All posts filed under: Society

Colombia: The Quest for Peace

  By: Adriana Baiz   Colombia’s armed conflict is among the oldest in contemporary history. Characterized as one of the most serious cases of internal human displacement in the Americas, it has involved an extensive use of violence on behalf of its belligerents – mainly the government, guerrillas, and paramilitary groups. Colombia’s conflict has attracted scholars from across the world who seek to find the political, judicial, and military balance needed to end the situation. This obscure quest for peace has pushed the Colombian state to attempt a wide spectrum of strategies, from military tactics to actual negotiations with the armed groups, to an interesting effort to implement transitional justice (as used by South Africa, Chile, and Argentina in the past). On their behalf, civil society has also begun to take bottom-up action to fight for the rights of victims and demand an end to the situation. Recognizing the contentious nature of this conflict is crucial for understanding why Colombia seems far from achieving a successful transition into peace. Many argue that the root of …

New Policies, Same Old Communism: Cuba – Pt. II

  By: Tannishtha Pramanick Since the time of Fidel Castro’s rise to power in Cuba, after overthrowing the corporate-minded and corrupt Fulgencio Batista in 1959, the country has seldom been on positive terms with the United States. Castro’s Marxist-Leninist policies were not to the taste of the United States, and rightfully so. In theory, Castro looked to promote a higher standard of living for Cubans, as well as liberation from the consequences of the wealth-gap that had originated under the power of the sugar plantations and corrupt businessmen. In practice, these policies only served to deteriorate Cuba’s economic conditions, leading to a decline in the quality of life of most Cubans. Despite Castro’s regime operating under communist policies, the United States did, initially, recognize the nation and its government. As time wore on, Castro started increasing trade with the Soviet Union, as well as nationalizing businesses, mainly American-held ones, and increased tariffs on US imports. In retaliation, the United States began a series of economic sanctions, each one more severe than the last. The process …

Sweet Molly Malone: Ireland’s Accidental Legalisation of Ecstasy and a Whole Host of Other Class A Drugs.

By Ultan Gannon Ireland has long had a reputation internationally as a nation of drinkers, with half the world celebrating the Irish national holiday by painting their city’s street green with vomit. The reputation is well earned with the country coming top five in the World Health Organization’s drinking ranking, despite being beaten to the top spot by those beer loving Germans (but as you say in Toronto, “there is always next season”). What many outside the Emerald Isle might not realise is that modern Ireland’s famous forty shades of green are as likely to be found in zip-locked bags of weed as in fields of grass with the average Irish person now smoking more marijuana than the stereotypically dope loving Dutch according to the UN’s 2011 drugs report. In the last EU elections the small rural, formerly extremely conservative and staunchly Catholic country even elected a pro-cannabis legalisation campaigner by the name of Luke “Ming” Flanagan to represent them. A man who gained his nickname by running his first campaign for the national parliament dressed …

New Policies, Same Old Communism: Cuba – Pt. I

  By: Tannishtha Pramanick Since the time of Fidel Castro’s rise to power in Cuba, after overthrowing the corporate-minded and corrupt Fulgencio Batista in 1959, the country has seldom been on positive terms with the United States. Castro’s Marxist-Leninist policies were not to the taste of the United States, and rightfully so. In theory, Castro looked to promote a higher standard of living for Cubans, as well as liberation from the consequences of the wealth-gap that had originated under the power of the sugar plantations and corrupt businessmen. In practice, these policies only served to deteriorate Cuba’s economic conditions, leading to a decline in the quality of life of most Cubans. Despite Castro’s regime operating under communist policies, the United States did, initially, recognize the nation and its government. As time wore on, Castro started increasing trade with the Soviet Union, as well as nationalizing businesses, mainly American-held ones, and increased tariffs on US imports. In retaliation, the United States began a series of economic sanctions, each one more severe than the last. The process …

Boots on the Ground and the Policymaking Process

  I hate the phrase “boots on the ground”. The way it is frequently used seems to imply that if we simply keep our problems 30,000 feet below us we will never have to come face to face with the hard underlying realities that brought us there in the first place. This thinking is easy to fall into, but ultimately flawed. It is not hard to see why many policymakers grasp at the power of laser-guided bombs whenever domestic morale, outrage, or multilateral consensus demands “something” must be done. It is relatively cheap, fairly low risk, and above all, adjustable to conditions at a moments notice. Rarely, however, are those conditions military in nature. Instead policymakers can moderate involvement, cost, and risk to suit domestic opinion towards the mission, ongoing negotiations, and other political concerns. Unlike a ground campaign, which requires a somewhat reliable local partner, complex logistics, occasionally reserve mobilization, and – of course – the dreaded “Exit Plan”, an air campaign only requires a half decent airfield, some surplus Cold War munitions and …

The Folly of Libertarianism

By Patrick Langille There is an ideology that is sweeping through right-of-centre political parties throughout the Western world. Historically, ideologies have almost always proven to be dangerous, regardless of whether they emerge from the political Left, Right, or Centre; as Eisenhower once said: “Extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong”, a warning as true then as it is now. The folly of ideology is establishing a set archetype to solve any issue which emerges, rather than simply responding to issues as they arise. A radical form of libertarianism is sweeping through right-wing parties, especially among the youth wings of these organizations. In this article, I will explain, adopting the perspectives of both Left and Right, why libertarianism is not only false, but also extremely dangerous, and threatens to undo much of the progress made by the Left and the Right in the previous century. What is libertarianism? Libertarianism is a radical free-market ideology that emerged from a group of primarily Eastern and Central European economists and philosophers …

Your Guide to Understanding the Hong Kong Protests

By Yasmine Kherfi In September, Beijing announced its decision to nominate future chief executive candidates of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). Subsequently, citizens of Hong Kong have taken to the streets, demanding their freedom to elect their own leaders without mainland China’s intervention. The protests began through the civil disobedience campaign known as Occupy Central with Love and Peace, which was initiated by a law professor at the University of Hong Kong. Eventually, the SAR government made the decision to confront the protesters and clashes erupted between them and the police. Hong Kong’s Basic Law, A Source of Controversy Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which serves as a constitution, is the essential issue of contention in the current situation. Protesters believe that Beijing violated its promise to grant the former British colony universal suffrage, a goal stipulated in Article 45 of the Basic Law. The Hong Kong protests are yet another example that reflects how history shapes present day politics. When the British handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997, both sovereign countries had …

In Defense of Defense: This Crisis Might Make My Head Explode

Jeffrey Schulman expresses his frustration at the banality of a crisis surrounding a movie. The North Koreans hacked into a major western company, and caused an estimated $200 million in damage. They did this in response to the production of a film they didn’t like. In a fairer world, an attack on private property by a hostile state would be an act of war. Given the circumstances it looks like we have no choice but to tolerate this outrage. Justice is not worth a full scale land war in Asia. Even so, it is an important moral victory that the movie was eventually released to the public. Had Sony failed to do so, the US government should have stepped in. Allowing freedom of speech to be curtailed by a foreign state is unacceptable. What if China threatened US trade if we did not ban a documentary about pollution in Beijing? Imagine Russia threatening mass killing in Ukraine if a book chronicling Vladimir Putin’s dirty work for the KGB were published? As best I can tell, …

In Defense of Defense: Now Replacing Ghomeshi, The CIA

The CIA tortured people. Just this past week Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Diane Feinstein felt the need to remind us of that fact.  Be assured- there is no doubt that what went on was torture. As best I can tell, Dick Cheney and his cronies contend that causing a prisoner extreme pain to obtain information is not torture if done with certain techniques. Would Cheney have any hope of getting answers if the pain were not significant? This is torture. What’s most striking about the current report isn’t even the barbaric techniques, but the degree to which low-level CIA officials covered up their actions from their superiors. Both Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfield were only briefed on the matter in 2003, with President Bush receiving a briefing as late as 2006! At one point Dick Cheney got into a diplomatic spat when the CIA didn’t inform a covert facility in a country Cheney was visiting. Torture, whatever its efficacy, is morally wrong. However, it is understandable that statesmen faced with a crisis might neglect their …

Legacy of the Cambodian Genocide: A Walk through the Killing Fields

Benjamin Jakabek visits the Killing Fields of Cambodia to reflect on the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge nearly 40 years later. Reader discretion is advised.  After just a short drive outside of the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, I was standing in front of the killing tree at Choeung Ek killing field. Cynicism, depression, and humility hung in the air as tourists hobbled from site to site in florescent pink and yellow tank-tops at the request of an audio-guide handed out at the entrance. The cruelty that took place here accelerated in the late-1970s as the administration sought ever-more efficient ways to kill their innocent victims. Blunt objects, bamboo sticks, and confiscated farmers’ tools became the makeshift instruments of death. The killing tree was just an extension of this madness. Nature gave the tree its spikes to protect its fruit until they ripened and fell to the ground. Now, these spikes were being used to mercilessly and efficiently bludgeon children and babies to death. Today, the tree is covered in memorial bracelets placed there by …