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Archive for February, 2011

With tensions rising in the Middle East, especially with Libya (an oil rich nation) on the brink of possible civil war, the price of crude is rising once again. It is unclear how high oil prices will go but if the first half of 2008 was particularly hard on your pocket book, expect another shock.

Prices have increased by nearly 7 cents/L since the beginning of this month and that number is expected to increase unless tensions in the Middle East are soothed. Libya supplies the world with roughly 2% of its oil daily. With the taps currently closed off due to civil unrest, 2% there means increases in oil pricing here.

Fears are on the rise that other oil producing nations in the region could follow a similar path to the instabilities shocking Libya. In Canada, where the price of oil is particularly high due to intense taxation on oil by our government, increases in the price of gas at the pumps means less in our already nearly empty pocket books.

It’s a shame that in times like these our government doesn’t give us a floating tax rate to keep the prices of gas at a relatively stable level. If gas were to stay for a 5 year period at a single price–say $105/L by adjusting the amount of tax placed on gas–our citizens might feel more secure. It would work this way: If gas is priced higher on the international market, it is taxed less here at home–if it is priced lower on the international market, the government could tax it higher here to maintain an even price at the pump for any given amount of time.

People need to be able to plan out their finances to stay afloat–especially in Canada where the average debt to earnings ratio is increasing. Many people rely on their own transportation to get to and from work. If people cannot be sure how high gas prices are rising or when they will rise then changes like the ones we are seeing now can become particularly burdensome and stressful to many Canadian taxpayers.

If you agree that a floating tax rate at the pumps will help many Canadians to stay afloat, copy this article and send it to your local MLA and your local MP.

~ Justin A. Philcox

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People like the man in this video make the world a better place for everyone. If each one of us who is able can contribute in even a small way by emulating this man’s actions, just think how different this world would be. I am not saying that you need to go out and quit your jobs to dedicate your lives to charity like Narayanan Krishnan, but try to spend time in your busy lives to reach out and help someone in need. Your actions can make this world a brighter place. Whoever said that one person alone cannot make a difference needs but open their eyes and witness miracles like the one in this video.

Thank-you for sharing this video with the world.

~Justin Allen Philcox

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Tunisia, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Iran, revolution in the Middle Eastern and African regions is spreading. Perhaps the biggest question that arises today is: What will happen with Iran? For years, the west has been at odds with the Iranian government. There has long been the possibility of war between Iran and the US (and US ally Israel). Now, the people themselves are taking to the streets in the tens of thousands: All the while, there is a very real threat that the Iranian government will deal with these protests by killing the leaders of the opposition who unite these crowds. How might this uprising progress in Iran?

It could go several ways: The Iranian government could put an end to the dissent right now by killing the protesters–making any who dare to rise up against the regime think twice; if this happens, this would provide a case in favor of foreign military intervention. Another scenario that could occur is civil war in Iran, where the people begin arming themselves to fight back against the government forces. Yet another possibility is that the people take to the streets en masse as has occurred in Egypt, and topple the current government by the power of numbers alone. If the current regime agrees to change to accommodate the protesters, they may be able to hold onto power.

Many things could happen but the question is: What scenario is most likely to occur? There is always the risk that a writer who makes a hypothesis like this will turn out to be wrong. I am, therefore, skeptical to make a guess. But, nonetheless, I will venture an opinion. I think the most likely outcome will begin with more Iranians taking to the streets, first. Next, the Ahmadinejad government will use the armed forces to round-up opposition leaders and execute them and many found supporting them. This will result in anti-Ahmadinejad sentiment in world media–giving fuel to US, Israel, NATO and the UN to intervene. Many in Iran will begin to hate Ahmadinejad’s regime even more than now. The US, for years, has been looking for an excuse to go into Iran: If the people are not able to topple the government themselves, there is no better time for military intervention. The war in Iraq has wound down significantly; though there is still US military presence there. The war in Afghanistan is seemingly beginning to slow with a gradual hand-over of power to Afghan security forces expected shortly in the future. Soldiers could be redeployed to Iran to aid the people in taking down a perceived hostile regime.

It is unclear how the scenario in Iran will unfold but I have, reluctantly, stated my opinion regarding the possibilities. There is a good chance that I am drastically wrong and the protesters there might all go home this evening and forget about the whole “freedom” thing altogether. Given the way revolution has spread in these regions so fiercely over the past few weeks, I think it is unlikely that we will see an end just yet.

~Justin Allen Philcox

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The other day I was tired and I could not find the energy for working on anything. I was in no particular mood for another mindless TV episode, nor did I have the desire to watch another pointless movie. I found myself digging through documentary films: a balance, I felt, between work and rest. It has been three days since I did so and the documentary that I decided on has left a searing impression on me ever since.

“Home” (2009), is a documentary that is both aesthetically wondrous and scorchingly eye opening. It is a film about the history of our planet; its growth, its evolution, its various inhabitants; plants, animals, and HUMAN. It is the history of life on our planet–from beginning to our present predicament. I found most scathing, the last 50 years: Humans have changed the face of this planet in ways that I was never, fully, able to realize until I watched this film. We have damaged our home in ways never before imaginable in the entire known history of the planet. I say all this and yet find my words greatly understate just how dire the situation has become.

It is not, as most documentary films of the sort have become, a demonstration of hopeless doom and apocalyptic gloom. Rather, this film shows possibility for human growth–promise for our future and our home before it is too late.

If there is one film you watch this year (only one film) this NEEDS to be it.

The internet has many places where you can find a free copy of it. There is ABSOLUTELY no excuse for not turning your attention to the place we all call home for a couple of hours. Sometimes, we all have to do a little house cleaning and this is, more than at any time in the history of the planet, the time we need it most. We are all responsible for the place we live. The project is immense, but this film offers us a glimpse and a rough road-map of the chores that NEED to be done.

If there is one little thing that I can do now, it is to stress the importance of this film as a wake-up-call. Please, if you have not yet seen this film take the time to view it as soon as you can. Please spread the word to other people to watch as well.

Thank-you for helping to make our home a better place,

~Justin Allen Philcox

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While it is unlikely that George Bush Jr. will ever see the inside of a prison cell, the threat of charges being laid and possible persecution in an international War Crimes court has stopped him from traveling to some countries. Recent headlines read:

George Bush: no escaping torture charges

Sooner or later, Bush will step into a country where he will be prosecuted for authorizing the abuses of the ‘war on terror’

Last week, Bush cancelled a trip to Geneva because there was word that human rights organizations would have the former world leader arrested. According to long standing international laws of war, George Bush committed war crimes by authorizing the torture of prisoners during his time as President of the United States. Why no mention of the illegal War against Iraq?

It is not clear whether Bush will ever be able to set foot in certain countries for the remainder of his life for fear of possible prosecution. It is possible that other countries may choose to follow suit in future; further disrupting his international travel plans.

It is my own opinion (and that of many many others in the world) that this man is a criminal: I hope for the world’s sake that real justice is eventually served. Nobody should be above the law.  The question I do have, however, is why no mention of former Vice President Dick Cheney…we all know he is just as guilty.

Justin Allen Philcox

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A stronger Chinese currency (RenMinBi (RMB) or Yuan to which it is also referred) would change the world as we know it. The US has long been trying to persuade the Chinese to increase the value of their currency with very little success. If the RMB were to rise drastically in value (becoming closer to the US currency in value), the cheap consumer goods that the world purchases from China would cost more. This would have several possible effects: we may pay more for our goods here; our goods would compete more with Chinese goods on the international and domestic markets and within China itself; some other country, besides China, with a lower currency would more than likely attract massive foreign investments; China’s growth would effectively slow due to disinvestment in favour of a country with a lower currency (perhaps Mexico???) leaving the US in its position as the sole global superpower;  China’s US foreign currency reserves would be less valuable in relative terms…etc., etc. The list of changes that could ensue is long.

Since most of these scenarios puts the US at an advantage over China, and since the losses would outweigh the gains for China, it is likely that the Chinese will not increase their currency very much; if at all.

The US is now looking to Brazil to support them in their demand that China increase the value of the RMB; Brazil would also likely serve to gain with an increased value in RMB through an increase in Brazilian exports. While having other countries back the US demand may put more pressure on the Chinese to increase their currency, it is still unlikely that the Chinese will do so.

The US is also unable to drastically lower its own currency value since this could result in many nations dropping the US currency as the stable world currency in favour of another currency like the Euro.

The US is in decline and it needs China to slow down in order to maintain its current position at the top. The latest January/ February 2011 Foreign Policy cover story suggests that the US is on a path of permanent decline. China knows that this is the case and they have demands on the US that the US is unwilling to meet. For example, China has concerns over US military presence throughout the Asia pacific region (most notably in South Korea and Japan; but the Chinese are also concerned about weapons trading between Taiwan and the US). China can continue to rise in power if it holds its currency at its current value. At the same time China knows that it can wait for the US decline to force them out of their military and geo-strategic position in the Asian-Pacific. For all of these reasons, I see it as very unlikely that the Chinese will sabotage their own gains by increasing the value of their currency so that the US can remain as the world superpower.

However, it will become an increasingly important goal of the US to do something about this situation. All we can do is wait and see what that is. It most certainly will not be war with China, and the US will have to be cautious in its approach to avoid diplomatic and trade retaliation from China itself.  How do you think this situation is most likely to play out?

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Most of my posts thus far have dealt with politics in some capacity. I have attempted to raise issues that I feel need to be addressed rather than ignored. It is important, however, to acknowledge that my view is merely one way of looking at the truth of any given situation; I, like French social theorist Michel Foucault, try to recognize that discourse is what builds a “truth” in favour of a dominant power’s view.

The dominant power in any situation is able to use discourses to create a kind of “regime of truth”. However, “truth” lies on a continuum: For example, one view may call a group a “terrorist cell”, while another view labels this same group “freedom Fighters.”

Depending on the political dominance of one group over the other, the stronger group gets to tell their story of what the “truth” is. To illustrate this, from the Taliban perspective they are “freedom fighters”; but from most of the rest of the world’s (media informed) view this same group is a “terrorist” organization. Both sides tell a truth; but the whole truth resides on a continuum of usually opposing views. To get the full truth of any situation, both extremes need to be acknowledged–but the dominant group will always get to tell their dominant view to the world. The weaker group’s “truth” will not rein with the many but the few.

The language that people use tells much about the side of  “truth” that they are representing. I attempt to shed light on the “truth” that I would like to see rein dominant in this world. I feel that silence is never an option as long as the dominant view is counter to what I feel is right, fair, and just. In a world where the dominant group (relatively small in number compared to the rest of the world’s population) is in control of mainstream media discourse, alternative avenues of media (like this blog) offer me a voice. Where I view injustice; or where I view discourses that support an ideological view of the “truth” that is in opposition to what I feel is right, silence on my part only allows the things I dislike in this world to flourish unhindered.

I may not be the dominant voice but at least I am able (with this blog) to have a small one.

Thank-you readers for your continued support,

~Justin Allen Philcox

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