Saturday, February 25, 2006

Good Article on the UAE Ports Deal

From the Toronto Star:

A lesson for Bush: You reap what you sow
President tries to defend ports sale to Arab firm
Feb. 25, 2006. 01:00 AM
Irony is a constant in politics. Since Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush has deliberately defined the world in the black-and-white, us-versus-them language of his war on terror. Now, the rhetorical demons he so assiduously promoted are coming back to bite.

They are doing so in the form of what should be a run-of-the-mill corporate takeover. A company based in the United Arab Emirates has bought another company based in the United Kingdom.

In a normal world, this would be a ho-hum event. However, in the fraught world of Bush's war on terror (or "long war" as he now likes to call it), the sale is anything but.

The ostensible problem is that the British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., manages six vital U.S ports, including those of New York, Miami and New Orleans.

The sale would put management of these ports in the hands of an Arab, state-owned company, Dubai Ports World.

What's more, critics of the sale say, two of the 9/11 terrorists came from the U.A.E.— a country made up of seven emirates, including Dubai.

What more need be said?

All of this has left Bush and Co. in the unusual position of decrying guilt by association.

The American president points out, correctly, that the arch-conservative and profoundly undemocratic U.A.E. government is a staunch U.S. ally.

His defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld notes — also correctly — that terrorists can come from anywhere, including the U.S. and Britain. Why condemn an entire nation because a few of its citizens made the wrong choice?

The editors of The Wall Street Journal, who find the entire episode distasteful, note that security at these ports will continue to be handled by the U.S. government.

The only effective difference is that profits made by running the ports will flow to princelings in Dubai rather than capitalists in the City of London.

But among Americans, none of this seems to matter. A citizenry whose fears have been so successfully exploited by this administration remains unconvinced.

"I'm a big Republican and I think Bush has lost his mind," Newark longshoreman Tom DiDomenico told a local news service here in New Jersey.

Those kinds of fears, however irrational, are echoed throughout the U.S. — which may explain why opposition to the sale is growing among both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

New Jersey has filed a lawsuit to prevent the takeover. In Washington, Democratic senators want to ban any foreign, state-owned firms from operating U.S. ports.

Republicans are so uneasy about the deal that Dubai Ports has agreed to temporarily delay the U.S. portion of its takeover.

For his part, Bush has vowed to veto any Congressional bill blocking the transfer.

In effect, he is saying that his war on international terror should not be transformed into a war against international capital.

Americans are understandably confused by this.

In the wake of 9/11, they were told by this same president that it was just fine to arrest and lock up Muslim immigrants without charge.

They were told that when it came to taking prisoners of war in places like Afghanistan, it was necessary for America to abandon its long commitment to the Geneva Conventions.

They were told it was necessary for the U.S. to hold prisoners indefinitely and without charge at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba or other secret jails in Europe and the Mideast.

They were told it was crucial for American interrogators to be able to employ techniques against prisoners that both the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations have said amount to torture.

They were told that the war on terror required Americans themselves to give up some civil rights — that it was necessary for the president to authorize illegal wiretaps; that in some national security areas, it was necessary for the courts to be denied jurisdiction.

They were told that they had to put up with government intrusion at an unprecedented level, that virtually everything they did, from using the Internet to reading library books was, and had to be, subject to FBI surveillance.

They were told that their soldiers had to invade Iraq and, if necessary, die there.

So, perhaps, it is understandable that so many Americans balk at the idea of their ports being run by an Arab company. It is irrational; it is even racist. But in the topsy-turvy world that George W. Bush helped to create, it is sadly logical.

Another interesting comment from Alternet, framing the issue at democracy versus corporatism.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Political Videogames

You can play a sim McDonald's videogame: You have to slaughter cows, exploit workers, advertise to children... all in the name of profit! It's just like the real world. "You'll discover all the dirty secrets that made us one of the biggest company of the world." This is a flash game, so there's nothing to download.

More neat games include:

Here's a big site devoted to the use of video games for advertising, politics, education, and other everyday activities, outside the sphere of entertainment.

More: Fun, Health

Monday, February 20, 2006

The New Abu Ghraib Photos - Yet Another Failure of the Media

The new photos from the Iraqi prison obliterate any idea that what happened there wasn't torture. So why is CNN treating it like nothing more than a military scandal?

On Wednesday 16 February 2006, Australian public broadcaster SBS current affairs program DATELINE telecast a segment featuring 60 new photos of the torture inflicted on prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. It's much worse than previously imagined. The images are bloodier and more sexually charged than the originals. The new photos depict new incidents of homicide, torture and sexual humiliation and indicate a broader pattern of abuse than was previously understood.

To see these very disturbing photos for yourself, click here or download the video from THESE PHOTOS ARE VERY DISTURBING. Please do not view this video if you are easily disturbed by graphic imagery of torture and death.

Honestly, these photos will bring tears to your eyes, sickness to your stomach, and pain to your heart. How could any human with a conscience feel otherwise? Well, apparently if you work for CNN, the real transgression was the documentation of the torture, not the actual torture itself.

Here's how CNN framed this:

Let's start by reminding everybody that under U.S. military law and practice, the only photographs that can be taken are official photographs for documentation purposes about the status of prisoners when they are in military detention. That's it. Anything else is not acceptable. And of course, that is what the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal is all about.
(story here)

More on Iraq, Media

Friday, February 17, 2006

"Hello, Men!"

September 1970. Comic balloon printed on stickum paper. Designed to be cut out and pasted onto ad posters of the sort where a beautiful woman is juxtaposed with a masculine-oriented product.

From Bureau of Public Secrets

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Pseudo-Scientific Hate Propaganda and "Women Drivers"

Warning: Contains Rant

Today a coworker sent me an email with funny pictures of bad drivers (like this one), entitled "Women Driver Olympics". I was quite astounded at this sort of mysogynistic "humour". Maybe I've been insulated by my enlightened urban surroundings. I had no idea that this was a common perspective.

I did a Google search for "women drivers" and found a few simply disgusting sites. There was a BBC article, about how women are worse drivers than men because they had less testosterone in the womb (which could be measured by the length of the ring finger.) What Century are we in that there is actual scientific funding going into this kind of pseudo-science?

I kept reading... I came across a site too vile to even link to (I don't want to give them any more power in Google). Copy and paste this into your browser:

This is sickening. Someone who came across this page might be fooled by all the stats, and pretty graphs, and think that indeed drunk men are better drivers than sober women, as they claim.

To be clear, I absolutely agree that driving is dangerous. I am an environmentalist that believes cars do far more harm than good. But it is crazy to attribute driving danger to women and not to high-speed 3000-lb machines.

Against my better judgement, (I'm too curious sometimes), I read on... Scary neo-Nazi stuff masquerading as a "father's rights" group. The mission of The Christian Party includes trying to rescind the right of women to vote (so as to stop women from promoting things like divorce rights or protecting themselves against rape), and exiling blacks and Jewish people. Wow. It is so sad and disturbing to me. And some of the platform of social conservatives and fundamentalists is simply a more toned-down version this sort of thing. That is scariest of all - it's not the fringes of society espousing many of these views (like the inferiority of different religions or cultures, of women, and of people of colour). And they are using pseudo-scientific "expert" opinions and statistics to make their points.

Paul Cameron is another one of these whackjobs, oft-cited by mainstream media, right wing preachers, and anti-gay activists. He has learned:
The more sensational a falsehood is about homosexuals, the more it will be repeated, and the more it's repeated, the less it matters whether or not it's true.

Among the "facts" (which are not - they are another example of truthiness) he likes to claim:

  • "The average life expectancy for a homosexual in the United States of America is 43 years of age."
  • "Children raised by homosexuals disproportionately experience emotional disturbance and sexual victimization"
  • Homosexuals are "10 to 20 times more likely than heterosexuals to molest children"
  • "17 percent [of gay people] eat human feces"

None of these "facts" are even close to being true, yet they are quoted and believed.
I feel sick.

At least This Article made me smile today. Read it - it is like a clean glass of fresh water after the putrid taste of hate.

More: Women's Rights, Car-free Movement, Racism, Religion, Gay Rights

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Why We Fight - A Film By Eugene Jarecki

The American elite is obsessed with military power. That is pretty obvious, but why? How did this happen? What does it mean?

You can watch a lot of this amazing documentary in clips for free - just run your mouse over the little pictures.

It starts with Eisenhower cautioning against the large and permanent war machine of the "Military-Industrial Complex" - to look back on this speech is quite amazing. His predictions coming to fruition is pretty scary, and here we are living what he warned about.

More: Film, War

Monday, February 06, 2006

Funk Off!

We own the country.
We own the media.
Stole it All!
From you!

Funk Off!

Funk Off!
Poor Whitey

Funk Off!
Poor Black Man!

Funk Off!
Poor Immigrant

Funk Off!
Poor Jew

To the:
Baby Boomers!
Junk Schlock!

Funk Off

Mickey Dees
For you!

There is only:
Two Classes!
The Rich!
The Richer!




For you.

Some free country.

We get away with murder
While saying:
We are only doing it!
All for you!

Load up your SUV’s
Head off to the Mall.
Make a day of it!

Blood & Guts
Family Violence for All!

As Iraqis pave:
The Highways
Along the way!

Smile and Wave!
At them:
For doing it!
The AmeriKo way!

Chinese Junks Ships are laden
Glass Beads!
For All!

They just bought:

On call!

Are you happy yet?
Living in a Reptilian:
Night Mare?

Things are getting better!
Things are looking up!
We are turning a corner!
Pay as you fill up.


Up is:
Lies are

- A Poem By Ottomatic, found on this very weird discussion.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Oil Shortage? Shell's CEO says "Nothing to Worry About"

Thanks to the Toronto Public Space committee for an impressive movie night last night here in Toronto. They showed the excellent End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of The American Dream. If you haven't already seen this, it is worth a watch. (You can buy it here and support independent media, too.)

Interesting related articles (courtesy of the Carfree Cities mailing list):

Various "doomsday" scenarios from the business press about price increases in oil here, including this lovely quote:
In a statement Friday, Shell's CEO Jeroen Van der Veer declared, "There is no reason for pessimism."
Well if the guy who is in charge of getting investors to feel good about Shell says there's nothing to worry about...

More scenarios:
In the bleakest scenario, an acute oil shortage and lack of affordable alternative energy source trigger a global depression. Economies collapse as businesses can no longer afford to move goods and people. People survive in increasingly isolated communities that have to learn to become self-sufficient, with most journeys made by bicycle or horse.

The most optimistic scenario envisages that a cleaner alternative to oil is available in abundance, allowing the present trend towards greater globalisation to continue apace.
Stephen Ladyman, the Transport Minister, is chairing a group that will assess progress towards resolving the issues raised by the report. “We have two choices,” he said. “We can stumble into the future in the hope it turns out right, or we can try to shape it.”

Topics: Environment, Urban Issues, Film