Monday, 30 May 2011

EXCLUSIVE - Ontario Conservatives to implement mandatory Hardworking Family ID cards

Four months away from the provincial election, Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has taken his rhetoric on the province's “hard-working families” he claims to be the champion of to a new level. In this Lacking Credentials exclusive, he has declared to me that his first order of business as premier would be to make the province a paradise for them – by personally sponsoring a bill that would criminalize all other demographics.

“This province is on the fast track to poverty because there are too many hangers-on, creeps, welfare bums, and generally unproductive citizens that our hard-working families are tired of breaking their backs supporting,” he thundered.

It was unclear to your correspondent at first what concrete measures the leader was prepared to take to make good on this promise, until Arizona and its recent notorious “walking while Hispanic” law, which requires everyone to carry ID proving their legal immigration and residency status and provide it to law enforcement officials on demand, came up.

“I like that. They have the right idea. People who shouldn't be there have to GET OUT.”

So it was that our discussion unearthed a brave new prospective third piece of Ontario ID to accompany the driver's licence and health card in your wallet. The Ontario Hard-working Families Membership card. To qualify, residents would have to prove their belonging to a hard-working family (as defined by the incoming government) within 30 days or face deportation.

To where?

Hudak admitted to me that the first choice in caucus discussions was Guantanamo Bay, but the thought of Barack Obama or even a Republican president's reaction to this, plus the lack of space, was a sad reality-check balloon deflator. He then said the border crossing in his riding of Niagara Falls was the second choice, but again the pesky American government issue forced them to admit that the neighbouring country would not be willing to accept what had been up until then 6 or 7 million mostly law-abiding Canadian citizens all at once. Plus, a newly elected Ontario conservative-friendly Steve Harper government in Ottawa doesn't need the Supreme Court irked dealing with all those millions of unconstitutional deportation cases. I nodded thoughtfully as I saw him following his logic to what looked like a dead end.

“Then we realized, we just have to drop them off at our two neighbouring provinces. A kilometre over the Manitoba or Quebec border, and we're done! They can't legally set foot here ever again.”

Given the inability of the vast majority to Ontarians to speak the French language, I pondered this seven million strong exodus of old and single people to Manitoba (population: 1.1 million) and wondered how it could possibly absorb them all.

“Manitoba is a dynamic place and we look forward to the challenges of the 21st century with excitement.” Manitoba premier Greg Selinger told me over the phone. “We enthusiastically welcome newcomers and are always looking for people to further enhance and contribute to the quality of life in our communities.” I told him the people he would be welcoming wouldn't be of the exactly, erm, economically productive variety. “Well, I admit as a legislator the idea strikes me as a little strange.” he admitted. But he stopped short of warning against the tidal wave of lonely people, adding “We will not turn down a growth oppurtunity”

The welcoming-growth logic is alive and well in La Belle Province as well, as Jean Charest's Junior Communications Specialist, Lise St-Amand-Barrette told me in an email. “Tous les nouveaux arrivants, qu'ils soient en provenance de l'Ontario ou de tous les pays du monde, seront les bienvenus chez nous pour contribuer à la croissance québecoise et nous aider à bâtir le superpuissance vert mondial du 21ème siècle”
All newcomers, from Ontario and elsewhere, are welcome here to contribute to the growth of Quebec and help us build the world's green superpower of the 21st century.”

Wow. So maybe the grass is greener on the other side after all. I thought of some groups who wouldn't qualify for this hard-working families ID card – widowed pensioners, lifelong bachelors and spinsters, and students first came to mind – and asked Hudak if he really had it in him to kick them all out.

“The hard-working families of Ontario are tired of being taxed to death to pay for everyone else's entitlements” he told me. “If you asked me five years ago, I might have said yes. But the way Dalton McGuinty's bankrupted us with his green energy scams and e-health boondoggles, I gotta get tough. Someone has to stand up for our hard-working, salt of the earth, honest to god, blue collar, church attending, toilet paper using families trying to put food on the kitchen table and having it slide off the mountain of piling up bills and say enough is enough, goddamn it.”

The Progressive Conservative leader collapsed in a heap of sweaty exhaustion after that barn burner of a rant that he was clearly primed for. So, I decided to hit the streets and talk to a few Ontarians myself who were potentially going to be cut out of the Ontario landscape in a few months while he recovered.

“Hard-working families?” asked a grumpy-looking old man who answered the door of an immaculately kept bungalow in Grimsby. “Hard-working families? You call that guy across the street hard-working? He sends his wife out to work at Zellers part time while he sits at home on disability with his medical marijuana prescription. His daughter doesn't even have proper shoes on. And I see that brand new truck of his parked at the casino every time I drive by. In my day a man like that would have been driven out of town.”

Alas, for Ross Banfield, 72, its curtains for him and business as usual for his deadbeat neighbour in October. Even though he was born and raised in Ontario, and raised his kids in Ontario, he's a widower now. His son moved to the states 30 years ago and his daughter lives in British Columbia with her husband and kids. So he is just one more man on the back of those poor folks across the way in the eyes of Hudak.

“Manitoba? Never thought about it.” he said with a dry laugh “But I couldn't move even if I wanted to. I hate to admit it to you, but most of the times I'm driving by that truck in the casino parking lot, I end up pulling in myself.”

Nelly Smithson, 43, seemed to genuinely not take me seriously amidst the commotion of the crowded Tim Horton's in downtown Toronto I met her in.

“You know, he wouldn't be the first person to tell me. It's not like I'm not trying or I'm not aware of the situation. I'm doing everything I can. Plenty of Fish, Lavalife, Ashley Madison, I'm on all those fuckin' things. But at the end of the day, you can't force it.”

I was doing the math in my head – menthols sticking out of purse + too much makeup + shrill voice + 50 extra pounds...

“Anyway, in the end what matters is your own happiness. I got my cats, I got my TV, I own my car, my house. Who gives a shit what people think? I was married once. Everybody loved the guy – my mother, my father, my sister, my friends – except me. So what good did that do? I have not had a year as miserable as those three since.”

I took my anecdotal and testimonial evidence back to the office where Hudak was starting to move slowly around the room again.

“Look, I haven't worked out all the details yet but I'm on a crusade. You don't hear from these families like I do.”

I said I actually had a family myself and he said, great, I'd be welcome to stay.

I also said I had reservations about expelling the province's student population, in the hundreds of thousands I'm sure, that attends its dozens of colleges and universities. He didn't hesitate.

“Their hardware works, they better get it fired up.”

Let that be a message to all of you – if you are an Ontario resident over 18 in possession of reproductive cells, you have four months to put them to work by any means necessary. Otherwise, you'll be an illegal alien before the year's out. You heard it here on Lacking Credentials first.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

"Everything That Rises Must Converge"

I would use two words to describe the hand-wringing over gas prices: Impotence and idiocy

I enjoyed simultaneous amusement and pain after finding a Toronto Sun newspaper on the bus the other day and reading through the first six pages.  Six pages devoted exclusively to hysterical testimonies about how regular, hardworking, honest folks were doing just fine at $1.15 a litre, $1.20 a litre, $1.30 a litre, $1.35 a litre...


This paper being an organ of the right-wing and blithely partisan Sun Media Corp, subsidiary of Quebecor Inc, the blame for this situation in one article was placed squarely at the feet of...Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and his evil (HST) harmonized sales tax.  Absent, as usual, was any mention about how he was pressured and browbeaten into adopting this policy by the Conservative finance minister and prime minister in Ottawa. I would hope that most people do not suffer from the extreme myopia that would allow them to accept this explanation, as if this phenomenon was somehow restricted to Ontario.

In another article bearing perhaps a little more journalistic honesty and intellectual rigour, the columnist Joe Warmington tells us he has an inkling that government and oil companies collude through backroom deals and subsidies, which is true, yet still boasts about owning a $100 -per-fill-up SUV.  As if a "mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore" rant gave him license to make a bone-headed vehicle choice and precluded him from taking responsibility for that choice.

There's the rub.  Most people have an either vague or specific notion that the price of gas is the result of a coordinated shaft perpetrated on them by government and industry, yet continue to financially support the arrangement through their choices to drive and to drive frequently.  Yet, through a combination of impotence and idiocy, a refusal to admit they have power to choose, and a willful ignorance of a problem (limited petroleum)that the majority of them are aware of when grilled, the only response they can concoct to this situation (which apparently OUTRAGES them) is to complain.

Joe Warmington's complaints reminded me of the Georgia (State, not country) author Flannery O'Connor's excellent collection of short stories, Everything that rises must Converge.  She got the phrase from a French source which escapes me at the moment, and I'm too lazy to google, because all we need to know is that it surely applies here.  Like the little bubbles rising up here, there and everywhere in your beer that form a uniform white layer of foam at the top, government and industry have been thick as thieves from the start, especially in this industry, the most profitable in human history.

It started back in the 1900s with Rockefeller and his Standard Oil monopoly, which earned him the title "Robber baron" for a reason.  The American government at the time of course left him free to act with impunity, making his family astronomically rich skimming the resource from poor and undeveloped areas.   Today the arrangement in North America is more complex, but only because of the number of parties.  The oil industry in North America is now made up of hundreds of companies, not one man, but still pays very few taxes, has access to a number of subsidies and credits, posts record profits every quarter, and stonewalls any new collectivizing of its wealth by the people's representatives (the government) by saying it would threaten stability, scare investment away and create higher prices which they would be obliged to pass on to consumers.  All that's a fancy way of saying it refuses to pay more taxes. It would make sense for it to, however, since there is no reason that Shell or Suncor or ConocoPhillips has anymore right to the oil in the ground than we do as citizens of Canada.  

Of course, there are no actual attempts at increased taxes for the industry to stonewall, only the possibility that there might be some day, and they are quick to warn against even those imaginary ones, just so you don't get any funny ideas. But they can rest easy; there is no political will in North America at the moment to do this, because the politicians are all on a first name basis with the heads of the oil companies.  Everything that rises must converge.  Power attracts money which attracts money.  It's a known fact and follows logic that the uber-rich of any nation have the political leaders on speed dial, and rare have been those in history who had the courage to let it ring. The whole arrangement is so transparently fraudulent, so clearly the appropriation of resources by multinational corporations who have no legitimate claim to them that it is depressing.  They have brainwashed enough of us with their rhetoric and their perverse reasoning about how they are improving people's lives and acting in the public good that they are too powerful to take on.  So Warmington, you're on the right track but the answer is not to drive your $100 a tank SUV, its to STARVE THE BASTARDS.  Don't buy the poison they're getting rich off you with.

Well, enough keystrokes wasted on that toilet paper of a tabloid.  Because even if the realization of their dream political scenario is complete by fall (Ford in Toronto City Hall, Harper majority, just missing Tim Hudak winning October provincial election), want to know what their holy trinity of clowns is going to do to reduce gas prices?

Absolute jack shit.

Know why?

Simple logic of supply and demand.  New demand for oil is coming online from the third world all the time, and most countries' domestic production is in decline.   Britain's North Sea fields are declining to the tune of 8-12% a year, and China's biggest one is going down 5% per year.  Factor in shipping from further and further locations, additional costs for unconventional sources (like deep sea drilling) and proximity to refineries and, well, oil is probably still too cheap relative to its real cost. As I've reasoned for some time, though, OPEC would rather sell lots even at the last drops than set the price too high and risk reducing demand.

The only thing in Ontario, Canada's governments' power to reduce is the tax on gasoline, but since all three levels of government are in record amounts of debt, it would be suicide to cut off this vital source of revenue.  None of them will admit that in public.  And these taxes are gobbled up by building and maintaining the roads we drive on, administering public transportation ministries, and now, subsidizing the whole shebang, from auto bailouts to musing about subsidizing pipelines to corporate tax reductions.  Cheaper gas today from the bandaid solution of reducing gas taxes, will lead to us being poorer, the oil companies being richer, and more expensive energy tomorrow (this last one is inevitable no matter what).

Yes, the fact that the low hanging fruit has been picked in the world of petroleum production is glossed over by deniers of "peak oil".  I'm sure most people haven't thought about it too much, so I will explain it simply.  The oil is going to run out. The two last resorts that have been planted in your mind over time by the deniers are highly dubious.  "Oh, Saudi Arabia will always bail us out".  Saudi Arabia says it has 260 billion barrels.  It also said it had that much 17 years ago, and has proceeded to sell 46 billion barrels since then.  It's more like 260 billion barrels is the number they don't change, just like you're still the age you were three years ago on that dating website, for the same reason.  It makes them look better.  The truth is, nobody knows how much they have and its not in their best interest to tell us, so when its done its gonna be done quick and suddenly.

Then there's the "Oh, we're Canadian, we have our "ethical oil" tar sands."  Yes, producing 1.4 million barrels a day, all sold to the United States to meet 19% of their daily demand.

Saudi Arabia and Iran practically give the stuff away to their citizens at 9-16 cents per litre.  Of course, they have way larger population segments with no job to go to, never mind commutes, so it isn't as consequential.  But would their papers have the whining and griping that ours do if they allowed their gasoline to be sold at market prices?  With these facts about the oil supply being widely known and available, is there any reason the media feels the need to waste our time on sob-story testimonials?

"I can't drive to work" "My fuel's more than my rent" "There's no public transit where I live".  Well, boo frickety hoo. Cry me a goddamn river.  You're a grown up, you made decisions, now you live with the consequences like we all have to live with the consequences of decisions we make as adults.

We don't need Phds or fancy studies to help us solve this problem.  Where are the simple, childhood common sense lessons? "You don't get something for nothing" "Money doesn't grow on trees" "You made your bed, now sleep in it".

Nobody has taken these messages out of the rising price of gasoline; namely, oil has to come from somewhere, and it doesn't grow on trees (NOT RENEWABLE).  Burning it at the rate we have has all kinds of consequences, and rather than trying to stubbornly kick at a dead horse (but I have to have cheap gasoline for my car!), think about how people used to live before cars were invented.  It wasn't that long ago, and we're going back, driving every single kicking and screaming Toronto Sun reader with us whether they like it or not.

The link that has just been made between widespread cellphone use and the extremely worrisome decline in the bee population should show us that there are consequences to this irrational and ridiculous idea that every person on earth should have a car, a mobile phone, a five bedroom house with 3 LCD Tvs, two laptops, 3 ipads, etc.  At least with cars, we now have these prices which, should they stay for a prolonged period this time, are bound to wake more people up to reality. Everything else won't be long to follow.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Seeing Red - The Future of the Liberal Party of Canada

Live by videofeed - "Well Oprah, the healing process has really been the twin realization that I was a huge part of the problem, and that the problem is much huger than myself"

To give you an idea how stubborn the mainstream media is in Canada when it comes to pushing their agenda and vision, even when that vision is resoundingly rejected in a democratic election, look no further than the editorial content and articles in the country's newspapers in the week following the federal election.

Aside from conceding outright victory to Stephen Harper, which is obvious given the majority situation, the papers have spent the majority of their time trivializing and belittling the official NDP opposition for being largely made up of "kids". Middle aged commentators might feel license to practice such dismissive condescension, and argue that the Official Opposition has no credibility because of its lack of "experience", but I would like to remind them of something. Fifty, forty, thirty, and perhaps as late as even twenty years ago, the vast majority of these new MPs, at their age, would have been married homeowners with children. This idea of adulthood beginning at 35 or 40 is a recent thing. We should remember that eighteen remains the legal age in Canada to vote, join the army, marry, obtain credit, sign a lease or a mortgage, act as a legal guardian, and do many other things, including hold elected public office, and there is a very good reason for this. It is only in our contemporary society of man-children, rampant childish and insolent behaviour, and complicated demographic and economic factors that humiliate ADULTS into behaving like kids until age 30 that suddenly, accomplishing something before age 45 will subject you to derision, mockery, and insults from your elder citizens. Most people realize this, even subconsciously, which is why there is no movement to raise the official, legal, age of majority.

Alas, the "kids" aged 19-27 who have gotten that "job" the older generation exhorts their "lazy" asses to find with all of their subtle, know-it-all snippeting the rest of the time, do have a lot to prove, and will have to earn the trust and confidence of their constituents to get re-elected. However, rather than focusing on this real work by real elected officials that really will or really will not take place, the media has instead focused on the hypothetical and the speculative. The NDP's 102 seat performance is chalked up to fluke, luck, and chance, and the Liberal party's 34 seat embarrassment is being rigourously analyzed as a blip, a mistake, and a punishment, all of which can easily be redressed with some rebuilding, re-networking, or a strong and dynamic leader, depending on which commentator in disbelief you talk to.

The argument of all these pundits is that there is a slice of the electorate that is "centrist", it is the biggest, and it is the key to capturing the right to govern. Even though we are all Canadians with one vote and one choice, most of us (progressives, unionists, environmentalists, christian evangelicals, western separatists, Quebec separatists, entrepreneurs, and communists) are discredited and ignored over this "muddy middle", which is considered a winner take all prize even though it only represents a segment of the electorate. Sort of how every American presidential election comes down to Ohio and a dozen "swing states". Electoral math has replaced all substance and ideas in the political discourse. Even though the NDP won by a landslide over the liberals even in this department, the pundits still can't accept it. They really are deluded enough to think if the Liberals can steal 10% of Conservatives' votes (which have been stolen from them) back, they will return to power.

My theory is that by virtue of holding prominent positions in media and society, self-identified Liberals mistake their status and position with influence over Canadian society and the Canadian electorate. The problem is that this "establishment" (which has withered away to shadow of its mighty former self) is a bubble, and because it is a bubble, they have been totally deaf to the message which has just been delivered to them. From here, it looks like they seem hell-bent on repeating the Kim Campbell, Progressive Conservative 2 seat debacle of 1993.

Instead of looking at "What the Liberals have to do/say to get back in power" or "Who should oversee the rebuilding of the Liberal Party", like the media has been wasting its time doing, I am going to show anyone who is reading, including liberals, excerpts from the party's trajectory under Michael Ignatieff, and then ask them why anybody would ever seriously consider voting for this party again.

His first major move was to allow 6 Newfoundlander MPs to ride a then fresh wave of anti-Harper sentiment in the province created by then-Premier Danny Williams' "Anything But Conservative" campaign by voting against the February 2009 budget. He warned this was a "one-time pass" with about as much authority as a rookie substitute teacher.

Not wanting to mince words or cause any doubt among the millions of progressive and environmentalist voters his party hoped to court, another early move was to call the tar sands a "national treasure" and a "world leader", and piped in that "he didn't need any lessons from National geographic" about them. Notwithstanding the looks of disbelief on Canadian voters hoping to be rid of Harper in the next election, the effort was wasted on Alberta.

10 months after coming to power, on September 2, 2009, the unknown and untested leader announces to the Prime Minister (and the world) "Mr Harper, your time is up." Google this phrase (it comes up fast) and you will see how bad the leader got shredded from this debut. Of course, his party would go on to prop up the Conservatives for two more years.

Bombarded with questions about the coalition, which you would think as a professor he would know is perfectly legitimate in parliamentary democracy, he stole the line "not necessarily conscription but conscription if necessary," from Mackenzie King, a real prime minister talking about a real problem in 1944, replacing "conscription" with "coalition". Sadly, the attempt at historical irony probably did nothing other than cause confusion and ammo for conservative attack ads in 2009.

The one worthwhile initiative put forth by a Liberal member in the 40th parliament, the responsible mining bill, by Scarborough MP John Mackay, was defeated. This would have sought to introduce some accountability and transparency into the thousands of mining companies listed on the TSX that mine everything all around the globe, including in some very poor and undeveloped countries. Ignatieff didn't show up for the vote, along with 10 or 11 other Liberal MPs who were too chickenshit to actually stand up for the public interest by holding these companies actions to scrutiny, since they are subjected to none now.

Then there was a twitter account announcing and unending number of speeches nobody read or listened to, bus tours and barbecques that were well-received but only ever seemed to drive the poll numbers down, shameless pandering during the NHL playoffs by weighing in on Max Pacioretty's concussion and donning a Canucks jersey, and the nonsense about his dad ( a Russian count who lived in Forest Hill and sent his sons to Upper Canada College) laying track in British Columbia. Plus the Howard Dean moment during the campaign where he whipped himself into a frenzy and yelled at the crowd in Sudbury to "Rise up"

Although I don't want to salt wounds or commit personality attacks on people, witnessing all this stuff was worse than a car wreck. On paper it may have sounded good, but Canadians generally have pretty good education levels and don't like fakes and bullshitters. These things were all so ill-timed and awkward, its hard to believe Ignatieff himself even believed they were working. If anything, he deserves credit for torturing himself (albeit, for almost 300,000$ a year) by plastering that fake smile on every day. But the Liberal Party deserves none for wincing, covering their eyes, ducking away, gasping, and biting their nails all the way through it, while nervously standing behind this poser and telling themselves it might still work. (Yes, that's what he was. A poser)

That's what you get when you have a party that runs itself like a chewing gum ad. A party that has convinced itself that there are legions of people out there that supports it no matter what it does. A party that takes Canadians for granted, on the basis that, for reasons fewer and fewer people can understand, it considers itself virtuous.

This is a party that has pursued more free-trade policies than any other. A party that has just as bad an environmental record as the Conservatives. A party that still thinks it can arrogantly wag its finger at Quebec and tell it whats best for it even though Quebec stopped caring 30 years ago. This is a party that believes in subsidizing businesses with taxpayer money, and in sending the Canadian military to contribute to the American-led resource shaft-grab in the middle east. They can blather on about their one remaining bit of ground, "Health Care, Families, and Ordinary Canadians" all they want, but the Conservatives have shifted all their policies to maintain the Liberal-established status quo on any and all social programs in these areas. Not to mention all the pro-life, anti-gay marraige, anti-abortion social conservatives in the Liberal caucus, like the M.P. Jim Karygiannis in Scarborough-Agincourt, where I grew up. This guy, who is the longest serving M.P. in the house of commons (What does that say about where I come from) has the worst attendance record for votes in the last five parliaments. Since the election his seniority (and the incredibly small number of Liberal MPs) has seen him taking a lot of questions and speaking on behalf of the party way more.

I think his record speaks for itself, the fact he is acting as spokesperson for this party speaks for itself, the last leader's record speaks for itself, and the party's record speaks for itself. If the Liberal Party ever gets around to deciding to stand for something, maybe it has hope. On second thought, the brand has suffered irreparable damage. Screw it. Send all the old useless reticent dead weight to the Conservatives, if they want them, and merge with the NDP. You will still win every election here on out. And if you purge that element that wants to chase centre-right voters, you will purge most of the arrogance and hubris that prevents you from acknowledging reality and doing basic math. Because amazingly, not even being reduced to 3rd part status for the 1st time since Confederation has.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Canada, meet your laid-back, easygoing, chilled out Conservative Majority

So the Conservatives did it.  They watched and waited while their fearless leader got trashed and disparaged non stop on the comment boards for five weeks by a bottomless pit of detractors, then came out last night to do what victors do: celebrate, and jubilantly rub in your face just how wrong all you people who think Stephen Harper's a vindictive douchebag got it.  Well, it must be conceded.  167 seats indeed constitute a parliamentary majority and Harper, with a fresh vote of confidence from his party and our electoral system, will be free to do whatever the hell he wants for the next five, six, or seven years (Do you think a country that didn't care about two prorogues will be monitoring how long he rides this out? I mean, what's to stop him from saying "The economy's too fragile" until he's 90?).

About that bottomless pit of detractors, let's make a note that it is real and it is greater in numbers than the blue faithful who emerged victorious from the woodwork to greet it.  Amazingly, 60% of voters still could not muster any trust or support for the guy with his hands on the steering wheel of the economy (Yes, the economy actually has a steering wheel, to hear the Conservative propaganda in your mailbox tell it).  But...this is a Westminster, first past the post parliamentary democracy, so let's accept what's done and get on with the analysis.  No point in getting angry or frustrated at a fait accompli that we are all going to have to get used to whether we like it or not.

In fact, what we are about to witness is the "hidden agenda" of the Conservative party. It may be grizzly, and a lot of shit may get destroyed in the process, but who knows? Maybe the calm, serene photos (like the one at the top) and coached debate performances were just a preview of what's to come under this government.  You know, just let us bankrupt the country on bullshit, make sure the oil patch and Bay Street have free reign to reap all the profits there for the taking (and access to taxpayer capital if they slip up), put people with one weed plant in jail, and make sure the entire civil service is loyal with patronage appointments.  Also on deck, the full sullying of Canada's international reputation via fervent climate change denial and a middle eastern policy slightly to the right of Gaza jewish settlers.

It's not so bad, is it? At least they are going to look nice and relaxed when they are doing it instead of pissed off and frustrated.

Are changes to gay marraige laws in the works? Abortion? Capital Punishment? We shall see.  That would be driving a well oiled machine off a cliff, and Harper is not the reckless type.  On the other hand, they have at least four more years, and our electorate seems to be afflicted with both a short memory and a bad attention span.

Now for the autopsy of the Conservative carnage, and the truth is they are not solely to blame.  For the first time since 2003, election night produced winners and losers, and there were two definite winners (Conservative & NDP) and two horrible losers (Libs and Bloc) (My thoughts about E May are outlined in a previous column, but way to go for taking down a CON minister).  And Canadians rewarded the two parties who stayed true to themselves and spoke to voters about things that resonated with them, which allowed them to expand on already solid bases.

I'm not happy about a Conservative majority, but the truth is it was already 95% assembled (only 12 seats short last time).  Travel around Canada outside Quebec, and the majority of rural areas, small-medium sized communities, towns, and suburbs are now Conservative.  People with traditional values, overworked commuters, resource workers, and old people tend to dominate.  Look at the map, and from the interior of BC to Ontario its solid blue with a couple red and orange islands in cities.  From Ontario east, its a three way battle regardless of the community.  But in the types of areas I've just described, still mostly conservative.

The metropolises of the country are of course, having none of it, but you don't have to wait long when leaving them to get in either a) rich areas or b) suburbs, where Conservatives are immediately competitive.  Thus the key to this majority was the 905 suburban area around Toronto, where I am amazed the Liberals hung on by their fingernails as long as they did, and the Cons bulldozed through this time.

And those Liberals is whose feet the blame for this Conservative majority lies squarely at.

You can't be mad at Jack Layton.  He's stuck to his guns for years, election in, election out.  His party has never been taken seriously for a second by the mainstream media or corporate establishment.  But he has charisma, he has integrity, and he has now given his party 3 times more seats than it has ever had, more than the "only credible alternative" liberals have earned in the last three elections, and formed the official opposition.  Thanks for not being an out of touch douchebag, Jack. I wish I voted for your party

Instead, I voted for the incredibly collapsing idiot Liberals of Michael Ignatieff thinking they had the best chance of beating the Conservative candidate where I live.  How did that work out for me? Instead of losing to him by 300 votes like she did last time, the liberal candidate lost by 4,000 votes.  And am I ever annoyed with myself today for making this mistake, for the first time in my life, of voting Liberal. Never again.  The party needs to change its name to Severely Delusional.

This election reinforced a point, which is that in significant portions of Canada, voting Liberal is a non-starter.  That realization might kick in when viewing the whopping 4 out of a possible 70 something seats west of Ontario they hold.  The NDP is viewed as the only credible alternative in any of those ridings.

If not, there is also Quebec, where the brand is permanently damaged thanks to the native son traitor Trudeau's brilliant idea to draft a constitution without the province's consent (which was asking for simple, symbolic things that have mostly been granted in practice since anyway) due to the rose-coloured glasses view of the Canadian federation that he alone held and was arrogant enough to think the entire country shared with him.  Another 10 years of being slighted and run roughshod over by the bullying centralizing of Jean Chrétien, plus their terminally unpopular and hated provincial Liberal premier, and they have about as favourable an opinion of Liberals as you and I might of toxic waste or DDT.

But despite, despite it all, some pretty reputable people got involved with the party.  Paul Martin, the last man who managed Canada's finances in a way other than constantly sinking them deep in the red, led for a time.  Then a guy named Stéphane Dion came on for an election, with his central plank being that carbon emissions are destructive to the environment, and producing them should be further disincentivized with a tax.

Gee, there's a revolutionary idea.  It's forward thinking, and it does something other than buy voters with their own borrowed money.

And how this was handled is about where you lose all sympathy for this party.

Dion leads them to 77 seats in 2008, Official Opposition to the last Conservative Minority. A Parliamentary Crisis ensues, and he proposes to head a coalition which Canadians were enormously favourable to.  What do the Liberals do? They turf him because "that wasn't good enough" and make Michael Ignatieff the head of the party, a man who has never won an election or even the leadership of the party.  The two things he is quickest to deep-six? The coalition and the carbon tax.

It seems like with the Conservatives already vociferously opposed to both, that ground was staked out, and with the "humiliating" defeat, there was nothing left to lose.  But hindsight is 20-20.  And the truth is, you cannot be an effective leader in a country you have not inhabited for 34 years,  Not to validate all those awful attack ads, but its true.  Even Wyclef wasn't allowed to run in Haiti, a country which might have its shit together just a little less than Canada.  Asking for the top job after being away for that long? What about the millions of lifelong residents?

I don't have to explain anymore.  Yesterday's 34 seat Liberal showing, the worst since Confederation, proved what an out of touch nimrod this guy was.  The anti-coalition and anti-carbon tax people went with their real deal, the Cons, and the social program and anti-prison, anti-fighter jet, anti- corporate tax people went with their real deal, the NDP.  Not only did the second last Liberal bastion of support, 905, (which managed to get behind Dion, who Iggy was so eager to stab in the back and replace) fall like dominoes to the Cons, parts of 416, including Ignatieff's own seat, did as well.  Stéphane Dion still has his seat today in Saint Laurent-Cartierville.

Let that be a lesson not to place a party's fate in the hands of two of its advisors having wet dreams about some blowhard at Harvard, and to make sure the party actually stands for something.  And for a party that has a couple seats in Toronto, Montreal and the Maritimes to stop pretending it is a "national" party.  Ignatieff's parting shot and all those who echo it, that a Conservative majority and NDP opposition is going to send droves of teary voters back into the arms of a Liberal majority, is not only a display of his total arrogance but also an ignorance of geography and history not befitting of a professor.

Smug Harper is already smirking a lot less and smiling a lot more.  It could be that he is calmed from worrying that his head was going to be on a stick, which it was, if he won a third minority.  I think the vicious, bullying pitbulls we've come to detest are being replaced by indifferent shrugs, easy smiles, and laughs.  Only time will tell how reprehensible the program that those gestures are providing the veneer for is.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Mission Accomplished (but who the hell cares)

I don't have to break news to you that's all over the news: Barack Obama has just had the pleasure of doing something that an American president hadn't had the pleasure of doing in 7 years. It's rare event, but I guess its become something of a ritual in order to boost flagging efforts to secure a second presidential term going into an election year. What better way to do this than going on camera, in front of the world, and announcing "Guess what? Veni vidi vici, which means we went in there, blew some shit up, kicked some major fuckin' ass, and goter done. I know you were on the edge of your seat holding your crap in for days in anticipation of whether or not I was going to break this happy news to you, and I am thrilled to say that I am, and the news is good (as it always is, because our special and brave boys always prevail). Mission accomplished. Your commander in chief now gives you permission to return to business as usual. (Dismissive wave of hand) As you were, sheeple."

"Woo hoo! U-S-A! U-S-A!"

Perhaps Mr. Obama's Ivy League-honed, Washington elite-refined killer instinct is a bit more subtle than his predecessor's, which is why he didn't feel the need to make this announcement in a flight suit on the deck of an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean under a banner that says "Mission Accomplished". But then again, that guy was also an Ivy League-educated member of the Washington elite. So perhaps it was more of a case of nobody being sure at that time what the "mission" was or how it was in any way "accomplished", thus the necessity for theatrics. This time, the message alone sufficed. Deadpan. We got the bastard who caused all our problems. The obnoxious bravado of the words "Mission accomplished" themselves wasn't even needed. "Osama Bin Laden was killed at 1:30 am local time in a firefight 100 km outside Islamabad, Pakistan, and dropped into the Indian Ocean after being shot in the head"

Street parties. Official statements of congratulations pouring in from around the globe. U-S-A! U-S-A!

If you haven't found out yet, how do you feel? If you have already found out, which is more likely, how did you feel? How did you react? Were you pumped? Relieved? Doing backflips? Suddenly optimistic again?

I somehow doubt it. Anger is a funny emotion. It drives us as humans to do terrible things - break stuff, say things we regret, make rash decisions without regard for the consequences, get in car accidents. No one doubts its potency. But I suspect we evolved for our own safety and well-being to possess limited amounts of this volatile and destructive feeling. It is really, really difficult to stay consistently and constantly angry for longer than a couple minutes, hours, or days, depending on the severity of what's eating you. Even the most skilled and disciplined grudge holders end up corroding their insides so bad that they collapse in a fragile broken heap of regret and pain if they don't wise up.

Hence my personal lack of catharsis at the closure brought to something that happened almost ten years ago. I mean, that was four girlfriends ago. I was still in high school. I've seen ground zero twice since then. It looks like a giant construction site. You'd never know anything happened there. It looks like New York and the world have moved on.

And that's just me. Imagine what everybody else has gone through since then. It's not to say that what happened wasn't tragic and fucked up, or that anybody deserved to be in those buildings. It's just that, how many patriots or families of victims or whatever woke up last thursday and said to themselves: "Damn. I sure wish they'd catch that bastard today. I haven't been able to accomplish diddly squat since he did that and who knows when I will?"

Getting to the point, what has been accomplished by assassinating an old, sickly man with forty kids? I don't pity him, or think he made the world a better place, but could they at least have validated it? This was really poor form and execution. "Dropped into the ocean?" How much does the average person trust the official declarations and statements of the U.S. government? Not very much, with good reason, and so this is a stretch. Whoever dropped the ball on this did it on purpose, meaning there was likely no ball dropped at all, because this smells fishier than the sink at the Chinese grocery store in my neighbourhood. God. You want full propaganda value and impact for the efforts of this event, you fucking take Osama, you photograph him, you make him stand there with a raving beard and crappy beige suit in some show trial for six weeks, whatever, until toying with him gets old, and you execute him inside the United States of America. You know they made damn sure, for their $3 trillion war in Iraq, that they did that with Saddam. Why couldn't they do it for this supposed bounty to end all bounties that was ten years in the making?

Because that would have been too simple. It would have made too much sense. And in the perverse American narrative, their mainstream media's way of telling things, there is only one version of the story that matters. The "Looney Tunes" version, intended for public consumption, in which American presidents, defence secretaries, and generals are your Bugs Bunnies, Tweety Birds, and Road Runners, and the Saddams, the Gaddhafis, and the Bin Ladens of this world are the Wil E Coyotes, Elmer Fudds, and Yosemite Sams. This gets validated whenever something like this happens. Then of course there is the real version, which is never talked about because no effort is made to publicize it, but which a few books, blogs (look to the right), and documentaries will put you well on your way to discovering, although you are never really fully cognizant of it because there is no much information that contradicts the popular narrative, and no clean simple answers that fit together.

So to avoid being dismissed as "conspiracy theorist" or "paranoid loony-bin", don't claim to have any definitive answers (because you won't find any), but ask valid questions. Starting with how those planes got to where they were when per NORAD there should have been fighter jets at their sides within minutes of their being highjacked. How the head hijacker's passport was found a few blocks away when everything in the towers was turned finer than dust from the fall. Why those buildings dropped so smoothly and suddenly.

O.K., I'm not here to talk about 9-11 today, but now you know I can't really accept the official version with all its holes and gaps about what really happened that day. Since then, two wars were started. We know Iraq was a blatant oil grab, and Afghanistan is more than likely chiefly concerning a pipeline across central Asia. Of course, once we get past the bullshit about freedom and democracy and recognise these wars for the resource-strategic location grabs they are, even then, what these wars have cost Western and U.S. taxpayers they has long far exceeded any return on investment the citizens of those countries might have hoped their governments would obtain on their behalf...?

The short answer is it doesn't matter, because a bunch of defence contractors friends of the government continued to get rich in the process. War profiteering is a centuries, if not millenia, old game. The real question was, and is, where does Bin Laden fit into all this. I think it has been several years that most people have given up trying to figure out where he ever has, or realised that he never did. The effort of attempts by the American government PR apparatus to link the military interventions to him has long been abandoned as pointless; people's attention spans are too exhausted. I mean, a full-scale war has been started with Libya for several weeks and we've heard scarcely a peep from anybody. Compare that to the media coverage and protests at the onset of the Iraq War. Nobody cares about these wars, or any war, anymore, so why would anyone care about Bin Laden?

Answer: they don't. How much energy can you spend on someone whose existence you're not even sure of anymore? Let's see - he used to release the odd videotape to Al-Jazeera. Then the videotapes stopped. All he would deign to release after that was audiotapes. Now you are really losing people's interest. No, the CIA said, it's his voice. For sure it's his voice. Then nothing, for months, years. Governments fell, Blockbusters were released, people had babies, people died.

Then that Supersize me guy released a film. Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden. But it only struck a chord with people my age, and that was only for its name, which reminded them of the popular show and computer game from their childhood "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego". I don't know anyone who bothered to see it, or cared. I feel like telling him, dude, you're not gonna top eating Rick Lonalds for 90 meals in a row.

Finally, I remember some time in the past year and a half, the CIA gravely declared that Osama might be dead. Meaning, he was very sick. Old and sick and out there somewhere. Well, that's what people do. They get old and sick out there, somewhere. We fell asleep.

Then BOOM, on May 1st. We GOT HIM. Oh Yeah, it's him, and we got him good, we smoked him out of his foxhole. Except the people who supported you and gave you carte blanche to do whatever you needed to do to capture the supposed perpetrator of this horrible atrocity were, are, really, physically, mentally, emotionally and logically incapable of caring anymore.

Osama's existence hasn't mattered for years. He has become a convenient symbol and icon of evil, a lazy catch-all answer to complicated problems, a reminder of the ineptitude of U.S. foreign policy, and a bad joke. He is a lot of things to a lot of people, and you can construct his image into almost meaning you want. The news I read today said that from his location, with no phone or internet, it was logistically and practically impossible to coordinate attacks anyway. In other words, no matter what you believe, the official record says Osama had ceased to be relevant in real life. His death confirms that, because the officials are on record saying it doesn't mean the world is a safer place, and they are more committed to their bogus "War on Terror" than ever. Great. He wasn't an "armed and dangerous" threat after all, just a face to hate and to fear, and they are working hard to find another one to replace him for you.