Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Battle against Government Corruption

While doing some research for yesterday's blog I came across a few interesting documents that in way had to deal with the Class War that is going on throughout the world. The first document is called the Prague Declaration on Governance and Anti-Corruption. the purpose of this declaration and that meeting which brought the document into existence was to:
Participants in the first World Forum on Governance, representing governments, business, investors, media and non-governmental advocacy groups from around the world, convened in Prague in November 2011 to analyze the link between governance and corruption and to find practical solutions that can begin improving the situation. The Forum was unique in bringing together representatives of both the public and private governance communities to discuss the problem of corruption in both its broad and narrow senses and develop an integrated analytic framework reflected in the Ten Principles below.
The Conference established that corruption—the abuse of entrusted authority for improper gain—is a significant contributing factor in the worldwide governance crisis that cuts across cultural variations and levels of economic development and modernization

There is actually some good points in the document and that implemented would bring about a change of opinion that people have towards government and corporations.

I think one of the better points of the ten articulated is number 4, it deals with the theme of open government:
OPEN GOVERNMENT. Governments should actively implement open government which, among other virtues, powerfully counteracts corruption. Every government should have and follow a freedom of information law with judicial review available for denied applicants. Government budgets, including both expenditures and revenues, should be fully transparent and take advantage of innovations in integrated financial systems and online disclosure. Public procurement should be subject to laws and regulations that provide for transparent, online and competitive tenders and selection among bidders that is independent, professional, and merits-based. For large bids, an independent and expedited review system should be available to assess appeals by disaffected bidders. We encourage both public and private parties to raise procurement integrity standards through voluntary agreements and monitoring by civil society organizations.

The problem with this document is that it leaves in the hands the very group that suffers from the temptation of corruption, namely big business and big government. While these are great words, what would cause a government to change? Please understand I'm not talking about the third and fourth worlds here, while we tend to think of only those nations when we hear the word 'corruption'. Their corruption is probably minor in comparison to what's going on in the west. As well, their's tends to be straightforward and almost quaint, a simple few dollars to grease some wheels or make sure there is a unnumbered Swiss account somewhere.

However the West does believe in sophistication. Consider what`s going on in the UK right now with the Prime Minister David Cameron; it seems he`s got a bit of a scandal going on and it has to do with influence peddling. He has been accused of inviting some very wealthy people over to his house for dinner. Oh and if they come, they need to bring a cheque book, for his dinners cost a whole lot of money. In fact he raised over £25million. Of course this was just for future elections, after all a party needs money to run a campaign. It`s not as if PM Cameron is the first nor shall he be the last. Even though a nation can have spending limits, there`s always a way around them, and who better to know then the government of the day.

Of course the government has called for an independent inquiry to study the issue, the question is, why study the obvious. If he took the money with the promise to bring about or change legislation that would favour the donors, then this is corruption plain and simple. This is the sort of thing the Prague Declaration wants to end throughout the world, but obviously their comments fell on deaf ears in the UK.

The concern is the government will have whitewashed the whole thing and when the inquiry brings the report it will be quickly ignored.

The problem is not, let me say, the money, it`s all about the elections. In some nations it seems they are on permanent election footing. It could be said that this is the case in the UK, where there is a minority government that is kept alive by a coalition and so they must always be ready. Or consider the US, where the campaign for the next presidential election starts almost the day after the Inauguration. It takes money to operate a three-four year campaign and we`re seeing huge amounts raised to pay the cost of a campaign. The candidates need the money and if that money comes with an I.O.U. then so be it, after all, its not corruption, its simply have other interested parties express their concern and help the government understand how some things need to be directed.

By the way, the Prague Declaration has something to say about campaign finance:
All forms of campaign and party finance should be transparent, with prompt and publicly accessible internet disclosure of direct, indirect and third-party contributions and expenditures. States should criminalize official favors provided as quid pro quos for campaign finance; offer a small-donor matching system or other means of public funding of campaigns; and have bans or strong limits on corporate funding of campaigns and parties. In countries in which corporations are permitted to participate financially in elections, corporate and investor rights groups should target corporations’ political spending practices to establish accountability for their decisions to allocate resources for political campaigns and to require full disclosure of all such spending to the board of directors, shareholders, and the general public.

This has to be the standard, democracy is not a means of raising funds, nor is political office a commodity that goes to the highest bidder. I`m not saying it`s never happened before, of course it has, bribery has to be the second oldest profession but now we the citizens have a tool to keep an eye on them.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why the Occupy Movement will win

I'm on the theme of class warfare for a bit of time, and I'm been watching and thinking about the entire Occupy Movement and how its doing. I know lately the Mainstream Media has gone out of its way to ignore it. They covered the first few months and the times the police have gone in to throw all those smelly hippies out of various parks, but the Occupy people and the Occupy Movement is still going strong.

From what we can gather from the dispatches, its looking not that good. After all, the apparatus of the State is still beating people to near death and tossing as many of them as possible in jail. The 1% still acts like their running the place and their lackeys, the various governments of the world are keeping in step with their orders. Plus there are many who say that the gains, such as they are, from the Occupy movement have lost a lot of momentum. At least that`s what they would have you believe. We need to remember that for the most part, media outlets are there to make sure the point of view of the ownership group is expressed. The best example would be something like the Wall Street Journal. The owner, Rupert Murdoch hates Google and if there is any bad press to be generated about Google it will be reported in the Wall Street Journal.

Look around, its not going so hot. But ultimately that may be the sign we`re all looking for, the complacency There is a sense of confidence that the worst of the protests are behind and they are still in their jobs. However that fails in one point, governments and the 1% are scared. They are so scared they are doing all in their power to deflect. Case in point, the saber rattling going on against Iran and Syria. The Western powers would like nothing more then a military conflict because that`s a great way to fill up the news. Plus it makes money for those vested interests. As well, it sends a lot of young people away to get maimed and killed, the potential leaders of any and all protest movements get hauled off half a world away to get blown to pieces. Please understand, this is not against the soldiers, they are brave men and women called to do a ridiculously amazing job and they do it. The problem is, their governments let them down every time.

Their fear can be found in the fact that a young student was beaten nearly to death by the police and the UK and he faces charges in court. Then again, this is the sort of action that does ultimately back fire against the establishment. They will go to excess and usually go after the wrong group or people and this will be their downfall.

Plus, the excesses of the 1% will become greater because they will be self-satisfied, they will feel protected by the authorities, and so they will do what they want to do, to ever a greater degree. Case and point has to be Dominique Strauss Kahn, the poster boy of the excesses of the 1%. He had everything, wealth, power, was a rising star and then, he decided to treat women like he treated the third world, as objects to use and abuse. Now, he faces even more potential of jail time and his political career is in total tatters. It continues to grow for him too. He is joining a list of former high flyers and the power that are running into problems.

Governments too are beginning to fear. For the most part they are reacting with violence, because that`s the natural result of fear. But they are also afraid of losing power. Some governments are trying to hold on with the tried and true, and by that I mean the last couple of years, of hammering the lowest members of society- because they have almost no rights and certainly no power- so you go after the weak. However, this will be excessive as well and will soon backfire.

But I also think the Occupy Movement will win for another reason, because some where there is one police officer who is beginning to doubt what he or she is doing. Think about the police for a moment, their duty is to Serve and Protect. Who are they serving and who are they protecting, it's supposed to be the community. But the community is the people who are protesting. I think that's why the governments want their police force in riot gear, because it makes them not look like police. It makes them look like Imperial Stormtroopers. When you see a police officer in uniform, you see someone who is there to serve, help and protect you, when you see one in riot gear, you see someone who wants to hurt you bad.

But somewhere there is an officer who is beginning to question all this, he or she looks in front and realizes that this is the community they made a vow to protect. They are not called to protect the pampered 1% who don't pay taxes so don't pay the salary, or the politicians who call on the police to do their dirty work, it's the people with the signs and the songs they are called to protect. In that fleeting moment they have the moment Vaclav Havel wrote about in his brilliant essay, "Power of the Powerless". They become like the greengrocer who refuses to display the sign "power to the people" in his shop window:
The greengrocer has not committed a simple, individual offense, isolated in its own uniqueness, but something incomparably more serious. By breaking the rules of the game, he has disrupted the game as such. He has exposed it as a mere game. He has shattered the world of appearances, the fundamental pillar of the system. He has upset the power structure by tearing apart what holds it together. He has demonstrated that living a lie is living a lie. He has broken the exalted façade of the system and exposed the real, base foundations of power. He has said that the emperor is naked. And because the emperor in fact is naked, something extremely dangerous has happened: by his action, the greengrocer has addressed the world.

When that moments comes, the officer will turn to the next officer and ask "Why are we doing this?". They will have doubt, not of their calling or service but why are they dressed up in riot gear and why has the order been given to attack a group of people who are unarmed and only seek to yell a few slogans in the hope of getting their points across to a government and culture that is isolating them. The next officer will either give the book answer or will look at the same line of people and answer the only honest way 'I don't know, why are we doing this?'. Let me tell you that will spread through the line of police, each one will face that moment of existential crisis and not come up with a good answer.

At that moment, when the call is given to charge the line, the police will move towards the protesters, but the visors will be up and the shield will be at their side, they will join. Then you will see fear in the eyes of the 1% and their government lackeys. Because that is when the revolution will truly begin.

And remember this:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Dispatches from the Class War Front

Just in case any one is keeping score, the Class War is doing quite well, for the upper class that is. Not only are government going out of their ways to ensure that banks and billionaires are protected from the dangers of the recent recession, but they are ensuring other acts against the lower classes. In the UK, the most recent budget contains cuts that affect everyone but the very rich. The concern is towards pensioners, and why not, they tend to be conservatively minded voters and will likely vote for the government. Of course the government wants to cut welfare spending, and that is usually done by slashing benefits and not by doing anything to get people jobs. It's easier to slash then help.

Now that's across the pond. We're seeing the same here, I anticipate the new McGuinty budget will feature a lot of slashing to the welfare part of the budget, after all you just can't expect the poor to be shielded from the problems of deficit, oh and by the way, the wealthiest part will experience a tax windfall.

If that's not bad enough, there is a new movement going on in the States and I suspect it will come to Canada soon enough and that is the attempt by many cities to ban giving food to the homeless. I know it's one of those things you just got to shake you head.

So cities are attempting to ban people from providing food to the homeless. The reasons given are only for the best, because the homeless lack access to proper medical care they might suffer more if the food is not prepared correctly. Of course instead of providing services to help this happen its far easier to threatened and stop people from doing that sort of thing. One of the methods is to arrest people who give food to people. I mean this is like killing people isn't it, that sandwich is actually a weapon of mass destruction. In Orlando they arrested member of "Food Not Bombs" after they dared to feed people. Again the reason is the food might not be good for homeless people.

Mayor Bloomberg of New York is also doing the same thing, he is doing so because he is concerned the poor might be exposed to food that is too high in salt. After all we know that one of the main concerns facing the homeless is high blood pressure.

The only problem with this is, no one is buying it for a second. The real reason is that cities want to get rid of homeless people from certain areas and the best way to get rid of them is not providing for their basic needs. I made the suggestion that Major Bloomberg knows that homeless people are like stray cats, you feed them once, you'll never get rid of them. Of course there was one person who obviously failed the class on recognizing sarcasm. Well, enough of that. The real sarcasm is when an official of any of those cities stand up and trying that nonsense that this is all for the protection of the health of the homeless.

Then there is the issue of getting permits. If anyone understands anything about municipal government, the permit is the way cities control things, if they want to interfere, they make people get permits. They never say how easy it is to get a permit but I suspect if you want to feed the hungry, don't waste your time.

Right now its easy to have a smug attitude up here in Canada, but let me say this, it could come to Canada real quick. The climate is already in place, various Boards of Health already have rules and regulations concerning the production of food by churches and other not for profit groups. You need documents or have signs warning the kitchen has not been inspected. In the past church groups that cooked part of the meal off-site have been warned it must stop. Just wait until the denizens of Yorkville or Queen Street West grow weary of all those homeless people and all those do-gooders who feed them, trust me it will come to Canada.

I suspect the time is coming, when businesses that have food and throw out food will be forced to put security guards at their dumpsters, because we can't have to homeless access food from dumpsters, because it might be bad for them.

Dive! Trailer from Compeller Pictures on Vimeo.

If this video is correct then there is food to be harvested and trust me there are those in power who will stop this.

What else can happen? If cities are serious in getting rid of homelessness how about this for a suggestion, poison the food. Sure, set out feed distribution centres for the homeless in specific location and make sure the food is laced with Warfarin. Hey, isn't that the best method to deal with vermin?

The attitude of the lackeys of the corporate elite is that the poor, the dispossessed don't have rights, they are dirty, they don't deserve anything, if food means they will survive then use food to get rid of them. It starts by putting stumbling blocks before those attempting to help the homeless and then its only a few steps to using pest control methods to finally deal with the problem.

Class Warfare, and the Upper Classes are winning, for now.

Friday, March 09, 2012

More News about the South Side

While follow the brantford hashtag, I came across this tweet:
Builders have said that the south side of Colborne Street in #Brantford is a precarious site making the Laurier/Y too costly.

The person(s) behind this tweet is involved in the excellent blog City of Insight. If this is the case, there is some serious stuff gong to come down soon. I suspect there will be an attempt to downplay such news, after all, the side of the hill is fine. It is stable, everything will be fine, the forces behind the push for the Laurier will have to do some serious spin if they cannot move ahead with this project.

While we'll simply have to wait to discover if there is any truth to this comment, it means we should listen carefully and read between the lines of any and all announcements from now on regarding the south side of Colborne.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

More Trouble for Somalia

It seems Somalia can't catch a break. After years of devastating famine, civil war, division of the nation into various factions and the fact it is viewed as one of the poorest and most violent nations on the planet. If one wishes to define a failed state then Somalia must be first on the list.

Even the present government barely controls a couple of blocks in the capital, things are working and working well in Somalia. The economy is considered quite good. The 'real' growth rate of the economy in 2009 was 2.7%, which isn't bad when one factors in all that is happening in the country. It seems not having a central government has been a boon to the economy. It does make one wonder. I suppose it could be said that Somalia is more an experiment in libertarian economics rather then a crippled nation-state.

Yet that may all change, for Somalia is also cursed with what some people think is an abundance of oil. It seems people are saying there is a lot of oil in Somalia and its ripe for exploration and development.

You might be thinking that this is good news, after all, oil will mean revenue and the development of the nation. I sure it could be but for the headline in the Guardian: "Somalia promises west oil riches as diplomats vow to defeat al-Shabaab". So the government is promising the West a portion of the booty if they receive help in defeating the rebels and building up the infrastructure.

Consider with me the track record Somalia has had at the hands of the Western Powers:
1991- Somali Civil War, which followed by intervention by western powers under the aegis of the United Nation. The word that best describes those years is debacle. Not only did western powers fail to meet any objections, but the troops treated the local citizens with such scorn that they met one objective and that was to unite all of Somalia under a hatred of the West. Most of the military involved are still licking their wounds from the fall out.

One of the benefits the West discovered with the collapsed of the Somalia central government is that there was no one to protect the 200 mile off-shore zone, and so the various fishing fleets of Europe decided to exploit the resource. They used the same methods that proved so successful off the Great Banks of Newfoundland- the basis 'leave no fish behind' idea. If that wasn't enough they discovered that without any pesky navy to prevent them they could start dumping toxics off the shore of Somalia. The said effect of that little travesty was to destroy what few fish and sea life that remained.

Now you had all these unemployed fishermen. They looked around, they saw boats, guns and noticed all these big slow moving oil tankers not that far off-shore. So they did what should have been expected- they became pirates. They were quite successful and apparently, helped develop the economy further. Of course, the world didn't like these pirates and turned against them. Funny how they couldn't turn their guns on those vessels dumping toxics off shore- yeah funny how that is.

So Somalia has oil. Oil that the West is salivating at the thought of exploiting. The Canadian corporation Africa Oil Corporation is at the forefront of the development of the fields.

I would like to think this could be the best news possible for Somalia, here is tangible riches. If the speculation is true, that there might be as much as 4 billion barrels of oil, this is amazing.

The concern is, might the West, which has a long history of screwing the Somali people and nation over, try a new tact and actually give the people and government a break? Will they expect a certain level of atrocity to destroy the rebels so the clear the area of all who might interfere.

If done right, it will be a boon for the people.

Sadly, if done wrong, it's more of the same.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Every time you download a song

When all the entire music piracy began one of the saying that sprung up over the internet was this:

Seems the ramification has changed dramatically. The above website was posted at a website Now if you download a song you could face up to 10 years in prison. Now that's some serious time. As well you could pay the state a boatload of money, so much that can't begin to calculate the amount.

Someone once said that the punishment society metes out reflects the morals of that society. The thought being the crimes that are considered particularly heinous have a longer prison sentence or even capital punishment. This is why across the board nations declare the great punishment for murder, because we declare that all human life is valuable and must be protected by putting a murdered away for either life, a very long time or in some nations, death.

One wonders what this says about modern British society when downloading music illegally carries a great jail term then rape. Of course its also longer then the average manslaughter prison sentence.

So society, through its government has spoken and it views the greatest crime in their society as that of downloading music, movies and any culture. It views the protection of culture as more important then the lives of its citizenry. Now how is that for a screwed up sense of importance. Not only that but the fact the website in question was seized by the `Serious Organized Crime Organization` indicates the importance placed on protecting the sanctity of music. You can`t let all those nasty people pirating culture. That would be simply wrong.

It should be pointed out that SOCA has decided to throttle back on the threats and now this is what greets you when you go to the above mentioned site:


All this energy, enforcement and time spent going after the real criminals in society, those music pirates. Many believe this is a direct result of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, that spends most of its time going after those people who download the latest Lady Gaga track.

Then again, never underestimate the power of the Cultural Mafia. They have a lot of money and influence because of the money and they don't mind buying a few politicians along the way. The reason for their concern over piracy is that when you download a song you are destroying opportunities and taking the livelihood from musicians. Not only musicians, but all those involved in the music industry, the studio players, the engineers, producers, sound managers, even those poor people in the CD factories stamping out those shiny plastic discs for $1.00 a week. They all suffer because YOU downloaded a song.

This also holds true when you download a movie, or TV show illegally.

Then we have the words of Alex Cox, the director of Repo Man:
It’s so corrupt. Now they want to have longer copyright periods because they say the young artists are relying on this money. The young artists never see any money because they sign away that money to big media corporations, like Universal and Viacom.”

“We, the artists, lose all of our rights to these massive corporations, who then come down heavy on these kids for downloading films and music that we never see a penny from.”

“It’s complete bullshit. I want to encourage your audience to go and pirate a bunch of my stuff right away.

The rights don't belong to the creators of culture, they belong to the corrupter's of culture. Big Media owns the rights and they want to own all the money that comes from those rights. The history of recorded music long demonstrates the abuse of musicians by the recording labels and it continues to this day.

However none of this plays a part in the concerns of government or the ratifiers of ACTA. The treaty has this to say about piracy:
To protect electronic rights management information,16 each Party shall provide adequate legal protection and effective legal remedies against any person knowingly performing without authority any of the following acts knowing, or with respect to remedies, having reasonable grounds to know, that it will induce, enable, facilitate, or conceal an infringement of any copyright or related rights:to remove or alter any electronic rights management information;
(b) to distribute, import for distribution, broadcast, communicate, or make
available to the public copies of works, performances, or phonograms,
knowing that electronic rights management information has been
removed or altered without authority.
8. In providing adequate legal protection and effective legal remedies pursuant to

It's all the make the world safer for MegaCulture conglomerates. Which is far more important then say protect people from murderers or rapist.

Friday, March 02, 2012

The Growth of a University

I think I have the same feelings of ambivalence towards the development of the Laurier Brantford University that a lot of people have towards it.

On one hand, the University should be congratulated for the restoration work it has carried out, the fact that previously underused buildings are now being used. The fact that it's remaking Victoria Park into some sort of University Quad is excellent. The fact that older building have new life and excitement. There is the belief that businesses which can reach out for the students are doing quite well.

Yet to many quarters there is a concern about the direction the City is taking as it pertains to the University. More then one voice has opined that as far as the City is concerned, whatever the University wants, the University gets. One of the proofs is the whole destruction, no sorry, redevelopment of the south side of Colborne Street. It was torn down with no real plan in view, although there was always talk of a joint University/Y sports complex. It was considered something the downtown core needed, plans were drawn up and it has been announced

It seems the plans won an award for best looking plans.

Then again, the question is being asked, does the city need another sports complex when it has already did work renovating the Gretzky Centre- and certainly there was a lot of problems over that one wasn't there.

The issue is, the new athletic centre is going to cost the people of Brantford 5.8 million dollars. They have made this committment, saying the funds are going to come from the percentage the city receives from the Casino.

Now couple this with the fact that a domiciliary hostel is closing its doors. The owners went before City Council for a funding request and they were turned down. To be fair, three other facilities were turned down as well. They requested funding of $198,000. So now 17 people are looking for a place to live.

Then again, its not the University's fault. I'm sure no one in the administration is saying 'decide between us or a bunch of old people'.

But for the downtown, the University has done a lot of good, besides the life and the fact there are now people downtown, it has led to some nice construction.

Now we have the news, and I'm going to call it 'good news' of Conestoga College entering into a partnership with Laurier Brantford to offer business courses and degrees.

Yet at the same time, the City had a negative view of Mohawk College, one headline spoke of the City and Mohawk being at odds.

What I'm thinking about all of this is, this is a time of transition for Brantford. It's years of being an industrial dynamo are long gone-perhaps it might be best just to bulldoze all that brownfield just to remove all reminders of the glorious industrial past, and realize this is the information age- content and knowledge are the new muscle and Brantford is taking full advantage of it.

Transition times are always bumpy. People are feeling ignored and foolish at time, lines are drawn in the sand and there is a lot of finger pointing. What is the outcome of all this? Probably a better city.

What Brantford has to remind itself is a balance needs to be established and then maintain. There needs to be a stronger partnership with all the stakeholders of the downtown.

It will be a challenge but let's hope it can be achieved.