Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The SNC-Lavalin "Non-Scandal"

Just so we're clear: The "Deferred Prosecutions Agreements" thing was quietly slipped into a Liberal omnibus bill and received no public scrutiny. DPA's were desired by SNC-Lavalin:

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Dupes n' Super Radicals

I liked this recent CounterPunch essay by Patrick Walker: "Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal." In it, Walker argues that any activist group that utlilizes electoral politics in its campaigns needs to call-out those politicians when they support such abominations as regime change in Venezuela.
For those of us leftists who put faith in politically oriented movements—like the Sunrise Movement and the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC)—our illegal Venezuelan coup poses a serious quandary. If both movements fail to protest a catastrophic policy that sabotages their own stated aims, they lend credence to leftist critics who regard such movements as hopelessly naïve or compromised (chiefly by fear of offending Democrat politicians and their supporting media) and therefore useless.
Walker says that what such groups (for instance the environmentalist "Sunrise Movement" and the Martin Luther King inspired "Poor People's Campaign") do is important because (as much as super-radicals might deny it) US-American society is simply not radical enough to become revolutionary:
But I’m getting slightly ahead of myself. For a politically-oriented strategist like me, the crucial point is that if politically oriented movements—meaning ones (like Sunrise and the PPC) dedicated to pressuring politicians and facing them with potential electoral repercussions—aren’t sufficiently principled and consistent to resist business-as-usual sabotage of their own aims, we leftists (who hold humanity’s future in our hands) are left without a viable way forward. For while Americans are clearly coming around to leftward-leaning agendas, they’re simply not yet radical enough to support street disruption of the Yellow Vest brand.
Obviously this confirms my own biases. I've long held that leftism is divided into Two Solitudes in Canada. The social-democratic NDP mixes constantly with LibroCon politicians and corporate media types and LibroCon-oriented bureaucrats on a daily basis. Repeated exposure to such an environment turns them into the ideological jellyfish that they are today.

Meanwhile, the super-radicals, disgusted with the system, sneer at the NDP and its grassrots of deluded saps, and insist that the only true way to the revolutionary transformation of Canadian society is by having twelve people block a doorway somewhere for half-an-hour; or to have 50-100 people shouting "demands" to politicians who are nowhere within earshot; or to have 1,000+ people march around on city streets for an afternoon.

Obviously, BOTH of these strategies are hopeless. Super-radicals and politicians NEED each other. The politicians need to hear from people who aren't centrist idiots and super-radicals need to grow-up and realize that very few people think the way that they do and they'll have to think harder to come up with strategies that deal with this reality.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

How To Transition To A Sustainable Society

I'm a Canadian. Which means I live in a country strongly influenced by British parliamentary traditions and British history. It also means I'm heavily influenced by US-American political and social history. And, obviously, US-American traditions were heavily based on British ones.  The long and the short of it is that Canada is an heir to a politics of "gradualism" (at least since the 17th Century).

Now, the British can, with good reason, pat themselves on the back for a lot of things. And as I type it seems that there's a lot of evil mixed-up with the good in such things as the scientific and industrial revolutions that I'm referring to. To say nothing of the definite evils of imperialism, elitism, and general despoilation. But whatever else you can say, you have to admit that the British political-social structure has been very, very stable. Since the 18th Century, they have introduced innovations gradually and this has resulted in fewer catastrophes and greater social cohesion than in many other societies. Some very ancient societies cracked by resisting change too stubbornly, or embracing change too willingly.

And I think that this is relevant for the apocalyptic crisis of climate change that we face today. My hobbyhorse of "Workers as Citizens" advocates for changing as little of the details of our present capitalist pseudo-democracies as possible. It advocates for one major change, based on long-established liberal principles of individual rights and equality. From that one change, all the others follow in their own good time and in a natural, organic way.

I say this because the other alternatives (either tinkering with public policies or childish, hazy "revolutionary" scenarios offered by radical dimwits) are either insufficient to the emergency or they depend on so many other things mysteriously changing of their own, that one has difficulty taking them seriously.

I've said all this before to no avail. The only reason I've typed it here, today is because I had a topic that I wanted to write about but the historical record is thinner than I'm able to hang my thesis on. So I just typed this instead.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Random Musings About the Wilson-Raybould Affair

Ah, what the hell. Here we go: I wasn't too aware of the existence of Jody Wilson-Raybould, until Canada's first Indigenous Attorney General was demoted to Veteran's Affairs. This happened right before lying scum-bag Justin Trudeau was going to begin implementing his policy of respectful, nation-to-nation relations with Canada's First Nations, all in the spirit of reconciliation and of honouring our obligations under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), by sending the RCMP to attack road blocks set up by the Wet'suwet'en Nation to stop an oil pipeline going through their territory.

About a week or so ago it was leaked that Wilson-Raybould had been pressed by the Prime Minister's Office to put a stop to Public Prosecutions Director, Kathleen Roussel's decision to pursue criminal charges against SNC-Lavalin. Wilson-Raybould refused and, it was speculated that this is what led to her eventual removal from the Attorney-General post.

SNC-Lavalin is, supposedly, a superstar engineering firm in Quebec. But it's also an international disgrace. It was banned as a contractor by the World Bank for it's practices of bribery and other corruptions. And at the time of its banishment my opinion was that its behaviour was a result of decades of non-accountability for corporate criminals in Canada. Consequence-free criminality that was only enhanced and enabled by the brazenly lawless, anti-democratic scum in the Conservative Party government of stephen harper.

Evidently, it was SNC-Lavalin that got the Trudeau Liberals to insert the creation of "Deferred Prosecution Agreements" inside an omnibus Finance bill. As is the case with the recent flurry of omnibus legislation (pushed to ridiculous extremes by the harpercons) the provision had zero public discussion and democratic oversight in its passage. DPA's are used in the corporate oligarchies of the USA and the UK to enable corporate criminals to avoid prosecution for white collar crimes by paying a fine and taking sensitivity classes. These financial slaps on the wrist are factored into decisions to break the laws as expected costs of doing business.

But DPA's need the approval of Attorneys General. And PPD Roussel and AG Wilson-Raybould were unwilling to extend one to SNC-Lavalin. And now, it is suspected that it was this refusal that led to Wilson-Raybould's demotion.

So, some people are saying that this is an attack on Quebec. That people outside of Quebec wouldn't be cheering the prosecution of a firm from their own provinces. Personally, that's bullshit. I have no affection for any of the corporate criminals in Ontario, or anywhere else in Canada. I think Galen Weston should be in jail. So should all the bankers and telecommunications gougers and liars.

Anyway, ... this is like Manna From Heaven for the detestable Adam Scheer and his collection of inbreds. Even though his own party's past government was (as I said) among the worst enablers of corporate criminality in living memory. harper continuously avoided accountability for his crimes and set the example for his corporate masters to follow. Nothing would ever be exposed if he could help it. Nothing would ever be done about massive crimes.

Walking by a television screen somewhere I saw that some network had dragged dim-bulb Peter MacKay to blather on about how bad it is that the PMO is trying to influence an autonomous state employee like the Public Prosecutions Director! As if that stupid fuck didn't order Department of Defence employees to dig-up dirt on his critics, and used DND resources as his own personal taxi-service. As if that oil-industry shit-head didn't muzzle federal sciences from reporting anything that offended corporate Canada.

So, Justin Trudeau's behaviour since this story broke has been dismal. He's just being the bimbo that he is, batting his eye-lashes at the camera and telling one stupid story after another hoping that everyone will still think he's so cute that it doesn't matter they can tell he's lying.

Thomas Walkom wrote about it. This is a blog post of my random musings. I didn't read his editorial. I read what other people said about it on F__e Book. Apparently he says it wasn't much of a scandal. Governments are allowed to exercise discretion on questions such as whether to press charges. If the PMO or the Cabinet discussed the issue with Wilson-Raybould that's no scandal. (If she was pressured and demoted specifically because she refused to budge, then that's another matter.)

Montreal Simon has been adamant that this isn't a scandal but an invented controversy on his hero Justin Trudeau, as well as an attack on Quebec and the thousands of innocent workers at SNC-Lavalin, and their families, and the firm's shareholders and the widows and orphans and the baby seals and etc., ... and he's willing to extend every benefit of the doubt to Trudeau and his government. Meanwhile, some statements from Liberal-friendly lawyers that Wilson-Raybould was an incompetent and erratic AG are treated almost as Holy Writ.

Why didn't Wilson-Raybould resign immediately???? Maybe she liked being Attorney-General. Maybe she resisted the pressure and thought the matter was over with (see the my ignorant summary of Walkom's editorial above) until she was demoted and then ... well, who knows? I also want to read Liberal partisans explain how Wilson-Raybould's non-resignation negates the significance of the Trudeau government willing to interfere with the integrity and autonomy of the justice system on behalf of a powerful corporation full of reliable fund-raisers to the Liberal Party of Canada.

Well, there you have my musings.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Niki Ashton Displays Wisdom on Venezuela Crisis: Media Shits Itself

[If only I'd worked harder and gotten this out sooner! The whole Venezuelan Regime-Change farce would have collapsed! Unable to convince myself that blogging isn't a waste of time, I hemmed and hawed and procrastinated for so long that the original shitty article went behind a paywall and what I had was an overly long introduction. But since I don't want the time that I did waste on this to have been a COMPLETE waste, I publish it AZIZ.]

I'm happy that I can't inhabit the head-space of the ignoramuses, dullards and deluded who parrot the mainstream corporate media's insanity. But, the drawback is that such people become a riddle for me. I don't know WHY they think the way that they do and, so, I'm unable to know just HOW to rearrange their confused thinking so that they start to have some temporary contact with reality.

With regards to the corporate media itself, I am unsure as to how much they believe their own garbage and how much they know that they're peddling propaganda. I lean towards thinking that the majority of them actually believe the vast majority of what they produce. The ideological "filters" described by Chomsky & Herman in Manufacturing Consent means that anyone who deviates from the propaganda line too much, gets fired or quits. Chris Hedges quit working at the New York Times and he has written and spoken a great deal about the intellectual climate there. Phil Donohue was fired by MSNBC for being vocally against the Iraq War and his corporate masters did this even though his show was leading in the ratings. MSNBC also fired Ed Schultz for covering the campaign of Bernie Sanders, whose wish to restore the social-economic conditions that prevailed under Eisenhower are anathema to them. And Canadian radio-host Peter Gzowski infamously went off on a rant when Noam Chomsky deviated from his expected criticisms of US policy in Vietnam to condemnation of Canada's role aiding and abetting it:
Chomsky describes a similar experience with former CBC radio host Peter Gzowski. Happy to have him criticize US foreign policy, the long-time Morningside host became furious when Chomsky said, “I landed at war criminal airport”. Gzowski questioned: “What do you mean?” to which Chomsky responded, “the Lester B. Pearson Airport”, detailing Pearson’s contribution to the US war in Vietnam. In response, writes Chomsky, Gzowski “went into a tantrum, haranguing me for a number of minutes”, which prompted an outpouring of listener complaints.
Did the editorial writers of The Globe & Mail know that endorsing stephen harper and his Conservatives was a blatant betrayal of the entirety of their professed political principles? I believe they were dimly aware of it. (Either that or they just understood that harper himself was very unpopular.) That's why they tried to pretend that you could vote "Conservative" without that being an endorsement of harper himself. As if his whole party wasn't guilty of supporting his sodomizing Parliament with a splintery broomstick. I know that, as human beings, we are all quite capable of deluding ourselves with incoherent rationalizations for our hypocrisies and selfishness. As long as we've invented these absurd justifications AND NEVER THINK OF THEM AGAIN we can pretend we're much better people than we are.

In a society based on capitalism, it is generally the case that amoral psychopaths rise to the top. Because capitalism is based on profit maximization being the highest human value. Which is inhuman, and amoral. The people who best internalize this sick value system are amoral psychopaths. A cultural product that celebrates this anti-human system will be supported by these psychopaths. Such cultural products will tend to dominate the society in general. People who want to work in the cultural sector had best internalize this anti-human, amoral pathology if they want to succeed.

Which brings me to this sleazy and stupid article about Niki Ashton's opposition to Canada's participation of regime-change in Venezuela by one Dylan Robertson.

Beginning with the title, the piece is an unsubtle attempt to depict Ashton's principled and sensible position as something deserving of contempt and condemnation. "Ashton defends her criticism of Canada's support for Venezuela's congressional leader." I mean, really! What the fuck is that? Why not: "Ashton defends her stance against regime-change in Venezuela"? What is Dylan Robertson hoping to achieve with the weasel-words "Canada's support for Venezuela's congressional leader"? Well, imagine an ignorant dullard reading that headline:

"Duh, what's so bad with supporting someone somewhere?"


Except we're supporting a figure-head leader of a violent, anti-democratic, US-backed oligarchic rebel movement. And we're saying that this puppet is Venezuela's new leader and to hell with the guy who was actually elected. We are meddling in the domestic affairs of a sovereign nation, and for no good reason. But Dylan Robertson can't portray it that way. He's a shameless propagandist and so he obfuscates what's going on from the very start.
OTTAWA — Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton is dismissing criticism after she denounced Canada’s response to Venezuela’s authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro.
Hmm! Ashton is being criticized! This is negative framing. Immediately, she's under attack and on the defensive. (Obviously the people who are criticizing her are stupid fucks, but this is only recognized by people who aren't fooled by heavy-handed garbage such as is produced by Dylan Robertson.) So she has "denounced Canada's response to ... authoritarian President." First of all, it's the Trudeau government's response. Don't speak for me Dylan Robertson. You have neither the right, nor the brains, nor the integrity to speak for me. So Trudeau's government is "responding" to something that Venezuela's "authoritarian" President did? What did he do to us? And, is he an authoritarian?

Let's review some basic facts, shall we? Since you will not see ANY of this in the "reporting" of useless hacks like Dylan Robertson or practically anyone else in the corporate news media. Venezuela is a South American country with a population of roughly 33 million people. It has the largest supply of proven oil reserves on the planet. Up until 1998 it was ruled by politicians representing economic elites who were mainly white skinned of European ancestry. The breakdown of Venezuela's demographics can be found here and it states:
The ethnicity in Venezuela is split among Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arab, German, African, and indigenous people. The World Factbook has no available statistical percentages on this area of demographics for this country. However, the World Atlas has found some relevant material, giving estimates of 50% Mestizo, 42.5% European descent, 3.5% African descent, 2.5% indigenous, and 1.2% other groups.
So, how good a job did this traditional ruling class do with Venezuela's economy and living standards? About the usual dismal record for kleptocratic, US-puppets in the region:
It is one of the few Latin American countries to have had, not one, but two "lost decades:" the 1980s and the 1990s. Never really able to recover from currency and debt crises in the 1980s, Venezuela plunged further into economic chaos in the 1990s (see table). Inflation remained indomitable and among the highest in the region, economic growth continued to be volatile and oil-dependent, growth per capita stagnated, unemployment rates surged, and public sector deficits endured despite continuous spending cutbacks. Real wages today are almost 70 percent below what they were 20 years ago. In eight of the last 12 years, Venezuela suffered some sort of economic emergency-a critical fiscal deficit, a banking crisis, a currency crisis, an economic recession or a combination of these. More than two-thirds of the population now live below poverty levels. A recent report estimates that, for an average Venezuelan with 12 years of schooling, the probability of ending up poor is 18.5 percent, up from 2.4 percent only a decade ago. Education-a common antidote against poverty-has simply ceased to work.
Notice that when traditional rulers bring their nations to penury and the IMF mandates that basic essentials be denied to the people to bail-out foreign lenders, that there is no outcry from imbeciles such as the loathsome Chrystia Freeland. No. It's just "business-as-usual" and unworthy of comment. (After all, Freeland is quite happy to serve in a government that presides over First Nations communities condemned to squalid housing, malnutrition, dirty water and suicide epidemics.) And so even when a traditional ruling class is forced to massacre thousands of its own citizens to enforce IMF Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPS) this is no cause for concern.

But this traditional state of affairs came to an end with the electoral victory of Hugo Chavez and his "Bolivarian Revolution."

Here's a link to some of the very real social achievements of the Chavez government.