Archive for the ‘History’ Category

WORLD PEACE AT LAST! THANK YOU MCDONALD’S!

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Over the years I’ve wondered deeply if there is truly any way to achieve world peace, and over the years I’ve concluded: ‘Fat Chance.’ Why? Because most of us have a war going on inside our own heads, and that’s when things are going well. From there it’s all downhill. Families often can’t even avoid screaming at each other over who will do the dishes. Kind people celebrate the person they fall in love with as the greatest human being ever, only to hate them even more than Hitler a few months later. And finally, and less importantly, limited resources. I mean who has enough oil? I sure don’t. And these are often the emotions and actions of people who don’t want war. Then there are those who like war, feed off war, make money off war etc. You know, most lobbyists. So, peace is a difficult proposition.

Alas, it turns out I was unable to see a wider scope, a bigger truth: in short, the insatiable desire of the massive masses. My friends, McDonald’s (Vancouver’s Official Olympic Restaurant, if I can use that word loosely), who I constantly criticize for producing nutritionally vacuous food, negative labour conditions and cruelty to animals via factory farms, can no longer be criticized for anything.

Why?

Because what they do, it turns out, has all along actually been a secret peace plan that means I can only describe such non-violent dreamers as Gandhi, Thoreau, Martin Luther King, Tolstoy and Dr. Phil as complete morons. Or at least naive and idealistic. “All for the good of humanity” should be McDonald’s new slogan. Yes, it’s true, for according to two retired American military leaders in a BBC article:

More than a quarter of young Americans are now too fat to fight, they said.

Writing in the Washington Post, the ex-commanders said the fat crisis ruled out more potential military service recruits than any other medical factor [including intelligence].

They want Congress to introduce laws to give US children better nutrition in schools, with less sugar, salt and fat.

John Shalikashvili and Hugh Shelton, both former chairmen of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote: “Obesity rates threaten the overall health of America and the future strength of our military.”

“We consider this problem so serious from a national security perspective that we have joined more than 130 other retired generals, admirals and senior military leaders in calling on Congress to pass new child nutrition legislation,” the commanders added.

Legislation! They’re socialists to boot!

So Ronald McDonald understood all along that kids are our ultimate hope for peace, and it’s easier to fatten them up like Christmas turkeys and make them unable to walk (thus unable to fight except for launching drone missiles from Arizona) than it is to change the way they think about violence and strangers—and, anyway, why get in the way of video game sales?

In short, my lame, depressive response of ‘Fat chance’, it turns out ironically, is the closest I’ve yet been to remotely grasping absolute truth; the closest I’ve ever been to hope, to peace, to all-you-can-eat smorgasbords.

I say now: “Pig out for peace!” Gandhi would have been a fatty had he truly stood for non-violence. Put another way, who, with his matchstick legs, was Gandhi really working for?

‘Peace in our time,’ Neville Chamberlain once promised the world after a meeting with Hitler beneath the coming clouds of World War II, but he was unable to fatten up Hitler, wasn’t he? Look what happened. Yes, I’m seeing the connection as clear as a trans-fatty acid; as sure as I’m the bastard son of Julia Childs and David Icke.

My only uncertainty now is with sumo wrestlers, who can be pretty aggressive yet difficult to describe as skinny. How can this be? Surely they’re an anomaly. After all, jolly Santa is nothing but fun! And at least sumo wrestling is basically hand-to-hand combat. Don’t get me wrong, those guys are truly tough and mean and strong, but there’s something disarming about the large diapers—at least from afar.

Anyway, I’m relieved. Thank you McDonald’s. Thank you Burger King. Thank you spineless policy makers! Thank you endless advertisements pushing for the addiction of precious little children to food that causes obesity, Type II diabetes, heart disease, depression due to chronic illness and, of course, motionless little peaceniks to fat to fire.

The desperate commanders also added:

“We must act, as we did after World War II, to ensure that our children can one day defend our country, if need be.”

It’s too late, my commander friends, we the insatiable population have chosen peace. In fact, wey’re lining up for it in unprecedented numbers and at unprecedented weights. At ease, men. You deserve a break today.

I am going to sleep well tonight, full belly, and plans for a cook-out tomorrow, Sunday and every day. And to think I’d recently given up excess sugar! Why was I choosing violence? Eat ’til you swell if you love humanity.

Wait. What if I’ve said the wrong thing? What if being unable to defend the country due to excessive weight gain becomes a treasonous act? Damn. Now I don’t know who to defend. McDonald’s or the military? Maybe it’s back to my salads and vegetarian meals and, of course, the side of war that goes with it. You can’t win. And there goes my ‘Porkers for Peace’ button.

Wishing you health, laughter, and lots of self-love, whatever your body image—you’re beautiful. Undoubtedly. Undeniably.

Pete xo

Semantics Can Never Reverse Deaths in Afghanistan

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

“The silence of good people is worse than the actions of bad people.”
Malalai Joya

And when I say death and semantics with regards to Afghanistan, I mean death in great numbers.

And I’ll begin with an apologetic qualification: I have no expertise whatsoever on Afghanistan. Nonetheless, I find it painful and morally suspect when we in our ivory (okay, cement and wooden) towers fight over semantics regarding innocent sisters and brothers—and this can also include American/Canadian soldiers—who have to live under brutal, deathly, inconceivable conditions, regardless of the rights and wrongs of said semantics.

In the National Post (which is, evidently, more than semantically bankrupt), Raphael Alexander is righteously indignant because Noam Chomsky—and countless others from many papers—describe the American military actions in Afghanistan (and I suppose the Canadian actions, too) as an invasion.

INVASION OR EVASION?

Alexander quotes a colleague, Mark Collins:

There was no “invasion” of Afghanistan.

Before the fall of Kabul to the insurgent Afghan Northern Alliance in November 2001, and the consequent collapse of the Taliban regime, there were no foreign regular combat formations in Afghanistan [great, and the 15,000 military advisers Kennedy sent into south Vietnam were simply taking notes on the local flora].

MALALAI JOYA

For a different opinion on the Northern Alliance, I’d recommend Raphael at least comes to hear the remarkably courageous Afghan woman Malalai Joya talk this Saturday in Vancouver. She has stated:

“I realised women’s rights had been sold out completely…Most people in the West have been led to believe that the intolerance and brutality towards women in Afghanistan began with the Taliban regime.

But this is a lie.

Many of the worst atrocities were committed by the fundamentalist mujahedin during the civil war between 1992 and 1996. They introduced the laws oppressing women followed by the Taliban—and now they were marching back to power, backed by the United States. They immediately went back to their old habit of using rape to punish their enemies and reward their fighters.”

I guess that’s just her opinion—maybe even semantics—but she lived there, and she’s risked her life to say it, so it should be given some merit.

Continuing the Alexander article:

The Northern Alliance did receive air support [sounds like payments from dad after a divorce] and assistance [for welfare mothers] from special forces (both U.S. and British); that however is not an invasion.

Anyone must surely understand that, whether it’s an ‘invasion’ or simply a ‘war’—decide for yourself—one army’s ‘support’ and ‘assistance’ from the most powerful forces on earth will likely be another group of citizens’ ‘hell’ and ‘massacre.’

RUSSIAN TO JUDGMENT

Alexander’s article continues:

Substantial foreign ground combat forces—including Canadian—only entered the country after the Taliban had been deposed by indigenous Afghan forces.

Those foreign troops entered with the agreement of the Northern Alliance—which was the internationally recognized government of Afghanistan and held the country’s seat at the United Nations.

An agreement! That’s a relief! And I’m doubly relieved for the Afghan people because—using Alexander’s reasoning—isn’t it true, then, that the brutal Soviets didn’t ‘invade’ Afghanistan in 1980? After all, it is well documented that like the Americans with the Afghan Northern Alliance, the Russians also had an agreement and were repeatedly invited by the then-Marxist Afghan government to ‘assist’ and ‘support’ them against rebel insurgents.

From Wikipedia, and footnoted:

The Afghan government, having secured a treaty in December 1978 that allowed them to call on Soviet forces, repeatedly requested the introduction of troops in Afghanistan in the spring and summer of 1979. They requested Soviet troops to provide security and to assist in the fight against the mujahideen rebels [mujahideen—that sounds familiar. Oh yeah, freedom fighters the moral equivalent of the American founding fathers, at least according to, I believe, Ronald Reagan—while also being the ripe soil for the coming harvest of mad-men].

On April 14, 1979, the Afghan government requested that the USSR send 15 to 20 helicopters with their crews to Afghanistan, and on June 16, the Soviet government responded and sent a detachment of tanks, BMPs, and crews to guard the government in Kabul and to secure the Bagram and Shindand airfields.

This invitation to “support” and “assist” goes on and on here.

No, agreement or not, I think I’ll stick to the invasion theory of Soviet involvement.

And just as a trivial aside, the Northern Alliance may well be “the internationally recognized government of Afghanistan and held the country’s seat at the United Nations.” And the abominable Pol Pot-led Khmer Rouge held their country’s seat (Cambodia) at the United Nations—with American and British support for a number of Cold War reasons—until 1982, and then until 1993 (under a different name). In other words, with support from the West, the Khmer Rouge held a UN seat for nearly fifteen years after committing the second largest genocide of the 20th century.

RABBLE AND HUM

And although democracy is clearly irrelevant—or at least the will of the people and international opinion are clearly irrelevant—here are a few statistics on what citizens around the world thought at the time:

Public opinion at the beginning of the war also reflected this dichotomy between the United States and most other countries.

When the invasion began in October 2001, polls indicated that about 88% of Americans and about 65% of Britons backed military action in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, a large-scale 37-nation poll of world opinion carried out by Gallup International in late September 2001, found that large majorities in most countries favoured a legal response, in the form of extradition and trial, over a military response to 9/11: Only in just 3 countries out of the 37 surveyed—the United States, Israel, and India—did majorities favour military action in Afghanistan [Israel and India were undoubtedly, at least on some level, seeking precedence to attack without limitation their enemies—Palestine/Lebanon and Pakistan, respectively].

In 34 out of the 37 countries surveyed, the survey found many clear and sizeable majorities that did not favour military action: in the United Kingdom (75%), France (67%), Switzerland (87%), Czech Republic (64%), Lithuania (83%), Panama (80%), Mexico (94%), and other countries.

Eventually some of those numbers would change—over time and pressure—not unlike the reversal by Congress with the Bank bailout, which was, similarly due to its ‘legality’, clearly not an invasion of the the tax-payers’ pockets. It was ‘assistance’ and ‘support’ for the bewildered rabble.

AND BACK TO SEMANTICS

Alexander continues in the National Post:

In any event, the U.S was exercising its legitimate right of self-defence against the Taliban regime that was harbouring al-Qaida, the group behind the murderous Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.

Again the battle of semantics, with the term ‘legitimate right,’ but it was my understanding that the Taliban—and their ideology and actions are heinous (and now their moderate faction is being negotiated with!)—asked for evidence of al-Qaida’s involvement.

The American government couldn’t supply evidence, refused to seek legal channels (as was desired by many, many countries), and went forward to “smoke [bin Laden] out”—which still hasn’t happened, and is barely ever mentioned.

And I believe that even after an eight month utterly exhaustive FBI investigation, the FBI stated they did not have conclusive evidence of who was behind the horrendous, murderous 9/11 attacks.

Our ensuing investigation of the attacks of 9/11/01—code-named “PENTTBOM”—was our largest investigation ever. At the peak of the case, more than half our agents worked to identify the hijackers and their sponsors and, with other agencies, to head off any possible future attacks. We followed more than half-a-million investigative leads, including several hundred thousand tips from the public. The attack and crash sites also represented the largest crime scenes in FBI history.

And on December 11, 2001, from the FBI:

The indictment [of Zacarias Moussaoui ] we are announcing today is an important step in the process of bringing to justice those who we believe to be connected to these violent and vicious attacks on America.

I don’t doubt al-Qaida’s involvement in some large or small way, but the FBI’s evidence, by their own admission, was inconclusive.

What we did know from the FBI investigation and press release was that fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudi Arabian, and Wahabbi schools—supposedly often terror encouraging and anti-West in their teachings—had for years been largely financed out of Saudi Arabia.

Hence, days after 9/11: the American invasion of Saudi Arabia.

Oops, I mean, barely even a conversation. Meanwhile, the ‘House of Bush I & II/House of Saud’ money, resource and business connections et cetera are massive—and even in bits, available for anyone to research.

And here’s the real rub and the grand agony: the largely non-existent media and political attempts to seek out, let alone publicize, what the citizens of Afghanistan actually want. And what they want can be discovered. And call me cynical, but responding to Karzai’s requests—not to mention his suspected drug-smuggling brother—should not necessarily constitute the will of the Afghan people.

From a NY Times article:

Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials.

The agency pays Mr. Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the C.I.A.’s direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Mr. Karzai’s home.

The above certainly supports Joya’s bold claims of “warlords, drug lords and criminals” being all through the so-called democratic Afghan government.

Anyway, I’ve said too much. I just can’t stand it when that obvious final question isn’t asked: what do the people want—those who are suffering from the invasion/war/operation/occupation, or whatever you want to call it, as thousands die? Any true democrat would agree that what the citizens of Afghanistan want is the one question that ultimately really matters.

I’ll let the remarkably courageous Malalai Joya finish. Although she cannot speak for her entire country (although she was elected), she’s surely more important than some questionable battle of semantics:

We Afghans know that this election will change nothing and it is only part of a show of democracy put on by, and for, the West, to legitimise its future puppet in Afghanistan. It seems we are doomed to see the continuation of this failed, mafia-like, corrupt government for another term.

The people of Afghanistan are fed up with the rampant corruption of Karzai’s “narco-state” (his own brother, Wali Karzai, has been linked to drug trafficking in Kandahar province) and the escalating war waged by Nato. In May of this year, US air strikes killed approximately 150 civilians in my native province, Farah [in 2005 Malalai, representing Farah, became the youngest person elected to the new parliament].

More than ever, Afghans are faced with powerful internal enemies—fundamentalist warlords and their Taliban brothers-in-creed—and the external enemies occupying the country.

Democracy will never come to Afghanistan through the barrel of a gun, or from the cluster bombs dropped by foreign forces. The struggle will be long and difficult, but the values of real democracy, human rights and women’s rights will only be won by the Afghan people themselves.

So do not be fooled by this façade of democracy. The British and other Western governments that claim to be bringing democracy to Afghanistan ignore public opinion in their own countries, where growing numbers are against the war.

In my tours to countries that have troops in Afghanistan, I’ve met many bereaved parents who have lost their loved ones in the war in my home [also a profound and heart-breaking tragedy]. I am very sorry to see governments putting the lives of their soldiers in danger in Afghanistan in the name of bringing democracy. In fact the soldiers are serving the strategic and regional interests of the White House and the consequences of their occupation so far have been devastating for my people.

I believe that if the ordinary folk of Afghanistan and the NATO countries were able to vote, and express their wishes, this indefinite military occupation would come to an end and there would be a real chance for peace in Afghanistan. But today’s election does nothing for that.

Here’s to peace, love, hope that we may ask the right questions, honesty, and as few deaths and as much integrity as possible in Afghanistan—integrity in the papers, and from my heart (because I truly have so little knowledge, but this report just got my goat). And without doubt, in life sometimes you have to fight. That goes both ways.

Pete

Pro-God, Pro-War, Pro-Dictator, Anti-Labour (a theme, perhaps?): “The Family”—a curious Christian/Political Organization brought to you since 1935

Friday, August 7th, 2009

“The Fellowship’s reach into governments around the world is almost impossible to overstate or even grasp.”
—David Kuo, former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and Deputy Director of the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives

There is a fifteen-or-so minute interview from the CBC show the Current this morning about the low-profile, high-impact religious conservative group called The Family. Also known as The Fellowship, the group minister and promote the elite—that is to say, in the ideology of The Family, those in power are chosen by God. And it is the Powerful whom The Family support.

They minister to the elite, and not just in America.

They are fond of dictators.

Beginning in 1935, The Family/Fellowship are to me, anyway, a deeply bizarre amalgamation of ideologies beginning with a Roman Christianity sensibility. In other words, politicized Christianity, Christianity with a fist—from so-called biblical capitalism to Union busting. Workers, by this logic, are mistreated because God wants it that way. Outgrowths have included relationships with some of the worst dictators, for example Suharto in Indonesia, Papa Doc Duvalier in Haiti, and Said Barre in now lawless Somalia.

Believe it or not, The Family boards American Senators at a housing complex-cum-church (ie tax exempt) in Washington DC known as C Street. Three recent live-in Senators include Tom Coburn, John Ensign and Mark Sanford. Some lived there and some even philandered there (affairs known about by The Family for months, perhaps longer, before the press was even vaguely up to speed). The Family would then counsel the cheating Senator through the affair and the fallout.

Incidentally, The Family counsels these Senators not to resign. Why? Because these Senators are chosen not by the electorate, ultimately, but by God.

The Family/the Fellowship use the biblical King David as a role model. Not for what most people admire David for—standing up for the little guy (himself), against the dreaded Goliath. But for understanding power. When David in the bible had a heavenly, to be sure, extra-marital affair, he killed his mistress’ husband. That’s power. The King is dead, long live the King.

Doug Coe, their present-day Leader, says that, paraphrasing, I think they said, ironically, it was Hitler, Lenin and Mao who, this past century, best understood the New Testament. Why? Because the New Testament was not about love, it was about power.

POWER over RELIGION

What this indicates, to me at least, is that the Hitchens/Dawkins/Harris often-very-justified attack on fundamental religion is slightly misguided—or, at least, incomplete. Power overthrows everything, and the powerful, in myriad ways, stick together. Thus atheistic communism (Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot) or any other dictatorship (Barre, Duvalier, Hitler, Suharto etc), regardless of religious or non-religious affiliation, fit right in, and should not necessarily be separated.

Their ideology is Power.

The religion is secondary, if necessary at all. Just a good -ism and a hatred for most common folk will suffice. But to see this truism would diminish their Religion-is-the-Problem (and it is a problem!) polemic, not to mention book sales. Attack power and religion (and what the hell, throw in unconscious science), and who will publicize your book?

In short, low grade thinking dressed up in Power will exist whether this vast topic and spectrum called religion exists or not. Low grade science is awful, too (brilliant science creating hellish poisons, weapons etc). Low level thinking in communism, socialism, capitalism, atheism. They’re all brutal on the spirit, freedom, sustainability and compassion expansion. Low Grade Thinking in High Grade Power is the shadow of this world.

Ironically, one of The Family’s main guys in Africa is Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, who was a major part of the film Uganda Rising.

By the way, even the not-so-Leftist CIA called Suharto’s coup in 1965 one of the worst revolutionary crackdowns of the 20th century, killing possibly a million people.

The Family, evidently, was even inspiration for the sci-fi film The Blob, an early—very early—Steve McQueen vehicle. It’s all just plain weird, and perhaps dangerous, in an inconceivably bizarre world.

The interview is here. Press Part II, not Part I.

The good news is The Family has had very little success breaking in to Canadian politics.

Vaya con dios! Jiminy Crickets. Naw, go with love. And try to laugh, but cry if you have to! Breakfast Prayer, anyone?

Pete xo

BANKSTERS (as in bankers/gangsters): MUST, MUST, MUST READ

Monday, July 20th, 2009

“Some will rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen.”
—Woody Guthrie

And this:

After the oil bubble collapsed last fall, there was no new bubble to keep things humming — this time, the money seems to be really gone, like worldwide-depression gone. So the financial safari has moved elsewhere, and the big game in the hunt has become the only remaining pool of dumb, unguarded capital left to feed upon: taxpayer money. Here, in the biggest bailout in history, is where Goldman Sachs really started to flex its muscle.
—Matt Taibbi

If you re-read that paragraph a few times, you can really get a sense of the disease that is taking place—the all-pervasive cancer. At the most obvious—ignoring all the ills that got to this point—the symptom of the disease is this ongoing public (tax-payer) bailout of crap fiat money for the economies’ collapsed financial sector.

Maybe it’s not even paper money. Maybe it’s just magic, punched into a computer. Who knows? Whatever it is, it is of no inherent value, and yet devalues whatever ‘money’ means now. That actually also describes cancer cells multiplying.

This symptom (bail-out) is simultaneously the sickest form of so-called socialism (financially) and the sickest form of capitalism (outright theft—stealing rapaciously from public funds and still calling it a free-market). And from inside cancer itself comes a now even poorer, blinded citizenry, and a richer elite, which at some point defines a feudal system, or a dictatorship (even with so-called democracy, as Honduras is showing).

But enough of my clap-trap. A must read from Matt Taibbi’s Inside the Great American Bubble Machine.

And listen to the video, too, please. Of course this is a one-sided piece, but how many people list Hitler’s strong points?

To me, this may be simplified, but how else can the average person, like myself, understand any of what goes on with economic heists? For example, people got hopeless sub-prime mortgages they couldn’t pay back.

Their fault? Sure.

But the problem is caused or instituted or continued because of…

“…banks like Goldman Sachs who found ways to chop up crappy mortgages [if some Wal-Mart worker in Boise should have known they were crap, surely Goldman Sachs...] into little bits and then sell them off as securities to unwitting pensioners.

And there’s nothing ordinary people can do about that stuff. People who are in this business have trouble with a lot of this stuff. It’s enormously complicated, even for insiders….

And if you don’t understand it, if you don’t get it, there’s no way to vote on it sensibly. There’s no way to demand your congressman take action, and that insulates these people from any kind of action…”

Let’s be honest: like lawyer talk, heretofore, wherein and screw you in perpetuity, the whole thing is mystified and complicated, at least partially, with the plan to blind with bull***.

Just appalling. Democrats, Republicans (in fact Democrats big time, in case anyone was feeling smug). My old man has been describing this, through other utterly marginalized economic experts (and still marginalized), for twenty years. Meanwhile, the same perpetrators keep cycling through the system, no matter how bad or even heinous their policies.

These major bankers knew everything. But like a person caught up in, say, drugs or an affair—the rush so great, and these money grabs are an addiction—they don’t notice or literally can’t stop. They literally can’t be ethical: “It was bigger than both of us…” etc.

And President Obama, by posting these people to continued high positions, and the list would be comical if not so tragic (as Taibbi painfully points out), is simply further institutionalizing the sickness.

Seeing as Goldman Sachs ‘donated’, ha ha, more money than anyone else to his campaign, period, he likely believes them. It’s like disowning dear old dad if he paid for where you are. Difficult.

Fast-forward to today. It’s early June in Washington, D.C. Barack Obama, a popular young politician whose leading private campaign donor was an investment bank called Goldman Sachs — its employees paid some $981,000 to his campaign — sits in the White House. Having seamlessly navigated the political minefield of the bailout era, Goldman is once again back to its old business, scouting out loopholes in a new government-created market with the aid of a new set of alumni occupying key government jobs.

If Obama does have good intentions, I sure feel sorry for him.

But those insider banksters and then bankers in government and at the Fed knew and know what they are doing—that’s why and how they made the moves, deregulations, regulations, policy changes etc., they made and continue to make. It’s called uber-maximization of profit, regardless of the cost, the externalities, and it’s where the system ultimately collapses into an abyss of human aberration, greed and emptiness (but tell that to those getting this year’s bonuses).

Really, it’s just a free-for-all and a real picture of human nature, human greed, in the extreme. Why? As Clinton said about his White House indiscretions (and you can include Robert Rubin with Monica Lewinski), paraphrasing, ‘I did it for the worst possible reason: because I could.’

In the end, Monica was brushed off without a mention of her name, or the mental distress caused to her, while Clinton described Robert Rubin as the “greatest secretary of the Treasury since Alexander Hamilton.”

Many do actually question Hamilton’s competency. Thomas Jefferson supposedly considered Hamilton aristocratic and unprincipled. How Rubinesque! Thank you, Bill Clinton.

And do you think most bankers really care if the credibility of their profession is at this point more or less nil? At $700,000 bonuses for Goldman Sachs employees after record quarterly profits in the multi-billions—mere months after the public bailout—and a 1% tax rate last year (seriously), I am sure they care not a wit. After all, it’s simply a good investment on their Obama stocks (formerly Bush, formerly Clinton stocks).

I am sure the theories are not exactly correct. How could they be? But please, have a read, educate yourself and others a little more via something not utterly complicated. And from there, stand for your rights, your intelligence, your grandchildren, and yourself with every new day, as best you can. It’s not easy. We’re all human, after all,

Lots of love,

Pete

FACING ALI IN VARIETY

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

The first review in a major publication for Facing Ali, July 15, 2009 in Variety, which is an important Hollywood Industry magazine. A few appreciated phrases below:


“…first-rate…” “…so compelling…” “…impeccably researched…” “…excruciatingly moving…” “…top-notch production values…” “…nuanced insights…” “…extraordinary tales…”

The full review is here.

As the review intimates, the ten boxers really were terrific. I have such affection, compassion and respect for their stories, and their candor. I hope putting a good review on line doesn’t seem full blown. Samantha said it was cool. Heck, these things are fleeting, opinions, but I really would like the film, and these guys’ stories, to be seen and heard—and Lord knows I’ve posted bad reviews, too.

Pete

FACING ALI Academy Release July 10-16 in New York and Los Angeles

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Hope all is well. This is a blog for all those wonderful folks who have written or called or wondered where and when they can see Facing Ali. First off, I’d love you to see it! I’m not the only one. Check out this photo of ‘The Greatest.’

I’ve been lucky enough to be at full screenings in Seattle, Washington DC and Los Angeles, and I cannot say enough about how generous and enthusiastic the crowds have been. It was like family—families who really love each other. It’s also been shown in Nantucket and Maui.

For now, though, FACING ALI is opening June 10th for a limited one week engagement in LA and New York in what is called an Academy Release. This allows the film to have a shot at an Academy Award nomination. Wouldn’t that be something? That happens, and you’ll all see it.

If you happen to be near either of these two theatres, I’m so happy. If you know anyone near those places, please send an email or make a phone call.

New York:
New Coliseum Theatre
703 West 181st Street
New York, NY 10033

Los Angeles:
Laemmle Claremont 5
450 West Second Street
Claremont, CA 91711

If not, damn I’m sorry. Either way, spread the word if you’ve seen the film, or spread the word if you want to see it. You will love these ten guys who fought Ali, had their lives changed forever, and were a huge part of Muhammad Ali’s evolution. I loved ‘em.

The TRAILER is here.

And check this out for three online reviews.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

CONSPIRACY! Now All We Need Is A Sustainable Counter Conspiracy

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Cool rational, educated people often mock so-called conspiracy theories. But conspiracies really do exist. For example:

In 1949, [nearly defunct] General Motors, [brutal colonialists] Firestone Rubber, and [stronger than ever] Standard Oil of California were convicted by a federal jury of criminally conspiring to replace electric mass transit with GM-manufactured diesel buses; in a noteworthy illustration of justice for corporations, the court fined GM $5000 and forced H.C. Crossman, the GM executive responsible for carrying out GM’s policy, to pay $1.00.

Before you mock the GM executive only having to pay one dollar in 1949, remember what that dollar was worth in 1949. In fact, here’s the answer. $1.00 from 1949 was worth the following in 2008:

$9.03 using the Consumer Price Index
$7.48 using the GDP deflator
$15.13 using the unskilled wage
$26.14 using the nominal GDP per capita
$53.37 using the relative share of GDP

Isn’t that fascinating? Here’s the page that calculates such things, from 1774 to the present.

Back to the original conspiracy.

Cities where GM managed to eliminate electric/rail systems, and replace them with buses and private cars, included New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Louis, Oakland, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles.

This also happened in Vancouver, where just after the turn of the (19th) century Vancouver had an electric car system that actually far exceeded the needs or at least the size of the city. There was a route, that still exists today I believe, from Vancouver to Port Moody. Port Moody was a toss-up loser at the time to be the hub of the burgeoning metropolis.

There perhaps is no reason to believe these companies forsaw the environmental problems. Indeed, the term externalities was barely, if at all—not unlike now—included in the corporate profit plan.

That’s too bad, because these externalities (the bad ones) have played an unmitigated, unpaid for role in damaging the environment, some say irreparably, at least for us humans—and for countless other miraculous species, now long gone.

Externalities also play a massive role in the financial sector, for example, negative like gross inflation, inconceivable debt and economic collapse via speculation, irredeemable credit (and money) and endless public subsidy (subsidy pledged although the subsidy—money—doesn’t actually exist).

But back to the car. Lord knows most of us in the West have felt the seeming and real physical freedom and benefit from having a personal traveling package (a car) to scoot around in. The farther away work got, the more essential it became. Or was that what the electric transport system would have fulfilled?

I don’t know, but the original article begins:

The automobile did not come to dominate American transportation by chance or by public choice. It happened as part of a plan by auto makers to buy up and destroy mass transit companies.

General Motors led the way.

As recently as the 1920s, many American cities and towns were connected by a network of electric railroads and interurban trolleys. Within cities, electric street railways, trolleys, and elevated trains, moved large numbers of people easily and cheaply, with minimal congestion and pollution. But steel-wheeled electric/rail mass transit systems did not serve the needs of the automobile manufacturers and their allies in the steel, rubber, glass, concrete, and oil industries.

Beginning in the 1920s, General Motors began investing in mass transit systems. According to historian Marty Jezer (and Congressional hearings held in 1974), between 1920 and 1955, General Motors bought up more than 100 electric mass transit systems in 45 cities, allowed them to deteriorate, and then replaced them with rubber-tired, diesel-powered buses. Buses are more expensive, less efficient, and much dirtier than electric/rail systems. (And of course automobiles are even less efficient than buses, by far.

The full short article from 1995 is here.

Anyway, what the conspiracy of (the nearly defunct) GM, (criminally colonial) Firestone and (stronger than ever) Standard Oil tells me, is that with the right leadership, the right intention, the right understanding, and endless, relentless citizen demand, an opposite conspiracy can develop. And evidently, the sooner the better, to say the least.

We’ll see what happens. Either way, start a positive conspiracy with love and language. Just do it. You deserve a break today.

Pete

CANADA DAY CELEBRATION: Gratitude, Potential and Problems (oh yeah, and the inimitable Tommy Douglas)

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

“Nothing can be quite so resentful as a man who has ridden on your back for fifty years, and then you make him get off and walk.”
—Tommy Douglas

Tommy also said:

“The time has come for us to break away from the old-line parties and to elect a government that will represent all those who, with hands and brains, produced the wealth of this country.”

How can a country not be something special when the man voted ‘The Greatest Canadian‘ just a few years ago—Tommy Douglas—said such a bold statement—and actually meant it?

See some very untrivial Tommy Douglas trivia at the bottom of the page.

Tommy Douglas, for the record, was the father-in-law of Donald Sutherland, and the grandfather of Kiefer Sutherland.

CANADA DAY

With my sister, her husband and two children visiting Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, on Canada Day (July 1st), and after my friend Tim yelling at me for not mentioning Easter on Easter, I must say, a day late, how incredibly fortunate I am to live in Canada.

Concerns for political and religious freedom, limiting (visible) pollution, clean water, education, civil rights, our health care system and so on, are all remarkably positive—troubles notwithstanding.

I say this with the caveat that I am not a big State person. Compassion before patriotism. Human before Canadian. Borders, boundaries and exclusions are, in all their complexity, challenging to my belief systems and my heart.

Still, citizenship in this world, depending on the country, and for better or worse, is often the difference between rights and virtually no rights. Just ask the average refugee.

COMING HOME

But as I get older—and, yes, that is happening (I now comb over my back-hair to add thickness to my head hair. Just kidding—I actually use my relentless ear hair for that). Where was I? Yeah. The older I get, no matter where I have the good fortune of traveling to in this inconceivable world—where, to me, we are all brothers and sisters—the more grateful I am to come back to Canada.

CAPTAIN VANCOUVER

That feeling is deepened when I get back to Vancouver. It is a highly privileged lifestyle for a considerable percentage of the population. At least it is for me. Canada, as far as countries go, is a great country, with much to praise.

ENERGY

I do not say that naively, I hope. Canada’s per capita energy consumption is a disgrace, and shows a lack of personal initiative and hopeless leadership. I have heard we are the largest consumers of energy, per capita, in the world. Not a good event in which to win the Gold Medal—and here we are awarded the shameful Bronze Medal, “an embarrassing 27th out of 29 OECD nations in terms of energy use per capita.” Alberta, with the environmentally disastrous tar-sands, has been said to consume two-and-a-half times the national average.

THE DOWNTOWN EASTSIDE

In Vancouver, the Downtown Eastside remains, for countless reasons, a social catastrophe. And the fact that something like 30% of the disenfranchised in the area are First Nations, indigenous, is also a disgrace.

Hopefully the Truth and Reconciliation Commission over the crime of Residential Schools will continue to help a healing of which we can all gain more compassion, pride and traction. A friend of mine who works with indigenous people seeking compensation, and also works on the commission, was very happy with the three people appointed to oversee the proceedings.

Further, a First Nations person is something like nine times more likely than the rest of the Canadian population to be incarcerated in Canada. Without being able to offer solutions, I can still say this is repugnant. There was a thoughtful film on one sliver of the topic put out by Hugh Brody this year.

CAUSING MORE HARM

Our present government’s policies towards drug addiction also remain abysmal, largely backwards and still in lock-step with America’s disastrous War on Drugs Policies. Former Minister of Health Tony Clements actually called Insite, the only supervised needle injection site in North America (there are around 50 in the world), “an abomination.”

Thick ignorance—and not even fiscally pragmatic.

One of the main and most inspiring concerns and goals of Insite (and decent human beings): harm reduction. It seems to me a country’s commitment to harm reduction—perhaps even more so in deeply disenfranchised communities—is a marker for that country’s enlightenment, compassion, sustainability and leadership.

The above mentioned are some of our weaknesses. There are more, to be sure. It’s not easy being human. But there is greatness here, and great potential—as there is everywhere.

FREE SPEECH

And a mere glance at the Amnesty International magazine that comes every few months—and seeing true abominations in China and elsewhere with ten year jail sentences meted out over pro-democracy emails etc—reminds me to the core of my being the greatness (or at least sanity) of the Canadian government’s overall relative reluctance to use force against its citizens. This allows for the hope and brilliance of free speech, at least to a large degree (this freedom thanks to the efforts, over generations, of the people themselves, protesting on Canadian soil).

This freedom, earned by courageous people acting in solidarity, allows for the opportunity to have no excuse to not fight for increased social justice and freedom, here and everywhere.

And with freedom of speech, one can choose solidarity or division, all along the spectrum. One can choose love, and defending the vulnerable. How great is that? Think of the potential, even in a crazy world.

I am privileged to have grown up and live in Canada. I am grateful to be here. But at my best, my heart is with all sisters and brothers, everywhere.

Lots of love to you and yours, sisters and brothers, in solidarity. I encourage comments: agreements, disagreements and inspiring ideas and additions.

Pete

You have to check this fantastic audio recording from Tommy Douglas.

A LITTLE TOMMY TRIVIA

—Brought in North America’s first Medicare (universal health care in Saskatchewan). The mass of doctors, yes, the doctors in the province—backed up by the North American medical establishments—vilified Tommy, doing everything they could to stop its manifestation. Remember this! Showing no ability for working class moxy, the doctors abandoned their strike against universal health care after three weeks.

When Medicare passed in Saskatchewan in 1961/62—see also Emmett Matthew Hall—the rest of Canada wanted it too. A few years later, Medicare went national.

—Ushered in the first Bill of Rights (of its kind) in North America, outlawing discrimination for gender and race equality in Saskatchewan (1947), eighteen months before the United Nations! When he called for a national Bill of Rights in 1950, no one supported him.

—Balanced the budget for 17 straight years.

—Early and strongly outspoken opponent (1965) of the Vietnam War.

—Changed the liquor law to allow women to also drink in bars (Keifer, no!). Not bad for someone who was a Baptist minister before going into politics.

—Said a big fat “No” to Trudeau administering the War Measures Act (Martial Law) in 1970. In the day, this was very unpopular, but showed the measure of the man’s belief in civil liberties (geezuz, a socialist-libertarian).

—Basically brought paved roads, electricity and indoor toilets to rural Saskatchewan.

—Made employers guarantee employees a minimum of two weeks paid vacation every year.

—He brought in old-age pension.

—His Arts Board in Saskatchewan was a North American first.

And for all this he was accused of being a Bolshevik, etc etc, by the same ol’ fat cats…

Happy Canada Day!

EUGENICS ALERT!

Later in the day!

Wouldn’t you know it? After writing all of the above, I discovered an article on line from John Robson of the Western Standard talking about Tommy Douglas’ masters dissertation. Written in 1933, the paper is, evidently (I haven’t seen it), an ugly 33-page essay advocating eugenics—the sterilization of so-called “Subnormal” families (mentally disabled) to minimize the perpetuation of “morons” on society. In the paper, Robson says that Douglas also advocates physical and mental health certificates.

Eugenics was actually deeply popular at the time. Nonetheless, this is not pleasing or pretty.

Did Tommy have a change of heart afterwards and come to see the fascist nature of those ideas? I can’t say for sure, but all evidence seems to point that way. Tommy witnessed Hitler (a real pro-eugenics guy) in 1936 in Germany and called him a “mad dog.” He was also sure Hitler could not be appeased. Douglas pushed for war and offered to enlist himself.

THE KING OF DUPEVILLE

In contrast, the Canadian Prime Minister in 1937 said upon meeting Hitler:

“He smiled very pleasantly, and indeed had a sort of appealing and affectionate look in his eyes. My sizing up of the man as I sat and talked with him was that he is really one who truly loves his fellow man and his country…his eyes impressed me most of all. There was a liquid quality about them which indicated keen perception and profound sympathy (calm, composed)—and one could see how particularly humble folk would come to have a profound love for the man.”

Now that’s scary.

DELIVERANCE

Once Premier of Saskatchewan, Douglas pushed for and achieved better care for institutionalized mental patients, universal health care [unheard of] and he produced in 1947 the first Bill of Rights in North America (even before the UN). The Bill outlawed discrimination due to race and/or gender. Tommy also advocated workers rights, equalized gender drinking rights, brought in old-age pension and on and on.

Although not knowing the deepest thoughts of Tommy’s heart, he seems by his actions to be a profound and progressive champion of human rights, inspiring, indefatigable and utterly trend-setting for the time.

WESTERN STANDARDS

I don’t know, but I feel that John Robson has perhaps a political bone to pick. My guess is he is repulsed by the social democrat ideal. I could be wrong. Either way, Tommy’s life remains remarkable.

EUGENICS INC.

It should also be noted that in 1928, five years before Tommy’s dissertation, the Legislative Assembly of Alberta actually enacted the Sexual Sterilization Act, the objective being to prevent mentally disabled persons from producing off-spring.

In short, at the time, Tommy’s dissertation was not even particularly radical. On the other hand, his 1947 Bill of Rights and his 1962 Universal Health Care Plan were downright incendiary, futuristic and ushered in social revolutions.

I do agree with Robson that it is interesting that the dissertation is rarely if ever brought up by Douglas’ supporters.

I guess that’s human nature (curable, perhaps, by eugenics).

But perhaps as Robson himself said in his article, paraphrasing, Douglas is barely known, anyway.

EUGENICS

In 1883, Sir Francis Galton, inspired by his half-cousin Charles Darwin, coined the term. The popularity of eugenics in the early part of the century is fascinating and disconcerting. It was commonly taught in universities at the time, and according to Wikipedia:

“From its inception eugenics was supported by prominent people, [of wildly differing ideologies] including Margaret Sanger [birth control advocate], Marie Stopes [birth control advocate], H. G. Wells [science fiction writer], Woodrow Wilson [Democrat president], Theodore Roosevelt [Republican president], Emile Zola [French writer], George Bernard Shaw [vegetarian playwright], John Maynard Keynes [bail-out economist], John Harvey Kellogg [prudish doctor and cereal-namer], Winston Churchill [colonizer and mostly conservative British war-hero], Linus Pauling [scientist and Vitamin C guy] and Sidney Webb [can't remember].”

Hitler [bad person], of course, is the most famous proponent—and executer. In Sweden, evidently, a eugenics program was continued until 1975.

The wonderful GK Chesterton [fat, witty and insightful] was an early opponent.

And that’s it. Love ya!

Pete

The Cult of Current Economic Policy and the dream of Post-Autistic Economics

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

“It is within the power of writers and artists to do much more: to defeat the lie!”
—Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Yet another great article from Deborah Campbell. An older article (2004), but given the recent brutal outcomes of long term disastrous economic policy, something very worth hearing about: Post-Autistic Economics.

This is the moniker (is that the right word?) designated by some of the brightest university economic students in the world to describe an economics beyond the neo-classical religion currently preached. What is interesting is this protest movement—a movement demanding not the end of neo-classical economics, but simply the inclusion of other (sinful) economic ideas in course materials as well—did not begin in 2009, after the recent economic collapse. It didn’t begin after 9/11, in 2001, either.

Nay, it began somewhere around 2000.

Here’s an excerpt from the essay that has very little to do with the defining of Post-Autistic Economics. But it sums up the mentality of the current rapacious policy based on, in my opinion, the lie of so-called free market principles and infinite growth (in a finite world). And given the excerpt, it’s quite sad how I mindlessly always applaud people who are accepted to Harvard (and it’s not their fault)…

Harvard President Lawrence Summers illustrates the kind of thinking that emerges from neoclassical economics. Summers is the same former chief economist of the World Bank who sparked international outrage after his infamous memo advocating pollution trading was leaked in the early 1990s.

“Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDCS [Less Developed Countries]?” the memo inquired. “I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that . . . I’ve always thought that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted . . . ”

And we think the Scramble for [the polluting, stealing and crushing of] Africa is over! This is the head of Harvard, for the love of the Union—and former chief economist of the World Bank.

Brazil’s then-Secretary of the Environment, Jose Lutzenburger, replied: “Your reasoning is perfectly logical but totally insane . . . Your thoughts [provide] a concrete example of the unbelievable alienation, reductionist thinking, social ruthlessness and the arrogant ignorance of many conventional ‘economists’ concerning the nature of the world we live in.”

I can’t even see the “perfectly logical” part. The whole thing seems if not insane, hopelessly racist and cruel (I guess that is insane); a sort of sickness from which we are covered in varying degrees. May I be so pretentious as to quote Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man as if his words were on the tip of my tongue? They were not. I barely know his writing, yet he is quoted in a book I’m reading:

“…the preservation of misery in the face of unprecedented wealth constitute the most impartial indictment [of, say, neo-liberal economic policy]—even if they are not the raison d’etre of this society, but only its by-product: Its sweeping rationality [for example the math of neo-liberal economics], which propels efficiency and growth, is itself irrational.”

And this was written in 1964. Boy, he hadn’t seen nothin’ yet. And back to the Harvard president:

Summers later claimed the memo was intended ironically, while reports suggested it was written by an aide. In any case, Summers devoted his 2003/2004 prayer address at Harvard to a “moral” defense of sweatshop labor, calling it the “best alternative” for workers in low-wage countries.

I gave my arguments against these types of ideas here, a few years ago.

Anyway, Deborah’s full article is here. Food (if you can afford it) for thought. And if you ask me, hope. People care—all over the place, people care; people seek creativity; people seek freedom. People even practice or express altruistic behaviour, regardless of what people who don’t practice altruistic behaviour say.

Lots of love, solidarity, hope, and alternative thinking,

Pete

FACING ALI in Los Angeles

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

“If you even dream of beating me you better wake up and apologize.”
—Muhammad Ali

We haven’t had any newspaper reviews yet for Facing Ali, but received three much appreciated online five star reviews from people at the Seattle International Film Festival. This is one that I could read over more than once:

(May 29, 2009) Floats like a butterfly…

By Richard Erwin

“…stings like a bee. A fantastic movie. It reminds you of what boxing is for so many who’ve attempted it—a way out of a bad life, and no guarantee that you’ll get what you seek, even when you’ve achieved it. The interviews with each of the boxers that faced Ali were each a gem in their own right, but taken together….one of the best sports, hell, documentaries about lives, and what bound them together, ever.”

SILVERDOCS

Had a great time in Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside of Washington DC, at the SilverDocs festival. The crowd for Facing Ali was wonderfully animated. It’s really fulfilling to the see the film with a crowd. The Q&A was moderated by the very well-informed sports journalist David Dupree—and I met many terrific, interesting people. There’s another showing tomorrow night, the 22nd, at 8:pm.

I went into DC on the morning of the screening and took some archival b-roll of the city! After all, one never knows what the next project might be (but one does know archive will be expensive!), and with the White House, the Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Federal Reserve and the Capitol Dome all within a fifteen minute walk of each other (some minutes apart), and a little High Def camera in my hands, well, I couldn’t resist. Got a quick ‘don’t-do-that’ from security for using a foot long Joby tripod trying to get decent shots of the marble President Lincoln, but it all worked out. What a statue that is. It’s etched in my ol’ gray matter from Mr Smith Goes To Washington—and, yes, that film is a few decades before my time.

It was surreal to see it all. Couldn’t get within a half mile of the White House. The rumour was helicopters were landing there. Two security guys were on the roof. Well, I hope they were security guys.

It’s heartbreaking to see the names of the something like 59,000 American soldiers who were killed during the invasion of Vietnam, all engraved on the Vietnam monument. 59,000. And then to consider for a moment that something like 3.4 million people died in Indochina altogether during that horrific war (I guess horrific as an adjective for war is redundant). I say Indochina because one should never forget the horrific and illegal (wasn’t it all illegal?)—well, even more illegal carpet bombings of Cambodia and Laos.

LAFF

Facing Ali is then in LA on the 27th and 28 at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and I heard there was a coming-to-theatres-soon TV commercial for the Facing Ali, which is exciting. May it come to Vancouver!

From the LAFF website:

Gorgeously shot [the Red Camera—shot beautifully by Ian Kerr] against the rich reds and browns of boxing rings, gyms and arenas, Facing Ali tells the stories of ten men who faced the charismatic, fast-talking dynamo some believe was the greatest fighter of all time: Muhammad Ali.

Using dynamic graphics [graphics by the super creative Jeremy Unrau] and gorgeous archival footage to quickly set down the facts of Ali’s life and career, McCormack delves into the history of each contest and the boxer who fought it. Forgoing testimony from sportswriters and celebrity fans [and no narration], McCormack lets these ten men tell their story and Ali’s entirely in their own words [I can't express how great and diverse the ten guys were—Cooper, Chuvalo, Terrell, Frazier, Norton, Foreman, Lyle, Shavers, Leon Spinks, Holmes].

The history they reveal is unexpectedly moving. The chance to fight Ali was life changing, and many acknowledge that boxing is a profession of last resort for the poor. The film also reveals the darker side of the confidence and drive that helped make Ali the hero he is but also may have kept him in the ring longer than he should have stayed. As one of his opponents [Ron Lyle] notes, “You can lose your life giving the people what they want to see.”

In sum, it was a thrill to be in DC and at the festival in Silver Spring—and inspiring to see people so moved and enthused and touched by these ten great boxers, who fought Muhammad Ali, as they tell their rich stories.

Looking forward to LA. I’ll be in attendance for both viewings.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

THE PLIGHT OF REFUGEES, INTERNALLY PLACED PERSONS and BEING HUMAN

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

In June 2008, after a night of terror in a refugee camp for Darfur refugees in Chad (terror perpetrated by refugees living there), a group of courageous women living there decided to speak out. They created a document that has come to be called the Farchana Manifesto.

This short piece tells their story and discusses some of the problems with long-term refugee camps, a lack of refugee rights, a lack of citizenship, IDPs (internally displaced people), the treatment of women and the pressures and demands on the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).

At the end there are a also a few more refugee/IDP statistics (footnotes to the right of the piece) from around the world. The numbers of Iraqis forced from their homes since the American invasion of 2003 is worth knowing, and its interesting to see which countries are willing to take in the most refugees.

There’s an informative interview on Iraq refugees from the wonderful journalist Deborah Campbell on Democracy Now here, from 2008.

Ivan Gayton, the friend I interviewed at the beginning of the piece (and who interviewed the unnamed and inspiring and courageous refugee woman above), is as far as I know in a deeply disrupted Pakistan right now, I think Peshawar, doing humanitarian work. I emailed him a week or so ago, I will try again today, and I’m hoping to hear back soon. if I hear from him, I’ll offer what updates I can.

Wishing you, and all sisters and brothers, lots of love, awareness, compassion and freedom,

Pete

EL CONTRATO—Mexican Migrant Workers in Canada

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

Continuing from the previous blog, here’s a revealing and provocative film called El Contrato from the national Film Board of Canada. It is about the challenges facing Mexican migrant farm workers shipped to Canada from Mexico on eight month work contracts. Although the film only gives the side of the workers, the film is still very worth seeing. The conditions these brothers (I didn’t see any women) work under are often brutal and degrading and abusive—and who can be against giving a voice to the almost always voiceless? Not me.

The 49 minute film can be seen in its entirety here.

Workers who have left their family and sometimes children in Mexico and sign contracts in Canada have them being paid $7.50 an hour, working ten hours a day, seven days a week for eight straight months. Then something like a quarter of the paltry wage they make goes to government taxes and other payments. Perhaps it is better than what could be made in Mexico, but it is against the labour laws of Canada, that have been fought on behalf of human dignity and rights for for a hundred years or more.

Here’s to remembering how important it is that people, communities, continue to come together…

On that note, and speaking of Mexico, it is important to remember that the fight of the indigenous people in Chiapas continues unabated. I’m not sure of the accuracy of the numbers, but I have heard a third of Mexico’s military forces remain stationed in Chiapas, and human rights abuses and State terror continue. A friend of mine is traveling there soon to offer her expertise in helping those who have suffered terrorism and torture. See Nettie Wild’s film A Place Called Chiapas, from the mid 1990s.

Lots of love,

Pete

SALT OF THE EARTH: The Endless Struggle for Human Dignity Continues

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Lately researching the remarkable mining history and Union history in the Kootenay regions of British Columbia, Canada, and reading about the conditions of migrant workers in the farms in the Lower Mainland of wealthy British Columbia even today, the information continues to be eye-opening, disconcerting and heart-breaking—and these people deserve our support, for the love of god.

But reading about and remembering and seeing the vigilance and determination of people over centuries up to this very second, risking everything to live lives of dignity and anything resembling equality is endlessly inspiring.

SPEAKING OF IDEOLOGY: Startling Juxtaposition

In 1954, On The Waterfront (portraying longshoreman, and thus Unions, as corrupt) came out perfectly (and not coincidentally, I am sure) in time with McCarthyism and the ongoing House Committee on UnAmerican Activities. It received countless accolades (the movie, I mean, from most people, and the House Committee from many—and vitriol, too).

The director Elia Kazan, who was “…among the first to cooperate with the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities in 1952, which led to the blacklisting that ruined many careers in Hollywood because of their political beliefs”, won Best Director at the Academy Awards and Marlon Brando’s famous lines were uttered: “I coulda had class, I coulda been a contender, I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum

In life’s remarkable irony, and inherent counterforce, another movie was made that same Cold War year of 1954. It was called Salt of the Earth. It was banned in both Canada and the States—which is shockingly hard to believe.

Salt of the Earth‘s director was Herbert Biberman, one of the so-called Hollywood Ten, blacklisted and jailed for over six months for not naming names—of friends—as Elia Kazan had.

It was put together by black-listed writers and directors. Post-production services, evidently, wouldn’t even help them, likely, often, for fear of reprisals. The film was was paid for, at least in part, by the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers. It was based—I don’t know how closely—on the real-life and brutal strike by Mexican-American and “Anglo” miners against the appalling conditions imposed by the Empire Zinc Company.

I just saw it. My heart broke the entire time.

It is deeply worth watching, for its historical significance, the fact that it was banned, its use of professional and unprofessional actors, its (light) description of racism even within the Unions and the effect of hammering the Union men unintentionally pushing further the Women’s Rights movement.

Also, as a note, Will Geer (who played the Grandpa in the Waltons when I was a kid) play the sheriff.

Humans is as humans are, but the struggle for dignity, rights and something resembling equality will never end.

In an interview with Noam Chomsky, he said:

We don’t know anything much about human nature except that it’s rich and complex and common to the entire species and determines everything we do. Beyond that, it’s mostly speculation.

But a look at history and perception of what we see, does, I think, lend some credibility to a traditional view coming out of the Enlightenment—it is at the core of liberalism, the ideals we are supposed to honour but disregard—which says that fundamental to human nature is a kind of instinct for freedom, which shows up in creative activities.

This is actually the core of Cartesian philosophy, the core of Enlightenment political thought. And I think we see plenty of examples of it: people struggling all over the world for freedom.

They don’t like to be oppressed.

Are Unions perfect? Far from it. Were they racist in the past? Often. Are they monolithic in the present? In so many ways. Would there be the human rights we have today without them—the eight hour day, minimum wages, child labour laws, safety labour laws, health benefits, maternity leave? Not a chance.

NOT A CHANCE; NOT A PRAYER; NOT A HOPE. I try to always remember this fact.

And nothing, nothing, from my reading and observation, drove people towards so-called radical socialism, and into Unions, and nothing pushed women towards so-called equality, more than the extreme greed, oppression and self-defined superiority of so-called industrial capitalists, and their earlier incarnations.

The two live off each other, and define the other—and one lives a lot better off than the other. They have been used by despots and barons and tyrants since before their names were known.

Again, on many levels, I can’t recommend the film enough. Banned. Geezuz.

Tons of love, dignity and solidarity to you,

Pete

REFORM VIA STRANGE CIRCUMSTANCES: From Anti-Immigration/Racism to Canada’s First Drug Law

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

“…it’s misleading to say the Left has usually been in favour of a strong State and the Right a weak State [what a joke, anyway]. The question is, really, what did they want the State to do? To smash poverty, or smash heads? To break up monopolies or break unions? To end poverty or exterminate native people? Much of the Left and the Right have called for State intervention; the real question is, for what purposes?
—Mark Leier

Why do reforms happen? Well, the reasons are infinite, of course, depending on time, place and circumstance, and who knows what else (follow the money). But I was just reading about how labour movements in Western Canada, around the turn of the century, and in a noble fight for dignity (safety, fair pay etc) were so against immigration from Europe (Italians, Slavs) and even more so China, Japan and India.

The policies were for some, I am sure, pragmatism gone awry—cheap labour killed whatever power a union could get—for others, thick racism.

I thought you might find this interesting, from the year 1900:

1900 – [Mega industrialist] James Dunsmuir is elected Premier of [British Columbia], after running on a platform that focused on Asian exclusion. He took this to a level that none of his competitors could match [or afford], by promising voters that he would replace all of the Asian workers at his Nanaimo mines with Europeans.

It gets even uglier seven years later:

1907 – 7 September – A rally organized by the racist Asiatic Exclusion League and the trade unions of Vancouver was held at city hall in Vancouver to protest increasing Asian immigration to Canada.

Many white workers perceived these immigrants as threats to their jobs in the resource industries, because existing white chauvinism was exacerbated by the employment of Asian immigrants at far lower wages.

The rally, which attracted 8000 people, quickly became violent, and an attack was launched on Vancouver’s Chinatown. Thousands of dollars of damage was done to buildings as marchers smashed windows and shouted racist slogans.

The Chinese community in Vancouver declared a three-day general strike in protest, and armed themselves with rocks, sticks and guns in preparation for a return attack. A second riot did occur, a few days later, when the local papers published accounts of Asians buying up guns. The police intervened in the second riot, but not before residents of Chinatown, perched on the roofs of their buildings, rained a hail of rocks and bottles down on the invading mob.

Despite the willingness of the attacked minorities to defend themselves when it came to physical danger, they were entirely without weapons in the legislatures, courts and popular press in Canada.

The full piece is here.

This, for me, is big pause for contemplation as to what is truly behind anti-immigration laws, and the opposite, in different countries. Racism? Labour protection? Labour crushing?

Anyway, just after reading the above, I read the following excerpt from a doctoral thesis by Catherine Carstairs called ‘Hop Heads’ and ‘Hypes’: Drug Use, Regulation and Resistance in Canada, 1920-1961 (my italics):

Canada’s first drug law was the indirect result of anti-Asian riots on the West Coast in 1907.’ [see above]

The government sent Deputy Minister of Labour, William Lyon Mackenzie King [who would later become Prime Minister of Canada], to investigate the riots and the claims for compensation.

One of the claims was by several opium manufacturers who up until that time had been operating openly and legally on the West Coast. When he was in British Columbia, members of a Chinese anti-opium league called upon King and asked for the government’s help in their efforts to discourage and prevent the manufacture and sale of opium.

King subsequently tabled a report that warned that opium smoking was not confined to the Chinese in British Columbia and that it was spreading to white women and girls. He quoted a newspaper clipping that told the story of a pretty young girl who had been found in a Chinese opium den.

His report reviewed the progress of the anti-opium movement in China [despite the British and the Opium Wars, their demanding free trade of the product!], the United States, England and Japan, leaving the impression that Canada was far behind in this international moral reform movement!

Some things really never do change.

A few weeks later the Minister of Labour introduced legislation prohibiting the manufacture, sale and importation of opium for other than medicinal purposes. The legislation passed without debate.

Three years later the government prohibited the use of opium and other drugs.

In 1911, the sale or possession of morphine, opium or cocaine became an offense carrying a maximum penalty of one year’s imprisonment and a $500 fine. There was no minimum penalty. Smoking opium was a separate offense and carried a maximum penalty of $50 and one month imprisonment. Again, there was no minimum penalty.

Racist unions, who by definition defend the little guy? The Democrats voting down the Civil Rights Act in 1965? The ‘fiscally responsible’ Reagan Republicans turning the USA from the richest creditor nation to the world’s biggest debtor nation? and so on, and on and on. The bail out in countries that claim to be free market (and have never been).

Funny how we humans yearn for words to make sense of things, when slowly, so many words have ceased to have real meaning—other than to obfuscate. Is that the right word? I don’t know—other than to confuse us.

Anyway, history I found tonight, that I thought you might find provocative.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

TRUE DEMOCRACY and TRUE ANARCHY: Clark Kent and Superman?

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

I’ve been doing a little research on social movements in British Columbia, the Kootenays specifically, around the 1900s—fascinating labour struggles that are, absurdly, rarely taught, even in those places. In the process I came across this interview with Simon Fraser University professor Mark Leier (that had nothing precisely to do with the aforementioned research). Nonetheless, interesting, and ideologically related. In talking about his book on the famous anarchist Bakunin, and asked about the term Anarchy in general, Leier said:

Mark Leier:

No question, the word anarchy freaks people. Yet anarchy—rule by no one—has always struck me as the same as democracy carried to its logical and reasonable conclusions. Of course those who rule—bosses and politicians, capital and the state—cannot imagine that people could rule themselves, for to admit that people can live without authority and rulers pulls out the whole underpinnings of their ideology.

Once you admit that people can—and do, today, in many spheres of their lives—run things easier, better and more fairly than the corporation and the government can, there’s no justification for the boss and the premier.

I think most of us realize and understand that in our guts—but schools, culture, the police, all the authoritarian apparatuses, tell us we need bosses, we need to be controlled “for our own good.”

It’s not for our own good—it’s for the good of the boss, plain and simple.

I haven’t read the entire article, but that opening was compelling enough to post. Here’s the rest of the interview, in the Tyee.

Lots of love and freedom and self-rule to you,

Pete

NOAM CHOMSKY on the RE-TELLING/SELLING of HISTORY, PAST and PRESENT

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Noam Chomsky, who is 80 now, has undoubtedly had a very difficult year. A few months ago his wife Carol, a brilliant woman in her own right, died from cancer. They had known each other forever, since Carol was five, and the two had been married for 60 years. I often hope he’s able to push on, having been such a remarkable source of information for so many, in multiple fields—and that he remembers and is energized by the important gift of his great intellect and work ethic.

Anyway, he wrote a powerful and sobering article that was published on his site the other day, and elsewhere. Even if you largely disagree with Noam’s political stance, it is highly recommended for the little reminders of historical facts that it gives—before such facts fall down the memory hole.

Entitled The Torture Memos, an excerpt:

Let us then turn to “reality itself”: the “idea” of America from its earliest days.

The inspirational phrase “city on a hill” [to describe the common American ideal of her own birth] was coined by John Winthrop in 1630, borrowing from the Gospels, and outlining the glorious future of a new nation “ordained by God.” One year earlier his Massachusetts Bay Colony established its Great Seal. It depicts an Indian with a scroll coming out of his mouth. On it are the words “Come over and help us.” The British colonists were thus benevolent humanists, responding to the pleas of the miserable natives to be rescued from their bitter pagan fate.

The Great Seal is a graphic representation of “the idea of America,” from its birth. It should be exhumed from the depths of the psyche and displayed on the walls of every classroom.

The current difficulties of indigenous people in both America and Canada (in Canada, an indigenous person is nine times more likely to be incarcerated than a non-indigenous person) may also be a reflection of curious “benevolence,” past and present.

And another:

In a 1980 study, Latin Americanist Lars Schoultz found that US aid “has tended to flow disproportionately to Latin American governments which torture their citizens…to the hemisphere’s relatively egregious violators of fundamental human rights.” That includes military aid, is independent of need, and runs through the Carter years.

Broader studies by Edward Herman found the same correlation, and also suggested an explanation.

Not surprisingly, US aid tends to correlate with a favorable climate for business operations, and this is commonly improved by murder of labor and peasant organizers and human rights activists, and other such actions, yielding a secondary correlation between aid and egregious violation of human rights.

These studies precede the Reagan years, when the topic was not worth studying because the correlations were so clear. And the tendencies continue to the present.

Small wonder that the President [Obama] advises us to look forward, not backward—a convenient doctrine for those who hold the clubs. Those who are beaten by them tend to see the world differently, much to our annoyance.

The man is still going strong, unstoppably, speaking as he does for the “wretched of the earth”, and whomever isn’t heard. I appreciate it—and learn from him—greatly.

The full article is here.

I had the privilege of interviewing Noam a few years ago. That interview is here.

Lots of love, and remembering, and action,

Pete

MUHAMMAD ALI at SILVERDOCS for FACING ALI

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me. It would be a better world.
—Muhammad Ali

I just heard the coolest news. Muhammad Ali has confirmed to be in attendance for the screening of FACING ALI at the Silverdocs Documentary Festival in Washington DC in the middle of June (I think the 16th).

That’s a wonderful thing for a kid (now 44) who directed Facing Ali and who, as a younger kid in elementary school, used to hand in spontaneous essays on Ali because…well, d-uh, he was the greatest. It was about the only work I did, if I remember correctly. No, there was the 50-page report on sharks, too—I loved sharks—and the five-foot papier-maché replicate hammerhead.

I didn’t have any gray paint, so I painted the poor creature beige. No one said a word. The underbelly was still white. Then my sister took ‘ol hammerhead to school for her grade eight project, never brought it back, and it ended up getting incinerated by some janitor who obviously didn’t get the lumpy and beige yet sublime skill of my artistic endeavor. But that, my friends, really was pretty much all the work I did.

I loved the Montreal Canadiens, as well, but that had very little to do with school. Au contraire.

Either way, after a couple of years of fanatical research, countless hours of archive-diving, interviewing some of his greatest (and forceful) opponents and all else required, collaboratively with a great team, I really look forward to meeting him (Muhammad Ali, that is—not the hammerheads).

Lots of love to you,

Pete

FACING ALI in SEATTLE (May 29, June 1)

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

For those in Seattle and area, FACING ALI is at the Seattle International Film Festival. I think it should be a great time.

These are the two dates (maybe double check at the SIFF site to make sure I got it right).

Pacific Place Cinema 600 Pine Street, 4th floor
Friday 7:00 pm

The Egyptian Theater 801 East Pine Street
Saturday 1:45 pm

Oh, and I will be in attendance. Whether there will be a Q&A afterwards, I don’t know, but hopefully, because they’re always a lot of fun.

The trailer:

Lots of love to you,
Pete

PBS HIJACKED: Well, not PBS, but the PFLP, September 6, 1970

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Although some would actually say PBS has been hijacked, by lefties, commies, deviants and atheists. Others would say it’s been hijacked by right wing foundations and multinationals and undercover elites. Some national public institutions can’t win. You should see what happens to CBC radio here, under the Harper government.

All I know is PBS makes a lot of fascinating documentaries, and even shows a lot of them online, for free. And in the outer territories of a given country, thank the Lord for public radio.

They were actually, practically the only place, until the internet, that truly original, alternative voices were heard—voices that inspire great movements in a given place.

Anyway, the other day I saw an interesting PBS look-back film called HIJACKED. It was on the hijacking of five planes by the PFLP, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—which took place in 1970, and some say birthed the concept of global terrorism. This form of terrorism, of course, is to be differentiated from local terrorism, State terrorism and World Wars, which have been going on for quite a bit longer, all of which are terrifying and deadly.

For the record, the PFLP were not a religious group. They were and I think still are Marxist in ideology.

GROWING PAINS FOR HUMANITY

Whatever the Hijacking birthed, the Palestinian question remains unanswered. Hell, I’m not even sure what the question is. Is there a different value on deaths of different peoples? Should citizens be punished in the name of a given State? A given people? What is the relative or humanistic value of a nation state? Can privilege for a select religious or ethnic group exist beside democracy? That said, what exactly is democracy? What is the difference between terrorism and State terrorism?

Whatever the deep and ultimately moral answers of such questions may be, citizens do pay the price—often the ultimate price, as we have seen in large numbers (with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian story) in Gaza and Lebanon in the last few years—across the world, and certainly some lives are more protected and defended than others.

From the PBS website:

“Thirty-six years ago a new era in global terrorism was born. Just moments after lift-off on the morning of September 6, 1970, passengers on TWA’s flight 74 from Frankfurt to New York were startled to hear an announcement over the plane’s PA system:

“This is your new captain speaking. This flight has been taken over by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”

Minutes later, travelers on another New York-bound plane, Swissair Flight 100, faced the same chilling reality….

Elsewhere on the site:

They commandeered a fifth aircraft three days later. Wanting to attract attention to the Palestinian cause and secure the release of several of their comrades, the P.F.L.P. spectacularly blew up four of the planes [with no people inside—these were early days].

Today the commanders who planned and carried out the attack resist comparison to the terrorists who masterminded the events of September 11, 2001: members of the P.F.L.P. were not religious extremists, but secular Marxist Leninists.

And of the almost 600 passengers taken hostage, none were killed. And yet more than three decades later, it is clear that a connection exists between the two seminal events, that September 6, 1970 gave birth to a new era of terrorism.

Incidentally, one of the hijackers was a US citizen, Patrick Arguello, who was shot and killed while the plane was in the air. His Nicaraguan roots and what he’d seen done to his country by the CIA and the Americans in the early 50s (the overthrow of Arbenz) evidently influence him towards the Sandinista movement and, later, towards his Palestinian sympathies.

Two different comments from interviewees were worth writing down—I thought, anyway:

This from a British journalist (now novelist) who was on the site in the desert in Jordan where the planes were landed. Gerald Seymour described how, after the planes were hijacked and landed, the hijackers had no real plan of what to do next, and what this means to him upon reflection.

From Seymour:

They [the P.F.L.P. hijackers] did not have the sophistication [to think through the entire mission, beyond attracting the world's attention to their cause]. Nor, let it be said, did they at that time have the ruthlessness to press home the initial attacks on the airplane by killing people. They did npt have that ruthlessness. Okay, they were to learn it, but they hadn’t got it then.”

And William B Quandt, who worked with the National Security Council for many years, said:

“Once you get started with this kind of militancy, it’s hard to turn it off [one could extrapolate this comment to a thousand places, from global terrorism, to arms build up, to colonization, to invasion for business reasons etc etc]…people begin to compete for ways of doing a more dramatic [I can't read my writing! but I think the world might be plan].

It’s difficult to stop once you developed that as your modus operandi.”

Anyway, historical food for thought.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

THE BRITISH RAJ IN INDIA: Symptoms of Colonialism, Yesterday and Today?

Monday, May 11th, 2009

In the wonderful The Story of India from PBS/BBC, a Dr M Mukherjee talks about the shift of British colonialism in the 1850s, after the largest uprising in colonial history [the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857]. The Mughals [Islamic rulers for 350 years of often brutal, sometimes enlightened control—as far as control goes] are out, even the East India Company is out. Around the world, Africa in particular, the European powers are divvying up spoils to support the industrial revolution and Britain’s government has moved India from an indirectly ruled colony to direct rule.

But listen to this language, as Mukharjee explains one of the symptoms of a more pervasive colonial rule, and ask yourself if it doesn’t feel a little like modern times in terms of all-pervasive surveillance. Heck, what I am writing now is saved somewhere, and who knows, possibly monitored–or it would be if it was half interesting or subversive.

Anyway, from Mukharjee:

“From a relatively benign, what we call Orientalist, phase of colonialism, this is now [after 1857] an arrogant Britain, the first country of the Industrial Revolution ruling the world.

And then from the 1850s, the competition worldwide for colonies. Other countries are coming up and competing for colonies.

So therefore there is a great need to have a very systematic ordering of people’s lives, information, and everything related to them.”

I am sure even the British would be jaw-droppingly shocked by the inconceivable amount of “systematic ordering” and “information” of people’s lives that is gathered today by machine, leaving the door-to-door census in the dustbin of history.

So much of what we do, even in our own home now with the computer, is, in a sense, monitored or recorded somewhere. And we don’t seem to care too much. Should we?

In Canada, it’s illegal, or certainly fine-able, for example, to be pulled over in a car and not carrying ID, one’s license foremost. I’m not sure if that matters at all, but to reflect upon it is curious.

One could wonder if the average citizen is being colonized and doesn’t even know it. All I can say is that this “systematic ordering of people’s lives” may just be a fantastic reason to go for a walk in nature instead of the ten thousand other things that are tracked, from phone calls to computer to buying a latte on Visa.

Here’s to freedom and self-governance, on the micro and macro level,

Pete xo