Saturday, March 7, 2009

Welcome to the

As much as I hate to rag on our neighbors to the south the story I read yesterday in the Globe and Mail nearly killed me.

A Canadian citizen was pepper sprayed and interrogated for the 3 hours at a US border crossing off British Columbia for get this: asking them to be polite. He was told to turn off his car engine, he asked the border guard to say please at which point he was asked to exit the vehicle, pepper sprayed, tackled to the ground and interrogated by US customs officers.

This is a guy who apparently crosses the border 3 times per week to visit his second home in Washington state.In order to cross into the US, he must now provide written proof from the mounties that he does not have a criminal record and that he is in fact Canadian.

A US customs spokesman said that the officers gave a lawful order that travelers must obey.

And people ask me why I don't shop in Vermont anymore...

Friday, March 6, 2009

Exporting the Revolution... one cup at a time

In a time where hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to Cuba for cheap vacation deals, beautiful beaches and all they drink; in a time where Che is still a misunderstood symbol of mini-revolutions worldwide, I was surprised to find Cuban coffee available for sale at my local super market. For a mere 10.79$ you could enjoy the taste to the Caribbean right here in your own home and if you brewed it in a Turkish coffee maker and added tons of brown sugar it tastes just like you're there.

Cabinet shuffles in Havana, Cubans with cell phones, Cubans on tourist beaches and now... Cuban coffee in Canada. These are the "massive" changes that are sweeping this small island nation since el General took over for his (I swear he's deceased) brother. But here at home, it seems that the Revolution is not only creeping into pop art, uneducated rock bands and t-shirt stores... No my friends, the Revolution is creeping into my coffee cup.

I went into a coffee shop the other day and ordered an espresso, the girl behind the counter asked what kind I'd like, I looked at the menu and saw they offered Cuban coffee, so I ordered one. I pay and she gives me my little styrofoam cup. Once outside, upon closer examination, I find that the cup says "coffee revolution" on it along with a big red star... I ask myself: Is this special communist coffee that is going to take over the world? Is this cup ready to defend the ideals of this backwards Revolution to the death? Or is this just a marketing scheme to appeal to the Che Guevara t-shirt wearing hippies that read Marx and have zero understanding of the world?

I'm not sure; but what I do know is that I am not taking part in this "coffee revolution" or any other revolution and I will never be seen in public again with a cup that says "coffee revolution" on it. Especially not one that costs me 4.69$...

Muchacho Enfermo

Thursday, March 5, 2009

ICC arrest warrant prompts more Crimes against Humanity

That's right folks, it's true! Following an arrest warrant being issued against Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir; he has ordered the expulsion of 10 international aid agencies that operate in Darfur.

Almost 3 million people depend on these agencies for a mere chance at survival. Darfur and its people have been victims of rebel, government and militia attacks that have been well publicized across the world. It is one of the poorest areas in the world. The current administration has been widely criticized by the media, the UN and, in particular, the aid agencies.

Just to clear things up for anyone still wondering... President Omar al-Bashir is wanted for crimes against humanity, so what does he do in response? He starts a whole other humanitarian crisis.

I feel horrible for the people of Darfur, I feel angry at the president's supporters in Khartoum and I feel like the international community should really step in and do something instead of waiting any longer. We (the world) needs to step in and defend the powerless instead of sitting idly by while they get slaughtered.

It'll be Rwanda all over again and ten years from now we'll make movies about it and say "Sorry we f^cked up." I thought we had learned our lesson, I thought that we had said all these things like "never again"...

I guess my grasp of the English language isn't what it used to be because it seems that I misunderstood. What they really meant was "Go ahead, they're only Africans."

Muchacho Enfermo

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Could NHL coach lead us out of recession?

Last week the Montreal Canadiens, the winningest franchise in all of pro sports, was in a slump having lost game after game, nothing was going right. The goaltending was dodgy at best, the scoring was abysmal and the defense was virtually invisible. Then the coach, Guy "Carbo" Carbonneau, decides that he's forcing his big star Alexei Kovalev to take a few days off to rest and reflect on his poor play. Since Kovalev's return from his "time off" Carbo has reunited his old top line, placed the number two goaltender in net and GM Bob Gainey has added a veteran defenseman to the lineup. And up until tonight, the Canadiens had been unstoppable.

Which leads me to my question: could we do the same thing with our government? And would it work? Seriously... think about it.

Ask Harper (playing the role of Kovalev) to take a few days off to contemplate how he's screwing the country with his slush fund and his pompous attitude. Then ask Ignatieff what he would do differently (he'd play the role of backup goaltender) and ask him how he would stop the hemorrhage. Then, just to add a veteran to the mix, bring on an oldie like Tobin or Jean Chretien to advise on how to handle the crisis.

I'm not saying this is the ultimate answer, but the slush fund seems to be something that is foolish at best. The opposition seem, for the most part, to be against it and right now, the opposition represents the majority of Canadians. And an old warhorse should be brought in to advise both the current leadership and the opposition leadership. To bridge the gap in policy and to prevent the now imminent fighting that will ensue after the Tories start their attack adds.

In my opinion, a government that seems to put a lot more planning into attacking the opposition than it does in planning a 3 billion dollar emergency fund should take a serious step back, take a long hard look at themselves and say: what is our priority in leading this country? Is it staying in power through slander or through earning the trust and respect of Canadians.

Kovalev did just that. He looked at himself in the mirror and decided that he would step up and play the way he should. He admitted that this was the best thing for him even if, at first, he was unhappy with it.

Maybe if the Conservatives did the same, they'd come to similar conclusions.

Muchacho Enfermo

Monday, March 2, 2009

Harper getting ready to attack Ignatieff

As an average Canadian, living in an regular in a blue collar neighborhood I was feeling pretty good about the way our government had been conducting itself lately. I was happy to see that our two major parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives, seemed to be working if not hand in hand at least in tandem in this time of economic turmoil that has so many Canadians scared about the future. It was nice, for a change, to have a government that seemed to be focused on actually governing the country and doing what we elected them to do, instead of focusing on vilifying the opposition to solidify their grip on power.

All that is about to change... According to the Glove and Mail the Tories are getting ready to air attack adds against Michael Ignatieff. The are apparently going through every bit of paper, footage and literature that Mr. Ignatieff has written, been quoted or featured in with a fine toothed comb in order to find something embarrassing he may have said in order to brand him, the same way they did Dion.

“The failure to brand him in the way we did Stéphane Dion is actually worrying some people — that maybe we've missed our opportunity to brand him negatively in the eyes of Canadians, and that an impression of competence is now sticking.

“So the pendulum is shifting back — that we should attack a bit more.” (A government insider quoted on the G&M)

Why must politics always be about vilifying the other guy? Are the Tories going to complain about his time spent as a Harvard professor when he was at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy? Or when he was lecturing at Oxford and hosting shows for the BBC? Or his many books that demonstrate a deep understanding of how the world works? I'm not saying that Mr Ignatieff is flawless, I'm simply stating that trying to attack his intellect may very well backfire... because in the intellectual resume category he clearly has Harper beat.

Overall, I'm interested on seeing how the Tories will brand him, but what I'm even more interested in, is how the Liberals will counter these adds. Will they fight back in the same way or will they counter with messages putting a positive spin on Ignatieff's career? Will the negative adds hurt the Tories image more then it will hurt Ignatieff's numbers in the polls? All that remains to be seen.

If there is an election in the near future I'd like the challenge the candidates to run a campaign focused on the issues: on health, education, the environment and the economy. I don't want to see a campaign that is run on negative press and attempts to dismantle the credibility of the opposition. Sadly, I'm pretty sure that this challenge will go unanswered and that next time there is an election, like most Canadians, I will leave my polling station with am uneasy feeling in my stomach because so little time will have been spent talking actual issues during the campaign that I won't be exactly sure what I voted for.

Muchacho Enfermo

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Interview with Claudia Cadelo

As some of you know, I try to contribute regularly to, a news website operated by Ashin Mettacara, a burmese monk whose blog I am a big fan of. Ashin is an advocate for freedom of thought, belief and expression so I thought it appropriate to post a couple of interviews with another person who fights for her freedom of thought and expression and whose blog I greatly enjoy, Claudia Cadelo.

This interview is the first in a series I called "The True Democracy of the Voteless" and I think it's a great read for anyone wanting to know a little bit more about Cuban bloggers or for anyone who already reads her and other blogs that originate from behind enemy lines.

I'd like to encourage all of you to read the interview by clicking HERE and since you can't comment on the other site feel free to comment here. For those of you who won't I'll post a very small portion of it here.

Muchacho Enfermo:
In a recent blog post you spoke of the harassment of the State towards those they perceive as dissidents. Is that something that worries you?
Claudia Cadelo: It worries me, I worry about a lot of things, my family, my friends, myself. I know perfectly well that I upset the government, like all those who are different upset them and everyone who, in one way or another, denounces or simply abstain from participating in the political circus that Cuba has become. But that doesn’t mean that I will stop writing, or that I will stop offering my support to those they try to silence.

Muchacho Enfermo: Why do you think what you do is important?
Claudia Cadelo: The truth is that I don’t know if it is important or not, I don’t like thinking of my blog as important. It is simply something that I do because I want to and because it seems right to me. If it is important for someone, that is very good, but that’s not what compels me to write; the fact that some people like reading it is, for me, already slightly wonderful and unexpected, that is more then I hoped for. I don’t try to change anybody’s mentality, I only want to say what I have a right to say in a world where freedom of expression is an abstract concept, one might say that it’s a luxury that I afford myself: I have decided to be a free being.

Muchacho Enfermo: What would you like to say to those outside Cuba who agree with the system and that criticize your blog and other blogs from
Claudia Cadelo:
I have nothing to say to people that use their freedom of expression, their civil rights, their economic freedoms and their political freedoms to defend this totalitarian system. I don’t believe that any system is perfect, but what I am sure of is that this system is not the right one: a better society cannot be constructed if the basis of it is oppression, fear, militarism, the absence of civil rights and the supreme unlimited power in the hands of only two or three people; and we can add to that that the social ills, the corruption and the poverty which are also a part of the status quo, which remains.

Muchacho Enfermo