Monthly Archives: October 2008

Paulson’s Swindle Revealed

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From The Nation, we get this article .

By now, some (maybe most) of you are saying, ‘yeah Bill.  We get it.  We’re getting ripped off and this is Georgie’s last stab at the world for making fun of him all these years.  We’re in the middle of the heist of the century.’

At least, I hope you are.

Because once you do, then hopefully we can have a discussion about how to prevent more of it from happening any more than it has already.  Americans were nearly able to stop Congress from voting in the first version of the bailout package and after threats of martial law and painful efforts by bankers, the second version came to light.

Americans need to start to stop the bailout and the first step will likely take place when the election is held on Tuesday, Nov 4.  Whatever the outcome, this will be a day you’ll be able to tell your grandkids about.  It’ll either be the day that history was made or that history ended.

In Canada, we need a strong coalition to oppose the Harper Conservatives.  Despite the hard times, they will cut budgets, download, implement lots of hidden and regressive taxes and fees for everyday activities, and will likely pursue their agenda of letting banks merge or be bought out by foreign entities, as they promised before the election.  Of course, this won’t be as easy after an Obama win in the US, but we’ll have to be relentless and extremely focused on annoying the hell out of them so that they call another election and piss everyone off.  Hopefully, for the last time.

But let’s talk about what else we can do.  I’m all for organizing Facebook pages and writing MPs and taking other actions, but I’d like us to all have a common voice.

What do you think?

How Canada’s Divided Left Can Get it Right

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Ron Love, organizer of the ‘United Alternative’, explains in this article how his efforts to unite the right paid off in 2000 and how they continue to pay off as Stephen Harper comes closer and closer to a majority government.  He shares his wisdom for the ‘left’ and demonstrates what ‘we’ need to do in order to mount a force that could oppose the ‘right’.

Read it.  Digest it.  Critique it.

And then you’ll realize that his basic premise couldn’t be more wrong .

My guess is that the ‘left’ probably won’t subject itself to the same kind of ham-fisted tyrannical forces that the right did.  What allowed the right to unite is that they had common ground that could arguably be found outside the political spectrum, such as religious dogma.  As a result, their basic political program (that which they revealed to Canadians in their public platform) was easily agreed upon by all of the founding members.  Examples:  neo-con economic policies (including disclosure of what they would do if they had a majority, like sell off public assets and allow banks to merge), tough on crime policies and money for defense.  The ‘Progressive’ part of the Conservatives disappeared.  Even Mulroney looks like a socialist compared to some of the ex-Harris brown shirts.

The challenge for the ‘left’ is that we have become the ‘bucket’ for everything that the Conservatives are not.  Green.  Socialist.  Marijuana Party.  Liberals.  Without speaking for anyone else, I feel that putting such a divergent range of political viewpoints into a single ‘bucket’ would destroy my sense of democracy.

Someone like Ron Love might argue that the ‘left’ would need to find a steady middle ground as we face media pressure and scrutiny, but I think that can only lead to failure because so many opinions and views would be left scattered at the perimeter.

Here’s an example:  right now it looks like Michael Ignatieff is the front-runner for the Liberals.  He has brow-beat every socialist and person with a cause into voting Liberal already and I would NEVER vote for the man if he lead a coalition group of progressive parties.  His views are just marginally left of Harper and if it were up to him, we’d be in Iraq today shooting babies.

More importantly, this viewpoint doesn’t reflect the Long Tail of politics, where everybody should be able to have an opinion and these opinions are negotiated (however long it takes) rationally in a legal setting, such as the House of Commons.

At the core of my opposition to this kind of ‘ramming of the right’ comes the notion that people need to be able to express their point of view and they need to do it within a democratic framework.  The Harper campaign has and continues to focus on leadership.  A single person.  Anything else would be tantamount to anarchy.

So, Mr. Love, you’re wrong to assume that progressive voices in Canada want to be silenced or marginalized into a single voice.  We represent an orchestra.  A choir.  All singing different parts, hopefully in great harmony.

In the short-run, this would take shape as a coalition that represented a balance of progressive opinions.  It would take the form of many people making many educated and informed decisions, with a lot of discussion taking place.  In public and not behind closed doors.

The long-run it’s Proportional Representation where the single angry voice of the right is muted by the rising swell of an entire chorus.

McCain Voting Machines

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I thought this video was appropriate, given some of the frightening stories I’ve read about vote fraud and issues with electionic machines:

Of course, in Canada, we didn’t need corrupt machines.  We just needed a few extra parties to split the vote.

Iceland: The Canary in the neo-con Coalmine

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This retelling of the financial situation in Iceland is direct and honest and clearly illustrates how what happened in Iceland over the last 4-5 years can easily happen in most other developed countries.

The main point:  we’ve abdicated our social and financial control to non-governmental and non-democratic organizations that could care less about the welfare of the states that they impose their ‘rules’ on.

I’ve repasted below for your information:

On the Financial Crisis of Iceland
by Steingrímur J. Sigfússon

The current financial crisis in Iceland is of course part of and connected to the international upheaval, but it also has its domestic roots.  To put it briefly, for more than 17 years, we Icelanders have had a right-wing government led by the right-wing Independence Party in coalition with social democratic or center parties.  The main ideology has been neoliberal economics, with great emphasis on privatization and deregulation of most sectors of society, not least the financial sector.  Since 2004 we have had increasing inflation and overheating.  The management of the economy has been poor, and the few voices of criticism and words of warning from us on the left have not been listened to.

In the years 2003-2004, government-supported projects of heavy industry investments in aluminum smelters and big hydro-electrical and geothermal power plants set off inflation and increased overheating pressures.  This was followed by tax reductions, benefiting mostly the high-income classes and owners of big estates and capital.  This, of course, added to the increasing inflation.  The housing market was booming and there was also mismanagement in that area.  On top of all this, the financial sector, based on newly privatized banks and investment funds, expanded very rapidly and bought up subsidiaries overseas that expanded to big operations in the UK, Scandinavia, Continental Europe, and even in the US.

This led to a huge hypertrophy of the banking and financial sector relative to the Icelandic GDP.  Many alarming signs were hovering above our heads in the years 2005, 2006, and 2007, but no measures were taken.  The atmosphere was a thoroughly laissez-faire one.  The government and leading members of the business sector seemed to think that the upswing in the economy and good years would last forever.

As everyone now knows, this did not turn out to be the case.   Before the international financial crisis started in the American housing market — followed by the fall of big banks, which then spread to become a global influenza in the capital market — Iceland already had a problem on its hands.  Due to the instability and imbalances in the Icelandic economy existing before the crisis, the consequences are much worse for Iceland than any other developed country so far and are turning out to be a tremendous blow to ordinary citizens of Iceland.  What we are witnessing is a total collapse of neo-liberal, modern capitalism.  What is left of it, however, is being kept alive with huge public spendings by governments around the world.  The cost is even more devastating in Iceland because the whole banking sector, with the only exception of the local saving banks, has collapsed and is now being nationalized.

The worst of it all is that the Icelandic public, the Icelandic taxpayers, who have already been tremendously hard hit are now, for no fault of their own, being held responsible for overseas debts that the banks piled up through opening accounts in their own names in the UK, the Netherlands, and elsewhere.  This is particularly the case of the former Landsbanki hf, which gathered big sums of money for which the Icelandic national system of savings guarantees is now partly accountable.  What this means is that, in the coming years and perhaps decades, Icelandic citizens will have a burden of huge amounts of overseas debts on their shoulders due to the collapsed banks’ activities during the years of hasty interconnections with and dangerous dependence on other economies.  This is of course totally unfair and will also hinder the rebuilding of a stable welfare society and sound economy in Iceland.

As Chairman of the Left-Green Movement of Iceland, I have personally warned and criticized these devastating neoliberal policies in Iceland for a number of years.  My colleagues and I have repeatedly proposed measures to stop this craziness.  As early as 2005, we put forward in the national parliament a bill to tackle these issues.  But we were at that time and in the years that followed almost the only critical voice.

Now, of course, everyone admits that things went terribly wrong.  But, as of yet, there seems to be great reluctance, especially on the right and the center of Icelandic politics, to admit that it was the global neoliberal ideology, together with bad management and wrong decisions, that got us where we are and is causing us all these problems.

Our role — being the biggest opposition party in Iceland — is now to try to encourage people not to give up in a difficult situation, to demand that these things will all be thoroughly investigated and those responsible brought up for charges.  Above all, we are trying to convince the people of Iceland, and especially the young people, that we — despite all of this — will be able to get through the difficulties.  We do, after all, have tremendous possibilities to build a new Iceland, a better Iceland, where we will build on sound and just policies of openness and democracy, where we will build on a solidary Nordic welfare model, and where we will throw into the dustbin of history the neoliberal philosophy of market liberalization that is now hurting Iceland so deeply.

Despite all, we have a lot going for us when we start this rebuilding process.  We are a big country with magnificent nature, rich in resources, especially bountiful fishing grounds and abundant energy sources in geothermal power and hydropower.  We have beautiful highland scenery and breathtaking landscapes all around which attract a growing number of tourists every year.  And we have a young, skilled and well-educated population used to working hard and willing to work hard.

So, at the same time as we are facing enormous difficulties, we are doing our best to be optimistic regarding the long-term future prospects of Iceland.  We are sure that we have all we need to build a new, strong, and prosperous welfare society in Iceland.  But then we must build on the right foundations.  The new Iceland is going to be open and democratic with a strong public welfare system.  It is going to be feminist and based on full actual equality of all individuals, and it is going to build on the principles of sustainable development as regards energy policy and all investments.

We are at the end of a chapter in the world‘s political history.  A new one is about to begin.  Let us join hands, wherever we live — be it in Iceland, the United States of America, or elsewhere on the globe — to ensure that this new chapter will be a better one for ordinary people, for the global environment, for the North and the South, for women and men, for young and old. If that be the case, something good might come out of this after all.  We would finally get rid of the devastating neoliberal economic philosophy and practice and be able to end up with a better world.

Greetings from the Althingi, the Parliament of Iceland
Steingrímur J. Sigfússon

RCMP Officer Caught Vacating Hit and Run Scene

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This story is loaded with all kinds of issues that need to be addressed.  SOON.

First, there is the question concerning the state of the Robert Dziekanski investigation.  Virtually nothing has happened.

Second, the officers who were on duty are still, apparently, on duty.

Third, those that are on duty are clearly having issues with the outcome of the Robert Dziekanski situation.  The story quoted refers to one of the officers leaving the scene of an accident, raising questions about the moral and ethical compass of at least this one officer.