Tuesday, January 31, 2012

When is the Price of a Politician Too High?

Since Citizens United paved the way for the wealthy to buy U.S. political candidates outright, there is more for Americans to worry about than losing their democracy, though that is certainly a blow to a once democratic country.

The people with all of this money expect something in return and in the case of Newt Gingrich, and his financial backer Sheldon Adelson, it might be a price few Americans are willing to pay.

Adelson apparently has demanded that the $10 million he gave to Gingrich be repaid with a war in Iran, if Gingrich is ever president.  (maybe on the moon)

Bill Maher and former Republican Congressman Mark Foley (yes that Mark Foley) discussed this recently, and Foley rightfully claimed that the "passion of the moment should not dictate foreign policy".  This bubble that conservatives live in, that facts can never penetrate, has to burst, before they do something really stupid. 

They actually believe that they can win a nuclear war.  Having more nukes only protects you from a potential nuclear attack.  Using them means something else altogether.

Like many conservative bubble dwellers, Adelson claims to love Israel, which is code for hoping Israel levels the rest of the Middle East.  Former president Jimmy Carter was interviewed by Time magazine last week, and was asked about the Israel/nuclear situation.
Are you optimistic about Israel's future?

No, I'm not. The U.S. has the least influence in the Middle East now than it's had since Israel was formed. We are totally immune to any sort of influence from the Palestinians or from the Arab world. We are completely in bed with the Israelis, who are persecuting the Palestinians horribly, and this is contrary, I think, to the best interest of Israel.

What do you think it means that Iran seems to have its first nuclear fuel rod?

Well, of course, the religious leaders of Iran have sworn on their word of honor that they're not going to manufacture nuclear weapons. If they are lying, then I don't see that as a major catastrophe because they'll only have one or two military weapons. Israel probably has 300 or so.
Carter is an Evangelist who created Habitats for Humanity.  The Evangelists circling the GOP like vultures, would never dream of doing something to help mankind.  Instead they seem determined to destroy it, arrogantly believing that only they will survive.

We don't talk about this enough (at all) in Canada, but as Lawrence Martin warns us in Harperland, Stephen Harper follows the doctine created by American conservatives:  The Clash of Civilizations.  He is onboard with the anhilation of Iran.  Newt Gingrich and Stephen Harper together as leaders would be terrifying.

If there is one good thing about the new policies that allow corporate financing of politicians, it's that the wealthy who used to operate in the shadows, are now known to us.  They are front and centre of the ugliness.  The Koch Brothers we knew about.  Some of the others, not so much.

It turns out that Newt's sugar daddy is not just insane but allegedly engages in criminal activities.  Today's headlineGingrich's billionaire campaign backer under federal investigation after lawsuit alleges he hushed possible ties to Chinese organized crime.

Now that we know who they are it will be like shooting fish in a barrel. We'll have the billionaires begging to change the election financing rules, or at least moving back to the shadows.

Stephen Harper still refuses to tell us who financed his leadership campaign in 2003.  It might be nice to have that list so that we could shine a light on those shaping Canadian policy.  But then again, maybe it's best we don't know.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Remind me Again Why we Spent $800,000 to Celebrate the Libyan Victory?

"Gadhafi's days are over.  Never again will he be in a position to support terrorism or to turn guns on his own people. The Libyan people can finally turn the page." Stephen Harper
The Harper government spent $800,000 on a celebration marking the end of the attack on Libya.  Besides being costly in an era of "austerity", the celebration it turns out was premature.  This was not a case of "mission accomplished" but back slapping accomplished.

The stronghold of Bani Walid has been reclaimed by Gadhafi loyalists and fighting there continues:
Moammar Gadhafi loyalists seized control of a Libyan mountain city in the most serious challenge to the central government since the strongman's fall, underlining the increasing weakness of Libya's Western-backed rulers as they try to unify the country under their authority. The taking of Bani Walid, one of the last Gadhafi strongholds captured by the new leadership late last year, was the first such organized operation by armed remnants of Gadhafi's regime. A simultaneous outbreak of shootings in the capital and Libya's second largest city Benghazi raised authorities' concerned that other networks of loyalists were active elsewhere.
There is also a growing concern that weapons provided to the western backed regime are falling into the hands of terrorist organizations.   Real terrorist organizations, like al Qaeda, not those who oppose Harper's pipeline.
The Western-backed overthrow of Libyan strongman Muammar Gadhafi likely provided huge stocks of heavy weapons to terrorist groups and criminal organizations operating in the Sahel region of North Africa, the United Nations confirmed January 26 in a report. Among the groups benefiting from the arms are al-Qaeda and the deadly Islamic terror organization Boko Haram, which is currently on a killing spree in Nigeria.
The UN report explained that “due to the Libyan upheaval ... governments in the region are faced with the return of millions of economic migrants, the smuggling of weapons from Libyan stockpiles, terrorist activities, youth unemployment, trafficking in drugs and human beings, and a surge in criminality,” the international body summarized in a press release on its findings.
Westpoint had warned in 2007 that the eastern region of Libya, the epicenter of the NATO-backed rebellion, provided more fighters per capita to combat US troops in Iraq than any other nation, including Saudi Arabia. The report noted that most of these Libyan fighters were members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) who were involved "in an increasingly cooperative relationship with Al Qaeda."

That's coming from Westpoint, not some "left-wing hippie dippie rag".

The LIFG was also on the UK Terrorist watch list as late as November 2011.
The LIFG seeks to replace the current Libyan regime with a hard-line Islamic state. The group is also part of the wider global Islamist extremist movement, as inspired by Al Qa’ida. The group has mounted several operations inside Libya, including a 1996 attempt to assassinate Mu’ammar Qadhafi
Instead of worrying about LIFG, NATO used them to overthrow Ghadafi, and create a leader who would be more willing to work with them; Mustafa Abdel Jalil. But apparently it was all smoke and mirrors as the Foreign Policy magazine is now reporting that Jalil has declared Libya to be an Islamic state.
...interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil, thought to be a moderate, declared in his "liberation" address that Libya would be an Islamic state and that sharia law would be a fundamental source of legislation.
What in the hell have we done? The Green resistance movement is growing stronger and a civil war appears imminent.

So remind me again why the Harper government spent $800,000 on a photo-op, declaring their victory in Libya.  Reminds me of George Bush declaring that the war in Iraq was over in 2003.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

So Who Would You Like to Send to the Moon?

Newt Gingrich frightened even Republicans this week with his plans to develop a colony on the moon by 2020.  He had obviously given this a lot of thought, because he indicated that the colony would consist of 13,000 people and would be named the 51st state.

What he didn't say was how he would choose those 13,000.  Would it be a penal colony?  Would he snatch up vagrants on the streets?  Arizona's illegal immigrants?

I think he should have a contest and allow people to choose who they would like to send to the moon.  The entries with the best reasons for removing this person from earth would win.

So who would you like to send to the moon?  Your Boss?  Your in-laws?  That girl at the bank who pretends she doesn't see you and keeps her head down writing fictitious numbers on a piece of paper while you stand in line?  (I have issues)

If you polled Canadians I'm sure the top answer would be Stephen Harper.  But I don't think that would work.  He'd have to take along his camera crew to make sure that his images were correctly airbrushed.  It's difficult to say how good the lighting is on the moon.

Then he'd need his videographers, his hairstylist and his enormous communications team to ensure that he didn't say something really stupid.  He has so many of them, that he now has to tie them together to keep them from bumping into each other.  Too many unexplained bruises.

Harper would also insist that the Koch Brothers accompanied him.  Before long they'd start drilling into the moon so they could monopolize the cheese market.  The media would ignore the damage while chasing the glittering moon rock.

And of course he'd have to be boss of this new colony, even if there was someone else better qualified.  He'd just run attack ads against his opponent, calling her a gay loving, gun hating, radical, feminist, terrorist loving liberal.  The other colonists would get so sick of hearing it that they'd refuse to vote at all, so he could then be king.

However, King Steve would never forget those behind his success.  The American conservatives.  As reward he would make sure that all the cheese was piped back to them, even if it meant starvation for "his people".

Wait a minute .... pro-American conservative? .... 51st state? .... self appointed despot?

They could call the new colony CANADA!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Too Big to Fail or So Big They Must Fail

There is an excellent Viewpoint piece in this week's Time magazine, written by foreign and domestic policy expert, David Rothkopf.

Fixing Capitalism Means Taking Power Back From Business

Rothkopf discusses not only the rise of big stateless corporations, now dictating foreign policy, but also what domestic capitalism has turned itself into. 

Using Newt Gingrich's attack on Mitt Romney as an example:  “If we identify capitalism with rich guys looting companies, we’re going to have a very hard time protecting it.”  For once I have to agree with Newt, though he's hardly an example of  principled commercialism.

Rothkopf rightfully claims that a "key part of fixing capitalism will be reconciling the large and growing imbalances between the public and private sector."  Corporations have gotten so big and powerful that when they make bad decisions, citizens are told that they must pay for those bad decisions or go down with the ship.  Yet when they rebound, they cling to their wealth and throw the rest of us out of the lifeboats.
When early corporations were established by royal charters almost a millennium ago, there was no mistaking their purpose. They had been created by the state to serve its interests. But over the centuries, they took advantage of their special status, which allowed them to achieve enormous scale and buy political favor. The result: They helped shape the development of laws that further tipped the balance of power in their favor ... Corporations have morphed from legal entities designed to ensure an enterprise could survive the death of its owners to institutions possessing more rights than people.
Even Adam Smith, the father of capitalism, condemned "the abuses of the megacompanies of his day, like the British East India Co., calling them “nuisances in every respect,” since the monopolies they fostered inevitably led to profit-destroying corruption."

Conservatives like to suggest that their radical movement is in response to the French Revolution, heralding Edmond Burke as the father of modern conservatism.  However, instead of living in the 18th century, they might want to learn from it.

The major cause of the French Revolution was the stark division of social classes in French society.  The First Estate, the Church and clergy, which represented  less than 2% of the population, owned almost 10 per cent of all land in France. They paid no taxes and relied on tithes to support their endeavours.

The Second Estate, or nobility, made up just 2 percent of the population, but owned most of the wealth.  Like the Church they paid little in taxes, despite earning enormous sums from rent on their property, and interest on loans. 

The Third Estate was everyone else. 96% of the population, with the poor propping up them all, through hefty taxes, tithes to the church, and rents to their landlords.   However, it was not the poor who initiated the French Revolution, but the middle class.  The merchants, manufacturers and professional people, who resented the birthrights of the nobility.

Today's capitalism has become a culture of nobility, where lobbyists hold court, the right-wing media act as royal scribes and the true aristocracies are the "Walmarts and Exxons of the world".  We have recreated the conditions that led to the French Revolution.

But What of 'Laissez Faire'?

The notion that if you leave business alone and let the markets prevail, everyone will win, has proven to be the biggest hoax of all time.  Says Rothkopf:
The current argument that larger government impinges on rather than protects or advances individual liberties is a far cry from the ideas that fueled England’s Glorious Revolution and the American Revolution. It ignores the fact that the void created by smaller government is often not filled by “liberty.” When matters like the global environment or regulation of derivatives trading are left entirely to market forces, for instance, outcomes tend to serve the most powerful because markets neither have a conscience nor do they ensure opportunity.
And yet the U.S. Supreme Court is allowing large corporations to be classed as "citizens", which means that they can now buy politicians outright.  No more under the table transactions.  Put your money in their mouth and a bill of sale comes out their butt.

The 96% in France created democracy.  The 1% in the United States and Canada is intent on destroying it.  What side of history do we want to be on?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Americans Fear Their Election Could End up Like Canada's. I Can Help

In the upcoming election, Barack Obama will not be challenged by the Republicans, who frankly have given up on even pretending to be politicians serving the public, but by the Super PACs.  Political Action Committees financed by wealthy corporations,  who are tired of democracy getting in their way.

Remember that leaked 2006 CitiGroup memo that they have worked so hard to suppress?
The World is dividing into two blocs - the Plutonomy and the rest. The U.S., UK, and Canada are the key Plutonomies - economies powered by the wealthy. Continental Europe (ex-Italy) and Japan are in the egalitarian bloc.
They warned that voters could try to change the idea of governing only for the wealthy.
We can see a number of potential challenges to plutonomy. The first, and probably most potent, is through a labor backlash. Outsourcing, offshoring or insourcing of cheap labor is done to undercut current labor costs .... Low-end developed market labor might not have much economic power, but it does have equal voting power with the rich .... the third threat comes from the potential social backlash.
It's like they predicted the Occupy Movement, that could be successful given that the "low-end", without "much economic power" has "equal voting power with the rich".  (Capitalism, a Love Story)

However, Super PACs are setting out to wrong that right.

And the way they are going to do that is with lots of money and telemarketers.  They can't garner more votes, so will instead try to suppress them.  The Koch Brothers are putting up $200 million for this venture, determined to oust Obama. 
I don't know how much Stephen Harper cost them, but they are already reaping rewards.  And if we wonder why the Harper government is so committed to outsourcing Canadian jobs, remember that CitiGroup memo.  It's all about cheap labour.  Which is why during the worst of the economic crisis, when Canadians were losing their jobs at record speed, Jason Kenney accelerated the use of migrant workers.
Money, Money, Money

Chris Matthews reminded us last week, of where those millions will be going.  To telemarketers who will work like mad to make sure that Democratic voters don't exercise their democratic rights.
The last Canadian federal election could serve as a guide to the Super Pacs, as Canadians were telemarketed to the point of madness.
In Kingston, Ontario, there were so many such phone calls, that we were ready to leave the country just to escape them.  And while Do Not Call Lists keep the cheap crap purveyors at bay, the rules do not apply to politics.  One call I received was supposedly on behalf of our Liberal candidate, Ted Hsu (now our MP), asking if we wanted a lawn sign.  The caller was so rude, that had I not been suspicious, I might have fallen for it.
Soon after, Hsu's office called asking for support and I informed them of the bogus call that I had received.  Others complained of the same thing.  Looking at the Conservative candidate Alicia Gordon's Elections Canada financial records, I learned that she paid Campaign Research more than $25,000 to annoy the hell out of us.  Remember those guys?  Think Rob Ford (but take a valium first)
Ironically when our Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer was asked to investigate the damage done to Irwin Cotler by Campaign Research, it was learned that he himself had used them to assure his re-election.  He should have declared a conflict of interest.  Instead he gave them a free pass.
Another example is Joe Volpe, who was telemarketed out of seat.  Joe Oliver paid Campaign Research $12,159.33

An investment banker, he has now joined the Koch team to force feed us their XL-Pipeline, contributing to Canada's reputation as a Jingoistic Petro-State, calling environmentalists "radicals" and "terrorists".
If the American people want to preserve their democracy and not end up like Canada, with another stolen election, I have some advice.  If you receive one of these calls, you could just tell the caller that you will be voting so "get a life", or maybe "let me speak to David Koch" or "Am I being punked?". 
Although I think the best response might be "Where in the hell do you think you are ?  Canada???!!!"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

When is Money Good Money?

Several years ago a story in the Readers Digest's Life's Like That, was a perfect anthem to the American Dream.

The young man who had sent in the story, was attending business school, and in the summer worked at his father's restaurant, a busy local eatery.  With his new found knowledge, he found himself frustrated with the way that his father did his bookkeeping.  Receipts were put on one memo spike and invoices on another.

Finally, in exasperation, he asked his father how he could possibly conduct his business like that.  "How do you know how much your profit is?"

His father's reply was priceless.  He said that he had come to the United States with nothing but the shirt on his back.  He now owned a business, completely paid for; a house and furniture, completely paid for and had put three children through college without having to borrow a dime. 

"I figure that, minus the shirt, is my profit."

That is what the American Dream was all about, but that kind of dream is now illusive to most Americans.

After many requests, Mitt Romney finally made his financial statements public.  It was learned that he "earned" $21.6 million in 2010.  To give that some relevancy, the median gross income in the United States is  $33,048.  Romney made that in less than a day.

$7.4 million of his annual income came from earned interest.  Money on money, not on hard work.

When we look at past "millionaires" and now billionaires, most did become rich through hard work and innovation.  We loved the stories of Henry Ford tinkering with motors on the kitchen counter, his wife with her sleeves rolled up as his assistant.  Or Gerber turning a failing food processing plant into a baby food empire and Howard Johnson selling his first flavoured icecream from a small wagon, when he was barely a teenager.

No one resented them because they were the true inspirational success stories.  But Romney didn't make his money with his sleeves rolled up and grease on his shirt.  He made it by swallowing up small businesses, which often meant ruin and unemployment for those not terminally rich.

He uses Staples as a success story for creating jobs, but what's the average salary of a Staples employee?  Are they living the American dream?

In fact, recent statistics have shown that Americans now rank 10th in social mobility. The citizens of nine other countries, now have a better chance of going from rags to riches, than the country that invented the notion.

One in five children live in poverty in the U.S.  One in five Americans is unemployed or underemployed; one in eight mortgages are in default or foreclosure; and one in eight Americans is on food stamps.  Newt Gingrich's solution to that is to reduce the number of food stamps issued, which will only make the statistic, one in eight Americans died from starvation.

Neoconservatism is turning the U.S. into a Third World Country.

But before we pat ourselves on the back, we are not doing any better.  According to the OECD, Canada has fallen from sixth to 24th place in infant mortality, meaning that babies are more apt to die in this country, than in 23 others, most without our wealth.
The numbers were “shocking” — a word used by half a dozen prominent commentators, including the Conference Board of Canada. We had slipped from sixth place in the world to 24, a virtually unprecedented fall for any country. We are now just above Poland and Hungary, with 5.1 deaths per 1,000 live births of infants less than one year of age. The actual tragedy beyond the percentages: 1,181 infant deaths in 2007.
The Conference Board of Canada also cited another statistic: 
Canada gets a “C” and now ties the U.K. for 15th place out of 17 peer countries. Its infant mortality rate is shockingly high for a country at Canada’s level of socio-economic development.
In a larger study, the U.S. ranked 41 out of 45 nations.

Conservatives like to take the moral high ground over the abortion issue, but as Gloria Steinem once said, for them "life begins at conception but ends at birth".  They want to save a fetus but do nothing to save a child.  They tout "family values" but are determined to keep most families living in poverty.
"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)
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives just released it's figures on the top 1%.  By January 3, most corporate executives had earned the same amount that the "average Joe" will make working a full year.  Yet the Harper government just lowered the tax rate for the wealthiest corporations, while raising it for the "average Joe" who will now pay about $150.00 per year more in taxes.

The last two decreases in personal taxes took place in 2001 when the tax rate fell from 17% to 16%, and in 2005, when it was reduced again to 15%.  The Harper government raised the personal income tax to 15.25%, the first increase in decades, but then took it back to 2005 levels, under a banner of "Tories lower personal income tax rate".  They didn't, they just took it back to previous levels.

This means that the Harper government has presided over the largest personal tax rate increases in a generation, not to mention Flaherty's HST.  Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty have made it easier for the rich to get richer, but have done little, if anything, to help the "average Joe" or the "average Jane".
"Universality has been severely reduced: it is virtually dead as a concept in most areas of public policy... These achievements are due in part to the Reform Party..." - Stephen Harper, speech to the Colin Brown Memorial Dinner, National Citizens Coalition, 1994.
In Arianna Huffington's Third World America, she discusses wealth and the way in which wealth is now created.
We’ve gone from an economy where we make things to an economy where we make things up: Default credit swaps, derivatives, CDOs, and the like have turned Wall Street into a casino ... the promise of upward mobility – that if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll do well and your children will have the chance to do even better – has been broken. Two-thirds of Americans now think their children will be worse off than they are.
The Canadian banks, who received almost $70 billion in not so much a bailout as a handout, have lowered the interest rates on borrowing, but that also means lower interest rates on savings.  We just renewed an RRSP at 1.3%.   When we bought it we were earning almost 11%.  How can people save for retirement unless they are willing to gamble on the stock market?

And a lower borrowing rate only encourages more debt, and Canada now has one of the highest debt to income ratios in the world. 
Mitt Romney's financial statements should come as no surprise, because they are not unlike most millionaire's or billionaire's today.  The only way to make any real money is to become a vulture, capitalizing on the misfortune of others.
We all know what happens in Third World countries when that attitude prevails.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

American Magazine Calls Canada a Jingoistic Petro-State

Blogger Scott Tribe shared a link yesterday to an article that appeared in Slate magazine, which is owned by the Washington Post.

Saudi Arabia. Nigeria. Venezuela. Canada? Is our neighbor to the north becoming a jingoistic petro-state?

We think that Stephen Harper is only our problem, but like it or not, the rest of the world is paying attention and what they see us turning into is not something they admire.
It’s well known that America’s dependence on foreign oil forces us to partner with some pretty unsavory regimes. Take, for instance, the country that provides by far the largest share of our petroleum imports. Its regime, in thrall to big oil interests, has grown increasingly bellicose, labeling environmental activists “radicals” and “terrorists” and is considering a crackdown on nonprofits that oppose its policies. It blames political dissent on the influence of “foreigners,” while steamrolling domestic opposition to oil projects bankrolled entirely by overseas investors. Meanwhile, its skyrocketing oil exports have sent the value of its currency soaring, enriching energy industry barons but crippling other sectors of its economy.  Yes, Canada is becoming a jingoistic petro-state.
And Will Oremus, the author of the Slate piece is right.  It's pretty hypocritical that Harper is blaming "foreignors" for the opposition to the pipelines, when the damn pipelines and most of the Tar Sands are now owned by "foreignors".  
The U.S., French, British, Chinese, Thai, Korean and Norwegian interests have all bought stakes in oil-sands projects. According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), international companies have invested nearly $20 billion in the last three years through mergers, partnerships and outright purchases of projects.
While we were sleeping, the Harper government was selling us off.  The Northern Gateway pipeline is being built for China, Norway, Thailand and Korea.  The XL pipeline is being built for the Koch Brothers.

Again ... Ethical Oil?

The Ethical Oil Institute, is a phony grassroots organization, created by Ezra Levant and run by Stephen Harper’s current Director of Planning, Alykhan Velshi.  Velshi, as we know has close ties to Dick Cheney and George Bush.
Director of the Ethical Oil Institute is Kathryn Marshall, a blogger and sometimes columnist.  Marshall appeared on Power and Politics recently, where Evan Solomon repeatedly asked her if she was employed by Enbridge, but she refused to answer.
Kathyrn Marshall is married to Hamish Marshall, Harper's former strategic planning manager.  Terry Glavin writes for the Ottawa Citizen:  The real foreign interests in the oilsands:
While it's all good fun to play Spot the Freemason, something very serious is going on here. Last summer, John Bruk, the Asia Pacific Foundation's founding president, warned that Ottawa was ignoring the rapid emergence of Chinese government interests "in sheep's clothing" taking over Canada's natural resource industries. Bruk told B.C. Business magazine: "Are we jeopardizing prosperity for our children and grandchildren while putting at risk our economic independence? In my view, this is exactly what is happening."  As things have turned out, Bruk was more right than he knew.
When your currency is quickly becoming backed by a single commodity (not gold), the risks are enormous.  And when China and other foreign interests, have a large stake in that commodity, the risks become even greater.  Do they care if Canada's economy fails?  There is no vested interest, other than in profit.
Canadians’ increasing reliance on crude natural resources has economists on the lookout for symptoms of “Dutch Disease”—a phenomenon in which a natural resources boom strengthens a country’s currency, making its other exports more expensive and less competitive on the world market.
Oremus closes by saying:
President Obama’s rejection of Keystone XL is only as secure as his re-election. GOP front-runner Mitt Romney has called the decision “shocking,” and Newt Gingrich called it “stunningly stupid.” By 2013, the two North American countries could be on the same team again when it comes to oil. If so, it’ll be us against the world.
Newt Gingrich is now the front-runner, so it would be Newt and Harper against the world.  Imagine that.   Dumb and Dumber II.

Monday, January 23, 2012

New Item on Menu - The McFox Sandwich

My neighbour told us of an experience he had with the local McDonalds.  He was sitting in one having breakfast and found himself offended by a debate playing out on the television, that included racial slurs.

So he went up to the counter and asked if they could change the channel but was told "no".  Apparently, they were not allowed to do that, so instead he asked if they could just shut it off, but again "no".  Not allowed.

The following week, he avoided that particular place and went to a different McDonalds, but was surprised to find the same right-wing station, airing the same offensive dialogue.  Again, he tried to get the staff to change the channel or shut it off, and was told the same thing.  They were not allowed.

I asked him if it was Fox News or Sun TV.  He wasn't sure, since they are both pretty much the same.

My neighbour is not a political activist.  He is a retired educator and former military officer.  He wrote a letter to McDonalds, he said, the fist time he had ever felt compelled to do something like that.

I thought that maybe the local owner of the franchise was right-wing, and that it was he who decided what was being played, so I googled McDonalds/Fox News.  What popped up was a recent posting on Daily KOS, Is McDonald's in bed with Fox News?, citing a similar experience.
I asked a manager why one only had Fox News all the time, and she said they were told they had to leave it on that station at all times and were unable to change the channel. When I asked if customers had requested it, she said no, "Nobody likes Fox, we get a lot of complaints about it."
I thought to myself, I don't work there, so maybe I could change it. But fiddling with the channel buttons had no effect. That single channel was hard-wired into the set; like Big Brother on the telescreen in "1984," it is impossible to watch anything else. When I asked if it was a corporate mandate to have the TV on Fox News, the manager nodded yes. Apparently they were free to switch between various sports networks on the other set, depending on what sporting events were currently happening, but the Fox News TV was permanently set to only that station.  "Nobody likes Fox," she had said, but yet that's the only choice McDonald's was giving us, whether we liked it or not.
When my friend complained, in both incidents, several customers backed him up.

McDonalds is supposed to be a "family restaurant", but Fox News, on both sides of the border, is hardly family entertainment.  Fox and Sun like to boast about their viewing numbers, but how many of those "viewers" are being force fed this right-wing propaganda?

It is hate porn.  The only sensual experience many of their viewers and commentators have.  I swear every time Ezra Levant goes into one of his "white people" rants, he closes his eyes and smokes a cigarette.

I'd be interested in hearing from anyone else, who has noticed Fox/Sun as a McWatch.  I certainly wouldn't take children into that restaurant.  They need to post a warning on the door:  "Television content not suitable for the majority of viewers".

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Newt Gingrich Thanks Harper for Being a Pro-American Conservative

Rick Santorum may get his fashion tips from Stephen Harper, but Newt Gingrich likes the whole package.  The first truly pro-American prime minister of Canada.  What's not to love?

What Newt doesn't understand is the power of the people, who are just as determined to stop the Northern Gateway Pipeline, as they were the XL.
While blasting President Barack Obama for rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline and the thousands of jobs it has been estimated it would create, Gingrich warned Canada will send its oil to China instead.  And he praised Harper, too.
"What Prime Minister Harper -- who, by the way, is conservative and pro-American -- what he has said is he's gonna cut a deal with the Chinese and they'll build a pipeline straight across the Rockies to Vancouver," Gingrich said Saturday night. "We'll get none of the jobs, none of the energy, none of the opportunity.
Maybe Harper and Newt could go on Dancing with the Stars.  A much better couple than Manning and Gingrich.  Their steps are perfectly timed.

Moving Beyond Politics by Empowering the People

What if Environment Canada issued a tornado warning for your area?  And what if along with that warning they offered suggestions to keep you safe?  Things like moving into the basement; covering yourself with blankets and staying away from your windows.  You would certainly heed their advice, since it's based on scientific knowledge.

However, what if a lobby group, wanting to undermine the scientific community, told you to ignore the warnings? We'll call them the International Damnifying Idealist Organization for the Takeover of Sensibility, or I.D.I.O.T.S. for short.

And what if I.D.I.O.T.S., instead suggested that the warnings were unfounded?  Merely an attempt by criminals to get you in the basement, covered in blankets and away from the windows,  so they could steal your stuff.

Confused?  Science or a noisy lobby group?

Now what if a group of Nobel prizing winning scientists told you that a devastating change in climate, brought on by the warming of the planet, could make a tornado look like a balloon losing air?  And what if along with that warning they offered suggestions to keep you safe by slowing down that warming, but it would involve major changes by industry and yourself.

However, what if several lobby groups and short-sighted individuals, wanting to undermine the scientific community, told you to ignore the warnings?  We'll call them Exxon, friends of Exxon and the Harper government.

Confused? Science or the money and power behind I.D.I.O.T.S.?

This week President Obama, when pressured by another group backed by the oil industry, we'll call them the Republicans; announced that he would not support the XL pipeline, that would transport bitumen from Canada to the U.S. for refining.

Canada may not care about the environment, but he did.

However, he could not have taken such a stand, had it not been for another noisy lobby group.  We'll call them The People.  Backed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, they empowered Obama to act on behalf of the majority and do what was right.

The Toronto Star had an oped piece this week, written by someone suggesting that Obama's move was purely political.  An attempt to get re-elected.  We'll call him American journalist Robert O. Samuelson.

Bill Moyers, another American journalist, was on Bill Maher this week, and he saw Obama's decision as something else.  The oil industry pushing for XL, and their wholly owned subsidiary (we'll call them the Harper government), put $42 million into the pockets of politicians in an attempt to undermine democracy. 

But the NRDC, and other environmental groups, instead put millions of voters at Obama's doorstep.

Moyers had worked with Lyndon Johnson, when Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964.  When headlines applauded the move, Johnson told Moyers that the Democrats had just lost the South for a generation, and he was right.  But the South didn't dictate, the majority did, and the Act was the right thing to do for the majority of Americans.

FDR's New Deal met with the same opposition by big business in the 1930s, but he asked the people to put the power behind him.  "Make me do the right thing".

Moyers believes that this is why the Occupy movement is a good thing for these times.  Instead of empowering politicians to work against our best interests, by allowing noisy lobby groups to work on behalf on the top 1%, we have to empower them to work for us.

We are the only ones who can build  integrity into the political process.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I Would Vote For Grant Gordon in a Heartbeat

Twitter was all a tweet today with some very clever ads by Liberal hopeful Grant Gordon, who is vying for the party nomination in Jack Layton's old riding.

He is appealing to all voters with humour, something sorely lacking in today's poltical climate.
Dear NDPers: In the upcoming by-election, you guys are going to wipe up... Help get me on the ballot, and I'll create intelligent dialogue. (And don't worry, I'm not a threat. The NDP owns this riding.)
Dear Liberals: Pay no attention to that last paragraph.
And I love the one for the Neocons.
Do you really want to see these pinko commie bike-riding NDPers take this riding in a walk?
Gordon runs an ad agency for the "good guys":  "An advertising design boutique, Key Gordon was one of the first creative agencies in North America to focus exclusively on the branding and marketing of socially and environmentally responsible companies."

I'd like to see him get the nomination just for his ads, though he would make a great MP.  I wish there were more like him.

Should the National Citizens Coalition Lose Its Tax Exempt Status?

When it was learned this week that Bob Rae is now polling 24 points ahead of Stephen Harper, many of us wondered when the Harper attack ads would begin.

It took exactly 17 minutes and 43 seconds (Actually, they were already running them).

Careful not to make it appear that he is focusing on his political opponents and not the mess that our economy is in, Harper instead allowed his alma mater, the National Citizens Coalition,  to do his dirty work for him.

NCC had provided Harper with a stellar education in liberal bashing, under headmaster Art Finkelstein, Richard Nixon's former campaign strategist.  He had the know how, but darn it all, his hands were tied, what with being the prime minister and all.  Can't look petty and ... er ... desperate.

When Bob Rae was premier of Ontario, a group calling themselves Ontarians for Responsible Government, a spin-off of the NCC, launced a four year attack, headed up by Gerry Nicholls, Harper's former VP with the non-profit "public service" group.

So who better to get their hands dirty for you?  They already had the file, even if it is 20 years old.

Going on the defensive, they emphatically stated that "National Citizens Coalition 'never has, never will' work for Conservative Party".  What a farce.  They acted as a registered third party during the last election campaign.  They were certainly working for the Conservative Party then.

Glen McGregor has an excellent piece in the Ottawa Citizen, detailing the NCC's "not for  the Conservative party" assault, including a list of big donors.  (I thought you could only contribute $1100)
During the spring election campaign, the NCC raised $168,960 in contributions to advertisements, according to its third-party advertising return filed with Elections Canada.  But the NCC appears to have held on to the bulk of this money for, uh, later use. The return shows the NCC spent only about 29 per cent of the money it took in. So, Election 41 was something of a cash bonanza for the NCC.
And the donors ( public record)

Robert Colborne Calgary AB 2011-03-31 $10,000
John Elliot Midhurst ON 2011-04-28 $10,000
Darey Rector Toronto ON 2011-04-06 $10,000
Bruce + Robert Orr Vancouver BC 2011-04-20 $10,000
Wazir Seth Calgary AB 2011-04-11 $5,000
Rick Balbi Calgary AB 2011-04-19 $4,000
Kent Norris Victoria BC 2011-04-29 $3,000
Paul Greenhalgh Richmond Hill ON 2011-04-04 $2,500
Mrs. William P. Wilder Toronto ON 2011-04-15 $2,000
Robert Macdonald Calgary AB 2011-04-01 $1,500
Tom Skinner Kanata ON 2011-04-19 $1,200
Brian Buttler Saanichton BC 2011-04-21 $1,200
Bob Elliot Guelph ON 2011-04-06 $1,200
Tom Como Edson AB 2011-04-28 $1,000
Tara Sinanan Edmonton AB 2011-04-28 $1,000
Sandra Simpson Toronto ON 2011-04-28 $1,000
Rick Balbi Calgary AB 2011-04-20 $1,000
Paul Sunnen Chatham ON 2011-04-04 $1,000
John Elias Morden MB 2011-04-01 $1,000
James L. Attwood Toronto ON 2011-03-29 $1,000
Gerald Heffernen Toronto ON 2011-04-28 $1,000
Frans Feyter Fort Macleod AB 2011-04-21 $1,000
Ed Thiessen Strathmore AB 2011-04-20 $1,000
David Jamieson Red Deer AB 2011-03-31 $1,000
Bryan Bennett Mississauga ON 2011-04-08 $1,000
Brent Buchanan Edmonton AB 2011-03-31 $1,000
Bill Nicholls Cambridge ON 2011-04-19 $1,000

Conservative blogger Stephen Taylor, now with the NCC, while posing as a journalist, has strong ties with the Harper government.  And in 2008, when the NCC was giving Preston Manning its medal of freedom, a rather dubious honour, it was our man Harper who presented it.

If you are going to try to make the claim that you don't work for the Conservative Party of Canada, you might want to stop working for the Conservative Party of Canada.

The NCC is not a public service organization, but just an extension of our current government.  They should pay taxes like everyone else, and stop hiding behind their "watchdog" title.

These groups do not uphold democracy, but undermine it, and its time they were exposed.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Stephen Harper and Newt Gingrich May be Reunited After All

When Newt Gingrich and the Republicans stole the Mid-terms in 1994, Gingrich gave much of the credit to Preston Manning and the Reform Party.

Manning's lieutenant at the time was Stephen Harper.

In the contest for the Republican presidential candidacy, Newt Gingrich was a long shot, but that shot just got a little shorter.

Mitt Romney has been stripped of his Iowa victory after a recount that gives it to Rick Santorum, Harper's Mini me.

Romney is also in trouble over his financial records, that include hiding much of his $200 million wealth in the Cayman Islands.

And Rick Perry has dropped out of the race, that will help the conservatives who never liked Romney anyway, by reducing the competition.  Perry may back Gingrich who is now surging in South Carolina.

I wonder what the Harper team will do this time to help their conservative allies South of the border?  They tried to railroad Obama in 2008, and I'm sure they've still got a few tricks up their sleeve.

Personally, I think Gingrich would be a gift to the Democrats, but who knows?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

When is "Foreign" Money and Influence, Not "Foreign" Money and Influence?

The Harper government has tried a new strategy in pushing through the Gateway Pipeline.  Apparently, we are now under attack by "foreigners".  "Foreign" money is driving the debate.  "Foreign" radicals are trying to stop progress.

And yet "foreign" ownership of the Tar Sands has accelerated since they took power.  Our new Natural Resources minister is in fact an investment banker.  He sees our natural resources not as something that need to be protected, but something that can be exploited.
Foreign corporations, some controlled by national governments, have been using their economic clout to buy into Alberta's oil sands and take control of our natural resources.  U.S., French, British, Chinese, Thai, Korean and Norwegian interests have all bought stakes in oil-sands projects. According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), international companies have invested nearly $20 billion in the last three years through mergers, partnerships and outright purchases of projects.

This increased foreign investment raises questions. Who has the right to develop our natural resources? Who sets the rules for how these resources are developed? Who controls where the resources are processed and sold?
For Harper to use the "foreign" argument is hypocrisy at its worst.
Not only is he selling off all of our industry to global interests, but he used "foreign" influence to gain power.  Top Republican pollster, John McLaughlin takes credit for Harper's career

Within the past year, John McLaughlin has helped elect Iain Duncan Smith, the leader of the Conservative Party (United Kingdom); Stephen Harper, the leader of the Canadian Alliance Party (Canada); Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore; and a historic 30-seat Republican majority in the Virginia House of Delegates.
The American NRA is writing our gun laws. Frank Luntz and the Americans, including Dick Cheney, helped to write our environmental policy (summarized as "screw the environment, we're going drilling") and Religious Right leader James Dobson poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Stephen Harper's anti same-sex marriage campaign.

Mike Robinson has an excellent piece in the Edmonton Journal today:  History repeats itself with Gateway debate:  Old questions linger about wisdom of project.
He wonders why the Harper government is working so hard to push this pipeline through.  Mr. Robinson knows the dangers because he was involved in similar debates decades ago.  The only difference was that many public meetings took place with First Nation communities, where the environmental impact would be felt the most. 
Looking back, I was glad the B.C. offshore play never happened, be-cause at the local information sessions we heard too many seasoned fishing boat skippers talk about 80-foot waves, high tidal energy, howling southeasters in Hecate Strait and the growing fragility of the marine ecosystem.

I also heard scores of First Nations speakers decry putting their home-lands and food chains at risk for the sake of oil. I also remember having a few beers with technical members of the company's public-information team. Privately, especially after a raucous community meeting, they would confide to me that high wave and wind action would hamper and disrupt oil spill boom placement and slick-licker deployment, and a major blowout or spill near a tidal estuary would likely be very difficult to contain.
Another concern of mine is something not getting a lot of media attention.  The secret deal signed in Texas, that allows the U.S. to send its troops to Canada in the case of a "civil emergency".  Stuart Trew, a researcher with the Council of Canadians, rightfully said:
... there is potential for the agreement to militarize civilian responses to emergency incidents. He noted that work is also underway for the two nations to put in place a joint plan to protect common infrastructure such as roadways and oil pipelines.  “Are we going to see (U.S.) troops on our soil for minor potential threats to a pipeline or a road?”
A license to invade?

The threat to the pipeline would of course be a threat to Stephen Harper's benefactors, like:

Thailand's state-owned PTTEP who bought a 40-per-cent stake in Statoil's Kai Kos Dehseh project for $2.3 billion.  "Statoil is a Norwegian company whose largest owner is the government of Norway, with 67 per cent of the shares. Under the terms of the deal, Statoil remained the majority owner and operator of the project, which ends up being a Norwegian-Thai, public-private enterprise developing Albertan energy resources."

Korean National Oil Company that took over Calgary's Harvest Energy Trust for $4.1 billion ($1.8 billion in cash and $2.3 billion in assumed debt). The deal allowed the Korean state-run company to grab an estimated oil production of 50,000 barrels per day (b/d) and 154 million barrels of oil-equivalent reserves.  "In 2006, the Korean firm set up an office in Calgary and purchased the Black Gold Oil Sands leases near Conklin. These leases gave the company 10,000 b/d of bitumen for about 25 years."

PetroChina now owns 60-per-cent share of Athabasca Oil Sands Corp.'s giving them a majority share in a company with access to more than five million barrels of oil.

Chinese company Sinopec, a majority-owned subsidiary of a national company, paid $4.65 billion for Houston-based ConocoPhillips' stake in Syncrude. What makes this deal significant is that under the terms of the deal, the state-controlled Sinopec has a veto on the critical decision of whether the company should upgrade bitumen here or export it in raw form overseas.

In January 2011, Enbridge announced Sinopec's funding of the $5.5-billion Northern Gateway Pipeline.

And what do Canadians get out of all this?  The bill for cleanup, the threat of an American invasion and the joy of listening to our prime minister warn of "foreign" involvement in a Canadian (??!!?) pipeline.

Monday, January 16, 2012

So This is Ethical Oil?

The American conservatives appear to be adopting, or at least sharing, tactics being used by the Canadian conservatives to get what they want.  Intimidation and corruption.

The Republican controlled Congress is voting on a bill that would force President Obama to make a decision on TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline by November 1.  An unprecedented tactic that would remove the authority of the president and the secretary of state.  Future abuse could be devastating to both domestic and foreign policy.

Obama had to accept the deal in order to avoid raising taxes on workers, something the Republicans were determined to do, and Jim Flaherty has already done. (Flaherty does love taxing the little guy, doesn't he?)

Protests are growing in both the U.S. and Canada over the controversial pipeline, with the Americans not wanting the environmental mess when bitumen is sent there for processing, and Canadians not wanting the risk of devastating oil spills.

Another factor not getting as much media attention, is that while the U.S. oil lobby is citing all the new jobs in their country, many good jobs in the industry are being piped South.

Why?  Lower wages?  Since our government is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the oil industry, profit will always be job one. 

Alberta Energy Minister Ron Liepert claims that Canada must find more markets for its crude oil if it hopes to become a global energy superpower.  Why can't we become a global energy superpower with something other than oil?  And how many Canadians dream of becoming a global energy superpower anyway?  We just want the world to stop hating us.

Another element to this story is one of questionable lobbying practices and conflict of interest.  Apparently at least three politician in the U.S. fighting for the pipeline, have shares in TransCanada; two Republicans and one Democrat.

Time to reduce the powers of the oil industry and put it back into the hands of citizens.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Since You Brought it Up: Stephen Harper and R.B. Bennett

In 1931, during a particularly stormy debate in the House of Commons, a member of the Opposition asked Conservative MP Walter D. Cowan, why he didn't wear his "nightshirt". An odd question to be raised in Parliament, but a very significant one.

Before winning his seat in the federal election of 1930, Cowan had acted as treasurer for the Ku Klux Klan in Saskatchewan. In fact, several new Tory MPs, who joined the government of R.B. Bennett, were affiliated with the Klan.

Quebec Liberal MP, Jean F. Pouliot, produced official Klan documents showing that Cowan, as treasurer, had overseen the collection of more than $40,000 in dues and donations in the province, for which he was paid a salary of $2,170. Pouliot also charged that Ambrose Bury, the Conservative MP from Edmonton, was a Klan member and noted "that body celebrated his victory by burning crosses on the side of a hill near Edmonton." Then in 1934, Pouliot alleged that not only Cowan and Bury, but new Regina MP F.W. Turnbull "and other members of the Ku Klux Klan" were sitting in the Tory side of Parliament.

Initially Bennett refused to address the accusations until the media ran with the story and he was forced to make a public statement denouncing the Klan.

In his new book on Bennett, The Rebel Who Changed a Nation, John Boyko states that the Conservatives in Saskatchewan had been so aggressively anti-Catholic, that even the KKK endorsed several candidates. He's being kind. The relationship between the Conservatives of the 1920s and the Invisible Empire ran much deeper.  We have to remember that the Klan of that day, especially in Canada, were not like the KKK of the post Antebellum  period in the South.

They did not engage in lynchings or castrations, but were more of a religious fundamentalist group, policing morality, endorsing vigilante justice and protecting their White Ango-Saxon Protestant heritage.  As such their targets of hatred were Jews, Catholics and French Canadians.

Boyko's book is the first full-length biography of this controversial prime minister, and he suggests that one of the reasons for that is that Bennett burned most of his papers.  I think it's more likely that Bennett burned most of his papers to avoid having such a book written.

I noticed in the bibliography, that Boyko does not mention two very important books written of this era.  Julian Sher's White Hoods:  Canada Ku Klux Klan (Newstar, 1983) and Martin Robin's Shades of Right: Nativist and Fascist Politics in Canada 1920-1940 (University of Toronto Press 1992)

He also avoids mentioning Cowan, Bury or Turnbull.

Yet at the time, Regina dentist Walter Davy Cowan, was very open about his involvement with the Klan, not only acting as their treasurer, but was a popular speaker at their rallies, including the one advertised on the left, that took place on May 15, 1929.
Klan membership lists were filled with the names of Tory supporters, and their meetings attended and harangued by party activists. According to Dr Walter D. Cowan, the Klan treasurer, Regina Conservative elected for Long Lake to the House of Commons in the general election of 1930, and columnist for the Regina Standard, the Klan was 'the most complete political organization ever known' in the West.  'Every organizer in it is a Tory,' he wrote R.B. Bennett. 'It cost over a thousand dollars a week to pay them. I know it for I pay them. And I never pay a Grit. Smile when you hear anything about this organization and keep silent.' (Robin 1992, p.68)  
Cowan's advice of "silence" was heeded not only by Bennett, but by many "prominent Conservative colleagues who welcomed the Klan's arrival, appreciated its ignition potentials and gloated over prospects of a political windfall."  And according to Robin, " J.F Bryant, the Tory lawyer and Orangeman, was a key player in the Tory-Klan game."

History has sought to downplay the role of the Klan in Canada, but when it is reduced to a few lines in a new book, suggesting only that Bennett's anti-Catholic stance inspired several Klan members to vote for him, it looks like a deliberate attempt to obliterate that history.
But why?
Telling are some of the endorsements for Boyko's book.  Conservative Senator Hugh Segal claims that it should be required reading "for any Canadian who wants to understand the real roots of modern Conservatism."   Indeed, in the book Boyko compares Stephen Harper to Bennett, though he may understand Harper as little as he understands, or refuses to understand, Bennett.
Segal is right in many respects.  Bennett was cool and aloof, a multi-millionaire corporate lawyer who assisted in many mergers, and refused to address poverty.  Under pressure, he attempted a few measures during the Depression, but they were too little, too late.  During the 2008 election debate, when the topic was rising unemployment, Harper claimed to understand, himself once being unemployed for a long period of time.  When pressed on the issue, turns out that it was by choice.  His wife had a thriving business printing material for the Reform/Alliance Party, so he spent his time planning for the next election.  Not really the same thing.
And then of course his suggestion that the recession provided an opportunity to buy cheap stocks.  People worrying about putting food on the table, are hardly looking for bargains in the stock market.
Both men lack empathy, although Bennett grew up poor, unlike Harper who grew up in privilege.  His father made a bundle on an accounting program he designed for Esso and Harper grew up in a high-middle-class WASP neighbourhood.
Another endorsement comes from Brian Lee Crowley, a Neoconservative activist with ties to many right-wing think tanks.
In an interview with Allan Gregg, Boyko states that much of the negativity surrounding Bennett, has been exaggerated, claiming to have found little evidence of "Bennett Buggies", the name given to cars with their engines removed and hooked up to horses (In the U.S. they were "Hoover wagons").  But they were real and images can be found in many places.  A trip to the library will help.
Perhaps the most important similarity between Stephen Joseph Harper and Richard Bedford Bennett, is that both used religious fundamentalists and the radical right to get elected, then attempted to dismiss them once they got they wanted: POWER.  And yet the policies of both men reflect the desires of religious fundamentalists and the radical right, including tough immigration rules, a roll back of earned "rights", and an attack on the French language, to name a few.
In Allan J. Lichtman's White Protestant Nation (Atlantic Press, 2008), he traces the modern American conservative movement to the Era of the Klan, a strong political force in the 1920s and 30s.  According to Hugh Segal, so can Canada's modern day conservatism, which successfully managed to eradicate the "progressive" years, just as the American conservatives try to forget the impact of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the last moderate Republican president.
After accusations of the "new" conservatism being more a "radical conservatism", every bit an oxymoron as Stephen Harper's suggestion that "progressive conservatism" was the same, American Cory Robin claimed that they were reactionary Tories in the same vein as Edmund Burke.  And what Burke reacted to was the French Revolution.
After being sent his argument by one of my right-wing followers, I reminded him of another "reactionary conservative" party that had embraced Edmund Burke.  From a radio broadcast on April 1, 1933, "the year 1789 has been expunged from the records of history." 
"It was obvious to all why 1933 was being compared to 1789.  "Any contemporary, whether schooled in history or not, instinctively knew that the French Revolution was the measure of things in the modern world. 'We want to eradicate the ideology of liberalism and replace it with a new sense of community'"  (Foundational Pasts: The Holocaust as Historical Understanding, By Alon Confino, Cambridge University Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-52173-632-9, p. 6)
The man making that announcement? Joseph Goebbels.  According to Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism:
While the seeds of German race-thinking were planted during the Napoleonic wars, the beginnings of the later English development appeared during the French Revolution and may be traced back to the man who violently denounced it as the "most astonishing [crisis] that has hitherto happened in the world"—to Edmund Burke . The tremendous influence his work has exercised not only on English but also on German political thought is well known.
It should be noted that John Boyko is a teacher at Lakefield College School, listed as one of the most expensive private schools in the country.  They are also under royal patronage, due in part to a famous former student, Prince Andrew.
The Orange Lodge and the Klan worked in tandem during Bennett's time, and while the Klan has lost most of its influence, the Orange Lodge and their counterpart, the Monarchist League, are working to restore our WASP heritage.
They are behind the rewriting of our citizenship guide, returning the "Royal" to our military and are now pushing to have a crown placed on our Olympic uniforms.
This new biography on Bennett provides an opportunity to have an adult discussion on the roots of the current movement, and the impact of radical right-wing fringe groups.  We no longer have to open the door a crack, because Boyko has flung it wide open.

Friday, January 13, 2012

And So it Begins. Harper's anti-Homosexual Agenda

Despite denying his anti-gay stance, Stephen Harper continues to remake Canada by stealth, by nullifying thousands of same-sex marriages:
Thousands of LGBT couples across the world awoke this morning to learn that they are no longer married. A Department of Justice lawyer under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party of Canada government has nullified all same-sex marriages performed in Canada in which the couples’ native country does not permit gays and lesbians to marry.
This is only phase one.  They no doubt have already selected the "landmark" case by a right-wing fringe group, who will challenge the ruling by saying that it was descriminatory to their religious beliefs, showing favour to the beliefs of "foreigners."  Harper now controls the Supreme Court, stacked with "social conservatives", so it would breeze through.

If you wondered what a Harper majority would like, wonder no more. 

How about a landmark impeachment since this prime minister lied to get what he wanted?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Would a Romney Victory Mean the End of the Conservative Movement?

Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary with 40% of the vote and appears to be heading toward winning the Republican nomination.

Unlike most of his opponents, he has not "surged" but just plodded along, attacking when he needed to attack, and standing up to the blows from his tag-teamed conservative opponents.

In the weeks leading up to these important votes, there was a lot of talk about the conservative movement mobilizing to knock him out, yet they were unable to do that.

They appear instead, to have burned themselves out, by focusing too much on issues that are now non-issues.  Same-sex marriage (more than half of Americans now support it), gay rights, abortion and immigration.  It's getting old and at a time when the American economy is in crisis, people are looking for someone whose attention will be on that.

The conservative movement was successful only when they downplayed the social conservative elements, instead working behind the scenes to pursue their agenda.  Ronald Reagan was able to play the role of a moderate, despite the fact that he was anything but.  Stephen Harper appears to be having some success with the same strategy, though the extremism is always there just beneath the surface.

The candidates endorsed by conservatives wear their views on their sleeves and because of that, will never be able to win an election, when the majority of Americans simply don't share those views.

What is telling about the New Hampsire results, is that Ron Paul, the Libertarian, came in second with 23%. 

On Chris Matthew's Hardball this week they discussed the possibility of Paul running as an independent, since he seems to be a hit with the younger generation.  He's not a social conservative, opposes big government and government spending, is anti-war and believes that marijuana should be legalized.

He may not win the presidency, but could split the right-wing vote.

Mitt Romney's chances would depend on who he chose as a running mate.  I actually liked John McCain and believe that he would have done much better, had it not been for Sarah Palin.  The thought that she would be president if McCain's health failed, was terrifying.

Romney also appears to be reaching out to corporate America, where the real Republican clout is. In his speech after the Iowa caucus victory, he said that he would get America on its feet with the help of the "job creators", conservative code for lowering taxes for the wealthy.

Same old, same old.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Harper Government on the Wrong Side of the Drug War

Harper's new omnibus crime bill will mean stiffer sentences for those growing a few marijuana plants, clearly designed to go after the user.  However, if he really wanted to do the war on drugs right, he would be targeting the pharmaceutical industry; the real drug pushers of this generation.

I often mock the ads on U.S television for new prescription drugs;  "cures" for ailments you never heard of.   Clearly they're just starting to make things up.

Direct-to-consumer advertising can be very effective, but also dangerous.  According to the Canadian Health Coalition, the ads push the newest medicines, those without a history of the affects of long-term use.

Truth in advertising demands that they list the side affects, but they are practically sung at the end or read so fast you can't keep up.

"Did she just say that this drug might make me want to jump out a window?"

What you remember the most from the ads is "ask your doctor".  Arthritis sufferers asked their doctors about Vioxx, a heavily advertised pain medication, and yet 115,000 died from heart attacks as a result of taking the drug. 

CHC also warns that the ads are designed to turn the normal into a problem, convincing people who feel fine but with "symptoms" of a new medical condition, that they need drugs. Others who have symptoms of a legitimate condition, could instead treat the fabricated one and mask the symptoms that need to be addressed.

In Canada direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicine is still prohibited, but Canwest Global is hoping to change that, calling it an infringement on their freedom of expression.  I believe the case is still pending.

With Harper now controlling the Supreme Court, if it goes that far, CanWest will win.  They'll just have to bring him a hockey sweater.  It won't hurt that Pfizer is now running the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, either.

History Repeating Itself

In his 2008 book White Protestant Nation, Allan J. Richtman traces the modern conservative movement to the 1920s and Prohibition, which was not only about banning the sale of alcohol but an attempt to crack down on all vices, including drug use.
A near panic over drug-induced crime that hit the United States during the 1920s led public officials and private reformers to declare America's first war on drugs. The nation closed its public drug treatment clinics and as it had done with venereal disease, adopted a moral and law enforcement approach to narcotics. Addicts had no recourse other than illegal sources of supply ...

Despite a continued drug war, however, the nation's experiment with Prohibition crashed in the late 1920s. Prohibition exposed the tension between moral reformers and a business community opposed to govern­ment control over industry ... a continuing thirst for alcohol gave rise to a thriving underground market operated by organized criminal syndicates that waged bloody street battles for control of market share and paid off law enforce­ment officials to look the other way. The prisons swelled with felons con­victed of violating the dry laws and collateral crimes. The cost of federal law enforcement quintupled during the '20s and intruded into the lives of ordinary Americans. (1)
Many believe that the narcotic trade is new and addiction something that can be cured with tougher laws.  They thought the same thing in the 1920s when federal laws were passed and a war on drugs was launched.

Throughout the Victorian era, narcotics were readily available and sold as patent medicines.

Cannabis Indica, patented by the American Druggist Syndicate in 1906.  Bottle reads:

"Fluid Extract. Cannabis Indica. USP eighth revision. The flowering tops of cannabis sativa. Alcohol 60 percent. Physiologically tested. A.D.S.

This was one of many cannabis products promising to cure migraines and "nervousness".  The 60% alcohol didn't hurt.

Bayer began selling liquid Heroin in 1899 for pain relief.  It earned it's name because those testing the miracle cure claimed that it made them feel heroic.

However, by the early 1900s heroism turned to addiction, so pharmaceutical companies began to patent a range of cures for addiction, including the German Liquor Cure.

To those addicted to the habit of using opium or morphia in  any form or manner whatever. We guarantee this preparation to be absolutely harmless, to contain no poisonous narcotics. Can be taken freely without producing any of the deleterious effects on the system, such as are caused by the use of opium and morphia. Immediately on taking a dose of this remedy, a calming and soothing effect is produced. It acts as a tonic to  the nerves;it will act at first as perfect substitute, rendering the patient independent of these poisonous drugs, and after continued use for a short period the nerves will become strong and the general health improved, so that the remedy can be taken at longer intervals and soon altogether discontinued; then the cure is complete". Cannot be sent by mail on account of weight".

They don't say what was in this stuff, but perhaps more alcohol than Cannabis Indica.

Enter the crusaders of the conservative movement, who were going to end all that, with a whole range of federal laws.  We'll call it an omnibus bill. 

Since Ronald Reagan launched his war full scale war on drugs, the results have been pretty much the same.  Some examples:
- the U.S. per capita spending on schools increased 32%. The per capita spending on prisons grew 189%

- California built 21 prisons since then but just one college.

- From 1985 to 1998, the number of deaths per 100,000 for drug-induced causes almost doubled. In other words, having a drug war proved twice as deadly as not having one. (2)
By the 25th anniversary $4 trillion dollars had been spent on the war on drugs with a record expansion of prison and jail systems.

Martin Beckford, Health Correspondent for the UK Telegraph writes that the War on drugs has failed:
Leading peers – including prominent Tories – say that despite governments worldwide drawing up tough laws against dealers and users over the past 50 years, illegal drugs have become more accessible. Vast amounts of money have been wasted on unsuccessful crackdowns, while criminals have made fortunes importing drugs into this country.
So why does the Harper government, at a time of record deficits, insist on making the same mistakes as those who have tried "crack down" before?

Robert O. Paxton blames it on the mindset of these kinds of populist movements. They "despise thought and reason" and "abandon intellectual positions casually" (3) .  Preferring emotional arguments to proven facts, is the basis of the new conservatism.  Even if their leaders know otherwise, manipulating emotion is what puts them into power and keeps them there.  They often refer to it, as Guy Giorno, Harper's former chief of staff, did, as "playing to the base". 

I tried to debate Canada's new drug laws with one of my conservative followers.  Frustrated, he said "You can't tell me that things weren't better in the Victorian era", (we'd already run the gamut from the 1920s).  And yet I can.  Every generation has had their problems and there has never been any quick fix.

Bill C-10 will only create a new set of problems.  Or an old set of problems, as history will repeat itself.


1. White Protestant Nation: The Rise of the American Conservative Movement, By Allan J. Lichtman, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2008, ISBN: 10-0-87113-983-7, pp 14-15

2. BOTTOM LINE: The true costs of Reagan and extreme capitalism, by Sam Smith
3. The Five Stages of Fascism, By Robert O. Paxton, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 70, No. 1. (Mar., 1998), pp. 1-23. The University of Chicago Press