Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Haiti, Honduras, Venezuela, Bolivia

I wondered what to write about today and I decided to look for something on the much neglected Canadian project in Haiti. I mean, after all, we did help remove their president from power and helped to install an interim government under the pretext of getting a "failed state" back on its feet again. And it remains Canada's largest foreign policy investment in the Western Hemisphere and our second-biggest investment worldwide. So why don't we hear more about all the wonderful things that we're doing there?

Probably because, as usual, Western elites aren't doing wonderful things, but terrible things. Whatever the sins of the deposed president Bertrand Aristide, the interim government we installed, the subsequent electoral sham that's been concocted since, and the UN's stabilization force for Haiti (MINUSTAH) have all been much greater human rights abusers than he might have been. As well, the social services of the Haitian state continue to fall to pieces, as demonstrated by the devastating, long-term damage caused by recent hurricane seasons, as the basics of civil defence proved incapable of anything but the smallest achievements. Finally, as pointed out in this blog, the world's food crisis has been particularly devastating for Haitians who have been reduced to eating dirt to fill their bellies.

So, the best thing I could find of recent vintage was this excellent Kevin Pina article, wherein he mentioned the similarity between the abduction and expulsion of Aristide and the more recent expulsion of Honduran president Zelaya. That got me thinking: Zelaya, Aristide, Chavez, Morales, ... that's a fairly long line of coups or attempted coups (Morales had to face down a regional uprising from pro-American governors in his country) in recent history. Evidence that nothing, but nothing, has changed regarding US policy towards Latin America or anywhere else within the empire. When elections suit their purposes and go their way, the US government will allow them. When the people in these countries vote their own way, the US government moves heaven and earth to try to destroy them.

Canada doesn't tend to do these things because the US does it for us (and our mining interests) and because we're a global pipsqueak. But we'll eagerly sign on to assist in these dreadful missions when our master requests our presence. Disgusting.

Anyway, here's some excerpts from the Pina article about the neoliberal project in Haiti:

Despite more than $4 billion dollars of international assistance since the 2004 coup life only got worse as Haiti's predatory economic elite were set free to squeeze as much profit as they could out of a desperate population. With little business investment to speak of, this elite would use their monopoly on the importation of food staples to steal away the more than $1.5 billion in remittances sent annually by thousands of families and friends to their loved ones in Haiti in an effort to keep them alive. It was always a sweetheart deal where these monopolists would insure the redistribution of wealth into their pockets even as protests broke out against the growing misery and hunger in April 2008.

Throughout, the Lavalas movement and the poor kept demonstrating against the coup demanding justice and that Aristide be allowed to return to Haiti. Their leaders would be disappeared as in the case of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine on August 12, 2007, forced to rot away in prison like Ronald Dauphin or eventually succumb to the ravages of harsh treatment as that which befell Father Gerard Jean-Juste on May 27, 2009. Still others would be courted by Preval and offered well-paid positions of authority within his government if they would turn their backs on their own history and the Lavalas movement.

Then came the much-delayed senatorial elections in April and June 2009 where the final blow was to be delivered to Lavalas. The Fanmi Lavalas party would be excluded from participating on a technicality not because one actually existed as much as the possibility of their success in re-entering the political arena. Despite every attempt at that point to destroy their hope, Lavalas waged a successful boycott campaign of the elections that rendered them a joke by any objective standard of democratic participation. It was nothing less than a collective rebuff of Preval and the international community.


Such brave people. I wish to hell we could just sweep aside every single Canadian politician who buys into this bullshit and bring some sanity to the world.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Brief Glance at Right-Wing Stupidity

We'll start with a few choice quotes from David Brooks on Saddam Hussein's WMDs, helpfully compiled by Glenn Greenwald:

I MADE THE MISTAKE of watching French news the night of Colin Powell's presentation before the Security Council. . . . Then they brought on a single "expert" to analyze Powell's presentation. This fellow, who looked to be about25 and quite pleased with himself, was completely dismissive. The Powellpresentation was a mere TV show, he sniffed. It's impossible to trust any of the intelligence data Powell presented because the CIA is notorious for lying andmanipulation. The presenter showed a photograph of a weapons plant, and then thesame site after it had been sanitized and the soil scraped. The expert wasunimpressed: The Americans could simply have lied about the dates when the pictures were taken. Maybe the clean site is actually the earlier picture, he
said. That was depressing enough. Then there were a series of interviews withFrench politicians of the left and right. They were worse. At least the TV expert had acknowledged that Powell did present some evidence, even if he thought it was fabricated. The politicians responded to Powell's address as if it had never taken place. They simply ignored what Powell said and repeated that
there is no evidence that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction and that, in any case, the inspection system is effective. This was not a response. It was simple obliviousness, a powerful unwillingness to confront the question honestly.

...

EITHER SADDAM HUSSEIN will remain in power or he will be deposed. President Bush has suggested deposing him, but as the debate over that proposal has evolved, an interesting pattern has emerged. The people in the peace camp attack President Bush's plan, but they are unwilling to face the implications of theirown. Almost nobody in the peace camp will stand up and say that Saddam Hussein is not a fundamental problem for the world. Almost nobody in that camp is willing even to describe what the world will look like if the peace camp's advice is taken and Saddam is permitted to remain in power in Baghdad, working away on his biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons programs . . .


So now we stand at an epochal moment. The debate is over. The case has gone to the jury, and the jury is history. Events will soon reveal who was right, Bush or Chirac. . . . But there are two nations whose destinies hang in the balance. The first, of course, is Iraq. Will Iraqis enjoy freedom, more of the same tyranny, or a new kind of tyranny? The second is the United States. If the effort to oust Saddam fails, we will be back in the 1970s. We will live in a nation crippled by self-doubt. If we succeed, we will be a nation infused with confidence. We will have done a great thing for the world, and other great things will await.



Speaks for itself, don't it? I never knew that much about David Brooks. Before reading that Greenwald post I'd assumed he'd always been at the NYT because that's where he was when Tom Tomorrow started mocking him as "Mr. McBobo." Then I'd see him in his daring sartorial choices being criticized on "Crooks and Liars" babbling about the imaginary salad-bars at the "Applebee's" restaurant chain.

Now, let's look at a Canadian right-wing blogger, the shit-for-brains "Junker."


Here's what "Junker" had to say about the non-existent WMDs (all the quotes are from the link above or the Dawg's Blawg post mentioned there):

Conrgress and the Senate authorized the war Bush pushed for, based on numerous reasons, only one of which was WMDs.

Say, that's true! In their war authorization, Congress through in all sorts of crazy, hypocritical, delusional bullshit on top of the issue of WMDs. Big Fucking Deal. The point is that Saddam's alleged WMDs was the issue that the bush II regime was screaming and shrieking and LYING about to justify their invasion. Don't try to pretend that it was just one little factor in a larger picture. It was the central point. And it was all a bunch of stupid, obvious lies.

Okay, ... WMDs aside, how does Junker feel about having been so disastrously wrong about invading Iraq? Here's what he said:

While we're at it, care to admit your side got Iraq completely wrong?

To which, a sane person can only breath "Holy shit" and grapple for something steady to hold on to. How does "Junker" rationalize to himself that the invasion of Iraq turned out to be a success?

The Iraqi government is not a showcase of democracy, and yet it is more democratic than any other in the region. There was a violent civil war, and free Iraqis won it.

It was during the darkest moments in Iraq, when the struggle was at its peak, that the opposition reached a crescendo in the west. All the while soldiers of the west along with free Iraqi’s ignored the din, crushed the enemy, and stabilized the country against tremendous odds. Had we pulled out then we would have left a horrific violent mess. Instead we leave a free Iraq with the chance to build a stable future.

Keep in mind, please that the most thorough study has estimated that by 2006 there were over 600,000 excess deaths caused by the violence in Iraq. At the rate of violence since that time, there are no doubt over ONE MILLION excess deaths in Iraq. At the same time, there are an estimated FOUR MILLION refugees created by the crisis, some "internal" (that is, they were forced to flee [and abandon] their homes and take refuge with family or friends or generous strangers, elswhere in Iraq, or else they've been forced to flee abroad where many of them are living in absolute destitution). Imagine if Canada was invaded and descended into ethnic, sectarian and political violence, which resulted in 1.5 million deaths from violence, and 2.5 million people made homeless and another 2.5 million forced to flee the country. Then imagine that there's an army of morons oceans and continents away babbling about how "successful" the invasion was!


What are the current conditions in Iraq? Unemployment is 18%. Under-employment is a further 10% of the labour force. The violence has declined because the "ethnic/sectarian cleansing" amongst Sunnis and Shiites and Kurds has essentially been completed and there's far fewer left to kill. Maliki's government is unpopular and rules by force and through Shiite sectarianism and torture. He's also quite close to Iran, which would normally upset the pro-invasion crowd given their fear and loathing of that country.

Having blithered stupidly about how "successful" the invasion of Iraq was, "Junker" concluded that entry with this ominous tidbit:

Wonder if there is a parallel there to be drawn about Afghanistan?

Loud and clear "Junker." Just as you're capable of lying to yourself about what happened in Iraq, you're also quite capable of deluding yourself about 8 years of failure in Afghanistan. If, after over a decade of war, misery and corruption, Afghanistan settles down into an autocratic (but Taliban-free) hellhole, you'll congratulate yourself for having seen the job through to a "successful" conclusion and you'll be champing at the bit to bring freedom and democracy to some other needy civilization.

You moronic piece of shit.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Some sort of NDP-Liberal election arrangement?

Neither Michael Ignatieff are going to see a Liberal government in his lifetime. They are stuck lower than the CPC's lock on 30% of the electorate (the Stupid and Greedy 30%) and the NDP and the BQ aren't going to go anywhere very soon.

At the end of the day, the Liberals have to accept that there's a social democratic party to their left that makes their hopes to be able to screw-over progressives in their devotion to corporate interests as easily as the Democratic Party USA has it forever impossible.

The NDP has never been able to figure out which it hates more: the lumpen greed-freak cromagnons of the CPC or the slimy betrayers in the Liberal Party. The former tries to reinvent this country in the image of stupid and the latter continues to play use progressive rhetoric to steal votes that should have gone to the NDP if those voters were seriously in favour of what they thought they were voting for.

As it stands though, even without stephen harper (who has been absolutely astounding in his stubbornness, arrogance, and all around shit-hole-ish-ness) the Liberal vision of Canada is simply NOT as repulsive as the CPC's. And with stephen harper, there can be no real "deals."

Ignatieff's incredibly ill-time election call [i'll add, moronically, imbecile-ickly ill-timed] election call aside, the Liberals are where the power is. And where decent-assed voters are.

The NDP AND THE LIBERALS ... are going to have to realize ... long story short: some sort of agreement not to run against each other, ... or else.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How Great is America ...

You know, I'm proud to be able to say that I've never dissed the intelligence of the US-American people. I've never thought "Americans are stupid" and if you don't believe me you can look!!! I've said their political culture is debased and i've explained why.

The thing is; I've just watched the following and I just recognized that this whole thing comes from NASA which is not just humanity's space exploration program, but it's more specifically those other white people (with a tad more black people than i'm used to) hosting the 6 o'clock buffalo news who come from the land of Carter and Reagan as opposed to Trudeau, Clark, Trudeau, Mulroney that i'm used to 's ???? 'NATIONAL' whatever.



Isn't this stuff cool.

G-20 in Pittsburgh

So, our sociopath Prime Minister, stephen harper, is in Pittsburgh today with the Group of 20 (of the world's largest economies) to discuss how to drag out the failed neoliberal agenda a few more years at least. The Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project will attempt to bring a counterview to the "stay the course" drivel that the political airheads will no doubt try to foist on all of us. There's already been a bit of riot apparently.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Some Quick Thoughts

People who tried to explain the attacks on the USA on 9-11 2001 were often accused of defending the attacks. They were accused of saying that "the USA had it coming" which isn't really all that far off the mark, except the idea that the US government had created enemies around the world was dismissed, and it was the innocent civilians who were killed that reality-based people were supposedly "blaming" for the attack. That of course, would have been a highly offensive thing to have said.

But most everybody in North America would have no problem explaining why the USA invaded Afghanistan after 9-11. They were harbouring the man thought responsible for that terrorist attack and they were refusing to simply hand him over. But notice how this line of thinking ("Afghanistan had it coming") is found to be not the least bit controversial amongst North Americans. Remember though, that as a result of the invasion, and the cutting off of food rations during the Afghanistan winter, thousands of innocent Afghans have been killed. (Perhaps tens of thousands starved in the mountains, though nobody has bothered to count the dead so we'll never know.) Why does this simple explanation that "Afghanistan had it coming [for harbouring Osama bin Laden]" not extend to the offensive notion that all those innocent men, women and children likewise "had it coming"?

Is it because hyper-sensitive "conservative" hypocrites have been successful in closing-off avenues of discussion? That an objective look at US foreign policy and its consequences has to be made impossible to achieve in order to allow US foreign policy elites to continue their revolting work unhindered by rational debate?

My other quick thought refers to news reports that top-level Canadian military brass and department of defence officials referred to sexual abuse of young boys by Afghan government security forces as "a 'cultural' issue." Prominent [inexplicably prominent] Canadian commentators have also informed us that torturing prisoners is also part of the culture of Afghanistan [they also "lie as effortlessly as they breath"].

Given the fact that they've decided they can't cure the Afghan authorities of raping children or torturing prisoners, how the hell do they imagine they'll instill something as huge and complicated as a genuine functioning democracy in Afghanistan? They're either lying or stupid or both. My money is on "both."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sickening Afghanistan News

Our nation's sacred mission to bring peace and democracy to Afghanistan isn't looking too good lately. Alison at Creekside alerted me to this National Post article about high-level Canadian Forces' knowledge of repeated complaints of the raping of children by members of the Afghan security forces.

Army staff and National Defence headquarters officials were told in 2007 that young boys had allegedly been sexually abused by Afghan security forces at a Canadian base in Afghanistan, but the concern at the time was that the incident might be reported in the news media, according to military records obtained by the Ottawa Citizen.

In addition, last year Brig.-Gen. J.C. Collin, commander of Land Force Central Area, passed on to senior army leadership concerns raised by military police who said they had been told by their commanders not to interfere in incidents where Afghan forces were having sex with children.

The newly released records raise questions about a military investigation that earlier this year concluded that allegations of sexual abuse of Afghan children by members of the Afghan army and police were unfounded. The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service also stated that its thorough investigation concluded allegations of such incidents were never reported to Canadian military commanders.


Dr. Dawg has a long post on the cavalcade of calamity that is our mission in Afghanistan today as well.

Read the whole thing and weep--not just for the women, some of whom by now even long for the return of the Taliban, but for our soldiers, dying in a pointless cause.

Realpolitik? Get out now and cut our losses on every front: military, social, political. The war is useless, unwinnable, fueled by ideology and wild hopes and cockeyed optimism.
I think it's long past the time for this to end. To all the shit-headed, ignorant buffoons who say that we can't just abandon the people of Afghanistan, ... you'll have to explain how a corrupt government, led by warlord gangsters, full of the same sort of oppressive, patriarchal religious fanaticism as the dreaded Taliban, with security forces comprised of thieves, rapists and murderers, is supposed to magically transform itself into a shining beacon of democracy.

Not that the stupid fuckers aren't going to try! Check out the sludge left by "Junker" in the comments section to Dawg's post:
Sure, we got plenty of things wrong.(While we're at it, care to admit your side got Iraq completely wrong?). The transition from a campaign to destroy Al-Queda and their enablers, to one of nation building and peace making was awkward and often unrecognized, and certainly not examined and debated enough. The war in Iraq did much to distract from the milder conflict in Afghanistan.

In Canada specifically, the left offered no constructive criticism or alternatives, only generic pacifist platitudes with the occasional baseless conspiracy theory thrown in (Afghan pipeline, continuation of the “Great Game”, American imperialism). More recently on the right, among the political class at least, any idea of debate or a change of direction was thrown out the window to gain support in Quebec, and win elections. “Out in 2011, no ifs ands or buts”. Even more recently, former supporters of the effort have thrown in the towel, some over the 130th casualty, some sort of magic number apparently(Poor number 129 doesn’t count I guess).

With what is as close to victory as you are going to get in an asymmetrical and confused conflict in Iraq, we are seeing a re-focus of effort in Afghanistan. While the UN and NATO are well committed to the conflict, it has and will always hinge on American effort. Right now in the US there is a vigorous debate taking place over strategy and goals, a debate we just haven’t seen in Canada, or Britain, or anywhere else among the key players. It should have happened sooner, but at least it’s happening where its most important.

If Obama continues to give a free reign to those directing the war for him, I think the outlook will certainly continue to improve.
...

Congress and the Senate authorized the war Bush pushed for, based on numerous reasons, only one of which was WMDs. The Iraqi government is not a showcase of democracy, and yet it is more democratic than any other in the region. There was a violent civil war, and free Iraqis won it.

It was during the darkest moments in Iraq, when the struggle was at its peak, that the opposition reached a crescendo in the west. All the while soldiers of the west along with free Iraqi’s ignored the din, crushed the enemy, and stabilized the country against tremendous odds. Had we pulled out then we would have left a horrific violent mess. Instead we leave a free Iraq with the chance to build a stable future.

Wonder if there is a parallel there to be drawn about Afghanistan?
...
BTW, if you want to know what constructive criticism and a deep knowledge of and interest in the conflict looks like, try stopping by here once and a while:

http://defenceoftherealm.blogspot.com

What is usually offered by the anti’s are broad uninformed strokes of opposition backed up by small tidbits of anecdotal evidence.
...
Richard over at Defence of the Realm has consistently dug deeper and put more thought into the conflict then any other commentator I've read. He has been extremely critical of equipment, tactics, strategy, and leadership. At the same time he has examined in depth the hardware, planning, and mind set that are required to win. He has constantly pleaded for a fundamental change of direction in their MoD. At no point has he decided the conflict to be unwinnable, although he is quite certain that the path Britain seems stuck to will certainly lead to defeat, at least for them.

Getting back to your post. The 2nd and third hand comments of a dead soldier, the awful story of a "15-year-old, named Sitara", and alleged rape of a young Afghani on CF property. All worth reporting. Certainly tragic. Somewhat anecdotal, and largely irrelevant to the larger debate.

Getting down to the fundamentals of the argument. I certainly respect your position that we should pull out. I mean, who doesn’t want less dead young Canadians, right? But I believe it is possible to see a positive outcome in this conflict, and here’s the critical bit, I believe leaving Afghanistan now is tantamount to handing countless peaceful Afghanis over to a murderous bunch of theocratic killers. In my mind it is stay the course(all the while looking to improve our strategy) and fight for something better(an outcome certainly not guaranteed), or leave Afghanistan to an almost certain relapse back into the dark ages.

Insane isn't it? And I grow so weary from explaining for the 100th time to these morons that the world is round and it goes around the sun while they explain that it's held up by Rush Limbaugh and the sun is Glenn Beck's ass.

I had no intention of "debating" this "Junker" idiot. As you can see, I spent most of my slight effort just trying to tell the yammering fool to shut up. (It appears that he was inspired to post something on his own blog to the effect of telling me and others in the reality-based community to shut up by quoting the revolting Terry "Raped children? I know NUT-TING!" Glavin's war mongering tirades!)

But let's go through this stew of stupidity, delusion and murderous self-righteousness here shall we?

[And let's do it later too. Goddamned Microsoft updates took all goddamned morning and i got other shit to do.]

ETA: If I ever get around to taking apart Junker's delusions, it'll be in another post. I am rather weary of trying to convince these dunderheads that the invasion of Iraq was based on hypocrisy and lies and that it's been a complete disaster.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Paid too little to sell one's soul ...

The NDP had no obligation to help reinforce Ignatieff's ego when he pulled his threat to topple the harpercons out of his ass. I hate the harpercons as much as the next person but given that the polls are showing this was a terrible idea it made sense for the NDP to 1) not ask "how high" when Ignatieff said "Jump!" and 2) try to take advantage of their new leverage to extract concessions out of harper.

But from what I'm hearing, this extra $1 billion in EI benefits for people already receiving benefits is far too small a price to pay to prop-up a murderously incompetent, dangerously ideological harpercon abomination.

Layton and the NDP should have done all they could to make harper literally grovel to stay in power. As it is, the repulsive fool has had to show himself (to anyone too unaware to have realized it before) that he's a hypocrite with all his "socialists and separatists" talk. If this all turns out to have been a combined effort by the entire opposition to simply manouvere harper into such a compromising position I'll take back my criticism, but somehow I'm pretty sure that things are as they seem. To whit: Ignatieff has belatedly found his spine (or has exploded in a fit of petulance) and the NDP, realizing that an election would be disastrous for them as well, have now scrambled to do what the Liberals have always been roundly condemned for, hiding pathetically from the electorate. harper, meanwhile, has once again shown himself to be a cowardly bully, who, when his back is to the wall, will do ANYTHING to hold onto power.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ignatieff's Election Gambit and the NDP

Right off the top, I think my problem with Ignatieff's election call was that it was so completely out of the blue. It's true Layton had recently come away from a meeting with harper saying that nothing could be worked out, but that was in the context of having a Liberal Party that's enabled the harpercons for years on end having said nothing new since their EI hypocrisy fizzled out.

I share (for instance) Alison at Creekside's desire to see the end of the harpercon misgovernment, but simply calling an election isn't going to make that happen automatically. A misjudged election call could even make things worse and give harper a majority. Now, obviously, worries about harper's potential success in any election have kept the Liberals from bringing on an election, so what's the difference here?

I think the question is building up an anti-harper momentum and timing in general. Ignatieff's election threats seem to me like a guy who has waited too long to get angry and start fighting, and chooses when everyone else is demoralized or resigned to issue a call to arms. When Layton was saying they should vote down the budget and employ the coalition, Ignatieff turned him down. The few times since coming back from prorogation that Ignatieff had an opportunity to do more than bluster he folded with the merest of concessions. Suddenly he comes out of a strategy session at the tail-end of the summer recess and starts talking about an election before Parliament's even had a chance to meet. It looks like petulance more than it looks like responsible opposition.

Another thing that's plagued the Liberals since Paul Martin's time is that they share the same economic policies as the harpercons (albeit without having an incompetent 19th-Century idiotologue like Jim Flaherty) so they don't really have anything attractive to go to the polls with. And, whereas harper has united the right-wing, the Liberals have to contend with opposition on their left-wing, which denies them the automatic votes of the sane 60% of Canadians outside of Quebec.

Two things are for certain though. This craziness has managed to make everyone (except the Bloc, I guess) look bad and everyone (except for harper) look good. harper looks bad because it's always been his stubborn arrogance that's made Parliament dysfunctional the whole time. Now, he's reduced to negotiating with the same "socialists and separatists" he hypocritically trashed the Liberals for courting. Layton looks cynical and hypocritical. Ignatieff looks like a petulant doofus.

At the same time, Layton is once again a player. If he extracts genuine concessions he can say that he knows how to bargain with harper as opposed to the Liberals' panic and embarrassed anger. Ignatieff can say that Layton wouldn't have had the opportunity without the Liberals' election threats. Personally, I'm hoping that harper's concessions won't be enough and Layton allows Ignatieff to force this election.

harper has to go. At the end of the day, the Liberal Party has more maturity and will work with other parties in a minority situation. At the very least, they've been humbled by repeated failure and indecision since 2006.

Finally, those Liberals who are snickering about Layton's predicament in having apparently lost his nerve now that voting against the government matters: If it's so revolting and cowardly when done by Layton and the NDP, it must make you guys feel pretty sick about your own record 'eh?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Flaherty Doesn't Get It (... No Surprise There!)

So, always incompetent finance minister Jim Flaherty is conceding deficits until 2015 'eh? And to mitigate these deficits, the fucking stupid asshole proposes to raise EI premiums!


The Harper government's plan for whittling down Ottawa's deficit by 2015 includes collecting billions of dollars more in payroll taxes than it pays out in Employment Insurance benefits over a three-year period.
This is stoking fears that overcollection of EI premiums, starting in Ottawa's 2012-13 fiscal year, could hinder employment growth by unduly burdening companies as they are trying to recover and grow.


This is obscene. Both the Liberals and their "conservative" alternative, whether Progressive Conservative or the dog's breakfast of closet-case Jesus freaks and greedheads that constitutes the various incarnations of stephen harper's gang of idiots, have built their careers on screwing over workers and rewarding the parasites in the financial sector and this is no different.


Once again, our problem with deficits and debts was caused by the creation of high interest rate monetarist recessions which broke inflation by breaking workers through unemployment. These recessions lowered government revenues while raising government expenses. To bridge the gap, governments were forced to borrow large amounts at a high rate of interest. Sickeningly, business and government elites blamed the victims for these deficits and said that unemployment was caused by the attraction of unemployment insurance benefits, general welfare assistance and other assorted programs. To wean workers off of these programs, governments slashed them under the rationalization of deficit reduction.


It was the Chr├ętien and Martin governments that first seized upon the Unemployment Insurance fund (renamed by Martin as "Employment Insurance" in the same silly way that death benefits are called "life insurance") as a cash cow. By hiking eligibility requirements and raising premiums the Liberals could collect money off of working people and use it to pay down the debt. While they were doing this, Martin cut income and corporate taxes which mainly benefited the wealthy. The wealthy, for the most part, "invested" their money in the farcical clusterfuck that is the North American financial sector, giving Canadians the worst possible outcomes. Insane financial products seeking to wring maximum earnings out of a stagnant, gasping, increasingly indebted consumer base. It was the attempt to square this circle that brought about the gigantic financial meltdown and subsequent recession in the United States and then the rest of the world.


Because of this recession, the harper government has been forced (under extreme duress) to go into deficit spending to keep the economy from going into a tailspin. The moronic Flaherty, having a 19th-Century grasp of economics wants to slam on the brakes as quickly as possible in the ignorant belief that we're headed for a crash caused by deficit-induced inflation and all sorts of other doomsday scenarios that just aren't true. (From the link:)

The net financial liabilities of all levels of government combined in Canada are projected to be just 27% of GDP this year, compared to an OECD average of 51%. Our net debt is down hugely from the peak of 71% in 1995. (See OECD Economic Outlook Annex Table 3.) General government net debt servicing costs stand at an extraordinarily low and indeed almost trivial level of 0.2% of GDP, compare to an OECD average of 1.7%. The fact of the matter is that we are in great fiscal shape, and can well afford to borrow more and invest much more now that times are tough and public investment is needed to sustain jobs and set the stage for a more productive future economy.


What is harper's miserable explanation for such ass-backwards behaviour?

But the Tories defend the measure as necessary to ensure the EI program breaks even, particularly given a current freeze on premiums that's keeping them artificially low right now.
...
The Harper government said it's merely trying to ensure that the EI program balances out over time. It wants to recoup shortfalls in EI collections that it expects will have built up over the next few years as a result of the recession – which has sent unemployment skyrocketing.

“We committed to freezing EI premiums as part of the economic action plan to help Canadians weather the recession,” said Chisholm Pothier, spokesman for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.


“We are keeping that commitment and rates will remain frozen until 2011.”


The problem is that while he's frozen premiums he hasn't expanded eligibility. Furthermore, the damned "fund" (which doesn't exist as premiums go into general government revenues and the Supreme Court has ruled that the government doesn't have to pay it back) had been in surplus since 1995 and all the way to 2008! All that time over half of unemployed workers (including two out of three women workers) have been facing rising average levels of unemployment and receiving no benefits, ... all part of the process of stagnation and desperation upon which the parasitical financial sector demanded maximum returns from. So, in response to a recession caused by the collapse of the economy due to the implosion of a financial sector bubble built on the backs of indebted, underpaid, overtaxed consumers, fuckhead Flaherty grudgingly embraces deficit spending but hopes to curtail it as soon as possible by raising taxes on that same consumer base that's been gasping for breath for over the past two decades.

A better option would be to raise income taxes on the wealthiest and the corporations. Our business world had at least a decade of low taxation, stagnant wages and a cheap currency (making our exports attractive and keeping imports artificially expensive) and they did little to raise productivity. Our wealthy, as I said, for the most part, "invested" their money in Bay Street and Wall Street snake-oil. They have more money than they know what to do with and the REAL ECONOMY could use it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

What Shape Will the Economy Take?

It will look like the symbol for square root.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

In Bed With the Separatists

A lot of Canadians who have no desire to live in Quebec, work in Quebec, visit the damned place or even learn to speak French HATE the Bloc Quebecois for wanting to take Quebec out of Confederation.

For that reason, when stephen herper hypocritically ignores his own past of seeking BQ support to topple Canada's "elected government" and yammers about how the Opposition is seeking to defeat him with the help of the separatists, a lot of Canadians respond with outrage against the BQ's intrusion on politics in the ROC.

"Why should these people who want to break up my country get a say in who gets to form Canada's government?"

To respond to this emotional confusion I would say that the BQ is not unilaterally taking down the Rest of Canada's "elected government." First of all, we don't have "elected governments" end of story. Secondly, the BQ would not be able to defeat a government without the assistance of other parties elected by non-separatists in the ROC.

If people want to have a discussion about whether the BQ should be an illegal party, that's another issue altogether. Most political commentators take the position that allowing a separatist party in the federal legislature is a sign of the strength of Canadian democracy. The dampening of separatist ardour in recent decades is also evidence of the strength of Confederation, for what it's worth.

As a legal party, the BQ has the right to represent Quebecois in Ottawa. And if they find a government unacceptable to the people of Quebec, they are allowed to work with other parties who find this government unacceptable for their constituents to bring that government down.

Since the BQ are opposed to entering into the government of a country they want to leave, it can't be said that separatists have joined a coalition.

It's actually pretty ominous that there are significant numbers of Canadians who believe that Harper's minority government is a ticket to permanent rule, no matter how big an asshole he is.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Working Day & Night

Not much time to say anything today. Two movies to watch for:

Matt Damon in "The Informant" and a biopic about Daniel Ellsberg - "The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers."

Toodles.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Face of "Fascism"

I never heard of this Van Jones fellow before I heard about the right-wing screams that brought about his resignation as Obama's "Green-Jobs 'Czar'" so I don't have a helluva lot to say. But apparently Papa Junk is terrified of him:



He writes: "It’s going to take America decades to forget their fascist moment." (emphasis added)

Did the fool even grasp the video? "Fascism" when uttered by the Left tends to refer to an authoritarian mindset, generally in defence of traditions. "Fascism" as understood by the right-wing evidently means government involvement in healthcare and, now, reaching out to young men, black, brown or white, who are facing alienation and feeling anger.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Subpoenas Issued for Canada-Afghan Torture Allegations

Just in case you missed it, from today's Toronto Star: "Subpoenas issued to federal officials in Afghan prisoner inquiry"

OTTAWA – A military watchdog agency has subpoenaed senior federal officials and is seeking a court order to force the Conservative government to release withheld information concerning the controversial transfer of suspected Taliban fighters into Afghan custody.

The Military Police Complaints Commission is trying to get around what it considers roadblocks to its investigation of allegations that first surfaced in 2007 accusing the Canadian military of handing over prisoners knowing they would probably be tortured.

...

Subpoenas have been served on four former commanders of Canadian troops in Kandahar, the deputy minister and four employees of foreign affairs, and the chief of the Correctional Service of Canada, he said.

...

In its attempt to derail the commission inquiry, the federal government has argued that the handling of prisoners is "not subject" to oversight by the military police complaints process, and that the National Defence Act only gives the agency the power to investigate complaints against military police.

...

Allegations that the Canadian government's safeguards, meant to protect transferred prisoners from abuse and torture, were inadequate first surfaced in the spring of 2007. It's considered a war crime to transfer a prisoner between countries knowing that they likely face torture.

Officials are trying to avoid scrutiny, said Champ.

"They have refused to disclose documents, they've refused to provide access to witnesses. They've refused to co-operate in general.

"They've taken the military police complaints commission to court, they've sued our clients, all with the objective of quashing these hearings," he said.


This is important. Shithead right-wing warmongers notwithstanding, we're turning over poor farmers who have joined the insurgency against a corrupt and brutal government over to sadistic torturers. We're turning teenagers over to prisons where the jailers are accused of being rapists. If this wasn't a violation of international law (and it is) it's surely a violation of supposed "Canadian values."

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Afghanistan: After 8 years a fraudulent election and more civilian airstrike deaths

Gad! Enough already! Eight years of failure. Eight years of a growing insurgency. Eight years of bullshit economic rebuilding. Eight years of corruption. Eight years of hypocrisy. Eight years of civilian deaths from NATO airstrikes.

People aren't complaining about "glitches" or isolated "irregularities" in the last Afghanistan elections. They're complaining about massive fraud. And General Stanley McCrystal says that there'll be a re-focus of Western energies on Afghanistan's re-building but the recent killing of up to ninety people by a NATO airstrike, and the massive fraud of reconstruction up to know gives the lie to those assertions.

Are we still supposed to be having a debate on this abomination? (I know warmonger Terry Glavin isn't having one. The shameless hypocrite can fulminate at length about Taliban cruelty but lacks the moral courage to deal with the child-raping Afghan police that our tax-dollars are training, arming and paying the wages for.)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Oh Yeah, ... So, Ignatieff's Election Talk ...

I got distracted by the extended yammerings of some US-American wingnut during my blogging hours and haven't commented about Michael Ignatieff's election threats. And I'm deeply sorry to the progressive blogging community for being so dilatory about commenting because I know that everyone has spent the past few days shrieking "Yes! But what does 'thwap' have to say about it?!?"

Well, wonder no longer people! Here is my take on it. This appears to be a very bad idea. Not because the harpercons don't need to be removed as soon as possible. They do. But because Ignatieff is coming out of nowhere with these threats and it seems that the electorate will be more annoyed with Ignatieff than with harper. Even more disgruntled usually Liberal voters will stay home and we'll be at risk of a harper majority.

Ignatieff has to BUILD a momentum towards defeating this government. Instead, he's capitulated on everything and sold himself for a meaningless consultation on EI reform (restoring eligibility to the hundreds of thousands of workers that Chretien and Martin had kicked-out in the 1990s) that was supposed to be his make-or-break issue. As NDP and other leftist commenters pointed out, this agreement to discuss EI was entirely meaningless and while Ignatieff appears to have been blindsided, harper wasn't. He appointed Pierre Pollievre, one of the most obnoxious, obstructionist of harper's yapping beeyotchs to head the harpercon delegation, guaranteeing a fruitless exercise. Essentially, harper took a dump and then they shoved Ignatieff's nose in it. Unfortunately for the Liberals, the polls didn't show a great anger at the harpercons at this display of government intransigence. Embarrassed and angry, Ignatieff held a strategy pow-wow where they discussed polling results and forecasts and then emerged bloviating about elections and how he was going to balance the budget without new taxes (!?!?) to an indifferent public.

Why am I not too excited? Because 1) The Liberals haven't come up with a strong alternative to the harpercons despite having had years to do so. The reason is that they agree with harper's centre-right policies for the most part. (Meanwhile "progressive" Liberals have been drying their eyes over betraying their principles so long that they don't even cry anymore.) and 2) The Canadian electorate appears quite content to wallow in apathy and ignorance to the extent that disturbingly large numbers of them see fit to vote for both these pieces of shit. Even worse, numerous ignoramuses awaken from their stupor only long enough to chide one opposition party or the other for not working together to govern the country, having missed entirely, harper's entire PM-ship of bullying and stonewalling. At best, some self-righteous doofus will say that "they're all jerks" as if that's going to stop harper from being the complete asshole that he is.

So, our only realistic hope of getting rid of harper is the Liberals who are almost as bad as he is, but we have a tone-deaf leader of the official opposition who has failed to rouse the country too many of whom believe incoherently that Parliament's power to remove a minority government that has lost the confidence of the House of Commons is a "coup." We have too many Canadians who believe the Bloc Quebecois should be outlawed but who will settle for simply not allowing it to JOIN WITH OTHER MPs to remove a government unpopular in Quebec AS WELL AS across Canada.

I'll have a job until December. There's nothing I can do now for the people hurting in this recession right now. Our political and media system is too debased. The NDP should get over its fear of its own shadow and turn up the volume about the murderous incompetence of this racist party of oil and insurance industry hacks and its Christian-fundamentalist nutbar grassroots that is the "Conservative" Party of Canada. Given the dismal failures of neoliberalism, this shouldn't be all that difficult.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Wingnut Mind

Just a quick post. Yesterday I pointed to the return of US-American wingnut "Wakefield Tolbert" to the schoolyard. He turned out to be an exceedingly windy old fellow who has graciously provided me with fodder for dozens of posts exploring the mental limitations of the wingnut mind and the factual limitations of the world view created by such a mind.

For today, I'd just like to draw everyone's attention to the following bit of nonsense, as it epitomizes the intellectual cowardice of Tolbert's ilk. Wakefield was waxing indignantly about the "trillions" of dollars that Saudi Arabia was using to support ... well, something or other, ... Wakey got excited and forgot to complete his thought. Some of it had to do with the creation of "hundreds of millions of potential jihadist warriors against Israel." I suppose they're "potential" because the vast majority of them don't have weapons, or belong to a militant group, or anything else that would make them "actual" warriors.

Anyhoo, given Wakefield's gigantic animus towards Saudi Arabia, I asked him whether or not Saudi Arabia was a close ally of the United States. Just to be on the safe side, I told him the answer was "yes." Among other things, Wakefield responded with this:
"And no the House of Saud is not our pal. Or shouldn't be."

Isn't that special? Wakey gets to categorically assert that the USA is NOT a close ally of the evil House of Saud and its "trillions" of dollars in support of whatever and its funding of Madrasahs which pour out "hundreds of millions" of "potential warriors" while at the same time, he makes a half-assed bow to reality by adding that, okay, it is, but it shouldn't be.

In so doing, Wakey is (in his own pathetic excuse for a brain) free to avoid pondering the significance of US foreign policy in the Middle East, and free to continue building his sand-castle of delusions and anti-Arab, anti-Muslim racism. (Take the time to read Wakefield's avalanche of derogatory statements about Arabs and Muslims and then laugh uproariously when the shithead confidently asserts that he's immune to charges of racism, just because he's not racist. "I'm not racist! Arabs really are primitive sand-niggers for whom extermination is too good!")
"And no the House of Saud is not our pal. Or shouldn't be."

It's breathtaking isn't it? A colossal instance of complete denial, followed by roundabout admission that he's totally full of shit. A blatant attempt to have one's cake of self-righteousness and eat it too. Evidence of the complete inability to accept that all one's major beliefs and precepts are garbage and need a thorough re-working. Hypocrisy.

As I've said on numerous occasions, these mouth-breathing clods would be funny were it not for the fact that they're part of a movement, led by other mouth-breathing stupid clods like Dick ["asbestos lawsuits"] Cheney, Donald ["Committee on the Present Danger"] Rumsfeld and John ["I want to preform cunnilingus on a walrus"] Bolton. Together, these imbeciles and their followers have produced decades of misery and ruined millions upon millions of lives. To which they respond, "well stuff happens" followed by vague, inane assertions that things will get better.

Fuck 'em all.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Something for Wakefield

After a bit of a hiatus, commenter "Wakefield Tolbert" is back, trashing me with a vengeance. Among his other incoherent ramblings, he takes time out to pat hisself on the back for the USA's destruction of the evil regime of Saddam Hussein thusly:
The only thing I can say to the whole Iraq "quagmire" (though I notice it's going better than the new liberal "good" war over in Afghanistan, where Bambi can't find out how to quell the bleeding), is that Hussein is NOT going to be put back into bloody-mattress rape-room Vegas-80s Glory.

Totally awesome Wakey. We'll ignore the USA's past support for Saddam Hussein (no we won't), but I do want to refer you to this example of the glorious benefits of bush II's invasion of Iraq.
There are more than a million Iraqi refugees in Syria, many are women whose husbands or fathers have been killed. Banned from working legally, they have few options outside the sex trade. No one knows how many end up as prostitutes, but Hana Ibrahim, founder of the Iraqi women's group Women's Will, puts the figure at 50,000.

Unhappy reading Wakefield.

(Oh, by the way, what's the USA doing about the massive Iraqi refugee problem that it created? Sweet fuck all.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Just Asking for Something Better

Deep thought for the day: Most people (not just North Americans) will put up with a political-economic system if it meets their barest expectations. Apologists for our system will say that the reason Canadians or US-Americans don't rebel is because they're absolutely IN LOVE with our corporate-capitalist democracy and wouldn't have things any other way.

But absence of revolution in the streets doesn't necessarily mean that people are in love with the system. Open rebellion is dangerous. It opens one up to retaliation from the powerful. Most people are swift enough to realize that declaring war on their system of government is probably going to get less for them in life than will keeping one's head down and trying to play the game. This is true for Canada and it's true for Central America and it's true for the Middle East. It's true for most all places most of the time. Only when a system utterly fails to meet up to its promises do people begin toying with the idea of revolt.

But we shouldn't think that it's all or nothing. That we can't demand radical change. Most Canadians (for instance) have a roof over their head and food in their belly and some sort of prospects. But we should tell them that things could be better. Much better. And we should tell them how that can be achieved and why it's not being achieved now.

We don't have to deny the achievements of the present system. We just have to point to how things could be better.