David Brooks Solves All of Haiti’s Problems!!!!

The NYT’s David Brooks is not one of the towering intellects of our times. If you go to that link you’ll find that Glenn Greenwald has assembled a cornucopia of David Brooks’ errors, including such gems as:

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

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

I imagine that Brooks makes at least a six-figure income, writing columns for the NYT (and with his television appearances he’s no doubt a millionaire) and it must be a pretty sweet gig. Writing any fool thing that pops into your stupid head and never having to explain yourself when you turn out to be catastrophically wrong, even nine times out of ten wrong.

A big part of Brooks’s shtick is (apparently, I don’t trouble myself to read him with any regularity) how he understands how “regular” or “ordinary” US-Americans think. And he explains the common horse-sense of the ordinary god-fearin’ Amuriken to the chattering classes and the upscale readers of the NYT. Brooks’s understanding of the average US-American is, apparently, a figment of his imagination. He infamously chided the Harvard Law School graduate Barack Obama for his elitism and stated that Obama (unlike Brooks supposedly) would have difficulty relating with the regular folks at the salad-bar at an Applebee’s Restaurant. It turned out to be the case that Brooks himself would have difficulty interacting with the people at the salad-bar at this middlebrow family restaurant chain because Applebee’s doesn’t have a salad-bar.

So, we see that Brooks is, therefore, both a complete idiot whether commenting on foreign or domestic issues. Once again though, this lazy-minded incompetent no doubt commands over a million dollars a year in payment for his ignorant ramblings.

How fitting it is, therefore, that this pompous piece of shit sees fit to lecture the people of Haiti, in their hour of great suffering, on the necessity for self-reliance and hard work!

As Lawrence E. Harrison explained in his book “The Central Liberal Truth,” Haiti, like most of the world’s poorest nations, suffers from a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences. There is the influence of the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile. There are high levels of social mistrust. Responsibility is often not internalized. Child-rearing practices often involve neglect in the early years and harsh retribution when kids hit 9 or 10.

Interesting Mr. Brooks. Do please go on …

We’re all supposed to politely respect each other’s cultures. But some cultures are more progress-resistant than others, and a horrible tragedy was just exacerbated by one of them.

Really? What should we do then?

Fourth, it’s time to promote locally led paternalism. In this country, we first tried to tackle poverty by throwing money at it, just as we did abroad. Then we tried microcommunity efforts, just as we did abroad. But the programs that really work involve intrusive paternalism.

These programs, like the Harlem Children’s Zone and the No Excuses schools, are led by people who figure they don’t understand all the factors that have contributed to poverty, but they don’t care. They are going to replace parts of the local culture with a highly demanding, highly intensive culture of achievement — involving everything from new child-rearing practices to stricter schools to better job performance.

It’s time to take that approach abroad, too. It’s time to find self-confident local leaders who will create No Excuses countercultures in places like Haiti, surrounding people — maybe just in a neighborhood or a school — with middle-class assumptions, an achievement ethos and tough, measurable demands.

This disgusting cretin hasn’t the slightest idea about what he’s talking about, as usual. Might it not be the case that flooding the agricultural economy of Haiti with massively subsidized US agricultural products might have been devastating to the Haitian people’s economy and their self-reliance? Might it not be the case that Haiti’s insanely corrupt ruling class would not have such an easy time of fleecing their country were it not for the fact that the USA, Canada and France and the United Nations do such efficient work of frustrating every attempt by the people of Haiti to overthrow this gang of thieves and murderers? How can we blame the people of Haiti for the mismanagement of their country when 98% of them haven’t had the chance to manage it?

David Brooks, to repeat, is an incompetent dunderhead. He is paid an exorbitant amount of money to write about foreign and domestic affairs and he is consistently wrong about pretty much everything. This jack-ass doesn’t have the right to lecture meabout the value of hard work, let alone the entire nation of Haiti. David Brooks deserves to windex the video-screens of peep-show booths. Open up your mouth David, I need to take a piss.

I’ve written about Haiti several times on my blog. Not because I can claim to be any expert on the country, but because I’m so deeply ashamed at the enormity of our crimes against these people. I’ve tried to resist talking about Haiti and the tragedies resulting from the earthquake because I sincerely believe that the focus must be on trying and convicting stephen harper for war crimes, exposing him for his cowardice and gross abuse of power in proroguing parliament to escape the discovery of his criminal policies by the Special Committee on Afghanistan.

But the brazen self-satisfied hypocrisy of North America about our “generosity” towards Haiti and contemptible, racist, hypocritical garbage from scum such as David Brooks have compelled me to write about it.

If harper Prorogues

Others in the blogosphere point to the even stronger rumours that harper is planning to cowardly prorogue parliament until after the fascist spectacle of the Olympics in order to avoid public accountability for his possible complicity in war crimes in Afghanistan.

This is unacceptable.

If harper does pursue this detestable course of action of course the opposition parties must join to force an election at the soonest possible opportunity when the new session of parliament opens. By his actions in Afghanistan, by his partisan leaking of documents (the secrecy of which he has argued is vital for “national security”), by his contempt for the will of the majority in parliament in refusing to hand over said documents, and by myriad other ways, harper has lost the right to any claim in this nation’s confidence in his ability to govern this country.

stephen harper is clearly insane and unfit for public life.

But if parliament is suspended, we, the decent, sane majority of Canadians have to put the pressure on him and his lackeys. I should add, or clarify, that it will be the decent, sane, engaged, concerned minority that must keep the pressure on. Because while the vast majority of Canadians are intelligent, decent, sane people, only a minority are dedicated enough and informed enough to grasp the gravity of this threat to our political system and our way of life. Too many of us are lulled into a consumerist cocoon of ignorance and apathy. The dedicated minority must go out into our communities and preach to people outside the choir about the seriousness of this crisis, the horrible ramifications of allowing business-as-usual with this twisted freak harper and his gang of foaming psychopaths.

We must lay down the case for the coming election, the seriousness of the issues involved, the horrible consequences of allowing these crimes to go unpunished.

And while we’re laying the groundwork for the ultimate repudiation of the political bowel-movement that is Canadian “conservatism,” and for the permanent destruction of the Stupid Party of Canada, we must make every effort to let our mainstream media and political institutions know exactly how we feel about the serial travesties of business-as-usual.

The Afghanistan debacle. The world financial meltdown. Ecological collapse. Increased poverty and homelessness. Evil in Haiti. Anti-Aboriginal racism. The destruction of our public healthcare sysem. On and on it goes.

This cycle of arrogant stupidity, … capitalist greed presenting itself as wisdom about “harsh realities” has had time enough to prove itself and it has failed.

And the most fanatical practitioners of this insanity, the so-called “Conservative Party of Canada” must be made to understand [albeit temporarily, given the limitations of their mental faculties] what detestable, freakish vermin they are. If we “liberal [sic] elitists” used to look down our noses at these morons, it was because they were such repulsively stupid, dangerously stupid morons.

We will not stop our work to transform our societies into ecologically sustainable, sane economies just because you’re an oil-industry shill or an ignorant, delusional consumerist.

We will not remove equal rights for people of non-heterosexual orientations because you’re a fanatical adherent to some imaginary, sex-obsessed deity or because you’re a twisted closet-case.

We will not drop the call for a public inquiry into war crimes to enable your racist, imperialist blood-lust.

Your day has passed.

A Coalition Government Could Obtain a Public Inquiry Into Torture

Gotta run. But I’ll be back to flesh this out. I think the post title will get people thinking though.
Back.

There are countries that pretty blatantly torture people and there are countries that at least make the effort to say that they do not torture people. And then, of course, there are countries that don’t torture people period.

Canada, thanks to the harpercons, is now in the first of those categories. For legal purposes, the harpercons and their drooling-idiot supporters don’t come right out and admit their complicity in torture. But at the same time, they constructed a prisoner-transfer process that was designed to provide them with plausible deniability as to what we knew about the people we handed over. At the same time they’ve been pretty shameless about blocking access to see what they’ve been doing, what they’ve been saying, what happened and when they knew about it. And, finally, they respond to genuine questions about Canada’s adherence to its obligations under international law by yammering about how our prisoners were all vermin who deserved whatever it is they might have gotten and how people who want to ask questions are all troop-hating traitors.

I’ll repeat: “Plausible deniability” is no excuse. The harpercon’s attempt at being smart has back-fired. It was determined in the Tokyo War Crimes trials that if someone was in a position to know and didn’t know that war crimes were being committed, then it was determined that those officials were guilty for not having made the effort to know what was going on under their watch.

There is nothing to debate here. The harpercons are guilty of war crimes. Our government is guilty of war crimes. We, as Canadians, are guilty of war crimes.

But we have a choice. We can take our country back. We can take it back from the moral deficients, the mental freaks who shriek so loudly on the internet and in our newspapers, about how torture is justified. About how the rule of law has an on/off switch. We can take our country back from these imbeciles by forcing our political-legal system to hold the harpercons to account for their crimes.

And I say we should make this point in time the moment when we made our stand because this is the way for us to get the most bang for our buck. This isn’t something that can be debated ad nauseum. This isn’t something that requires a lot of digging and investigating or anything. Right here, right now, we can send the whole harpercon front bench to PRISON and there is no way out of it for them.

In all honesty, global warming, our abuse of the First Nations people, and the economic crisis are bigger issues than this. But convicting harper on war crimes charges is easier than shutting-down the Tar Sands. Convicting the harpercons is simpler than reversing our policies on First Nations issues. Convicting these scumbags will be simpler than arguing for a sane economic policy. And, furthermore, putting the harpercons behind bars will make working on those other issues immeasurably easier.

Recently, the opposition parties passed a parliamentary resolution calling for a public inquiry into this issue but the govenment is not bound by the will of the representatives of a majority of the people of this country. So be it. One way to get the will of the majority’s representatives imposed is to make them the government. If there is no other way to do this, then let us have the opposition introduce a measure of non-confidence in this government, and if we have to have an election on this issue, let us have it.

Let us make this an election on whether or not Canada is a nation that commits war crimes or not.

If that’s what is necessary to take our country back then let us fight it on this issue. As I said, there are other concerns that Canadians have, but nothing is as clear-cut as this. Nothing is so easy to rectify as this. When it is so simple it is incumbent upon us to do what is necessary. Let this be a contest between the decent people who believe that Canada is supposed to be a decent place, and the freaks who believe that it’s okay to torture as long as it happens to your enemies or you contract it out.

Doesn’t our political system claim “the rule of law” as one of its fundamental values? Even if we believe this claim is a sham, we must admit that at least they agree that this pretence must be upheld if they’re going to claim our respect for their authority. Well, if there is simply no way out of the fact that they committed war crimes, then there is simply no way out for them than to face the consequences. When something as blatant as this happens and they try to fob it off, they are fobbing off the basis of their own legitimacy. If we can have a fight about this, then there is no way that they can avoid defeat. And this isn’t smoking a joint, or speeding on the highway, or taking a bribe even. This is TORTURE. This is INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW. If the rule of law should apply to governments, shouldn’t it at least apply here?

Ah, but what about the Liberals? Sadly, this is the debased state of our political culture. We cannot move against the harpercons unless we agree to allow the Liberals (who violated international law in Haiti, who first got us into the Afghanistan debacle, who oversaw the first violations of human rights after 9-11/2001) to go free. Our political culture is such that we cannot go against both of these criminal gangs because enough Canadian voters support one or the other of them to make it impossible. (I was prepared, when the Liberals had a majority, to propose that the NDP work with the CPC and the BQ to investigate Liberal crimes in Haiti. To my eternal shame, I got so far as briefly circulating a petition before life and work pressures made me think that Haiti’s calvary had to wait. Then, the Liberals fell, the harpercons came to power, and the moment passed.)

But we could argue this: That it is worth it to make this concession if it means destroying the harpercons, who are so toxic for Canada’s political culture, if it means re-asserting that Canada is more the product of its decent citizens than of its morons and psychopaths, if it means that we get to set a precedent for future prime ministers tempted into following the USA into another such abomination, that they might get in over their heads and find themselves responsible for and liable for actions such as war crimes.

[Please note: I’m certain that given the chance the NDP could be just as lazy and callous about human rights as any other party. I’m also pretty sure that Bloq politicians are no angels when it comes to First Nations issues that conflict with Quebecois sovereignity. To their credit, the NDP has the natural intelligence and the courage to have rejected the Afghan “mission” from the get-go. But this non-immunity from corruption is just the point: Our politicians can only go as far as the Canadian people will let them go. If WE decide, as a people, that something like handing over innocent people to suspected torturers is not acceptable, and that there are consequences for doing so, then they will not do it! It’s up to us to change the culture so that Canadian politicians do not debase us like this in the future!]

If there is an election, let us fight it. Afghanistan is worth an election. Torture is worth an election. Let us have an election where the big subject is whether the cynical abuse of “national security” is no big deal. Where selective leaking of documents to discredit a courageous whistle-blower is fine by us. Where dumping people as quickly as we can into the hands of murderers and rapists is what this country is all about. Where making insurgents fight all the harder against the Canadian Forces because defeat and incarceration means being castrated, blinded, crippled, or some other horror, is “supporting the troops.” Where throwing billions of dollars and over one-hundred Canadian lives down a rat-hole is sound foreign policy. Let us debate this evil policy. Let us debate this evil government.

To conclude: If we do not think an election is a realistic possibility, then we MUST come up with some more viable strategy. This is the image of our country at stake here. This is whether or tax-dollars and our silence support the rape of the children of impoverished Afghan peasants at the hands of a brutal, corrupt government defended by our soldiers and our soldiers’ lives.

If we decide that there’s nothing that can be done, then nothing will be done. And we will be signalling that when Canada signs covenants against torture, it’s meaningless. That we concede that the rule of law does not apply to our own governments. [In a case as clear as this, giving the harpercons a pass out of defeatism is stating just that.]

The harpercon Government’s Response to the Torture Scandal Thus Far

harpercon Government: “There’s nothing in Richard Colvin’s memos that indicates anything wrong. The fact that Colvin says otherwise shows he doesn’t remember what he, himself wrote.”

Committee on Afghanistan: “Can we see the memos?”

harpercon Government: “No.”

Three generals, including the imbecile Hillier: “We’ve looked at the memos that the committee hasn’t seen (and which, technically, we shouldn’t have seen either) and we’re proud to say that our behaviour, like our character, is unimpeachable.”

Committee on Afghanistan: “Can we see those memos?”

harpercon Government: (Snicker!) “No.” (Snicker, giggle, snort, chuckle.)

Christie Belchford and Rosie DiMoron: “Ungh-blahhhh!!!! Oannnggghhhhh.” [drooling, weird eye-rolling] “HOOOOOOOT!!!!!” “EEEH! EEEEH!!!! EEEHHH!!!” “Angh!!!” [Translation: “My oh my, but aren’t we two of the most scuzziest scuz-ball scuzzies that you ever did see?”]

Committee on Afghanistan: “Can we see the memos that you leaked to one of those brain dead stupid hacks?”

harpercon Government: “No.”

stephen harper: “It’s detestable that the Opposition is calling our brave soldiers ‘torturers’ and ‘war criminals!’ I am proud to hide stand behind the troops who are definitely not guilty of war crimes. I didn’t turn those prisoners over to be, … um, … whatever might have happened to them! Some soldiers did! And they’re NOT war criminals!”

Yeah, we’ve had enough of this stupid bullshit.

1929 and Today

Earlier, I brought up some differences between 1929 (the year the Great Depression began) and today. Among those differences there is the more timely use of counter-cyclical fiscal policy, the continued easing of monetary policy, a larger public sector and, even if I didn’t mention it last time I’ll mention it now, greater income support programs (unemployment insurance, general welfare assistance) relative to what we had in 1929.

All of these things have worked to prevent us from having slipped into a downward economic spiral as happened between 1929 and 1932 (the worst year of the Great Depression). Obviously though, we’re not out of the woods yet. Unemployment (especially in the USA) continues to rise, along with bankruptcies and foreclosures. Supposedly the big bust in commercial real-estate is still to hit. Some economists have said that employment is a “lagging indicator” meaning that it takes a while for unemployment to rise in tandem with a financial meltdown and credit crunch and then it takes a while for employment to rise after the financial and credit crises have been resolved.

The problem with that analysis is that there doesn’t appear to be any indication that there’s going to be any sector producing good, stable employment for large numbers of people anytime soon. We’re going to be mired in an even more dismal labour market than we’ve had since 1990, and this time the “credit” (re: DEBT) that sustained the expansion of household consumption is tapped-out.

So, are we still headed for economic Armageddon?

Perhaps. Here’s the thing. It might be possible for us to limp along like this as a society for a number of years. The factors I mentioned earlier still have a lot of life in them, especially government counter-cyclical spending. All of the weeping and wailing about exploding deficits is misinformed, dangerously simplistic nonsense. Crooks and Liars had an interesting graphthat serves once again to dispel all this deficit hysteria we’ve been conditioned to feel but which should have been forever dispelled by Linda McQuaig’s bestseller: Shooting the Hippo.

We are not in any sort of danger of hitting a “deficit wall.” Neither is the United States. We aren’t today and we weren’t in 1993 when Paul Martin and Jean Chretien were slashing billions in needed public services while simultaneously giving away billions in tax-cuts to the wealthy and the corporations.

Even after years of bush II’s tax-cuts and deficits, and Obama’s stimulus spending, the USA’s debt-to-GDP ratio is still under 60 percent. I once read somewhere that the “debt-wall” that a nation crashes into and then becomes unable to borrow anymore money is hit at a debt-to-GDP ratio of 80 percent, but this is bullshit. Japan has a debt-to-GDP ratio of almost 120% and it’s in no danger. The simple fact of the matter is that a Canadian household with an income of $100,000 and with no other outstanding loans or credit card debt except for a $300,000 mortgage has a debt-to-householdGDP ratio of 300 percent. And when a couple making 100 g’s a year buy a $300,000 house, nobody shows up screaming at them for burdening their kids with a crippling level of debt.

The point is, Canada, the USA, the whole industrialized world, can limp along at this anaemic level of economic growth for years to come with no danger of ever hitting a “debt wall.” Of course, elites will continue to propagate the easily-demolished claim that all of these necessary deficits (for insufficient counter-cyclical spending on construction projects and military spending AND for continued financial sector bail-outs) are going to require belt-tightening and social welfare cuts, education cuts, etc., in order to prevent us from going completely bankrupt, and that brings me back to the central problem.

We COULD still have an economic collapse because the causes of the 2008 collapse are still with us, and under the deluded policies of our elites, becoming even greater. There is simply nothing in the real economy that points towards sustainable economic growth. The last few years of the bush II bubble were built on deficit spending (with USA military spending being about the only thing that “benefited” ordinary US-Americans) and a real-estate/financial bubble built on massive fraud.

The wars continue, but the real-estate bubble has collapsed. We now have a stock-market bubble based on the US Federal Reserves expansion of the money supply, which is unsustainable. Meanwhile, the elites have completely failed to learn their lesson and instead of directing some of the wealth back into households to spend in the real economy, or to prevent homelessness and bankruptcies from exploding, are insanely trying to squeeze yet more blood from ordinary people’s bodies. They’re laying people off, in both the public and the private sectors, and calling in debts.

The way I see it, most all of us go through life hoping for the best. Thinking “it’s going to be okay” when for the vast majority of us, it doesn’t end okay. We all die and most of us die painfully and in fear. Very few of us get the uplifting “good death” drifting painlessly off to the big sleep after having shared our last affections for our loved ones gathered ’round. We all say “it’s going to be okay” simply to get through day to day.

It’s the same with elites. They imagine “it’s going to be okay” while they continue to plunder and reinforce the patterns that almost did them in the last time. For them, this has not been so bad. In the USA, the tax-payers rescued them and instead of unemployment they’re getting $21 billion dollars in bonuses. Rather than see the trauma of the working class as a problem, they see it as an opportunity. Manufacturing is a good environment for trade unions. It’s awesome when manufacturing jobs go to dictatorships in the global South, because it destroys the union movement in the home countries where you can’t just shoot union leaders like you can in Indonesia or Colombia. Using the deficit as an excuse to slash the public sector is another way to destroy those pesky union movements. Get everybody working in low-paying, uncertain service sector jobs and the whole working class can be tamed into submissiveness. Overburdened with debt and with no job security, you can ask anything you want from them. And, “it’s going to be alright” because, well, it just will.

Who cares that these people will be less capable of sustaining the consumption levels that were totally unrealasitic (but for expanding credit-card debt and an imaginary rise in real-estate wealth) for the past twenty years? Who cares that this continued shovelling of taxpayer dollars relies on an economy that hasn’t yet gone completely down the toilet?

Well, they should care. Because it might be impossible to sustain this nightmarish policy, even on it’s own terms. To speak nothing of the possibility of a democratic revolt as the injustice of this system is stripped naked for all to see, as elites resort to such blatant theft to sustain themselves.

And this all ignores the reality that we’re headed for an environmental catastrophe that requires we direct the bulk of our resources and talents to something other than propping-up a bunch of insular, selfish pricks in the banking and investment industries.

That’s enough for today.

Raising EI Premiums

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the Tories defend the measure as necessary to ensure the EI program breaks even, particularly given a current freeze on premiums that’s keeping them artificially low right now.

The Harper government said it’s merely trying to ensure that the EI program balances out over time. It wants to recoup shortfalls in EI collections that it expects will have built up over the next few years as a result of the recession – which has sent unemployment skyrocketing.

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

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

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

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

The Winnipeg General Strike: 90 Years On

Since this year is the 90th anniversary of a pivotal event in labour history in Canada, I thought it warranted a front page article.

The Winnipeg General Strike happened in 1919. It was in the aftermath of WWI when soldiers were returning home and had trouble finding work, and many people were struggling in poverty. Immigrants, as always, were popular scapegoats. In particular, immigrants from Eastern Europe were feared in particular, due to the recent Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. The ruling class of the day feared that such an event was imminent here in Canada as well, so they refused to consider the grievances the strikers raised. As a result, workers from literally all sectors of the city, even those not in unions, called for a General Strike, which took effect on May 15th. Since many of these affected workers were also responsible for essential services, the strikers themselves arranged to keep those services in place during the strike. As this was a general time of social unrest, sympathy strikes broke out in other places, such as Calgary and Brandon.

The business class of the day formed a “counter-strike,” called the Citizen’s Committee Of 1000. They refused to negotiate, and saw the strike as nothing short of a conspiracy to overthrow the government. The Canadian government eventually intervened on the side of the Citizen’s Committee. On June 21 the Northwest Mounted Police moved in (Winnipeg city police had walked off in support of their striking brothers and sisters), resulting in 30 casualties and 1 death. The strike ended on June 25th.

Despite the arrests and jailing of several labour leaders, the strike had a major impact that would be felt for decades. It gave birth to the labour movement, and as a result of their struggle the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation was formed in 1933. The CCF, which would later become the NDP, fought for a better life for all Canadians regardless of wealth. The results of this struggle can be seen in such things as the Canada Pension Plan, medicare, and the right to form trade unions. And just in time for this anniversary, the musical Strike! is scheduled to play during the August Long weekend. The plan is to make this an annual event. A fine tribute to an important event in Winnipeg history.

Thoughts on the Disruption of Townhall Meetings in the USA

I’d mentioned during the time of the proposed Dion-Layton coalition that it was one of those times when Canadian politics were as easy to write about as US-American politics. US-American politics are painted in such bold contrasts, with such obvious villains and not-quite-as-villainous-but-you know-not-batshit crazy-insane-types. (It just occurred to me that the Democrats aren’t “heroes” by any stretch of the imagination, but their opponents are so demented that it’s still a clear choice which team you’d choose if you were forced to.)

So here we have something that’s easy to write about, coming from the stark contrasts of US-American politics, but which also involves issues that are universal in their application.
The questions under consideration are also so timeless that it doesn’t matter that I’m posting this a little late in the day. Democratic President, Barack Obama (a loathsome public relations character in my estimation) is proposing some god-awful healthcare “reform” bill that just MIGHT be a start to build genuine reform but which is inarguably an example of government intrusion into the right of private insurance companies to mismanage US healthcare as profit-minded capitalists see fit. As any sort of regulation is anathema to them, these private insurers are determined to kill Obama’s proposals however anemic they are.

A number of professional lobbyists and astro-turf organizers have tapped into the mentally-submerged 30 percent of the US-American population that supports the Repugnican Party to the bitter-end, building upon the ridiculous “Tea-Bagging” movement of anti-Democratic protest, calling upon this army of idiots to show up and shut-down “Town Hall” meetings held by Democratic Congresspersons to discuss Obama’s healthcare package.

Now, first of all, the term “astro-turf” isn’t exactly accurate with these mobs. “Astro-turf” (as opposed to genuine “grass-roots” organizations) exist on paper mainly. It’s generally beyond the means of “astro-turf” groups to get hundreds of people out in force in several communities at once. What we have here is a genuine social movement. A movement of really stupid people being manipulated into action by a tiny group of elites who don’t care about them. The FOX network has been the elites’ voice, talking to these sub-cretins, getting them genuinely stirred up about, … oh, nonsensical, insane things like Medicare being taken over by the government. [Note: Medicare is a government program.]

What I’d like to take issue with is the idea that their behaviour at these town-halls is bad, in and of itself. That shouting-down and harassing politicians who don’t do what you like but who do things that you really, really DON’T like is bad. I actually think it’s great. The fact that they’ve been given tips on how to shut a meeting down rather than to debate the issues is a drag, but that just makes it all the more justifiable for the other side to try to shut them down and then pummel them with the facts. To put it simply, if these citizens show themselves to be nothing more than ignorant, right-wing blowhards, get your own bully-boys to intimidate them, force them to try to explain themselves, and when they show themselves to be the dunces that they are, get it up on YouTube. It won’t be “polite” exchange of ideas, but for fuck’s sake, that sort of went out the window at the very beginning, didn’t it. There’s a lot of passion here and it can’t be confined into some polite, technocratic discourse. Decent Democrats are passionate about STARTING to do something about the 50 million US-Americans with no access to healthcare, the bankruptcies caused by medical bills and shitty insurance policies from despicable healthcare insurers. And the yahoos, idiots, fools, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage fans and thugs and the confused, geriatric senile dimwits are passionate about how they think Obama is trying to …

To abandon a market-oriented society and transfer it to a Soviet-style, government-centered, bureaucratic-run and mandated program, that is the thing that will put the stake in the heart of freedom in this country. […] re-education camps for young people […] an American KGB […] They’ll take away guns, they’ll take way our sovereignty, they’ll take away our currency, our money. They’re already starting to put all the global framework in with this bullcrap called global warming. This is an effort to globalize, to tie together everybody on the planet! […] bureaucrats are going to decide who lives and dies […] 35 terrorist training camps spread across the U.S.A. […] Take a look a the FEMA camps — there are concentration camps in the U.S. today! […] There’s a cemetery somewhere in Arizona where they just dug 30,000 fresh graves, which wait now for the revolution. […] Baxter International — a major Obama contributor — developed a vaccine for bird flu that actually kills people. […] Google Congressman Alcee Hastings and House Bill 684 and you’ll see that they’re planning at least six civilian labor camps. […] Google an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about train cars with shackles.

Now, of course, I’d like for the right-wing media buffoons, cowards and morons at FOX News and other loathsome places, who are working themselves into a lather about how their stupid “tea-baggers” are being portrayed as “mobs,” and who are screeching that the Democrats are trying to take away the right of citizens to protest, to either apologize for their vicious slanders against “CODE-PINK” and their bullying suggestions that they should be tazered or beaten to a pulp. If these moronic, imbecile “tea-baggers” are just citizens expressing their anger, then all the right-wing bullhorns who are defending their right to protest must first, get down on the sidewalk on all fours and grovel at the feet of a CODE-PINK activist, and live, on television, heartfully apologize for their past slanders and threats. Otherwise they’re just engaging in the full-on hypocrisy that makes one’s entire life a stupid, useless joke that would have been better lived by someone else.

[Scene: Dark hotel room in a tropical country. A pretty 14-year old native girl is pushing herself against the wall, quietly waiting for it all to end as Rush Limbaugh cries softly to himself, his last Viagra taken earlier in the afternoon, and his manhood now totally unable to rise to the occasion, past the barriers of his own self-loathing.]

There’s probably a right-wing memo somewhere saying that the guy with the gun strapped to his leg and holding the poster which reads “It’s time to water the tree of liberty” (a reference to Thomas Jefferson’s “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure“) was a Democratic plant put there to make the genuine protestors look bad, but you can see for yourself that nobody is telling that guy to fuck-off because he’s just a trouble maker, the way the leftists did with the fake anarchists at Montebello.

Let’s face it people, we’re at war with the greedheads and the stupid people. I’ll repeat that: We’re at WAR with the GREEDHEADS and the STUPID PEOPLE, and in this war there can be no compromise. Because to a stupid-head, “compromise” means you only cut-off half of your opponent’s body and to a greedhead, “compromise” means something nasty that you have to try to wriggle out of. We cannot continue to allow the greedheads and the stupid heads to set the agenda and control the debate. If they want to get physical to try to enforce their agenda, they should expect that others will get physical back.

Finally, I’ll let David Lindorff say it a bit more eloquently than I have.

Never mind that you’ve got ignorant numbskulls demanding that Democrats in Congress “Keep your government hands off my Medicare!” or that you’ve got right-wing protesters in their 70’s who are all on Medicare irrationally shouting “Keep government out of health care!” The point is that confused and ignorant or not, these people are willing to make the effort to travel fair distances to make their voices heard, and they’re willing to stand up, shout, and even scuffle for the chance to make their point.
It’s not as if Democrats haven’t gone to great length to fill those same halls with earnest supporters.
The real question is why is the left in the US so goddamned polite and domesticated that these Right Wing cranks look positively rowdy.

Where is that passion today? For the most part, the left, in all its various guises–environmentalists, labor unions, civil rights advocates, health care reform advocates, anti-war activists–have become neutered office-chair potatoes, sending canned emails to their elected representatives or to the White House, occasionally marching politely inside of pre-approved, permitted and police-prescribed routes, and attending sponsored events like the current round of town meetings, perhaps to raise polite objections to aspects of a proposed piece of legislation.
The agenda of the left in today’s America is being written not by uncompromising radicals in the street as in earlier decades of struggle, but by the bought-and-paid Democrats in Washington. The left, such as it is, has become simply a reactive force, trying to make discrete little improvements in the truly horrible legislation–health care “reform,” cap-and-trade, the Employee Not-So-Free Choice Act, continued Iraq and Afghanistan War funding bills–that is being offered by a wholly corrupt Washington in thrall to corporate lobbyists.
We all need to take a lesson from the Right, and from those lusty, cantankerous folks who are raising hell at those pathetic “town meetings.”

Read the whole thing.

I Didn’t Want Obama to Fail But Now I Think I Do

First of all, I’m a Canadian and Obama is the President of the United States. So what do I care about this foreign leader? Easy. He’s the president of the most powerful country in the world. The bulwark of the entire world system. What happens in the USA affects us all.

Secondly, it’s true. I didn’t want Obama to fail. I actually said that I wanted him to succeed. At the time, there were worrisome trends and now, well, now the facts speak for themselves. Obama is merely the re-branding of the desperate monstrousness of late US-capitalism:

Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, we are being duped into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest.

That quote is also taken from an essay linked to in an earlier post. But reading these missives (one and two) from “a tiny revolution” really made me think that time has run out for Barack Obama to redeem himself and the USian political scene. One:

This is the fatal flaw of liberals, which comes screaming to the fore whenever the Democrats they revere are in power: they genuinely believe they have an ally in the White House who shares their concerns and cares about what they have to say. The fact that in Obama’s case we already have mountains of evidence to dispel that fantasy—even after so little time—matters not at all; like all dogmatic beliefs, this one is proof against reason. And the fact that people who labor under such a towering delusion also spend so much of their time accusing others of political naivete is just one of the many brain-numbing ironies we get to enjoy whenever a Democrat becomes president.

And two:

This is part of a Los Angeles Times story on the recent U.S. bombing in Afghanistan that killed about 140 people:

Piercing wails rose into the antiseptic-scented air where four blistered
and bandaged little girls lay in side-by-side hospital beds. One of them,
5-year-old Ferishteh, writhed and cried almost continuously, unable to find a
position that did not cause her pain from the burns that covered her arms, legs
and torso. … Nurses and doctors said Nazbibi’s father, Saeed
Malham, rarely left her bedside … “When they told me what had happened, I
fainted under a tree,” he said. Then he rushed home, returning to a village
marked by destroyed homes and fresh graves.

And here’s Barack Obama, in Sderot, Israel in July, 2008:

“If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep
at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that.”

How many people have the rockets from Gaza killed? Let’s say ten. How many
people were killed as Israel did everything in its power to stop that? At least
100 times as many. Thus, according to the rules as articulated by the current
president, Afghans may now kill 14,000 Americans.

That may seem like a lot, but fair’s fair.

Yesterday, I linked to a wonderful article “In Praise of Revolutions.” In it, the author (Serge Halimi) says:

However desirable they may be, revolutions remain rare. They require simultaneously: a broad mass of dissatisfied people who are prepared to act; a state whose legitimacy and authority are challenged by some of its usual supporters (as a result of economic incompetence, mismanagement of the military or crippling internal divisions); and finally, pre-existing radical ideas that question the social order and which, though they may be held only by a tiny minority to begin with, are capable of attracting all those whose loyalty to the old order has crumbled.

This being so, the demands of social movements are primarily defensive – as can be seen at the moment. They aim to re-establish a social contract which they believe to have been broken by the bosses, landowners, bankers and governments. Food, work, shelter, education, prospects: not (yet) a glorious future but “a vision of the present stripped of its most painful aspects” . It is only later, when the inability of those in power to fulfil the obligations which legitimate their power and privileges becomes apparent that the question is sometimes asked outside militant circles: “whether kings, capitalists, priests, generals, bureaucrats, etc, serve any useful social purpose at all”. At this point, it is possible to talk of revolution. The transition from one stage to another may occur quickly – in two years in 1789, a few months in 1917 – or may never happen.

And maybe that’s what’s happening here. Alexander Cockbourn is sometimes too much of a smartass for me, but I appreciated it when he said that bush II trashed the US empire better than anyone else and that Obama’s ability to restore that crucial thin patina of respectability to it is something that opponents of empire ought to fear. Whether it’s a Repugnican run empire or a Democrat empire, it’s still a hateful, oppressive, inhuman empire. US power (military, economic, cultural, scientific) is still enormous. US government debt-to-GDP ratios are at sustainable levels despite all the hand-wringing about bush II’s debts. But the ability of the country to compel absolute compliance over two-thirds of the world is fading. And what it has to do to maintain this compliance becomes increasingly physical and messy internationally and increasingly reliant on growing economic inequality and oppressiveness domestically. bush II managed to get millions of USians angry and active, questioning their political system, and Obama seemed tailor-made to quell this anger, restore the lost faith among more intelligent USians, and get the empire back on track. But Obama’s thin facade cannot mask the inhumanity of his mission. Perhaps betrayal at the hands of Barack Obama will galvanize enough intelligent, angry USians into sincerely questioning the political-economic system they live within.

Obviously, this extended debate about wanting Obama to fail or not was inspired by Rush Limbaugh’s blunt admission that he wanted Obama to fail. Limbaugh hated the mildly progressive veneer of Obama’s Democratic Party and wanted it to be discredited. Limbaugh was widely condemned by almost everyone within the Democratic Party and leftwards. Limbaugh, like me, wants a “revolution” to result from this failure. So how do I differentiate myself from Limbaugh? In the first place, Limbaugh’s also a racist who wants black people in general to failbecause it validates his own white-shit existence. Secondly, when it comes to understanding how society works, Limbaugh is a complete moron. His gift is to be able to articulate his own moronic opinions and those of other losers in quick time. But at its core, whatever “revolution” Limbaugh hopes to bring about will be marred by its own deep-seated insanity.

Special note: This has to be one of the most pathetic things I’ve ever read.

“A Question Of Priorities”

That was NDP Leader Jack Layton’s response when asked how he would pay for his proposed national home care program. In this election, as is the case often, the NDP promises the largest amount of program spending of the major political parties. The media picks up on these promises, with headlines saying things like ”Layton pledges $8B for retraining, ‘green-collar’ workforce,” and thus it fits the commonly-held frame that the NDP make expensive promises the country cannot afford.

But is this actually the case? This frame only addresses one side of the affordability question, the spending side. The other side, the revenue side, is neglected. As Greg Morrow of Democraticspace points out, tax reductions must be factored in as well. This simple step can dramatically change cost projections of party platforms.

Yet in comparison to program spending, the media isn’t nearly as concerned about tax reductions. Why? Because political discourse has been deliberately tilted away from program spending. This serves the right-wing interests well, as they have successfully convinced Canadians that the programs they value are simply not feasible. Yet Canadians still value their social programs to the point where no politician can be elected without paying lip service towards them.

Getting back to the NDP platform, the question remains, what are the priorities? Where is this money going to come from? Throughout the campaign, Layton said he will pay for his program by canceling $50 billion in Harper’s corporate tax cuts. These measures will produce more noticeable benefits than tax cuts, in the form of direct employment from new programs like childcare, and overall improvements in quality of life. Layton is correct to frame this as a question of priorities, and what better time for a country to decide its collective priorities than an election?