Friday, March 11, 2005

Protect The Minority of The Opulent Against The Majority

Who said this?

‘In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The Senate, therefore, ought to be this body.’


It was US Founding Father James Madison. At Lenin's Tomb, commenter Jonathan Elliot, ed., ‘The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, 1787’ Philadelphia: Lippincott, 2nd edition, (1937[1836]), p. 450

This quote is towards the beginning of a longer multi-comment essay on business's use of propaganda to ensure its interests, with a historical scope, and many facts new to me - like the NAM campaign in the USA of the thirties-forties.

Two Factoids On Lebanon

The Blogosphere is awash with laughter at the Bush admin, on the news that after the mass protest they grudgingly accepted that Hezbollah is a democratic political party (too), originating in this NYT article.

However, this article is also a prime example of mainstream media crap, with the usual crimes like failing to mention even passingly Israel's occupation of Syrian territory or quoting administration officials spouting rhetoric anonymously and without checking for facts. Factoid #1 regards the latter - this bit:

"Hezbollah has American blood on its hands," an administration official said, referring to such events as the truck bombing that killed more than 200 American marines in Beirut in 1983. "They are in the same category as Al Qaeda....

While the comparison is outrageous enough - the truck bomb hit US soldiers not civilians like al-Qaida, hit them in a country they invaded and not in New York City, and with the backdrop of US actions like warships shelling Lebanon -, the Marine base was not hit by Hezbollah. Hezbollah didn't even exist then! (Contrary to US/Israeli rewriting of history, formally established from various pro-clerical groups only in early 1985.)

It was done by off-shoots of the Daawa party. Yes, that one, the party of the future Iraqi PM. (Read Juan Cole on the details, also of other Daawa terrorist attacks.)

That was factoid #1. As for #2: while even the official propaganda and clueless journalism doesn't manage to cut a simple line over Hezbollah's foreign ties - i.e., there's both Syria and Iran - what goes amiss is Amal.

Amal what, you may ask? The thing is that not only is Hezbollah's relation with Syria a rather shaky one not without armed confrontation (a loveless alliance), there is actually a rival Lebanese Shi'a militia+political pary (founded in 1974 by a member of the Sadr family) that was Syria's real surrogate, the Amal movement. Only it was eclipsed so much by the Iran-linked but more domestic-based Hezbollah militarily that Syria had to deal with the latter.

Hat Tip To Canada

I was not one impressed by Paul Martin, Canada's Liberal Party PM since last year's national elections there[*].

A social conservative, who was finance minister, who publicly questioned his predecessor's commitment to the Kyoto protocol, who avoided criticism of US foreign policy even at the height of the Iraq war protests - I saw him as a Bliarite type.

I sounded similar opinions at Left I On The News when it quoted from Martin's impressive speech on things changing including himself, in his opening speech of the parliamentary debate on introducing same-sex marriage - it looked like the Bliarite trick of making much fuss over a relatively minor progressive issue, while ramming through crazy conservative policies in serious matters.

But I really had to accept that Martin can change when he made Canada the first significant country (a participant in ECHELON, after all...) to opt out of the missile defense system[+] pushed by the Bush government. Tough his argument was only that the system would mean Canada paying for something unreliable while not having control over it (which, as usual in all the important things in NATO too, the USA wants to keep for itself), he toughed up after the US ambassador's predictably frothing-at-the-mouth response. The guy had the audacity to claim Canada just gave up its sovereignity - to which the Canadian government responded with an explicit warning that Canadian aerospace is Canadian aerospace and the US can't fire its missiles into it at whim.

However, even better was Canadian ex-foreign minister (1995-2000) Lloyd Axworthy's quite explicit reply, in the form of an op-ed addressing Condi Rice (via Left I via DailyKos). I quote the first five paragraphs only:

Dear Condi,
I'm glad you've decided to get over your fit of pique and venture north to visit your closest neighbour. It's a chance to learn a thing or two. Maybe more.

I know it seems improbable to your divinely guided master in the White House that mere mortals might disagree with participating in a missile-defence system that has failed in its last three tests, even though the tests themselves were carefully rigged to show results.

But, gosh, we folks above the 49th parallel are somewhat cautious types who can't quite see laying down billions of dollars in a three-dud poker game.

As our erstwhile Prairie-born and bred (and therefore prudent) finance minister pointed out in presenting his recent budget, we've had eight years of balanced or surplus financial accounts. If we're going to spend money, Mr. Goodale added, it will be on day-care and health programs, and even on more foreign aid and improved defence.

Sure, that doesn't match the gargantuan, multi-billion-dollar deficits that your government blithely runs up fighting a "liberation war" in Iraq, laying out more than half of all weapons expenditures in the world, and giving massive tax breaks to the top one per cent of your population while cutting food programs for poor children.

[*] Which, BTW, were remarkable for the fact that while leftist parties increased their share of the votes almost everywhere, it was the conservatives who significantly increased the number of their seats, just because the two main con parties united. Which reminds me of my frequent grumblings regarding the majority vote system - Canada should beware of a slide into a two-party system.

[+] Brief summary of why missile defense is a dangerous idiocy:
(1) It won't ever approach anything like a 99% hit rate, even if technology can give the precision to hit a chosen target at that rate: there are too many ways to fool the system with decoys.
(2) No rogue state would be crazy enough to attack a major nuclear power with a missile: a missile would immediately give the address for a return strike.
(3) What missile defense is really suited for is not limiting first strike capacity of an attacker but to limit return strike capacity of an attacked.
(4) Would rogue states really be the aim, it would be more practical to install the system nearby - so that large, still accelerating (hence slower) missiles can be intercepted rather than warheads.
(5) The real target of missile defense, major competitors like China, would/will/do not just respond to this attempt at their strategic weakening with decoys, but with the production of even more nukes, too.
(6) The system, by way of a comparatively simple upgrade, would enable Rumsfeld's dream of not just using it defensively to intercept incoming missiles, but also offensively, as global-reach (cruise) missiles that can strike any target within hours (rather than having to wait for days and weeks while equipment or airplanes are deployed).

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Democracy, Good Cop/Bad Cop, Unions

[11/03: link to Zogby poll in Lebanon, Uruguay's population added]

Hundreds of thousands protest for the removal of Venezuelan President Chavez, which is achieved in a coup.

Hundreds of thousands protest to keep their elected President Chavez, who manages to regain his power.

Chinese students protest for (among others) press freedom, the army dissolves the protests, people are crushed by tanks.

Sadrists protest for press freedom (after the first in US viceroy Bremer's series of provocative clampdowns on the Sadrists that led to the first uprising: closing off the Sadrist newspaper for nothing more than criticising Bremer), the US army dissolves it, people are crushed by tanks.

Hundreds of thousands follow the Orange opposition's call to protest in Kiew against election fraud in Ukraine.

Hundreds of thousands of Blue supporters turn out to protest in other Ukrainian cities.

A hundred thousand, mostly from minorities in Norther Iraq, turn out to protest election fraud in Iraq.

After calls from Maronite and Sunni leaders and the weasely Druze warlord who 'found' the perpetrator of a political assassination without any evidence, up to 70,000 Lebanese protest for the withdrawal of Syrian occupying forces (which entered in the first place with the then US government's green light, whose even earlier predecessor rigged the 1957 elections there) and for new elections which are skewered to favor Maronite Christians,

After calls from Lebanese Shi'a political party/militia Hezbollah and some Sunni and Shi'a political groups fearful of a returning civil war and Israeli/US intervention (and earlier smaller protests mainly by Sunni), 500,000 Lebanese turn out for pro-Syrian demonstrations.

Thousands protest against terrorism in the Iraqi town of Hilla after a suicide bomber kills more than 100 would-be policemen lined up for the medical check.

Those same protesters demand that authorities imposed by the US resign for failure to ensure security.

George W Bush is iaugurated for a second time as US President with lavish parties and ceremonies before exclusively screened guests.

Tabare Vazquez, Uruguay's first Socialist President is inaugurated with half a million joyous supporters present (in a country of 3.4 million).

Now guess which of these was spun by the US media (and by those European media that follow it) as a pro-democracy upswell, to be celebrated on cover pages and the first news slot; and which was spun as say the fanatic followers of X marching on command, and relegated to the back pages.

One could also recall the US media's coverage of 'anti-globalisation' and later anti-war mass protests.

The Lebanon example (BTW Juan Cole predicted that pro-Syrian Lebanese are in majority) also nails the coffin of old weasel French President Jacques Chirac's recent attempt to make peace with the Bush junta by playing good cop/bad cop in the Middle East and elsewhere. Already in the second attempt (after the disastrous (for Haitians) test run in Haiti). France authored the UN SC resolution to demand Syria's withdrawal (which would have been less hypocritical had it also called for Israeli and US withdrawals from occupied territory). Arabs did take notice of it[*]. Proving my point in my confronting of Phil Hunt @ Cabalamat Journal after he advocated a European good cop/US bad cop strategy.

Finally, a story from Iraq overlooked by most - assassins (by - well - assassinations) and the Allawi government (by dissolving them) clamp down on unions.

[*] I reiterate it again: when you read Raed and may be put off by his on-off extreme rambling, remember that he is not a fundie but a secular Iraqi with a secular Iranian girlfriend, who one year ago still believed the US could correct its mistakes and help build secular democracy in Iraq. (The original reason I put him in the "Uploading/Downloading" category on my blogroll; now he's there for some simplicisms in - well - his extreme rambling...)