slothropia.com

News, politics, progressive culture, music, acoustic music

Archive for March, 2011

Krugman: Down with Rotten Mellon Doctrine

without comments

Nobel Laureate and the official economist of slothropia.com, Paul Krugman, presents more evidence that Republicans and Tea baggers are neither stupid nor misinformed but simply rotten to the core:

“Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate.” That, according to Herbert Hoover, was the advice he received from Andrew Mellon, the Treasury secretary, as America plunged into depression. To be fair, there’s some question about whether Mellon actually said that; all we have is Hoover’s version, written many years later. But one thing is clear: Mellon-style liquidationism is now the official doctrine of the G.O.P.

Two weeks ago, Republican staff at the Congressional Joint Economic Committee released a report, “Spend Less, Owe Less, Grow the Economy,” that argued that slashing government spending and employment in the face of a deeply depressed economy would actually create jobs. In part, they invoked the aid of the confidence fairy; more on that in a minute. But the leading argument was pure Mellon.

Here’s the report’s explanation of how layoffs would create jobs: “A smaller government work force increases the available supply of educated, skilled workers for private firms, thus lowering labor costs.” Dropping the euphemisms, what this says is that by increasing unemployment, particularly of “educated, skilled workers” — in case you’re wondering, that mainly means schoolteachers — we can drive down wages, which would encourage hiring.

There’s more. Read the whole thing.

Written by slothropia

March 31st, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Canadian Federal Election Opening Bids Part II: Michael Ignatieff and the People in Red

without comments

The CBC has a feature on its website called Vote Compass where people can answer a bunch of policy questions to find out which party they are closest to (btw I’ve heard and read a number of complaints about the accuracy and fairness of this little gimmick but anyway). Somewhere somebody blogged or tweeted that they answered every question with most disengaged possible answer, like “No Opinion” or whatever the equivalent is of “Don’t Care”, and found out that they were a Liberal.

This chameleonic, mercurial, kaleidoscopic quality has always been both the genius and the curse of the Liberal Party. St. Paul told early Christians to be all things to all people, and the Liberals have adapted this commandment to Canadian politics. To put it another way, the Liberals have been known to run from the left (frustrating the NDP) and govern from the right (infuriating the old PC Party).

It served them well for a long time. Then came 1984 and the Progressive Conservatives led by Brian Mulroney forged a coalition with soft Quebec nationalists and center right voters in the West, Ontario and Atlantic Canada. What really hurt the Libs at the time was the loss of most of its base in Quebec. Things have gotten worse for them in the QC since then with the rise of the Bloc and the lingering smell of the Chretien and Martin era scandals.

Ignatieff and his party face all kinds of challenges going into this election. They are blocked bu the Bloc in Quebec and will be lucky to keep what they have there. Even worse, the Liberals are bleeding support to the NDP in several regions, including Quebec.

In Ontario, the Liberals have maintained significant support up to now, but having a provincial Liberal government benefits the Conservatives. Meanwhile the NDP has turned Northern Ontario into a two way battleground between themselves and the Cons (the NDP also seems to be growing stronger in Southwest Ontario, but it is unclear whether that pays off much in this election).

In the West, the Liberals have been in decline since the days of Trudeau, leaving the Atlantic provinces as a region that still gives a lot of love to the Libs.

So what tactics and policy planks are the Liberals using to meet these challenges?

Once upon a time in the heat of an all candidates I mockingly said “You can always tell when the Liberals are in trouble. They start stealing NDP ideas.” Which seems to be part of what Team Red is up to at this moment.

For example, Ignatieff has been talking this week about a plan to strengthen Canada Pension Plan and GIS benefits for seniors. Which by some strange coincidence is what Layton tried to get the Conservatives to put in the budget that was tabled before the Government fell. The Globe and Mail also tells me that on Thursday (3/31) Ignatieff will unveil a national day care plan – again. Earlier this week, Iggy announced a “learning passport” plan to help students pay for post secondary education.

All of these platform planks are clearly designed to appeal to NDP/Liberal vote switchers. Furthermore, Ignatieff has spent a good part of the first week of the campaign in NDP held ridings, like Ottawa Centre and Trinity Spadina.

The Liberals have had a few harsh words for the Harpists (about expensive fighter jets for example) and there will be more as the campaign rolls on. But the first order of business for the Team Red/Rouge is to get some of that centre left mojo back from the New Democrats.

Now I will get to work on a post about the NDP, followed by a combined Bloq and Green piece (neither of then deserve a whole post to themselves since neither are running full campaigns).

Written by slothropia

March 31st, 2011 at 10:31 am

Twitter Down: Canadian Election Cmpign Suspended? (joke)

without comments

Twitter has been down for maybe a couple of hours now. I don’t believe the parties candidates or media can function at this time. Perhaps Elections Canada should add a day to the campaign, like injury time in football (soccer).

Written by slothropia

March 30th, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Harper Afraid of Layton, Wants 1 on 1 with Ignatieff

without comments

Canadian Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has suggested he and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff have a one on one debate excluding both the NDP and Bloc Quebecois Leaders Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe.

Stephen Harper suggested Wednesday that the televised leaders debates could involve a two-man showdown between him and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff since the Bloc and NDP plan to form a coalition government led by Ignatieff.

When the Liberal leader was told about Harper’s one-on-one proposition, he said: “Any time, any place. . . . I don’t want to exclude anyone. It’s not up to me to choose, but I’m ready to debate directly with Mr. Harper.”

Harper’s comments put a new twist on the issue of whether Green Party leader Elizabeth May should be included in the TV debates, as she was in the 2008 election. The consortium of broadcasters that runs the debate said this week May hadn’t been invited, noting the Greens don’t hold a seat in the House of Commons.

Asked whether May should be included, Harper said that was up to the consortium to decide. But he added another dig at the Bloc Quebecois and NDP, whom he has accused of wanting to form a “reckless” coalition under the Liberals.

“We’re open to any number of possibilities. We can have a traditional debate of parliamentary leaders. We can have a debate that includes . . . May in such a format,” Harper told reporters at a campaign stop in Brampton, Ont. “We can have a debate that includes every party that’s on the ballot. We could also have a debate between Mr. Ignatieff and myself. After all, the real choice in this election is a choice between a Conservative government or an Ignatieff-led government that all of these other parties will support.”

I’m sure Harper would like such a setup to provide a nice contrast between himself and the least popular federal leader. Not gonna happen. But talking about it allows him to sneak in the coalition smear through the backdoor.

The question he should be asked is why is he so afraid of Jack Layton.

P.S. still working on Liberals early’ campaign. Should be ready tonight or tomorrow am.

Written by slothropia

March 30th, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Ed Show Looks at Caterpillar Bovine Fertilizer

without comments

So Caterpillar is threatening to move from Illinois unless – what? Something about the business climate that is so terrible the company only made a couple of billion smacker last year. Here’s how Ed Schultz covered poor widdle Caterpillar’s tantrum:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I for one am sick to death of corporations trying to run the world. Cat makes stuff that is useful and sells well. So hooray for profits. But didn’t they make at least some of that money using public infrastructure and employing people educated in public schools, or schools that are accredited and inspected by government.

But it’s never enough for these corporate “persons” and the “persons” who run them.

Written by slothropia

March 30th, 2011 at 12:23 am

Canadian Federal Election Opening Bids: Steve and the Harpists

without comments

Well in Canada it is E-35. Five weeks from tomorrow (on May 2) the votes will be cast and counted. The federal parties have known the election was coming for some time and so have been preparing strategy, tactics and policy platforms, as will as fund raising and recruitment of candidates, staff and volunteers.

What I will try to do in this post is provide a high level, thumbnail sketch of how to leaders and their parties have used the first few days in terms of strategy and messaging.

Disclaimer: I am rooting for the New Democrats cuz I’m a lefty. There, my bias is out there for all to see. It is always on display anyway, so now should be different why? But having a bias should not prevent me from communicating truthful, accurate and complete information. If it does, let me know, so I can self correct. I do not intend to spin, but my observations pass through a left wing filter as they are expressed.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Steve Harper and the Conservatives
The first card Harper and his band of harpists tried to play was the scary coalition threat. Back in Late 2008 and early 2009, the Liberals, NDP and Bloc talked about defeating the newly elected Cons and asking the Governour General for permission to form a coalition government. Harper used the Canadian Branch of Corporate Media International (CBCMI) to make it sound like the socialists and Separatists were trying to cheat Good Canadians out of their fairly won election result. The tactic worked apparently because public opinion became pretty negative about the coalition proposal.

Then, before the House of Commons could vote on the matter, Harper got the GG to prorogue Parliament, at which point the lame duck Liberal leader, Stephane Dion, resigned and was replaced by Michael Ignatieff – Iggy of course was appointed by the Liberal leadership rather than being chosen by the party membership. Upon becoming leader of the Opposition, Iggy renounced the coalition and that was that.

In recent months, the Harpists have been pushing the anti coalition meme, hoping to generate a wedge issue to use against the other parties. As soon as his government fell, the coalition seemed to be all the Cons were talking about. And it was all CBCMI asked Iggy about. Until Iggy said “Nuh uh. There will be no coalition.” I paraphrase.

Then Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe produced a 2004 letter signed by the two of them and – you’ll never guess – then Opposition Leader Stephen Harper, in which the three leaders agreed to maybe replace the minority Liberal government with a coalition.

Then, as the CBC’s Terry Milewski describes it:

That’s one tough coalition monkey. Here we are, barely into the first week of the campaign and it’s already been a wild ride. First, Michael Ignatieff hurls the battered monkey off his back, and it scampers onto Stephen Harper’s. Harper throws him off and … and what?

Here’s an easy prediction: the monkey will get no rest. Harper will try to re-attach him to Ignatieff, pronto.
SNIP
By focusing his campaign on the demonic spectre of a coalition, Harper inevitably drew the spotlight to his own flirtation with the Bloc and the NDP, back when he was the Opposition Leader in 2004. Hadn’t he told the country that he was in “close consultation” with them and that no election was needed if Paul Martin’s Liberal minority were defeated in Parliament by the opposition majority?

Why, yes, he had. Not only did he write the letter which the Bloc leader, Gilles Duceppe, now delights in reading, but he held a press conference telling us that he would not like the Governor General or Prime Minister Paul Martin to think a new election was needed. That’s “not how our system works.”

Like Ignatieff, Harper just didn’t seem to have his answers worked out when he faced the inevitable questions. Wasn’t there hypocrisy here? What were the “options” he wanted the GG to consider if not asking Harper to form a government — in a way which he now denounces as “illegitimate?”

It’s been a long time since Harper has faced a media pack howling, “You didn’t answer the question!” But it happened in Brampton. Thank God for the guy who asked about the Toronto Maple Leafs. It could have got ugly.

Of course, the leaders of the NDP and the Bloc were quite sure that Harper did, indeed, plot to replace Martin as prime minister. So the monkey seemed to have a pretty good grip on Harper. But, just like Ignatieff, he had an overnight conversion to clarity. The “option” he wanted the GG to consider was telling Paul Martin, no, he wouldn’t get a new election, he would just have to go back and play nice with others.

Here’s Lawrence Martin’s take:

In an election the advantage goes to the party that can frame the debate. In the run-up last week, the Conservatives were the clear winners. They made it appear that the other parties provoked an election that Canadians did not want. Though Harper’s government was defeated on the contempt of parliament motion, no one was talking about that. The talk, courtesy of Ignatieff fumbling around on the question, was all about hypothetical scenarios involving coalitions.

For Harper, it was the perfect opening. But he couldn’t leave it there. He tried to up the ante and now he is the one on the defensive.

His craving for power has given rise to on-line posts such as the following from a British Columbian. “Harper’s demagogic warnings of a Liberal-NDP-BQ coalition, and his call for voters to return a “stable” Conservative majority government, show a contempt for the reality of political diversity in Canada.”

For Harper, the political opposition is not a legitimate part of governance, but an obstacle to be barely tolerated and overcome by whatever means possible. The “Harper Government”, as it calls itself, even with a minority, has governed as if it had a majority, and with a majority will likely govern as if it ruled a one-party state.

And that’s pretty much where things stand as of now. Harper thought he had a stake to drive through the hearts of the opposition parties but instead all three were able to neutralize the coalition issue.
This attempt to use coalition as a bludgeon against the other parties I think shows how desperate and empty the Conservative campaign has so far been. The first policy plank the harpists rolled out does the same.

Here’s how Global TV describes what the Harpists cal their “family tax cut”:

Conservative leader Stephen Harper is promising a tax break for two-parent families — although they’ll have to wait for it until the federal government eliminates the deficit.

The $2.5-billion scheme would allow spouses with children under the age of 18 to split household income up to $50,000 in order fall into lower tax brackets.

The plan wouldn’t begin until 2015-16 under current Conservative deficit projections.

Harper calls it a “major, structural tax reduction” that would affect 1.8 million Canadian households.

The Conservatives say the tax cut would average $1,300 dollars per family but economists say the actual dollar value varies widely.

Frances Woolley of Carleton University says the biggest beneficiaries would be higher earning, single-income households with a stay-at-home spouse.

He says someone earning more than $127,000 dollars a year with a stay-at-home spouse would save more than $6,000.

A one- or two-income family in which the highest earner makes less than $40,000 dollars would get nothing.

This is a policy U.S. Republicans might concoct. As Professor Wolley notes, it is aimed at higher income families and of little or no use to what the NDP used to call “ordinary Canadians.” In other words, with this platform plank, Harper and the Conservatives are appealing to people who are more likely to vote for them than any of the other p[arties. Harper is appealing to his base.

I’m pretty sure the harpists will do something to broaden their appeal at some point in the campaign but this policy does not do that.

Note also that it won’t even come into effect for five years and until the budget is balanced. So maybe never.

The Conservatives must have something more in their bag of tricks, but so far they seem to be running in place.

Enough. End of part the first. Next time I’ll subject the Liberals to my withering analytical powers.

Written by slothropia

March 29th, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Canadian Federal Election : Polling Baseline

without comments

In recent days a number of major pollsters have come out with horse race polls for the Canadian federal parties. First there was Nanos on March 15 who found in February:

Conservatives 38.6%
Liberals 27.6%
NDP 19.9%
Bloc Quebecois 10.1%
Greens 3.8%

On March 23, Harris Decima found party support as follows:
Conservative Party 34%
Liberal Party 28%
New Democratic Party 17%
Bloc Quebecois 10%
Green Party 9%

Attentive observer will have noted (among many other things) that the Greens do better in the Decima poll in which pollees are prompted with party names, versus Nanos where they are not.

Nest up, Ipsos Reid, who on march 24 released these numbers:
Conservative Party 43%
Liberal Party 24%
New Democratic Party 16%
Bloc Quebecois 10%
Green Party 6%

This poll has a regional breakdown so follow the link for more info.

Yesterday Ekos came out with these numbers:

Conservative Party 35.3%
Liberal Party 28.1%
New Democratic Party 14.2%
Bloc Quebecois 9.7%
Green Party 10.6%

Then came today Angus Reid:

Conservative Party 39%
Liberal Party 25%
New Democratic Party 19%
Bloc Quebecois 10%
Green Party 7%

And finally Leger:
Conservatives 39%
Liberals 23%
NDP 19%
BQ 9%
Green 7%
Other 1%

They don’t quite agree, do they. And they can’t all be right. But of course, the numbers I pull out of my bung hole are just as valid as the fruits of this scientific polling. The only poll that really counts is the one taken on election day. And if anyone tries to tell you they know what will happen, call a mental health professional, cuz they are crazy and might be a danger to themselves or others.

In any case those are the polling numbers at the start of the campaign. There will soon be other polls with different numbers.

Update 3/28/2011, 8:30 pm CDT:
Abacus out today with a poll: C 35, L 27, N 20, BQ 8, G 7. Click on the link for regional and demographic breakdowns.

Also, Forum Research (who?) is out today with C 41, L24, N 19, BQ 10, and G 7. More info at the link.

Written by slothropia

March 26th, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

without comments

Thew title of this post is of course taken from a Who song, Won’t get Fooled Again. I used to dislike the lyric because it sounded like a call to abandon political involvement in favor of hedonistic consumerism. But perhaps I was unfair to Mr. Townshend and his friends.

But it always pops into my head when a supposedly progressive politician acts like a right wing proctological orifice (look it up if you need to). Like when Clinton pushed for NAFTA and “welfare reform”. Canadian readers might remember when former Ontario Premier Bob Rae, pretending to be a socialist, turned on labour with a vicious intensity that would make Scott Walker and John Kasich envious.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but some people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 think that he has already done more than his share of right wing Sh#& since he became President. Exhibit 77A is his change of course on Libya.

The right is hawkish. The left tends to oppose wars, except for the occasional threat from crazed dictators. In the United States there is no organized let, only a timid faction within the Democratic Party (no offense to Kucinich, Pelosi and Weiner). In recent decades, when the Democrats have elected a President they have elected a centrist (Carter), a moderate conservative (Clinton) or someone who campaigns as a liberal (Obama) but acts in office like a centrist. Voters on the left vote for these people either hoping for the best or with nostrils plugged against the stench.

Each of the Democrats elected President since World War II have had difficulty using military force somewhere overseas. The Korean War drove Truman from office. Kennedy somehow got snared by the Bay of Pigs invasion. Vietnam destroyed Johnson’s Presidency and his reputation. Carter and Iran – ’nuff said. Clinton actually got off easy. His overseas adventures were in the Balkans and he was able to frame them as humanitarian missions (as Rwanda was ignored).

Obama inherited two wars from George II, as well as the undercover and sometimes extra legal operations against Al Qaeda and other like minded organizations. He came into office promising to end U.S. involvement in Iraq but promising to continue the effort in Afghanistan until the Aghanis could manage on their own. Check with any newspaper or network news organization to see how events in Iraq and Afghanistan are unfolding, but now there are other geography lessons being taught to U.S. citizens (and Canadians too for that matter).

No one saw the Jasmine Revolution coming, although it is clearly overdue. Somehow, the peoples of Tunisia and Egypt have caused a regime to fall to be replaced by whatever is born of the revolutionary process now taking place there. Now the previous governments of Tunisia and Egypt were authoritarian, cruel and violent in their tactics of suppression, but they were not thought to be as vicious and suffocating as the governments n some Middle Eastern countries, like Syria and Libya for example (Iran is a special case but more like oppressive Syria than Egypt in this regard).

So Libyan citizens see the sun rising next door and apparently many decide to seek a new dawn for themselves. Not surprisingly, Qaddafi/Gaddafi (or whatever sp) responds violently. At first the rebels seize the initiative, but soon Gaddafi’s air power helps his forces drive the rebels back to their stronghold in Benghazi.

Of course its pretty easy to make Gaddafi look like a monster who orders the massacre of civilians, because that is who he is. Eventually, as everyone knows by now, Obama decided to line up the UN, NATO and the Arab League to support action against Gaddafi and in de facto support of the rebels.

I actually appreciate Obama’s caution and reluctance to use force. Not so admirable is his continuation of the U.S. Presidential tradition of shooting first and asking for Congressional approval after. In this I am in agreement with both Dennis Kucinich and (gulp) Ron Paul.

I am also among those who marvel at the ability of the U.S. to ride in to the rescue in Libya while ignoring those despots who kill their protesting citizens in Bahrain, Yemen and ivory Coast (don’t forget Syria). Actually, it is not so marvelous that Libya gets singled out for attention as it happens to be the home of substantial reserves of – say it with me – OIL. So is Bahrain of course, but those bastards are “our” bastards.

And of course we should all be asking of the president, “What now?” It is not at all clear how the United States – oops, I mean NATO (wink, wink) – finds a good stopping point at which time it can safely exit Libya.

Joe Klein, of all people, nicely sums up the U.S. dilemma:

I hope that we’ll “get lucky” in Libya–and Gaddafi will pack up his famous tent, settle somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa or be murdered by one of his retinue. It may happen. And if it does, all my fears will have been proven groundless–if, that is, the next Libyan government proves moderate and humane.

(Thanks Digby)

Finally, I think it should be noted that the problems in Libya and throughout the Middle East (including Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan), the nuclear crisis in Japan, the sharp rise in food prices all over the world, all have their origin in civilization’s insatiable thirst for energy. This is a problem that is rarely discussed in a political context, but which contains within it a an undeniable existential threat to the human species.

Written by slothropia

March 25th, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Canadian Government Defeated in House 156-145

without comments

For the first time in history, a Canadian federal government has been defeated in the House of Commons on a confidence vote for being in contempt of Parliament. The defeating part has happened before, but not the being in contempt part.

The government now has no choice but to resign and ask the Governour General to dissolve Parliament and set a date for an election. I don’t know the exact date but it will be about five weeks from now so maybe May 2 or thereabouts.

Written by slothropia

March 25th, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Canadian Election Coming (I’m Pretty Sure)

without comments

Yup, Jack Layton has turned the Cons down flat over the budget so it looks like there will be an election in about five weeks. I will be following it as closely as I can and sharing my thoughts with whoever manages to find this place. I did the same back in ’08. Here’s a link to one of my posts which offers some election resources especially for Yanks, Brits, Aussies and Kiwis who want to keep up with what theb Grits (Liberals) Cons (Conservatives) Bloc heads (Bloc Quebecois) and Dippers or Socialists (NDP) are up to on the campaign trail. Like:

  • The Globe and Mail:http://www.theglobeandmail.com/national/. This is Canada’s version of the New York Times, the Canadian paper of record. It is mildly conservative in its editorial stance.
  • The Toronto Star: http://www.thestar.com/. Canada’s largest newspaper, The Star is clearly a Liberal mouthpiece.
  • CBC. Canada’s public broadcaster, the CBC is kind of like PBS and kind of like the BBC. From the CBC home page you can find election related TV and streaming radio as well as online news stories.
  • Pundits Guide to Canadian Federal Elections. Alice Funke reports in depth on Canada’s political parties and elections.
  • CTV. Canada’s largest private sector TV network. Pro Tory.
  • Rabble. A progressive multi author blog.
  • Well, that’s enough to get started. I’ll report later on the actual campaign (assuming there is one of course).

    Written by slothropia

    March 22nd, 2011 at 7:57 pm