Monday, July 2, 2018

Two Books I'm Reading

I just finished reading Michael Hudson's Killing the Host: how financial parasites and debt bondage destroy the global economy. It's from 2015 so it leaves out some important European developments though it does include the beginnings of Syriza's capitulation to the European troika.

My complaints: Hudson says the FIRE sector (finance, insurance, real-estate) produces nothing of real value for the economy. I would think that's excessive. Surely when insurance is working properly it helps to subsidize some degree of necessary risk-taking? Sometimes he differentiates between speculative "investment" banking and ordinary retail banking. But at other times he says its all fraudulent rent-taking. This might be true but I would prefer if Hudson had done more than just assert this. If he went into the claims bankers would make for their "services" and systematically prove that they produce nothing of net value. Finally, some of the "wealth creation" of the financial sector (the enormous froth of speculation) has produced some degree of computerized assets that have leaked into the real world through conspicuous consumption. If financial speculators bid up the prices of their own assets, they have, in some way, "created wealth" that did not rely on squeezing the real economy.  It might still be a net negative, but Hudson merely asserts it.

The book is repetitive. It's fun at first to read one insult against bankers after another. But eventually you realize that it's probably added about a fifth of the book's length.

Still, the book has shit-loads of useful information about the insidious expansion of the financial sector and how it tries to foist debt upon everyone and everything. Tax-cuts create debt. Higher tuition creates higher debt levels. Higher home prices create higher debt levels. Banks' high interest-rates and deficits are a drag upon the real economy says Hudson, and eventually the economy slows down, and people can't pay their debts. What has been happening up until now is that the banking sector has brainwashed policy-makers through neo-liberal economic theory which treats all income as earned (including the parasitical activities of the financial sector). To do this, they first had to eliminate neo-classical economic theory which differentiated between earned and unearned income. Unearned income is the passive growth in the value of one's property as a result of the economic development of the surrounding community. It was the rents paid to feudal landowners. Now it is debts owed to bankers.

Eventually, Hudson repeatedly says, it becomes obvious that the debt can't be repaid and won't be repaid. But up until that last second, the FIRE sector will push for every policy they can to drag the charade out as long as possible, regardless of the continuing damage that is done to the real economy. In North America, it was the taxpayers bailing-out the Wall Street banksters and the Federal Reserve flooding the financial sector with money via Quantitative Easing. In Ireland, it was the government accepting to paying the debts owed to the foreign-owned banks and swallowing the fall-out from the bursting of the real-estate bubble that they'd caused. In Greece it is the total destruction of a society. The destruction of living standards. The forced emigration of young people seeking work abroad as there is no work in the country of their birth. The sell-off of national assets to foreigners. The addition of user-fees to all public services either to service the debt or to profit the rent-seekers who now own the privatized state assets.

Hudson spends a lot of time lamenting the way neo-liberals have shortsightedly destroyed the idea of a united Europe. In the 1990s, the rising European FIRE sector and their quislings in politics pushed repeatedly for a neo-liberal European constitution. The people of Europe voted against this over and over but these financial sector parasites just kept hammering away and wore-out the opposition and now the European Union is a banker's union. The people of Europe have no say over monetary or fiscal policy and the sad results we see today.

Throughout the book Hudson also provides a great deal of detailed, specific examples that show that the masters of society know exactly what they're doing. They deliberately pursue actions that benefit themselves even while damaging the economies that play host to their parasitical behaviour. Timothy Geitner comes across as particularly sleazy.

In the end, it's a book that makes me angry.

I've also just finished Vol. 2 of Blanche Wiesen Cook's three-volume biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. It's the only volume I've got. It was given to me back when I was a TA in graduate school. I was pressed for time back then and I'd only read the one chapter I had to to be able to mark the first-year assignments I'd been given. I finally got around to reading the whole thing 15 years later.

This photo was considered "controversial" by racists at the time. That the First Lady of the United States was socializing with a Black girl. By 1938 70% of US-Americans admired Eleanor Roosevelt. The 30% that didn't are the same shit-head 30% who today vote for Doug Ford or Stephen Harper or Donald Trump. Most people aren't stupid idiots.
First of all; now I want to read the other two volumes.

Second of all; marrying Eleanor was one of the things that makes me partially admire Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She was a remarkable woman who played a large role in making FDR's administration the greatest Democratic administration there ever was. (You also get a sense of how difficult the ruling-class minority made it for any sort of progressive legislation to appear in the USA. The fanatical shrieking of racists and "Liberty League" scumbags at times almost drowned out the cries for relief from the victims of the Great Depression.)

Several times throughout the book, tears came to my eyes as the author describes how ER and a community of forward thinking women (and some men) tried to stand up for justice, peace and human dignity.

I'll share the last such anecdote and then have to call it a morning for blogging. It was at something called the Southern Conference on Human Welfare in Birmingham, Alabama. It was convened by decent people, white and Black, in the South who wanted to challenge the racist, growth-retarding social-political structure there. Eleanor Roosevelt was an invited guest.

The Southern Conference on Human Welfare determined to change the South and challenge segregation. Fifteen hundred delegates, black and white, sat anywhere they wanted Sunday night, 21 November 1938, in the city auditorium of downtown Birmingham. According to Virginia Durr: "Oh it was a love feast ... Southern meetings always included a lot of preaching and praying and hymn singing ... The whole meeting was just full of love and hope. It was thrilling." Frank Graham was elected chair, set a beautiful tone, "and we all went away ... that night just full of love and gratitude. The whole South was coming together to make a new day." 
Somebody reported the integrated seating at the opening-night gala, and the next morning the auditorium was surrounded by black Marias. Every police van in the city and country was there. Policemen were everywhere, inside and out. And there was Eugene "Bull Connor "saying anybody who broke the segregation law of Alabama would be arrested." Tensions escalated; violence was in the air. The delgates complied and arranged themselves into separate sections.  
ER, Mary Macleod Bethune, and Aubrey Williams arrived late that day, out of breath. ER "was ushered in with great applause," looked at the segregated audience - and took her seat on the black side. One of Bull Connor's police officers tapped ER on the shoulder and told her to move. ER noted in her memoirs: "At once the police appeared to remind us of the rules and regulations on segregation." 
As if to announce fascism would not triumph here, ER refused to "give in" and placed her chair between the white and black sections. Pauli Murray recalled that ER's demonstration of defiance and courage meant everything to the young people of the South, who now knew they were not alone. Although the national press did not report ER's brave action, the weekly Afro-American editorialized: "If the people of the south do not grasp this gesture, we must. Sometimes actions speak louder than words." 
ER was given a little folding chair and sat in the middle of whatever meeting hall or church she atteneded for the rest of the four-day meeting. She said she refused to be segregated and carried the folding chair with her wherever she went. According to Durr: "Policemen followed us everywhere to make sure the segregation laws were observed but they didn't arrest Mrs. Roosevelt."

Inspiring stuff.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A Small Story [with pathetic update]

It's a small thing in this world, but it was a fairly big thing for the Canadian political blogosphere a few years ago. In this story, a prominent lefty blogger attracted an adversary from the rightward side of the intertubes and said right-wing adversary made it his mission to expose the man behind the blogging pseudonym and then (stupidly) accuse him of pedophilia.

Eventually, the targeted blogger took his defamer to court and, ridiculous story short, many years later, the right-wing blogger/twitterer is an undischarged bankrupt, owing over $100,000 in damages and costs.

So, a while ago, one thing leading to another, I ended up watching a YouTube video of a guy named Charlie Zelenoff getting beaten-up in a boxing ring. Zelenoff is a sort of "troll" who appears to honestly believe that he's a world class boxer. The best there's ever been.

The video I saw featured Zelenoff going up against a retired professional heavy-weight boxer (guy in his early-forties by this point) who had ignored Zelenoff's online badgering and harassment until Zelenoff started making remarks insulting the man's daughter and maybe even threatening to go after her. The pro plays around with Zelenoff, but his continued insults and stupidity finally got to him and the pro started to lay a few heavy head-shots before his friends pulled him away. Zelenoff was prostrate on the mat.

Zelenoff clearly has mental problems. This is widely acknowledged. But he keeps going after others, he keeps thinking that he's going to marry Kim Kardashian or Nicky Minaj. He keeps thinking he's the greatest boxer in the world.

I leave it to you, gentle reader, to draw your own conclusions.


Evidently, at least up until last September 2017, the failed legal mastermind was doing this sort of tomfoolery.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Ten Million Dead

The human catastrophe going on in Yemen at this present moment shames us all. Thanks to a bloody conflict between sectarian imbeciles and geo-political assholes, at least TEN MILLION PEOPLE are at risk of starving to death before the end of this year. EIGHT MILLION have already begun to suffer the ill effects of severe malnutrition.

From CBC:

The United Nations aid chief urged the Saudi-led military coalition that controls Yemen's ports to expedite imports of vital food and fuel supplies, warning that a further 10 million Yemenis could face starvation by year-end.
After three years of conflict in which the Yemeni government, backed by Riyadh's coalition, has fought against Iran-aligned Houthi fighters, Yemen is the world's worst humanitarian crisis with some 8.4 million people severely short of food and at risk of starvation.
From "Real News Network":
This is a disastrous war that the United Nations has warned could lead to famine that starves millions of Yemenis. Thus far, 8.4 million Yemenis are on the verge of starvation, and by the end of the year another 10 million Yemenis, for a total of 18.4 million Yemenis, could starve. And this conflict is getting even worse. The U.S. is deeply involved in this battle for the port of Hodeida, which is where 80 percent of aid enters Yemen, which is the poorest country in the Middle East. The United States is providing intelligence and other military assistance to the Saudi and Emirati forces in their attack, and the U.S. military is also doing in-air refueling for this attack on the port of Hodeida. This will likely be the bloodiest battle in the three-year war. The United Nations has warned that 250000 Yemenis could be killed in the brutal fighting.
I don't know the details behind the conflict and that doesn't matter one way or the other. I do know that it has to do with a local struggle for power in Yemen with one side representing Saudi Arabia and the Sunni variant of the Islamic variant of the religious delusion, and the other side being connected to Iran and the Shiite variant of the Islamic variant of the religious delusion.

If one side or the other stopped and surrendered right now, perhaps the famine would end. But that doesn't seem likely. Especially since if one side surrendered there fighters would probably all be tortured and then executed by the victors.

It is up to the rest of the world to call for an end to this nightmare. But that isn't going to happen either, is it? For god's sake! The USA is providing Saudi Arabia with the weapons to continue fighting the war. It's re-fueling Saudi fighter-jets in flight so they can continue to bomb the country around the clock.

Canada, as usual, is providing pipsqueak help, selling ground weapons to the Saudi butchers. No. We're NOT calling for an end to the insanity. We're helping one side continue it!

You know the peace movement won't accomplish anything. Our occasional peaceful marches and demonstrations were somehow totally incapable of ending the brutal war in Afghanistan (which still rages) or in stopping the cynical imperialist slaughters in Iraq, Syria, Libya. And with those two tactics having revealed their utter uselessness, we're apparently all out of ideas.

No. This horror will continue and we will continue to stumble along. Rapist degenerates from Immigration and Customs Enforcement will continue to steal children from refugee parents and sell them to pedophiles. Klansmen cops will continue to shoot Black US-Americans with impunity. Canada will continue to stretch and yawn in boredom and apathy as First Nations teenagers continue to commit suicide. Palestinians will continue to be brutalized, humiliated and murdered by Israeli scum.

And two-thirds of so-called "progressives" will be more fixated with how the dastardly Vladmir Putin thwarted their stalwart heroine, Hillary (Wall Street Shill/War Criminal) Clinton) and conquered the USA through his dim-witted puppet, Donald (My Daddy Was a Klansman and I Rape Adolescent Girls) Trump.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Response to "Evil Brad"

This is a continuation of a conversation taking place in the comments here. ("Blogger" limitations won't let me post it as a comment.)

"Exactly" like a Trump supporter? Given everything that I said I hardly think that's likely. What's semi-interesting is that elements of your tone had me thinking you were a right-wing, Trumpian critic of Bolivarian Venezuela, a few of whom I've been contending with in 3-d life. Supposedly you're a "liberal" critic then? If so, I have to tell you I'm not sure which is more nauseating: The insect-level intelligence and laughable pomposity of a Trumpian or the unacknowledged hypocrisy and empty rhetoric of a liberal.

So much for your criticisms.

Now; do we have death squads in Venezuela? As I said, I honestly didn't think so given that coverage of Venezuela has been so shamelessly slanted that I thought I would have heard something before I wrote that post. But now, thanks to you, We have allegations from the unreliable propaganda outlet called the New York Times. But what are these allegations? That there are unofficial bands of violent people trying to intimidate the Venezuela opposition. Who are the Venezuelan opposition?

They are the more economically privileged groups who are furious that they have lost total control over the country and are enraged that some of the country's resources have gone to their poorer fellow citizens rather than into their own foreign bank accounts. And so, they engage in actions that if they were carried out here in Canada, the government would have no problem with characterizing them as terrorism.

This was the political-economic order they used to benefit from:

"The Caracazo of February-March 1989 was just the tip of an iceberg. A peaceful protest against a government betrayal, just the latest since “democracy” came to Venezuela in 1958, met with violent crackdown. As the social order disintegrated, looters stormed shops, carrying off whatever they could. And no wonder: The sudden devaluation of the Venezuelan bolivar, the disastrous neoliberal “package” pushed by then-president Carlos Andrés Pérez, and the resultant unaffordability of basic goods (which shopkeepers hoarded in backrooms so they could jack up the price on grounds of false scarcity), made robbery a necessity. Officially, the death toll was in the hundreds; in fact, it is in the thousands. And Venezuela has not had a full reckoning of that massacre, or the many others that preceded it, until now."

Further reading of the Caracazo Massacre

Please try to follow: A regime which failed to meet the material needs of its people and resorted to massive violence to maintain control. Considered as being un-noteworthy and not deserving of sanctions by Washington at the time.

The anti-Bolivar opposition made a failed coup attempt to bring back this era of misery but were happily thwarted. Instead of their being lined-up and executed (as would have happened without comment from the USA were they socialists being executed in Colombia) they were allowed to roam free and continue to organize.

Subsequently, as their failures in the electoral sphere added-up, they've engaged in violent protests, sabotaging the economy, murdering government officials, and treason.

If the bullshit artists at the New York Times aren't lying, then it appears that this "collectivo" are not death squads, roaming the countryside massacring unarmed peasants. They appear to be a response to domestic terrorists financed by foreign sources. Symmetrical warfare, rather than asymmetrical warfare. Tit-for-tat. Totally unlike the situation in Colombia, Mexico and Honduras today. (Or Guatemala, Peru, Chile, Somoza's Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador before them.)

But suppose I concede to your idiotic charge of "whataboutism"? Suppose I commit this grievous sin against decency? I ask you; If we're going to impose sanctions on Venezuela for government violence against violent protesters, WHAT ABOUT the state violence and economic mismanagement in Colombia and Honduras?

When it comes to the positive action of imposing sanctions on a country, why is Venezuela being singled out?

Friday, June 8, 2018


Ah! "Democracy"! Well, we don't have a democracy in Canada. We elect representatives to negotiate from a position of weakness with the oligarchy. At the best of times. Then, here in Ontario, there are times like this, when less than 60% of the electorate votes and almost half vote out of ignorance, delusion, greed, stupidity or bigotry. (Or some combination of these.) And in so doing, elect a party of grifters, closet-cases, racists, homophobes, misogynists, and other assorted scum-bags.

The nicest of the deplorable qualities is ignorance. It can be fixed and it isn't malicious.

What about apathy? Super-radicals believe that it's the wisdom of the people giving up on the sham of democracy. But I haven't seen any studies. Methinks it's just as likely laziness. Besides, the super-radicals can't articulate the glorious visions they have that are hovering just out of their minds-eye.

Some super-radicals say that we mustn't call people who voted for Rob Ford and against their own self-interest as "stupid." But I say if they're stupid, then they're stupid. Besides, I have to live with the consequences of their stupidity, so it's not like I don't have a personal axe to grind.

FWIW I voted for Kathleen Wynne. Literally. She's my MPP. I was going to vote NDP because I wanted the super-corrupt Ontario Liberals to be defeated. But on election day, when it still seemed like anyone's guess what would happen, but that a OPC majority was one of the possibilities, I thought it churlish to vote for the distant third candidate. Especially since Wynne was neck-and-neck with whatever fuck-face my local shit-head population was rooting for.

So how's that Liberals? Did you do the same where you lived? If the ONDP candidate was the contender, did you forget rank partisanship and do what you could to try to stop Ford? Voting against something is dispiriting. It's why so many Canadians want to get rid of "First Past the Post." (And voted for Justin Trudeau who lied and decided that electoral reform was dead the second after he got his majority.)

I don't blame people for being turned-off by the farce that is Canadian "democracy." But I don't enable stupidity or ignorance. And the Left is vowing to "resist" Ford. Given past performances their effectiveness should be somewhere close to nil.

Ontario Election 2018

It's a good thing that I've long give up hope for this country and its people. Otherwise the victory of the Stupid, Ignorant, Greedy Party of Ontario would have come as quite a blow.

Hegemony. The hegemony of a certain set of values, beliefs and prejudices is what allows something like Doug Ford and his Gang of Idiots, with their corruption, incompetence, lying, evasion, boorishness, sleaze, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., ... to still win elections.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Stupid Justin Trudeau Sucks Ass On Venezuela

Liberal, Tory, Same old story!

Linda McQuaig in the Toronto Star provides the analysis:
In terms of foreign policy damage, whatever harm Justin Trudeau did by parading around India in colourful outfits is a nothing-burger compared to the severe hardship he is inflicting on Venezuela.
And yet media commentators have been full-throttle in denouncing the prime minister’s alleged wardrobe malfunction on his recent India trip while being silent – or downright supportive – of Trudeau’s decision last fall to join the Trump administration in imposing sanctions on the struggling South American nation.
Now, why would the Dream Boat do such a thing?
Anyone following the international media coverage would conclude that the Venezuelan government is terribly autocratic and that Western nations, led by the U.S., have stepped in with sanctions out of concern over human rights abuses there.
A closer look suggests a different scenario that puts Western actions in a less laudable light: Washington is waging economic war against a nation that dared to rise up and reject U.S. control over its ample oil reserves.
The Obama administration targeted individual Venezuelans with sanctions, but the Trump administration’s sanctions are much broader, taking punishing aim at the country’s entire economy.
Sadly, Trudeau is backing up the U.S. bully, apparently hoping to win a reprieve from Trump’s arbitrary trade measures – a strategy that seems unfair to Venezuela and also likely futile. 
Now here's the thing (and I challenge ANYONE from some whining right-wing Venezuelan ex-pat, to a mewling hypocritical Canadian liberal, to a fire-breathing, shit-head right-wing fuck-face to answer this) ... Venezuela has no "death squads." Colombia has death squads. Peasant leaders and trade union activists are murdered with impunity in that country. Honduras has death squads.

None of this bothers Crazy Crystia Freeland with the Fascist Family. Just the glimmerings of Venezuela's "autocratic tendencies" as it deals with violent, right-wing rebels who once staged a coup in 2002 that was thwarted by pro-Bolivarian demonstrators and [FAR MORE IMPORTANTLY] loyal members of the armed forces. Can you imagine the oligarchic sham "democracy" in the USA, or the oligarchic sham "democracy" of Canada tolerating such a movement? [Remember Dalton McGuinty "temporarily" stealing our Charter rights and freedoms?]

Such squalid behaviour is sadly par for the course in this country. And Canadians remain insufferably smug, ignorant or hypocritical.

Obviously, the big news is Trudeau and Morneau pulling $4.5 billion out of a hat to buy the Kinder-Morgan Pipeline. (Probably to bail-out the Canadian banks that had loaned money to the project.) But I started this post before that.