Friday, December 31, 2010

Free Market Theories Again Hit Canadians Right in the Pocketbook


Another neoconservative, free market theory has gone up in flames, as deregulation hurts the Canadian consumer ... again.

This time it was the telephone industry, that is enjoying massive profits at our expense.
A report detailing the effects of deregulation in the telecommunications industry finds Canada's three largest telephone companies have benefited at the expense of consumers.

... Its author, Michael Janigan, told CBC News that four years after deregulation, Bell, Telus and Rogers are making "super-normal profits," while consumers are paying too much and getting too little in terms of service.

"We still have three big players with over 90 per cent of the market, and they're pretty fat and happy," Janigan said in an interview with CBC News. "We're still seeing the incredible clout of the big telcos in relation to their ability to swing competition in their favour." The report points to a policy decision in December 2006 by then Industry Minister Maxime Bernier that ordered the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to use market forces to the maximum extent possible ...
Don't fret over all those profits though. They are getting another huge tax break. Whew. That was close. They almost had to give us some of our money back.

Higher taxes, higher gas prices, higher telephone bills. Good job Harper. Remind me again why neoconservatism is good for us.

Why do the Poor Support a Plutocracy?

With income disparity being the hot topic topic today, there are many of us questioning how the wealthiest citizens, have been able to convince the poorest, that they should be on their side. If conventional wisdom is to soothe the huddled masses, to avoid civic unrest, I don't think it will work in the long term. Eventually growling stomachs will drown out the burps of the well fed.

I actually blogged on this before, questioning the phenomenon, and while I still haven't figured it out completely, I'm getting closer to understanding the tactics used to create this perverse logic.

The wealthy speak the language of their "peasants". It's despicable, but brilliant.

George Bush belongs to one of the wealthiest families in America. His grandfather, Preston Bush, made a fortune financing the Nazis. And the Bush Administration was by far the best friends that Wall Street ever had. And yet much of his support came from Americans with little help of acquiring much wealth.

Karl Rove insisted that when President Bush had "a choice between Wall Street and Main Street," he came on down on the side of "the little guy." And yet the exact opposite was true. Elitism masquerading as populism:

A president who believes in "preventive" military wars certainly understands the value of preventive rhetoric in political wars. At the start of the 2003 battle over his "jobs and growth plan," while talking to reporters at his Crawford, Texas, ranch on January 2, Bush said, "I understand the politics of economic stimulus—that some would like to turn this into class warfare. That's not how I think."

What should it be called, then, when a father and his son attacked rival Michael Dukakis for representing the "Harvard boutique"? Or when Bush Id AP reporter Scott Lindlaw—during a month long vacation at his ranch said--Most Americans don't sit in Martha's Vineyard swilling white wine." Or when W., telling how a teacher and a fireman had difficulty finding a doctor during a pregnancy, blasted high medical malpractice rates, concluding with "What we want is quality healthcare, not rich trial lawyers"? Writing in the Washington Post, E. J. Dionne observed that "if setting up a teacher and a firelighter against 'rich trial lawyers' is not class warfare, then Karl Marx is the current editor of the Wall Street Journal's editorial page."

In George W. Bush we have a president who's a fourth-generation business heir, a man who never really pounded the pavement but accumulated his wealth through family contacts and favors. As president, he moves aggressively and successfully to enact a fiscal program that (a) reduces taxes on the "investor class" more in percentage terms than on the middle class, b) abolishes the "dead billionaires' tax" (estate tax), (c) shifts the burden of taxes to "earned" income and away from "unearned income" (dividends and capital gains), and, for good measure, (d) changes IRS practice so fewer multimillionaires are audited and more poor people are. (The number of civil fraud penalties against corporations plunged two-thirds, from 555 in 1993 to 159 in 2002.) Given that tax cuts for the top I percent equal all the cuts to the bottom 90 percent—and given the trillions of dollars quietly shifting from the accounts of labor and future generations to today's investor class—George W. Bush is redistributing wealth far more than George McGovern or Huey Long ever dreamed possible. (1)

And Bush's tactics are not his alone, but part of the neoconservative strategy.

In Ontario, Neocon Mike Harris used this tactic with NDP leader Bob Rae, often referring to him as "The Professor", because he was a Rhodes Scholar. He also feigned empathy with those struggling due to his policies, by suggesting that he knew what it was like to have to live on beans and bologna, something his parents were quick to refute. Harris never ate those things out of necessity, if ever. He grew up in an affluent home.

Stephen Harper, also grew up never knowing hunger, and yet he tries to paint himself as a man of the people. Opposing those who live in "Ivory Towers", to justify his cuts to the Arts and the Draconian crime bills. And like Bush, who criticized rival Michael Dukakis for representing the "Harvard boutique", Harper is constantly using "Harvard" terms to discredit Michael Ignatieff, who not only got his PhD from there, but also taught at Harvard for about five years.

And let's not forget during the last debates, when Harper pretended to understand how the unemployed felt, by saying that he himself had been unemployed for several months. Yet when reporters later asked him about it, he admitted that he was sitting at home waiting for an election, while his wife ran a lucrative printing business. Her biggest client was the Reform Party that he would be running for. That's not unemployed, it's lazy.

And then there's Rob Ford, another millionaire trying to speak "peasant". And he brings on board yet another millionaire spokesperson for the "little guy", Don Cherry.

And don't even get me started on the corporate sponsored Tea Party.

We have got to start breaking down the Neocon language. Corporations are funnelling huge amounts of money to think tanks and foundations, all attempting to convince citizens that extreme wealth held by a few is good for us. THINK!

Does that make any sense to you? THINK!

Are the seniors (Baby Boomers) really at fault? THINK!

Is Stephen Harper really a Tory? THINK!

Should Canadians go further into debt to give corporations another huge gift? THINK!

And when you're done thinking, VOTE!

It's time to take this country back, because the only ones feeding from the public trough are the gluttons, and the Harper government is spoon feeding them.

Sources:

1. The Book on Bush: How George W. (mis) Leads America, By Eric Alterman and Mark Green, Penguin Books, 2004, ISBN: 0-670-03273-5, Pg, 54-55

Is Canada Now a Plutocracy or a Corporatocracy? It Sure Isn't a Democracy

A Plutocracy is rule by the wealthy, or power provided by wealth.

It used to refer to countries with a system where rich persons had more votes than poor, but the definition has been modernized.

Plutocracy is now used to define the "disproportionate influence the wealthy have on political process in contemporary society ... Kevin Phillips, author and political strategist to U.S. President Richard Nixon, argues that the United States is a plutocracy in which there is a "fusion of money and government."" (1)

There is no argument that there has been a fusion of money and power in this country.

But perhaps a better term to describe our system of government today, under Neoconservatism, would be a Corporatocracy, which "denotes a system of government that serves the interest of, and may be run by, corporations and involves ties between government and business. Where corporations, conglomerates, and/or government entities with private components, control the direction and governance of a country, including carrying out economic planning ..." (2)

I first heard the term, when used in a story on the Haiti earthquake, by author and activist Marguerite Laurent. She was the first to suggest that the Earthquake may have been man-made, since American oil companies had been drilling on a faultline there. Soon after she published her theories, the industry went into damage control, and began discussing the oil gushers on the island, that they claimed were triggered by the quake.
After being called crazy and un-American for writing that the 2010 earthquake gives the US the perfect disaster-capitalism opportunity to come out from behind the UN and openly occupy Haiti to secure Haiti's oil ... [a] strategic location and other riches for the corporatocracy... a veteran oil company man comes forward in Business Week to say, and one wonders how he can so authoritatively speculate about the area of the faultline without intimate knowledge of the drillings .. Haiti lies in an area that has undiscovered amounts of oil, and the earthquake "may have left clues" to petroleum reservoirs! Oil that, uhmmm, "could aid economic recovery in the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation." (3)
In his annual bluster (once a year that he talks to the press), Stephen Harper cited his handling of the Haiti crisis as one of the shining moments of the year. And yet if you step outside of the Canadian media, you learn that once again Canada has embarrassed itself on the International stage. Only 1.5% of aid came from us.

Stephen Harper was in Haiti to protect corporate interests, fearing that Cuba, one of the first countries to actually provide medical care, might try to lay claim to the poorest nation's riches. He was photographed with our big war machines, letting the communist country know that he had big guns and someone presumably knew how to use them.

Harper once again, used our tax dollars to help his corporate sponsors. And he threatened our charitable organizations, who were actually assisting the victims, with loss of funding if they attempted to criticize his government's handling of anything.

But our Corporatocracy goes much deeper.
The concept of corporatocracy is that corporations, to a significant extent "own" or have massive power over governments, including those governments nominally elected by the people, and that they exercise such power not by back-room conspiracies but by their enormous, concentrated economic power, and by legal in-the-open mechanisms (lobbyists, campaign contributions to office holders and candidates, threats to leave the state or country for another with less oversight and more subsidies.) (2)
These latest corporate tax cuts, which are now being sanctioned by the NDP, are absolutely mind blowing. We are deep in debt and mired in deficit, and yet we are going to give the corporate sector more money? What have they done for us so far, besides create the latest economic crisis?

They are like the spoiled child, continually threatening to run away from home. I say pack their bags and put them on the doorstep. They won't leave. We've got the well stocked refrigerator (all the natural resources) that they need to thrive.

But if they want to live under our roof, they will abide by our rules. It's that simple. We are not raising their allowance because it's more than sufficient. They will clean their room (environment), they will do their chores, and they will behave. Otherwise, there's the door.

The biggest problem facing our country today, is the same problem facing society in the lead up to the Great Depression. Income disparity. And to fix this problem, before it turns into another depression, we need to raise corporate taxes, not lower them. And we need to channel those funds into legitimate job creation.

And we need to get rid of the failed system of neoconservatism. But we can't do that until the media stops calling them 'Tories'. When Canada had a Tory Party, everyone, media included, called the Reform movement, neoconservatism. Everyone. We used to dub Reform the "Revolt of the Rich", because we knew they were a party created by and for, the corporate sector.

Now journalists are banished if they even try to call them neocons, and it is doing this country a great disservice. Sixty-six Reformers may have bought out the interests of 12 PCers, but part of the package was not a 150 year tradition.

That is the point where we must begin to educate Canadians. This is a movement, not a government, and it is promising to destroy us.

Continuation:

1.
Why do the Poor Support a Plutocracy?

2.
Yes. God Knows Some Very Stupid Things Were Done.

3. If the Issue is Not Whether You Broke a Few Rules ...

4. Getting Tied to the Railroad Tracks by Wall Street Villains

5. If we Want to Recover we Need to Focus on the Middle





Sources:

1. Wikipedia: Plutocracy

2. Wikipedia: Corporatocracy

3. Oil in Haiti: Reasons for the US Occupation Part II, by Marguerite Laurent, Global Research

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Preview of Fox News North Proving That it Will Make Canadians Stupid

As Canada is poised to get it's own Fox News, courtesy of Stephen Harper and Canadian tax dollars, there's a story from the U.S. that we should pay attention to.

A study from the University of Maryland has revealed that Extended exposure to Fox News makes voters stupid.

Fox News is simply an extension of the Republican party and they flog ridiculous conspiracy theories, designed to convince the American people of things that are absolutely false.
The troublesome record of spin by conservative television station Fox News has long been a cause for concern to many Americans, who frequently allege that the nation's most viewed "news" network has the effect of dumbing down voters. Turns out, they were right.

A University of Maryland study (PDF) published earlier this month found that people in the survey who had the most exposure to Fox News were more likely to believe falsehoods and rumors about national and world affairs when compared to those who paid attention to other news outlets.
I can hardly wait.

One of the Best Videos I've Seen in a Long Time. Please Share.

Harper's Christmas Gift. Tax Cuts for the Wealthy. Tax Increases for Everyone Else


Now that the NDP are backing billions more in tax cuts for the wealthy, the richest Canadians are being assured another nice chunk of our money, bringing those gifts to about 60 billion dollars, since Harper took office.

But on the flip side, those lucky enough to still have jobs, are lucky enough to have their taxes go up. Yeah!
... nearly all Canadian workers will pay more income and payroll taxes in 2011 ... The Canadian Taxpayers Federation released its annual tax calculations Tuesday and projected an average increase of 2 per cent in 2011 over 2010. The federation said Ontario residents will see the sharpest payroll tax hike, with British Columbia and Nova Scotia right behind them. While those three provinces will be particularly hard hit, the federation’s report said the working poor – regardless of region – will be seriously affected.
So the working poor will be forced to pay more, so that the idle rich can pay less. Don't you just love Neoconservatism?

And the government's response is typical.
“[The] Harper government has not increased taxes, we believe in lower taxes and we have the record to prove it – cutting over 100 taxes and lowering taxes $3,000 for an average family,” Mr. Pothier wrote in an e-mail. He added the Conservative government has kept EI premiums low with rate freezes. Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty released a statement Tuesday mentioning tax relief, though it only addressed a reduction in the corporate income tax rate.
"Tax relief". He took the words right out of George Bush's mouth.
Conservatives Know about Framing: On the day that George W. Bush took office, the words tax relief started appearing in White House communiqu├ęs to the press and in official speeches and reports by conservatives ....
And the Bush Administration knew how to sell tax cuts for the wealthy, by making it appear as though everyone enjoyed this so-called "relief". And by suggesting that the wealthy would use their tax cuts to create jobs. And when jobs continued to be lost, there was a simple remedy. Give the rich more "tax relief".
So how did Bush deal with this proven failure? Like the character in Chicago who said, "You going to believe what you see or what I tell you?," Bush in 2003 brazenly attacked the problem head-on. "That six percent [jobless] number should say loud and clear to members of both political parties in the U.S. Congress, we need robust tax relief so our fellow citizens can find jobs"—even though four-fifths of the job losses followed his 2001 tax relief. So when press secretary Ari Fleischer said in mid-2003 that "tax cuts have helped create jobs and to promote growth in the economy," he must have had the economy of the Cayman Islands in mind. (1)
And while constantly suggesting that the average American was paying less taxes, the opposite was true.
The President also kept heralding the statistic that the "average" family would get back $1,083 from his proposed 2003 cuts. This combination of populist rhetoric and actual data would be more appealing, however, if it were true. But based on data from the Tax Policy Center, 80 percent of Americans will get three-fourths less than W.'s claim of an "average" tax cut of $1,083. Filers in the middle quintile of the income spectrum—the "median" household—would receive only $227, and that before increased local and state taxes due to federal cutbacks are subtracted. And the 42 percent of taxpayers who are neither married nor have children would get a "little bitty" $50 on average, according to Citizens for Tax justice. By including in his "average" the $20,762 each of the top 1 percent of all tax filers would receive and the $89,509 returned to those 0.2 percent earning a million or more annually, Bush's figure perfectly fit Mark Twain's definition of a "stretcher"—literally true but misleading. (1)
And the Harper government has their own "stretchers" when it comes to this so-called $3000 "tax relief" that all Canadians are supposed to have enjoyed.

Again, my best advice comes from Hannah Arendt. THINK!

Are we really paying less taxes? They lowered the GST by 2% but then shoved the HST down our throats, even having the audacity to use our tax dollars as bribe money. And yes the GST portion of the HST is lower, but it has been put on things that we never paid GST on before. There is no net benefit.

THINK!

Just because they say it, doesn't make it true. You just have to learn to speak Neocon. It's a bit Orwellian but a lot more complex. But to crack the code, remember that all language used is "framed" and wrapped in calculated ambiguity.

THINK!

"Tax relief" translates to "please give me the shirt off your back so my chauffeur can use it to clean my Mercedes." Only they never say please.
"If Ottawa giveth, then Ottawa can taketh away." - Stephen Harper
Sources:

1. The Book on Bush: How George W. (mis) Leads America, By Eric Alterman and Mark Green, Penguin Books, 2004, ISBN: 0-670-03273-5, Pg. 39-40

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pratte is Right. This is "One of the Most Incompetent and Harmful Governments this Country has Ever Known"


No truer words have ever been said.
Before this government does even more harm to the institution that is the government of Canada, the intelligent people within the federal cabinet have a duty to rise up and stop the pillaging. Otherwise, the Harper government may be remembered as one of the most ncompetent and harmful governments this country has ever known.
Bravo!

If The NDP Move to the Right They Will be Eaten Alive

There is an interesting column in the Star by Dave Goutor, assistant professor of labour studies at McMaster University.

Aside from the soothsaying about election results, he questions just where the NDP stand in today's political climate.

They appear to have stagnated, hovering somewhere between wanting to help workers and wanting a piece of the right-wing. Unfortunately, they can't have both. The right-wing is flailing, and that's not where they want to be.
The current political discourse is calling out for someone to get the public to step back and assess the damage of free-trade policies, tax-cutting, deregulation and the slashing of social programs. The free-market, fiscally conservative policies that have prevailed at least since the election of Brian Mulroney have never been more vulnerable to wide-ranging attack ... Countries that have embraced right-wing economic policies, led of course by the United States, are generally the ones in the biggest trouble. Ireland, to cite another case, used to be the darling of free-marketeers everywhere, including Tory Finance Minister Jim Flaherty; it now stands as an example of not only the catastrophic results of unrestrained financial recklessness, but also the failure of austerity measures to reassure financial markets.
So you can imagine my dismay when I read that they have decided to go the other way and support the Neoconservative agenda, even accepting the upcoming corporate tax cuts.

They have sold out and I think they will regret it, because Stephen Harper will eat them alive.

My Conversation With Irving Kristol on Welfare and Wages


A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

The late Irving Kristol (d. 2009) was a self-proclaimed Straussian and by his own labelling, the "Godfather of Neoconversation". He wrote a series of essays and books that became the basis for the movement.

In one he discusses "welfare" or "relief" and why he finds the concept absurd. I would like to challenge Mr. Kristol, because I find his arguments absurd.

Leo Strauss often had "conversations" with Plato, or at least at times his challenges and insights read like conversations, so I would like to converse with and challenge Irving Kristol.

I realize that he was an intellectual and certainly out of my league, but I'm going to invoke Hannah Arendt in The Human Condition. "What I propose, therefore, is very simple: it is nothing more than to think what we are doing."

There is too much compliance to what we are told is good for us, and not enough thinking. Because when you break it down, it's pretty simple.

We are continually transferring huge amounts of money to a government who is supposed to be using that money for the betterment of all citizens, and instead are using the money for the betterment of a chosen few.

And that is something, I "think" about often.

Essay on Pauperism
"In terms of the unemployed, of which we have over a million-and-a-half, don't feel particularly bad for many of these people. They don't feel bad about it themselves, as long as they're receiving generous social assistance and unemployment insurance. " - Stephen Harper (1)
Irving Kristol begins his musings on welfare by invoking Alexis de Tocqueville's, 1835 Essay on Pauperism. Tocqueville asks why, in the most "opulent" nation in the world [England], was there such an extraordinary problem of "pauperism". (The "problem" of pauperism, not necessarily a solution to.)

Concluding that too much public assistance can create idleness, he and Kristol also see a problem with the definition of poverty or pauperism. To the peasant, the ultimate goal was to have enough to eat. There was no desire to accumulate wealth. The only concern was survival.

However, in a modern city, the standards were different.

... in an "opulent" society, the idea of poverty itself undergoes a continual redefinition. The poor experience not only the need for a guaranteed minimum; they also suffer from what a modern sociologist would call "relative deprivation." Tocqueville puts the matter this way: "Among civilized peoples, the lack of a multitude of things causes poverty... In a country where the majority is ill-clothed, ill-housed, ill-fed, who thinks of giving clean clothes, healthy food, comfortable quarters to the poor? The majority of the English, having all these things, regard their absence as a frightful misfortune; society believes itself bound to come to the aid of those who lack them.... In England, the average standard of living a man can hope for in the course of his life is higher than in any other country of the world. This greatly facilitates the extension of pauperism in that kingdom." (2)

So the definition of poverty in the city, is different than that in the country.

The reasons for that, at least when this was written almost two centuries ago, was first off that those living in poverty in the city, had no land to work for food. But also their impoverishment was visible to those who took so much for granted.

How can you live conscience free, in a society with so much disparity?

The Welfare Explosion

The next body of work that Kristol critiqued was Regulating the Poor: The Function of Public Welfare by Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward. He calls their book "simpleminded", and "so crude in a quasi-Marxist way, that one is embarrassed to summarize it."

He scoffs at the notion from Piven and Cloward, that "Relief arrangements [under capitalism] are not shaped by the impulse to charity ... [they are] created and sustained to help deal with the malfunctions inherent in market economies."

Poverty in a modern society is often created by unemployment, and unemployment is often created when the "market economy" is in turmoil. The first to be cut by the corporate sector, during hard times, is the labour force, which creates a downward spiral.

The misguided notion that by giving more money to the corporate sector, jobs will be saved or created, has been proven over and over to be a myth. When companies were bailed out at the beginning of the latest "downturn", much of the money was used to give bonuses to executives and to buy up other companies that had gone bust.

Unemployment is still high, yet headlines in financial sections of newspapers, repeatedly include the words "record profits".

Piven and Cloward also wrote:
Relief arrangements are usually initiated or expanded in response to the political disorders that sometimes follow from the sharp economic downturns or dislocations that periodically beset market systems. The purpose of relief-giving at such times is not to ease hunger and want but to deal with civil disorder among the unemployed. (2)
Revolutions are often ignited by the lack of bread, real and metaphorical. And since Canada's crime rate is now at the lowest in our history, could this be why Stephen Harper is so intent on building more prisons?
"Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?" - Ebenezer Scrooge
So My Dear Mr. Kristol. This is What I "Think"
“These proposals included cries for billions of new money for social assistance in the name of “child poverty” and for more business subsidies in the name of “cultural identity”. In both cases I was sought out as a rare public figure to oppose such projects.” - Stephen Harper, (The Bulldog, National Citizens Coalition, February 1997)
Tocqueville also wrote that "There are two incentives to work: the need to live and the desire to improve the conditions of life." The basis of Neoconservatism or Libertarianism, is that everyone should look after themselves. But how can you find work when you have no clothing to wear, no food to eat, or no roof over your head?

Maybe if we take care of the first incentive, the second one will have a better chance of prevailing. We can always find money to give to Big Business or war, so there is no excuse not to channel a bit to our nation's disadvantaged, who might actually want to get out of the cycle of poverty.

Apparently the NDP and Conservatives are negotiating terms for the acceptance of the January budget. NDP finance critic, Thomas Mulcair, wants "future corporate cuts to be more targeted to ensure companies are investing in jobs and productivity."

"Future corporate tax cuts"? What happened to the NDP? Those terms should have been compulsory 50 billion dollars ago. From the day that Stephen Harper invited his corporate backers to slurp from the public trough. That is our money and we don't want "corporate tax cuts" that promise so much and give so little.

That money could have gone, and should be going, to actual job creation. If the NDP buy into this, they are going to lose most of their base.

Maybe they need to read Linda McQuaig's column: The growth of extreme inequality in Canada
The massive upward flow of income has largely been invisible to the public, even though it may well amount to the most significant change in Canadian society in decades. The impact on Canada's social fabric is huge and likely to grow. Recent research -- particularly the work of British epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett -- shows that less equal societies almost always have more violence, more disease, more mental health problems, higher infant mortality rates, reduced life expectancies, as well as less social cohesion. The effects are most pronounced at the bottom, but are evident throughout the society.
Or John Grace's review of the new book, Spirit Level, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, that he wrote for the UK Guardian.
They say, it's not just the deprived underclass that loses out in an unequal society: everyone does, even the better off. Because it's not absolute levels of poverty that create the social problems, but the differentials in income between rich and poor.
That is the only issue that the NDP should be raising. Not what to do with "future corporate tax cuts".

Irving Kristol speaks of the fact that welfare payments were based on the poverty level, which means that they are at the same as the lowest wage earner's income. But the problem is not the amount of "relief" but the fact that wages are so low. There's no reason for it.

And if he felt that this meant that people wouldn't work, as a result, he might want to think about a national childcare plan, because often those on assistance are single parents, who can't work for poverty level wages, and pay someone else to look after their children while they work.

He also felt that welfare took away a man's masculinity: "... welfare robs the head of the household of his economic function, and tends to make of him a "superfluous man." And he suggests that if single mothers are paid to raise their children, they will stay single or get rid of their male partner.

Notwithstanding the inequality of that notion, the problem again relates not only to unemployment, but the ability of people to work. Food, healthcare, clothing, shelter and childcare. Those needs must first be met.

And jobs paying higher than the poverty level, provide revenue from income tax, that can go to helping others to abandon their pauperism.

Yes, there will always be cheats, just as there will always be Big Business demanding more and more of our tax dollars, in some perverse sense of entitlement.

So my dear Mr. Kristol. Neoconservatism is failing society, but thanks for playing. And to my dear Mr. Mulcair. Give your head a shake.
"Courage, my friends; 'tis not too late to build a better world." - Tommy Douglas

Continuation:

1. My Conversation with Irving Kristol on the Welfare State

Soures:

1. Full text of Stephen Harper's 1997 speech, Canadian Press, December 14, 2005

2. Neo-Conservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea, By Irving Kristol, The Free Press, 1995, ISBN: 0-02-874021-1, Pg. 43-49

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jack Layton and Stephen Harper United Again. When Will You Learn Jack?


You would think that Jack Layton would have learned his lesson. Every time he falls for Harper, he only gets his heart broken.

But apparently with the pollsters already deciding the next election, Jackie has run back to Stevie's open arms and will support corporate tax cuts (the Layton special), death trap fighter jets and absolutely no action on climate change.

He is nothing but a hypocrite, if he falls for this.
In the fall of 2009 – after Mr. Ignatieff declared: “Mr. Harper, your time is up” – Mr. Layton, who had boasted of voting against the Tories in 79 consecutive confidence votes, changed course. The NDP abstained from Mr. Ignatieff’s motion that October to defeat the government, citing the need to pass government legislation extending Employment Insurance benefits. The NDP also cited EI improvements at the time as the reason for voting for a bill tied to the 2009 budget that it had earlier opposed.

79 times, and yet whenever the Harper government does something horrible, Ignatieff is blamed for not getting rid of the menace.

It's all on you Mr. Layton from here on in. You can't blame anyone else for your cowardice.

And this doesn't mean that the right will like you now, but good luck selling this to the left. Tommy Douglas would be so disappointed.

Will Afghanistan Host the Next Hundred Years' War?

With NATO and the United States committed to unlimited engagement in Afghanistan, some of us are wondering if and when this war will ever end.
The war being waged by the United States and the Western military alliance it controls, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is well into its tenth year and is already the longest war in the history of the U.S., Afghanistan and NATO alike. In fact it is NATO's first ground war and its first armed conflict in Asia.It has now graduated into a broader war, having engulfed neighboring Pakistan with a population of 170 million and a nuclear arsenal.

The war launched on the whim of a Clash of Civilizations; has escalated into the longest war in the history of the United States and Canada.

John Farmer from the New Jersey Star-Ledger says that History is repeating itself in Afghanistan. He's absolutely right. It's as though we've learned nothing.
The maddening thing about Afghanistan is that losing is not an acceptable option, but winning doesn’t seem a real possibility. It may be a new American tragedy, but it’s a very old one as history records these things.

All of this dates back to “The Great Game,” as history has dubbed it, the arrogant efforts of imperial powers dating back 200 years to dominate South Asia and what is now Afghanistan, a keystone to the region. Now, we’re caught in that cockpit.
A war that was lost from the day we first landed troops.

Stageleft says that it has turned into a circus, and Don Cherry's recent visit validates this notion. A great place for photo-ops, but I wouldn't want to live there. Because there is a war we don't see. One taking place behind those photo-ops. That's the war we need to stop.



This is not a partisan issue, but a human one, since it appears that this could very well outlast any government.

However, it is my civic duty to protest war and that's what I'm doing. Not as a Liberal but as a Canadian.

And it's my civic duty to protest so much money going to feed this war, when it could be better spent feeding our nation.

But on that note, Canada has won another award.

Yes we have won the American Foreign Policy in Focus, 'Lemon Award' for our purchase of fighter jets that are the world's Edsels.
The Golden Lemon Award goes to the Conservative government of Canada for shelling out $8.5 billion to buy 65 Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighters. According to Defense Minister Peter MacKay, “This multi-role stealth fighter will help the Canadian forces defend the sovereignty of Canadian airspace.” Exactly whom that airspace is being defended from is not clear.

The contract also includes a $6.6 billion maintenance agreement, which is a good thing because the F-35 has a number of “problems.” For instance, its engine shoots out sparks, and no one can figure out why. It is generally thought a bad idea for an engine to do that. There are several different types of F-35, and the vertical lift version of the aircraft doesn’t work very well. It seems the fan that cools the engine, doesn’t, and the panels that open for the vertical thrust, don’t. Also switches, valves and power systems are considered “unreliable.”

The F-35 is looking more and more like the old F-105 Thunderchief, a fighter-bomber used extensively at the beginning of the Vietnam War. Pilots nicknamed it the “Thud” (the sound the plane made when it hit the ground after failing to clear a runway, a rather common occurrence). One pilot said it had all the agility of a “flying brick,” thus its other nickname: the “lead sled.”
I'm so proud.

If Jim Flaherty is Going to Start Selling us Off, we Have Some Demands

The Harper government has been releasing a lot of new policies the past few days, hoping everyone is too busy with the Holidays to notice. But one of them should be getting our attention.

Jim Flaherty announced that he would be selling off Canadian assets.

He and his colleagues did the same in Ontario when with the Mike Harris government. Valuable prime real estate was almost given away to his party's campaign contributors. Real Estate that we cannot afford to buy back.

A couple of examples from the Ontario Legislature debates at the time:
... I believe people should take responsibility for their actions, and today I want to speak to you about your actions in connection with some land deals in Ontario. In particular, on June 16, 1998, the Ontario government sold a piece of land in Brampton for $1.27 million. Six days later, that property was flipped for $3.92 million. That meant the taxpayers lost out on over $2.5 million in connection with that deal alone.

... Let's go on to the next deal. On March 29, 1999, the Ontario government sold land in Mississauga for $1.92 million. In November, that parcel was flipped for $4.39 million. From the speculator's perspective it was a flip, but from the taxpayers' perspective it was a flop. In that particular case, they lost out on $2.4 million.

... Here's another deal now. On March 3, 1999, you approved a sale of government property for $5 million. According to industry standards, that property should have been sold for $10 million.
I don't believe that this is the way to go, but we already know that what the neocons want, the neocons will get, so we must make a few demands, before the gavel is dropped. Not that they'll listen to us, but we should at least try.

1. That the Crown corporations are sold only to Canadian buyers.

2. That all jobs are protected and the unions kept intact. We are losing all of this country's good union jobs and it's going to have a devastating affect in the long term.

3. That all sales are transparent and Canadians are kept in the loop.

4. That prices given reflect fair market values, not fair to Conservative contributors' values. Canadians are not interested in Flaherty's buddies having a "flipping" good time ... again!

When Religion Becomes a Tool for Power the Public Gets Squeezed Out


I watched a panel discussion last night on the domestic holy wars in the United States, where the debate was between the Evangelical Right and the Evangelical Left. Christian Conservative vs "Progressive" (their term) Christian Liberal.

I expected a showdown but was surprised to learn, at least so far as this panel went, that there was not that much of a divide. And I realized that those on the right, did not reflect the "values" of the more radical "Religious Right". The political movement that is making all the noise.

In fact one statement by a Christian Conservative was quite compelling. He warned that Evangelicals must be careful not to allow themselves "to become tools in someone else's power game". He specifically mentioned the Tea Party, which as we know, is heavily financed by the corporate sector.

Because their voice for Christianity is about war, hatred and greed, while the Christian Conservatives on this program, sought peace and claimed that any religious decisions made, must place human dignity above anything else. They wanted Climate Change addressed as well as income disparity, poverty, healthcare and the Aids crisis.

And they believed that government must take a more active role in addressing these problems, saying among other things, that a nation could not "foodbank themselves out of poverty".

I was floored. Since Stephen Harper has latched onto the Religious Right, and the American dollars behind it, many of us have felt that we must fight religion in politics, especially when it comes to foreign policy.

But it's not religion we should be fighting, but the exploitation of religion that has become "a tool in a power game."

The Globe and Mail has been running a series on Canada and our move toward secularism. I think the biggest problem is that many mainstream religions fail to inspire. Instead it has become a God and Country shouting match, with one side wanting more religion in politics while the other, like myself, want none.

And yet, religion has played a large part in the development of our nation. Only it was done quietly. Politicians and other decision makers, used their own moral values to move us toward a Just Society. They placed a high regard for human dignity above everything else, and they did it not by preaching from the pulpit, but by practicing their faith.

We are a Christian country by tradition, and part of that tradition has been tolerance. But the new Christianity, as represented by the Religious Right, is intolerant of anyone not buying into their narrow beliefs. That is the kind of religion that has no place in politics. And yet that is the kind of religion that Stephen Harper has allowed to dictate.

And all because of his own naked self-interest.

There was one part of the discussion that bothered me though. It was in relation to President Obama and the fact that polls are showing that an increasing number of Americans believe that he is a Muslim.

But why is that question even being asked? It's the question that's helping to plant the seed.

If pollsters repeatedly asked Canadians if they thought Stephen Harper was gay, eventually many people might start to think he was, simply because we had heard the reference so many times.

And yet being Muslim or gay are totally irrelevant, and not things we should be concerning ourselves with at all. A better understanding of our diversity, is the best way to move forward.

One of the panelists last night, felt that Christians should seek common ground, because people who pray together are less likely to "demonize" each other. But if your faith allows you to "demonize" anyone, the problem is not who you pray with, it's who you listen to.

You don't have to be religious to be good, any more than you have to be good to be religious, and the common ground we should be seeking, is one that embraces people of all faiths, even those who faithfully believe that they don't need religion at all.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Problem With the Senate is Not That They are Unelected But That They Have Been Enfeebled

Stephen Harper appointed two more crony senators this week, giving him an absolute majority in the Upper Chamber. The place that is to be the sober second thought. The group paid to protect Canadians from arbitrary decisions made in the House of Commons.

All of the talk in the media is about yet another "flip flop". Harper's Reform Party had promoted an elected senate and denounced it's stacking by the government of the day.

But most are missing the point.

This Senate is no longer a sober anything. They are drunk with power and are simply there to function as a big rubber stamp for neoconservatism.

We saw it with the Climate Change bill, hashed out in the House by our elected representatives. On order from Herr Harper they rubber stamped it 'denied'. No debate in the Red Chamber, just a chuckle and a smirk and wham bam thank you ma'am. It was gone.

And all of the posturing by Harper on limiting terms to eight years, and how these holders of the rubber stamps have agreed to it, is nonsense. Because for eight years it means that despite the government of the day, neoconservatism will prevail, because these guys now have all the power.

All of it. And they are beholden to one person and one person only. Stephen Harper.

I don't think electing senators is the answer. We can't get people voting now. What we need to do though, is remove this function from the prime minister. Any prime minister.

The Senate needs to be appointed by an independent body, and failing that, abolished completely.

Because my friends, it is NOT democracy, when a group of people not held to account by the citizens of the country, have ALL the power over those citizens. And is is NOT democracy when one person controls it all.

It renders the House of Commons obsolete, meaning that our votes are mere scraps of paper.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Jason Kenney Cuts Funding to Immigrant Support


When Jason Kenney was running the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, he openly fought against any money going to immigration or multiculturalism.

Well, he's finally getting his wish as he pulls the plug on support for newcomers to this country.
Liberal MP Bob Rae called the cuts harsh and draconian. New Democratic MP Olivia Chow agreed, adding that the government has not given enough of an explanation for the budget cuts?
Enough of an explanation? They've given none, announcing it during the holidays, hoping no one would notice. And 80% of those cuts will be in Ontario. (Rob Ford is said to be doing the Chicken Dance he's so excited)

And a letter to the Star, rightfully suggests that: Tory spin doesn’t add up
Ontario is bearing the brunt of cutbacks across Canada, absorbing more than 80 per cent of the funding reductions, while other provinces — notably Alberta, which just happens to have heavy representation on the government benches — will come out ahead. Quebec, too, will largely escape the budget axe. The big losers will be ethnic communities in Toronto that rely heavily on agencies that lay the groundwork for integration and citizenship among newcomers ... Speaking to reporters last week, Kenney got bogged down in gobbledygook, describing a process that rewards agencies most adept at filling out bureaucratic forms rather than those with a human touch and a track record for getting things done.
This is so incredibly frustrating.

Lots of money for fighter jets and prisons though.

So the Harpers are Separated. It Was no Big Secret.

I posted several months ago that Laureen Harper had apparently left her husband, appearing only occasionally for photo-ops.

And months before I posted that, the rumour mill was already grinding. I mean seriously. The man's a control freak. How could anyone stay with him?

So I guess wondering why the media was still playing along, Norman Spector went out on a limb and revealed that the marriage had been in trouble for about two years.

He didn't mention Laureen's Mountie, but just put into words what most people already knew.

According to The Globe article, Ms. Harper “is not shy at all...she has a wonderful sense of humour and a good political nose – but she has declined offers to sit down with journalists, preferring not to be the story. Rather, she wants the light to shine on the work of her husband and his government. … (Cynics may think that the couple agreed to the interview because an election may not be far away).”

Perhaps. But, I think that something else is at play here.Three weeks ago, a most extraordinary paragraph appeared in a column published in the Ottawa Citizen. It read as follows:“In Ottawa, tongues have been wagging for two years about trouble in one political marriage. One of the partners is now said to have left the nest. It hasn't made the newspapers, at least not yet.”

Why the games?

Spector's never been one of my favourite columnists, but why should he be fired over something so silly? And why pull the story? Most of us already knew and nobody cares.

Will Don Cherry be Running for the Neocons in Kingston?


The Neoconservative candidate in Kingston, Brian Abrams, stepped down recently and his replacement has yet to be announced.

However, rumours are flying that Don Cherry will be running on the neocon ticket in his hometown, which suddenly makes everything he's been doing so far make sense.

Supporting Rob Ford's throwing public servants out of work and attacking immigrants.

Visiting Afghanistan, knowing that Kingston is a military town.

I don't know whether to feel nauseous or just cry. For 40 years we have been represented by the best of the Tories and Liberals in Flora MacDonald and Peter Milliken.

Now we will have the only politician with a lower IQ than Sarah Palin. But his name recognition will probably get him elected, and the neocons will tout him around to all the ridings, signing autographs, burping and butt scratching their way to victory.

Our once beautiful country is being handed over to idiots.

Does Stephen Harper Have the Legal Right to Govern?


The 2006 federal election was one of the most bizarre on record. Going in the Liberals had a ten point lead. And in a little Deja Vu, this was the news in July of 2005:
Stephen Harper moved yesterday to revive his political fortunes in the electoral heartland of Ontario even as a new poll shows that 59 per cent of Canadians want him replaced, including more than one-third of his own supporters.

The poll also found that the difficulties of the just-completed sitting of the House of Commons have left Canadians with an increasingly negative image of Mr. Harper, with 41 per cent saying their opinion of the Conservative Leader has worsened .... "The poll, which found that the Liberals continue to maintain a nine-point lead on the Tories in voting intention, came yesterday as Mr. Harper glad-handed in cottage country north of Toronto. The Conservative Leader is touring Canada this summer to build party support in preparation for an election next winter.
After losing the 2004 election, and his thwarted attempt to form a coalition with the Bloc and NDP to bring down Paul Martin at the throne speech, we had all but written Harper off. He couldn't be trusted.

But what we couldn't have known was that the Harper team was engaged in political guerrilla warfare. Monopolizing on the Sponsorship Scandal, they were able to paint Paul Martin as a crook, despite the fact that he wasn't involved and it was he who ordered the Gomerey investigation.

And that summer, when Stephen Harper was glad-handing, what he was really doing was mobilizing the Religious Right. Helped along with radio spots, purchased in over a hundred Canadian stations by James Dobson, the American behind the group, Focus on the Family.

Many of Harper's stump speeches regaled against same-sex marriage, while these radio spots did the same.

A foreign country interfering in a Canadian election.

But that was only the tip of the iceberg.

Friends of Science

The Conservative policy on the environment was weak at best, offering only an abstract 'Made in Canada' solution. As a result, a group calling themselves Friends of Science, also began buying up radio spots to sell the Conservative message that Global Warming was a hoax.

An investigation into FOS revealed that the group was actually tied directly to Stephen Harper and the oil and gas industry.

From the Globe and Mail:
Friends of Science has taken undisclosed sums from Alberta oil and gas interests. The money was funneled through the Calgary Foundation, to the University of Calgary and on to the FOS though something called the “Science Education Fund.” All this appears to be orchestrated by Stephen Harper’s long-time political confidante and fishing buddy, U. Calgary Prof Dr. Barry Cooper. It seems the FOS has taken a page right out of the US climate change attack group’s playbook: funnel money through foundations and third party groups to “wipe the oil” off the dollars they receive. (1)
And from the University of Calgary's Gauntlet:
The University of Calgary has discontinued its relationship with the controversial Friends of Science organization and, after the results of an internal audit released Mon., Apr. 14, the U of C will revise policies related to research funding. But the audit did not determine whether funding from two trust funds at the university for an anti-Kyoto ad campaign was in violation of the Canada Elections Act. (2)
It was in fact in violation, but by the time this was made public, Harper had been in office two years, and this possible criminal act was buried in the larger scandal of another election financing scheme.

The RCMP Complicity

At a point when the Liberals were assured victory, former RCMP boss, Giuliano Zaccardelli, appeared to have engineered a smear campaign against Ralph Goodale, suggesting that he and the Liberal Party by association, were involved in a bit of insider trading.

That too got swept under the rug.
Following the election, there was no immediate call for an inquiry. For the defeated Liberals to have demanded one would have appeared self-serving. The NDP had played the role of willing enabler for the RCMP plan, so it was not keen to demand accountability. And Prime Minister Stephen Harper, unlike Paul Martin and his zeal to appoint Judge Gomery to uncover his own party's scandal, had no interest in investigating a scandal that had helped the Conservatives win. (3)
The "In and Out"

In April of 2008, at about the same time as the Friends of Science scandal broke, the RCMP raided the Conservative Party headquarters, as part of an investigation into an election financing scheme.
During the campaign, the Conservative party conducted a series of financial transactions in which it wire-transferred money to Tory candidates, who then returned cash to the party in the form of advertising purchases. One campaign official interviewed by Elections Canada staff referred to these transactions as “in-and-outs.”Many of the ads in question were for the national party and the only reference to the local candidates who paid for them were small tag lines at the end.
This enabled them to spend over a million dollars more than the other parties on advertising, in the final days of the campaign. A direct violation of the election act.

But what this also meant was that local candidates, who would receive rebates of up to 60% of their expenses, were able to claim credits they weren't entitled to on money they themselves never spent. Almost $800,000.00 in tax payer dollars. And while Elections Canada froze rebates after discovering the scheme, many had already been issued.

A Parliamentary committee was organized to look into the affair, but Stephen Harper directed those called, to ignore the subpoenas, closed down the committee, then broke his own law by calling a snap election, putting Canadian taxpayers on the hoof for another 300 million dollars, simply because he didn't want to deal with what could eventually lead to criminal charges.

Undemocratic, given that his was the only party ready for election, since they were the only party aware that he would make such a daring move.

Stephen Harper has kept this tied up in the courts, while he continues to govern like nothing happened. As though he has a legal right to be where he is.

During those five years that he has held office, he has stolen our reputation, our democracy, our money and our sovereignty.

And his entire right to govern may have been the result of a fraud. Or several frauds as it turns out.

But we will take this information into the next election campaign. He can't escape justice forever.




Sources:

1. Oil Companies Funding Friends of Science, Tim Ball takes the brunt, Jim Hoggan, DeSmog Blog, August 12, 2006

2. Friends of Science audit released: University looks into policies regarding research funding, By Jon Roe, Features Editor, The Gauntlet, April 17, 2008

3. Losing Confidence: Power, Politics and Crisis in Canadians Democracy, By Elizabeth May, McClelland & Stewart, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-7710-5760-1, Pg. 132-147

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's All About the Spin Baby. It's All About the Spin.


George Bush had included environmental concerns, as part of his 2000 election campaign, promising aggressive action to roll back carbon emissions.

Not long after being elected into office, his administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Christine Todd Whitman, announced: "This president is very sensitive to the issue of global warming.... There's no question but that global warming is a real phe­nomenon ...." (1)

I could have told the American people then that it was balderdash. Nonsense. Spin.

See, I live in Ontario and following politics, know who Christine Todd Whitman is. I should. She helped to inspire the neoconservative Common Sense Revolution of Mike Harris, that was indeed revolutionary, but totally lacking in sense, common or otherwise. It was just mean and short sighted.

But the Harris team worked with Republican strategist Mike Murphy, who had just come off a successful campaign for Whitman, as she became the freshly minted governor of New Jersey.
Whitman defeated a popular Democratic incumbent, Jim Florio, primarily on the basis of a Murphy-inspired campaign using a "common sense" slogan and pledging a 30 per cent tax cut. Since her victory, the activities of her government in implementing this plan had been carefully charted by Harris aide Bill King. In March 1994, Harris actually travelled to New Jersey to meet Whitman and discuss strategy. Two months later, the "Common Sense Revolution" with its 30 per cent tax cut was unveiled. (2)
You have to look at the big picture of neoconservatism. There are few traditional Republicans in the United States and few traditional Conservatives in Canada. Most are now part of a big tent. They move back and forth across the border, a border that they hope to soon erase, sharing strategy and war stories and feeding off each other.

Harper's Reform Party - Newt Gingrich

Reform Party- Mike Harris

Jason Kenney- Grover Norquist

Pierre Poilievre - Jim Sensenbrenner

Stephen Harper- George Bush, Frank Luntz, Art Finklestein (Nixon's former guru), etc., etc., etc.

There can be no Canadian sovereignty if neoconservatism has any chance of success. And we can have no environmental policy if it does succeed.

The Conservatives talk a good game, but simply using the right language is no guarantee that they will do what they say.

Bush's former treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, had described ".. the threat of global warming as being equal to that of a nuclear holocaust. In 2001 a report from the nonpartisan National Acad­emy of Sciences concluded that carbon dioxide and other gases spewed from such man-made sources as factories, power plants, and motor vehicle exhaust pipes were indeed being trapped in the atmosphere and beginning to cause global warming. This study warned that global temperatures could rise anywhere from three to ten degrees Fahrenheit over the coming cen­tury, risking catastrophic damage around the globe." (1)

And yet Bush did more to reverse action to fight Global Warming than anyone before him. Stephen Harper now holds that dubious title, as he continues to sabotage any hopes of a binding international agreement.

So when WikiLeaks reveals that former environmental minister Jim Prentice, was "shocked" about how the world views the tar sands, I say"

Balderdash. Nonsense. Spin.

The gravity of Canada’s predicament first came clear to the respected cabinet minister during a trip to Bergen, Norway, where he attended a carbon capture and storage conference in late May, 2009. Norway, then in the run-up to a parliamentary election, was debating the involvement of government-owned Statoil in the Alberta oilsands, which had been deemed a source of “dirty oil.”

“As Prentice relayed it, the public sentiment in Norway shocked him and has heightened his awareness of the negative consequences to Canada’s historically ‘green’ standing on the world stage,” said a U.S. embassy cable that recounts the meeting.

This government knew full well how the world felt about the tar sands, and feigning ignorance just doesn't cut it. So when WikiLeaks also reveals that Prentice was going to "get tough" with the tar sands, I again say:

Balderdash. Nonsense. Spin.
Former environment minister Jim Prentice privately told U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson more than a year ago that he was prepared to impose new regulations on the oil sands if the industry and province did not improve their environmental performance, newly released Wikileaks documents reveal.
The WikiLeaks cable also hinted at "tensions between Prentice and Lisa Raitt. That's where the real story is. When the embarrassing tape of a conversation between Raitt and her aide, was made public, we discovered where Prentice's allegiances were:
Money earmarked to support wind energy producers was diverted to research and development in the oil patch in backroom budget wrangling, the minister of natural resources said in a conversation with an aide in January.Lisa Raitt told aide Jasmine MacDonnell that she suspects Environment Minister Jim Prentice took the money for wind power and redirected it to his Clean Energy Plan – a $1-billion fund for research and development in the oil sands.

The revelation is likely to intensify criticism of the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper as unfriendly to the environment.Mr. Prentice is the MP for Calgary-Centre North, home to much of Canada's oil industry. (3)
Like the Bush Administration, the Harper government says the right things, but then does the polar opposite.

I for one am sick of being played. How about you?

Sources:

1. The Book on Bush: How George W. (mis) Leads America, By Eric Alterman and Mark Green, Penguin Books, 2004, ISBN: 0-670-03273-5, Pg. 13-14

2. Hard Right Turn: The New Face of Neo-Conservatism in Canada, Brooke Jeffrey, Harper-Collins, 1999, ISBN: 0-00 255762-2 4, Pg. 166

3. Wind money given to oil producers instead, Raitt tape suggests, By Stephen Maher, Chronicle Herald, June 10, 2009

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The "Clash of Civilizations" or the "Smash of Civilizations"? The True Nature of This War


On January 24, 2003, a group of New York-based collectors and dealers; members of an organization called the American Council for Cultural Policy, met with the Bush administration and Pentagon officials.

The purpose of the meeting was to encourage Bush to ignore international laws, by allowing the treasures of ancient Mesopotamia (now Iraq), to fall into the hands of private collectors.

This group of wealthy Americans, had been coveting these prized objects for some time, giving them a commercial value, rather than the historical and religious value bestowed upon them not only by the people of Iraq but indeed anyone seeking to preserve our ancient cultural heritage.

So while George Bush was promising scholars and historians that he would do his utmost to protect the ancient holdings, in the land referred to in archaeological circles as "the cradle of civilization", he had already made a commitment to the American Council for Cultural Policy, that he would make sure they got what they craved.

I mean what good was all that wealth, when they couldn't obtain the unobtainable?

And Bush didn't disappoint. According to Chalmers Johnson (d. 2010):
On April 11, 12, 13, and 14, 2003, the United States Army and United States Marine Corps disgraced themselves and the country they represent in Baghdad, Iraq's capital city. Having invaded Iraq and accepted the status of a military occupying power, they sat in their tanks and Humvees, watching as unarmed civilians looted the Iraqi National Museum and burned down the Iraqi National Library and Archives as well as the Library of Korans of the Ministry of Religious Endowments.

Their behavior was in violation of their orders, international law, and the civilized values of the United States. Far from apologizing for these atrocities or attempting to make amends, the U.S. government has in the past five years added insult to injury. Donald Rumsfeld, then secretary of defense and the official responsible for the actions of the troops, repeatedly attempted to trivialize what had occurred with inane public statements such as "Democracy is messy" and "Stuff happens." (1)
During those five years, thieves had stolen at least 32,000 items from some 12,000 archaeological sites across Iraq with no interference from the occupying power.
In 2006, the World Monuments Fund took the unprecedented step of putting the entire country of Iraq on its list of the most endangered sites. The torching of books and manuscripts in the Library of Korans and the National Library was in itself a historical disaster of the first order. Most of the Ottoman imperial documents and the old royal archives concerning the creation of Iraq were reduced to ashes.

... about a million books and ten million documents were destroyed by the fires of April 14, 2003. Robert Fisk, the veteran Middle East correspondent of the Independent of London, was in Baghdad the day of the fires. He rushed to the offices of the U.S. Marines' Civil Affairs Bureau and gave the officer on duty precise map locations for the two archives and their names in Arabic and English, and pointed out that the smoke could be seen from three miles away. The officer shouted to a colleague, "This guy says some biblical library is on fire," but the Americans did nothing to try to put out the flames.

At a conference on art crimes held in London a year after the disaster, the British Museum's John Curtis reported that at least half of the forty most important stolen objects had not been retrieved and that of some 15,000 items looted from the museum's showcases and storerooms about 8,000 had yet to be traced. Its entire collection of 5,800 cylinder seals and clay tablets, many containing cuneiform writing and other inscriptions some of which go back to the earliest discoveries of writing itself, was stolen. (1)
Notwithstanding the murder of a million people, the destruction and theft of Iraq's archaeological treasures, represents one of the most horrific acts in world history.

The Smash of Civilizations

In Lawrence Martin's book, Harperland, he reveals that when it comes to foreign policy, our current PM does not see the world as a global community, but as a "clash of civilizations". (2)

Those three words are no lightweights. What they represent is the Neoconservative total war strategy.

However, Chalmers Johnson instead refers to this disgraceful display as a "smash of civilizations", and I think that's a better term. Because "clash" suggests the equality of enemies. And since we are fighting those with fewer and less sophisticated weaponry, it is hardly a fair fight.

And "smash" is a better term to describe the attempted annihilation of not only a religion, but a culture.

Johnson likens the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan to the "total destruction" of ancient Baghdad by the Mongols in AD 1258, under the leadership of Genghis Khan's grandson, Hulagu Khan.

According to historian Steven Dutch:
Iraq in 1258 was very different from present day Iraq. Its agriculture was supported by canal networks thousands of years old. Baghdad was one of the most brilliant intellectual centers in the world. The Mongol destruction of Baghdad was a psychological blow from which Islam never recovered. Already Islam was turning inward, becoming more suspicious of conflicts between faith and reason and more conservative. With the sack of Baghdad, the intellectual flowering of Islam was snuffed out. Imagining the Athens of Pericles and Aristotle obliterated by a nuclear weapon begins to suggest the enormity of the blow. The Mongols filled in the irrigation canals and left Iraq too depopulated to restore them." (3)
And it's not too difficult to compare the actions of the allied forces In Iraq to those of the Mongols eight centuries ago.
The Grand Library of Baghdad, containing countless precious historical documents and books on subjects ranging from medicine to astronomy, was destroyed. Survivors said that the waters of the Tigris ran black with ink from the enormous quantities of books flung into the river. Citizens attempted to flee, but were intercepted by Mongol soldiers who killed with abandon .... Ian Frazier of The New Yorker says estimates of the death toll have ranged from 200,000 to a million. The Mongols looted and then destroyed mosques, palaces, libraries, and hospitals. Grand buildings that had been the work of generations were burned to the ground. (3)
The Neoconservatives seek to accomplish the same "psychological blow" from which Islam may never recover. This is not simply about oil, but "total destruction", with oil being a benefit, meaning that the West will never be again challenged for the crude in the Middle East.

Iraq, before the Americans put Saddam Hussein in power, was also a thriving country, and Baghdad, one of the most modern cities in the world. But what is it now?

And the "smash' was about more than just the theft and destruction of artifacts. It was something much bigger.

At the six-thousand-year-old Sumerian city of Ur with its massive ziggurat, or stepped temple-tower (built in the period 2112-2095 BC and restored by Nebuchadnezzar 11 in the sixth century BC), the Marines spray-painted their motto, "Semper Fi" (semper fidelis, always faithful) onto its walls. The military then made the monument "off limits" to everyone in order to disguise the desecration that had occurred there, including the looting by U.S. soldiers of clay bricks used in the construction of the ancient buildings.

Until April 2003, the area around Ur, in the environs of Nasiriyah, was remote and sacrosanct. However, the U.S. military chose the land immediately adjacent to the ziggurat to build its huge Tallil Air Base with two runways measuring 12,000 and 9,700 feet and four satellite camps. In the process, military engineers moved more than 9,500 truckloads of dirt in order to build 350,000 square feet of hangars and other facilities for aircraft and Predator unmanned drones.

They completely ruined the area.

On October 24, 2003, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service built its own modern ziggurat. It "opened its second Burger King at Tallil. The new facility, colocated with [a] Pizza Hut, provided another Burger King restaurant so that more servicemen and women serving in Iraq could .. get a whiff of that familiar scent that takes them back home."

... At Babylon, American and Polish forces built a military depot, despite objections from archaeologists. John Curtis, the British Museum's authority on Iraq's many archaeological sites, reported on a visit in December 2004 that he saw "cracks and gaps where somebody had tried to gouge out the decorated bricks forming the famous dragons of the Ishtar Gate" and a "2,600-year-old brick pavement crushed by military vehicles." Other observers say that the dust stirred up by U.S. helicopters has sandblasted the fragile brick facade of the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon from 605 to 562 BC.

... "Between May and August 2004, the wall of the Temple of Nabu and the roof of the Temple of Ninmah, both of the sixth century BC, collapsed as a result of the movement of helicopters. Nearby, heavy machines and vehicles stand parked on the remains of a Greek theater from the era of Alexander of Macedon [Alexander the Great]." (1)

They've ruined the area for future archaeological excavations.

This is not a "clash", but a "smash". A heart wrenching, inhumane attempt to completely destroy an adversary.

I had been going to blog on this after Christmas, thinking that perhaps it wasn't appropriate during this time, but then I realized that there couldn't be a better time. As we share a message of "Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Men", we might be reminded for a moment of what those words are supposed to mean.

And this isn't it.

Sources:

1. Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope, By Chalmers Johnson, Metropolitan Books, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-9303-2, Pg. 40-51

2. Harperland: The Politics of Control, By Lawrence Martin, Viking Press, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-670-06517-2, Pg. 79

3. Battle of Baghdad (1258), Multilingual Archive, Powered by WorldLingo

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Has Stephen Harper Been Looting the Canadian Treasury?

Nobel Prize winning economist, George Akerlof, once accused George W. Bush of "looting", finding no other term for what amounted to the worst fiscal policy in 200 years.

Bush had raided Social Security, launched expensive wars that he had to borrow money to finance, and jeopardized the future of programs like Medicare.

A perverse logic that if he went on a massive spending spree, while reducing revenue by granting unheard of tax cuts for the wealthy, he would drain the treasury, meaning that Congress would not be able to pass any additional spending bills.

Unless they were for war, of course.

Like Stephen Harper, Bush had been left with an enormous surplus, but blew the bank long before the economic downturn. In Bush's case he actually helped to expediate the crisis.

It's hard not to see a pattern here. While Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty are promising more "bad news" and an "austerity budget" in the not too distant future, it's time to look at this government's spending habits.

- 130 million dollars on television ads

- 45 million dollars on signs

- millions to private religious schools, which included hundreds of thousands on an indoor soccer field, that is closed to the public.

- 100,000 to make a spending announcement in Cambridge Ontario because MP Gary Goodyear was in trouble over an alleged adoption scheme.

- 15 billion dollars to build more prisons while Canada's crime rate is the lowest in history.

- 100 million spent on opinion polls, while completely ignoring the "opinions" or wishes of Canadians.

- Billions in tax "incentives" to the tar sands.

- 50 billion in corporate tax cuts.

- 1 billion for the G-20 that resulted in the worst human rights abuses in this country. The bill included almost 100,000 dollars spent at mini-bars.

- 30 million dollars to change our census, despite the fact that no one wanted it changed.

- 50 million poured into Tony Clement's riding to help his re-election bid.

- Hundreds of thousands on first class travel, because heaven forbid they should be forced to fly economy.

- 19 billion for fighter jets that Americans are concerned may have safety issues. And though promising Canadians service contracts, we learn that Canadian firms can bid on them with no guarantees.

- 650 million dollars in loans to an American firm, Pratt Whitney. The latest 300 million granted in a single day, even though no payments had been made on the 350 million "loaned" four years ago. Pratt Whitney had a profit last year of more than four billion dollars.

- The most expensive photo-ops known to man.

- Two million dollars so that Harper can tape his own film to give to the media.

- Millions to bribe provinces to accept the HST (Harper Sales Tax)

- 50 million dollars to Afghan President, Hamid Karzai's brother.

- Unprecedented use of military jets, while instructing the crew to not release the names of people travelling with Harper. As of November 2009, there were 1,900 such flights.

- 130 million to settle a frivolous lawsuit without any attempt to fight it.

- Suing the Canadian people, by suing the Canadian Wheat Board and Elections Canada, on behalf of the Conservative Party.

- Almost one million dollars in tax credits claimed by Conservative candidates, in the "in and out" election financing scheme.

- 300 million for an election in 2008, breaking his own election laws.

- Hundreds of millions of dollars wasted when Harper prorogued Parliament.

The list goes on.

These are enormous sums of money, taken from us with little in exchange. What value did Canadian tax payers get for this transfer of funds?

Are we better off, knowing that Harper's caucus can travel in style? Are we better off realizing that Harper can fly his friends around in our military jets, that may help with party fundraising, but does little for out of work Canadians.

Are we happier with his HST? Are we smiling, living vicariously through the orgy at the mini-bars? Can we ignore expensive medial bills if it means we have fighter jets to keep us safe from the Russians and prisons to keep us safe from who knows what? Did I mention that our crime rate is the lowest in our history?

This is looting on a massive scale. Absolutely massive.

And yet the Harper government is blaming us for expecting too much.

How selfish are we that we want perks like healthcare and education? That we want to live in a just society? That we want clean air and clean water and a climate bill that actually fights global warming? That we want our veterans and seniors rewarded for their service to our country? That we want to end poverty and homelessness?

It's time to pull the plug on this government. We can no longer afford them.