Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Note To The ICC

And any lawyers trying to jail members of the Bush administration on war crimes charges. There's a pretty good timeline of events here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Liberal and a Conservative

The old joke is that a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged, while a liberal is a conservative who's been arrested. Well, America's top climate change scientist, James Hansen (about whom I've blogged before) is a conservative Republican. But he's also one of these people who, having seen the evidence for climate change, understands the implications and the actions necessary. He knows we're fucked, he's just hoping we can limit the damage. So in today's Guardian:

Protest and direct action could be the only way to tackle soaring carbon emissions, a leading climate scientist has said.

James Hansen, a climate modeller with Nasa, told the Guardian today that corporate lobbying has undermined democratic attempts to curb carbon pollution. "The democratic process doesn't quite seem to be working," he said.

Speaking on the eve of joining a protest against the headquarters of power firm E.ON in Coventry, Hansen said: "The first action that people should take is to use the democratic process. What is frustrating people, me included, is that democratic action affects elections but what we get then from political leaders is greenwash.

"The democratic process is supposed to be one person one vote, but it turns out that money is talking louder than the votes. So, I'm not surprised that people are getting frustrated. I think that peaceful demonstration is not out of order, because we're running out of time."

Hansen is a conservative who's been mugged by the world of realpolitik. Personally, my political leanings are socialist, but my commitment is to democracy. I remain convinced that if we further democracy, we get the world we ask for--sane, safe, reasonably sensible. With, of course, periods and moments of stupidity and madness. But overall, a decent world, because by arguing together, we can make reasonable decisions. (I know, in theory, theory and practicum are the same thing, but in practise, they're not). We don't realize just how broken our democracy is and yet all indications are that we're hungry for a more democratic world. Honestly, we should have dealt with global warming 40 years back, but then, as now, we keep running into the wall of entrenched interests between us and democratic control of our political world. We don't live in a democracy, we live in an oligarchy. Republican conservative James Hansen has run into that wall, just like all the tree-huggers before him.

Look what's happening on the street
Got to revolution, Got to revolution

Marty Balin/Jefferson Airplane

When I mention the "R" word, that's what I'm talking about--a revolution against oligarchy and for greater democratic control over our lives. I watch the world going backwards, fleeing democracy wherever possible, embracing fascism, oligarchy, totalitarian control, and the people yearning towards democracy like a plant yearning towards the light. Got to revolution indeed.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Very Serious Topic

and not one that gets talked about much. From Violet Blue and the green activists at Grist.

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Hello Kitty Hello World

This is why we give creative types money. Seriously.

Okay, at moments it may threaten to veer off into the territory of the ad that Geoffrey Holder and Grace Jones put together in  Boomerang, but man, this is great visual communication. Big shout-out to MAC for this one!

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When I Really Don't Know What's Going On

I watch Japanese game shows. Then I know for certain sure that the world is not just weirder than I imagine, but probably weirder than I can imagine.

The dizzy bowling? Okay.... The fetish costumes? Sure. The gratuitous panty shots. Of course. But the finale? Furkinis and hot tubs? Now we're into some deep strangeness--particularly when you lump the whole bunch together.
Thanks to Violet Blue over at tinynibbles.com for bringing this to my attention. You can check out her podcasts on itunes.

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Mouse Mechanics

Ever wonder what was happening when you use your mouse? Here is a highly magnified bit of film that shows you. Move the cursor over the circle and you'll see what goes on underneath it all.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Conservative dirty tricks--not just in Amerika anymore

From Rabble.ca:

By Rebecca Granovsky-Larsen, Editor-in-Chief and Nora Loreto, News Editor

Audio recordings, photographs and documents that were leaked from a recent Conservative Party student workshop at the University of Waterloo expose a partisan attempt to take over student unions and undermine Ontario Public Interest Research Groups (OPIRGs) on campuses across Ontario.

At a session held in early February by the Ontario Progressive Campus Conservative Association (OPCCA) and the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, campus Conservatives, party campaigners, and a Member of Parliament discussed strategies to gain funding from student unions for the Conservative Party and ways to run for-and win-positions within student unions.

The leaked materials were posted on WikiLeaks.org over the weekend and add to the growing body of evidence that the Conservative Party has a strategy for interfering in campus student unions. In early 2002, the campus press first learned of a secret Millennium Leadership Fund that the party's campus wing used to fund candidates in student union elections. Now it appears that strategy has evolved into a campaign to falsely obtain student union funding and destabilize student clubs with a social justice mandate.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Stewart/Cramer--The Brit Reaction

For the past 10 days the US has been gripped. Even President Obama tuned in as the country's foremost TV comic, Jon Stewart, unleashed an extraordinary broadside against TV's top financial commentators for their part in the unfolding economic crisis.

Jon Stewart recording an episode of The Daily Show. Photograph: Evan Agostini/AP

The review of Stewart/Cramer from The Guardian.

Nice Quote

Gwyn Morgan (retired founding CEO of Encana Corp) has a regular column in the Globe and Mail ROB. I'm not a big fan, but he is better than some of the G&M's other columnists (not mentioning Marcus Gee by name). Well, today (16 March 2009) reads:

Well,as the saying goes, "In theory, practice and theory should be the same thing, but in practice they're not."

Doesn't that just sum up the world? (Particularly business?)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bailing out the Big Three

There's a lot of grief about bailing out the Big Three automakers in North America. Some of it centres on the fact that they've been making vehicles no one wants anymore (think about the Hummer and the F-series (200 and up) trucks. But most of the rage is based on the deals that the UAW have extracted from the Big Three; vacation time, overtime, and base-rates all seem to be freaking people out.

The problem with this rage is that it's seriously misplaced. Yes, there is a cost associated with building automobiles, and the numbers I've seen range from $65-$80/hr. Now that's all the labour associated costs related to auto manufacturing, although the people doing the screaming seem to think that this is $/hr in the worker's own pockets. It's not. And while the hour costs of car assembly are high, they are not really that far out of line.
Margret Wente in her Globe and Mail column of 12 March 2009 (p. A15), actually acknowledges her bias against the autoworkers--as well as health workers and municipal workers with the GTA--its that they get more than she does, that their union has extracted significant gains for their workers and hers hasn't. This seems to be common to most of the people doing the yelling about what autoworkers get paid--"they're just assembly plant workers and they get paid way more than me, get better pensions than me, get more vacation time than me, and I deserve better than them!"
Maybe they do. But from the quality of their analysis, I doubt it.

We acknowledge that manufacturing has been the way out of the working class and into the lower middle class for millions of working people--we just hate to acknowledge that a great deal of that social mobility has been because of a strong union movement. One of the most significant engines of Canadian prosperity has been the gains made by the UAW--because they spill over into the rest of the workforce. The Postal workers did the same, as well as the rest of the union movement in North America. Envy of these gains, as in Margret Wente's column, is an ugly thing, but its still easier than actually doing something to improve your own lot--like organizing, taking the beatings and killings from the owner-hired Pinkertons, and fighting for tomorrow even more than fighting for yourself. That's what the union movement has done, and all workers are the beneficiaries of their work.

Are cars more expensive than they need to be? Yes. And are the Big Three in trouble? Yes. But is it the fault of the unions? Not really. Assembly line workers build cars, they don't get the chance to design them, decide on profit margins, or decide which models will go into production. And let's be frank, for every stupid thing the UAW has done, the Big Three have made a couple of hundred stupid decisions--usually driven by short-term ROI needs rather than long-term sense.

Because it hasn't been the Detroit automakers that have driven the general rising level of prosperity in North America, its been the guys and gals making the damn cars, earning a decent buck, that have gone on to spend those dollars on other things like houses, furniture, food, vacations, and the like, that have spread the money around. Decently paid workers can afford to pay other workers decently.

Many of the Big Three's problems stem from other sources. For example, Saturn showed that it was going to be nearly impossible to rebuild car manufacturing in North America under the current financial/trade/political regime. Setting up a new line was simply too expensive compared to what could be done in other parts of the world under an aggressive free trade structure. So the assembly lines have aged, become less efficient, and are too expensive to upgrade at his point. Big capital doesn't see the return on investment (ROI) necessary to fix the problem--particularly with a global free trade environment. This parallels the problems faced by the British Empire at the end of its globe-spanning life. The wealth-generating heart of the empire had aged and become less productive and with free trade, the investment paid better if made overseas rather than at home. So big money made the sensible decision and Britain watched its trade deficit increase yearly and the country collapsed on on itself, hollowed out and emptied of wealth. The logic was unassailable--and unavoidable.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Golden Parachutes

When you think about it, a golden parachute should make you plummet to your death--gold is pretty heavy, after all. Well, maybe they helped with the current "clusterfuck to the poorhouse" (as the Daily Show calls it). This graphic showed up over at Mint.com:

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