Naomi Klein: “The bomb has yet to detonate”

by matttbastard

Naomi Klein discusses last week’s chaos on Wall Street, and how Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s proposed $700 billion bail-out plan fits the ‘disaster capitalism’ model.

(Video courtesy The Nation)

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Greenwald: Right-Wing Hypocrisy is “healthy”

by matttbastard

After surveying some of the rightwing opposition to the $700 billion Paulson bail-out (and acidly noting that such sentiments from these quarters are unfortunately “vital for having any meaningful chance to stop [the Paulson plan]” thanks to the sorry record during the Bush years of craven Democrats in Congress), Glenn Greenwald explains how the sharp, self-interested reversals on display are actually indicative of democracy in action:

The blatant hypocrisy here, while extreme, craven and obvious, is also healthy. Hypocrisy of this sort is actually a vital part of how checks and balances are supposed to work. It is expected that political factions, when in charge of the government, will seek to obtain greater power for themselves, and the check against that is that the “opposition party” will battle and resist — not necessarily out of ideology or principle but due to raw power considerations and self-interest. That is what has been so tragically missing from our political process for the last eight years: while the GOP sought greater and greater government power, Democrats acquiesced almost completely when they weren’t complicitly enabling it. While the Executive was off the charts in terms of the power it seized, the Congress was off the charts in its passivity and eagerness to relinquish its Constitutionally assigned powers to the Bush White House. That’s what has caused the extreme imbalance, with a bloated Republican Party and virtually unlimited presidential power: the failure of Democrats and the Congress to serve as a check on any of that. As their newfound contempt for unlimited power makes conclusively clear, the executive-power-worshipping Republicans of the last eight years — if there is an Obama presidency — will quickly re-discover their limited government power “principles” and won’t be nearly as accommodating.

Related: Jim Johnson on how bipartisanship poses a threat to a healthy US democracy (h/t Crooked Timber):

In terms of consequences, why should we endorse bi-partisanship? That is a fundamentally anti-democratic response. Here I am persuaded by argument by political theorists who, following Joseph Schumpeter (whose conception of democracy is, despite common caricatures, neither a ‘realist’ nor ‘minimalist’), insist that robust competition is crucial to a healthy democracy. For instance, Ian Shapiro* suggests that competition has two salutary effects: (i) it allows voters to throw out incumbents (known more appropriately as ‘the bastards’) and (ii) it pressures the opposition to solicit as wide a range of constituencies as they are able. Given these effects, Shapiro suggests quite pointedly:

If competition for power is the lifeblood of democracy, then the search for bi-partisan consensus … is really anticompetitive collusion in restraint of democracy. Why is it that people do not challenge legislation that has bi-partisan backing, or other forms of bi-partisan agreement on these grounds? …

Among the crucial empirical observations about partisan polarization in the U.S. is that it reflects the economic bifurcation (in terms of wealth and income mal-distribution) among the population. Because the poor participate at relatively low levels, and because many recent immigrants remain unnaturalized (hence disenfranchised), the constituency for a real alternative to right-wing policies remains politically inchoate. The solution to political polarization is to attack economic inequality, to resist anti-immigration policies, and so forth. That might, in fact, require Democrats to stop their headlong rush to mimic Republicans and prompt them to seek to forge broader and deeper alliances between constituencies that do not now see one another as allies. But that would require the Dems to be political rather than play the bi-partisan game. What we need is more robust competition.

That sonic boom you heard was Johnson’s point swooping over David Broder’s shiny pate.

Update: Greenwald pwns the mother of all shameless partisan hacks, “Captain” Ed Morrissey.

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Harper’s Listserv Hacked: Anonymous Moves North?

by matttbastard

Palinitis has spread across the border: apparently the 1337 hax0rs in the PMO’s war room still haven’t grokked all the ins and outs of the series of tubes that make up the internets.

CanWest News:

The Prime Minister’s Office has triggered an investigation into how a prankster gained access to its list of e-mail recipients and sent out two phoney messages pretending to have come from Stephen Harper.

One message, distributed to media organizations Sunday afternoon with the subject line “Why you shouldn’t fear me,” claimed to be from Mr. Harper and said: “my goal is to make Canada America’s 51st state and destroy health care that all Canadians cherish by infusing my propaganda with hard core ad hominem attacks.”

The second message, sent later in the evening, said that, because Canada recognized the self-declared independence of Kosovo last February, “Does this lead to slowly accepting sovereignty for Quebec?”

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office Monday warned subscribers to its e-mail service that “these were unauthorized uses of the prime minister’s e-mail listserv and do not represent the views of the prime minister or his office.”

Kady O’Malley (h/t BigMediaCityLib) has more details on how this was pulled off, along with the full text of the “Why you shouldn’t fear me” email, while Prairie Fire passes along the “Kosovo” email.

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Quote of the Day: John McCain and “the Power of War”

by matttbastard

John McCain has been said to have neoconservative inclinations; to critics, this suggests a commitment to the unilateral deployment of military force to bring about a democratic transformation in once-hostile countries. The question of whether he’s a neocon, however, is not entirely relevant; McCain has advisers from both the neocon and realist camps, and he’s too inconsistent to be easily labeled. In one area, though, he has been more or less constant: his belief in the power of war to solve otherwise insoluble problems. This ideology of action has not been undermined by his horrific experience as a tortured POW during the Vietnam War, or by the Bush administration’s disastrous execution of the Iraq War. All this is not to suggest that McCain is heedlessly bellicose or reflexively willing to send U.S. soldiers into danger; he is the father of a marine and a Naval Academy midshipman, James McCain and John S. McCain IV, whose service he rarely mentions. And he opposed, presciently, keeping the Marines in Beirut in 1983, just before their barracks were bombed. But his willingness to speak frankly about the utility of military intervention sets him apart from his opponent. Senator Obama, though certainly no pacifist, envisions a world of cooperation and diplomacy; McCain sees a world of organic conflict and zero-sum competition.

– Jeffrey Goldberg, The Wars of John McCain

Related: Matt Bai takes a deeper look at how Vietnam has affected McCain’s view of international relations; Matthew Yglesias believes that, contra conventional wisdom, Obama holds an advantage over McCain in the foreign policy arena, and should, accordingly, campaign from a position of strength; former US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke says whomever comes out on top in November will, come January, “inherit a more difficult set of international challenges than any predecessor since World War II.”

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“These trans women make easy, almost socially sanctioned, scapegoats for a litany of issues that they are largely unconnected to and not responsible for.”

by matttbastard

Wendy Babcock, Morgan Page, and Rebecca Hammond have an article in this months issue of FAB Magazine on the Homewood-Maitland Safety Association and its controversial efforts to force transgender sex workers out of the neighbourhood.  Although the article isn’t available online, Babcock has posted the text at her blog, the Prostitution in Canada Journal.

A sample:

Homewood and Maitland isn’t the first stroll in Toronto to come under pressure as a consequence of gentrification – so what’s the big deal if this is a sad, but seemingly routine, social process? Homewood and Maitland is unique in that it has historically been known as the trans stroll, making it one of the few safer spots for trans sex workers. Johns here know what they are getting, as one sex worker explained, “in other neighbourhoods the johns don’t know what they’re getting, and they are likely to freak out and assault us.” As working conditions deteriorate thanks to the HMSA, trans women have started working untested areas where they are likely subject to increasing violent attacks.

These trans women make easy, almost socially sanctioned, scapegoats for a litany of issues that they are largely unconnected to and not responsible for. The streets are quiet, save for a few rowdy drunk college kids and the sounds of traffic wafting down from Wellesley. You know, the kind of night soundscape one comes to expect in downtown Toronto. Other residents of the neighbourhood have expressed their dismay to us. “Just tell me what I can do to help the sex workers,” one man said to us. The HMSA is quick to dismiss these other neighbours as unimportant, either because they live on the higher floors of the condos or their opinion goes against HMSA morals.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

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A Sober Assessment of Canada’s Disregard for Social Injustice

by matttbastard

Even though Stephen Harper has pledged to pull out Canadian combat troops from Afghanistan in 2011, the ongoing economic consequences of Canada’s Afghan policy are still being felt domestically by Canada’s First Nations communities, says Assembly of First Nations national Chief Phil Fontaine.

The Globe:

Mr. Fontaine, wading into the federal election campaign, called on all political parties to build on the June 11 residential schools apology and work toward a reconciliation with native people. That reconciliation will require what he called a “Kelowna-plus” solution, referring to the accord reached three years ago by the previous Liberal government that promised $5-billion to raise the standard of living of aboriginal people to that of other Canadians by 2015. After they were elected, the Conservatives dismissed Kelowna as a flawed press release.

“There’s been $22-billion expended on the Afghan war, and so what is there for first nations people?” Mr. Fontaine asked. “The response we’re looking for from each of the parties is next steps in regards to the eradication of first nations poverty.”

[…]

Mr. Fontaine said the absence of any discussion of native issues in the campaign for the Oct. 14 election is a disservice to all Canadians, and urged the political parties to address those issues in their platforms.

“First nations poverty is the single most important social justice issue in the country and we would expect that each of the parties would do the responsible thing, and that is to engage Canadians,” he said.

There are 27,000 native children in state care, 40 communities without schools, 100 communities under boil-water advisories and serious concerns about housing and health care for people living on reserves, Mr. Fontaine said.

$22 Billion. That kind of cash would sure go a long way to help alleviate crippling levels of poverty among Canada’s First Nations peoples.  Of course, all (hollow) apologies aside, one could argue that the Conservative government’s true sentiments with regards to our Aboriginal citizens may have been laid bare earlier this week by an aide to Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon, who, according to the Globe, was caught on tape telling a group of native protesters in Cannon’s riding that a meeting with Cannon could be arranged “if you behave and you’re sober.” No word on whether the aide was wearing a sweater vest at the time, which, in my estimation, would have at least put a kinder, gentler veneer on this latest expression of an all-too-familiar (and disturbingly casual) racism that lurks below the surface of so-called ‘civil society’ in Canada.

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I hate memes…

by matttbastard

…but I love music (and lists). So I’ll make an exception in this case. Meme originator James Bow explains:

Politics is an important part of our lives, and it plays a big part in defining who we are and how we see the world, but it isn’t the only part of our lives, and it doesn’t play the biggest part in defining how we respond to the world.

So, with that in mind, I’d like to ask every political blogger in the Canadian blogosphere to stop thinking about politics a moment, and think about rock music.

I’m serious. I am compiling a list of songs for an iTunes playlist which I am calling “Rock Essentials”. These are songs that I’ve arbitrarily decided are important to the history of rock and roll. You may not own the albums, but whenever you hear the single, you recognize it immediately and smile, and possibly say “rock on”.

So, tell me: what would you say are your top five most essential rock songs for an iTunes playlist? Or top ten. Or top fifteen. Take a moment to list our choices and explain them. Then link back here and leave me a comment pointing to your post. Let’s see what your choices are.

My 15 picks in no particular order (and in YouTube format) are below the fold:

Continue reading

Larison: “The real anti-establishment candidates are known by their marginalization.”

by matttbastard

Paleocon blogger Daniel Larison doesn’t think much of the “anti-establishment” credentials of candidates (in this instance, Sarah Palin and Barack Obama) who belong to, brazenly court, and are eagerly championed by establishment parties:

[T]his entire debate about the anti-establishment populism Palin supposedly represents and its similarity or lack of it to Bush’s style simply reproduces McCain campaign propaganda that presents Palin as an anti-establishment reforming champion.  Challenging and throwing out incumbents are not enough–if that constituted being anti-establishment, Macbeth would be one of the great anti-establishment heroes of all time.

[ …]

Something that seems to elude these discussions is the recognition that ambitious, new pols are not anti-establishment–they want to be the establishment, or a part of it, or else they are bound for long, disappointing, stagnant careers in the backbenches or the backwoodsThe basic truth about anyone competing at this level for high office is that they may not yet be of the establishment, but they are very much in favor of the establishment provided that they are an important player in it. The real anti-establishment candidates are known by their marginalization.  Washington pols and their allies who run against Washington are having us on in the same way that the branches of the federal government con us by pretending to check one another while constantly aggrandizing more power for the central state as a whole.  Every wave of reform is stymied because Washington pols will never of their own volition yield power that Washington possesses, which gives the citizens less and less leverage over each succeeding generation of so-called reformers.  No one in the major parties calling for reform or change intends to alter this structure in any meaningful way.

h/t Ampersand

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A few more numbers to consider

by matttbastard

Graham Johnston writes in comments:

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government proposes reducing Canada’s greenhouse gases and air pollution by 20 percent of 2006 levels by 2020. By 2015 he claims the anticipated benefit to Canadian citizens will be that 1,200 fewer citizens will die from air pollution and there will be 1,260 fewer hospital admissions and emergency room visits. Sounds impressive.

In mid-August, 2008 the Canadian Medical Association released a comprehensive report on air quality in Canada that found, in part, that more than 21,000 people will die prematurely in Canada this year from the effects of air pollution. Some 2,500 of them (us!) will die because of “acute, short-term exposure” and of that number, 25 will be under the age of 19 years.

Further, in 2008 there will be over 9,000 hospital visits, 30,000 emergency department visits and 620,000 doctor’s office visits due to air pollution.

The CMA estimates that by 2031, almost 90,000 Canadians will have died from the acute short-term effects of air pollution. The number of deaths, due to long-term exposure, will be over 700,000 – the population of Quebec City. The economic costs of air pollution in 2008 alone will top $8 billion. By 2031, they will have accumulated to over $250 billion.

Any politician who would turn a blind eye to such a public health crisis while allocating billions of dollars to military spending to protect the health and security of citizens of another country deserves our contempt. Either Harper is out of touch with the reality of the air pollution crisis in Canada, or he just doesn’t give a damn about the health and welfare of Canadians. Either way, he should be sent packing on Election Day. Newfoundland’s ABC mantra of “Anything But Conservative” is beginning to resonate.

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