Everybody remember that new Canadian copyright bill that died in 2008 sometime, that one where the only Canadians who would benefit from it were the ones in charge of the recording industry, and the ones that would lose from it were you, and I, and musicians, composers, and filmmakers?
The Conservatives haven’t given up on that bill. In fact, according to recently released diplomatic cables from the Wikileaks’ “Cablegate” release (they’re still releasing cables on almost a daily basis!) the Harper Government has been briefing the United States on private communications between cabinet ministers and even sent an official request to US Diplomats to pressure them more so that they could justify introducing something even tougher than that bill.
I am a public employee. I am not the problem. Wall Street made billions, crashed the economy, ruined lives and got bailed out. Average Americans followed the rules and got thrown to the wolves. Teachers, librarians, police officers, paramedics, firefighters, and others are NOT the enemy. We live here, pay taxes, work hard, and contribute to the health of the community.
You may have seen these words on Facebook, and echoed on placards and signs in Wisconsin and across the United States in the past three weeks, but what do they really mean? What are we so upset about? Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is backing a plan to cut the budget deficit in his state by cutting spending on education. This calls the Governor’s priorities into question, even if he claims it is a financially sound move. On top of these cuts to education, Walker is also planning to slash down benefits to public service workers like teachers, firemen, and paramedics, and remove the right that their unions have to collectively bargain. This makes little sense fiscally and would severely cripple the right of public employees to bargain with their government employer for years to come.
The public benefits from the services of teachers, firemen, and paramedics, and based on the allocation of tax money, the public has chosen to fund these necessary and important public employees. People have little patience for anyone who would choose to take away or limit these services. Scott Walker, the new conservative Republican governor of that state, confronted a budget shortfall which was caused in part by tax cuts he favored.
So he decided to light the fuse.
Quite reasonably, he asked teachers and public employees to join in the sacrifice and start paying more for their health and pension benefits — effectively an 8 percent pay cut, on average.
But he didn’t stop there. Instead, he made two fatal and typical errors. He was too partisan and he overplayed his hand. He exempted the police and fire unions from these harsh demands because they typically lean conservative and Republican. Then he decided not to quit while he was ahead, even after essentially winning the benefit battle.
He decided not to accept the incremental gain that is the deciding essence of political competition in America. He opted to grandstand by trying to gut the public unions altogether. He wants them denied collective bargaining on benefits and everything else, in fact, except basic pay. He wants them to have to renegotiate every year. He wants unions to cease collecting union dues via payroll deductions, thus to force these unions to get their money directly by fundraising among its members.
He will lose on all that, and should.
But, because of a permanently downsized American economy and the political dynamics of today, public employees are going to lose that old bargain about being assured inexpensive and generous benefits.
Things are not like they used to be, either economically or politically.
The Virginia Tech killings have set off calls for tighter U.S. gun laws but anyone wanting to know why those demands likely will make little headway should visit Kennesaw, a town where owning a gun is both popular and mandatory.
The town north of Atlanta had little prominence until it passed a gun ordinance in 1982 that required all heads of a household to own a firearm and ammunition.
Kennesaw’s law was a response to Morton Grove, Illinois, which had passed a gun ban earlier that year as a step to reduce crime.
If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, would he understand why the United States is at war?
Michael L. Rhodes, the Defense Department’s director of administration and management, applauds Jeh C. Johnson, the department’s general counsel, after presenting him a certificate of appreciation for his keynote address at the 26th annual observance of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Pentagon, Jan.
Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department’s general counsel, posed that question at today’s Pentagon commemoration of King’s legacy.
In the final year of his life, King became an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, Johnson told a packed auditorium. However, he added, today’s wars are not out of line with the iconic Nobel Peace Prize winner’s teachings.
“I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation’s military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack,” he said.
This guy’s been obsessed with watching the news – his hermit-like appearance and demeanour make him appear like a sage from the mists of time, as he presents short (8-10 minute) clips of important news every single day.
Reading the Cablegate release is a bit like touring a sausage factory. Many people enjoy the finished product, but few see how it’s made – an unsettling and unpalatable production.
Even if the cablegate release by Wikileaks didn’t expose US spying and intimidation, ignorance of corruption and Human Rights abuses, and deep insider dealings with US corporations – even if it didn’t represent evidence of crimes, the release of these confidential and secret diplomatic cables give us a rare peek behind the curtain at how diplomacy really operates today. Even the best journalists and scholars and academics are continually writing a post-script to the actions of diplomats, trying to search for reasons for the actions of states and hypothesizing on why things happened as they did.
So when a big release like this happens, it causes people to radically re-evaluate the way international relations works. Not that there’s ever been much like this Cablegate release, at seven times the size of the Iraq war logs which were formerly the world’s largest leak.
It’s one thing for someone like Noam Chomsky to say that the US and other developed countries deliberately ignore evidence of corruption and human rights abuses when they stand to gain financially from a relationship with another country. Taking such a position opens him up to accusations that he is misinterpreting evidence, seeing corruption and abuse where there is none. It’s another thing entirely for the Kabul Embassy to describe money smuggling out of Afghanistan by the Vice-President. The authority of their position allows only righteous indignation that they deal with these people as allies on behalf of the American people. And the dealings of the Afghan government allows only righteous indignation on the part of the Afghan people that their elected officials are doing this.
The threat the United States is worried about when it comes to Wikileaks isn’t that it actually threatens American lives, but that it threatens to shake up US Foreign Policy in its dealings with other countries.
What cablegate in general reveals to many who don’t have such background is that International Relations is a profoundly messier business than they had previously assumed. Like packaged tube meat products, the clean sterility of the packaging belies the truth behind how it comes together.
There are no good guys in International Relations, as the US State Department is well aware. However much other countries and academics may have moved to Liberalism and Constructivism, two competing theories of International Relations, the US has always maintained their strictly Realist viewpoint. With cables like this one from the Tel Aviv embassy where the embassy quite clearly accepts MG Yadlin’s statement,
He went on to explain that Israel is not in a position to underestimate Iran and be surprised like the US was on 11 September 2001. MG Yadlin explained that Israel tries to be more precise than the US in estimating Iran’s intentions and timeline for obtaining a nuclear bomb.
For those with no background in these terms, a quick lesson: Realism prioritizes national interest and security over moral concerns. Often, the most important aspect of any inter-state relationship is their power dynamic. The other important aspect is their relative amounts of resource wealth. For Realists, human nature is inherently competitive and self-serving, and this is reflected in the actions of states. Realism was mostly developed as an ideal during the Cold War, where two Superpower states (the USA and USSR) vied for supremacy with each other.
Liberalism is opposed to Realism. This type of theory emphasizes the importance of ideals and political philosophy – state preferences outweigh military force or power. Importantly, Liberalism developed the “democratic peace hypothesis” – the simple statement that democracies don’t go to war against each other.
Constructivism claims that even beyond power dynamics and ideals, often many aspects of International Relations are historically and socially contingent. They reject ideas of human nature, and also reject claims that international relations is inherently unchanging.
There are other theories of IR, but these are the most important.
I’ll leave you with a few statements by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, found here.
“The internet is a network that magnifies the power and potential of all others. And that’s why we feel it’s critical that its users are assured certain basic freedoms.”
“We feel strongly that principles like ‘information freedom’ aren’t just good policy, or somehow connected to our national values, but they’re universal, and they’re good for business. This isn’t about trying to claim the moral high ground.”
“Censorship should not be in any way accepted by any company anywhere. America must make a principled stand. This needs to be part of our national brand.”
And one more.
“The United States strongly condemns the illegal disclosure of classified information … this disclosure is not just an attack on America’s foreign policy interests, but an attack on the international community.”
The spread of consumerism among China’s burgeoning middle class is behind the rapid growth of the Asian giant’s environmental footprint, a conservation group said Monday.
Demand for construction, transport, goods and public services are the key factors behind ballooning carbon emissions, the World Wildlife Fund said in its annual “China Ecological Footprint” report.
“The growth in the carbon footprint is particularly associated with lifestyle changes in wealthier provinces,” it said.
Carbon emissions accounted for 54 percent of China’s ecological footprint in 2007 and the country needed more than two times its own biologically productive land area to meet demand for resources and to absorb emissions, it said.
Rand Paul, the next Republican US senator from Kentucky, has done an about-face on earmarks even before taking office.
In an interview published over the weekend with the Wall Street Journal, Paul signaled a major backtrack on a core campaign promise: cutting federal earmarks. The promise is a hallmark of Republican candidates of all stripes, who advocate that a smaller government is in the national interest and that money doled out for special progress is tantamount to backroom dealing.
“In a bigger shift from his campaign pledge to end earmarks, he tells me that they are a bad “symbol” of easy spending but that he will fight for Kentucky’s share of earmarks and federal pork, as long as it’s doled out transparently at the committee level and not parachuted in in the dead of night,” Paul told the Journal for an interview published Saturday.
NEW YORK – A Chilean miner ran, walked and hobbled his way to the finish line of the New York City Marathon on Sunday, showing the passionate grit that helped him survive more than two months trapped underground.
Edison Pena crossed the Central Park finish line at 3:24 p.m., with a time of 5 hours, 40 minutes, 51 seconds. He was draped in a Chilean flag as Elvis music played over the speakers.
According to the rules for giving US Military Aid, the country receiving aid must not use child soldiers, must not torture, and so forth. They must obey the law.
President Obama has granted a waiver allowing four countries to continue receiving U.S. military aid even though they use child soldiers, officials said Wednesday…
Obama sent a memo to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, dated Monday, saying that it was “in the national interest” to waive a cutoff of military assistance for Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Yemen.
Those countries would have been penalized under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush shortly before he left office. The law took effect this year, after the State Department identified six countries that used government soldiers – including Somalia and Burma.