Archive for the 'politics as usual' Category

Victory Over Communism Day 2009: Sing a Song of Suomi

Imagine some Canadian soldiers were transferred from Ottawa to New Brunswick and as a result of these actions Finland declares war on Canada.  Sounds pretty ridiculous, right?  Well, this scenario actually happened, albeit with the two parties swapped…

I’m too tired to finish this thing tonight.  I’ll do it tomorrow.

If you call it the Middle Kingdom, it sounds more poetic and less oppressive

I agree that Stephen Harper’s policy towards China has been poor.  In fact, Canada’s relations with China have been poor since October 13, 1970.  That was the date we broke diplomatic relations with Free China and threw in our lot in with Red China, then led by Mao “What Are Human Rights?” Zedong.  I think it would be great if Mr. Harper were to visit the Free Area of the Republic of China and meet with the esteemed Chinese president, Ma Ying-jeou instead, of that loud-mouthed, unelected usurper Hu Jintao.

Premier Wen Jiabao criticized Mr. Harper for not coming sooner.  Of course Mr. Wen hasn’t been to Canada since 2003, before Harper was even PM.  You see, Canada usually changes it’s leadership more frequently because we have this cRaZy thing called democracy goin’ on.  But we all know democracy is bad news for the Chinese people.  I mean just look at how the poor people of Hong Kong are starving to death while the mainlanders are livin’ off the fatta the lan’.

But we really want to be BFF with Red China apparently.  It’s no coincidence that our former Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson just published a book on Norman Bethune this past spring. Bethune, who has been lionized for his field work in the Spanish Civil and Second Sino-Japanese Wars, infamously refused to treat many soldiers who didn’t share his communist beliefs.  We really need to stop worshipping this guy just to suck up to Red China.  But they’ve has gotten to that stage where, like the U.S., they can do whatever they want and there’s nothing we can do about it.  Goliath dispatches David with a flick of the wrist.

But the People’s Republic of China does boast one major “achievement.” They’re behind Iran but ahead of Egypt in their ability to take thousands of years of glorious civilization and turn it into TOTAL FUCKING SHIT.

I think the character of Mao in John Adams’s opera Nixon in China summed it up best:

“We no longer need Confucius. Let him rot” (Act I, scene 2)
“History is a dirty sow: If we by chance escape her maw / She overlies us” (Act I, scene 2)

Europe Endless

Czech president Václav Klaus’s arm finally being twisted into signing it, the Treaty of Lisbon came into force today.  I’m still not completely sure what all is contained within that treaty but I know it furthers the EU’s mission of European integration.  Culturally, economically, spiritually, politically… Europe is far more integrated than any other continent on Earth.  And with the possible exception of South America, no other continent will ever come close.

North America’s problem is obvious: the U.S. is far too dominant in every sphere.  Sure Germany’s 80 million people towers over Luxembourg’s 500,000 but there are plenty of other states in between.  A similar problem exists in Asia with Red China (population, land mass, economy, military), Japan (economy) and India (population, land mass).  Not to mention a whole lot of countries in Asia outright hate each other.  Sure Switzerland is stuck up and Russia’s real smug but that doesn’t compare to the animosity between India and Pakistan or Israel and everybody.  Human rights are also abominable in Asia with Japan and Israel-proper being the only states really up to snuff.

Africa already has the African Union but I’m still not clear as to it’s actual purpose.  I mean they’ve had a few missions in Darfur and Somalia but for the most part it’s been too little too late.  Not to mention shady characters like Mugabe and Gaddafi are still hailed as heroes.  And the goals of the different countries can be so, well, different.  It would appear a disdain for colonialism is not enough to base a regional integration-based intergovernmental organization on.

Australia’s already united.  And it dominates that “continent” known as Oceania.

South America’s the most promising with Unasur, just so long as crazy man Chávez doesn’t hijack it for his personal whims.  I really wish Canada could get in on that but I know our policy on abortion (or lack thereof) has been a roadblock in past discussions with Latin American nations.

Reunification

Catharina Hagen was born and raised in East Berlin.  A child prodigy in a variety of disciplines she ultimately chose to persue a music career and adopted the stage name Nina Hagen.  In 1974, at age 18, she released her first album, Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen, with her band Automobil.  It’s an album full of crazy pop music with fun, brassy arrangements.

Complications led the Hagen family to defect in 1976.  Nina promptly got herself hooked up with a major label who sent her to London to be educated in the ways of Western music.  Upon her return Hagen formed a new band that was named after herself and transformed into Germany’s answer to Debbie Harry (with some Lydia Lunch aesthetics thrown in for good measure).  The Nina Hagen Band released their first album in 1978.  It was completely absent of any crazy/fun pop music and instead filled with second rate New Wave, the kind of which was sweeping the free world at the time.  The rest, they say, is history.  Today her early work is largely forgotten and she’s known only as Germany’s priestess of punk (which I believe in German is “das Deutschepunkenrockenpriestess“).

Nina Hagen is an anomaly.  West Germany gave us krautrock and for the most part delivered far superior music.  But it does illustrate that, when the wall fell 20 years ago and GDR culture was completely overrun by “Western decadence”–something was lost.  Some former East Germans feel what’s known as ostalgie (”eastalgia,” more or less), a nostalgia for those positive elements of life behind the Iron Curtain.

Chancellor Angela Merkel noted yesterday that the reunification process still isn’t complete.  Economic disparities are still very real.  It makes you wonder: if Germany has had such a hard time with it, is there a hope in hell for countries like Korea or China?

Only “Human”

I happened to glance at a “Dear Ellie” column in the newspaper (one of those myriad Ann Landers knock-offs) and it ran something like this: “Dear Ellie, I’ve been dating a married man, blah blah blah, etc.”  And then she replied with something like “Well your problem is a communication issue…”

No, your problem is your dating a fucking married man, you slut! Don’t get me wrong, I disapprove of his actions even more but it was the lady who happened to be writing the letter.

It’s really pissing me off how borderline acceptable adultery has become.  In fiction particularly it’s often portrayed as some sort of character flaw.  No, just no.  Drug addiction is a character flaw, rage is a character flaw, being a workaholic is a character flaw; unilaterally shattering the bond with the person you pledged your all to, till death you do part: that’s a failure at life.  Murderers, rapists, pædophiles: I put adulterers in the same category.  What’s the point of a marriage vow if there’s no consequences to breaking it?  At the very least I think infidelity should be regarded as tantamount to waiving child custody.  How the hell are you supposed to be a role model?  Yet in some countries adultery isn’t even taken into consideration in divorce proceedings.  For people in abusive relationships I guess I can understand it but that still doesn’t justify it.

They had their priorities straight in the olden days.  The affair of Sir Lancelot and Guinevere leads to the downfall of Camelot, the deaths of Arthur and Gawain and ends with the two lovers adopting celibacy.  Now that’s some seriously righteous consequences.  Now this is not to say that the folks of the middle ages were perfect.  In particular, kings seemed to be somehow immune to the no adultery rule.  Of course the best monarchs (Edward the Confessor, Richard the Lionheart, Henry V, Henry VII) curiously don’t seem to have had mistresses.

The Human League - Human

[Ed.--In retrospect I think comparing adulterers to murderers, rapists and pædophiles was a bit harsh.  Nevertheless I do think there should be some form of punishment for what is, essentially, the breach of a contract.  However, I believe the emotional devastation caused by adultery can be comparable to those previously mentioned heinous crimes.]

Lisbon, Ireland

It can be easy to forget that “Lisbon” is the name of a city in Portugal.  It’s the capital city, in fact.  However, it’s now become short hand for the treaty that was signed there in December of ‘07.  The Treaty of Lisbon, of course, is the comprehensive reform package designed to make the European Union run more smoothly, clearly and democratically.  The treaty itself is a 272 page beast, the PDF of which can be downloaded here (if you have far too much time on your hands you can check out what the Rome and Maastricht Treaties will look like as amended by Lisbon, a 329 page document).  What it all boils down to is that these are complex and confusing documents meant to be dealt with my politicians.  If the citizenry had the time and energy to understand everything about governance we wouldn’t need representative democracy.  MOST European states agree with this model.  Ireland, not so much.

Due to having an extremely rigid constitution the polls on the Emerald Isle are set to open in under an hour.  They rejected it last time they voted on it but it took them two tries to ratify the Treaty of Nice, too.  Maybe next EU treaty the Irish government should just set forth dates for two referendums right from the get-go.  I sure hope they vote yes.  Dear Lord in Heaven I really hope they vote yes.  They’re lucky they have such a wonderful institution like the EU* and they shouldn’t take it for granted.  It’s just that the “No” campaign has been particularly effective with its lies helpful information propaganda lies.  Like the one about how Lisbon is going to legalize abortion in Ireland, that’s particularly LOLable (the illegality of abortion in Ireland is constitutionally enshrined).

So I’ve been surfing about lisbontreaty2009.ie, which is both informative and entertaining.  But informative is boring.  Upon arriving at the website, the welcome lady, err, welcomes us and we begin our journey.  We’ll be seeing more of her later.  Oh, also in English.  The site is mostly informative but I keep getting distracted by this scary old guy.  I am informed the treaty would not affect Ireland’s neutrality policy.  Which is pity because that’s the one real black mark that country has.

On to the movies! The welcome lady makes a comeback along with a strapping young shamrock with a terrible haircut.  Incidentally, the designers must have decided that Qualified Majority Voting and “The European Council” are more risqué issues because our man let’s his chest hair peak out while the lady displays some cleavage.  These movies are all available in Irish as well which makes these two actors notable as being the only people on the entire island who can actually speak Irish.

In the event the referendum does pass, Polish president Lech Kaczy?ski needs to get his act together and sign and deposit the Polish bill and then we watch with deep anxiety and hope that the legal challenge brought forward by Czech president Václav Klaus and some uppity senators is finished with before the next UK general election at which point David Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on the issue.  Gordon Brown, you’re still good for something.

* For the record, it would never work in the Americas.  We’d disagree with the US over capital punishment and with Latin America over abortion.

“From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee!”

I first became interesting in the subject of whaling when I ate whale (admittedly, quite tasty) in Akureyri, Iceland. The Lonely Planet guidebook took a decidedly anti-whaling stance and not without good reason: whale watching is actually a much more profitable industry than whaling and unsurprisingly the two are somewhat mutually exclusive.

Whaling is one of those things we’re just instinctively opposed to without knowing why. The “I love the animals” argument doesn’t hold water because considering the amount of fish whales eat you actually save lives by killing them. The endangered species argument is valid but misleading. And finally the argument that whales are uniquely intelligent creatures is not backed up by any real science with the possible exception of the sperm whale which nobody hunts anymore. Dolphin hunting (dolphining?) is related but not the same.

Back to the endangered argument: “whales” is a very broad term that envelopes dozens of different species, many of which are not endangered in the least. Of the whale species that are endangered probably the most famous are the blue whale and the right whale. Nobody hunts these species anymore. Not even Japan, and that’s saying something.

Enter the International Whaling Comission (IWC), a well-intentioned but emasculated body. In 1986 the IWC voted to impose moratorium on commercial whaling. However, not being a formal treaty organization this is all non-binding. The chief whaling states–Japan, Iceland and Norway–have largely ignored the moratorium. Canada’s response was the most hilarious: we just simply left the organization.

Japan is the strongest defender of whaling on the IWC, its anti-whaling counterpart has been the United States. Both have been accused of using trade or other outside influence to buy votes within the organization.

This is getting too long, which means there will inevitably be a part two.

What Coup?

The news keeps talking about some coup d’état in Honduras and it’s really pissing me off.

In my mind, a coup usually goes something like this: a small group (often military) unilaterally seizes power, revokes the constitution, bans all political parties and, following a show trial, executes the former leader.

A coup is not when the military, with the full support of congress and the supreme court, removes one elected official from power and flies him to safety in a neighbouring country. I call that an excessively forceful impeachment. That doesn’t make it right, though, it just makes it not a coup. Oh and the new interim president, he’s from the same party as the old one, the Liberal Party. And the legislature that wanted the Zelaya out? Controlled by the Liberal Party.

Tehranosaurus Rex - Our women were fair and wore scarves o’er their hair… But now their content to take to the streets

I don’t know what the point is, but here’s a third bit on Iran. I’m really pessimistic about the chances of a positive outcome, but I guess anything could happen.

Props to Mousavi for refusing to back down, but he needs to do more. Even if he’s not backing down, some of his supporters are. They’re tired and afraid for their safety. Mousavi needs to step up and start appearing at these rallies… Khatami too, and even Rafsanjani. It’s true he’ll be risking life and limb but being the kind of figure he is, the Sword of Damocles is nothing new. When his supporters see that he is willing to be out there, it’ll be the best recruitment tool ever. In fact, and I know this will sound insensitive, but if Mousavi were to be arrest or, God forbid, killed, the outrage stemming from this would be of revolutionary proportions.

A more thing. Rafsanjani may appear to be somewhat of an ally now, but at heart he’s still a conservative. He’s also got his eyes on the position of Supreme Leader. The man who should be Supreme Leader, Hossein Ali Montazeri, is currently under house arrest. Maybe they should spring him loose. Montazeri was being groomed as Khomeini’s successor when he had to go and speak up against the mass executions of political prisoners in 1988. The nerve! In hindsight, had he known Khomeini would be dead within a year he could have just buckled down and waited it out.

P.S. I suppose I should say something about MJ. Great singer, weird guy.
I’ve always liked this song for obvious reasons:

Tehranosaurus, Part the Second

Scenario 1: The election results are legit and Ahmedinejad has won by a landslide.

We have a country full of crazies and in several years they’ll have nuclear weapons. Oh shit, Israel already has nukes and the finger on the button belongs to Binyamin Netanyahu.

Scenario 2: The election was rigged, the results are fraudulent.

It’s back to the 1980s for Iran. The opposition will be rounded up (some already have been) and dissent will be silenced. Sounds about time for another revolution. Let’s be proactive and evacuate the embassies now.

3y3 am expart fotoshopp3r!

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