the prospect that at the end of it he will have so effectively lined up all the owners of wealth behind him, with their mega-media empires, that the brainwashed people, dazed and drugged by their experience of staggering through it all, will renew his mandate as the values of the better Canadians are divided between the two or three opposition parties so as to guarantee this asshole an almost permanent majority.

Even though he is detestable, he could become one of the most firmly entrenched leaders Canada has ever had.

Okay, you say, at least the NDP has come up through the middle into second place. But what the hell does that mean, in practical terms? Can anyone who is not blind and dumb really believe that Canadians are just waiting for a kindly NDP government to step into the breach against the party they are currently supporting to the hilt, this capitalistic, swaggering, antediluvian ragbag of people like Vic Toews and Jason Kenney and Jim Flaherty and Tony Clement and various other detestable and deplorable people? No, the fact is, Canadians as they prove every few years, are not really worried by the drift of their country into a small copy of the worst features of the American system,. They hunger for it, in fact, almost as if they are getting their kicks from seeing all those unfortunate beggars lining the city streets.

Oh, well, call me a poor loser, if you want. Or call me a realist, who can only for so long stagger on with the wool pulled over his eyes by faint hope.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are in for it in the next four years. So brace yourself for the worst these assholes can do. It will be terrible, believe me.

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