Priceless. Absolutely priceless.
Paul’s Socialist Investigations
Priceless. Absolutely priceless.
In the last five polls released by the polling firms Ekos and Harris-Decima, the Greens have climbed precipitously in British Columbia which, when combined with the faltering Liberals, now places them in a statistical tie with the Liberals for the first time ever.
Still behind both the Tories and the New Democrats, the Greens nevertheless have very good reason to be happy whilst the Liberals have very good reason for concern.
Unfortunately for the Greens, however, this surge in support is not translating into any seats in BC in either the Paulitics arithmetic seat projection or the Paulitics geometric seat projection, however both do have them in several very strong second-place showing in BC.
Given all of the evidence, it still boggles the mind that North Americans can fail to grasp the simple fact that our European, Latin American, Asian, African and Australian cousins already understand as clear as day: liberalism is a right-wing ideology not altogether different from conservatism insofar as it does not care about workers. Liberalism, is not less favourable to economic élites than conservatism and if we needed any more proof on this matter [which we really didn't], we were given it on a gold plate this past Friday.
On Bill Maher’s popular HBO television series Real Time, Paul Krugman, prototypical liberal economists and author of such best sellers as The Conscience of a Liberal, gave a shining example of what exactly liberalism is and how that contrasts with what it is commonly assumed in North America to mean.
During the interview, Krugman tried to moronically suggest that Bush’s massive bailout of U.S. capitalists with generous executive compensation packages at the expense of U.S. workers was “Commissar [Henry] Paulson seizing the means of production… [and this is] the most socialistic move that we’ve seen from any U.S. administration.” This, of course, is like calling white black or saying that one plus two equals a barrel of monkeys.
Krugman should be given credit for mastering doublethink. It takes special talent to call what Bush did a socialist move considering the plain truth that it is obviously the most fascistic move that we’ve seen from any U.S. administration. Bush’s move demonstrates a collusion between the state and capital by using workers’ money to reinforce private capital WITHOUT seizing the means of production and thus is the epitome of a fascistic move.
It should be pointed out here that the background of this issue not explored by Krugman during his interview, is that U.S. Tresury Secretary Henry Paulson (whom Krugman called a “commissar”) is opposing a push by Democrats in the U.S. Congress to impose a limit on how much taxpayer money the wealthy capitalists who ran their companies into the ground can keep for themselves personally.
[U.S. Congressman Barney] Frank, who has been in phone discussions with [U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry "Hank"] Paulson, said the secretary appeared receptive to adding some foreclosure-relief language. The second Democratic proposal — to impose compensation limits on Wall Street executives [emphasis added] — is meeting more resistance.
“Hank [Paulson] says it’s a poison pill,” Frank said. “I say I don’t think it’s very patriotic for someone to not give up his golden parachute when we’re trying to save the markets.”
So there you have the difference between conservative and liberal morality in a nutshell, summarized as succinctly as could ever be wished.
Conservatives want no limit to how much taxpayer money wealthy capitalists can take for themselves while workers starve and lose their 401(k)s. Liberals, on the other hand being much more spineless than their conservative counterparts, want some (high) limits on how much taxpayer money wealthy capitalists can keep for themselves, but may in the end prove willing to negotiate to make sure that it’s not too arduous a limit that would be unsatisfactory to conservatives.
Socialists like myself, on the other hand, are the only ones presenting a unique moral and economic argument of what to do this situation. We say: the amount of taxpayer money wealthy capitalists who ran their companies into the ground should get as their reward: zero.
And to boot, we socialists will also throw in for free the ancillary benefit that the capitalists should also be forced to forfeit their right to exploit workers simply because they own the means of production.
Finally, if any capitalist objects to the socialist notion that the workers should be the primary benefactors of the distribution of taxpayer’s money, socialists like myself if we were in power, would simply invite these capitalists to take up free room and board in the nearest local penitentiary.
For those interested, you can view the entire Paul Krugman interview, in all its doublethink glory, here.
I have a confession to make.
With a show as complex, psychologically, philosophically, dramatically and emotionally, it’s difficult not to idolize and admire the show’s magnificent creator J.J. Abrams. From the Rousseauian symbolism of life in the state of nature as supremely good; to symbolism of the social contract (Lockean and Hobbesian) and the task of building a society; to the Nietzschean symbolism of ‘God is Dead’, there is virtually no end to the intricate layers of LOST.
That’s why I was supremely excited to watch the first episode of J.J. Abrams’ new television series ‘Fringe‘. In LOST‘s epic pilot episode, it was difficult not to be gripped right from the beginning. What is more, word that the first episode of Fringe was to supercede the first episode of LOST as being the most expensive pilot ever shot certainly added to the excitement of the anticipation.
However, much to my dismay, Fringe does not live up to the reputation Abrams has for creating intricate, intelligent, well-constructed plots that grip the viewer and don’t let go.
My primary complaint about Fringe isn’t that it’s like stepping back 15 years in time and watching an old episode of Chris Carter’s The X-Files. The X-Files was a good enough television series. I watched it for several seasons when it first began and I have to admit that most of the time, I was genuinely entertained. Being a virtual clone of The X-Files isn’t therefore an inherently a bad thing per se, in fact, it could end up even being a good thing. But it’s just not entirely clear that would be a J.J. Abrams good thing.
In LOST, there are the amazing plot twists with references back to something seemingly inconsequential that happened in the show 20 minutes, 2 episodes or even 2 seasons ago and this is perhaps the only element of LOST that Abrams has attempted to carry over to Fringe. The other elements that make LOST great are completely missing. For instance: The ridiculously complex symbolism which exists both in very specific instances (such as the revelation, never explained on screen, that character Charlie Pace‘s middle name could be a reference to the works of obscure 15th Century painter Hieronymus Bosch) as well as existing at the level of the overall series in the symbolism of the development of society and how society treats that which it does not understand (from the mythological to ‘otherness‘) are completely missing.
Simply put, the writing of Fringe is both sloppy and addle. At one point, an elaborate plot device using technobabble is in equal parts about ‘communicating’ with an unconscious person by synchronizing their brainwaves, as it is about finding an excuse to get the attractive female lead character to strip down to her underwear and get into a tank of brine water.
Furthermore — and this point is simply unforgivable — the writers of the show are so sloppy that at one point in the episode, after tortuously emphasizing how one of the main characters is a genius with an IQ of 190 (which would place him in the 99.9999999th percentile of human intelligence), the writers unknowingly make that character misuse a relatively simple word because they thought it’d make him sound intelligent. Specifically, the mistake happens in a scene where the attractive female FBI agent (Olivia Dunham, pictured) is shown becoming emotional and stressed at the prospect of her lover dying, the genius character (Peter Bishop) says to the attractive female FBI agent “you’re clearly under duress.”
What the writers meant to say, but didn’t, because they couldn’t be bothered to use their dictionaries, is “you’re clearly under great strain or stress.” Duress is not a synonym for stress just because it sounds the same and the sloppiness here is only exacerbated by the fact of which character the writers chose to deliver this line.
Another instance of sloppy writing is when they bring out a genius mad scientist (the father of Peter Bishop, Dr. Walter Bishop) who presumably is an expert in his field, and have him say that the brain wave-syncing procedure can theoretically be done on any person (provided there is no brain damage) up to six hours after their death. I have no (or little) problem with the whole, ‘after death’ portion of that sentence. A good writer ought to be able to make the viewer suspend disbelief by using their craft properly. Rather, what I do object to is how sloppy the writers were in having the supposed medical expert give an exact solid time-frame for the limits of how this procedure can be stretched out past death. So at 5 hours and 59 minutes, the procedure’s good to go, but at 6 hours and 1 minute it’s a no-go? No medical expert in any field — even postmortem telepathy — would give an exact maximum limit of their procedure. All they might say is “it might be able to be done, theoretically, several hours postmortem, but I’ve never done it personally beyond 3 hours and I’ve never read of any peer-reviewed accounts of such a procedure being successfully completed beyond 5 hours.”
These are just many of the reasons why Fringe is a sloppy-man’s LOST. Fringe is to LOST as Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code is to Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum.
I just sincerely hope that Fringe does not distract from Abrams’ other truly inspired creation and I hope that Fringe dies a quick death so that Abrams can once again devote his entire energies back to LOST.
Anybody see any difference between these three screencaps?
When Stephen Harper makes a policy announcement, the Toronto Star uses the political neutral verb “touts” (in accordance with proper journalistic practise). [source]
When Stéphane Dion makes a policy announcement, the Toronto Star uses the political neutral verb “touts” (in accordance with proper journalistic practise). [source]
But when Jack Layton makes a policy announcement, what happens to the good journalistic practise and integrity of the Toronto Star? [source]
The word “hype” is a normative word and is generally considered a weasel word since it carries with it additional meanings of ‘contrivance’ and ‘unnecessary extravagance’. This isn’t to say that there may not be just cause do consider Layton’s ‘green strategy’ as being ‘contrived’. I leave that for the reader to decide one way or another as it is not important here. But, if one could make the argument that it is worth considering whether Layton’s green strategy is contrived, then one could argue at least as easily that it is ridiculous to claim that Harper has any reason to “tout” his dismal record or that there even exists such a thing as ‘clean’ coal.
It is perhaps one of the defining myths of our civilization that capitalism creates a high standard of living for workers and capitalists alike. Indeed to question this sacrosanct myth is generally considered about as polite as relieving oneself on the eldest child of whomever you are speaking to.
In reality though, not only is it rather easy to illustrate that it is not true that capitalism in and of itself creates high standards of living, but, paradoxically, it is also a relatively simple task to illustrate that most people with a sufficient grasp of history perhaps don’t even genuinely believe in the myth itself. People already have all the facts to refute this myth existing latently within themselves, but are never given the opportunity to connect the dots and formally recognize what they already know.
Consider that most people are well aware that capitalism came into existence in the late 18th Century and closely coincided with the industrial revolution and the creation of the first modern powerful unitary (rather than feudal) state in England.
Consider that most Canadians are well aware of the Winnipeg General Strike which occurred in 1919 and that most Americans are well aware of the various courageous workers’ activities in the late nineteenth century in the United States (and particularly in Massachusetts). Moreover, most people are aware that the reasons for these actions were not young rabble rousing youngsters seeking a lark but rather were a result of the brutal existence under unfettered capitalism which had existed for nearly 150 years with little increase in the standard of living for most. For example, the average wage in Winnipeg in 1919 was roughly on par with the average wages we see in Africa to this day (with today, approximately 40% living on less than $2 per day purchasing power parity)
Consider that most people therefore should be aware (and would be intimately aware in a free society) that the high standard of living we in the West enjoy today is an extremely new phenomenon that did not begin to accrue until we saw the development of class consciousness, unions, activism against capitalism and capitalists, the threat of revolution and the beginnings of demands for the democratization of the workplace.
In short, pure capitalism exploited workers untrammelled by pesky legislation and workers’ demands for nearly 150 years. Then, precisely at the historical moment when workers began to earn victories by moving away from capitalism, we began to see the increasing standard of living which today, according to popular shibboleth, is now attributed perversely to capitalism itself instead of the activism and agitation of workers seeking to move away from capitalism.
The reason this is significant, the reason why I bring this history up now, is that every once in a while we get a glimpse of this old-guard manner of capitalism lurking beneath the modern putatively tame breed of capitalism which we think of in the friendly, fuzzy terms outlined in the popular myth view. Earlier this month, we got just such an example of what capitalism attempts to do to workers when it believes it can get away with it.
Of course, since we do not live in a free society, this news item was not reported by the press. However, the University of Pittsburgh’s legal research publication The Jurist had a fantastic piece on what seemingly friendly Wal-Mart attempted to do to its workers in Mexico when it thought it could get away with it.
When you strip away the hard-won victories of workers in the 20th Century as is the case in many quasi-industrial nations like Mexico, we can see very clearly what kind of world the capitalists would like to return to.
The Mexican Supreme Court of Justice [official website] on Thursday ruled [press release, in Spanish] that Wal-Mart de Mexico [corporate website; JURIST news archive] may not pay employees in part with vouchers redeemable only at its stores. The court nullified the employment contract of a worker who challenged the voucher payments, finding that they violated Article 123 of the Mexican Constitution [PDF text], which guarantees the right to “dignified and socially useful work.” The court likened the arrangement, which Wal-Mart called the Plan of Social Welfare, to a practice that prevailed during the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz [profile], who ruled Mexico [JURIST news archive] in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
If one wanted, one could easily find numerous historic examples of capitalists seeking a regression back to the days before workers rights and the hard-won victories which enable even the modicum of wealth we enjoy in the West today. However, given that the press will remain the dutiful servant of capitalism, it is important to highlight ongoing abuses and that we never loose sight of the fact that even the various historical examples of capitalists seeking to claw back to a purer form of capitalism have not ended. Rather, we are faced with these attempts — obscured and out of mind though they may be — and live with them daily. It’s just that the popular myth makes it impolite to bring these matters up in ‘polite’ conversation.
In today’s Toronto Star, one of that publication’s best columnists, Thomas Walkom, has an excellent piece articulating with uncanny precision an argument that I have been making for years. This article truly is well worth the read for any engaged freethinker.
“Parties far closer than they admit“
By Thomas Walkom
Both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion paint their rivalry in near-apocalyptic terms.
Dion insists that Harper is defined by a “narrow-minded right-wing agenda…
“There has never been a federal election that has more clearly provided Canadians with such a stark choice,” he said on Sunday.
Harper says the choice is equally stark – between what he calls his solid, middle-of-the-road government and the wild-eyed notions of a radical academic.
“Canadians want prudence, not risk,” he said this week. “They want practical actions for the many, not theoretical ideas for the very few.”
All of this is vibrant rhetoric.
But in terms of deeds, the Conservatives and Liberals are far closer than their partisans admit.
Harper, in particular, has been careful not to stray too far from the centre-right orthodoxy of previous Liberal regimes. His critics insist that this is a ruse, that he has a hidden agenda ready to unleash if he wins a majority of Commons seats.
Yet there is little evidence of such an agenda.
As prime minister, Harper has deftly avoided most of the so-called culture war issues, from abortion to gay marriage.
Instead, he has taken aim at relatively low-budget federal schemes unpopular with his base – from a program that allowed disadvantaged groups to take on the government in court, to cultural grants that benefit those with whom the Conservatives disagree.
He has not dismantled what’s left of the welfare state, such as employment insurance. He hasn’t had to. Jean Chrétien’s previous Liberal government did it for him.
Like the Liberals, Harper has been happy to fund medicare.
But – again like the Liberals – he has ignored its creeping privatization, refusing to enforce the Canada Health Act.
Dion accuses Harper of squandering the $12 billion budgetary surplus he inherited.
If so, Harper has simply followed the Liberal lead, using this surplus to pay down debt, reduce taxes and boost federal spending.
In fact, most of Harper’s tax cuts (with the important exception of his decision to slash the GST) were supported by the Liberals.
Conversely, the Harper Conservatives have not been exactly parsimonious. During their two full years in government, federal spending on programs rose by about $20 billon.
During the last two full years of the previous Liberal government, program spending also rose by $20 billion.
True, the Conservatives favour military spending. But the Liberals are hardly peaceniks. They support Harper’s decision to keep Canadian combat troops in Afghanistan until at least 2011.
Even the parties’ scandals are eerily similar.
Four years ago, the RCMP was brought in to sort out the fabled Liberal sponsorship program.
This year, the RCMP was brought in to sort out a Conservative financing scheme that Elections Canada says is illegal.
This is not to say the two parties are identical. Dion says he would cut income taxes and impose new levies on commodities whose production involves carbon emissions. Harper says he wouldn’t.
But even this distinction is more complex than it seems. Dion’s scheme may help the environment. But by replacing progressive income taxes with a regressive consumption tax, he could help the rich at the expense of the middling classes. Conversely, Harper – in tax terms at least – could emerge here as the more leftish of the two. Which isn’t quite how he’s usually seen.
While I profoundly agree with Walcom’s argument in this article, I personally tend to go further insofar as I argue that while the NDP, Bloc Québecois and Greens are better than the two primary capitalist parties, they still have much more in common with them than any of the five would readily admit.
Those interested, can read my thoughts and arguments for why I believe this to be the case in these pieces:
Contrary to some of the analysis I have read in the blogs and elsewhere, in the strict letter of the regulations, the networks did not do anything inconsistent in refusing to grant Elizabeth May a seat at the leaders’ debates for the 2008 election. In 1993, the relatively new Reform and Bloc Québecois Parties had each elected their first MPs (Deborah Grey and Gilles Duceppe respectively) rather than obtaining their first MPs as a result of floor-crossing as is the case this year with the Green Party.
Thus, while I strongly disagree with the entire convention of allowing only parties that elect one MP into the debates, the blame for today’s patently anti-democratic decision cannot be laid entirely or even primarily at the doorstep of the capitalist networks (regardless of how much every Marxist bone in my body would like to do so).
The blame, it is clear, rests primarily on the shoulders of the NDP’s Jack Layton, the Bloc’s Gilles Duceppe and the Conservatives’ Stephen Harper. For being the sole party leader of the 4 main parties to advocate for May’s presence, the Liberals’ Stéphane Dion rightly deserves praise today from democrats of all stripes ranging from radical Marxist like myself to the bluest Tory.
The sort of reactionary, petty, anti-democratic inclinations exemplified by the pressure from the NDP, Bloc and Tory leaders to close off access to the debates is simply shameful. I expect this sort of behaviour from the Tory leader who has regularly demonstrated his contempt for democracy in his draconian attitude towards the press and public ethics committees. However, this an exemplar of hypocrisy on the part of the Bloc and the New Democrats.
Both parties claim to be social democrat, even though both parties have sadly long since forgotten that ‘socialism’, throughout its long and rich history from the Diggers of the English Revolution onwards, has always entailed radical democracy and the radical expansion of the democratic franchise. This is an especially bitter irony for the New Democrats since they still proudly consider themselves to be the party of Tommy Douglas, a genuine and honourable democratic socialist who never forgot what that term entailed. Without realizing it, time and time again, the NDP continues to demonstrate with their current pathetically-weak policies and their bourgeois behaviour, that if Tommy Douglas could see what his party had become, he would be spinning in his grave.
Now, let me be clear: This should not be taken as an endorsement of May. May and her predecessor’s policies which deliberately dragged the Greens to the right and away from the parts of the proud Green tradition that I most respect, is for me simply unforgivable. However, one’s personal opinions of the Greens are immaterial here. This is an attack on democracy just as much as is the silencing of other party leaders such as Miguel Figueroa of the Communist Party of Canada, Dennis Young of the Libertarian Party of Canada, Connie Fogal of the Canadian Action Party and Sinclair Stevens of the Progressive Canadian Party to name only a few. And as this is an attack on democracy, it must be the duty of every democrat to stand in solidarity with Elizabeth May and the Greens on this issue and pressure whomever they’re supporting in this election to allow May into the debates.