Monthly Archives: December 2009

The False Economy of War

Fascinating interview with Robert Pollin, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and founding co-director of its Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), quite persuasively debunking the persistent myth in American political discourse that the military is an essential driving force in the U.S. economy and a vital necessity for the development of innovative commercial technologies.

In the first part, the contention that it was WWII that ended the 1930s Depression and its present corollary that expansion of the war in Afghanistan may likewise have a beneficial stimulative economic effect is examined. According to Pollin, it’s not so much a question of whether war itself is effective means of boosting the economy (quite the contrary according to the statistical analysis), but that it’s the only thing that seems capable of generating the kind of bi-partisan political will to engage in massive, albeit inefficient, deficit spending.

In the second part of the interview, Pollin expands on his assertion that the money being generously funneled into military expenditures would actually produce better economic outcomes if they were invested in domestic social programs (e.g., education, healthcare, etc.), infrastructure development and innovative research programs. Unfortunately, such forms of public spending are conventionally regarded with derision as wasteful expressions of “big government” whereas, through some schizophrenic intellectual legerdemain, military expenditures are viewed as necessary investments made by a distinct entity that are absolutely vital to national security, etc. (even though it’s indisputably just another creature of government)

The irony of course, as pointed out by Pollin, is that the development of new technologies within the framework of the military-industrial complex circumvents all the usual rigors of the vaunted “free-market” through the closed loop of the military procurement process that practically guarantees a highly profitable return on investment for even the most harebrained, massively unproductive, and grotesquely wasteful schemes.

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Reel Bad Arabs

Arabs are the most maligned group in the history of Hollywood — so says Dr. Jack Shaheen, noted media critic, author and presenter of the 2007 documentary film produced by the Media Education Foundation,
Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People.

Reel Bad Arabs dissects a slanderous aspect of cinematic history that has run virtually unchallenged from the earliest days of silent film to today’s biggest Hollywood blockbusters. The film explores a long line of degrading images of Arabs — from Bedouin bandits and submissive maidens to sinister sheikhs and gun-wielding terrorists — along the way offering devastating insights into the origin of these stereotypic images, their development at key points in U.S. history, and why they matter so much today.

Shaheen shows how the persistence of these images over time has served to naturalize prejudicial attitudes toward Arabs and Arab culture, in the process reinforcing a narrow view of individual Arabs and the effects of specific US domestic and international policies on their lives. By inspiring critical thinking about the social, political, and basic human consequences of leaving these Hollywood caricatures unexamined, the film challenges viewers to recognize the urgent need for counter-narratives that do justice to the diversity and humanity of Arab people and the reality and richness of Arab history and culture.

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Filed under Films, Media

Merry Christmas

Please accept without obligation, express or implied, these best wishes for an environmentally safe, socially responsible, low stress, non addictive, and gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday as practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice (but with respect for the religious or secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or for their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all) and further for a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated onset of the generally accepted calendar year (including, but not limited to, the Christian calendar, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures). The preceding wishes are extended without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, political affiliation, choice of computer platform, or sexual preference of the wishee(s).

Xmas Update: The Queen’s annual Christmas message. Hey, it’s a tradition…

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Filed under Musical Interludes, Personal Crap

Oh, What a Lovely War

Not that yet another reason is needed to predict with absolute confidence the eventual failure of the “mission” in Afghanistan, but here’s one anyway: It seems that during breaks in fighting, the vast majority of Afghan soldiers enjoy nothing more than to smoke hash and randomly fire their guns at nothing in particular.

As independent war correspondent David Axe has noted, “All Afghans smoke pot — especially in winter, when roads are snowed in and nobody’s working.” All fine, but a situation that poses a bit of an obstacle to the spurious notion of “training up” the Afghan National Army and security forces…

Perhaps NATO and the U.S. government should simply buy the Taliban and the Afghan Army Xbox 360s and Call of Duty, then they can get stoned and play each other all night long without actually hurting anyone.

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Filed under Afghanistan War

Santa Threat Neutralized!

As featured on the Rachel Maddow show last week, Aspect Film & Video, an online marketing company in the U.K. (whose slogan is “Rage Against the Mundane”), has cleverly spoofed Fox’s awful 24 hrs. drama with the “enhanced interrogation” of Santa Claus.

The better quality version can be seen here.

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Filed under Advertising, Humour

Poll: To Prorogue or Not

It’s been ages since we had a good old fashioned poll around here, but seeing as this afternoon’s Politics & Power panel is pondering prorogation, maybe it’s a timely survey topic.

By the way, if you have ideas for future polls, don’t hesitate to let me know.

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Papal Praise for Homer Simpson

The Vatican’s official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano yesterday congratulated The Simpsons on its 20th anniversary, praising the shows philosophical leanings as well as its stinging and often irreverent take on religion.

In an article titled “Aristotle’s Virtues and Homer’s Doughnut” a number of religion-themed episodes are mentioned, including one in which Homer calls for divine intervention by crying: “I’m not normally a religious man, but if you’re up there, save me, Superman!”

Homer’s religious confusion is “a mirror of the indifference and the need that modern man feels toward faith.” The paper says: “Homer finds in God his last refuge, even though he sometimes gets His name sensationally wrong.” But L’Osservatore Romano is persuaded that “these are just minor mistakes (because) the two know each other well.”

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Filed under Humour, Religion

RMR: Liberal Party Imploder

If you need a party destroyed, let the pros do it!

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Filed under Humour, Liberal Party of Canada

FxPro Holiday Fantasy Tale

A cool new commercial spot for foreign exchange trading company FxPro.

Produced by U.K. agency Freeger.

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Traducing Taber’s Twaddle

Seeing as the Globe & Mail has seen fit to close off its comment section (“for legal reasons”) on Jane Taber’s latest bit of unctuous prattle describing the “10 most endearing politicians of 2009” I thought it might be fitting to allow folks to vent their spleens here if they feel so inclined…

Update: Flaherty’s “Endearing” deficit-reduction plan.

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Filed under Media, STEPHEN HARPER Govrnment of Canada