The Real Bev Oda Scandal: Politicizing (& Corporatizing) Canadian Foreign Aid

That now-infamous taxpayer-subsidized luxury hotel switcheroo in Mother London? Small potatoes.

Don Cayo:

[A]nalysis by Fraser Reilly-King, a policy analyst at the non-profit Canadian Council for International Co-operation, shows substantial cuts to foreign aid in last month’s federal budget are aimed mainly at the same kind of underprivileged countries [that were removed from CIDA's priority list in 2009] – the poorest places in the world. And funds for the better-off political darlings are mostly protected.

Reilly-King’s figures project, starting next year, a winnowing-away of funds for inter-national assistance from an all-time peak of $5 billion this year to $4.6 billion in 2014-15. Over the same period, the share of Gross National Income that Canada spends on aid will shrink to 0.25 per cent from 0.34 per cent, which is less than half the never-attained target set by former prime minister Lester Pearson in 1969.

Wait — it gets better:

The cuts will be felt by 13 cur-rent recipients, he says, eight of them in Africa. One of the countries to be cut off completely is China, a fully justified – if not overdue – move given its rapid economic expansion. But the others to lose out completely include Cambodia and Nepal, which are making progress but were late in catching the Asian prosperity wave, as well as dirt-poor Zambia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Niger.

Yet Ukraine – which has been a priority country for years only because of strong lobbying by Canadians of Ukrainian descent – and fast-rising, upper-middle-income Peru and Colombia are unaffected.

Other countries to duck the axe are Bangladesh, which is very poor, and Vietnam and Indonesia, which are both making rapid progress on their own. Reilly-King points out all the unaffected countries are high on the Harper government’s list of places where it wants to see stronger trade ties.

There’s brazen, and brazen – Oda, proud Harpercon that she is, certainly earns the italicization (and then some):

In an interview with my Post- media colleague Elizabeth Payne earlier this year, Oda candidly conceded that she didn’t separate at all Canadian trade and foreign policy goals from our aid policy.

She also confirmed that CIDA, which has been moving away from its well-established, long-term partnerships with trusted and respected NGOs in the field, is moving more and more to partnerships with private sector partners in the mining and agricultural sectors.

Shorter Bev Oda: Let them eat little cakes — ooh, and freshen up my OJ while you’re at it!

h/t

Related:  More from CBC’s The Current on the debate over CIDA partnerships.

NY Times: 300 Afghan Women Protest ‘Rape Law’

by mattbastard

This is probably the most inspiring and heroic thing I’ve read about in ages:

The young women stepped off the bus and moved toward the protest march just beginning on the other side of the street when they were spotted by a mob of men.

“Get out of here, you whores!” the men shouted. “Get out!”

The women scattered as the men moved in.

“We want our rights!” one of the women shouted, turning to face them. “We want equality!”

The women ran to the bus and dove inside as it rumbled away, with the men smashing the taillights and banging on the sides.

“Whores!”

But the march continued anyway. About 300 Afghan women, facing an angry throng three times larger than their own, walked the streets of the capital on Wednesday to demand that Parliament repeal a new law that introduces a range of Taliban-like restrictions on women, and permits, among other things, marital rape.

It was an extraordinary scene. Women are mostly illiterate in this impoverished country, and they do not, generally speaking, enjoy anything near the freedom accorded to men. But there they were, most of them young, many in jeans, defying a threatening crowd and calling out slogans heavy with meaning.

[...]

The women who protested Wednesday began their demonstration with what appeared to be a deliberately provocative act. They gathered in front of the School of the Last Prophet, a madrasa run by Ayatollah Asif Mohsini, the country’s most powerful Shiite cleric. He and the scholars around him played an important role in the drafting of the new law.

“We are here to campaign for our rights,” one woman said into a loudspeaker. Then the women held their banners aloft and began to chant.

The reaction was immediate. Hundreds of students from the madrasa, most but not all of them men, poured into the streets to confront the demonstrators.

“Death to the enemies of Islam!” the counterdemonstrators cried, encircling the women. “We want Islamic law!”

The women stared ahead and kept walking.

A phalanx of police officers, some of them women, held the crowds apart.

As Spackerman (h/t) rhetorically asks, “What have you done recently that’s half as brave?”

Related: In an interview with Afghan women’s rights activist Soraya Pakzad, Jean MacKenzie puts the  controversy surrounding the Afghan ‘rape law’ in context:

The reality is that no Afghan woman, Shi’ia or Sunni, has the right to object to her husband’s advances. The international outcry, while well meaning, misses the point: It is not a single law that is the problem, it is the overall status of women.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

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F*ck Me with a Freshly Sharpened Pitchfork.

by matttbastard

Update 03/23: Make sure to check out Sarah’s post on Spitzer, populism, and The Experts.

On today’s episode of Fareed Zakaria GPS, an ‘expert panel’ was convened to discuss ‘populist’ outrage in the wake of AIG and other recent scandals related to the global economic crisis. Via email, I bet Sarah a dinner at IHOP (because we be keepin’ it real like that in this economy) that the ‘expert panel’ would be tilted towards the Washington media elite–y’know, Broder,  Friedman, maybe some latte-sipping ‘even the’ liberal from TNR.  Sarah very astutely declined to take me up on that bet.

Good thing, too–I knew it was going to be bad, but this so-called ‘expert panel’ went beyond even the previously charted borders of EPIC ESTABLISHMENT FAIL .

I mean, was that ‘expert panel’ on ‘populist rage’ a joke?  Let’s see: a glibertarian blogger, a former Goldman Sachs greed peddler, and a tainted ex-Merril Lynch exec.

Seriously?

How about next time try featuring some actual, y’know, populists–labour reps, or writers like Barbara Ehrenreich or Bill Fletcher, Jr–people who aren’t stuck in the bubble of establishment Washington, who don’t purse their lips at such vulgar concepts as ‘populism’,  ‘nationalization’ or even (gasp!) ‘socialism.’   Or, as Sarah suggested, someone like our homie Erik Loomis, a Gilded Age historian whose focus is labor history and has studied in depth populist movements in the US. In other words, REAL experts on the matter of ‘populist rage’, not smug apologists for the very system that has PROVOKED the white-hot ire of the general public.

At the end of the segment, Zakaria guilelessly requested that viewers write in if they felt the panel didn’t contain enough populist outrage “and we’ll see what we can do to correct that”. Dude, there was NO populist outrage–period.  Jesus fucking wept — talk about a glib cocktail party sneer from the woefully-out-of-touch establishment.

Pitchforks. Pikes. Tumbrils.

Take action: Contact Fareed Zakaria GPS and (politely but firmly) let them know that you want to see REAL experts on populism represented in any purportedly ‘expert’ panel.

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If Tennessee is the Buckle of the Bible Belt Then Utah is the Backside

by matttbastard

Well, isn’t this lovely:

The Utah House of Representatives will hear a controversial proposal that could hold physicians responsible for homicide if they perform abortions deemed illegal by the state.

Under current state law, abortion is allowed only in cases of rape or incest, if the fetus cannot survive outside the womb or is unlikely to survive, or to save the mother’s life or preserve her health.

Abortions that don’t meet any of those standards can result in third-degree felony charges.

Under House Bill 90, sponsored by Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, physicians who perform illegal abortions could be charged with second-degree felony criminal homicide.

“In my opinion, illegal abortion is the same as murder,” Ray said. “This is the right step for Utah to take to protect the lives of unborn children, because they don’t have a voice.”

Note how it’s  the doctors who performed the “illegal” abortions potentially facing charges under this proposed new law, not the women who ‘contracted’ the “killing”. In a (perverse) sense, it’s almost gratifying to see the fetus fetishists explicitly affirm their belief that women are merely empty vessels that bear teh innocent baybees over to this mortal coil–boxes on a biological assembly line, if you will.

Which perhaps answers the question posed via IM by Sylvia/M (h/t):

“Will women be accomplices, then? Or scenes of the crime?”

Take action:

If you live in Utah or you want to send some strongly-worded letters to the Democrats in their House of Representatives about this bill, here’s the UT House websiteTell these representatives that doctors protecting women’s health is not an air quotation myth.

Update: Jill Miller Zimon  has compiled a plethora of info on this proposed anti-woman legislation. Go.

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More on Obama, Celebrity and Miscengenation

by matttbastard

Re: the recent McCain campaign ad labelling Barack Obama a celebrity (and not-so-subtly juxtaposing the junior senator from Illinois with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears), Adam Serwer (aka dnA of Too Sense and Jack and Jill Politics) believes that, contra yours truly and other commentators, the racial subtext of the advertisement isn’t actually miscegenation. Rather, he contends that the McCain campaign has constructed a Nixonian paean to white resentment provoked by the undeserved success of an uppity person of colour:

The Britney ad is a result of the ongoing meme in this election that Obama’s success, like that of “overpaid black athletes,” is an affront to hardworking white people everywhere. The ad never mentions Obama’s race as the source of his celebrity, but it doesn’t have to — it’s been part of the campaign long enough for the point to be implicit. In short, this ad is Geraldine Ferraro’s attack done “right,” in the sense that it does not directly implicate the McCain campaign as exploiting racial tensions.

The McCain campaign’s apparently race-neutral approach, and its subsequent accusation that the Obama campaign is playing the race card, is a well-thought-out strategy — it is pure Nixon. In his recent chronicle of conservative political history in The New Yorker, George Packer describes Pat Buchanan’s plan for exploiting political divisions, particularly ones of a racial nature. Buchanan’s assessment was that they could “cut the Democratic Party and country in half; my view is that we would have far the larger half.”

In a dispute about race, the McCain campaign knows it will end up with the larger half. For the most part, most white people’s experience with race isn’t one of racial discrimination. They can only relate to racial discrimination in the abstract. What white people can relate to is the fear of being unjustly accused of racism. This is the larger half. This is why allegations of racism often provoke more outrage than actual racism, because most of the country can relate to one (the accusation of racism) easier than the other (actual racism). For this reason, in a political conflict over race, the McCain campaign has the advantage, because saying the race card has been played is actually the ultimate race card.

Because of this advantage, dnA (it just don’t feel right to call the brother by his real name) further argues that, instead of tackling these racist attacks head on, “[i]t’s in the Obama campaign’s interest to keep the conversation on matters of policy, where it has an advantage not yet reflected in the polls”:

[Democrats] need to resist the temptation to engage in protracted battles with the McCain campaign about racism directed at their candidate, because the nation’s demographics and the circumstances of Obama’s rise make it difficult if not impossible to win the argument. Instead, they should attempt to focus the conversation back to policy questions. Democrats have a candidate who is sophisticated in his understanding of policy, and Republicans have a candidate who is still largely running on his biography as a war hero, whose only coherent and consistent remaining policy position is support for offshore drilling. Driving home that point will become increasingly difficult if McCain is re-energized by the presence of white voters who are themselves anxious about being seen as racist. From their point of view, Obama’s presence on the national stage is proof that any charge of racism on their behalf is frivolous. This is nonsense, but there’s nothing really that can be done about it.

As always, dnA’s points are compelling and well-thought out. He certainly has me thinking about how I’ve reacted to the calculated racism that has been–and continues to be–employed against Obama throughout the campaign. In other words, read the whole damn thing.

h/t Jack and Jill Politics

(photo: Barack Obama, Flickr, used under a Creative Commons License)

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