Sunday, January 31, 2010

"I knew there was going to be a banking crisis"

In a Financial Times article singing the praises of Canadian banking regulation (Re-run that sentence in your head, swirl it around and enjoy it.) Paul Martin claims foresight in retrospect.
For Martin and Dodge, there was a shared conviction, as Martin told me, that “we could never afford to go through with our banks what we went through with our trust system. I knew there was going to be a banking crisis and so did everyone else who has read any history. I just wanted to be damn sure that when a crisis occurred it wouldn’t occur in Canada.”
And yes quite a lot of people did see it coming and yes, some of the economic management strategies of the Martin years like forcing banks to keep a much higher asset to leverage ratio and denying the big merger requests seem signs of foresight now.

But it's a telling insiders moment, revealing that behind the scenes of sunny triumphalism and blandly confident globalist corporatism in the 90's was an understanding among the elites that the edge of the precipice was crumbling.

That’s not a class story. It’s a crime story

Matt Taibbi chews David Brooks up and spits him out for the second week in a row.
Brooks here is trying to say that by criticizing, say, Goldman Sachs for mass thievery — criticizing a bank for selling billions of dollars worth of worthless subprime mortgage-backed securities mismarked as investment grade deals, for getting the taxpayer to pay them 100 cents on the dollar for their billions in crap investments with AIG, for forcing hundreds of millions of people to pay inflated gas and food prices when they manipulated the commodities market and helped push oil to a preposterous $149 a barrel, and for paying massive bonuses after receiving billions upon billions in public support even beyond the TARP — that in criticizing the bank for doing these things, people like me are primarily interested in being divisive and “organizing hatreds.”

Friday, January 29, 2010

CBS Hypocrisy

It's not like I'll be watching the Superbowl (A bunch of pampered millionaires who need to wear body armor to play Rugby? No thanks.) but in an obnoxious display of double standards CBS has accepted a Focus on the Family Pro Life commercial to run duiring the Superbowl - but rejected a funny but tame ad for a gay dating site.

If they don't get hit with massive protests and boycotts over this horseshit, I'll be shocked.

Quote of the day

"When politics can't do real things, it becomes by default a realm of entertainment and titillation, requiring ever new thrills and Susan Boyle-like surprises."
-Rick Salutin

California Dreaming

Californians will be given a chance to legalize marijuana in the plebiscite ballot in the Fall:

It looks like a marijuana legalization initiative will be on the ballot in California this fall. Today the backers of the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act turned in nearly 700,000 signatures; they need just 434,000 to qualify the measure for the ballot. The Los Angeles Times notes that "a Field Poll taken last April found that 56% of voters in the state and 60% in Los Angeles County want to make pot legal and tax it."
Marijuana would still be illegal under federal law but Obama has pledged to respect state law on marijuana and even if the DEA wanted to enforce the federal law they simply don't have the resources to do so without state law enforcement support.

With one of most dysfunctional state governments with the biggest debts in the union - due to insane tax and revenue collection policies that can't be changed as long as a majority of conservative voters refuse to face reality - a major new influx of sales tax cash on pot could be a lifeline for a failed state.

"We find the defendant INCREDIBLY guilty."

Christianist terrorist Scott Roeder found guilty of first degree murder for assasinating a doctor in his church:
It took less than an hour to reach a verdict in the Dr. George Tiller murder trial. Early Friday, the jury found Scott Roeder guilty of first-degree murder for gunning down the Wichita, Kan. abortion provider in May. The 51-year-old was also found guilty on two counts of aggravated assault against witnesses at the scene of the shooting.

This is just as expected after Judge Warren Wilbert ruled Thursday that jurors would not be allowed to consider a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter or second-degree murder. The defense was hoping to make the case that Roeder honestly believed Tiller posed an imminent threat to "unborn children" and that using deadly force against him was justified. On the stand, Roeder admitted to shooting the doctor and expressed no regret: "There was nothing being done, and the legal process had been exhausted, and these babies were dying every day."

America's Soft Money Apocalypse

This week the Republican appointee dominated US Supreme Court handed over ownership of the American political system, lock, stock and barrels to the corporations.

For over a century, the US has slowly put some limits - too few, too feeble - on how much corporations can bribe, bully or intimidate politicians. On Tuesday, they were burned away in one whoosh. The Supreme Court ruled that corporations can suddenly run political adverts during an election campaign - and there is absolutely no limit on how many, or how much they can spend. So if you anger Goldman Sachs by supporting legislation to break up the too-big-to-fail banks, you will smack into a wall of 24/7 ads exposing your every flaw. If you displease Exxon-Mobil by supporting legislation to deal with global warming, you will now be hit by a tsunami of advertising saying you are opposed to jobs and The American Way. If you rile the defence contractors by opposing the gargantuan war budget, you will face a smear-campaign calling you Soft on Terror.

Representative Alan Grayson says: "It basically institutionalizes and legalizes bribery on the largest scale imaginable. Corporations will now be able to reward the politicians that play ball with them - and beat to death the politicians that don't... You won't even hear any more about the Senator from Kansas. It'll be the Senator from General Electric or the Senator from Microsoft." In 2008, Exxon Mobil made profits of $85bn. So if they dedicated just 10 percent to backing a President who would serve their interests, they would have $8.5bn to spend - more than every candidate for President and every candidate for Senate spent at the last election. And that's just one corporation.

We still have the occasional attempt by right wing columnists in the CanWest swamp trying to justify Harper's attempt a year ago to wipe out Canada's political subsidy program. Considering that public funding of political parties and Canada's restrictions on political spending help us avoid the legalized bribery of the American system - to a degree at least, this was far worse than just an attack on the opposition parties. It was an attack on the integrity of the entire Canadian political system.

You thought the American system was dysfunctional before? This court decision has insured that nothing that might trouble the sleep of America's corporate giants will ever make it through the American legislature again.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Here we Go Again...

Yet another Globe and Mail columnist, Gary Mason this time, writing another shockingly dishonest column about healthcare costs. I feel like I'm playing whack a mole with these schmucks.
Now, it appears the federal government understands there is a reckoning about to occur. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty can read numbers as well as the next guy and he knows that the current cost of delivering health care in Canada is unsustainable unless the country wants to go into perpetual debt or people are prepared to pay much higher taxes.
Like Jeffery Simpson a few weeks ago, Mason raises and then abandons the question of whether Canadians are prepared to pay higher taxes to protect Canada's healthcare system. He raises and then abandons the point without comment, presumably to imply that the answer is so unambiguous as to not even need to be addressed, and since the rest of the piece is all about implying that the 'hard choices' to delist and privatize healthcare are what is necessary he is clearly implying that Canadians are not, in fact, willing to pay more.

But this question has been concretely answered by multiple polls that have shown over and over again that the majority of Canadians are in fact willing to pay more to protect and expand healthcare. It isn't healthcare costs, utterly static for years as measured by the most reliable and useful measurement of percentage of GDP that are unsustainable. It is irresponsible and deliberatly insufficiant taxation and revenue collection policies of both Liberal and Conservative governments that truly deserve the title 'unsustainable'.

Canadians have clearly answered the question Mason and Simpson so sneakily try to dismiss without answering: We are willing to pay more in taxes to protect and expand healthcare. Of course the bulk of irresponsible tax cuts of the last few decades have been for upper income and corporate tax rates - our corporate rate is currently lower than the USA's.

The Globe and Mail has a reliably neo-liberal attitude towards protecting the rich and powerful from paying their fair share of the cost of the social contract, so expect them to continue to refuse to even address the argument of dealing with healthcare's increasing share of the budget pie - by increasing the size of the pie by making Canada's wealthiest give up some of their ideological, discredited trickle down theory inspired tax cuts of the last few decades rather than decreasing the size of healthcare's piece.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Still Here

Some extended computer down time has led to a light writing schedule for the last week and will continue to do so until resolved.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Before the bodies are even cold

David Brooks can't wait to blame all of Haiti's problems on those lazy darkies. Matt Taibbi helpfully provides a translation for his pompous maunderings:

...it is time to put the thorny issue of culture at the center of efforts to tackle global poverty. Why is Haiti so poor? Well, it has a history of oppression, slavery and colonialism. But so does Barbados, and Barbados is doing pretty well. Haiti has endured ruthless dictators, corruption and foreign invasions. But so has the Dominican Republic, and the D.R. is in much better shape. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island and the same basic environment, yet the border between the two societies offers one of the starkest contrasts on earth — with trees and progress on one side, and deforestation and poverty and early death on the other.As Lawrence E. Harrison explained in his book “The Central Liberal Truth,” Haiti, like most of the world’s poorest nations, suffers from a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences. There is the influence of the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile. There are high levels of social mistrust. Responsibility is often not internalized. Child-rearing practices often involve neglect in the early years and harsh retribution when kids hit 9 or 10.We’re all supposed to politely respect each other’s cultures. But some cultures are more progress-resistant than others, and a horrible tragedy was just exacerbated by one of them.

TRANSLATION: Although it is true that Haiti was just like five minutes ago a victim of a random earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people, I’m going to skip right past the fake mourning period and point out that Haitians are a bunch of lazy niggers who can’t keep their dongs in their pants and probably wouldn’t be pancaked under fifty tons of rubble if they had spent a little more time over the years listening to the clarion call of white progress, and learning to use a freaking T-square, instead of singing and dancing and dabbling in not-entirely-Christian religions and making babies all the fucking time. I know I’m supposed to respect other cultures and keep my mouth shut about this stuff, but my penis is only four and a third inches long when fully engorged and so I’m kind of at the end of my patience just generally, especially when it comes to “progress-resistant” cultures.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"...a plot essentially by the US, France and Canada..."

The line of those responsible for Haiti's wretched state even before this new disaster is a long and dishonorable one.

And more than a few observers put Canada in that shameful list.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And can you explain why are there UN peacekeepers deployed on the ground? Explain for people. We had the ouster of the democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Where does it stand politically right now in Haiti?

KIM IVES: Well, the UN occupation is extremely unpopular. This was sent in after Aristide was removed by a plot essentially by the US, France and Canada on February 29, 2004. US, France and Canada sent in occupation troops, which remained there for three months. And then they handed off the mission to the UN, as they’ve done in the past—in 1995, in particular—to the UN to carry out. That’s mainly done by the Brazilians, are heading that. But it’s extremely unwelcome. People are sick and tired of the millions being spent, having guys riding around in giant tanks pointing guns at them. And, you know, essentially, this is a force to keep the country bottled up. And I don’t know what’s going to happen now, because the dogs of madness have really—are going to be unleashed by this catastrophe.

UPDATE: Rabble on the international community's responsibility for Haitian suffering.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wings

Josh Ritter

Shut up you evil old bastard

Televangelist Pat Robertson said Wednesday that earthquake-ravaged Haiti has been "cursed" by a "pact to the devil."

"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it," he said on Christian Broadcasting Network's "The 700 Club." "They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you'll get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it's a deal."

Company Man to the Bitter End

Bill Hicks had Jay Leno's number before anybody else. NSFW but brilliant.

...oh, and Bite me, Bono!

With the new revelations of cyber-attacks on Google and the accounts of human rights activists and Tibet supporters, U2 front man and fame-whore Bono's recent public musing about how if the Chinese government can completely police and censor their citizens then surely the same methods could be used on file sharers who are making his royalties dip, makes him look like an even bigger douche-bag.

If that's even possible

Google to China: More in Sorrow than Anger

Google has released an extraordinary statement in response to apparent cyber-warfare by the Chinese government against Google and other Internet companies. Combined with the ever tightening grip of censorship over the net, Google has begun to fundamentally reassess their relationship with China.
We launched Google.cn in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results. At the time we made clear that "we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China."

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

The decision to review our business operations in China has been incredibly hard, and we know that it will have potentially far-reaching consequences. We want to make clear that this move was driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard to make Google.cn the success it is today. We are committed to working responsibly to resolve the very difficult issues raised.
From Wired:
The source said that Google was able to determine definitively that the attack originated in China, and that the attack was sophisticated in a way that Google does not generally experience.

“[Google is] under attack all the time, primarily via unsophisticated channels,” the source said. “I can’t go into detail to demonstrate the level of sophistication, but [the company] doesn’t use that term lightly, and it is quite deliberate.”

The source added that the implications of the attack are “extremely dark and extremely disturbing.”

“This is truly, truly beyond the pale,” he said. “The political nature of this and the attempt to monitor activists, not only in China but out of it, is chilling.”

In a separate investigation, the company said it discovered that the Gmail accounts of dozens of human rights advocates in the United States, China and Europe were accessed by third parties. These breaches, however, appeared to be the result of phishing attacks targeted at the users with the aim of stealing their account login credentials.

The company said it’s made changes to its architecture to enhance the security of accounts, but also advised users to take precautions to protect themselves, such as being cautious when clicking on links in e-mails and instant messages.

Google launched its Chinese-language search engine, Google.cn, in January 2006. The company said at the time that it did so in the belief that a search engine would help open access to information for Chinese residents. To obtain permission to operate in China, however, the company had agreed to censor search results that the Chinese government deemed objectionable. Google was harshly criticized by civil liberties groups for its concession to Chinese authorities.

The company now appears to be regretting that decision.
The Chinese government must be in shock. They're used to western politicians and CEOs who mumble approvingly about free speech and human rights - but won't let morals get in the way of profits.

Beijing-based media expert Jeremy Goldkorn, said: “It’s quite remarkable. It is unprecedented for a foreign company with significant operations in China to publicly state such things with such evident hostility. It will be interesting to see what the fallout would be.”

In a sign that not all Chinese fall into line with some angry web comments that web users would manage just fine without Google, some people had been delivering bouquets of flowers to the company’s Beijing office.

One wrote: “Google: a real man.”

Prominent, and outspoken, Chinese blogger Wen Yunchao said: “This attack from China really targets some democracy activists and for Google this is a challenge to their morals and their legal bottom line. Google has fired an arrow and they know they can't take it back.”

He added: “The Chinese government cannot allow Google to operate without censorship. Of course, we hope that following its economic development, China could have more self-confidence and could be a little more open and globalised. The pity is that since 2008, things have been going backwards with the internet.”

The authorities have so far kept silent on the statement from Google.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Obvious Next Step

In retrospect we probably should have been able to predict this. Right down to the day.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, will take her conservative message to Fox News as a regular commentator, the cable channel announced Monday.

"I am thrilled to be joining the great talent and management team at Fox News," Palin said in a statement posted on the network's Web site. "It's wonderful to be part of a place that so values fair and balanced news."

It's been clear enough to even drill through her monumental self regard, apparently. The Republican power elite have determined she and her tea party followers are a threat to electability and she isn't going to be the Republican nominee for President. She's decided to take the consolation prize.

She's decided to give up her amateur status and become a televised rodeo clown professionally.

In at least one or two alternate futures ahead of us looms Palin/Beck 2012.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Grown in Pods

Rabble excerpts Not a Conspiracy Theory: How Business Propaganda Hijacks Democracy by Donald Gutstein. He explores how the Fraser Institute squats out far right ideologues like a factory farming operation.

The Fraser Institute launched a program in 1988 that would have far-reaching impact on advancing the corporate agenda. This program, aimed at students, is actually a half-dozen initiatives through which the institute "is cultivating a network of thousands of young people who are informed and passionate about free-market ideas and who are actively engaging in the country's policy debate," as the organization's publication Frontline puts it. The initiatives are separately funded but work together as a comprehensive package of recruitment and intellectual grooming. These programs outgun in magnitude, scope and longevity anything that the progressive left has mounted through unions and social justice organizations.

Over 17,000 students have come in contact with at least one of the student programs, the institute claims. "Developing talented students sympathetic to competitive markets and limited government" through these programs "is one important way that the Fraser Institute is working towards changing the climate of opinion in Canada." Graduates have spread into politics, academia, other think-tanks and the media.

They're especially proud of Ezra Levant, who was a student of the Calgary School's Tom Flanagan and attended his first student seminar in 1992. He was asked to join the student leaders' colloquium in Vancouver and became an intern, where he wrote the book Youthquake, which was distributed and publicized by the institute. Levant tapped into the American conservative movement as a Koch Foundation Summer Fellow in Washington, D.C., and attended various Institute for Humane Studies and Liberty Fund events. After graduating from law school and articling, he worked for several years as a parliamentary assistant to Preston Manning and Stockwell Day. From there he did a two-year stint on the editorial board of Conrad Black's National Post, which was dominated by conservative ideologues. Next, he entered electoral politics and was nominated for the Canadian Alliance in the riding of Calgary Southwest. He attracted national attention when he initially refused to resign his nomination so that party leader Stephen Harper could run. After some high-profile deliberation, Levant resigned. He practiced law briefly at a libertarian law firm in Calgary and wrote a weekly column for the Calgary Sun and Winnipeg Sun. In January 2004, along with other Fraser Institute alumni, he started the socially and economically conservative magazine Western Standard, which took over the mantle from the defunct Alberta Report.

Another star graduate of the Fraser's student program is Danielle Smith, who started her career at a Calgary student seminar. She went on to a year-long internship at the institute, publishing some of her attacks on environmentalism in the institute's Canadian Student Review. She then worked for the short-lived Canadian Property Rights Research Institute and was hired as an editorial writer for Conrad Black's Calgary Herald, arriving in the editorial office just as the workers went on strike for a collective agreement. She later became host of CanWest Global's Sunday talk show for several years. Smith was subsequently appointed the Alberta director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. (The Fraser Institute's former environmental director is the B.C. director.)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Rachel Marsden: A whole new continent of bridges to burn

Having left a trail of shell shocked ex-boyfriends, jobs where security guards escorted her out of the building when she was fired, restraining orders, racism scandals, false rape accusation scandals and a lot of really shitty writing Rachel Marsden has relocated to Paris. (She once wistfully declared a desire to stalk President Nicolas Sarkozy.) Now she's flogging a roman a clef to various publishers about her brief stint at Fox News.
Aspiring fameball Rachel Marsden once loved Fox News mastermind Roger Ailes like an uncle responsible for her career — even after his henchmen booted Marsden from the building. No more: in a "novel" she's shopping, Ailes is the "blubbery" villain.
Now taking bets on how long it is before she gets thrown out of France or runs out of money because nobody wants to publish her crappy book.

See:
Bigot For Hire
Another day, another 'Rachel Marsden' acts like a psycho' story

Jeffrey Simpson's deceptive healthcare column

In today's disingenuous column in the Globe and Mail, Jeffrey Simpson claims repeatedly that Canadians are unwilling to pay higher taxes for Canada's healthcare system.

This is simply and flatly untrue.

...Prof. Naylor is frustrated by the unwillingness of Canadians and their politicians even to debate health care. For him, the essential public system should be maintained, but Canadians don't confront the question of how.
Health care's share of every provincial budget is rising year after year, but that has led to what he calls “one of those great Canadian evasions.” There would be no question of sustaining ever-higher health-care spending if Canadians were willing to pay more tax or constrain other areas of government spending. But they prefer to limp along with costs that grow by more than government revenues adjusted for inflation and population.
...

But there you have it: a system that Canadians know and value, that they fear changing, that they will not willingly pay higher taxes to support or agree that other programs should be compressed to pay for its rising costs. Apparently, no debate is the preferred option.

In fact year after year in poll after poll a majority of Canadians have repeatedly made it clear they are more than willing to pay higher taxes to protect and expand Canada's healthcare system. Is it just the Globe and Mail editorial team Simpson is referring to when he talks about Canadians being unwilling to pay to protect our public healthcare system?
Canadians are willing to pay more to support health care, even though confidence in the system is falling, a new poll shows. Three-quarters of the respondents to the poll said fixing the system will require higher taxes or more out-of-pocket expenses. Almost as many, 69 per cent, said they would pay more to expand the range of services available or to cut down waiting times. A small majority said they would pay more just to maintain the existing system. "For them to be so determined ...that they would be willing to pay additional tax money shows how important this issue has become," said Michael Marzolini, chairman of Pollara Inc., which did the survey.
You are entitled to your own opinions Mr Simpson, not your own facts.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Rats and Sinking Ships

Two Calgary-area MLAs have abandoned Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach's Progressive Conservative government in favour of the upstart right-wing Wildrose Alliance Party.
Former cabinet minister Heather Forsyth, who has represented Calgary-Fish Creek for the Tories since 1993, and Rob Anderson, who was first elected as a Tory in Airdrie-Chestermere in 2008, announced today they have crossed the floor.
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith, who was only selected last October to head the party, made the announcement in Calgary.
“Their decision to cross the floor and join our members is based on principles and the recognition that the Stelmach Tories no longer represent the interests of Albertans,” she said.

And not pure and simple political survival in right wing ridings, no matter what unkind realists cynics might suggest.

Ed Stelmach is reenacting the last days of Harry Strom, as predicted here more than once. The only question left is if the result is a Tory Minority, a Monster Raving Loony Wildrose Alliance minority, or an unlikely but not impossible Liberal minority as a result of right wing vote splitting in the country and a social moderate revolt in the city.

Right wing economic management in a nutshell

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Malign Dictatorship

One of the favored memes of the Canadian right when out of power was how undemocratic Canada was, a benign dictatorship of the PMO running roughshod over the views of the opposition and ignoring the public will.

Turns out that was just the Conservatives laying out their plans for whenever they came to power.

Harper and Flanagan, in their desperate search for a politically successful conservative party, lashed out at successive Liberal governments' seemingly endless benign dictatorship over Parliament and the Ottawa bureaucracy. Their contention was: "Although we like to think of ourselves as living in a mature democracy, we live, instead, in something little better than a benign dictatorship, not under a strict one-party rule, but under a one-party-plus system beset by the factionalism, regionalism and cronyism that accompany any such system. Our parliamentary government creates a concentrated power structure out of step with other aspects of society."

Irony of ironies, their critique can and should now be thrown back into their faces. Prime Minister Harper is challenging the constitutional powers of Parliament by systematically denying MPs access to uncensored papers and documents, as well as the MPs' rights to call any and all persons to testify before parliamentary committees.

It is becoming patently obvious Harper now presides over a minority government that can all-too-readily be characterized as a not-so-benign dictatorship. Harper successfully exploits the first-past-the-post electoral system -- which he and Flanagan denounced as immature -- and the ideological and political divisions within the opposition parties, to impose his unflinching will on his cabinet, caucus, and what he characterizes as an utterly dysfunctional House of Commons, one made so by the government itself. With his appointment of yet more Conservatives to the Senate, Harper will exercise full and unfettered power over Parliament, a power which he will readily use to cow the judicial branch of government with his so-called tough-on-crime legislation.
In election after election the Canadian people have signaled that they don't want the Conservative Party to have the untrammeled power of a majority, but a weak and out of touch Liberal Party, utterly beholden to Bay Street at the expense of the progressive wing of their base has given it to them.

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