Does the NDP Die with Layton?

Layton pauses at a press conference on July 25, 2011.

As you might’ve heard, Jack Layton, leader of the NDP, passed away this morning at 4:45am. And as sad as I am for his family, I can’t help but to feel that the rest of the Country is fucked and has a lot more to mourn than the passing of a loved one. With Layton’s passing, we’ve lost probably the only chance we currently have at having an effective opposition and counterweight to the money hungry hacks in the Prime Minister’s Office.

When Harper bulled his way to a majority government on may 2nd, it was mostly at the expense of the Liberals. Voters had lost faith in the Liberals because of the sponsorship scandal and because they had no viable leadership prospect. So when a lot of Liberal supporters cast their ballots o nMay 2nd, they were thinking of their pocket books and their gas tanks. They wanted someone running their country who was actually in control of his party, and it didn’t hurt that that someone would give them the tax breaks they needed to keep up their conspicuous consumption in a down-turn economy.

Of course, even though enough Liberal supporters swung right to give Harper the majority he was looking for, many more more showed a social conscience and swung left, giving the NDP in the official opposition seat. Even the Bloc lost ground to Jack, leaving Quebec an orange province — with the New Democrats taking 59 of the 75 seats.

Canadian 2011 Election Results

It was a momentous occasion and milestone in Canadian electoral politics. Never before had the NDP formed the official opposition at the federal level. And the timing couldn’t have been better, because what more would you want out of the opposition when a bunch of right-wing oil lackeys are at the helm? I mean, the Conservatives might’ve had a majority and carte-blanche to sell the nation off to private interests, but if you’re going to have a watchdog barking up their tree, it mind as well be someone from the labour-left.

At the same time, though, the NDP’s rise to prominence kind of signalled the rise of bi-partisan politics in this country. The more centrist Liberals who’d been a major force for the last half century had been relegated to insignificance, and now the voters’ only two real viable choices were left or right. Suddenly, there was much less room (and need) for compromise in Canadian politics, and only one of the two viable options was likely to ever attract the financial support and backing of private interests.

But if any of the current stakeholders could recognize the problem with that and had the experience and connections to help restore party-diversity in the Canadian electoral ecosystem, it was probably Jack. Something about the man told me that, as much as he revelled in his party’s recent rise, he recognized that to effectively oppose the Conservatives, voters needed a viable centrist option. Now, that could’ve meant a lot of things, from a revamped NDP to a merger with the Liberal party,  but Jack was likely too experienced and committed to his beliefs to ignore this striking reality.

Of course, now with his passing, the NDP just might suffer from the same power vacuum that crippled the Liberals. Even though he stepped down as leader, there’s no longer any chance of him returning, nor a figurehead for party hopefuls to turn or appeal to for guidance of support. If something unexpected and unforeseen doesn’t give soon, we could very well end up spending the next decade selling our freedoms and principles off to the carbon barons just to get by and put food on the table.

The Science of Oilsands Bribery

Credit: Suncor Energy

Canadian Environment Minister, Peter Kent, has announced a plan to monitor the impact that the Alberta oil sands are having on air quality, water quality, and bio-diversity.

You care because the $50 million bill for the project will be footed by the oilsands industry instead of the taxpayers. I care because the man in charge of environmental policy for country seems to think that it’s okay to stack the scientific method to find whatever evidence will make him and his friends richer. As the CBC reports:

Kent said Ottawa will start work with the Alberta government and industry to implement the monitoring plan “almost immediately.” He estimated it will cost up to $50 million a year and said it will be paid for by the oilsands industry.

“I think it’s very important and it will provide the facts and the science to defend the product, which some abroad are threatening to boycott,” Kent said after unveiling the plan at a news conference in Ottawa.
Kent said results of the monitoring will dispel what he called misinformation about the oilsands that is used to “discriminate” against a “great Canadian resource.”

Monitoring will provide the hard science to prove the oilsands are “being developed in a responsible, sustainable and constantly improving way,” he said.

So Kent has pretty much said that he’s accepting money from private interests and will use it to further those interests for years to come. I guess it doesn’t count as bribery if you invest the money right back to the people that paid you off in the first place.

Touchdown Without a Dance

Forty two years and one day after the first moon landing, the Shuttle Atlantis touched down for the last time this morning, marking the end of the Space Shuttle Program. The twin sonic booms were heard at Kennedy Space Center at 05:53:33 AM EDT, touchdown happened at few minutes later at 05:57:27 AM EDT, and less than a minute later, at 05:58:23 AM EDT, the shuttle rolled to a full stop.

Credit: Nasa

You care because it give you something to talk about around the water cooler later today. I care because this marks the end of an era when it wasn’t only okay, but we were expected to have hopes and dreams. No one’s going to tell little Billy that he can be an astronaut when he grows up, because that would be silly and unpatriotic.

That’s probably why they scheduled this final landing so early in the morning: it’s kind of embarrassing and they didn’t need people gathering around the tube to watch it like some kind of milestone or moon landing.

After all, the Shuttle Program was just part of a race we won a long time ago, and it was kind of silly and vain to keep it up for so much longer. The Cold War has been over for a long time now, and there are new wars to fight, wars that aren’t going to be won by space walks and moon landings, but by things like body scanners and security conferences. And if little Billy works hard, and is luck, maybe he can be a TSA agent when he grows up.

America Is Not Rome: The Wrong Metaphor & Bad Economic Policy

I can appreciate that America likes to compare itself to ancient Rome. After all they both came from humble beginnings, they grew to become economic, political and military power houses through innovation and technological development (aqueducts, standardized parts, roads, airplanes) and they were both (to a degree) republics. Thomas Jefferson was obsessed with the Romans. Much of the architecture around the US capitol is influenced by Roman design. However they are picking the wrong empire to compare themselves to. America is not Rome, America is 17th and 18th Century France. Why am I making this comparison? Simple, America has a tax system that only benefits an entrenched aristocracy just like France did before its revolution. Also the bad foreign policy initiatives, massive debt and military quagmires are similar but mainly the tax system.

In the United States, dividends (the return on investment generated from stock investment) are taxed at only 15%. The argument is that it would be double taxation for a company and individuals that earn a profit. However, many of the wealthiest Americans generate the majority of their income from dividends. So that means the majority of their income is only taxed at 15% while the most people who earn their living through wages are taxed around 35%. This is why Warren Buffet says he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. How does this compare with France?

The second estate was the French nobility. They compromised roughly 1.5 percent of the population and paid zero taxes. They benefited the most from a system that was skewed in their favor. Essentially it was the old world’s version of Reaganomics. What exists now in America isn’t so much capitalism but rather a post-industrial serfdom. The over emphasis on supply-side economics has marginalized the majority of spenders through the process of gradually taking them out of the equation. After all, last year the average middle class citizen paid more taxes than Exxon Mobile who reinvested their (45.2  billion dollar) earnings overseas and never paid a cent in tax to the United States government. Of course, its not like corporations have the same legal status as people under the law, oh wait, never mind.

This falls into what is called the paradox of thrift. There is a belief that is common among many that what is good for the home is good for the economy. For example, if we cut household expenses it helps us have more disposable income in the long run. However if this is applied on a grand scale to the economy it actually tends to hurt it. The basics are that income/demand must be equal to output just as savings must be equal to investment. So if we decide to cut government income we must also understand that government output will be cut too. Same as if the government allows for a greater level of savings then people should be increasing their overall investments. Unfortunately this is not the case and what we are seeing is the people who have had their saving increased are hoarding their currency rather than investing or spending.

So what happens when you have a situation where people are not making any investment into a country are extracting the greatest return from everyone else? Well the French had some problems with  this exact situation. The results are actually pretty interesting. The high levels of debt, increased taxation and lack of representation caused the professional elements of society to re-frame their society. Most revolutions are successful when the middle class finally has enough and burns down the status quo. This isn’t likely to happen in the United States. America has systematically destroyed their middle class. Chances are we are about to see the return of feudalism. Feudalism with computers, credit cards, drive throughs and cell phones.

Wikileak Freedom Fallout

The Real Assange...

Given that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange previously threatened to release everything if he’s arrested, it’s no surprise that the leaks keep trickling along even though he’s been arrested and denied bail. After all, this is a man of influence and infamy: since having his funding cut and Swiss bank account frozen, hackers have started attacking his enemies on his behalf.

And this ugly mess is just getting started. Before the dust settles, there’s going to be a lot more diplomatic embarrassment, suspects arrested, charges laid, and new “terrorists” and “terrorist organizations” added to our watch lists. When it’s all said and done, these Wikileaks can play out in a lot of different ways.

They can end up selling a war with Iran and/or North Korea to the Western citizens and their governments. After all, the former makes the Saudis nervous, and the Chinese is fed up with the latter — so there’s really nothing left standing in our way. Here’s to another decade with no exit strategy.

Then there are all the overarching threats to our security and prosperity. If we’re going to start sharing hit-lists of sites vital to US interests online, the police are going to need more powers to protect “vital interests,” keep tabs on everyone who hates freedom, and suppress those leaky media outlets that keep dripping fuel on the fire.

Make no mistake about it. The political fallout from these Wikileaks are going to be short-term. After all, in politics, terms are often short and everyone’s expendable. It’s the rest of us who might have the most to worry about. If we’re not really careful lucky, this whole thing can end up costing us everything that it was suppose to protect.

The Leaky Axis

Click, click, boom, boom...

There are a lot of things that we know and don’t know about Cablegate. We know that’s what been leaked so far is just the tip of the iceberg. We know that a lot of leaders and diplomats have already been put in a really tight spot. We know that Julian Assange has pissed a lot of people off. We know that a 23 year old kid is the prime “leaker” suspect. And we know that even though Assange hasn’t yet released stuff on UFOs, the conspiracy theories are already flying.

We don’t know what’s going to be in those remaining documents, but what we know from the ones that have already been published is that international stereotypes exist for a reason: diplomats are spies, Russia is corrupt, Afghanistan is worse, the German leader lacks creativity, and the French leader is vain.

What we didn’t expect was that, apparently, the Saudi’s don’t like Iran and China is fed up with North Korea. How’s that for a revelation, Mac? Rogue states make their rich and greedy neighbors feel uneasy.

And that’s the beautiful thing about democracy: no two market-democracies have ever gone to war with one another. Democracies are governed by peace-niks who worship the rule of law and an invisible hand. And what we’ve learned from Cablegate is that there’s not much left standing between our previous free-market and the millions of consumers being held hostage by an Axis of Evil.

A Week in WikiLeaks

Julian Assange doesn't like plumbers...

It’s been a bad week for Wikileaks found, Julian Assange. First, last Sunday, Republican Congressman, Pete King, started pushing for Wikileaks to be classified as a terrorist organization. Then, on Monday, Sarah Palin called for Assange to be hunted down as an “anti-American operative.”

But what Tuesday held in store made The Maverick look more like The Moderate. First, an established Canadian politico outright said he should be assassinated, while a Canadian newspaper wondered why he wasn’t already dead. Meanwhile, back in the US, authorities started looking into charging Assange under the Espionage Act.

Then, Late Thursday night, Wikileaks was dropped by their domain name provider and is now fighting to stay online (on a Swiss domain at Finally, on Friday, just as Ron Paul, a Republican, came to Assange’s defense today, arguing that he deserves the same protections as the mainstream media, Swedish authorities got a bit closer to getting him extradited from the UK to Sweden where he’s “wanted on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion.”

Timely Accusations

Rape is one of those things where the mere accusation can ruin you. No matter how you’re cleared in a court of law, the allegation will always hang over like the rancid musk of leprosy and rotting flesh. No one will ever want to get too close to you ever again. You’ll be untouchable.

Which isn’t to say that Assange did or didn’t do those things he’s suspected of having done by Swedish authorities. We weren’t there, so as far as we’re concerned, it’s just one big game of Swedish he-said-she-said, and we don’t speak the language, so I guess we’ll just have to sit this one out. But hard to ignore the timing of both the allegations and renewed pressure to bring him back to Sweden.

Back on the Ranch

But this whole mess is a lot bigger than Assange and his allegedly unruly member. The move to classify Wikileaks as a terrorist organization is Machiavellian maneuver that’ll extend well beyond silencing some perverted dissident.

First, it would prohibit US banks, and companies like PayPal, Visa and MasterCard, from processing payments to the group. More importantly, it would also make it a federal  felony to provide WikiLeaks with “material support or resources”.

If the GOP can push this one through, what we’ll be looking at, here, is the criminalization of information. Anyone who has it is a terrorist, and anyone who consumes it becomes one.

In a world like that, everyone with a mobile phone and a data plan is at risk — is a risk. One wrong “Like” or search query and you’re a freedom-hating enemy of the state to be neutralized in a swift and exacting manner.

War Games: North Korea, Artillery Screw Ups and Southern Response

If you are familiar with North Korea’s history then you might remember back in August 1976 two American soldiers were killed by North Korean soldiers armed with axes. The event is known as the hatchet incident. It was a move on the part of Kim Jong-Il to consolidate his newly appointed position as the dear leader of the WPK’s Party Central Committee. In 1983; three years after Kim became the head of the politburo, the military commission and the party secretary, there was the Rangoon Bombing. The Rangoon bombing was a terrorist attack in Burma (now Myanmar) where 21 people died including many top level South Korean diplomats and politicians. The primary target was the then president of South Korea.

Fast forward 27 years. A new heir to North Korea has been named. A guy who has lived one of the most sheltered lives in North Korea has been chosen to succeed the dear leader. Kim Jong-Un is according to the propaganda the equivalent in the Korean People’s Army of a four star general. Which is impressive for a guy who has never seen combat, is believed to be about 27 (born the same year as the bombing) and educated in Switzerland. In March a South Korea warship was torpedoed resulting in the loss of 46 sailors. So now we have these artillery strikes on a disputed island in the hands of South Korea. Two Korean military personnel have been killed along with two civilians. The South is taking a hawkish stance to the Northern Saber rattling.

Kim Jong-Un is not leader yet. The Korean Politburo redacted his date of birth to be in 1982 so that he will be 30 years old when 2012 arrives (the expected date where his father will step down). Yet he has very little experience in dealing with international negotiations and needs to be build a reputation among the military and the international community. The primary tool of diplomacy available to the North is the threat of force. It is the primary means to extract aid from the South and Japan. Quick acts of violence and military action further reinforce this strategy. There are two problems now though which seem to face the heir apparent.

One, the South Koreans know he is inexperienced and are now taking a more aggressive approach to dealing with the regime in the North. If they call the North Korean’s bluff and the North stands down they lose their primary diplomatic tactic. Two, the People’s Army; while massive is no match for the modern South Korean force backed up by the US seventh fleet. China has no problems with the defeat of the North. The US and South Korean diplomats have already made gestures guaranteeing a non-threatening unified Korea to the Chinese. China seems to agree if you read the wikileaks diplomatic cables.

So the choices are back down and become nothing more than a paper tiger or start a war which he will lose resulting in the destruction of the state. History repeats itself. North Korea will either be destroyed or will be further isolated, which is something it can no longer afford. I guess the South’s addiction to Starcraft may prove useful soon.

Pigskins for Jesus

Turkey on the Rocks

So here’s another Thanksgiving holiday.

You care because today is the biggest shopping day of the year, and it will be followed by 3 days of turkey and football — a game that lets you vicariously pay tribute to one of the biggest founding principles of this great nation: war.

I care because Thanksgiving is the original, all-American holiday — a secular tribute to the first bible-thumping settlers, and anchored in the American traditions of sloth, gluttony and greed.

So here’s to the guns, pigskins, and Jesus. May the next year hold nothing less than Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Image via, which has some Thanksgiving cocktail recipes here.