The DEEPLY Depressing 2015 Canadian Election

Thomas Mulcair, Stephen Harper, Elizabeth May, Justin Trudeau

Thomas Mulcair, Stephen Harper, Elizabeth May, Stephen Trudeau. NO Credit.

*edit, January 15, 2016 – I’ve always been leery of autoworkers’ unions. Cars are a problem. Vehicles using fossil fuels are a problem. When I read Matthew Behren’s NOW article this morning in a coffee shop, I was sickened. UNIFOR, which is okay with Justin Truduea’s support for arming the incredibly barbaric Saudi regime put me completely off that organization. (I had some good things to say about it below.) And the Londoners, in Ontario of course, who don’t give a damn about the killing going on there can all drop dead. Work at fertilizing the soil. See “How Justin Trudeau could help remake Middle East politics.” Matthew undertook the Herculean task of being diplomatic, calm and helpful (in trying to get those who don’t care to care) in how he presented his story, but I know (not personally) Matthew. He’s sickened as well. I also took the liberty of touching up this long post again. I’m still finding typos. And one or two passages were a bit clumsy and needed tweaking in order to be clear.

*edit, August 26, 2015 – I tidied up the post a bit, which is commonly what happens when I do a long post. I’m going to miss things. Those things can include something as little as the arrangement of a few words in a sentence or a failure to put enclosing marks around a word, which can actually make a difference to the meaning. Foible doesn’t mean the same thing as ‘foible’. In the first instance, I’m saying that a thing ‘is’ a foible. In the second instance, I’m saying that that’s another’s, or others’, view. I also added a link to a Democracy Now segment in which Noam Chomsky discusses, with Amy Goodman and Aaron Maté, the continuing occupation of Gaza.

There’s so much to say, I don’t know where to start.

Well, I watched the first English language leaders’ debate (August 6, 2015) on YouTube, courtesy of Maclean’s Magazine. (Here’s a transcript of the debate, courtesy of Maclean’s. I cleaned it up a bit to make it easier to follow, applied bolding, reduced empty space and then uploaded it to Box.) Then I jumped into the discussion attached to it. As you can guess, a large part of that discussion is just crap. Still, I can’t resist the urge to have my say. I try my best to follow what’s going on in Canadian politics and in the world. There’s a lot happening. I am single and without dependents, so that helps. Then again, I’m not savvy enough – knowledgeable about tools and how to use them – to get at information the way journalists and researchers can. I compensate by reading, reading, reading, books and online. Fortunately I enjoy it.

This post was not begun immediately following the leaders’ debate. Also, It includes observations I had immediately following the debate and later observations and some thoughts and observations of others on the debate as well as some other information added to fill it out.

Thomas Mulcair, Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau and Elizabeth May were the leaders in the debate. I thought Elizabeth won the debate. I wouldn’t call her performance stellar – with her losing some points for her perpetuation of the myth of inter-provincial trade barriers – but it ‘was’ stellar in comparison with the other contenders.

Trudeau disgusted me. Mulcair disgusted me. Stephen Harper disgusted me.

Justin Trudeau who rarely says anything about the poor, but never stops yammering about the middle class (like Mulcair), revealed his nasty side when he responded to Mulcair’s reasonable plan to tax corporations a little more with an accusation that he was “pandering to the people who like to hate corporations.” Talk about pandering! (Yves Engler notes that even the IMF – a powerful organization that has played a big role in entrenching neoliberalism globally – has recently put forth better proposals for progressive taxation than Canada’s NDP. – Maybe Trudeau thinks that corporations are not only persons, but his personal friends. (Perhaps a lot of Senators are too, considering how fast he ran away from talk about getting rid of that rotten institution. He’s all for getting down to business, until it’s time to.) I guess corporations, which sit on about half a trillion dollars of dead money that could do a lot of good if spent properly, are his friends. Tax evading corporations force ‘honest’ taxpayers to pick up the slack. Tax evading, unaccountable, unelected corporations – something like 600 ‘advisors’ representing corporations helped fashioned the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal which the people, and many politicians, aren’t allowed to look at – want so-called free trade deals (and therefore get them) that only transfer political power from the people, through their ‘elected’ representatives (who betray the people), to themselves, making the people into their enemy. After they attack us, ‘we’ are the wrongdoers because we don’t admire them?!!!

“Harper… laid out his version of the program in his 2003 Civitas address. He claimed that the ideas of the economic Conservatives had already been adopted by government. As a result of the Reagan and Thatcher revolutions, Harper argued, both “[s]ocialists and liberals began to stand for balanced budgeting, the superiority of markets, welfare reversal, free trade and privatization.” -page 15 of “Harperism – How Stephen Harper And His Think Tank Colleagues Have Tranformed Canada” by Donald Gutstein

From “Is Decline Of Unions Leading To Decline Of Middle Class?” by Antonia Zerbisias

The evidence is just about bulletproof: When union membership thrives, so does the middle class.

Over the past 18 months, studies by Harvard University, the non-partisan Center for American Progress (CAP), the union-backed Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in Washington, D.C., and the Pew Research Center, also in Washington, have shown an incontrovertible correlation between the rate of unionization and the percentage of the nation’s total wealth held by the middle class.

As unions picked up members through the first 70 years of the last century, the gap between rich and poor narrowed. As unions were weakened by free-trade agreements, globalization and anti-labour legislation since the 1980s, the gap goes off the charts.

“It’s been documented over and over,” insists EPI president Lawrence Mishel. “There are a lot of people who didn’t used to appreciate the importance of unions who now do.”

After your rude put down of the majority of Canadians, Justin, Do you expect their votes? Then again, Maybe Justin’s counting on so many of them to not notice. I see virtually no interest in this election by anyone around me, including family, friends and associates. No one is paying attention. No one cares enough to know. And that’s standard. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the election or something else. People don’t care, don’t know therefore, and they either have no opinion or they have opinions that they hold strongly and that have nothing to do with reality. If that’s rude, at least it’s deserved. And I’m not trying to screw people. I just want them to care.

The neoliberal agenda, a phrase that I learned from alt media sources, but which is strangely missing from alt media these days, means free trade deals that transfer political power from the people, represented by their (traitorous) governments, to unelected corporations. It means privatization and deregulation. It means lots of freedom, power, success and life for powerful special interests at the expense of the people. Donald Gutstein notes that Jean Chrétien started neoliberalism in Canada. Things have continued in that direction. Things have only gotten worse, or better if you look at it from the standpoint of the children of the Mont Pelerin Society, which Harper is one of. (See “Imperialism And Capitalism – Rethinking An Intimate Relationship” by James Petras & Henry Veltmeyer)

Donald’s book is titled “Harperism – How Stephen Harper And His Think Tank Colleagues Have Transformed Canada.” The arguably useful angle presented in the book is that Harper is a super neoliberal who’s put his own twist on neoliberalism, with his efforts to bring First Nations into the world of private property (which would see them lose all control of their territories, atomized and ineffective when dealing with a hostile federal government that wants to let mining and oil companies take their land), which would be one example of Harper’s neoliberal program. Donald calls Harper’s flavor of neoliberalism “Harperism.” I also call it ‘sneakyism’, since that’s what you see. His approach is to make his radical changes incrementally, because, afterall, his case is so convincing that honestly and simply presenting it to Canadians is all that he would need to do. (On the other hand, Didn’t Harper sometimes make big changes suddenly?) All that Harper and his dishonest think tank buddies do, they do in a sneaky fashion. The way they go about smoothing the way for the privatizers is a good example.

They don’t present, straightforwardly, the facts to the public and let the public decide whether they want privatization or not. They preach ‘at’ people about why it’s better, but that’s not the same thing. Calling those who don’t agree with privatization “socialists” doesn’t make the case. (The viciousness of attacks by rightwingers, including Harper, are tantamount to screaming at people. Who can think clearly when they are being screamed at? But then, What use does Harper have for Canadians who can think clearly?) While they propagandize (a huge ‘make work’ project for busy workers – the second hand purveyors of information – in the Devil’s workshop) the rightwingers are also busy busy forcing deficits on us, mainly via tax cuts (unfair taxation), while telling us how evil deficits are. And that’s also a lot of fun – for the rich (who don’t hesitate to violate both the spirit and letter of the law when it comes to taxation) who are recipients of the tax cuts that cause the deficits that are so evil. Then when governments are looked to to do the social spending that makes society civilized, they now plead poverty and we get austerity, or punishment in other words for the supposed crime of over-spending (except where gazebos, F-35s, rented Pandas and War of 1812 propaganda are concerned). There is no punishment for the real crime that political leaders, in cahoots with the private sector, themselves committed via tax cuts, and other fiscal mismanagement, that caused the revenue problems. When de-funded services and programs fall apart, taxpayers who haven’t paid enough attention to what’s going on will easily believe that they are to blame for it all and that the only solution is the one offered by the private sector and their media and political allies, namely privatization. As Tony Clarke said, in “Silent Coup – The Big Business Takeover Of Canda,” “Perhaps the greatest hoax promoted by the media moguls in recent years has been the notion that Canada’s debt woes were caused by overspending on social programs.” -page 129. On page 64 he notes that “By successfully lobbying for sharp reductions in corporate taxes, big business had effectively engineered a critical shortfall in public revenues for most national governments in the industrial North in the late 1980s. Instead of treating rising government deficits as primarily a revenue problem, the corporate elite defined it exclusively as a spending problem. The only solution, insisted big business, was to slash government spending, especially social spending.” Tony’s book was published in 1997. Nothing’s changed. Deficit terrorism is alive and well.

Is it me or is it starting to get ugly - Andrew Nikiforuk's Tyee article Aug 24 2015

Sneaky, stinky Mr. Harper is not first and foremost a neoliberal. He’s first and foremost a believer in inequality. Neoliberalism is a perfect way to create inequality. And why does he ‘choose’ to believe in inequality? This world compels us to go over to the dark side with a combination of enticements and pressures. Some succumb and some don’t. Harper succumbed and has, accordingly, modified himself into being a believer in inequality and an eager player in the dark, godless game of ‘riches for the strongest’, a game in which there has to be losers. People like Harper worship power, largely because they too want to be powerful. And it’s easier to get away with stealing, when you have the backing of powerful thieves like yourself. These self-modified (modded) people get a kick out of stealing the means of survival (namely money, in a money system in which money means life) from others. The imposition of austerity on the tax-paying, law-abiding people makes them feel good. It makes them feel strong. It also gets the attention of the victims, obviously, and that attention equals the abusers’ glory. Glory that’s unseen isn’t glory. That explains Stephen Harper and his godless crowd.

“One estimate pegs Harper’s tax cuts at $45 billion a year in foregone revenues. With total revenues at about $250 billion, that’s nearly a 20 per cent cut. Call it privatization by default. If there’s not enough money in the public coffers to finance health care, post-secondary education and old age security needs, they will have to be provided by the private or voluntary sectors or by individuals.

“…Both Liberals and New Democrats have indicated they will not stray far from the economic consensus. The New Democrats’ Tom Mulcair pledged to not raise personal income tax nor the sales tax, and to increase corporate taxes only for large corporations. Justin Trudeau of the Liberals says “we are not going to be raising taxes.” They’ve accepted Harperism, the new reality.” – page 77 of “Harperism”

“It had been [Preston] Manning’s experience that “Stephen doesn’t think words mean much.” – page 393 of “Party Of One – Stephen Harper And Canada’s Radical Makeover,” by Michael Harris (Watch Michael Harris discuss his book with Steve Paiken on The Agenda.)

One of the reasons cited by critics that Harper wants a long election period is because the Conservatives have more money (and less shame about where it comes from and how it’s spent) than the other parties. Therefore, They can expose more Canadians to their version of reality because they’ll be able to afford more ads over time.

Interestingly, Peter Pomerantsev, in his Foreign Policy article, “Beyond Propaganda,” mentions Hugo Chavez’s interest in having numerous elections because he knew he had more money for them than his opponents and saw in that a way to keep power and keep his opponents out of power. I don’t know. But I do know that I’d rather have the late Hugo Chavez as prime minister than Stephen Harper. Chavez, certainly, would never have been party to anything like the Fair Elections Act. (For a primer, see Duncan Cameron’s article titled “Harper’s Plan To Win The Next Election: Cheat”) And since Harper, and those willing to support him, wouldn’t know honesty if it bit them on the nose, Canadians can therefore expect to be bombarded with propaganda, as in lies. And the problem with that isn’t the dishonesty of Harper et al so much as the gullibility of mentally lazy Canadians. Donald Gutstein explains: “Projects that “provided a tangible empirical focus for the policy concern” are crucial in the media-penetration efforts, as the [Fraser Institute] five-year plan predicted. These are endeavours like Tax Freedom Day, the hospital-waiting-list survey, the Economic Freedom of the World Index, and the school report card. They attract media attention because they can grab headlines and are easy to report. They are also effective, because most people tend to accept statistics as being authoritative.” -pages 66 & 67 of “Harperism”

It’s rather astonishing how little difference there is between the positions of Trudeau, Mulcair and Harper. They are all adherents of rightwing ideology and neoliberalism (which results in austerity, which does ‘not’ grow economies but creates ‘only’ pain for the people, as knowledgeable writers like Paul Krugman [who gets democracy wrong], Louis-Philippe Rochon [who also gets democracy wrong] and Jim Stanford explain) and it’s tenets of balanced budgets (that don’t mean ‘balance’ in a positive sense) and deficit fighting (which is effectively ‘deficit terrorism’, since they tell us that the the deficits ‘they’ create are the reason we can’t have a civilized society). They are all pro Israel, but in an unbalanced way, contrary to what Mulcair says about it. And, as others note, that’s standard today. They are also all pro tar sands and pro pipelines.

From “”Balance” in UN Gaza report can’t hide massive Israeli war crimes”, by Ali Abunimah, the following:

“The extent of the devastation and human suffering in Gaza was unprecedented and will impact generations to come,” the chair of the investigation commission, Justice Mary McGowan Davis, told media, adding that “there is also ongoing fear in Israel among communities who come under regular threat.”

Despite the “balanced” language that is now the habitual refuge of international officials hoping to avoid false accusations of anti-Israel bias, the evidence shows that the scale and impact of Israeli violence dwarfs anything allegedly done by Palestinians.

Israel needs to answer for it’s war crimes committed during it’s 2014 “Operation Protective Edge” in which 2,194 Palestinians were slaughtered, about 1,523 of whom were civilians. (The reports vary in their tallies only in the slightest.) “Palestinian resistance groups, on the other hand, killed 66 Israeli occupation soldiers and six civilians while firing back rockets. While one Israeli child was killed as a result of Palestinian rockets, Israeli airstrikes and mortar attacks killed at least 519 Palestinian children,” notes Patrick Strickland.

Harper takes advice from scumbags like Arthur Finkelstein, who liked the idea that the riots in Greece would discredit the anti-austerity movement. (Again and again we see this. Being a victim is criminalized. This is a good way to call God to “Bring it!”) Trudeau, Mulcair and Harper are NATO boosters. Elizabeth doesn’t seem to be against NATO. Mulcair’s bragging about participation in Libya and Trudeau’s bragging about his party’s participation in Kosovo and Afghanistan are frames with which Canadians can fool themselves if they wish to. Those were not things to be proud of. As for NATO, NATO means American imperialism. Therefore, Mulcair and Trudeau can posture all they like and berate the PM for not wanting to consult with stakeholders – First Nations, Premiers – but if their idea of multilateralism is to follow – no questions asked, essentially – uncle Sam on all of his bloody imperial adventures, then Shouldn’t they be berated along with the PM? And their idea of security? Right now, as I write this, the US is gearing up for war with Russia. Canada is not only not speaking out against such recklessness, but both Harper and Mulcair have jumped on the Putin-bashing bandwagon. Will Mulcair fit into whatever closet Stephen hides in when nuclear missiles fly?

When Trudeau accused Harper of having never seen a war he didn’t like (and want to get involved in), Harper cooly replied that “Well, I – I don’t think this government’s actually got involved in very many military actions, but we are certainly involved in one now against the – against ISIS, the so-called Islamic State, in Iraq and Syria.” Anyway, If that’s a reasonable assessment, then I think it’s fair to say that Harper makes up for any lack of warring with the enthusiasm he showed for shredding Libya, to the point where his government crossed lines it should not have crossed, as Yves Engler points out in his book, “The Ugly Canadian – Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy.” Engler writes that “While Canada’s foreign policy under Harper has consistently demonstrated contempt for the concerns of ordinary people, on a few occasions it has veered into outright militaristic bullying. One of those occasions was during Canada’s participation in the bombing of a small North African country.” The fallout, and death, from that debacle continues.

Noam Chomsky and NATO flag and Alan MacKinnon

From Noam Chomsky’s “Year 501 – The Conquest Continues,” the following:

Again, we see the dual problem: the combination of democratic developments that escape corporate control, and decline of US power. Neither is acceptable; jointly, they pose a grave danger to “security” and “stability.”

By the 1970s, the problems were becoming unmanageable, and a sharply different course was initiated, to which we return in the next section. They persist into the 1990s. An illustration is the controversy over a secret February 1992 Pentagon draft of Defense Planning Guidance, leaked to the press, which describes itself as “definitive guidance from the Secretary of Defense”… The draft develops standard reasoning. The US must hold “global power” and a monopoly of force. It will then “protect” the “new order” while allowing others to pursue “their legitimate interests,” as Washington defines them. The US “must account sufficiently for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order,” or even “aspiring to a larger regional or global role.” There must be no independent European security system; rather, US-dominated NATO must remain the “primary instrument of Western defense and security, as well as the channel for U.S. influence and participation in European security affairs.”… As in the past, the Middle East is a particular concern. Here “our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region’s oil” while deterring aggression (selectively), maintaining strategic control and “regional stability” (in the technical sense), and protecting “U.S. nationals and property.” In Latin America, the primary threat is Cuban “military provocation against the U.S. or an American ally,” the standard Orwellian reference to the escalating US war against Cuban independence.

While I’m at it, have a gander at this article, by Allan MacKinnon. From “Israel and NATO – A Match Made In Hell?”:

What happens when the world’s most powerful military alliance meets the world’s most militarised state? Well, for a start they find they have a lot in common. Nato is the “defensive” alliance which over two decades has waged war on three continents — none of it in response to any threat to its member states. And Israel — continuously at war with its neighbours since 1948 — has acquired unsurpassed expertise in the dark arts of “counterterrorism.” You bet they have a lot to learn from each other and are keen to give mutual support.

Israel connects with Nato in two ways. It is a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue, one of several partnership organisations which extend Nato’s web beyond the continent of Europe — in this case across the Mediterranean Sea to the countries of north Africa and the eastern Mediterranean. Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Israel are all partners. But perhaps more importantly, since 2008 Nato connects with Israel via an Individual Co-operation Programme (ICP) which elevates Israel to the status of a Major Non-Nato Ally involving close strategic co-operation with the alliance.

It’s easy to see what they have in common. Involvement with Nato brings a veneer of respectability to a country widely seen as a pariah state. Israel is keen to draw Nato into direct conflict with its neighbours — especially Syria and Iran.

NATO and Ukraine came up in the debate, but the little discussion of it that took place was insufficient, considering the grave nature of the situation and the potential for it to lead to global conflagration. Elizabeth May was able to get in a few pointers about foreign policy and they were right on. Yes, she noted, ISIL is despicable and deserves our attention, but things are tricky over there. She pointed out that the Libyan screw up resulted in weapons going toward destabilization of the whole region (including Mali, which was talked about), as the caches of weapons in Libya got stolen and made their way to all kinds of people, including ISIL. Trudeau spoke up for veterans who he said Harper wasn’t taking care of upon their return from fighting, which is fine, but perhaps those same veterans, having tasted violence first hand, would have also liked to hear Trudeau offer some sober words about the folly of backing Nazi Ukraine and provoking Russia into war with the US. I’m sure that many of those vets have children and grandchildren.

Also, Trudeau’s needling of Harper elicited this response from him:

“Well, This government has – this government has made record investments in veterans. We’re spending 35 percent more on the average veteran today directly than we were when we came to office.

“But let me go back to the central question of the ISIS mission. What we are doing in ISIS is precisely the mission that the inter– our international allies think we should be doing. These are the pro – these are the priorities: hit them in the air, and help to train people, particularly the Kurds, on the ground. Mr. – Mr. Trudeau has provided no rational reason for why he is against that, other than to simply slag the military when asked why they shouldn’t go there. This is a mission supported by Canadians and our allies, and it is in the vital security of – interests of this country. And if you’re Prime Minister, you have to be able to make these kinds of decisions.” – bolding is mine

My jaw dropped when I heard that. NATO member Turkey is bombing the Kurds! And no one, neither the other leaders nor Paul Wells, corrected Harper. Which is why, dear reader, you have to ‘actively’ learn. You can’t rely on special interests, including corporate owned media, to educate you.

“How US Allies Aid Al Qaeda In Syria” by Daniel Lazare

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

When the U.S. and Turkey announced on July 23 that they were joining forces to establish a “safe zone” in northern Syria, no one could quite figure out what they meant. With the White House denying that the deal required it to send in troops to seal the zone off or warplanes to patrol the skies, Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin wrote that the whole thing was [a] misnomer: “In fact, there is really no ‘zone,’ and there is no plan to keep the area ‘safe.’”

Indeed, Rogin said, three “senior administration officials” had put together a conference call in order to assure reporters that there were no plans “for a safe zone, a no-fly zone, an air-exclusionary zone, a humanitarian buffer zone, or any other protected zone of any kind.” So if that wasn’t the plan, what on earth was it?

Now we know. The purpose of the non-zone zone that Turkey and the U.S. may or may not wish to establish is to give the former a free hand to bomb the Kurds and the latter an opportunity to engage in joint operations with Al Qaeda.

Justin Trudeau, as others have noted, spoke fast and said a lot. But he spoke fast and said too much. He tended to babble, as Karl Nerenberg noted: “Trudeau could not sustain his opening thrust, however, and, over the course of the debate, became more and more shrill and disjointed in his remarks. His closing statement was pure cant. “We are who we are and Canada is what Canada is,” Trudeau intoned, “because we’ve always known that better is possible.” Huh?” Indeed, When I heard Trudeau say that, that was exactly my response. In fact, I was reminded of The Matrix, one of my favorite movies. Unfortunately, the writing was atrocious. The basic idea of the story and the special effects were all that saved it. But I recalled The Oracle saying “We are all here to do what we are all here to do” and thinking how very, very bad the writing on this movie was. I also cringed when Morpheus spoke of one of the first free humans who had powers like Neo, saying that he “prophesized” whatever. Yikes!

I do not require any MP aspiring to be PM to have wrinkles or be perfect. But Trudeau’s lack of readiness, and lack of love, are outstanding.

Stephen Harper and Ronald Reagan / photos from Wikipedia

Stephen Harper and Ronald Reagan / photos from Wikipedia

Regarding rightwing think tanks: “…they chose geographical names rather than trumpeting their ideological purpose.” – Donald Gutstein

Friedrich Hayek and Margaret Thatcher / photos from Wikipedia

Friedrich Hayek and Margaret Thatcher / photos from Wikipedia

Then there’s Stephen Harper who must really believe he’s the cat’s meow or the coolest thing since sliced bread. He’s so sure that he has no competition that it leads him to make a fool of himself. Without shame. Just about every time he opens his mouth, he arrogantly, imperiously intones “Let me be clear.” Well, When he says “Let me clear,” I just don’t think that there’s any doubt at all that we are all about to be enlightened. How can we not follow this man?

Mulcair would do a few things that would be welcome (daycare + raising the minimum wage of federal workers + opening up Parliament), but as a neoliberal, he would not go in a different direction than Harper, despite what he would have most people think. As for opening up Parliament, Boy is that needed now! Dictator Harper, who pleads innocence when pressed on his turn-around on the subject of an unelected Senate (arguing that premiers wouldn’t elect Senators so someone had to), had no hesitation in using it in the most undemocratic fashion. Twice he ordered Conservative Senators to vote a certain way. Once was with Bill C-311, which came up in the leaders’ debate. That was Bruce Hyer’s “Climate Change And Accountability Act.” See Michael Berkowitz’s article about it: “Harper’s Hypocrisy: Conservatives Ambush Canadian Climate Change Bill.” The other time, unless there were more times, was when the government took extreme, undemocratic measures to kill Bill C-377, the “Act to amend the Income Tax Act.”

But when I heard Mulcair talk about small businesses and the need to give them tax cuts, I remembered reading that there are some myths flying around out there about small businesses being huge job creators. And it can be argued that small business owners make a negative contribution to society when they reinforce rightwing think tanks (through their membership in them) that damage society and create inequality. Therefore I had a quick look around and found an old Left Business Observer article on the subject. Doug Henwood is the author of “Busting Myths: Small Biz No Job Machine, Downsizing Not So Magical.” There’s two entries on the Progressive Economics Forum under ‘small business’ and they both pertain to this subject. There’s “Small Businesses are NOT Big Net Job Creators” and “Small Business And The Attack On Unions,” both by Andrew Jackson. And here’s a link to a StatsCan study Andrew refers to: Study: Firm Dynamics: Employment Growth Rates of Small Versus Large Firms in Canada, 1999 to 2008) When educated people and specialists, and just smart non specialists, toss out numbers, I have to go by other cues. That’s where I’m weak. I get certain things, but I can’t add two plus two and I don’t know how the economy works in an academic sense.

But I recall someone observing that Mulcair’s comments about needing to not raise personal income taxes should tell people who are wondering whether he’s moved to the Right. Mulcair asked how New Brunswick was going to attract badly needed doctors if you raise the personal income tax rate from 58.57% to 60%. Why would that be a problem? For those in that bracket, How would that be onerous? That doesn’t have to be the whole tax reform, obviously. But wouldn’t a ‘good’ doctor want a good income ‘and’ a government with the revenue sufficient to carry out social – civilized – spending? Would good doctors perhaps like healthy, happy neighbors? Actually, Listening to Mulcair and Trudeau go back and forth on taxes left me scratching my head. Mulcair’s plan to raise corporate taxes a little is fine, but not if the government doesn’t close off all the loopholes they use to not pay their fair share.

I find Mulcair to be dishonest, but clever. The explanation he gave for sticking with a 50 plus 1 for triggering discussion with Quebec about separation is an example of clever that make me uneasy. He said that their knowing that they could more easily call it quits from Canada forced Quebecers to get serious about it and that his job was to work to ensure that Quebecers would want to stay in Canada. (And it just happens that that position will win over a lot of Quebec separatists who have nothing else to do while they wait to be led out of Canada by someone.) But it’s been clear to me for years that politicians will always use this issue to distract us. For that reason only, I would be happy to see Quebec go. I don’t want to see Quebec separate – unless politicians, like Philippe Couillard, succeed in ruining the province and poisoning Quebecers’ minds. What can you do with a gangrenous limb? On the other hand, What does it matter if the limb and the rest of the body (rest of Canada) are all gangrenous?

Instead of honestly reporting that Harper’s claim about the pipelines being a great job creator is nonsense, Mulcair said: “Mr. Harper and Mr. Trudeau both agree with Keystone XL, which represents the export of 40,000 jobs. I want to create those 40,000 jobs here in Canada.” (But just so that his friends in the oil patch don’t misunderstand him, he elsewhere says that it’s vital that Canada gets it’s natural resources to market, full stop.) Which would be fine if the hundreds of thousands of jobs that TransCanada (in a 2010 report; No bias there) suggested it’s pipeline (now rejected by Obama) would produce were real, but the estimates (by experts and the State Department) are that the number of full time, permanent jobs that the pipeline, if approved, is projected to create stand at around 50, after a few years of construction is over. See “Keystone Pipeline Wouldn’t Provide Many Permanent Jobs” by Alistair Bell. It’s not only Justin who has number problems. Mulcair, strangely, noted that the 40,000 figure was Jim Flaherty’s and Stephen Harper’s own, which was not illuminating to say the least. And that’s the guy who promises to shine light into Parliament and government if he’s elected.

As I’ve noted, Mulcair’s talk about balanced budgets and deficit fighting reveal his neoliberal credentials.

As for Harper, My gosh the guy’s shameless! You catch him a lie, he just keeps right on telling it. Throw facts at him and he doesn’t flinch. He shows no awareness of them. Michael Harris talks about that in his book “Party Of One,” in connection with Duffygate. When Harper stood up in the House of Commons and said that he had personally reviewed Pamella Wallins’s “numbers” and signed off on them, he was, of course, later called on it. “…Andrew MacDougall, told reporters in an email that the PM had never intended to suggest he had personally reviewed and approved Wallins’s expenses. It would be one of many times in the Senate scandal that the PM would “clarify” what he had said.” -page 325. Are we clear about what Harper is all about? The amazing, thorough report put together by Jim Stanford and Jordan Brennen gave Mulcair, and all of Harper’s opponents and critics, good ammunition. (If Mulcair used the report and didn’t use information that the party could have easily found doing their own research, then he didn’t indicate it in the debate. I doubt if he would want to direct people’s attention to the hard working people working (in some, not all, ways) ‘for’ the people, through a union, namely UNIFOR, and a leftwing think tank, namely the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.) The report lists all of the sources it’s authors used, which included Statistics Canada of course. Here’s the report’s summation:


It is commonly asserted that federal Conservatives have the strongest “economic credentials” among the major political parties. And the Harper government will likely emphasize economic issues in its quest for re-elction this fall.

There is a growing gap, however, between these claims of good economic management, and the statistical reality of Canada’s economy: which has turned in a disappointing performance for several years, and which by early 2015 may have slipped back ino outright recession. To further investigate the Conservatives’ economic claims, this paper conducts a detailed empirical examination of the record of each major government in Canada’s postwar history. The performance of the economy under each Prime Minister is compared on the basis of 16 conventional and commonly-used indicators of economic progress and well-being. These 16 indicators fall into three broad categories, summarized as follows:

* Work: Job-creation, employment rate, unemployment rate, labour force participation, youth employment, and job quality.

* Production: Real GDP growth (absolute and per capita), business investment, exports, and productivity growth.

* Distribution and Debt: Real personal incomes, inequality, federal public services, personal debt, and government debt.

These indicators are all measured using annual data from 1946 through 2014, obtained from Statistics Canada and other public sources; a full statistical appendix lists all statistical sources and details. Together these 16 indicators provide a composite portrait of overall economic performance and stability under each postwar government.

For 7 of the 16 indicators, the Harper government ranks last (or tied for last) among the nine postwar Prime Ministers. In 6 more cases, it ranks (or is tied) second-last. Among the remaining 3 indicators, the Harper government never ranks higher than sixth out of nine. Considering the overall ranking of each Prime Minister (across all 16 indicators), the Harper government ranks last among the nine postwar governments, and by a wide margin – falling well behind the second-worst government, which was the Mulroney Conservative regime of 1984-93.

The very poor economic record of the Harper government cannot be blamed on the fact that Canada experienced a recession in 2008-09. In fact, Canada experienced a total of ten recessions during the 1946-2014 period. Most governments had to grapple with recession at some point during their tenures – and some Prime Ministers had to deal with more than one. Instead, statistical evidence shows that the recovery from the 2008-09 recession has been the weakest (by far) of any Canadian recovery since the Depression. A uniquely weak recovery, not the fact that Canada experienced a recession at all, helps explains (sic) the Harper government’s poor economic rating.

Further data confirms that according to appropriate population-adjusted indicators, Canada’s economy has ranked well within half of all OECD countries under the Harper government. Moreover, given the negative growth data recorded so far for 2015, Canada’s standing among industrial countries will slip further this year. Prime Minister Harper’s claim that Canada’s economy is “the envy of the entire world” is sharply at odds with the international data.

In summary, there is no empirical support for the claim that Conservative governments in general – and the Harper government in particular – are the “best economic managers.” To the contrary, Canada’s economy has never performed worse, since the end of World War II, than under the present Conservative government. Alternative policies (emphasizing job creation, real growth, rising incomes, and equality) will be required to put Canada’s economy onto a more optimistic path.

Gaza Post 2014 and Chomsky's discussion of the US support for the Israeli occupation of Gaza

Gaza Post 2014 and Chomsky’s discussion of the US support for the Israeli occupation

I’ve been following politics, and the election campaign, in America. Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a socialist – which he’s not, even if others who report on his campaign don’t delve into that – is surging while his rival for the Democratic Party nomination, Hillary Clinton, is plummeting. That would be great news – since many of Bernie’s positions are pro people – if it wasn’t for the fact that Bernie fails on some pretty big counts. His pro Israel stance is no more forgiveable than Thomas Mulcair’s pro Israel stance. Bernie’s drawing crazy big crowds and the bigger and crazier they get, the less likely, I suspect, they will want to hear about Bernie’s few ‘foibles’. Are those their values? Palestinians are being slaughtered, regularly, by Israelis who joke that it’s just mowing the lawn, and all these supposedly leftwing politicians can do is talk about a balanced approach to Israel, when they bother to say anything at all?!

Chris Hedges was on Ralph Nader’s radio show recently and Ralph proceeded to list some of Bernie’s positive planks and then asked Chris what’s not to like. From “Chris Hedges On Bernie Sanders And The Corporate Democrats” by Russell Mokhiber, the following:

“Because he did it within the Democratic establishment,” Hedges said. “He’s lending credibility to a party that is completely corporatized. He has agreed that he will endorse the candidate, which, unless there is some miracle, will probably be Hillary Clinton.”

“So what he does is he takes all of that energy, he raises all of these legitimate issues and he funnels it back into a dead political system so that by April it’s over.”…

“Bernie has also not confronted the military industrial complex at all,” Hedges said. “On a personal level, having spent seven years in the Middle East, I’m just not willing to forgive him for abandoning the Palestinians and giving carte blanche to Israel. He was one of 100 Senators who stood up like AIPAC wind up dolls and approved Israel’s 51-day slaughter last summer of Palestinians in Gaza — the Palestinians who have no army, no navy, artillery, mechanized units, command and control.”

From “Bernie Sanders Should Stop Ducking Foreign Policy,” by Norman Solomon, the following:

I’m among millions of supporters who are enthusiastic about the clarity of his positions in taking on Wall Street, corporate power and economic inequality. But we also need Sanders to be clear about what he would do as commander in chief of the world’s leading military power.

A snapshot of avoidance can be found on the Sanders campaign’s official website. Under the headline “On the Issues,” Sanders makes no mention of foreign policy, war or any other military topic. The same omissions were on display at an Iowa Democratic Party annual dinner on July 17, when Sanders gave a compelling speech but made no reference to foreign affairs. Hearing him talk, you wouldn’t have a clue that the United States is in its 14th year of continuous warfare. Nor would you have the foggiest inkling that a vast military budget is badly limiting options for the expanded public investment in college education, infrastructure, clean energy and jobs that Sanders is advocating.

Bernie Sanders ( and Thomas Mulcair (

Bernie Sanders ( and Thomas Mulcair (

Which tells us What? Sometimes you have to back up in order to get the whole, and true, picture. Some of Bernie’s, and Mulcair’s, main planks turn out to be illusions once we look at their foreign policy positions, which is probably why they, and their fanatical followers, would rather we didn’t. If foreign policy hadn’t been on the debate at all, Mulcair would not have revealed himself the way he did, which may not matter to some. But his position on Israel is immoral. Canadians who support Mulcair’s NDP effectively support abandoning the trapped, defenseless Palestinians who can’t escape being regularly slaughtered by Nazi Israelis, enabled by the US which sends $3 billion in aid to Israel each year. The mass murderers get aid and their victims are treated like criminals! (See the Democracy Now show [which includes an attached transcript] in which Chomsky discusses with Aaron Maté and Amy Goodman Iran, Israel and the US: “Despite Iran Spat, U.S. Support For Israeli Occupation Continues Without Pause”)

Mulcair’s wholehearted support for NATO is wrong and it also undermines his claim to want to deal with global warming. It also undermines his claim to be a team player (multilateralism), since following what the US does is not being a team player in any positive sense, especially since it puts us at odds with what pretty much the rest of the world would like to see the US do, which is stop it’s violence and regime change practices. NATO means the US and it means US imperialism, not a good thing. And then you have to factor in the impact that a vibrant, ultra kinetic, US military has on efforts to deal with global warming. The US military is a huge consumer of oil. It’s military is far and away the biggest on the planet and it’s thirst for oil is incredible, as Michael Klare explains. And since it’s military is the core of it’s national security policy, so is oil. Set aside the crazy, and dangerous, chaos that the Americans cause in their mad scramble to find and/or control oil reserves. Iraq was, indeed, about the crude, dude. Mulcair’s devotion to NATO puts him on the wrong side of those realities. And his rosy words of support for the UN have no substance, simply because the US, which Mulcair, like other Canadian continentalist leaders, jumps for when uncle Sam says jump, may or may not be in harmony with the United Nations’s plans. The US doesn’t respect the UN.
So, It turns out that whether people think foreign policy is interesting or not, it’s important and in fact, a good examination of leaders’ positions on foreign policy can reveal what was until then hidden.

While fracking in the US has changed some calculations, I don’t think fundamentals have changed. I doubt that planners in the US have completely thrown out their national security-related plans and strategies because they now have lots of oil through fracking (contributing to a glut in the market, for now). If we were them, Would we do that? Oil companies may have quit flocking to Alberta, but they will eventually be drawn back and for the same reasons. Therefore, What Tony Clarke tells us about US national security should be taken to heart:

“George W. Bush was certainly not the first president to declare US oil and energy supplies a matter of national security. Indeed, it was Franklin D. Roosevelt who first proclaimed this during the closing years of World War II. Despite the fact that the US was then the world’s number one producer of oil, the Roosevelt administration realized that the accelerated demands of wartime industry was putting downward pressure on US oil reserves, which could lead to increased imports, thereby posing a threat to US security in the long run. Following World War II, Presidents Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy continued the Roosevelt policy of securing foreign oil supply chains through military operations, especially in the Persian Gulf. During this period, succeeding administrations understood increasing dependence on foreign oil to be a threat to US national security, even though petroleum imports were then supplying no more than 20 percent of US consumption.

“The prime focus of this national security strategy has been Saudi Arabia…

“Meanwhile, the US has been rebuilding its military-based economy to fight the war on terror and to secure control over global oil supply chains…

“Nevertheless, the war on terrorism has spawned a vast new, revitalized military-industrial complex that now spans the globe, securing control over foreign oil supplies and policing a massive network of pipelines, refineries, storage depots and shipping lanes. Under the Bush Doctrine of 2002, Washington claims to have the political authority to engage in pre-emptive strikes if it feels that they are necessary to protect access to foreign oil supplies that now fuel the US on a daily basis…

“The US Energy Policy Act of 2005 contains at least two provisions that reaffirm Canada’s status as an energy satellite of the US. First, in a section called “Use of Fuel to Meet Department of Defense Needs,” the law specifically designates tar sands production to serve the fuel needs of the US military. At the discretion of the US Secretary of Defense, the law states that as much crude oil as possible from the tar sands will be processed in refineries south of the border for purposes of fuelling the American military. Second, in a section labelled “Partnerships,” the Energy Policy Act calls for a special relationship or partnership to be developed with the province of Alberta, Canada, “for purposes of sharing information relating to the development and production of oil from tar sands.” Note, this would be a direct, bilateral partnership between Washington and the Alberta government, excluding the Government of Canada.” – pages 125, 126, 129, 133, 140 & 141 of “Tar Sands Showdown – Canada And The New Politics Of Oil In An Age Of Climate Change.”

I wonder whether the fracking boom in the US has delayed a looming US invasion (probably by invitation) of Canada.

From “‘Heightened Scrutiny’ Of Mulcair Should Include Foreign Policy” by Andrew Mitrovica, the following:

The irony is that if Ibbitson and Maclean’s had been paying even fleeting attention, they would have noticed that many New Democrats concluded long ago that Muclair is a lassiez-faire social democrat with a cosmetic allegiance to core NDP values, particularly on foreign policy issues.

For real evidence of the former provincial Liberal cabinet minister’s faux conversion on the road to Jerusalem, New Democrats point to Tepid Tom’s muted response – to put it mildly – to Israel’s invasion of Gaza last summer and the shockingly disproportionate number of Palestinian children, women and men who were killed and injured during the all-out assault.

Indeed, Mulcair was lauded in neocon circles for his “mature” reaction to the invasion of Gaza and the breathtaking scope of the human carnage it caused…more than 2,000 civilians killed, including hundreds of children, while countless other Palestinians were injured, traumatized, and left homeless or orphaned.

Through it all, the usually loquacious Mulcair kept his snappy trap shut and as far away as possible from a microphone, choosing instead to issue boilerplate press releases urging both sides to “de-escalate.”

Even the NDP’s patron saint and much heralded human rights champion, Ed Broadbent, remained noticeably and uncharacteristically silent about the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. (At the time, I requested interviews with Mulcair and Broadbent to discuss Gaza, but their “people” insisted they were either too busy or unavailable for comment.)

From “Canadian Political Leaders’ Non-Debate Over Ukraine,” by The New Cold War, the following:

Foreign affairs occupied only a small part of the debate. Viewers might have expected some attention to NATO’s military buildup in eastern Europe and NATO’s and Canada’s support to the war launched in eastern Ukraine last year by the governing regime in Kyiv. This was not to be. According to the terms of the debate and according to the comments by the four party leaders, Ukraine is a subject best left unspoken.

Moderator Paul Wells of Maclean’s put one question only about Ukraine to only one of the leaders–Tom Mulcair of the New Democratic Party.

The moderator’s one question was odd because he seemed unaware that Ukraine is not a member of the NATO military alliance…

Mulcair began his reply by clarifying that Ukraine is not a NATO member. He then went on, “We [Canada] are proud members of NATO.” Mulcair said support to NATO military actions will be a “cornerstone” of the foreign policy of the NDP if elected.

Mulcair then voiced a tired, anti-Russia refrain. “With regard to Ukraine, yes, Putin is a danger. We stand firmly with Ukraine against the aggression by Russia.”

Reading from a prepared note, Mulcair went on to argue for an even harsher stand against the Russian government and people than that of the avowed, Russia-hating Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Mulcair named two Russian businessmen whom he says Canada should add to its list of Russian businessmen and political leaders targeted for sanctions against travel and financial transactions.

Mulcair returned to his petty point of the two individuals a second time after Harper brushed aside the question.

Stephen Harper: “Ms. May, I think the fact that we are able to bring in immigrants and see immigrants join our economy, that is part of our Economic Action Plan — investments in infrastructure, in innovation and in immigration to help drive – to drive our economy.”

Here’s your problem Stephen. You don’t really care (in a positive sense) about the economy, which goes a long way toward explaining why, under your watch, it has been ‘uniquely’ ruined. But you do care about capitalists and those with power, mainly because you want them to care about you. You’d prefer that that narrative be aborted (and are assisted by most of the Left in that), even though you can’t help showing off your power. Why have it otherwise? You worship power and crave it. The ideology that you and your rightwing think tanks and the corporate owned media (“second hand dealers in ideas,” according to the lunatic who people like Harper have been influenced by, namely Friedrich Hayek) embrace is tailor-made for those who have chosen to embrace darkness (mainly in the form of a willingness to break rules), the godless game of ‘riches for the strongest’ and inequality. What kind of economy are people like you going to create?

Donald Gutstein (above) says it fairly well:

“…Harper has fundamentally modified the relationship between state and society. The theme is simple: we must remove obstacles to the attainment of a state governed not by duly elected officials but by market transactions, because economic freedom is more fundamental than political freedom.” -page 16

And that in turn tells us why the man can’t possibly care, in a responsible, accountable sort of fashion, about the torrents of refugees that corporatocracy governments like his are creating all over the planet as capitalist expansion, hand in glove with military adventurism, ramps up. The immigrants Harper wants will be those who are already okay, with skills that capitalists here in Canada can use. But they will be entering a disintegrating Canada, because that’s what you get when fascists like Harper are in charge. They won’t be getting a great bargain in absolute terms. They may be getting a better bargain than they’re getting elsewhere. But why? As for the refugees that neoliberalism and US-directed violence are responsible for, That’s a perfect example of how our ‘leaders’ excel at causing chaos, robbing others of life so that they can fee strong, but have no time for answering for that criminal behavior. Fascist leaders don’t care about citizens, immigrants or refugees. They don’t even care about their progeny, something that makes Chomsky marvel.

“You’d think, for example, that he might open Canada’s doors to more than 10,000 Syrian refugees and 3,000 Iraqi refugees over the next three years. Like our ISIS contribution, the numbers are derisory compared to the need, though taking more refugees would be infinitely more productive than sending more troops. Worse, the government itself will support only 4,000 of those Syrians (if they’re permitted to come at all); the other 6,000 must be supported by private sponsors like refugee advocacy groups or religious organizations. But because many of them have lost all or most of their government funding, few now have the resources to take care of new refugees from Syria. It’s Stephen Harper’s own sweet little Catch-22.” – Gerald Caplan, “Canada Should Offer Homes To Syrian Refugees, Not Troops For Endless War”

*edit, June 6, 2016 – I will leave the above quote from Gerald Caplan there because it’s what I wrote. But I have since learned that he is quite an imperial tool. He has been part of the disinformation campaign surrounding the Rwandan Genocide for example.

See also “The Harper government v. refugees, 2006-2015” by Suha Diab

From “The Refugee Crisis In Context” by Matt Reichel, the following:

“A report issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) this week provided a jarring statistical glimpse at the unprecedented crisis facing 59.5 million people who are currently displaced. With ongoing wars and sectarian conflicts raging in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, South Sudan and Somalia, and record numbers moving in search of economic betterment, an additional 8.1 million people were uprooted in 2014. If all of the world’s refugees were to form one independent country, it would be the 24th largest, just behind Italy and ahead of South Africa. This country would contain .8% of the global population, which means that if it were instead composed of the world’s richest people, it would possess nearly half of the planet’s wealth.

“What’s more, these two hypothetical countries would represent opposite sides of the same coin. It is no accident that the concentration of global wealth is accelerating alongside the numbers of the dispossessed. It is the very predictable result of a US-led system of economic and military hegemony that values the mobility of labor and capital, but not of people, and that reflexively destabilizes any regime it views as being inadequately obsequious. Meanwhile, the market fundamentalism it espouses effectively turns farms into agribusinesses and cities into slums. It displaces as a matter of course. This is the part that the UNHCR report missed: the refugee is neoliberalism’s refuse.”

Macedonia Syrian refugees

I’m going to leave it there. Who knows? There may be another interesting/depressing English language leaders’ debate. So I’ll wait and see and if there is, then I’ll say more once I’ve taken that debate in.

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