Thursday, April 03, 2008

Knee Jerk Anti-Americanism

I don't like to think of myself as having knee-jerk opinions. This is, after all, the Deep Thought Korner.

When I reached my opinion on American foreign policy, and now the Canadian foreign policy that Harper, O'Connor, Day, McKay and Hillier are following, I reached it based on a lot of evidence. Each of the following represents a huge volume of reading and analysis, but I have condensed it in to a single, simple list of things about American and Canadian foreign policy that I don't like.

1. The Land mine treaty. Spearheaded by Canada. Opposed by the United States.
2. The use of poisonous Depleted Uranium shells.
3. The unwarranted NATO bombing of Serbia, where no ethnic cleansing was ever shown to have happened.
4. The unwarranted invasion of Haiti, because we needed their cheap labour.
5. The unwarranted invasion of Afghanistan after the Taliban offered to turn over Bin Laden if only the U.S. would show evidence of his complicity in 9/11.
6. Illegal incarceration in Guantanamo Bay.
7. Torture in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.
8. The extraordinary rendition to Syria and torture of Maher Arar, among others.
9. The development of new nuclear weapons.
10. Opposition to climate change.
11. The tight loop between government jobs and lobbying positions for the military industry.
12. The cowardly appeal to "support the troops" and "be patriotic" rather than actually responding to criticism of immoral military ventures.

Each of the things in the list above, a list which is hardly exhaustive, could be expounded (and have been expounded by other people) in to volumes of evidence, analysis and information.

There is nothing "knee-jerk" about concluding that American foreign policy is immoral and that I don't want Canada's foreign policy to go the same way. This is a thoroughly considered position, a position I would gladly debate with anyone, and there is nothing "knee-jerk" about it.

In fact, the only thing that seems to be "knee-jerk" and poorly thought out is the thoughtless, instantaneous accusation of "knee-jerk anti-Americanism". If you have an argument, present it. Name calling will get you nowhere.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Ministry of National Killing People

Classic Hillier Quote

General Rick Hillier certainly has some exciting opinions on the purpose of the Canadian military. Here I was, foolishly believing that the purpose of the Department of National Defence was to defend Canadians.

Not so, apparently.

"We're not the public service of Canada," he said. "We're not just another department. We are the Canadian Forces, and our job is to be able to kill people."

Really? First of all, the military actually is part of the public service of Canada. We the people tell you what you can and can't do. At least that's how it should work.

Second, your job is to defend Canada from military attack. Your job is not "to be able to kill people". Yes, protecting us may involve killing people. We don't like it and we really wish you wouldn't be so gleeful about it, but we all understand that it may be necessary.

Maybe it's time to circulate a petition. Let's rename the Defence department the "Department of National Killing People". I guess that makes Peter McKay the Minister of Killing People.

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DTK: Flaherty and McGuinty

It’s getting difficult to see any value in our federal government these days.

They’re in Afghanistan and don’t want to leave. They throw up a veneer of “patriotism” to cover the mayhem and misery they’re using our military to create. They certainly appear to have committed war crimes in the handing over of prisoners to Afghan authorities who are – quite clearly – not signatories to the Geneva conventions.

They walk in lock step with the Bush administration: denouncing elected governments that we don’t like (and damn democracy to hell when it gives the “wrong” results).

Now they want to follow American-style super-destructive Bush economics. Namely this: reduce corporate taxes. The goal of reducing corporate taxes is to starve the government of cash so that it can’t provide services for the people. A government high in debt is at the mercy of the banks. A government high in debt can’t take care of its people. The people gradually learn to expect less and less and eventually the rich people can encourage more and more tax breaks until our entire social system falls apart. Once they make your schools and hospitals suck, they can shrug and say, “See, we might as well privatize them!”

Of course, that’s not how they sell it. They sell corporate tax breaks as a way to improve things. Don’t worry, they’ll say, we’re just lowering services like health care and education *temporarily*. After a little austerity, these corporate tax breaks will stimulate the economy like crazy and there will be so much money going around that even the reduced tax rates will yield oodles of money for everything!

This is a lie. It is a lie for which there is no evidence, not even circumstantial. It is a lie which they repeat, and the media echoes, until everyone sighs and believes it.

Well, not quite everyone.

The federal finance minister, in what I have to imagine is a very unique and rude kind of meddling, “challenged” the province of Ontario to lower its corporate tax rate, lest Ontario become a “have not” province. And, yea, we were quaking in our boots.

The Liberals didn’t budge. Yes, they said, we’re in a slowdown and we’re losing manufacturing jobs. So what we’ll do is increase spending on education, “re-skill” the laid off workers with grant money, and get things started again. The only problem with this sort of plan – educating people – is that it actually works. It will form a good example for other provinces to emulate.

And let me tell you something about the neo-conservatives in the White House and in the Canadian Conservative Party – they absolutely *hate* people setting good examples. That’s why they went so hard after Venezuela. That’s why we (with the French and Americans) invaded Haiti and overthrew its democratic government. That’s why the socialist government in Nicaragua was declared a terrorist regime and then terrorized by the Reagan Administration in to destruction.

These people *hate* good examples. Look for them to bring the hammer down on Ontario in any way they can.

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DTK: Original Sin

Once upon a time, I was a Christian. At least I think I was. It’s a very difficult thing to prove one way or the other. Someone’s bound to argue that, because I eventually turned atheist, I can’t have been a real Christian. I don’t see the point in arguing. I went to church, I sang the songs, said the words. I prayed when I was alone. I think I believed, but it’s hard to remember, and impossible to prove.

Later, I started looking at the religion frankly and discovered things I didn’t care for; things I found pretty nasty actually. I found things that, even if the bible were true and accurate, would cause me to avoid worshiping this deity.

One of those things is the idea of original sin.

The next time a Christian knocks on your door, ask him about original sin. Ask him if he thinks it is fair or just. The concept is thus:

“God, in the garden of Eden, places the tree of knowledge. God instructs Adam and Eve not to eat its fruit, warning that they shall die on the day they do. Along comes the snake, telling Eve that the fruit won’t kill them, but make them wise. Wanting to be wise, she eats the fruit and gives it to her mate as well. This is a sin and the sin of disobediently desiring wisdom is genetically passed down to all human beings.”

It should be noted, perhaps on the side, that Adam and Eve did not die on the day they ate the fruit, so score one for the snake and zero for God on the truth-o-meter.

In the end, God becomes very angry (and somewhat fearful) and casts them out of the garden of Eden. Their sin, you see, was in wanting to be wise and learn things. This is apparently bad. They were supposed to be obedient, submissive and – most of all – ignorant. Now not only was their desire for wisdom evil, it was so evil that their actions placed what the Catholic Church calls a “hereditary stain” (go ahead, look it up) on the rest of the human race. This hereditary stain declares all of us, regardless of our own actions, to be sinful from birth and deserving of eternal torment in hell.

So, in summary: your goal as a human being is to be ignorant and submissive; anyone who wants knowledge is automatically evil. Also, you are *already* automatically evil because you carry the stain of Adam and Eve’s curiosity anyway.

It should be obvious, then, that the various Christian churches are an impediment to both our enjoyment of life and the advancement of scientific knowledge.

If I wanted a short lifespan, with much of it spent killing cats, I suppose I could accept the Christian doctrine of original sin. Since I like the products of scientific experimentation; since I like learning things; since I don’t care for mindless obedience to tyranny or killing cats … well, I think I’ll just stick with atheism, thanks.

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