Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Where's the Hope and Change?

When I was a teenager I used to draw all over scribblers and binders. In amongst the peace signs and band names, I'd also doodle yin and yang symbols. If you were to have asked me what that symbol meant, I might have said it had something to do with peace or harmony. I was a teenage boy, it was the early 90's, I couldn't have cared less, about balancing the good with the bad, or the light with the dark. All I knew was that Jana, who sat across from me in history class, who I adored even more than Coca Cola, Mars Bars or New Order, had a yin and yang symbol on her favorite shirt. I was desperate to play the yin to her yang.

Those were the days. Different say, from the steadfast idealism of a recent university graduate. You know the type, those bright eyed buggers, that think they have it all figured out, because their textbooks told them so. But nothing is black and white in high school. Most things were still viewed through rose colored glasses. Things could still very much glimmer with false Hope. It was still OK to believe that things could Change.

Almost 20 years later, in the winter and early spring of 2008, I was backpacking through Europe. Throughout my travels, I noticed an excitement, a feeling of relief, a definite positive energy in the air. Whether I was in the UK, Ireland, Austria, Germany, or Belgium, there was this sense that things were finally going to get better. Thousands of miles from The United States, still months before a Democratic nominee would be picked, the world knew that something profound was about to happen. If I had, had a scribbler, or a three ringed binder, Obama's name would have been scribbled all over them. He became the new symbol of peace. He was both yin and yang. He was more rock star than politician. In 2008 Barack Obama was the true American Idol. Whatever happened to that David Cook guy, anyway?

I had never felt this strongly about a politician. I grew up in a household that was very pro-Trudeau. Trudeau however, was the Canadian Prime Minister, when I was too young to give a damn. I missed out on the buzz that was Trudeaumania. JFK's assignation was 10 years before my birth. He was of no influence, other than that of an iconic historical symbol. I consider myself a cynic, the guy that consistently votes for the 3rd party, if I even vote at all. I have always thought that it was best not to trust folks in positions of power. Idolization of a politician therefore, was brand new territory for me. Even still, I road the Obama wave, and man was it fun. Cowabunga dude!

Excitement reigned. On June 3rd 2008, Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton, winning the Democratic Presidential nomination. Our guy was on the ticket. Peace signs, yins and even yangs. There was no stopping Hope and Change now. Barack the Mighty was going to crush that old Maverick McCain, even with his sidekick, the Bimbo from Wasilla. BAM, POW!

Barack Obama was inaugurated on January 20th 2009, becoming the 44th President of the United States. I teared up during his Inaugural speech. The world was finally rid of the 43rd President. The Dread George W. Bush was leaving Washington. Neoconservatism, the Bush Doctrine, Cheney, all that we on the left, had deemed wrong with the world, was finally coming to an end. The storm was over, sunny days were here again. Yes We Can!

Or can we? 

It wasn't long until the rose, on our collective glasses, began to fade. Reality bites, and it bites hard. Banks, considered too big to fail, were failing. Car companies, as American as apple pie, eagles, or flags hung from front porches, claimed bankruptcy. America was broke. Houses were being foreclosed, jobs were being lost at a record pace. Obama's feel good agenda, that Hope and Change thing, was put on hold. There were messes that needed cleaning. The previous management had left America in tatters. Bold actions needed to be taken. Banks were bailed out, as were a couple of car companies. America's now infinite deficit ballooned, ever more, ever more. POP!

Healthcare reform would have to wait. As too would the closing of Guantanamo Bay, the pulling out of troops from Iraq, and the investigations into allegations of torture. Obama first had to right the American ship. The good ship America had been sailing rudderless for 8 years. Surely Captain Obama could steer her out of troubled waters. This was the man that battled pirates, racism, allegations that he was a Communist, claims that he wasn't even an American. Find him a cape and a phone booth.

PoliFact (link) has a list of where Obama stands as far as keeping or breaking promises. His stats are good when viewed as a whole. It took him forever, but he did manage to pass a new (albeit watered down) healthcare bill. That said, he isn't doing all that well, when it comes to the big promises, the ones that would truly differentiate him from his predecessor. That hopey/changey stuff. Thanks to the Bimbo of Wasilla for that one. I wonder how that drill baby, drill thing is working out for her? Sorry, I couldn't resist.

I might simply be too impatient. I am a product of the fast food culture. Gimme, gimme...  Maybe I expected too much. I could have been hoodwinked by Obama's charm, and his perceived intelligence. Maybe it was naive of me to believe that one man (even if he is the most powerful man on the planet) could have a positive influence on the world? Perhaps it is the American dream that is a lie?

The forces of evil, complacency, the horrible demons of past administrations, and global economic turmoil, have conspired against the man that was supposed to renew my Hope in politics. I believed Change to be inevitable. Instead, like Jana in my grade 11 history class, I have once again been dazzled by symbol (and oh what great symbols she had), not substance. Instead of following my gut, I blushingly embraced the romantic notions of Hope and Change, the new yin and yang. That will teach me to dream big. That will teach me to doodle in class.

Prove me wrong Mr President. There is still time. Part of me still believes that there may be some Hope, that you can still be an agent of positive Change.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Are the G20/G8 Summits worth the hassle?

One billion dollars spent on security. A half dozen police cars torched. Damage to storefronts. Hundreds of arrests. Are the G20 and G8 Summits worth the headache and destruction they cause the host city? That is the question that many people asked this morning in Toronto as the city woke up with a definite G20 hangover.

Things turned ugly in the streets of Toronto on Saturday, when a renegade group of 'protesters' (hoodlums, and anarchists, the so called Black Bloc) split with the tens of thousands, mostly peaceful protesters, leaving a path of destruction in their wake.

Clashes between protesters and security forces are nothing new at G8 and G20 Summits. One could cut and paste images from previous summit clashes, and they would be eerily similar to what has been seen the last couple of days in Toronto. So is it worth it? What is the point?

What are the issues that the 8 or 20 most powerful people on the planet are discussing? Well it's the economy stupid. The President of the United States Barack Obama had this to say about the importance of these summits:

"We need to act in concert for a simple reason: this crisis proved and events continue to affirm that our national economies are inextricably linked." 

Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, this: 

"We all have a common responsibility for structural reforms ... the discussion was not controversial, but was based on great mutual understanding."

Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister, has used the G8 Summit to raise the issue of global women's health. A noble cause, if it weren't mired in an anti-abortion scandal (a story for a different day). Here is a statement from Harper:

"Canada led the way in mobilizing support among G8 and non-G8 leaders, key donors and private foundations for this initiative to reduce the mortality rates of mothers and their children. We have been successful."

(Quotes compiled by Andrew Quinn; Editing by Mario Di Simine) (link)

So there. Essentially, these are economic summits. The leaders of the 20 largest economies on the planet are sitting around a big table, vowing to work together to fix global the economic turmoil. The world's largest economies, they'll have us know, are intimately attached, trouble for one means trouble for all. Trouble for many, means economic meltdown for all. As to how a couple of afternoons of meetings are going to solve the plethora of global economic problems, which have taken years to develop, is anyone's guess.

Why the protest then? Is economic stability such a bad thing? What about women's health? Let's focus on the peaceful protesters' concerns. Those protesters that are clad in black, there faces covered, bent on destruction, not conversation, their concerns are made illegitimate by their actions. They will not be asked to sit at the adult's table, maybe they should go squash ants in the back yard. So who is legitimately protesting, and what is it that they protesting? Funny, I have searched for a quote from a 'legitimate' protester, but I can't find anything, anywhere. A conspiracy theorist might have you think that the voices of the protesters are being squashed. That there collusion between global leaders and big media. Who knows, it might be the whole never bite the hand that feeds you thing. Pure speculation. The sexy story however, is not the issues, whether it be from the global leaders, or the protesters, but the mayhem these summits brought to the streets of Toronto. The Black Bloc won the weekend. If only any of us had any idea as to what they stood for. Certainly it can't be as simple as mayhem, destruction, and anarchy, can it?

So again, what is the point? Why spend a billion dollars, minimum, for a summit that is little more than a meet and greet, a glorified smoozefest of the world's political elite? Nothing was resolved, no huge strides were made. Statements, and discussion points were developed well in advance of these summits. All of this could have been done in a sound studio, we'd have been none the wiser. Did this help the city of Toronto at all? Ask any citizen of Toronto if this was the sort of global attention they wanted, and I bet you a billion dollars, minimum, that they will say no.

At the very best these summits, might be a catalysts for change. Not in terms of global economics, or even women's health. These might be the summits that makes the world's most powerful nations rethink the importance of high profile, and large scale meetings. It  might be time for the world's leaders to learn how to network. The leaders of the economic mighty, might want to look into sitting in front of large pixelated screens, in the comfort of their own offices. I know that that sounds a little fair-fetched, but shock of shocks, that is what they do in the business world. If the world's great economies are as concerned about tightening their belts and controlling spending, as they would have us believe, how in the world can they justify the expense of these summits? The ends don't justify the means. 

Stay strong Toronto, it will all be over soon.

What a Riot: A G20 Summation

"It's no fun to protest on an empty stomach." ~ Michael Bloomberg

It wasn’t quite the March on Washington in the sixties, or even the Rodney king riots, in fact it was a lot of random stupidness by a bunch of morons.

Trashing Starbucks locations, burning police cars – this activity only created one thing: an embarrassed city. Watching police in riot gear (tear gas masks at the ready) marching four deep towards the protesters and rhythmically rapping on their shields with their Billy clubs recalled those foreign news clips you see on the BBC news, images you never figured you’d see in these parts. People dressed in black masks smashed out windows and beat on police cruisers with bats. I failed to see the connection between the legitimate protesters and these thugs who were protesting nothing.

150 arrests; G20 leaders locked down. Embarrassing.

Walking the perimeter of the G20 zone this morning, I felt a kind of strange oppression I’ve never quite experienced before; there were armed police on every corner, in packs of ten or twenty, staring us down (although a lot of them were open to chatting, which was cool) and once down to the barricades we were stopped and told we couldn’t go any further, yet we were allowed to walk along it. On the other side of the barricades cops stared intently at passersby, sitting in groups or leaning against police cruisers. From our position across the street, we asked one officer if we could approach the fence for a picture.

“Right there is fine.” He said.

We even stopped to chat with groups of officers, who appeared quite amiable. Although one man, apparently homeless, approached an officer – they talked briefly. But a mistake on the man’s part; he was asking too many questions for the officers liking.

“Why are you asking so many questions, sir? May I see your ID?” He kept repeating.

I also never failed to notice all the snipers positioned on the rooftops.

A lot of building security guards were pulling double duty, checking the shrubbery for weapons caches and suspicious packages.

I have never seen my city in this state.

And of course, having our civil liberties temporarily revoked as a result:

Without the public's knowledge, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair requested and received new sweeping police powers for the duration of the Summit (June 24 - June 28, 2010). The new police powers were granted by the Ontario Legislature under the Ontario's Public Works Protection Act and were not debated in the Legislature.
This information came to light after the arrest of the amazing activist Dave Vasey and was featured in an exclusive by the Toronto Star.

"Vasey was held under the Public Works Protection Act and charged with refusing to comply with a request of a peace officer. His bail lawyer, Howard Morton, said that, as far as he knows, Vasey is the first to be arrested under the new regulation."


-- According to the new regulation, "guards" appointed under the act can arrest anyone who, in specific areas, comes within five metres of the security zone.
--Within those areas, police can demand identification from anyone coming within five metres of the fence perimeter and search them. If they refuse, they face arrest. Anyone convicted under the regulation could also face up to two months in jail or a $500 maximum fine.

So is this worth it? To have world leaders congregate in a congested and highly populated area like downtown Toronto, where you KNOW people will protest? Where you KNOW exist idiots who will dress in black masks and destroy coffee shops and throw bottles at police horses?

These thugs merely justified the billions spent on security.

Let’s be fair here; most of the protesters were there for legitimate reasons; to have their voices heard. There are always a few bad apples in the bunch. Thus will it always be. But now I’m red-faced because the world is watching this crap go on.

“I thought Canadians were peaceful” an American tourist said to me today.

We used to be.

Welcome to our ever-changing world.

- David Hunter writes for the National Affairs Desk and can be found at the Writer's Den, or on Twitter as @TheWritersDen

Images of the G20 Riots in Toronto, June 26, 2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mental Diarrhea

There are times when one has to speak without inhibition. Times, usually aided by too much red wine, when a fella needs to tell it like it is. Sometimes yelling shit from the rooftops is the only healthy choice. A physical release for the yeller; who the hell is listening anyway? I mean really. Who is reading this shit? Why am I pounding away at this keyboard? What the hell is the point?

The point, um the point is, I can. I can scream fuck you at the universe, and it doesn't matter, because the universe isn't listening anyway. If it were, I would be much politer. I'd most certainly say please and thank you. I would, no doubt, hold the door.

So hey, fuck you universe! What have you done for me lately? Why should I, this mere mortal, feel the need to shake my head at you in dismay? I'd ask when it was gonna get better, but I fear that this is as good as it gets.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

An Ode to BP, Corporate America, Obama, et al

Stop selling us your lies.
Shove your ideology up your ass.
Your right, your wrong.
What of our RIGHTS?
We all do wrong.
But our wrongs pale in comparison.
Your wrongs wreck oceans.
Your wrongs destroy lives.
To hell with your corporate rights.
Fuck your slogans.
Your feel good ad campaigns.
Your lobbyists.
The politicians you've bought.
Your security forces.
They can all eat shit.
We are right.
You are wrong.
Your system is crumbling.
You've made the mess.
And what's worse?
It is we that are left to clean it all up.
And may a billion maggots devour your souls.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Why can't we take Israel to task when they are acting the bully?

The never-ending conflict between Israel (the West, through osmosis) and the Palestinian territories took yet another ugly turn the other day when Israeli special forces attacked a flotilla filled with aid and aid workers. The Israelis government would have us believe that they had every right to attack the ship, that Gaza is under a naval blockade, therefore any ships sailing in the waters near Gaza are fair game. That and we are to believe that these were not aid workers, but political trouble makers, mostly from Turkey, their goal not humanitarian, but more to set a political trap. If so, it worked.

I will concede that Israel has the right to defend itself. If it felt genuinely threatened by this flotilla, Israel had the right to send weapons inspectors aboard to peacefully search the vessel. The problem, is not the fear, or even the blockade of Gaza (that is a subject for another day), the problem is Israel's gross overreaction. Israel (such is its style) attacked with all that it had. The footage was amazing, it was like watching Pirates of the Caribbean 2010. Special forces dropped from the heavens like swashbuckling ninjas. The folks on the flotilla had no idea what hit them. This is typical of how Israel deals with all its conflicts. It shoots first (with weapons a million times more frightening than its opponent), then asks questions later. Their opponents this time around, were not arms smuggling Hamas agents, they were aid workers (who might have been trying to make a political point), armed with 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid. It was hardly a fair fight.

It is hard here in the West to criticize Israel, you are either labeled an anti-Semite, or you are instantly thought to be soft on terrorism. Hamas, are bad folks, of course, but Israel still must be held accountable for its actions. They are the Superpower in the region, they are the one's with all the best weapons, they are the folks that have Uncle Sam forever in their corner. Israel is the spoiled rich kid who lives in the big house at the end of the street, yet still demands the smallest kid in class give them their lunch money. Why? Simply because they can. I was brought up to believe that the little guy needs to be protected from the bully. Israel is the bully in this case, so even at the risk of being called an anti-Semite or even pro-Hamas, I say shame on you Israel, pick on somebody your own size.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The blame game/the sociopathy that is humanity

Profile of the Sociopath

  • Glibness and Superficial Charm
  • Manipulative and Cunning
  • Grandiose Sense of Self
  • Pathological Lying
  • Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
  • Shallow Emotions
  • Incapacity for Love
  • Need for Stimulation
  • Callousness/Lack of Empathy
  • Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
  • Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency
  • Irresponsibility/Unreliability
  • Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity
  • Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle
  • Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility

That about sums up how I feel about this whole goddamned mess. The powers that be, whether it be BP, Transocean, Haliburton, or the Obama Administration are all complicit. What's worse, they couldn't give a rat's ass, or a fragile Atlantic ecosystem about the mess they are making. Sure BP must hate the idea that their black gold is spewing into the ocean, oh and the bad press can't be doing anything for the company's coffers either. The environment, aside from the cost of cleaning it up, is the least of their concerns.

Then there is Transocean, the people who built the rig, here is what I read about those bastards today:

Transocean Ltd., the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig leased by BP, has been flying under the radar in the mainstream blame game. The world's largest offshore drilling contractor, the company is conveniently headquartered in corporate-friendly Switzerland, and it's no stranger to oil disasters. In 1979, an oil well it was drilling in the very same Gulf of Mexico ignited, sending the drill platform into the sea and causing one of the largest oil spills by the time it was capped... nine months later.

This experience undoubtedly influenced Transocean's decision to insure theDeepwater Horizon rig for about twice what it was worth. In a conference call to analysts earlier this month, Transocean reported making a $270 million profit from insurance payouts after the disaster. It's not hard to bet on failure when you know it's somewhat assured. (link)
So there, these psychos insured for disaster, these crack pots are profiting from the shitstorm they were involved in creating.

Then there is Halliburton, eeeps not them? Ya them. They are the buggers that were responsible for the cementing the hole. (link) Their slurry might have failed, further cementing (pun intended) their place as the world's most hated multinational. Seriously, any company that once had The Cheney as its CEO, is rotten to the core. These are the folks that want to drill anything, anywhere. These are the folks that profited, on a huge scale, from the war on Iraq. Everyone knows they are evil, and I really don't think they give a shit. They are either Satan, or Freemasons.

The Obama Administration. Goddamn it, I want to cheer for them. I was looking forward to that hopey changey thing. I was a huge fan. Obama was my horse, he won, but damn, what have you done for me lately dude? I am so sick and tired of quagmire politics. Why does the Obama Administration have to suck up to the Republicans in order to do anything? The other side never asked politely. Bush despite his madness, and his ineptitude, at least took a stand. His decision skills sucked, but he got shit done, even if they were just that... shit. Does this Administration simply lack the balls to get things done, or are they as complicit as the rest of the powers that be in this disaster? If Obama had not said, a few weeks before the Gulf Oil Spill, that he was in favour of renewed offshore drilling, basically, drill baby drill, then I would have railed against the comparison to Bush's Katrina, but damn it, nothing has been done to prove such an accusation false. (Excuse the run on sentence, politics, the heat of debate.) Even worse, the fact that Bush's Katrina was an act of God, Obama's Oil Spill, 100% human fuck up. This is greed gone mad. This spill is the height of human psychosis.

There is no singular blame for this tragedy. Hell we are all to blame, we all share in the bad habit that is spewing into the Atlantic. I drove my car today, even to places to where I could walk... twice. I am no better than anyone, I am hooked too. So ya, there is no one to blame but ourselves, but where is the leadership moving forward? Can we not all agree that we have made a huge mess of the place? The big question now is who the fuck is going to clean it up? Who is going to make sure a similar disaster never happens again? Until we, the collective human whole, cure ourselves of the disease of the quick fix, the cancer that is oil will only fester, it ain't gonna get any better, we and everything that comes into contact with us will suffer and die. Until we admit that we all have a problem, nothings going to change, there is no hope.