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Balanced Perspectives: Why Public Finances Matter

Posted November 21st, 2011 by DSquared
Categories: Economics

With governments running deficits and austerity being pushed as a means to deal with the shortfall, the issue of public finances has gained attention. Are these deficits necessary? What should the left-wing response be? When a left-of-centre party comes out in favour of balanced budgets, some have accused these parties of selling out. Yet I believe that short of severe economic downturns and severe national emergencies, for example a natural disaster, that the left should actually embrace balanced budgets. Why?

Balanced Budgets Or Social Spending? Pick One

People have to budget in their daily lives, and make choices about what’s important to them. Often, people sacrifice things they want but feel they cannot afford, for example going on vacation. The right understands this, and connects it to public finances. This works because even though increased program spending advocated by the left is popular, people think of the government having to live within its means, and that you can’t always spend on the “nice to haves.” Furthermore, when the right talks about the need to balance the budget and the left says, “we have to spend more on social programs,” it only serves to reinforce the dichotomy, to reinforce that you have to choose either balanced budgets or social spending. This is a false choice.
Allan Blakeny in Saskatchewan balanced budgets while expanding programs. Grant Devine cut these programs and still ran up deficits.

“Spending Problem?”

The left is always accused of having a “spending problem,” especially when there is a shortfall in revenue. What they conveniently forget is that reducing spending is but one way to deal with this. Another way to deal with a budget shortfall is to bring in more money. Conversely, cuts in taxes are every bit of an expense as if you spent the money, even though parties like to pretend it doesn’t cost anything. This is how the NDP can offer the most in program spending yet claim that their platform is the cheapest, because the NDP doesn’t offer as many tax cuts as other parties.

Who Is Better At It?

Anyone who pays casual attention to the media can be forgiven for thinking that the left has trouble balancing budgets. The reality is the opposite. When in power provincially, it is actually the NDP which has the best record on balancing the books. Fiscal conservatives should be especially unhappy with how the Harper government has racked up high deficits, with little to show for it.

Balanced budgets are the one area where the right-wing claims credibility, and it is on this one issue that they manage to trump the popular ideas of the left. Yet the facts do not support this claim, and if the left can shift the debate on balanced budgets, it will have dealt with a major obstacle it faces in the eyes of the common voter.

The Legacy Of Jack Layton

Posted August 28th, 2011 by DSquared
Categories: Politics

Like many Canadians, I was horrified to hear the news that federal NDP leader Jack Layton had passed away from cancer on the morning of August 22nd. As the outpouring of emotion continues throughout the week, and his absence begins to sink in, I found myself thinking about the amazing legacy he left Canada, and how things changed in his 8 year stint as leader of the federal NDP.

His accomplishment is remarkable considering the shape the NDP was in during the early 2000s. Barely at official party status, it was marginalized by being the fourth party, and between the larger narratives of the Liberal-Reform/Alliance horse race, or the horse race between the Liberals and the Bloc in Quebec. Nobody gave the NDP much chance. In the summer of 2002 Layton, then a Toronto city councilor without much of a national profile, jumped into the race to replace Alexa McDonnough. Not having a seat in the House of Commons would prove to be an asset, as being on the outside allowed him to mobilize support and bring in the people who would lay the groundwork for big change at a time when the party craved fresh energy and ideas.

Layton’s hard work would pay off, as he won convincingly on the first ballot, despite not having a seat and Bill Blaikie having overwhelming support from the Caucus. And even though the NDP would remain small numerically, Layton was able to force the spotlight onto the NDP, first when the Liberals were predicted to win big under Paul Martin, then later on as the dynamic moved towards a Liberal-Conservative polarization federally, and his breakthrough in Quebec.

How did Layton pull this off? He put the tired cliché of “doing politics differently” into practice. He focused on the core issues that Canadians constantly tell opinion pollsters are important to them, but never implemented federally, bringing the “results oriented” approach to the federal scene, and to work with other parties to push forward the agenda, as is done at the civic level where formal partisan arrangements are often absent. When Harper and Ignatieff were asking for majority governments in the 2011 election, Layton knew that an NDP majority was not in the cards, was fine with that, and said so, and this earned him respect.

I argue that the seeds for the Orange Crush phenomenon were planted on April 21, 2005. The Sponsorship Scandal had engulfed Parliament Hill and was threatening the Paul Martin minority government. Martin took to the public airwaves to plead his case, and all the opposition leaders demanded responses. While Martin, Duceppe, and Harper all focused on the scandal, Layton touched on it but lamented that Parliamentarians were not working on the serious issues facing the country, and calling out the other parties for digging in their heels in their partisan trenches. I remember my respect and admiration for Layton going up, and Canadians were relieved by this breath of fresh air. Layton would go on to extract concessions from Liberal and Conservative governments. When the intransigence of the Harper government reached a head following the 2008 election, he played a key role in the coalition negotiations that proved unsuccessful at removing Harper. The inclusion of the Bloc showed Quebeckers that the federal Parliament was capable of putting their social democratic values into action, and that they could be part of the federal system to make that happen.

The road forward was a long, difficult slog, but Layton was very patient and committed. He pushed forward in the face of great odds, even when it didn’t apparently make sense at the time and the NDP remained stuck at the 15-20% range in the polls. His first test was how he would respond to not having a seat in the House of Commons. Rather than muscle aside an incumbent in a safe seat, he followed through on his commitment to his home community by waiting for the general election to run in his home seat. As this was held by Dennis Mills of the Liberals, there was a great risk, but he won in 2004, and was able to put a positive spin on a campaign that hadn’t netted as many seats as he had hoped. He was ridiculed for opening the 2008 campaign by asking Canadians to elect him Prime Minister, but came out of that election with MPs in 8 provinces, effectively cementing the NDP as a national party. Locally, I appreciate that this commitment took him to the staunchly Conservative rural Manitoba riding of Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette in the November 2010 round of by-elections. It never made a dent in the Conservative vote, but did vault the NDP as the clear alternatives to the Conservatives in that riding, and I can only hope that these efforts will bear fruit somewhere down the road.

Above all else, he reminded us of what was important, and taught us to dream, and encouraged us to break old habits.. I can think of no better summary for Layton’s legacy than his own words which concluded his final press conference:

“If I have tried to bring anything to federal politics, it is the idea that hope and optimism should be at their heart. We CAN look after each other better than we do today. We CAN have a fiscally responsible government. We CAN have a strong economy; greater equality; a clean environment. We CAN be a force for peace in the world.”

Yes Jack, you did. Thank you. Rest in peace.

(photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/ndpcanada/sets/72157626401269185/?share=mail)

The Consent of the Governed

Posted June 28th, 2011 by thwap
Categories: Politics

I’ve take some criticism for describing the harpercon majority government as “illegitimate.” This criticism tends to come from empty-headed morons whose opinions I have as much regard for as I would a huge, steaming piece of dog-shit on my front steps.

There seems to be some inexplicable confusion regarding the justification for my categorization of stephen harper’s government.

I arrived at my conclusions about harper from my positive reaction to Brigette DePape’s protest in the Senate Chamber during the Speech From the Throne. You see, while I endorse the use of extra-Parliamentary tactics and occasional law-breaking, I’m actually very much a Parliament-respectin’ kinda guy. As flawed and compromised as our democracy is, it’s all we have, and we should work to improve it rather than tear it down.

So, why then, do I have an unvarnished sympathy for Ms. DePape’s action? She renounced her oath of non-partisan professionalism, took advantage of her privileged place at the centre of our political system, and expressed her partisan views before a national audience. What sort of democracy would we have if our Parliament was to be opened to everyone who wanted to storm out onto the floor and protest or pontificate?

What sort of democracy would that be?

Well, what sort of democracy do we have now? Let’s leave aside the capitalist class’s domination of our democracy for a second. Let’s focus on the kind of democracy stephen harper would give us:

Government power requires maintaining the confidence of the House of Commons. However, if the majority of the people’s representatives have lost confidence in your government, what you do is you turn to the anachronism of the Crown and ask it to shut-down Parliament before the people’s representatives can vote you out. You can do this whenever necessary.

We are governed by the Rule of Law and inspired by our respect for human rights. However, if you find yourself in a war, and you’re too cheap to provide proper prisons for your detainees, and you hand them over to the US-Americans until they’re found to have tortured and killed too many of their prisoners, forcing you to turn them over to another band of torturers, you must do the following:

- Accept no responsibility for as many prisoners as is possible. If you take some prisoners, make sure there is a representative of the torturing home government standing nearby and IMMEDIATELY hand them over to that person. No paperwork = No legal responsibilities!!! (Hopefully.)

- When you’re not able to do that, hand the prisoners over to the torturing home government and then delay, delay, delay, telling the International Committee of the Red Cross about them, so that they’re unable to keep tabs on their treatment. No evidence = No legal responsibilities!!! (Hopefully.)

- If you have pesky oversight bodies like the Military Police Complaints Commission, frustrate them at every turn and refuse to renew the mandates of chairpersons determined to do their job.

- If the fucking legislature of the pain-in-the-ass representatives of the people try to investigate this issue, call up the Crown and tell Him or Her to shut-down Parliament again, and then give the country some bullshit excuse for killing a year’s worth of legislation.

The US-Americans fought their revolution to a great degree based on the idea that there should be no taxation without political representation under the British Constitution. Members of the British Parliament at the time said that they were correct in that assertion. But here in Canada, we have a prime minister who believes that we can have representation, but it should be powerless when it comes to controlling what the government does with the taxation! Parliament should be a rubber-stamp for the government’s spending initiatives. If you find yourself with a pesky Speaker of House, who believes that it is Parliament that is the source of power in our democracy, and not the Prime Minister and Cabinet, shrug your shoulders and hope for a more compliant Speaker in the future. Then you can have your “Supreme Soviet” or your “Reichstag.” Rely on your shit-head supporters and a large bulk of the rest of the population to regard these essential fundamentals of democratic accountability to be arcane and “boring” details that only political geeks need to care about.

True democracy requires honest and transparent government. (Especially since promising that sort of Accountability was a huge part of your initial rise to power!) However, if the mood strikes you, you should tamper with official government documents to make them say whatever you want them to say, in order to justify whatever it is you want to do. If a Cabinet Minister deliberately lies to Parliament about this, well, that’s okay too. This time it was Bev Oda pretending that her staff recommended that KAIROS not be funded. Tomorrow it could be Vic Toews saying that violent crime is shooting through the roof and that the experts recommend the death penalty as the only effective deterrent. Whatever is necessary, once the principle of forgery and lying has been established.

So, that’s stephen harper’s idea of democracy in Canada. And, thanks to the apathy of almost 40% of the electorate who didn’t vote at all, and 26% of the electorate who either thought that such assaults on democracy were either cool, or boring, or who had no idea that any of that stuff happened at all, but like their parents always voted Conservative and whatever, … stephen harper has won a majority government. (Obviously, with the power of a majority government, harper won’t have to resort to such blatant abuses to get his way. On the other hand, with the power of a majority government, we’ll simply never know about his lies and abuses. It will all be a fait accompli.)

But, again, here’s the rub: If the guy who presumes to write the rules for the rest of us doesn’t respect the rules himself, why should we meekly acquiesce to his nonsense? If he was elected by people who don’t give a shit about our rights in a minority parliament, why should we give a shit about their rights in a majority parliament? If he was elected by people who had no idea what they were doing, and the results of their choice are going to be a disaster for us (to say nothing of conveying a patina of legitimacy to these assaults on the basics of our democratic system), why should we be bound to respect their ignorant choice?

This is not about sour grapes people. I despised the Chretien and Martin Liberals, and, even when they’d help destroy democracy in Haiti, I did not call their power illegitimate. I despised stephen harper’s minority government but I even said on this blog that we have to respect the legitimacy of his minority. It is stephen harper who has made himself unfit to govern us. It was stephen harper who trammelled all over the core of our democratic system. And a vote for such a despot is either a vote for despotism which can then make no claim on our respect, or it is a vote out of ignorance, which, given the stakes, likewise has no claim on our respect.

Justified Civil Disobedience and Illegitimate Governments

Posted June 11th, 2011 by thwap
Categories: Environmental Justice

I’ve said before that the environment isn’t my main focus. I hate camping. I hate flies and mosquitoes. I like cities, books, bars, … that sort of thing. Then there’s the science. It’s all I’ve got to grasp political-economy, … were someone to come up with some scholarly paper about soil depletion, global warming, ocean stocks, or whatever, I wouldn’t really know how to respond.

At the same time, I realize that without the planet’s life-sustaining properties, the human race, with its cities, books, bars, art, etc., would soon dwindle into oblivion.

So, given the fact that 99.9% of the scientists who have the right to an opinion say that global warming is real and that it’s caused by human activity, and that if the human activity that causes global warming isn’t left unchecked, civilization itself is threatened, I take it seriously.

And given the fact that the deniers of human-caused global warming are generally oil-industry shills and complete shit-heads, I take the crisis more seriously and treat the doubters with the massive contempt that they deserve.

And, therefore, given the news about temperature change and carbon emissions just released, and the increased calls for civil disobedience to try to save humanity (regardless of whether a festering pustule like Ezra Levant thinks it’s all a crock) is more than called for.

And, in this context of necessary civil disobedience, we, as Canadians, have an obligation given the fact that our country (besides being complicit in torture in Afghanistan, besides being a terrorist state that tortures its own citizens, besides being a racist, colonialist country that forces its unconquered First Nations to live in squalor and criminalizes them when they enter our cities, besides being a cruel, oppressive, squalid country that destroyed democracy in Haiti and forced the Haitians to live in grinding misery and starvation) is one of the worst offenders in creating this disaster.

Thankfully, the task of civil disobedience in this country is even more justified because the government that is going whole-hog to help destroy civilization is completely illegitimate. Our prime minister is a despot and he won his position as a result of an archaic electoral system, but, more importantly, he was elected by people who were either ignorant of the reality that they were voting for the party of despotism or they simply didn’t give a shit.

It’s those voters who didn’t give a shit that I’m interested in. These people viewed harper’s serial assaults on Canadian democracy and Canadian democratic institutions, because, in their warped minds, all of this helped their party maintain power while leaving the opposition to plead impotently by the sidelines yet again. It’s the mentality of the bully. When adults get together to work on some project, or, what the hell, play a board game together at a table at the cottage, if one party cheats their way to victory, the other participants will probably complain, but it’s not likely that they’ll take the offender and smash his head through the window. In a more serious context (like, say, a business arrangement), cheaters are taken to court. If the courts rule in the plaintiff’s favour and the cheater ignores it, with impunity, sometimes the plaintiff will complain about the courts and the injustice of it all. But here, we’re talking about the people who make the laws, and appoint the judges, and who write the rules.

The whole system is debased because of our toleration of this monster. The longer we endure his revolting, disgusting presence, the more will our political culture slide into total irrelevance and sick comedy, as in the United States of America.

We must unite, and we must plan, and we must organize, environmentalists, unions, intellectuals, teachers, students, voters, citizens, philanthropists, parents, children, workers, the unemployed, judges, lawyers, we must hit them hard, we must hit them everywhere, we must force this government to resign.

And the swine who voted for this piece of shit government, the bullies who were so happily contemptuous of democracy when it is their party which benefits by ripping up the rule book and all standards of decency? They have no right to be listened to. They have renounced their claims to fairness, to due process, to everything.

And, if they, a minority of the population, really want to get physical to try to protect their despotic government, they are more than welcome to try. Because that is what it has come to. That’s the significance of harper’s tearing-up the rule book. That book of rules existed so that power could be exchanged peacefully and that said power would act within certain constitutional-democratic limits.

It has come to this: We have an illegitimate government which the very existence of continues to debase our claims to be a constitutional democracy. The harpercons have beaten Canadian democracy to the ground (or did we all help them?) and now they’re pissing on its unconscious form.

Drifting Towards Oblivion

Posted June 11th, 2011 by thwap
Categories: Politics

I really don’t know what’s going to happen. Humanity (coerced or duped by our elites) is determined to continue along the path to ecological Armageddon. One of the worst offenders was Canada’s stephen harper government. And now he’s got a majority government. Extra-parliamentary protest is a sad joke. Tiny bands of the already converted unite to shout something for an afternoon and if the numbers get anywhere serious, highly-paid pigs are available to smash their skulls in.

The political awareness in this country is a joke. Except for the fact that the NDP, under the radar, appears to be gaining strength. The desperate economic climate, the naked amount of class warfare in this country (instigated by those at the top) must be having some sort of impact on the attitudes of Canadians, far from the editorial boards of the mainstream media, where whole departments are dedicated to providing “Lifestyle” news to the most affluent 30% of the population, besides blathering yet again for Canadians to be “patient” as the “progress” continues in Afghanistan.

Of course, the NDP, being what it is, will probably reinvent itself into some version of the Liberal Party. (Indeed, some people are arguing that this “pragmatism” is just what the NDP needs, and that those fools who made it a “religion” are going to be disappointed as the party leadership “matures.” The possibility that we might have to thank those “fools” and their struggling to keep the NDP as true to their principles as it remains, for attracting voters away from the unprincipled Liberals doesn’t even occur to them.)

I’m simply at a loss. In the 3-d world, I have, over the past month or so, tried to reach out to other groups to come together and discuss possibilities for resistance, only to be met with silence. (Or derision, as “left-wing” political groups turn out to be anti-union, anti-protester, pro-business, middle class dweebs.) I haven’t bothered with my local NDP riding association since two e-mails asking for a group meeting or online discussion in order to send a message to the party leadership have been met with silence. I’m not surprised that I’m expected to be a source of funds for the party and not so much a source of ideas. I am surprised at the depths of irrelevance of party membership though.

The reason I spend time in politics is because our present path is the path to species suicide, with social-economic meltdown as the appetizer. I have no illusions that had I dedicated my life to earning money (within the limits of my patience) that I would have amassed enough to insulate me from the uncertainty of late capitalism. If things are going to be made stable and whole for ordinary people, it is going to have to come from politics, not the capitalist marketplace.

Right now though, politics seems as barren a field as the job market.

The Liberals and the Centre

Posted June 1st, 2011 by thwap
Categories: Politics

I think it was in the Martin or the Dion years, when, on Canadian Cynic, I told Ti-Guy that I wanted the Liberal Party of Canada to die, because they deceived progressive-minded Canadians and made them believe that they could have their cake and eat it too.

Ti-Guy replied something to the effect that by giving the centrist majority of Canadians a compromise between the extremist Conservatives and the loopy NDP. Without the Liberals, the majority of Liberal supporters would stupidly migrate over to the Conservatives (with whom they feel more comfortable).

At the time, I wasn’t sure that the thesis was worth the explosion in homelessness, in poverty, in the massive decline in our manufacturing sector, the occupation of Afghanistan and the subsequent war crimes, the increase in inequality, the creeping privatization of health care, the dallying with missile defence, and on and on and everything that Liberal governance represented.

And what if it’s the case that “centre cannot hold”? I realize that for a long time I predicted economic collapse, sincerely believing that the debt-crisis, or the dot-com bubble’s bursting, or something else meant that our economic system had run out of steam, only to be proved wrong. But this latest crisis, I’ve waited, and hedged my bets, but there’s enough weakness, enough elite stupidity, enough hopelessness, that it looks like a collapse is inevitable. About a month ago, some dude was on a business news program, saying with all the confidence in the world “Demand will come back.” I could only wonder where it was supposed to come back from. Seriously, check out those links and ask yourself where demand is supposed to come from? And then, remember that “demand” as he’s talking about it, means “effective demand” to consume more and more useless junk, the production of which will plunder the world’s resources and destroy the environment. Their system fails on its own terms and in the bigger picture it’s going to kill us all.

If that’s the case, what do we need with some mewling bunch of neo-liberal, arrogant, elite dumb-fucks who helped bring us to this sorry pass?

There is going to be a reckoning. We have the worst possible political party in Canada in power to meet it with a majority government. Let’s make the choice for Canadians as stark as possible: the intellectual bankruptcy of capitalism versus the humanity of social democracy. The last thing we want is a political party lying to Canadians that they can “rise up” to the challenge with rhetoric and lies.

Drifting Towards Oblivion

Posted May 31st, 2011 by thwap
Categories: Politics

I really don’t know what’s going to happen. Humanity (coerced or duped by our elites) is determined to continue along the path to ecological Armageddon. One of the worst offenders was Canada’s stephen harper government. And now he’s got a majority government. Extra-parliamentary protest is a sad joke. Tiny bands of the already converted unite to shout something for an afternoon and if the numbers get anywhere serious, highly-paid pigs are available to smash their skulls in.

The political awareness in this country is a joke. Except for the fact that the NDP, under the radar, appears to be gaining strength. The desperate economic climate, the naked amount of class warfare in this country (instigated by those at the top) must be having some sort of impact on the attitudes of Canadians, far from the editorial boards of the mainstream media, where whole departments are dedicated to providing “Lifestyle” news to the most affluent 30% of the population, besides blathering yet again for Canadians to be “patient” as the “progress” continues in Afghanistan.

Of course, the NDP, being what it is, will probably reinvent itself into some version of the Liberal Party. (Indeed, some people are arguing that this “pragmatism” is just what the NDP needs, and that those fools who made it a “religion” are going to be disappointed as the party leadership “matures.” The possibility that we might have to thank those “fools” and their struggling to keep the NDP as true to their principles as it remains, for attracting voters away from the unprincipled Liberals doesn’t even occur to them.)

I’m simply at a loss. In the 3-d world, I have, over the past month or so, tried to reach out to other groups to come together and discuss possibilities for resistance, only to be met with silence. (Or derision, as “left-wing” political groups turn out to be anti-union, anti-protester, pro-business, middle class dweebs.) I haven’t bothered with my local NDP riding association since two e-mails asking for a group meeting or online discussion in order to send a message to the party leadership have been met with silence. I’m not surprised that I’m expected to be a source of funds for the party and not so much a source of ideas. I am surprised at the depths of irrelevance of party membership though.

The reason I spend time in politics is because our present path is the path to species suicide, with social-economic meltdown as the appetizer. I have no illusions that had I dedicated my life to earning money (within the limits of my patience) that I would have amassed enough to insulate me from the uncertainty of late capitalism. If things are going to be made stable and whole for ordinary people, it is going to have to come from politics, not the capitalist marketplace.

Right now though, politics seems as barren a field as the job market.

Recovering From Canada’s Failure

Posted May 4th, 2011 by thwap
Categories: Politics

As Sir Francis says in my last post’s comments, … this is as if we’d elected george w. bush here in Canada.

An important difference: 60% of the people who bothered to vote here voted against the tyrannical fraudster harper, whereas it was something like 55% of US-Americans who bothered to vote voting against the tyrannical fraudster bush II.

Another important difference: bush II had to blatantly steal his elections, whereas harper only had to come up the middle in our archaic electoral system. (The USA also has a first-past-the-post electoral system, which functions … to the extent that US-American elections can be said to function at all … because their elites have institutionalized the two-party stranglehold on politics there.)

But some important similarities: bush II blatantly stole Florida. bush II’s regime lied its way into a war. It was corrupt. It was racist. It was … well, it basically ripped the veil off of the workings of the US political system, it paraded around its contempt for democracy, for the truth, for the people (“This is an impressive crowd — the haves and the have mores. Some people call you the elite — I call you my base.”) and a thousand other sins too numerous to mention, … and instead of being hanged he was treated as a genuine political option and allowed to steal a second election.

With harper, we have a racist, hypocritical “Christian” nut-bar, another war monger, … whose own crimes against Canadian democracy are well known, and it’s pointless to list them.

It’s pointless because despite the enormity of his crimes, he too was treated as a legitimate political choice by us as a country. 40% of those who bothered to vote, voted for him. The 39% who didn’t bother to vote at all didn’t see anything wrong with the idea of him governing. And the owners and managers of our mainstream media actually endorsed him! Why list again all of harper’s sins? Why type words that only the converted will understand?

I am going to grow old under an authoritarian, war-loving, bigoted, anti-environmental, corrupt, incompetent, tyrannical government.

Going forward, … so that PERHAPS, MAYBE, others will not suffer the same fate, what do we do?

The first thing, … the opposition must be united. I’ve reconciled myself to the idea that the Liberal Party is not going to die. Fine. Whatever. It is obvious that our electoral system is flawed. It’s also obvious that the Liberals cannot realistically claim to have broad national support anymore. They have not been the party of choice in Quebec for several electoral cycles. They represent a particular view of the world and if they want to enjoy having that view represented they are going to have to do it as part of a coalition.

[Will Quebec separate? There’s talk of it. harper is, for all his empty prattle about how much he cares about this country, for all his droning about how “evil” separatists are, would not hesitate to sow regional discord and allow Quebec to leave the federation since it will never vote for him. Social-democratic Quebeckers do not want to be saddled with a Christo-fascist ruled English Canada. But I don’t want us to get ahead of ourselves here.]

“Progressives” of whatever stripe; we have to get our act together. Let’s stop it with these screeching, self-righteous tirades against each other. BOTH parties acted like donkeys, okay? Yes, Layton attacked Ignatieff instead of going after harper. Yes, the Liberals decided to divert resources from attacking the common enemy and deliberately targeted NDP incumbents like Olivia Chow.

Let’s put aside our mutual hatreds though. (And it really is hatred.)

We have five years.

We have five years to form a temporary alliance based on a mutually agreed-upon platform which MUST include the reform of our electoral system for the following election. The NDP and the Liberals must agree on candidates and a temporary platform that can handle two or three years of cooperation. We must put aside our mutual loathing and work together.

With proportional representation, the harpercon style of politics will never govern this country again.

In the meantime, during those five years, we must transform the political culture of this country. The US and Canada are going to descend back into official recessions in the next few months. We must be there, explaining to Canadians, hammering away at the mass media, that the economic catastrophe is the direct result of the economic policies that the rulers propose and which harper and Flaherty implement. We must be at work forming our own media, forming neighbourhood democratic consciousness raising groups, so that people will appreciate what they’ve just lost on May 2nd so that they will fight to get it back.

In that spirit, I think this blog will slow down for the foreseeable future. I’ll post when I feel like it. Probably little things. I’ll reply to comments. There have been a few times over the past four years when I’ve typed something that somebody else told me they really needed to hear. I know that I appreciate knowing there’s a whole online resource of sanity to help me remember that I’m not alone. But blogging alone isn’t going to change anything. I’m going to spend more time thinking about how to really change things and less time indulging in rants.

Time To Dream: Progressives In Crossroads

Posted April 28th, 2011 by DSquared
Categories: Politics

Do you dream of a better Canada? Maybe you don’t have a family doctor. Maybe you are concerned about homelessness and urban poverty, or the state of affairs on First Nations. Perhaps you are concerned about the decline of family farms and resource industries, which is killing off rural areas. Maybe you are frustrated with the gridlock that is paralyzing your commute while you continue to pay for gas prices that have already jumped well before the typical summer surge. You want to vote your conscience, and yet you are afraid that your vote won’t count, that you have to vote for someone else to stop someone you really don’t like. Will you ever be able to vote your beliefs?

Now is your chance. For the first time in 23 years, Canadians can vote for something. In a stunning turn of events, the NDP, once thought by pundits to be in danger of losing seats as the Liberals and Conservatives battled for top spot, is now in second place nationally and the Liberals dropping dramatically. The Liberals have long asked people to vote Liberal out of fear of what the right wing would do, only to follow through with many of the same policies. Yet their fear campaign against the Conservatives has fallen apart, and in an unusual twist of events, Harper is poised to win seats around (and possibly in) the liberal/left bastion of Toronto, while at the same time is nearly certain to lose seats in the right-wing bastion of Alberta. How did this come to be?

The seeds of this shift, showing up federally, can be seen in recent municipal elections in the cities of Toronto and Calgary that happened within weeks of each other. There were similar dynamics. A long-serving incumbent mayor had stepped aside. A far-right city councillor challenged for the post. The main challengers were also right-wing, though not to the same degree. The best candidates, according to public opinion polls, were nowhere near contention.

That is where the similarities end. In Toronto, progressives panicked at the thought of Rob Ford being elected mayor, and loudly asked everyone to vote for the unpopular George Smitherman, who’s only reason for being in contention was that he apparently could win according to public opinion polls. Pantalone was blamed for splitting the vote, but in the end, retained a strong core support while Ford handily beat Smitherman. Regardless of how scary things seemed to be, too many Pantalone supporters saw no reason to choose between 2 right-wingers. Some things, they argue, are more important than the race for first place.

Calgary was a different scenario. Progressive voters, led by young adults, campaigned relentlessly for Naheed Nenshi and built up a base of support, despite a call for strategic voting by one of the marginal contenders. Their hard work paid off, and Nenshi was elected on a wave of high turnout.

Appealing to people’s aspirations proved to be far more effective than trying to scare them away from something bad. The question many progressives had in this election: do I vote strategically or do I vote my conscience?

Both. In 2011, the clear strategic choice is your conscience.

“Edgy Comedian” Guy Earle

Posted April 26th, 2011 by thwap
Categories: The Rainbow Room

Altavista anything about the Guy Earle case, the self-professed extremely left-wing physicist/comedian, and you’re bound to get a slew of hits to right-wing troglodytes (Steyn, Levant, Shaidle) for whom the man is a hero in the cause of free speech.

Seems that back in 2008, two lesbian women were having drinks on the patio of a Vancouver restaurant when, at 11 pm, they were told that the patio was closing and they’d have to move their drinks inside. According to the human rights tribunal decision, the two women and a friend went inside and sat at a booth near the stage. There was an open mic comedy night being hosted by Earle going on, of which they had been unaware and uninterested. They began discussing with the waitress what their next order of drinks would be and there was some back and forth about whether some brands of beer were available or not. Apparently, this conversation irritated Earle, and when one of the women kissed her partner on the cheek, Earle began to make disparaging comments about “dykes.”

Earle then went on to accuse the “dykes” of ruining the night of awesome talent on display that night and made further comments about how the dykes should go home and fuck each other with their strap-ons. This produced some boos from the audience and prompted one of the women to tell Earle that he wasn’t funny. (He isn’t.)Things escalated to one of the women throwing water at Earle and Earle taking the woman’s sunglasses and breaking them. Of course, everything was punctuated with Earle shouting about “fucking cunts”, “stupid cunts”, “stupid dykes”, and “fucking dyke cunts.”

Earle was taken to a human rights tribunal where he was found guilty of discrimination and fined. He intends to take his case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Here’s the thing. This case has made me reconsider my free-speech extremism. I still believe that people should be free to write about how much they hate defined groups of people. They can even get together, in, say, a church, and say how much they think homosexuals are evil sinners. Or, they can vent about black people, white people, whatever people, on the internet. So long as they don’t start advocating physical violence against them, such hatred should be legal. It’s stupid, but it shouldn’t be outlawed either. Furthermore, if I’m in a coffe-shop somewhere and somebody makes an outburst about, say, white guys, that’s legal. Even if it’s the owner or an employee. The customers can even directly tell me that they hate white guys like me. If, however, the owner or the employee does that, … then that is practical discrimination. And that’s where the line should be drawn.

Earle, and a lot of other of his defenders, are saying that art is different. As a comedian up on the stage, Earle’s right to free speech is even more important than if he were just some guy ranting on the sidewalk. I don’t think so. As a guy performing on a public stage, I think Earle’s right to be bigoted and prejudiced is LESS important than somebody ranting in private or to nobody at all.

He’s a “comedian” is supposedly a defence. Remember when lame-ass Mark Richards destroyed his career by calling a (genuine) heckler a nigger? Well, why should it be any different, any less monstrous to attack someone for their sexuality? Especially since more gay kids are bullied into suicide than practically any other group of young people?

And here’s where the idea of practical discrimination comes in: I’m sure black people aren’t surprised when they hear some white racist hsss “nigger” at them. I’m sure they hear stupid shit like that all the time. It probably kills them a little inside, but they’re resigned to it to a degree (I think).

But I don’t think any black person in Canada today, no matter how much scar tissue they have over their feelings, would tolerate cashiers, waitresses, teachers, landlords, etc., pointedly giving them inferior or no service because they’re black.

So why should lesbians be expected to sit back during a night on the town and endure some unfunny dipshit yelling at them for being dyke cunts?

How would Guy Earle like it if he went out to a night of “comedy” and got on the receiving end of being a needle-dicked, rapist, pasty-faced man? Every night? Especially in a world where women were always telling him to whip his cock out and if he doesn’t, it’s because it must be tiny. Or if every black man told him his small white dick couldn’t satisfy a woman and that’s why all the white women go for the black guys? [In case it isn’t clear; all of this garbage is an attempt to reverse the so-called “edgy” comedic stylings of white, male comedians in a white, racist, patriarchal society. White, heterosexual guys don’t have to worry about going to see a comedian and get personally insulted for being who they are] You see, if Earle went out to hear some comedy, and 4/5ths of the comedians were ALWAYS something other than white males, and it was common to hear insults directed at white, heterosexual guys in daily life, … like, sometimes, black dyke policewomen were always harassing us and the courts were discriminating against us and we were going to prison more often, for more years, than other groups of people, I’m pretty sure that Earle wouldn’t find it “edgy” to have to sit there, once again, and be insulted for who he is. Especially if he didn’t expect to find himself at some shitty open-mic comedy show.