Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bankrupt Politics

I would say that there's now only a few millimetres separating Canada's dismal political culture from the thoroughly debased political culture in the United States. I'm linking to this Glenn Greenwald article about the morass of US politics simply because it's so well written and insightful:
There are few more bitter ironies than watching the Republican Party -- controlled at its core by the very business interests responsible for the country's vast and growing inequality; responsible for massive transfers of wealth to the richest; and which presided over and enabled the economic collapse -- now become the beneficiaries of middle-class and lower-middle-class economic insecurity. But the Democratic Party's failure/refusal/inability to be anything other than the Party of Tim Geithner -- continuing America's endless, draining Wars while plotting to cut Social Security, one of the few remaining guarantors of a humane standard of living -- renders them unable to offer answers to angry, anxious, resentful Americans. As has happened countless times in countless places, those answers are now being provided instead by a group of self-serving, hateful extremist leaders eager to exploit that anger for their own twisted financial and political ends. And it seems to be working.
And here's an honest question. There was a recent Harper's Magazine article about how US presidents have been self-interestedly been monkeying with economic statistics for decades now, to the extent that arriving at the reality of the US economy is perhaps impossible. Is it possible then that Canada's not-as-catastrophic-as-the-USA's economic situation might be due to the fact that the USA is really teetering far more than official statistics would have us believe? (For instance, the April 2008 article mentions "Based on the criteria in place a quarter century ago, today's U.S. unemployment rate is somewhere between 9 percent and 12 percent." This would contrast with the then-official unemployment rate of five percent. That four to seven point difference should be kept in mind when we now hear of an official US unemployment rate of 9.6 percent. Adding four to seven points to 9.6 gives us a real unemployment rate of between 13 and 16.6 percent.

Monday, August 23, 2010

G-20 Anatomy

Saturday's Toronto Star had an "Anatomy of the G20" that described the confluence of circumstances that led to the police overreacting to the Black Block rioters and curtailing the civil, political, and legal rights of hundreds of innocent people.

I found the whole thing a stupid waste of time. Look. They spent over one-fucking-billion-dollars to prevent some protesters from breaking some fucking windows, okay? Then, after they spent the fucking one-billion dollars, the Black Bloc was able to break the goddamned windows anyway. Then, the police, the enforcers of the state's monopoly on violence, went apeshit and trampled our precious Charter Rights, just like they did at the WTO meeting in Montreal and at Quebec City and at the APEC Conference in Vancouver, and as they wanted to do at Montebello in Quebec for the "Security Prosperity Partnership" bullshit. The way they trample human rights every fucking time imperialist, asshole leaders get together. And anyone too goddamned stupid to recognize this doesn't really have anything of value to say on the topic.

The "Black Bloc" supposedly provokes the police into a violent overreaction to its vandalism to expose the tenuous nature of our rights under liberal capitalism. The police were more than happy to take the bait and demonstrate their ability to abuse us with impunity. In the eyes of the public and most of the protesters, the police won. Your average couch-potato doofus cheers on the destruction of his or her own civil rights and your average protester thinks three or four times before going out to make a political statement. And the system continues its bloody way.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Toronto Election: Ford or Smitherman?

Indicative of the intellectual bankruptcy of Canadian politics in general is the Toronto mayoral race where the front-runner is the shithead Toronto Sun's golden slab of rancid pork Rob Ford and the great white hope of the "liberals" is George Smitherman (who Ford rightly slammed for having presided over the McGuinty government's one-billion dollar "E-Health" debacle).

Speaking of the Toronto Sun, I've been reading a few of 'em lately. People leave them lying around here. It's written by shitheads, appreciated by shitheads, and it's full of shit.

There's an old guy smacking his gums at the table across from me.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Paradox

Canadians didn't seem to care about the state's abuse of our civil, legal, and political rights at the G-20 because it didn't really affect them directly.

But why do they go along with, or even agree with the assaults on our freedoms from the asinine war on terrorism? Most Canadians are never going to be victims of terrorism, so why should they allow their tax-dollars to be raised and their airport security checks to become so bothersome for something just as remote from them as the abuse of concerned citizens' at the G-20?

Personal note: I've moved and will be without home internet access until the 30th at least.

Monday, August 16, 2010

thwap is back!

But I don't have time to say anything today! Keep 'em flying!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Standing Up to the Financializers (Important Article)

Once again, CounterPunch offers excellent analysis. (I've paid for their newsletter on occasion, but I can't right now.) Mark Weisbrot: "Hungary Defies IMF and European Authorities"

This is the great fear among the defenders of European “pro-cyclical” policies – that is, policies that weaken the economy during a recession or when it is barely growing. Hungary’s defiance could conceivably spread to other governments currently being squeezed by the IMF and European authorities.

First the Hungarian government decided in early July to levy a new tax on banks and other financial companies that would raise some $855 million dollars this year and next. Foreign banks, who made a fortune during Hungary’s bubbly growth years prior to the crash in 2007, screamed and lobbied, but – despite having the IMF in their corner– did not prevail.

Then the government refused to give in to IMF demands for further budget deficit reduction. Hungary has already been through nearly four years of austerity in which the deficit was reduced from 9 percent to 3.8 percent of GDP. More importantly, the country’s current account deficit – its imbalance with the rest of the world -- which was more than 7 of GDP in 2008, is less than one percent for this year. With unemployment having risen from 7 percent in 2007 to nearly 12 percent today, and the economy still barely growing, Hungarians were understandably beginning to wonder when they would see light at the end of this long tunnel.
This is an incredibly important story in the light of our present long-term malaise. Amazingly, the architects of the disaster are using it to enrich themselves and punish us. They must be stopped here. They have had their day and they have been discredited.

Solidarity with the fighting people of Hungary, Greece, Honduras, Venezuela, and Haiti!

Monday, August 9, 2010

It's Time For a Revolution

Yes, the global environmental crisis is upon us.

At the same time, capitalism isn't capable of meeting the challenge (a la "green industries" to accommodate ecological reality) because capitalism is now at a stage where only financial wealth meets the demands of the profit maximizers. They aren't going to fund the manufacture of solar panels, wind farms, rapid transit, building retro-fitting, etc., etc., because paying people to produce stuff is so 1970s.

We need to eliminate the power of the profit-making class, and implement genuine democracy. It's this class that denies global warming and insists on exporting the carbon-based economic model to the rest of the world, to hell with genuine limitations. It's them who control the political system that renders our votes meaningless. It's they who are behind the redundancy of workers in the over-developed countries.

We need to remove them from power. Then, the majority (who cannot delude themselves that "it's all going to be okay") can do the work of trimming our consumption and stopping the rat-race of production that is killing us.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

This is a REAL Crisis Folks

When I was just starting to learn about political-economic history I had a habit of responding to economic crises as if they were signalling the end of the current order. Time and time again I underestimated the strength and resiliency of the the US-led economic system. So when the financial crisis exploded in 2008 I was cautious about predicting catastrophe. Timely and massive use of public monies to bail-out the rugged individualist titans of capitalism on Wall Street and stimulus spending on the construction industry and the prison-industrial complex managed to prevent a full-blown depression and Canada (at least) has been able to pretend that we dodged a bullet and that we can all carry on as if nothing had happened.

While it remains true that (thanks to the selfish, deluded, idiots in charge) that a wave of austerity might trigger a second, even more devastating financial crisis, I'd like to point out that even then capitalism might survive. It survived the Great Depression after all. And, even in the Great Depression, when official unemployment (which excluded farmers and small business people who were a much greater percentage of the work force than they are today) was 25% at the worst of the crisis, there were large groups of people still working, still going along to get along, demonizing the unemployed and shrieking about the dangers of "big government." Even in the Great Depression then, people could pretend that everything was normal.

Of course, the Great Depression was a world disaster. It produced the rise of fascism and Hitler which meant the Second World War and the Holocaust among other things. And today's economic crisis is really hitting the centre of things, the United States of America, quite harshly:
It's probably also worth noting this Wall St. Journal article from last month -- with a subheadline warning: "Back to Stone Age" -- which describes how "paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue." Utah is seriously considering eliminating the 12th grade, or making it optional. And it was announced this week that "Camden [New Jersey] is preparing to permanently shut its library system by the end of the year, potentially leaving residents of the impoverished city among the few in the United States unable to borrow a library book free."
But, obviously, things are rougher in the periphery, as they usually are:
As revenue from raw material exports and taxation slumped, the crisis created a huge "fiscal hole" in the 56 poorest countries, decimating their budget revenues by $53bn (£33bn) in 2009 – nearly 10% of their pre-crisis revenues. A further $12bn will be lost in 2010, creating a total fiscal hole of $65bn over the two-year period. That hole ensures that the poorest countries will share the rich world's pain of cuts in essential services (while countries in the middle like China, India and Brazil steam on relatively unharmed), even though they missed out on the preceding financial boom. It's like suffering a monumental hangover when you weren't even invited to the party.
This crisis is devastating the lives of tens of millions of people and it's limiting the potential of millions more. Finally, the whole thing is distracting us from directing the resources needed to stop us from destroying our eco-system more than we already have:

Try to fit these facts together:

  • According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the planet has just come through the warmest decade, the warmest 12 months, the warmest six months, and the warmest April, May, and June on record.

  • A "staggering" new study from Canadian researchers has shown that warmer seawater has reduced phytoplankton, the base of the marine food chain, by 40 percent since 1950.

  • Nine nations have so far set their all-time temperature records in 2010, including Russia (111 degrees F), Niger (118), Sudan (121), Saudi Arabia and Iraq (126 apiece), and Pakistan, which also set the new all-time Asia record in May: a hair under 130. I can turn my oven to 130.

  • And then, in late July, the U.S. Senate decided to do exactly nothing about climate change. They didn't do less than they could have -- they did nothing, preserving a perfect two-decade bipartisan record of no action. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) decided not even to schedule a vote on legislation that would have capped carbon emissions.
To sum up: It is quite possible to get the enormity of our problems across to the so-called "Tim Horton's Crowd."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Running a country into the ground

The absolutely stupid harpercon decision to blow $9,000,000,000.00 on new prisons (ostensibly to jail those convicted of the unreported crimes our useless and intrusive national statistics agency said rose by three percentage points in 2004), joined with the $1,200,000,000.00 wasted on the G8 & G20 summits, and the $16,000,000,000.00 that harper wants to spend on F35 fighter jets (so as to protect us from Al Qaeda's box-cutters) made me think about how rich a country that Canada is that our governments can even seriously think of blowing money like this.

I mean, McGuinty was able to blow $1,000,000,000.00 on useless consultants on his "E-Health" debacle and we really didn't miss it. (Of course, in economic reality, all that money was spent on conspicuous consumption in the GTA and "invested" on Bay Street, but we, the tax-payers of Ontario can pretty much say we kissed it goodbye with nothing in return.)

In an example of the extreme, nauseating arrogance of hegemony, the Glib & Stale's Gary Mason said that the Vancouver Olympics' price-tag of over $1,000,000,000.00 (discounting the permanent infrastructure benefits such as the Sea to Sky Highway and a new convention centre and etc., which, built at inflated Olympic construction rates put the bill at around $6,000,000,000.00) was worth it, because:
There is little question, however, that B.C. will derive economic benefits from the Olympics for years to come. The Games will have been the main driver of economic growth in the province for 2010. Given the fallout from the most recent recession, their arrival couldn’t have come at a better time for the province.

Moreover, I think the Games gave the country something you can’t put a price on: a feeling of pride that has spurred a new confidence that you could feel the day after the Olympic cauldron was extinguished.

Maybe it’s not a tangible benefit, but it may be the most important one of the Olympics. One that can justify the cost all by itself.

Awwww! What a sensitive, artistic soul Gary Mason is! I gotta say it again! AWWWWWW!!!! Who could argue with such a poet?
It would certainly be easier for governments not to do these sorts of things, to think small, not big, never to take chances for fear of being criticized. And there are certainly people who believe every available dime of taxpayers’ money should be spent on health care and education and not trivial pursuits such as sporting festivals.
Huh. When you put it that way, it makes a lot of sense actually. Gary Mason, who has looked with equanimity on the devastation of Canada's health care and social welfare infrastructure generally, and who no doubt trashes left-wing Canadians as stupid, tree-hugging, hippy air-head flakes who can't make the serious, tough decisions, wants us to ignore wasting billions of dollars on fascist athletic spectacles because they give him a woody. Fuck you Mason, you contemptible piece of shit!

How many governments would like to be able to toss that kind of money around 'eh? Imagine what Haiti or Angola or Vietnam could do for their people with the $33,200,000,000.00 that I've mentioned so far? That's right folks, three of our governments (harper's federal government, and Ontario and British Columbia) have managed to piss-away thirty-two billion dollars on useless events and useless military junk and failed software programs over the past few years.

Don't get me wrong. Economically, some of this money never left the country. It was taken from the pockets of Canadians or Ontarians or British Columbians and put into the pockets of other Canadians or Ontarians or British Columbians. (Most likely police, private security contractors, construction contractors and construction workers, and, last but not least, asshole "consultants" of some sort who made thousands of dollars a day but who still billed us for the coffee they bought on their coffee breaks while they were failing utterly to build a secure, virtual database for Ontarians' health information.) But even accounting for this, the money that didn't get given to foreign military contractors and what-not, tended to benefit a small minority of people and didn't build anything of any lasting value to the majority. You can't have a functioning economy just buy issuing cheques to everyone and allowing them to buy Toronto condos and imported consumer goods. You have to build things that work once in a while.

And, as well, we can't afford this sort of nonsense forever. These multi-billion dollar vanity projects, combined with general austerity for the majority of the population, including in our education and health care sectors, have been leading us on the road to ruin for a couple of decades now. It's not just an amusing curiosity that Ontario is now a recipient of equalization payments now. No, no, no. This sad achievement is a direct result of the moronic policies of the revolting mike harris regime of the 1990s and the arrogant dithering of McGuinty since then. And Ontario's sorry state was made worse by the austerity of the Chretien-Martin Liberals and now the harpercons, who are themselves running the entire country into the ground.

The fruits of unregulated capitalism are the suicidal farting attacks of the world's financial sector and the Earth's vomiting of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico and over the skies of the Tar Sands of Alberta (and thence into the world's atmosphere where it contributes to the Global Warming that will upset the balance of all life on earth).

These people are maniacal, wasteful, self-destructive psychopaths. They must be stopped.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What's the Point of Blogging?

Or discussion boards? Or writing letters to newspapers and magazines? Or writing your own zines? Or attending protests?

I guess the real practical value of these things is the creation of a culture of dissent. I think it's been very important for progressives, to know that they're not alone in the world. We, as individuals in this community, gain some strength and some sanity knowing that there like-minded people out there, offering their progressive analysis.

But there are limits to the impact of this "activism." At the end of the day, we have to go out into the 3-d world and talk to the unconverted and take-on (in a very real way) the powers that are taking us on this course to the destruction of ourselves as a species.

I've been a little quiet lately because I've become very disillusioned with my country, my fellow Canadians, and with the practical value of typing these little blurts every day. While the Liberals were abominable (what with their attacks on Haiti and Afghanistan and their pillaging our pockets with their unemployment insurance shenanigans), with harper it's been one brazen act of stupidity after another. And Canadians have shrugged their collective shoulders at Canadian complicity in torture, the prorogation of democracy, and now, mass arrests and brutalization of peaceful protesters.

So now, when Peter Mackay shakes a meat martini in public about the Canadian airforce taking on the "Ruskies," or harper and his whole gang of idiots start babbling about the Census or building prisons to house the growing numbers of unreported criminals, I couldn't work up much enthusiasm to say anything.

But this blog is just a place to practice writing and thinking and to add my little grain of sand to the beach that is the Canadian political scene.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hypocritical Bullshit

Here's what Admiral Mike Mullen had to say about Julian Assange and the Wikileaks exposure of military information on the war in Afghanistan.
Disagree with the war all you want, take issue with the policy, challenge me or our ground commanders on the decisions we make to accomplish the mission we've been given, but don't put those who willingly go into harm's way even further in harm's way just to satisfy your need to make a point.
First, it might be true that Assange has unwittingly put people in harm's way, and then again, it might not be.

Second, it's undeniable that the USA and NATO have deliberately thrown people into harm's way. From the USA's initial meddling in Afghanistan back in the Carter years, to now, over thirty years later, there's been a lot of harm for a lot of people, undeniably caused by the governments of the United States of America.

But, third, ... isn't it just such total bullshit that Mullen can pretend that he's cool with people disagreeing with him, taking issue with the policies, challenging the generals on their decisions, when for over ten fucking years these goddamned incompetent, immoral cry-babies have shrieked and pissed and moaned if anyone anywhere criticized them.

And, lastly, what Mullen is saying is that critics of the war CAN say critical things about "the mission," be smeared as "traitors" who savour the blood of NATO troops and who desire the enslavement of Afghan women by the Taliban, and continue to be totally ineffective in stopping the war. You get it? In a round-about way Mullen can handle some expressions of disagreement. What he positively loathes is any attempt to actually influence policy. Protesting uselessly is fine. Fighting back? Not so much.

Whatever Mullen. If it makes you happy to send US soldiers to die fighting for a corrupt government of drug-lords and pedophiles that's your business. But if other people disagree they don't have to keep their disagreement within the bounds you decide are acceptable.