Tag Archives: Politics

Earn $50 by Threatening to Cancel your Credit Card: Not a Joke

Here is a follow-up, of sorts, to an earlier post about the arbitrary and substantial power that random customer service agents have to appease complaining customers.

It goes like this.

Call your credit card company to cancel your card and watch them dance. I did that tonight, calling CIBC to cancel a card I don’t use anymore. Buddy asked why. I said I don’t want to do business with banks anymore. Maybe he thought I prefered under my mattress, but I’m such a credit union guy, but I didn’t elaborate. As if he actually cared.

He asked if I would reconsider. I said no. He offered me a $50 credit, on the spot. So I said yes, I’ll keep the card. Which I never use. And that has no annual fee. And that never had a balance carry over.

After I spend the $50, I’ll call to cancel the card again. I wonder how many times I can do this before they just say fine, go.

I remember a few months ago word going around that if you phone up your friendly neighbourhood [ok, global corporation] credit card usurer and ask to have your interest rate dropped from 19% or 24% or whatever to 11% that they’d almost certainly do it, or almost meet the rate you ask for.

Maybe it’s the global recession, but I’ve NEVER been offered free money to not cancel a credit card.

So that was the easiest $1500/hour I’ve ever earned. Give it a try.

Lungs…by Knepomuk

Mt. Baker is a large volcano in Washington State that looms over the eastern horizon of Vancouver BC. Yesterday I took advantage of a clear day and set out to see if I could photograph the sun rising from directly behind it. I went to the parking lot atop Queen Elizabeth Park and waited in the crisp morning air. Although a thick fog blanketed the city, QE Park was elevated enough to provide an unobscured view of the mountain.

As the sun climbed up the back of the volcano a patch of birches emerged from the shadows to my left. The trees were soon cast in silhouette against stunning hues created from the meeting of fog and the day’s first light. But, as the light intensified so too did mechanical rumble of a city coming to life. I became aware that a crisp view of Mount Baker was a fleeting thing. In a few hours the mountain would be obscured behind the brown haze of civilized society.

I was reminded that this small stand of trees which might normally have been invisible, or at least easily forgotten, were engaged in the process of cleansing the air I was breathing. In this image I can see them as our collective lungs.

Coca-Cola: The Happy-time Beverage Made from Blood…by Ameena Mayer

Coca-Cola: The Happy-time Beverage Made from Blood

It is a hot summer day, the kind in which the sunlight splatters upon you like thick slabs of golden lava, running over your face and arms that long for a splash in a sapphire lake. However, you are drowned in the cityscape, the only respite being one of the hundreds of iced beverages available in stores and restaurants. So instead of a lake, you leap into a 7-11 and grab a Coke, salivating at the prospect of the fizzy, sweet liquid gliding in cool, bronze sheets down your throat. Only this time, you notice something a little peculiar about the taste, something sour and rank, like blood. And you think to yourself subconsciously, “It tastes like murder.”

Coca-Cola is on a war path against the world’s workers and underprivileged . For decades, it has been exploiting resources and people in countries such as Colombia and India, all for profit and corporate control. Colombians, for instance, have been struggling for years to boycott Coke due in part to the company’s responsibility for right-wing criminals who kidnap, torture and even murder trade unionists and activists fighting for labour rights. 4000 unionists have lost their lives in recent decades because they were seen as blocking development and investment in Colombia. However, they were fighting for something far more valuable than dollars and cents; over the years, working conditions at bottling plants have been deteriorating at accelerating rates, with only 4% of jobs being permanent and full-time compared with 96% twelve years ago. So while Coke advocates casual, temporary labour, lower wages and poorer working conditions, it also squeezes the blood from those challenging the loss of basic human rights.
The horror story is no less grim in India, where people in over 50 villages are trying to extricate the fangs of the vampire-company from workers’ blood and the nation’s water. In India, the issue is not so much unionists’ rights at bottling plants, but the depletion of a resource already scarce. Coke has been draining villages’ water supplies and polluting ground water, so that farmers are unable to produce an adequate crop-yield in the summer months. As in Colombia, right-wing capitalists in India’s parliament are suppressing villagers’ pleas, allowing a foreign company to lay siege upon its own people for the sake of global militarism. In a nation ridden with poverty and class-division, many are terrified of corporate control of a life-support resource. They envision a future in which Coca-Cola buys India’s rivers and lakes, so that indeed, there will be no water for bathing and drinking to relieve one from the discomfort of a scorching summer day.

As bleak as this situation seems, concerned individuals around the world have been taking measures to eradicate Coke’s war on the the planet and its people. After Coke missed a deadline to assess it practices in India and Colombia, 21 North American universities banned Coke products from their campuses. Moreover, over 6000 Coca-Cola workers are behind the company adopting a human rights policy. And more and more, North Americans, for which the majority of Coke products are created, are realizing that bottled water from Coke-owned companies such as Dasani is hardly any better in quality than tap water and leads to devastating amounts of pollution due to the plastic and fossil fuels needed to package and deliver it. Indeed, they are realizing that a sugar high and a splash of cold fizziness are merely sensory propaganda for a blood-letting war against the innocent.

So on the next smouldering summer day with no lake in sight, or on your next work break when you want a high and nothing less than a sinful pleasure will do, think about boycotting the happy-time beverage that kills, and feel the cool, sweet rush of empowerment and compassion sweep through your veins. Realize you are facilitating the end of not only this war, but others waged by companies who wish to end their pursuit for profit only when there is nothing left to fight for.

The Corporation Revisited

The Corporation Revisited

-Ameena Mayer

“A man who is in love declares that ‘I’ and ‘you’ are one, and is prepared to behave as if it were a fact” (Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents).

As I watched The Corporation for the third time, the key to humankind’s destructive path toward complete annihilation became apparent to me, bright as steel gleaming beneath the rays of our overly smouldering sun. Essentially, we are facing an identity crisis involving a heinous misunderstanding of what being human means. Embracing the illusory notion that we are all self-contained units for whom the world is a mining field for our adolescent desires, and that we are not a species that thrives on community, love-bonds and communion with nature, we have grown to abhor and shun our true essence. In other words, we are in a sick condition of self-hatred, leading to hatred for our fellow human and to infantile schemes for self-aggrandizement that stem from plain old low self-esteem.

The Corporation very enticingly defines corporate person hoods as psychotics. In today’s era of global militarism, the corporation has become the dominant ‘personality’ to which we look for succor. Our every transient desire is fulfilled by it, and it has catalyzed our quest to replace warm, soft human bonds and true emotional fulfillment with the obtrusive hardness of objects. The film provides much evidence in favor of corporations’ psychotic tendencies: the inability to sustain lasting relationships, lack of guilt or concern for others’ suffering, and the inability to look beyond their own inflated interests.

In essence, however, the corporation is a fiction, our own Frankenstein-like mirage, a mere manifestation of our subconscious negative impulses. Just as we can read our sicknesses and psychoses from dream analysis, so we can by regarding the corporation. As Theodore Roszak states, “the planet has become like that blank psychiatric screen on which the neurotic unconscious projects its fantasies” (Ecopsychology, 1995, p. 5). But at the same time that we watch this villain on the screen, munching Monsanto popcorn, slurping on Coca-cola and dawning Nike running shoes in glee, the monster reinforces and legitimizes these negative impulses that should have remained slumbering within the fat tissues of our sloping brains, so that our society is becoming more and more psychotic. One only has to regard the disassociation between driving a car and the little boy’s amputated leg to observe this, or at the way we use and discard each other in interpersonal relationships.

The destruction of our natural environment was perhaps the pioneering activity leading to our demise. By boxing ourselves off from the trees and grasses and bears in concrete wastelands, we have pushed away an integral part of ourselves. To say we are separate from nature and its inhabitants is to deny our true identity. And if we can clear-cut an ancient forest without wincing, we can just as easily eat Nestle chocolate while the African boy suffers, and, perhaps most easily, we can kill our own selves. Indeed, if we were to truly love ourselves, the corporation would disintegrate, leaving behind nothing but the wild wind and a thin silver glimmer of hope that we would find a path back to who we truly are.

Predictable foolishness over the Holocaust…by Daniel Peters

The typical responses to the Holocaust conference in Iran, while predictable, are inappropriate and counterproductive.

Absurdity is not a moral category. It is natural, and inevitable, that people will believe crazy things. Live with it. If I believe something that is wrong – even something that is obviously wrong (according to you) – that does not make me a bad person. And if my crazy belief happens to focus on a topic of great importance to a particular group of people, it does not follow that I have any special hatred toward that group.

Let me point out something so obvious, so self-evident, that it should not have to be said at all: Denial of the Holocaust, in itself, is not an expression of hatred against Jews. It is not an expression of intolerance, or of racism. It is merely (at worst) a stupid, and incorrect, assertion about history.

You may want to retort that the Holocaust deniers can be shown, on other grounds, to be haters of Jews. That is true of some of them, no doubt. But that observation is irrelevant to the question of whether Holocaust denial itself should be treated as intolerable. The rules of logic reject arguments of the form “so-and-so is a bad person, hence what he says is false”, and it is equally illogical to argue “so-and-so is a bad person, hence what he says is evil”. We can legitimately be outraged at hatred, but we ought to save such outrage for the times when that hatred is actually expressed.

Moreover – to repeat what I said in a previous article here – political opposition to an opinion about history conveys a dangerous message: If the opinion must be suppressed politically, then perhaps it cannot be refuted rationally. This is surely not the message we should be sending to any tender minds that may be in danger of being swayed by the Holocaust deniers! Holocaust denial feeds on such political opposition.

* * *

There’s a wrinkle here, of course: The conference in Iran is not merely about history. It includes an anti-Israeli political agenda, clearly by design. But “anti-Israeli” does not equal “anti-Jewish” (let alone “anti-Semitic”). Moreover, there is nothing particularly sacred about the state of Israel. No modern nation-state is above criticism, and none should be immune to having the legitimacy of its existence questioned. (As a side comment, for what it’s worth: I consider Israel to have exactly the same right to exist that any other nation-state has.)

I am not, in any sense, a supporter of Mahmud Ahmadinejad. But I cannot help noticing that his opinions seem to be twisted relentlessly by his opponents. For example, people often say that he has “vowed” to destroy Israel, yet I’ve never seen such a vow in any direct quotation. (Can someone point me to one? I’d be interested in seeing it.) Ahmadinejad has, I think, stated that Israel “ought” to be destroyed; but there is a world of difference between saying that something ought to happen and a vow to take violent action to make it happen. Even George W. Bush understands that difference!

What exactly does Ahmadinejad mean when he speaks of the destruction of Israel? His comments at the Holocaust conference are illuminating. He has described the destruction of Israel as “inevitable”. Notice, first, that this is not the language of a call to arms. (When a politician is trying to motivate people to take action toward a given goal, it is more typical to stress the possibility that the goal will not be reached if his audience fails to take action.) Moreover, he has said that Israel will be destroyed in the same way that the Soviet Union was. Now the way I recall it, the USSR did not fall to foreign invasion, nor to terrorism. Rather, there was a change of heart, a practical and sensible submission to the inevitable. That (very nearly) bloodless change of regime (along with its accompanying cartographic change) is the explicit model for the vision that Ahmadinejad offers.

It may be that Ahmadinejad’s real beliefs and real intentions are far more sinister. I do not know. But that is a different topic. I argue here only that his explicit statements – at least, the ones I know of – are far less offensive than is indicated by the responses of most Western politicians and editorialists, in their eagerness to display political piety.

Legislating Opinions…by Daniel Peters

This week, the French parliament adopted a bill to make it illegal to deny the Armenian genocide. The bill needs approval from the Senate and the President before it passes into law. Let us hope that the Senate or the President has more sense.

No good can come of legislation that removes the right to express an academic opinion. If academic debate can settle the matter, there is no need for legislation to prop up the winning side of the debate. This French bill amounts to a tacit admission that there is reasonable doubt. It is as if to say: The deniers of genocide cannot be beaten in fair debate, so instead we will beat them legally.

If I were convinced of the truth of the Armenian genocide story, and convinced that there was no room for reasonable doubt, and convinced that it was important for people to recognize it, then I would be appalled by the underlying message of this bill. Why are Armenians celebrating? They ought to be as offended as the Turks are.

It doesn’t say what it says; it says what we want it to say…by Daniel Peters

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says that the blockade against Lebanon will only be lifted when the terms of the ceasefire resolution (UNSCR 1701) are fully implemented.

Say what?

Paragraph 6 calls for the reopening of Lebanese airports and harbours, so removal of the blockade is part of the resolution. Therefore Olmert is implying (inadvertently, I’m sure) that the blockade must be lifted before the blockade can be lifted.

Similarly, Olmert says that Israeli troops will pull out only after the resolution is fully implemented. Same problem: Israeli withdrawal is part of the resolution (paragraph 2), so he is saying they can’t leave until after they have left.

Perhaps he means to say that all the other parts of the resolution must be in place to his satisfaction before he will give the order to comply with paragraphs 2 or 6. So Israel must be satisfied first that there has been a full implementation of all the bits of the resolution that it likes, and only then will Israel consider itself obliged to fulfill its part of the resolution. Is that the idea?

That isn’t what UNSCR 1701 says. And for good reason: If everyone used that kind of logic, no stable ceasefire resolution would ever take hold, anywhere. In a realistic ceasefire agreement, both sides need to take some risks.

Olmert’s justification for maintaining the blockade against Lebanon is that the resolution is a package deal (a “fixed buffet” in his words); you can’t just pick one item and leave the rest. Okay … but where is the rest of the argument? How does it follow that Israeli compliance must be the dessert of this buffet?

The resolution, as worded, tries to be balanced with respect to timing. For example, paragraph 2 calls for the Israeli troops to pull out “in parallel” to the Lebanese and UNIFIL deployment into southern Lebanon. The resolution does not allow Israel to wait until an unspecified “reasonable number” of troops (in the words of Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz) are in place before starting to pull out. Olmert and Peretz seem to have missed the phrase “in parallel”.

The resolution does not specify a minimum number of troops for UNIFIL. Paragraph 11 says that the Security Council “decides … to authorize an increase in the force strength of UNIFIL to a maximum of 15000 troops”. If UNIFIL is never boosted to a size that Olmert and Peretz would consider “reasonable”, it would not follow that this paragraph has not been obeyed. But in the twisted Israeli reading of the resolution, it appears that Israel is magically given the right to decide unilaterally on a required minimum force level for UNIFIL.

The Israelis have also indicated that they will not lift the blockade until they are satisfied that the troops deployed along the Syrian border are capable of stopping new weapons shipments to Hezbollah. (Source: Associated Press.) Presumably, this Israeli demand is a reference to paragraph 14 of the resolution, which calls upon Lebanon to secure its borders (in order to block arms shipments that do not have the consent of the Lebanese government). This is a welcome retreat from Israel’s earlier position, in which they demanded that the UNIFIL forces must accompany the Lebanese forces along the Syrian border. Indeed, it may be that this Israeli demand is nothing more than a reiteration of the “reasonable number” demand, with a hint of what that number might be.

Then again, maybe not. The key question is: What proof of capability is Israel demanding? For example: Must the Lebanese forces demonstrate, over some unspecified “reasonable” period of time and beyond “reasonable” doubt, some unspecified “reasonable” level of success in the prevention of arms smuggling? If so, we’re going well beyond what the resolution calls for. If that is what they mean, then Israel is essentially declaring that it will not comply with UNSCR 1701 until it gains other concessions.

The twisting continues. Israel is treating the unconditional release of the two soldiers captured in the Hezbollah raid of 12 July as if it were one of the demands of the resolution. (Source: BBC.) If it were so, a reference to those soldiers would appear clearly in one of the numbered paragraphs. But in fact, the reference in question appears in the preamble. It is worth quoting this part in full: “…emphasising the need for an end of violence, but at the same time emphasising the need to address urgently the causes that have given rise to the current crisis, including by the unconditional release of the Israeli soldiers,…”.

Notice the word including (not especially). The context demands an equal emphasis on other “causes that have given rise to this conflict”. So what would happen if we started treating this clause of the preamble as if it were one of the items for which the Security Council officially “calls” in this resolution? What chance would we have of getting any kind of international consensus in even identifying, let alone urgently addressing, those causes? I’m more likely to be struck by lightning.

It’s perfectly clear, to me, that the Palestinian people have a host of legitimate grievances that must be included among the causes of this conflict. Shall we tie these causes together with the present ceasefire resolution? For example, shall we interpret UNSCR 1701 as if it includes an official call for Israel to cease immediately its present campaign of tormenting the people of Gaza? Or for Israel to release the tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians that are presently held indefinitely and without charge? Or for Israel immediately to pull its troops out of the West Bank, and henceforth to allow the Palestinian nation to function as an independent state, with control over its own resources?

On the other side of the coin: Shall we interpret the resolution as if it includes an official call for Cpl Shalit to be released by whoever is holding him? Or for Lebanon and Syria and Hamas and others to recognize Israel? Or for Arab nations, from Morocco to Iraq, to compensate the hundreds of thousands of Jews that they expelled in a perverted retaliation for the Israeli expulsion of Palestinians?

To all these questions, the answer is obviously no. The Security Council would have made Palestinian-Israeli issues explicit if they had intended this resolution to cover them. We cannot consistently consider the preamble-statement about “causes that have given rise to the current crisis” to be one of the terms of the resolution. In particular, we cannot treat the release of the two soldiers held by Hezbollah as one of the terms of the resolution.

Argue, if you wish, that the resolution ought to have been worded differently. That’s another topic, for another time. Here, I argue only that Olmert and company have badly twisted the content of UNSCR 1701, even while pretending to respect it.

They have twisted the resolution by exaggerating the content of the favourable clauses, including by extracting a parenthetical comment from the preamble and treating it as one of the official demands. And they have twisted it by insisting on waiting for those favourable clauses to be fulfilled, to their own satisfaction, before they will comply with their own obligations. Taken together, these tricks appear to add up to a deliberate ploy to make the ceasefire unworkable. I hope I’m wrong.

I Am Livid With This: Raed in the Middle: back from the mideast

Raed in the Middle: back from the mideast

It is the 21st century. A person with a t-shirt reading in English and Arabic “we will not be silent” is hassled before boarding a plane.

“Then I once again asked the three of them : “How come you are asking me to change my t-shirt? Isn’t this my constitutional right to wear it? I am ready to change it if you tell me why I should. Do you have an order against Arabic t-shirts? Is there such a law against Arabic script?” so inspector Harris answered “you can’t wear a t-shirt with Arabic script and come to an airport. It is like wearing a t-shirt that reads “I am a robber” and going to a bank”.

The fear and paranoia that is eroding the human security of the people in the United States…and elsewhere…is unacceptable. UNACCEPTABLE!

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s email address is pm@pm.gc.ca

The email address of the person hired to pretend to be President of the United States is president@whitehouse.gov

Please read this posting and email them both explaining how you feel about the state of mental and emotional security in North America.

IF WE DO NOT OPPOSE THIS, IT WILL GROW AND INFEST OUR PSYCHES UNTIL “THEM” TERRORIZES “US” SOLELY IN OUR IMAGINATIONS.

Society as we know it will crumble as the fear-mongers undermine our security.

If we do not stop it, it is our fault because we will let them.

Enough!

More CanWestGlobal Bias Against Social Welfare

CanWestGlobal has issued yet another political statement regarding how their corporate media body sees the future of Canada and our social welfare system. They oppose it and communitarian measures to ensure an egalitarian society where all get equal access to the best health care possible.

Connected to a story about the election of the two-tier-profit-glitter-eyed Dr. Brian Day as the new head of the CMA is a CanWestGlobal poll on whether we think public-private partnerships in health care are acceptable now. PPPs, or P3s, are a cheap rhetorical device for privatization, a word that polls poorly.

The online poll heinously lacks journalistic integrity as it asks if we think health care P3s are fine or need more study. There are merely TWO options in the poll. We are not offered the choice of disagreeing with P3s. Either we are fine with them or we need to study them more. Further to annoy us, is the fact that we can’t view the poll results until we vote.

And while the poll is not scientific because participants are self-selecting by people who would bother to visit their galling website in the first place, and because the poll cannot reflect a representative sample of the Canadian population, this poll will provide “legitimate” mileage for the proponents of sucking the communitarian spirit out of Canada.

But the worst part is the lack of a practical spread of options in answers.

The results of the poll as of 5:50pm and 6:50pm Vancouver Time today are below. What is not included is the raw numbers of voters–another insult to the intelligence of the Canadian population.


Poll

With the election of a private clinic owner as head of the CMA, the issue of public-private healthcare partnerships is one…

…that needs to be studied more.

33.84 % [5:50pm] then 34.61 % [6:50pm]

…whose time has come.

66.16 % [5:50pm] then 65.39 % [6:50pm]%

The story on Brian Day and good reasons to not trust doctors in this country is below. A disturbingly difficult statement appears at the end of it: “Although Day will be the voice of the CMA when he becomes president, the association’s policies and positions are set by the membership at annual meetings and by the board of directors.”

While true, the fact that the CMA membership voted for this guy lets us know that what Tommy Douglas fought in Saskatchewan decades ago–profit-hungry doctors–is a threat to our social fabric still today.

Kevin Newman and his Gemini Award, promoted on the same page as the poll, should be ashamed of themselves.

http://www.canada.com/globaltv/national/story.html?id=0f0e227c-8533-4a43-9ea4-81d9cf452883


Tuesday » August 22 » 2006

Private clinic owner elected head of CMA

Canadian Press

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

CHARLOTTETOWN — The choice of a private-care doctor as president-elect of the Canadian Medical Association is at least partly an expression of frustration with the current health-care system, officials with the association said Tuesday.

Dr. Brian Day, the owner of a private surgical clinic in Vancouver, was named president-elect of the medical association following a secret vote by doctors attending the CMA’s annual meeting in Charlottetown.

Day defeated fellow Vancouver physician Dr. Jack Burak, a last-minute challenger nominated from the floor who was put forward as a voice for public health care.

The vote count was not released.

Dr. Ruth Collins-Nakai, the medical association’s past-president, urged people not to read too much into Day’s election.

She said it was not a referendum on the public-versus-private health debate.

“It is not necessarily a shift in ideology,” Collins-Nakai said when asked the meaning of Day’s election.

“I think you are seeing a level of frustration by doctors on behalf of their patients in terms of the lack of access to care. Physicians are frustrated by the fact they cannot provide the care patients need in a timely fashion.”

Day’s election upset CUPE Nova Scotia president Danny Cavanagh, who called the association’s new chief “a privatization pusher.”

Cavanagh called the election “a bad omen for the future of our public health care system.”

The medical association, which represents 62,000 doctors, earlier approved several motions relating to public-private care that will become policy, including a resolution recognizing the strengths of the publicly funded system.

Many of the motions and arguments in favour of public health care came from young doctors.

“We’re appealing to that fire all of you have inside,” Dr. Devesh Varma, an opthamology resident from Saskatoon, said as he asked doctors to support the motion endorsing public health care.

“Somewhere deep down, buried after all those years of frustration, there’s still that fire you started with and we want you to find that and use it to recognize the merits within our publicly funded system.”

Some doctors say the association is sending mixed messages about its position on public-versus-private care.

“As physicians we have to make choices that would improve access to health care for all our patients and not just a few,” said Dr. Danielle Martin of the newly formed group Canadian Doctors for Medicare.

“We all agree that access to health care should be based on need, not ability to pay. But we have to walk the talk and ensure that our decisions are based on our patients’ welfare.”

For his part, Day said his position on expanding the role of private care has been blown out of proportion — mostly by people living east of the Rockies.

Day, who was born in Liverpool, England, where he went to school with future Beatles Paul McCartney and George Harrison, said he believes in universal medical care.

“I have never supported the privatization of health care,” he said.

“Those propagating that myth have deliberately set out to distort my beliefs into an extreme viewpoint I have never supported. I believe there is a place for the private sector and private-public partnerships. Defining that role is a task the CMA is pursuing.”

Day said the competition offered by private care has helped improve efficiency and accounting in public hospitals.

“I will commit to a policy that all Canadians receive timely access to medically necessary services regardless of ability to pay,” Day said following his election.

“But I believe the Canada Health Act must be updated for the 21st century.”

Day will serve as president-elect of the CMA for the next year. He will become the organization’s president in 2007-08.

Although Day will be the voice of the CMA when he becomes president, the association’s policies and positions are set by the membership at annual meetings and by the board of directors.