Friday, July 31, 2015

The Juggernaut

Lots of progressives tell me about all of the victories they win. "We got them to stop this or that." "We got 10,000 people in the streets against this bill." "We defended these rights."

But in my mind, what I see is the inexorable juggernaut of self-destructive hegemony rumbling on its way, pretty much indifferent to all the battles being carried out by the tiny figures on its surface.

It's a long time ago (maybe more than a year ago) but remember what economic historian Thomaas Piketty said: What created a genuine degree of social equality and economic stability and decent living standards in the leading industrial powers wasn't liberal democracy, or the Wobblies or the genius of capitalism. No. It was the political upheavals brought about by World War I, the Great Depression and World War II.

Now, obviously, to a great degree, if there had been no labour movement and no feminist movement, the elite response to those cataclysms would have been different from what they were. But let's not pat ourselves on the back too much here. Elites learned lessons too. Elite manipulation of the money supply and deficit financing and austerity and social control (propaganda, militarized police forces, etc.,) have made it so that the criminal scum who caused the world economic crisis are the people who have benefited from the economic crisis.

Excuse me for saying so again, but unless and until more progressives think hard about the causes of things, the core of the problem, the root of the matter, the realities of power in the human world, we will continue to be taken along by the juggernaut on its path to oblivion.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The harper Hangover

Thinking about living in harper's Canada makes me so very tired. my brain is tired from all the harperism. And the Rob Fordism. And the terence corcoranism. And the smelly ezra levant that i got on my shoe this morning.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Anti-harper Coalition or "Fair Play"?

I'd hardly heard of John Ivison before, but I'll give him credit for one thing: He's totally unafraid to write a column that shows he's absolutely clueless and then ask to get paid for the fucking thing.
Predictions are preposterous at the best of times, but I predict Nathan Cullen will come to regret saying the NDP’s No. 1 priority is to topple the Tories.
Bang! Right off the top, Ivison reveals his ignorance about the harpercon abuses of our parliamentary democracy and their fiscal incompetence and their overall immorality and murderous stupidity. A LOT of people, for a LONG time, have believed that getting rid of this thug and his gang of cretins is priority number one.
Cullen, the MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley in British Columbia, said Liberal voters are as fed up of Stephen Harper as New Democrats and that, by losing their nerve during the coalition crisis of 2008, they made a “huge mistake” by not ousting Harper’s government.

But the tactical error is Cullen’s. By suggesting a combination of New Democrats and Liberals should bring down a Harper minority government at the first opportunity, he has opened the door to accusations the opposition parties will band together to subvert the will of voters.
Ivison is joined by other idiots who twist themselves into knots trying to explain how two parties which, combined, enjoy the support of 60% of the electorate, are subverting the will of democracy by their combination into a coalition, but their arguments are self-evidently ludicrous. Here's one "handyandy" in the comments section of Ivison's column:
The difficulty is that in that case more voters have voted for a platform proposed by the CP than by either of the other two parties. The other two parties have each campaigned on different platforms. If they form a coalition they will then be governing an a platform that nobody has voted for. So how does that represent the "will of the voters"?
What about the "difficulty" that more voters have voted against the platform proposed by the Conservative Party?  How is it "democratic" in that case, that a majority of Canadians have to sit and endure policies that they viscerally loath, from a party they absolutely despise, because that despised party has the largest single bloc of voters? How has "winner" (by hook or by crook) become an absolute virtue? Coalitions are anti-democratic. By that logic, votes of non-confidence are anti-democratic. Bah! These arguments only expose their proponent's abysmal understanding of the political system they're pretending to explain and defend!
I suspect the Harperites have clipped the Cullen comments and are in the process of producing ads that warn of “reckless coalitions” being formed between the opposition parties, to unleash in the closing days of what promises to be a tight campaign.
Well, I suspect that the harperites are busy coming up with all sorts of stupid, sleazy, intelligence-insulting campaigns against everyone, and, furthermore, when it comes to "reckless" the harpercons take a backseat to no one. If anything, the pro-coalition people should be sharpening their knives and eviscerate whatever garbage the taxpayer-funded PMO comes up with to serve their partisan criminal masters.
The course of events are similar to what transpired in the recent British general election, where the Conservatives and Labour were running neck and neck into the home straight.
In one leaders’ debate, the Scottish National Party’s Nicola Sturgeon promised to help make Labour leader, Ed Miliband, the next prime minister. In its platform, the SNP pledged to work with the other parties to keep the Tories from office.

David Cameron’s Conservatives leapt on the idea that Labour would be propped up by the separatist SNP and, despite promises by Miliband that he would not co-operate with the nationalists after the election, it produced a late swing to the Tories.
You know John, aside from the fact that the NDP is currently ahead of the Liberals in the polls, and aside from the fact that neither the Liberals nor the NDP is a separatist party (a charge that would be more suitably placed on the Conservative Party of Canada), you have a point there.
Cullen’s comments are no surprise — he has long held this position. In the NDP leadership race, he proposed New Democrats and Liberals should co-operate on joint primary nominations, to determine the best possible local “progressive” candidate and avoid vote-splitting.
Tom Mulcair, the NDP leader, has been something of a weather vane on the issue, shifting his opinion with the prevailing political winds. In less prosperous days, he talked of being “always open to working with others.”
But as the NDP has waxed in popularity, he has ruled out any co-operation with the Liberals. “C’est fini,” he told the Journal de Montreal in May.
There may be some regional politics at play here — in Quebec, the NDP wants voters to think it is the only option to get rid of Harper; in B.C., it soft-pedals the differences between the parties.
Justin Trudeau, the Liberal leader, has been consistent that there can be no deal, on the basis that they disagree on too many issues, from the Clarity Act to abolishing the Senate. He is aware of what happened to the Liberal Democrats in Britain, junior partners in a coalition government that received all of the blame and none of the gain during five years in power. The party was reduced from 56 MPs to eight in the spring election.
(All horse-race talk that doesn't interest me.)
But Mulcair and Trudeau’s protestations are not going to matter. Cullen’s comments are enough for the Conservatives to claim that the will of the voters would be overturned; that the second- and third-placed parties would orchestrate the demise of the winning Conservatives and ask the governor-general for the opportunity to form government.
Wait for it ...
This is quite a legitimate constitutional manoeuvre.
In fact, Harper tried to pull the same stunt in 2004 ...

The only thing that made it a "stunt" when harper did it was the utter hypocrisy with which he utilized it.
...when he signed a letter with Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe that said if the Paul Martin government was defeated, the governor-general should look to the leader of the second-placed party to run the country – i.e., one Stephen J. Harper.
Right. And what made that hypocritical was the way harper screamed blue murder when faced with being ousted by a coalition himself. (Whereupon he shoved a splintery broomstick up the ass of the Westminster System of Parliament by convincing a weak-kneed Governor-General to prorogue Parliament before the majority of the people's representatives could make their will known.)
But it goes against the prevailing sense of fair play felt by many Canadians — that the winner should win, not be brought low by a coalition of the losers.
This sentence is abysmally stupid for two reasons: 1) That Ivison writes that after the harpercon party of Canada used fraud to steal their majority (which I'm sure upsets the sense of fair play felt by many Canadians more than a "legitimate constitutional manoeuvre" such as a coalition government, and 2) That politics is about competitions between ideas and demographics. It's not a fucking running race to a finish line where the first person across is clearly the winner and any attempt to say otherwise is incoherent nonsense. In proportional representation systems, where many parties, representing many different viewpoints compete, smaller parties are not referred to as "losers." They're voices of smaller groups of people.

Representative politics can go from bullshit democracy, where two right-wing business parties compete in a rigged system, such as the USA has (and which Canada would have but for the NDP and Quebec nationalism), all the way to dysfunctional systems with too many extremist small parties always toppling governments and producing chaos. And then there's Canada. Where, for some reason, the idea is that there are "winners" and they get to take everything. Somehow a majority of the people's representatives coalescing against a minority government isn't "fair" or "democratic."

(And all of this drivel is said within the shadow of the most cynical, contemptuous and contemptible, anti-democratic thuggish government in our nation's history!)
This all sounds like typically Machiavellian hard-ball politics by Harper. But I have few doubts that in this case, he would be correct to point out the determination of many progressives to overturn the election result at the first opportunity, if the Conservatives win a minority government.
One of the most senior Liberals in the land told me to ignore Liberal and NDP leaders who dismiss coalition or merger talk. “They will change the day after the election,” he said. “Minority means a change of government.”
This should be the case. harper has renounced any claims to be taken seriously as a legitimate politician. he is an abomination. The sooner that evil mediocrity is thrown from the public stage, the better.
As such, the closing days of the 2015 campaign may look and sound much like the closing days of the race in 2011, when it was only the prospect of a “stable, secure majority Conservative government” that could stave off a “reckless coalition” (is there any other kind?), 
Imbecile ...
bent on ushering in an era of higher taxes, reckless spending and zombies.
Actually, I can't tell if he's trying to channel harper's scare-mongering, or just regurgitating the editorial positions of the National Post. But whatev's.
Never make predictions, especially about the future, they say. But you can take that one to the bank.
And, so, that's what happened.

Monday, July 20, 2015

John Oliver on Food Waste

Saw this this morning:
For more information, see here:
There are nearly one billion malnourished people in the world, but the approximately 40 million tonnes of food wasted by US households, retailers and food services each year would be enough to satisfy the hunger of every one of them.
The irrigation water used globally to grow food that is wasted would be enough for the domestic needs (at 200 litres per person per day) of 9 billion people - the number expected on the planet by 2050.
If we planted trees on land currently used to grow unnecessary surplus and wasted food, this would offset a theoretical maximum of 100% of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion.
That is all.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Median Incomes and Inequality

Median incomes have risen (slightly) under stephen harper. This can happen regardless (and, obviously, in spite of) harper's policies. It might also be the case that they haven't really risen. That it's a bit of statistical jiggery-pokery. Inequality has risen under harper. It also rose under the Liberals. This is the intended consequence of capitalist-driven, neo-liberal "reforms." To give more to the rich with the lie that they will invest it in job-creating enterprises.

The lie at the beginning of this era of neo-liberal counter-attack was called "trickle-down." At the start (1980) it was argued that excessive government regulation was hampering the ability of capitalism to produce growth. The crises of inflation and economic stagnation in the 1970s was the product of the dead hand of "big government." Government wasn't the solution. It was the problem. It had to get out of the way and let the wealth creators get to work.

The problems (little mentioned by hack writers like the Globe & Mail's Jeffrey Simpson) is that the results of the "reforms" have been economic numbers far worse, overall, than what we saw in the 1970s.

All that aside though, what are some of the ways that you can have rising median incomes and rising inequality at the same time? (Greater inequality will produce skewed higher "average incomes" that the median income indicator is supposed to overcome.)

1. You can have more people outside of the labour market. Unemployed, they don't count. But then they'd have income from government transfers, so they would count.

2. You can have more people with higher incomes but that income is temporary and contract income. It's uncertain.

3. You can have more jobs open-up in higher-paying sectors, plus a few people making huge incomes as a result of deregulation and etc.,  but lots more people in moderate-income sectors, and have some of the latter making less money than they did before (say in manufacturing or the public service) which, after the dust settles, shows a slightly rising median income.

4. You can "adjust for inflation" wrong. Which is probably one of the simpler ways to do it.

Sorry for such a weak post but I really need the money.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Indebted Canadians

So, according to CBC, we're up to 163% debt-to-income in Canada. And the worry from the experts is that interest rate cuts to aid the sputtering Canadian economy will entice us stupid Canadians to splurge on more debt.
According to Statistics Canada, the ratio of household debt to disposable income was near record levels at 163.3 per cent for the first three months of the year. That means for every dollar of disposable income in a typical year, Canadians carry about $1.63 of debt.
The Bank of Canada lowered its key lending rate to stimulate spending and investing in a sluggish economy. But even central bank governor Stephen Poloz acknowledged that the move could put some Canadians at risk because of mounting debt.
"Of particular note are the vulnerabilities associated with household debt and rising housing prices. And we must acknowledge that today's action could exacerbate these vulnerabilities," he said on Wednesday.
However, Poloz warned the risks could be even greater if the economy went unchecked and spiralled out of control thanks to triggers "such as a widespread and sharp decline in economic activity and employment." (Emphasis added.)
They spend a lot of time talking to one Murad Ali:
Murad Ali sees the rate cut as a gift because it gives him justification for taking out another loan.
"It's Christmas in summer," he says.
When CBC News first interviewed Ali for a debt story last month, he already owed about $400,000 in lines of credit — money that he used to fund everything from renovations to trips to designer goods. The big spender wanted to get another loan but was hesitant to add to his bills.
But now that chartered banks are lowering their lending rates, Ali tells CBC News he's decided to switch to a cheaper variable mortgage and finally get that longed for additional line of credit. He estimates he'll borrow about $50,000 to buy more furniture for his new Richmond Hill, Ont., home.
"[I'm] very excited. Everything's a risk but it's a much more managed risk," he says, because of lower rates.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I'm pretty sure you could go back to the 1930s in Canada and find anecdotes about people who lived beyond their means.
Hat-tip to the Financial Post
 But the chart above is measuring the country as a whole. So, either Canadians in 1996 were a LOT more sensible and frugal and responsible and mature and thrifty and smart and etc., than Canadians today, or (more likely) external factors to Canadians' decision-making has led to this increased indebtedness.

(By the way, sure, Murad Ali owes something like $400,000 on trips and luxury goods, but it appears they own two investment condos and he's employed as a software engineer. The original story with Murad Ali doesn't even give his debt-to-income ratio!)

The Stephen Poloz quote bolded above mentions rising housing prices. In an answer to an email question from me, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives told me that, yes indeedy, the vast majority of the rise in Canadian household debt levels is due to the rising cost of housing. 

Affordable housing is a rarity these days. Thanks to the glorious Liberal hero Paul Martin, who abolished the federal housing ministry, and who then imposed savage cuts on transfer payments to the provinces, affordable housing in places like Toronto has twenty year waiting lists and the housing stock that they have is falling apart due to years of neglected maintenance.

Rents have skyrocketed. Incomes have stagnated. Those who can afford it see more sense in putting a down-payment on a house when the cost of rent is equal to the cost of a mortgage.

By the way; According to this Maclean's article, residential housing went from 17% of GDP to 19% in 2012. (I'd guess it's higher still.) We'd be in deep shit if and when stupid Canadians stopped racking-up their debt levels, wouldn't we? 
Rising housing prices. Rising tuition debt levels. Stagnant, uncertain incomes. That's capitalism for you. Depriving people of the means of existence; manipulating them with advertising to want to consume more and more. Covering the difference with debt. And, all the while, driving the eco-system to the point of collapse. (Amazing that I care about that last bit while not voting for the Green Party of Canada 'eh?)

Tomorrow, I'll try to see if it's possible to have rising median incomes and rising inequality at the same time.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Mound of Sound Loses It

It's tragic really. But all his idle hours in retirement, studying up the grave dangers of anthropogenic global warming has unhinged "The Mound of Sound" aka "the Disaffected Lib" aka "Johnny - 'six gun' DiCosmo" aka "Juan Pacifico Ramirez" 's brain.

(Actually, it's in poor taste to say he's become unhinged. Just as it's in poor taste for MoS to say that I've become an unhinged NDP-Thomas Mulcair groupee/partisan hack/deluded follower. Which he did. Which was in poor taste.)

The MoS has gotten it into his pretty white head that the ONLY moral vote is a vote for the Green Party of Canada. In this, the MoS has elevated himself to stephen harper's number one ally for the next election. Thanks to "unhinged" Green Party hacks like the MoS, the progressive vote, instead of the customary two-way split, betwixt Liberal and NDP, looks set to be divided by a hard slog between the NDP, the Liberals, the Greens and, in Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois.

Congratulations MoS on your efforts to finally plunge the stake into the heart of what passed for democracy in this country. Perhaps you'll be rewarded by the harpercon beneficiaries of your stupidity. But don't count on it. The "idiot" in the term "useful idiot" is not exactly a term of endearment.

(Actually, that's not fair of me, to condemn MoS for the likely outcome of his voting choices and his electoral advice. Just as it's unfair [and stupid] of MoS to engage in the Liberal Party canard that Jack Layton and the NDP are responsible for getting stephen harper his first electoral victory. But I assume that "Disaffected Lib" means "former, now disaffected Liberal Party supporter." And you can take the boy out of the Liberal Party, but you can't take the Liberal Party out of the boy. Jack Layton was right to pull the plug on the government of the vile Paul Martin. And Martin and the Liberals did not fight that election chained up inside a wooden crate by Jack Layton. They campaigned and they lost, due to their corruption and, more importantly, their dismal record of austerity and neo-liberal cruelty. Fuck them.)

The fact of the matter is, though, that I don't begrudge MoS for wanting to vote Green. And I don't begrudge him advising other people to vote Green. Evidently they have the best party platform on the environment, and, especially, on meeting the challenge of global warming. (Although, as a former Liberal, I'm surprised that MoS has such a touching faith in a party's platform!)

No, what I object to, what I find (at best) as tiresomely pompous or (at worst) outright offensive, is MoS's frenzied belief that anyone who doesn't vote Green isn't progressive, but is, rather, the moral equivalent of a 19th-Century supporter of slavery. Anyone who doesn't vote Green is willfully condemning future generations (including their own children, and including MoS's precious grandchildren) to lives of misery and upheaval and the doom of civilization.

Put another way; the Green Party of Canada stands at around 5% in the polls. It is MoS's contention that anyone who doesn't believe that support for the Greens will increase its support ten times by October and votes for someone else to defeat the harpercon candidate in their riding, is a monster. A criminal. An inhuman, selfish, immoral, blind, stupid, evil person. You must close your eyes, click your ruby slippers together and BELIEVE that the Greens will increase their support by enough to obliterate the Liberals and the NDP (and the BQ) everywhere, so that there's no contest except that between the Green candidate and the harpercon candidate, with the Green candidate coming out victorious.

You can try to reason with the man that this seems highly unlikely. You can try to explain how the harpercons (as he should remember) are shameless, complete tools of the oil industry who don't even make a pretence of listening to other views, including the results of sound science. You can attempt to argue that there is a danger of vote-splitting giving harper another majority and thereby allowing him to stomp on the corpse of Canadian parliamentary democracy for another five years. Thereby allowing him to continue to go hog-wild on tar sands development for another five years.

(This last point has been dismissed by MoS by the fact that all the other parties except for the Greens are comprised of "petro-politicians" who will continue investing in the Tar Sands. MoS has no time for "lesser evilism." Except for the fact that both the Liberals and the NDP actually admit there's such a thing as global warming; and that one or the other of them has advocated for carbon taxes or a cap-and-trade regime, and conservation and whatever. That might be "lesser-evil" stuff, but that's also secondary to the fact that both of those parties can be guaranteed to at least LISTEN to reason. Even the Liberals have more respect for pubic opinion and the rules of the parliamentary system than do the harpercons. Considering the reality of harpercon delusion, intransigence and anti-democratic thuggery, I don't think those are negligible points.)

But what am I doing? Here I am, talking about weighing the benefits of voting one's conscience, advocating a certain political party, and the risks of unintentionally benefiting the harpercons, ("blathering" about vote-splitting and strategic voting as MoS puts it) as if MoS is a reasonable chap with whom I have a friendly disagreement. But MoS isn't reasonable, and, by his decision, this is not friendly. I am an enemy of humanity because I plan to support the NDP in Toronto while voting Liberal (a nice, progressive United Church minister candidate) in my riding. To get rid of harpercons and to elect politicians from parties that might actually (at least) pretend to listen and which will (definitely) do at least something to mitigate global warming.

I've said again and again that I respect the choice to vote one's conscience. Lindsay Stewart (aka "Pretty Shaved Ape" at Canadian Cynic's blog) always argued passionately that strategic voting was defeatist and demoralizing. Personally, I always thought it was simple reality. If you have a decision between monstrous and scuzzy, vote scuzzy. I was always privileged to live in ridings where the NDP was viable and so I voted NDP. If I lived in some part of the country that was only a two-way race between the Liberals and the Conservatives, I'd vote Liberal. Like I plan to do in October. In other words, I RESPECTFULLY disagree.

And it's simple fucking math. If a sane Liberal candidate lost against a harpercon monster by 500 votes last time, and 3,000 votes went to the Greens and the NDP, and at least half of those people would, if given the stark choice, have settled for the Liberal as opposed to the sexist, racist, war-monger, homophobic harpercon, then strategic voting would have defeated the harpercon. Just as if the NDP lost a riding by 500 votes last time and 2,000 votes went to some corporate Liberal shill, ... vote NDP next time, you anti-harpercons in that riding.

And it's simple fucking reality. A party that stands at 5% in the polls in July is most likely not going to rise to 50% in the polls by October. But you know what? You can believe such asinine fantasies if you want. I won't call you a selfish, deluded, anti-democratic thug, enemy of humanity scumbag.

That's just how I roll.

I'll miss taking MoS seriously. Perhaps I'll visit his blog now and again. He writes well on other topics. But with his Green Party fanaticism, he's like "Scotian." I see the words "I was condemned as a Cassandra when I predicted ... blah, blah, blah, ... the danger of the IMF becoming .... blah, blah, blah, ...." atop of three long paragraphs with the word "dipper" scattered about. I don't read those screeds anymore.

In MoS''s eyes, this is obviously because I've developed a fetish for the salt and pepper beard of Angry Tom. My years of complaining about Mulcair's support for Zionist imperialism and his depressing transformation of the NDP to occupy the space  of the doomed Liberal Party don't matter. (btw MoS? "Angry Tom has a beard" is a really stupid argument, one that I normally wouldn't associate with a person of your intellect.)

On this topic, MoS fluctuates between being a figure of fun, to an object of pity, then an object of scorn.