Sunday, August 28, 2011

Wrong About Everything: Toronto Sun on Jack Layton

"No cuts. GUARANTEED!"

Just thought I'd get that out of the way. Because I'm going to be writing about the Toronto Sun's attempt to set the record straight about the economics of Jack Layton's politics, and the first thing we should remember is that this is the same piece-of-shit newspaper that cheered on the election of the ignorant, incompetent, disastrous Rob Ford for mayor. Shit-head Ford said that there was almost a billion dollars worth of excess "gravy" at Toronto City Hall and that he could cut taxes without cutting services because the spending that would be cut was needless "gravy." And, Ford was completely, totally, gigantically wrong. That these cretins would even presume to then criticize anyone else is the height of presumption. The fact that they are (as we'll see) completely, massively wrong, makes this presumption all the more vomit-inducing.

The title of the piece is "Layton's vision for Toronto had a cost." Already intelligent, informed people are chuckling at the conceit. Oh, do go on Toronto Sun!
Make no mistake about Jack Layton.

He was a likable guy, but a political animal to the end.

Oh Christ! Here we go again ...

His farewell letter summed up his philosophy, both as federal NDP leader and, before that, as a leading municipal politician in Toronto.

At the core of Layton’s beliefs was his view only “progressive-minded Canadians” like himself value “equality, justice and opportunity,” and a compassionate society that “shares its benefits more fairly.”

This has always been the approach of the NDP to issues of governance: They’re on the side of the angels. Everyone else is heartless, greedy and short-sighted.

Yeah geez! Just because you agreed with Harris slashing welfare. Just because you believe that ALL refugees should be treated like liars and chiselers. Just because you ARE heartless, greedy and short-sighted, it's just not fair that you're looked at that way! Look. Toronto Sun, You ARE a bunch of stupid assholes. Deal with it. Stop fucking whining about it. The policies you endorse, the politicians you support, are all about trampling on the poor and rewarding the rich. Don't pretend otherwise.

But there’s a problem with compassion when it ignores the public’s ability to pay, because then it no longer serves the interests of the public it claims to serve.

All right, let's get this out of the way right now. By "the public's ability to pay" you're trying to refer to all taxpayers, and you're trying to tell the secretaries and the forklift operators making less than $30,000 a year that it's their tax dollars that Jack and other progressives are trying to squander on the welfare cheats and the illegal immigrants. But the fact of the matter is that the bulk of tax revenues used to come from the wealthy and the corporations. When people making the average income in Canada (between $25-30,000 annually) subtract the services they receive from government, they find that very little of their incomes go to the progressive policies that the Sun decries. At least, that used to be the case. Until successive Conservative and Liberal governments at both the federal and provincial levels began cutting corporate taxes, and income taxes, and taxes on wealth, and replacing them with consumption taxes, payroll taxes, user fees and debt and downloading. So, right now, John and Jane Q. Public are hurting, but they weren't hurting when Jack Layton was on Toronto City Council.

Of course, wealthy people enjoying lower taxes or avoiding taxes altogether is just one part of the story. In Canada (as in the United States) our whole economy has been restructured to penalize work and reward wealth. Right now, with those wealthy financial sector drones living in Rosedale and Forest Hill ought to be forced to pay more in taxes because for the past three decades, "free trade" deals, automation, down-sizing, speed-ups, etc., etc., has made it harder and harder for Canadians with average incomes to budget with an expectation of steady employment. The wealthy have been making money hand over fist and we, as a country, have nothing to show for it.

Toronto’s budget is in the mess it is today in large part because of the culture of spending cultivated by Layton and his fellow NDPers at City Hall a generation ago.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Toronto's budget is in the mess it is today not in large part, but ALMOST ENTIRELY because stupid fucking Rob Ford voluntarily decided to cut Toronto's revenue. There was a surplus left by Dennis Miller. That isn't a "mess" by any standard. Now, of course, The Sun could argue that the vehicle registration tax and the land transfer tax were unpopular and an excessive burden upon average income earners, but remember that the Miller government finally got the power to raise revenues to make up for the perpetual shortfalls caused by the Harris government's downloading of provincial responsibilities to the municipalities. (Which was, itself, caused by that genius deficit-slayer Paul Martin's reneging on federal contributions to joint federal-provincial programs.) Remember too that the debts and deficits that supposedly made these austerity policies necessary were caused by recessions engineered by the Bank of Canada (with monetarist central banks around the world) to fight inflation by "breaking workers" and thereby protect the savings of corporations and the wealthy.

That all seems to have taken us very far from Jack Layton on Toronto City Council but these things are connected. Layton was working within the context of the Mulroney-led assault on the public sector and the fact that the problems facing Toronto (and other cities by the way) got worse had NOTHING to do with socially conscious city councillors and EVERYTHING to do with the ruinous policies of neo-liberal scum-bags. How could Layton have made a dent in the homeless problem in 1990 when Chretien-Martin and Harris hadn't even gotten started on increasing the problem?

They saw municipal government as an instrument of social change and wealth redistribution. Passing symbolic motions on nuclear disarmament excited them far more than picking up the trash and plowing the roads in winter.

We're so steeped in garbage culture and analysis that you probably didn't recognize right away that "social change" "symbolic notions of nuclear disarmament" don't have anything to do with the financial mess Toronto is in. It's just standard Toronto Sun diatribe about anything and anything that comes to the swirling miasma that is the thinking of their editorial committee. But, as long as we're on the subject of city politicians engaging in political rhetoric, do you suppose it would be a better use of their time if the brothers Ford and councillor Mammiloti spent less time trading barbs with Margaret Atwood and video-taping lesbians in the battle against anti-Semitism?

As a result, Torontonians have faced higher taxes and user fees to finance often misguided social programs that rarely made a dent in the problems they were supposed to address.

This is rich. Homelessness (one of the problems Layton attacked while a city councillor) had exploded as a direct result of the policies of Chretien-Martin and Mike Harris. Layton couldn't have been expected to make a dent in problems caused by larger provincial, national, and international forces. But he WAS trying to respond to a crisis generated by amoral assholes cheered on by assholes such as the Toronto Sun. (Remember the little bit about why progressives don't think much for the right-wing's morals or humanity? There's evidence for our contempt right there. The SUN decrying Jack Layton's attempts to keep people made homeless by Toronto Sun-backed policies from freezing to death in the streets.)

Oh yeah, and the newspaper that backed Mike Harris to the hilt bitching about user-fees? Priceless.

There are practical and financial limits to what even a city as large and prosperous as Toronto can or should do.

Especially when it's ripped off by both higher levels of government. But you right-wing lying fucks are forever going on about the "limits of government." Unless it means spending one-fucking-billion dollars to beat and jail protesters or ten billion dollars to kill Afghans, or $35 billion to pay for fighter-jets to fight the Ruskies, or whatever other stupid-ass things you morons like.

The primary job of local government is to address local issues. To ensure pot holes are filled, public infrastructure kept in a state of good repair.

Instead, Layton and the left focused on “soft services,” a never-ending array of social programs purportedly serving the needy and disadvantaged, as they defined them.

"Never-ending"? Hyperbole surely! Actually, complete bullshit. But what does one expect from a shitty tabloid that puts the innumerate ravings of an idiot like Sue-Ann Levy on its goddamned cover?

By so doing, the city created an ever-expanding bureaucracy, including a homeless industry funded largely by property taxpayers.

No, you stupid fuck-faces, Chretien-Martin and Harris created the homeless industry. So piss-off. All you're doing is banging away at your keyboards, stringing together the usual right-wing matra about how we can't afford to feed and house people in one of the richest countries on earth. Fuck you.

But there is nothing compassionate about holding seniors on fixed incomes to ransom to pay for homeless programs that don’t fix homelessness.

Seniors on fixed incomes were the baby seals of the anti-inflation zealots. (Rather than index their pensions to inflation it's better to "break workers" and ratchet up the government debt by a couple hundred-billion, right?) Now they're the poor victims of the nefarious homeless lovers. How's about this Toronto Sun? Raise taxes on the wealthy and the corporations (who have more money than they know what to do with) and reduce homelessness to the level it was at in the 1970s, and leave pensioners alone. And stop blaming everything on the people trying to clean up YOUR goddamned messes!

There is nothing equitable about forcing taxpayers to finance a unionized city work force, with far higher pay, superior benefits and job security compared to similar jobs in the private sector.

Good one assholes! Scum-bags! Back politicians and policies that toady to corporate Canada to drag-down wages and incomes and then cry crocodile tears for the private-sector working class over the gap between their wages and public-sector workers. But did'ja ever figure out that the increased income insecurity and increasing levels of household debt have helped to sink the North American economy dip-shits? Do you think that destroying the last areas of decent paying jobs might have an adverse effect on the larger economy? Or are you just the mindless corporate shills that you appear to be? (Don't answer. I already know you are and I already know you'll try some pathetic lying to deny it.)

Many city programs that continued year after year were started up without adequate long-term funding, or plans to review their effectiveness.

As opposed to the policies of your hero, Rob Ford? Fuck you.

All that contributed over time to a city operating budget that has ballooned to almost $10 billion annually, from which $774 million must be cut next year alone, to balance the books.

You know, if it wasn't for the fact that your moronic hero, Rob "No cuts. Guaranteed." Ford had paid $45,000 to KPMG to talk to city staff and find out that there was NO GRAVY and now you and your stupid hero are talking about closing libraries, I'd take you seriously. Actually, that isn't true. I would never take you dumb-fucks seriously for anything, ever.

In his farewell letter, Layton urged us to be “loving, hopeful and optimistic” and “we’ll change the world.”

Fine sentiments. But unless they’re accompanied by fiscal responsibility, that change won’t be for the better.

Well, I think it's been established that the Toronto Sun are a bunch of lazy-minded, lying, selfish, self-pitying assholes without even the tatters of credibility hiding their awful intellectual nakedness. You backed Mike Harris and Rob Ford. Two of the biggest disasters this city has ever seen. And you still back them. THEY created most of the problems Toronto is facing. Your half-assed attempt to blame Rob Ford's problems on the recently-deceased Jack Layton is not just sickening, it's putridly wrong.

Thank-you Jack Layton

Jack,

I was worried that your cancer battle would prevent you from forcing the election this past spring. Even though the outcome was horrible (a harpercon majority, which is an abomination no matter the silver lining of the NDP's becoming the official opposition) I am so glad that both you and Ignatieff and Duceppe stood up for the integrity of our parliamentary system. And, therefore, I salute your courage Jack. You were fighting cancer and you were recovering from hip surgery and you consciously decided to subject yourself to the rigours of the campaign trail to tell harper that altering documents, lying to Parliament about it, withholding basic financial information about proposed government policies, is unacceptable.

You didn't know it at the time, but it seems that you gave your life to preserve what integrity our political system has, against this symptom of the late-capitalist malaise, stephen harper. It's too bad that collectively, your fellow citizens failed you, failed our ancestors who fought for democracy, failed the coming generations who need to respect democracy, and failed Canada, by rewarding the anti-democrat with a majority government.

[My brushes with greatness: In 1993, I was eating lunch at the now departed "Lickin' Chicken" at Brunswick and Bloor and I recognized Jack Layton from the news. He had a quiet, confident little smile. Years later, as NDP leader, he was in Hamilton, sans moustache. I saw him walking down King Street across from Gore Park with some local NDP activists. If it hadn't been for their presence I wouldn't have even noticed him. I told him he was barely recognizable without the moustache. He had no clue who I was, or that I knew the people he was walking with, and noncommittally thanked me for my input.]

You were never a hero to me Jack. I don't have many heroes and it's also the case that I often feared you were too ready to compromise for political gain. Of course, I've accomplished absolutely nothing with regards to building the kind of world that I want to live in, whereas you (I have since found out) achieved numerous important victories. Even though you never had actual power, you were fast enough on your feet to leverage the power you came in contact with, to win things or build things which, while small at the beginning, have come to have enormous consequences.

Here's a timeline of your career, and I'll point out some highlights in greater detail:

1989 Pushes mayor Art Eggleton to declare Gay And Lesbian Pride Day.

• In the 80s, serves as chair of Toronto Board of Health and wins the first funding for HIV/AIDS programs.

When I arrived outside Roy Thomson Hall for your funeral, they were playing a little film about your career. There was a scene where, as a city councillor you were saying that homosexuals shouldn't be discriminated against when it came to housing (or anything else). There was an eruption of enthusiastic, sustained applause from hundreds of people around me. You were more than just a city politician. You were acting like a leader. A statesman. I truly believe that the strength of Toronto's LGBT community gives courage and strength to similar communities across Canada. And your heroic defence of PRIDE, and gay rights in Toronto helped to make that a reality. In the face of ignorance and insults you stood up for what was right and there are hundreds of thousands of individuals who will never forget you for that, and millions more who are grateful that you helped make Canada a better place.

1990 Argues against Olympic bid on the grounds that there’s no cash to make the Games socially responsible.

That's something. The whole "Bread Not Circuses" movement is always vastly unpopular. But just as the mainstream always embraces stupid ideas ("Let's kill and die for the Karzai government to keep the US-Americans happy!") and the leftists minority gets mocked and derided only to later get back-handedly acknowledged for being correct, the Olympics are always touted as a boon for a city by the "serious" people, the bulk of the population cheers mindlessly, and then, at the end of the day, the elites have made out like bandits, the taxpayers are faced with a massive bill, and the poor and the homeless have been made to suffer, suffer, suffer. By being one of the few voices of sanity, you have my admiration for your intellect and courage.

1991

• Co-founds the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, presaging the climate change movement and laying the basis for the successful Enwave deep water cooling operation.

• Establishes Green Catalyst Group Inc., an enviro consulting business.

• Helps establish the White Ribbon Campaign, offering to mortgage his home to fund it. Now operates in more than 60 countries.

Climate change is possibly the greatest threat to human civilization that human civilization has yet to produce. Even nuclear devastation was somewhat under our control. But we may have already put in motion forces that will, slowly at first, but inexorably and with increasing force, completely undermine our planet's ability to support the human population. You were on the ball twenty years ago, and you were doing something about it!

Violence against women is still treated as a joke in this country, but far less than in 1991. You have done more than most men to try to do something to bring necessary change about.

2000 Writes Homelessness: The Making and Unmaking of a Crisis

Homelessness exploded under Mulroney, Chretien - Martin, and Mike Harris. While lazy-minded people were complaining about them, and pundits were blaming the homeless as the architects of their own misfortune, you, with the limited power available to you, stood as an advocate for justice. You tried to fight back against neoliberal inhumanity and mainstream bullying.

2001 Elected president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, where he negotiates the transfer of a portion of federal gas tax for public transit.

Hugely important. I have personally benefited from this as have millions of other Canadians.

2005 Backs Paul Martin’s Liberal government in exchange for $4.6 bil for transit, affordable housing, job training and foreign aid, some of which is never delivered. Called “first NDP federal budget in history.”

An excellent tactical response to make the NDP relevant for Canadians who weren't even born the last time the NDP had any influence.

2006 Presses for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the start of a peace process.

• Urges a moratorium on tar sands development.

I've always been greatly relieved to know that there is one party in this country that hasn't been swept away by the excitement of sending our soldiers to fight, kill, and die to impose a corrupt puppet government on poor brown people somewhere. I'm glad that there is a party that doesn't think the Tar Sands are "awesome" and that adding massively to the destructive process of global warming is unproblematic. For that, I thank you.

2008 Olivia Chow introduces a motion for asylum for U.S. war resisters fleeing the Iraq war.

• Layton develops an accord with the Liberals, with Bloc support, to establish a coalition government, to the howls of the national media; Harper prorogues Parliament.

The rest of the country seems to find no problem with US soldiers, victims mostly of the US-American "poverty draft" being forced to commit war crimes and risk death in a war of aggression. They seem to think that was all part of their oath to defend the United States. And when some brave souls fled rather than be murderous chumps for Dick Cheney, these fine Canadians wanted to send them back. The NDP resisted this tide. The NDP spoke for those of us who wanted to welcome these people and provide a safe-haven. For that I thank the NDP.

And thanks for proposing that coalition Jack. Thanks for standing up for parliamentary democracy. Thanks for putting the fear of democracy into harper's empty brain. If not for the stupidity of Michael Ignatieff, harper would be out grazing in the pasture right now, and you would have been forcing sensible, social-democratic policies on your Liberal colleagues and making this country a better place. As it is, you continued to fight the good fight. And, when your country needed you (even though most of us didn't realize it) your rose to the call and challenged harper's brazen assaults on democratic legitimacy. Perhaps at the cost of your own fight with cancer.

Pretty impressive Jack. You are a bit of a hero of mine now.


POSTSCRIPT:

Your last words, sadly, remind me of the empty pap of the "Hope and Change" of Barack Obama's public relations snow job of the US American people. But then I realize that you were penning your absolutely last words to the Canadian people and, unlike Obama, you had no immediate tactical gains to worry about with your choice of words. You were speaking as much from the heart as anyone can, and your words are much more sincere, and therefore powerful, than a cynical age had allowed me to imagine them.

All that having been said, I'm an angry guy. I'm angry all the time. And while I won't argue that love is better than anger, I think I'm more useful angry. And that's why I'll be back to my whole negativity scene tomorrow.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Visit to Queen's Park

Last fall, for reasons hazy and uncertain, I packed up the little fella into the bike-buggy and rode down to Queen's Park. The event that I had a vague recollection was supposed to be there wasn't there. So, on a lark, I decided to get a visitor's pass and go watch the events in the legislature. I was told it was going to be Question Period so it would be a little more lively than usual.

I remember thinking that the ceiling of the legislature was quite grand, but that the number of MPPs looks a lot smaller from up above than when you see them in shots from ground level on the television news.

The other, more important thing, was listening to these clowns. The discussion had to do with some latest example of Liberal incompetence and failure on the health care file. Money that was promised to meet a long acknowledged problem wasn't being delivered and the Minister of Health was refusing to account for anything. The ONDP was asking the question when I arrived and the Liberal opposite gave a meaningless reply about how important the subject was and how they were working on it, giving no specific explanation for the delay. But it was when the Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP stood up to trash the government on the same issue that I saw how sordid mainstream politics really is. The O PC was asking about the same issue, so it was obviously a well known semi-scandal. The O PC was hammering the Liberals quite hard on the subject. But the Liberal response was to issue the same platitudes as had been offered to the ONDP, but to then condemn the O PC's for the documented catastrophe that was their record of management.

I'd noticed that aside from banging their desks in support of a question from their own MPP, the NDP listened (or tried to listen) to what was being said on the other side. (A couple of MPPs occasionally said something into the ear of someone sitting next to them.) But during the government response, the Ontario PC's hooted and hollered and jeered. During the government response, the Liberal MPPs banged their desks and cheered, and hurled insults and accusations at the opposition. I noticed ONDP leader Andrea Horwath looking pained and irritated as the two parties traded insults about their own destruction of public health care in Ontario. Peter Kormos, sitting near her, and supposedly a legislative firebrand was also listening to these self-serving, stupid exchanges with disgust.

I honestly believe that both the Ontario Liberals and the Ontario PC's want to weaken public health care in this province. The Liberals have no doubt been swayed by bogus neoliberal arguments and corporate lobbyists to believe that they can hack little bits and chunks out of the public health care edifice without harm to the main structure, and that these attacks will "improve" and "streamline" health care delivery by some mysterious process. (And if they get rewarded with cushy jobs from private insurance and medical and pharmaceutical companies later, that just makes it a win-win-win equation!) As well, unproductive corporate and high-income tax cuts have to be paid for somehow. The Ontario PC's on the other hand, are dogmatic believers in some nonsensical mental construct they call the "free market" and as such, corporate lobbyists and other such vultures have an easier job of swaying them to push harder for cuts in spending, which create service breakdowns, which create excuses to privatize, which means either that the six-figure MPP salary rocks and all they have to do for it is push for policies that even when they demonstrably fail do little to damage their fund-raising capabilities. And, if they're lucky enough to be an important MPP, actively, publicly fighting to hand public health care over to the private sector, they'll be rewarded with even more money afterwards.

Of course, there are alternative explanations for why both the Ontario Liberals and the Ontario PC's fail, fail, fail, to deliver on health care. But I've read enough neoliberal bullshit and fairy-tales for a lifetime and I don't think they need to be repeated.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thoughts About Jack Layton

While I preferred the Jack Layton who held Paul Martin directly responsible for homeless deaths, to the "serious" statesman who wouldn't let his MPs heckle the war-criminal criminal moron psychopath bush II when that piece of shit slithered across our border and was making noises about addressing our Parliament, I always respected Layton.

I said numerous times that he should have gotten more credit for trying to respect the will of the electorate when they gave first, a Liberal (under Paul Martin) and then a harpercon minority. I approved of his reasons for pulling the plug on the detestable Martin government. I approved of his mostly consistent opposition to harper. I especially approved of his saving Canada from Ignatieff's reckless, bizarre election threats back in 2009.

Credit where credit is due, I praised ALL the opposition MPs for forcing that election last spring, even though the partisan stupidity, ignorance, and apathy of the Canadian electorate turned everything into Hell. But credit, especially, to Jack Layton, who consciously subjected himself to the rigours of a national election while in recovery from prostate cancer, all to uphold respect for our parliamentary democracy and respect for the rule of law. Alas!

I won't do anything but mention the existence of the three "scandals" that dogged him. Two weren't scandals at all, but misreporting of the facts. The third was barfed-out 15 years after the fact by a member of the Toronto Police "Service" which gets its kicks ripping the prosthetic legs of amputees, was spread by the vile scum who write for the Sun newspapers, and embraced by blogging tories and Liberal bloggers lacking brain cells.

And I won't quote anything from the vile rant penned by talentless, stupid hack christie belchforth in response to the genuine outpouring of grief and sadness at Layton's passing. That's what she is, that's what she does. Someone on Dawg's Blog said that was through as a serious commentator. She's been done for a while. Her point of no return was when she joined in with Rosie DiMoron to look at leaked info about Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin. That was the day that belchforth decided to stand-up for torture by smearing a brave and honourable Canadian.

When you've dug yourself into a pit that you'll never escape from, you could stop digging, but that would require the self-awareness to know where you are. If christie does know where she is, it's also possible that she likes it. It's also possible that she digs mechanically, not knowing how to do anything else.

Regardless, here's the thing: Jack Layton is ten times the Canadian that belchforth will ever be. Unlike belchforth (and her ilk) Layton opposed torture. Layton opposed denying Parliament its right to hold governments accountable. Layton honoured the NDP by withholding its approval of the sickening scam that continues to hide the reality of how low harper has dragged this country and which has helped that rancid man escape the prison cell to which he remains inevitably headed.

Layton had, for many years running, been the federal leader that most Canadians respected and liked. That's a testimony to his humanity as well as to the still hopeful character of the electorate, however much we failed our past, present, and future, in the last election. Layton never got to be prime minister, but it will be eternally to his credit, that of any NDP leader so far, he came the closest. Let's work to see his dream realized. Let's give Canada a social-democratic national government.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Oppressed People Complain Too Much

Except for the REAL oppressed people that is: WHITE MALES

Yeah, because EXCUSE ME, but First Nations peoples get to occupy buildings and land all the time, and they DON'T ALWAYS GET SHOT AND KILLED FOR IT!!!

And Black People? Get a ticket on the "Clue Train": Racism was defeated in the American Civil War. (It died in Canada a long time ago because we banned slavery some other time I don't remember but we did so there.)

Oh, and WIMMEN? You rule the world! You're all sitting on a fortune and you don't even know it. (Har! Har!) Seriously. With all the "affirmative action" a guy like me can't even get a job and it's "politically incorrect" for me to even say that!

So what if my demographic holds almost all the power, has the highest incomes, has the lowest unemployment? I'm not PERSONALLY feeling the love so reality doesn't matter and anecdotal evidence suffices.

And the rest of the world? Pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps like we did! You know something? I bet that, in the 19th Century, if the Zulus had sailed to England, enslaved the population, taken all the land, and shipped all the coal back to Zululand, England would STILL be kicking their asses today!

There's just too much damned whining and not enough personal responsibility nowadays!

[NOTE: To any newcomers - this is all sarcasm.]

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Excellent Article on European Financial Crisis

As good a source as I've yet found on the subject - Vicente Navarro: "Crisis and Class Struggle in the Eurozone"
Another characteristic of this group of countries is the acceptance by the governing social democratic parties of most of the neoliberal policies pushed by the EU establishment. This acceptance has been generalized among the social democratic parties of the European Union. Actually, these parties were part of the consensus in developing neoliberal policies (usually referred to as the “Brussels consensus,” the European version of the “Washington consensus”). As part of this consensus, both conservative-liberal and social democratic governing parties have been reducing taxes, particularly for the top income brackets. It was none other than Spain’s socialist candidate in the 2004 election (and later prime minister), Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who promised to reduce taxes if elected, saying that lowering taxes was a cause to be promoted by the left. The major economic thinker of Spain’s socialist party at that time was Jordi Sevilla, an economist who wrote in his book The Future of Socialism that “the left had to stop raising taxes and increasing public expenditures” – this said in the EU-15 country with the lowest state revenues and poorest welfare state.
Read the whole thing and see how often you can imagine hearing Rob Ford, or Dalton McGuinty, or stephen harper saying the crapola, and pursuing the same misguided policies.Link

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sometimes They Really Are Just Fucking Morons

Reagan, bush II, harper, Mike Harris, Tim Hudak, Ernie Eves, John Baird, Jim Flaherty, William Kristol, Ezra Levant, and of course, Rob Ford.

When you factor in the way that they get so handsomely rewarded for their services and the fact that they want government to fail in order to slash services or privatize things, sometimes you wonder if they're just putting on a stupid act, because heads they win, tails we lose.

But then, every once in a while, everything blows up in their faces and you realize: No. They're really just fucking morons.

Like Rob Ford's slinking back to Queen's Park, to beg money from Dalton McGuinty so that he can get federal funding for his Sheppard subway extension that was all supposed to be funded from private sources.

If Mayor Rob Ford had convinced anyone the Sheppard subway expansion would be paid for with corporate cash, he shattered the illusion on Wednesday.

In a morning meeting at Queen’s Park, Ford asked Premier Dalton McGuinty to give the city $650 million for Sheppard by 2014. His justification: $333 million in federal money depends on that provincial money.

For a mayor who said in April that the $4.2 billion Sheppard project would not require a major government investment — “I’m not quite sure where taxpayers’ money is coming in when we’re using private money,” he said — the request represented a notable turnabout. It also provided ammunition for critics, transit experts among them, who say the project is not feasible.

Turns out Ford even got that wrong:
While she said other levels of government must contribute to all projects paid for with fund money, she said the specific amount of provincial assistance needed for Sheppard was up for discussion.
...

Fund rules say only that the federal government cannot provide more than 50 per cent of a project’s cost. The rules do not say Ottawa’s contribution to a project can never exceed Queen’s Park’s.

“Despite the agreement between the mayor and premier four months ago that made the Sheppard line the city's responsibility, the city is now saying they need provincial funding up front for that project,” the McGuinty source said. “That’s a change from the agreement from April.

“One of the reasons that change is requested, the premier was told, was because the federal money was contingent on provincial money. Now it seems that isn’t true, either.”

As Martin Regg Cohn says:

The last time he swaggered into Dalton McGuinty’s office, Rob Ford was at the top of his game — lording it over the premier, wearing his fresh electoral mandate like a wrestler’s prize belt. After a mere 25 minutes, the mayor emerged triumphant last December to declare he’d remake Toronto’s subway system in his own image.

Now, Ford has returned to Queen’s Park showing his tummy to a Liberal premier who appears, eight months later, to have nine lives in the opinion polls. His swagger gone, the mayor is asking for a modest “advance” to dig him out of a financial hole so he can start tunnelling the Sheppard subway extension.

Bereft of his once-shimmering prize belt, Ford looks increasingly like a mayor with no clothes — but for the cap in his hand.

...

A contrite Ford mumbled awkwardly that he’d known McGuinty “a long time,” but then babbled, unprompted: “I don’t have a great friendship because I’ve never known him that well.”

When the premier emerged a few minutes later in shirt sleeves, he took pains to avoid gloating. But the contrast between the two leaders couldn’t have been sharper: While Ford fled the scene after two minutes, McGuinty ignored entreaties from his own press secretary to wrap things up, lingering until reporters had run out of questions.

Now, Ford’s Sheppard tunnel is stuck between a rock and a hard place that he negotiated himself into.
The complete farce of Toronto politics under Ford, the failure to find the gravy, the all-night "consultations"/political stunt that reduced Mammoliti to a raving lunatic, the huge gift of a contract to the Toronto Police Services that's going to serve as a blue-print for other essential services, the budget cuts that are going to mean less cops on the street to cover the pay increases of those who remain, and this imbecilic incompetence on public transit, ... it's all testimony to the reality that yet another right-wing hero is just as big a shit-head as the drooling thugs who bray and gloat on their blogs.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Socialist Ducks

This essay was penned by Brian LaBreton. It was the winning entry into the Fraiser Institute's "Future 'Conservative' Hacks of Canada" contest. Brian is a second-year university student, studying economics. His parents are both high-school teachers and he hates them deeply. He also had the misfortune to read Atlas Shrugged last summer.

When I was in high school I used to go down to the lake every morning and bring a bag of bread to feed the ducks. I found these creatures fascinating and they seemed so happy to see me in the morning.

But then one day I noticed that there were far more ducks than there had been when I'd first started feeding them. And I noticed that they were pushing each other and fighting for the pieces of bread like a disgusting swarm of insects rather than like cute little ducks. And it occurred to me that they were forgetting how to fend for themselves.

In short, I was creating welfare dependency among my town's duck population!

That's how it is with people as it is with all God's other creatures. We all want to do things the easiest way. So when a friendly human gives out free bread, the ducks come running. And when a bleeding-heart government hands out free money, people quit their jobs and make the rational choice to live off welfare instead.

I decided that it was essential for me to provide some "tough love" (tough CAPITALIST love) to my ducks.

Now, other hacks before me have written about simply cutting-off the free food supply. But I'm a passionate believer in free markets and property rights. I wasn't just going to abruptly cut off the bread. If I was going to turn these socialist ducks into entrepreneurial ducks, I was going to have to go much father.

Now, ducks like to eat plants that grow on, or near the water. So what I did was to construct a pattern of nets blocking the ducks from any of their local food sources. It was my intention to make them do little tricks and things for my amusement, in order to earn access to food. (Have you ever read "The Tragedy of the Commons"? If not, then I suggest that you do so.) Then, to my dismay, I noticed that ducks could fly. Prevented from feeding at their nesting grounds, the ducks simply flew to another part of the lake.

Now, I'm a big believer in corporate free trade deals that allow capital to move freely to where the opportunities are but which prevent workers from doing so. Undaunted by the cagey tactics of the ducks, I purchased more netting (I got the money to by the netting and the rigging from a wealthy crackpot who lives nearby.) I netted the whole area around the nesting ground so that the ducks would not be able to "illegally immigrate" to un-netted areas of the lake.

Now my plan was ready. The eager ducks all lined up, desperate for food to feed themselves and their ducklings. Instead of a chaotic pushing and shoving for food, using a combination of kind words and stick blows, I was able to force them to line up in an orderly fashion and make a few cute little quacks before opening a portion of the netting and allowing them access to their food. As an economist (in training) I'm also a scientist, and therefore, a firm believer in the survival of the fittest. I decided to apply my own subjective values to the ducks and decided to reward the biggest, handsomest, loudest quacking ducks, by letting them feed more than the smaller, homelier, lazier ducks.

For half the summer I conducted my little experiment and things were going excellently. The ducks were turning into a disciplined workforce and the weak, unable to compete, were dying off. If only I could have found some way to make the ducks make money for me, I would have been a true capitalist. Alas, nobody in my town wanted to buy any of our local wild duck population (I should think about privatizing the lake and charging people access to the waterfront, then, perhaps, when viewing the cute ducks isn't free any more, they'd change their tune!) and they had no really marketable skills. So, in this case, turning these socialist, dependent ducks into industrious, self-supporting, capitalist system ducks would have to be its own reward.

Then, sadly, having privatized their food supply, and limited their freedom, I got bored after a while, and decided that there were better avenues for my intelligence and talent and resources (my "capital") and I took up another hobby.

And I forgot about the ducks and they all starved to death.

But I'll bet they're the most entrepreneurial ducks in duck heaven!

Because, like most nincompoops, our budding ideological hack has an incoherent faith in a religion that purports to condemn the ability of the wealthy from getting into heaven.
Link

APTN Update on Pickton Inquiry

One of our great national disgraces is being covered by the APTN News.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Absolutely Disgusting

There's so much evil in the world, but the sheer injustice and cruelty and selfishness represented by this story really affected me.

"Iraq foots the bill for its own destruction" by Murtaza Hussain:
Billions of dollars in reparations are indeed being paid for the Iraq War, but not to Iraqis who lost loved ones or property as a result of the conflict, and who, despite their nation’s oil wealth, are still suffering the effects of an utterly destroyed economy. "Reparations payments" are being made by Iraq to Americans and others for the suffering which those parties experienced as a result of the past two decades of conflict with Iraq.

...

In addition to making hundreds of millions of dollars in reparation payments to the United States, Iraq has been paying similarly huge sums to corporations whose business suffered as a result of the actions of Saddam Hussein. While millions of ordinary Iraqis continue to lack even reliable access to drinking water, their free and representative government has been paying damages to corporations such as Pepsi, Philip Morris and Sheraton; ostensibly for the terrible hardships their shareholders endured due to the disruption in the business environment resulting from the Gulf War. When viewed against the backdrop of massive privatization of Iraqi natural resources, the image that takes shape is that of corporate pillaging of a destroyed country made possible by military force.
Read the whole thing. Who could possibly defend this sort of behaviour?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Don't Let the Door Hit You on the Ass on the Way Out

So, Tony Warr is retiring. I'd never heard of him before today. He's Toronto's Deputy Police Chief. Given the fact that he's retiring, it doesn't seem likely that I'll ever hear about him again. Which will be a good thing:

The public and media overreacted to events during the G20 summit, and police should hold their heads high, says a man directly involved in planning the police response to last summer’s tumult in downtown Toronto.

“The whole service is being condemned for the actions of maybe a few,” retiring Deputy Chief Tony Warr, 63, told the Star in one of the most outspoken defences of Toronto police actions from a commanding officer.

Warr said the priority was to protect world leaders and the stakes were high because of possible terrorist threats.

That interview is choc-a-block with absurd statements like that!
“There was a lot of good work done,” Warr said. “Inside the wall, it was like nothing happened,” he said. “That was what the government wanted, and that is what the government asked us to do and we did it.”
Yes. And, obviously, you have to charge families with police horses at Queen's Park and rip the prosthetic leg off of a man in Allen Gardens and make him hop, in order to protect some politicians behind a security fence inside the Convention Centre, right?
Warr, who retires at the end of this month after 45 years in policing, admitted police made mistakes and will learn lessons. However, he said there “seems to be a campaign by the media to keep this alive.”
Well, you know, the wholesale shredding of civil rights in Canada's largest city is kinda an important thing. Given where you work though, I guess it's not surprising that you can't process that.
Warr said he doesn’t want to second-guess officers for rounding up 1,100 people in the biggest mass arrest in Canadian history. ... “The officers (in Toronto) felt they had grounds to do it, and they did it,” Warr said brusquely.
I really get a kick out of thugs who talk that way. Imagine if Warr found himself with a house destroyed by a malicious electrician, or a loved one killed by an incompetent surgeon, or a life ruined by a vindictive politician, and the authorities simply said that what was done, is done and there were probably good reasons for it, so STFU.

In fact, Warr's whole "defence" is long on brazen defiance and short on actual explanations (aside from self-evidently idiotic things such as the brutality at Queen's Park and Queen and Spadina was necessary to protect people a dozen blocks away.

Warr also made no apologies for the horrid conditions at the temporary detention centre on Eastern Ave., which was criticized for being overcrowded and having limited toilet facilities.

“People complained about the conditions there, but what did they expect when they get arrested? They’re not going to be taken to the Hilton. Jail is not a nice place,” the outgoing deputy said.

Moron. There are rules and regulations governing how you treat people when you deprive them of their freedom. And, furthermore, most of those people didn't even EXPECT to get arrested, what with their just being bystanders, tourists, or people on their way to work. It was the moronic arresting of over one-thousand people (in the faint hope that some of them were Black Bloc) that produced the over-crowding. It was a police screw-up from start to finish, and someone should be held accountable.

There's that word again: "Accountable." It's funny isn't it? That the people who bray the loudest about accountability have the greatest problem adhering to that principle themselves?

Warr allowed that the rioting, which included looting and the burning of four police cars, was bad “but not that bad.” He added that nobody died and nobody was seriously injured.

“I’ve seen worse reactions to a hockey game in Montreal (in April 2008). St. Catherine Street was destroyed. There were 16 police cars burned that night.”

So, why go ape-shit and arrest one-thousand people then? Moron. (BTW: Canadian Civil Liberties Association lawyer Natalie Des Rosiers asked pretty much the same thing in the article.)

“Some of the media reaction was just disgusting,” Warr argued, saying that live TV reporters on the scene were speculating that police cars were purposely abandoned to they could be burned. “Why would we do that? A $60,000 a car that we have to pay for?”
Oh, I don't know. One-billion dollars of tax dollars was sloshing around with very little accountability. I'm sure it all came out in the wash.

Warr said he prefers to talk about the officers who do the right thing.

“This is not a good time for the Toronto police,” he said. “They go home and think they’ve done a good job and they read the papers and all they see is criticism,” Warr said.

Whining. I was going to type something, but I think I'll just call it typical bully-boy whining and leave it at that.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Riots in Britain

I would suspect that decades of neoliberal-created hopelessness, combined with recent austerity, combined with evidently racist policing, are behind this.

Riots are an expression of anger. Anger isn't a synonym for happiness, or politeness, or mercy. Anger is anger.

And revolutions aren't always led and fought by idealistic, enlightened people. The fact that mobs kill innocent people doesn't mean that the social-political causes for the violence have been validated.

Here's an account of the fall of the Bastille:

At this point, the Bastille was nearly empty of prisoners, housing only seven old men annoyed by all the disturbance:[4] four forgers, two "lunatics" and one "deviant" aristocrat, the comte de Solages (the Marquis de Sade had been transferred out ten days earlier). The cost of maintaining a medieval fortress and garrison for so limited a purpose had led to a decision being taken to close it, shortly before the disturbances began. It was, however, a symbol of royal tyranny.

The regular garrison consisted of 82 invalides (veteran soldiers no longer suitable for service in the field). It had however been reinforced on 7 July by 32 grenadiers of the Swiss Salis-Samade Regiment from the troops on the Champ de Mars. The walls mounted eighteen eight-pound guns and twelve smaller pieces. The governor was Bernard-René de Launay, son of the previous governor and actually born within the Bastille.

Arrest of de Launay by an anonymous artist

The list of vainqueurs de la Bastille has 954 names,[5] and the total of the crowd was probably fewer than one thousand. The crowd gathered outside around mid-morning, calling for the surrender of the prison, the removal of the guns and the release of the arms and gunpowder. Two representatives of the crowd outside were invited into the fortress and negotiations began, and another was admitted around noon with definite demands. The negotiations dragged on while the crowd grew and became impatient. Around 13:30 the crowd surged into the undefended outer courtyard, and the chains on the drawbridge to the inner courtyard were cut, crushing one unfortunate vainqueur. About this time gunfire began, though some stories state that the Governor had a cannon fire into the crowd killing several women, children, and men turning the crowd into a mob. The crowd seemed to have felt it had been drawn into a trap and the fighting became more violent and intense, while attempts by deputies to organize a cease-fire were ignored by the attackers.

The firing continued, and at 15:00 the attackers were reinforced by mutinous gardes françaises and other deserters from among the regular troops, along with two cannon. A substantial force of Royal Army troops encamped on the nearby Champs de Mars did not intervene. With the possibility of a mutual massacre suddenly apparent Governor de Launay ordered a cease fire at 17:00. A letter offering his terms was handed out to the besiegers through a gap in the inner gate. His demands were refused, but de Launay nonetheless capitulated, as he realized that his troops could not hold out much longer; he opened the gates to the inner courtyard, and the vainqueurs swept in to liberate the fortress at 17:30.

Ninety-eight attackers and one defender had died in the actual fighting. De Launay was seized and dragged towards the Hôtel de Ville in a storm of abuse. Outside the Hôtel a discussion as to his fate began. The badly beaten de Launay shouted "Enough! Let me die!"[6] and kicked a pastry cook named Dulait in the groin. De Launay was then stabbed repeatedly and fell, and his head was sawed off and fixed on a pike to be carried through the streets.
Failing social-political systems produce revolutions and then they follow their own course. The world is facing the biggest revolution in human history. These riots are, I think, a small side-show and a precursor a genuine revolution in Britain. I think they're motivated more by immediate anger than by long-term goals.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sad Stories

I like Barbara Ehrenreich's writing. I liked her books Nickel and Dimed about working class poverty and Bait and Switch about middle class desperation. We have enough problems of our own here in Canada, but I was affected by everything in Erenreich's "CommonDreams" article: "Nickel and Dimed (2011 Version): On Turning Poverty into an American Crime" especially this story:

The report lists America’s ten “meanest” cities -- the largest of which include Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Orlando -- but new contestants are springing up every day. In Colorado, Grand Junction’s city council is considering a ban on begging; Tempe, Arizona, carried out a four-day crackdown on the indigent at the end of June. And how do you know when someone is indigent? As a Las Vegas statute puts it, “an indigent person is a person whom a reasonable ordinary person would believe to be entitled to apply for or receive” public assistance.

That could be me before the blow-drying and eyeliner, and it’s definitely Al Szekeley at any time of day. A grizzled 62-year-old, he inhabits a wheelchair and is often found on G Street in Washington, D.C. -- the city that is ultimately responsible for the bullet he took in the spine in Phu Bai, Vietnam, in 1972.

He had been enjoying the luxury of an indoor bed until December 2008, when the police swept through the shelter in the middle of the night looking for men with outstanding warrants. It turned out that Szekeley, who is an ordained minister and does not drink, do drugs, or cuss in front of ladies, did indeed have one -- for “criminal trespassing,” as sleeping on the streets is sometimes defined by the law. So he was dragged out of the shelter and put in jail.

“Can you imagine?” asked Eric Sheptock, the homeless advocate (himself a shelter resident) who introduced me to Szekeley. “They arrested a homeless man in a shelter for being homeless?”

Aw sure. It sounds bad, but ... BUT WHAT? Was this an isolated incident? Was this an aberration? It can't be. Drafting soldiers, or relying on poverty or misguided patriotism to make individuals "choose" to become cannon fodder is all part and parcel of the same system that creates homelessness amidst plenty and then penalizes it, in order to force the non-homeless to do whatever it takes to avoid it.

But it's all needless, and inhuman, and must be condemned. Yesterday I linked to this story and I'm linking to it again, because it just goes to show how low Canada has sunk that the richest, biggest city in one of the richest countries in the world, has succumbed to the same brain-dead, inhuman stupidity, to elect a rancid slab of rat fat like Rob Ford.

And, the sad fact of the matter is, we're more evil than that. We, as a country, as a people, gave a majority government to a piece of shit that defunded "Sisters in Spirit." And, now, when there's an inquiry into how the police missed the boat on a guy who killed at least 33 women, the provincial government is refusing to fund the lawyers who would allow various groups to participate in it.

Is there a pattern here? Is capitalism a system with serious shortcomings in the humanity department? Of course it is.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Death Threats Against Rob Ford

Obviously, they give the Small Dead Animals crowd an opportunity to crow about the inherent violence and inhumanity and the inability to tolerate democracy that is inherent to the political left and etc., etc., blah, blah, blah.

Who cares? Rob Ford is a stinking, lying asshole. I don't want to see him killed, but I would hope for more than his political defeat. What's political defeat to this scum? They go off and get their rewards from their political paymasters, like the drooling moron Mike Harris (Ford's "mentor") who got all those positions on corporate boards for his services. Even if Ford doesn't get rewarded from the corporate gravy train, he'll go back to being the stupid figurehead leader of his father's business.

I'd like to see Ford suffer. If there's any justice in this world, Ford should be made to suffer in the same way that people who lose decent jobs, people who can't access vital services, people whose taxes will go to pay for the $49 million in charges against the City of Toronto for Ford's cancellation of Transit City and the crooked rip-offs he's no doubt plotting with his puppet-masters will suffer. I'd like to see him suffer as much as these poor people.

But here's WHY assholes like Ford can continue to get elected and wreck havoc and drive people to distraction and thoughts of violence:

Ford has been heavily criticized in some quarters after he swept into office promising to cut the fat and excess at city hall. His campaign said he would put an end to the "gravy train" at city hall.

Late last month, Ford chaired a 22-hour executive council meeting where Torontonians voiced their opinions on proposed cuts to the city's budget.

That's from the CBC link above. That's it by the way. Pussy-footing around about how Ford's promise was nothing but lies. One has to fill in the gaps between reading about how Ford also promised to cut the fat and excess and the council meeting where people are speaking against the cutting of services.

It says "Ford has been heavily criticized" but it doesn't say why.

It doesn't say straight out that Ford "guaranteed" that he could find almost one billion dollars in "gravy" and that there would be no service cuts, and now him and his asshole brother are talking about closing libraries.

This is what I mean by the media treating charlatans as serious, genuine political choices. Brazen, bald-faced lying doesn't get any more blatant than Rob Ford's. It's not "bias" to report that Ford is being heavily criticized for LYING on a colossal scale to get elected.

But again, and again and again, brazen liars (as long as their lies are serviceable to capitalists or war mongers) get a pass. And decent people write letters to the editor, sign petitions, protest peacefully, show up at public consultations and inquiries, and it's all for nothing.

No wonder some people lose it now and again.

I don't have any sympathy for Rob Ford. I don't make any apologies for people driven to do what they did. We've been listening to their bullshit and suffering because of their stupidity, incompetence, callousness and greed for decades now.

[Obviously, right-wingers will get incensed by progressive policies from progressive politicians. Given their shit-headdery, they'll also invent lies where none exist, in order to feed their rage. But I've dealt with this here. Basically, it will require facts and logic to determine what rage is justifiable and what rage is just the product of a moronic sense of entitlement and a grab-bag of irrational prejudices. Apropos of nothing: Did bush II ever find those weapons of mass destruction? Did Rob Ford ever find his gravy? Did Omar Khadr ever see Maher Arar in Pakistan or Afghanistan?]

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Busy Again

I've been trying to write something major, but i'm busy and i'm also not sure whether i should write it and circulate it under my own name instead.

So here's a YouTube video:



More and more i think blogging is a fourth-rate version of activism.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The BQ Membership of the NDP Interim Leader and Other Stuff

I'm not a political junkie. I didn't know that Nycole Turmel was a member of the Bloc Quebecois. I also didn't know about the flirtations of the other two parties with Quebec nationalism. My head has been in the clouds thinking about foreign and economic policy and harper's serial abuses of basic Parliamentary principles.

What the sniping about the Turmel thing represents to me is that the NDP is trying to solidify its Quebec base and the harpercons are playing the anti-Quebec card and the Liberals are trying to Quixotically place themselves as the federalist non-harper alternative.

Whether the NDP has tossed a rope down to allow the Liberal Party of Canada to clamber back up out of the grave is something I'm not prepared to speculate upon, nor is it something I'm inclined to speculate upon.

I'll let the voters decide. And I can't predict that.

It does show that the Liberals are looking to knock the NDP off from its perch as the second party in Canada. For the issues of economic and foreign policy, I hope they fail. I hope, for reasons of foreign and economic policy, that the NDP hews closer to the principles of former BQ voters in Quebec. Because given the failure of mainstream (read: harpercon and Liberal) economic and foreign policies, the NDP might just find that adhering to Quebeckers values will resonate with more and more people in English Canada.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Obama Betrayal and Canada's Economy

Can't say much about Obama's sell-out. He's a PR creature, designed to serve the US-American corporate elite. This isn't a "cave-in." This is what he wanted to do. His whole administration has been a pretense of caving-in to Tea-Bagger demands.

But keep in mind, government austerity during a recession is a recipe for economic disaster. And keep in mind that Canada's economy is dependent upon the health of the US-American economy. And keep in mind that our finance minister, Jim Flaherty, is a complete moron and that his boss, stephen harper, is a psychotic who thinks all his evil bullshit and stupidity has been recently vindicated with his winning a majority government.

Things are going to get a lot worse.