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Political discourse – of course!

Archive for March, 2009

Monopoly.

steve_kleur3March 20th, 2009                         (please click on title for full article)

Board games.We love’ em; Stratego, Parcheesi, Risk, Snakes & Ladders. Playing board games is a lot of fun.  I even remember a Robin Williams Movie based on a fictional board game called,  “Jumanji”, (or something like that) , where  the situations and characters came to life as you played-  often with terrifying results.

That brings us to Monopoly. For those of you who don’t know the rules of Monopoly it goes as follows; Players start off with their own money and acquire real estate as they proceed around the board. And, as with all games, there are some who have a natural affinity for it and others who never quite seem to get the hang of it. But the real fun of Monopoly is all the little deals that go on on the side between players. There is nothing illegal about the side bets. It’s actually written in the rules of the game. Which brings us to the object of the game. Every game has to have an objective. The object of Monopoly is to  Bankrupt all the other players. That’s right. At the end of the game someone has all the money and the others don’t have enough to buy bread. And have you ever noticed the curious consequence of playing Monopoly that, in the process of bankrupting all the other players, the bank also become insolvent?

The upshot here is that people don’t really realize that our financial markets are just that – a game. For about two hundred years now the whole world has been playing one gigantic game of Monopoly. Usually it takes about twenty years of playing  before a bunch of people rig the game and we take a break – we have to – there isn’t any money left in the bank. We call these little breaks, “Recessions”. People get all upset at the underhanded goings on and we amend the rules so whatever they did to steal all the money will never happen again. But it always does – that’s the game’s objective. And here’s the thing; the players who caused this latest little break – they didn’t cheat. Everything that has been happening in the financial markets these days is a direct consequence of perfectly legal maneuverings. That’s why no one has been brought up on charges. They haven’t actually done anything illegal.

“But wait just a minute!”, we cry! “I never was involved in this game. No one asked me to play. And I’m getting stuck in a terrible situation that I didn’t have anything to do with creating!” Well, yes and no. Obviously, I don’t want to take this analogy to ridiculous extremes but we, the voters, hired the politicians who passed the legislation that allowed this financial abuse.  Their original intention was to make it easier for people to own a home by lowering the financial qualifications to procure a mortgage. But, naively, they trusted the money market managers and bankers to be responsible without realizing that , to them, this is all a game.

And, while it true that only about 15% of us actively play the stock market, a larger percentage of us have t-bills, mutual funds, 401 k’s and credit cards. We all, to a certain extent, play the game. So sometimes the mutual fund managers get greedy for more money to be put into the game and they pressure politicians to encourage us to invest more. The propaganda usually is couched in terms of “choice”. Like, “Social Security is running out of money!  People should have the “choice” of opting out of that social contract and investing their retirement money in the stock markets if they want to”. If that flimsy line of reasoning doesn’t work they will come up with some other way of getting us to live beyond our means –  and they did.

And so, after about five years, or however long it takes for us to replenish the accounts of the bank,  we’ll start another round. Because, when it comes right down to it, We Love Monopoly.

Let’s Save Canada.

(please click on title for full text.)                                                  March 17th, 2009

Our Prime Minister keeps showing his true colours and no one seems to care just how awful those colours are. Take, for example, what happened last week as reported by the Toronto Star. (March 14th – Richard J. Brennan.) Mr. Brennan reported that Stephen Harper gave a closed door speech to a rather sympathetic audience of business people decrying those nasty Liberals and other left wing commies including the current administration in the U.S. The press wasn’t invited but a recording was made of the speech and it was leaked to the media – of course.

Now the idea that our Prime Minister would have one face to present to the public and another to his political base isn’t a surprise. But that he would think that in this day and age information can be kept away from the public is a naivety that is frankly unbelievable. In fact, I don’t believe it. It wasn’t that he didn’t think the speech would leak so much as he didn’t care if it did. He has been emboldened by his reprieve from the Governor General and believes, quite rightly, that the Opposition parties will do nothing about it. Why should he? They have done nothing for years now. Even when they threaten to exercise their right to oust him on a vote of non- confidence he still manages to wriggle away.

And he can read. The latest poll has the Conservatives nationally at 35%. The Liberals at 31%. The N.D.P at 16% and the Greeens at 7%. This means that even if there is an election he will return to power with another Minority government.

So, what do we do? I say; “we”, meaning the voters because it is clear after all his shenanigans the Opposition  will continue to do nothing. What do we do.  If we look at those same numbers there is one thing that springs to mind. We could demand that the Liberals and the N.D.P create a new party. It wouldn’t be that difficult. After all, their respective platforms are so similar you could hardly slide a piece of paper between them. Why not join forces?  The Conservatives did it. Not so long ago there used to be three parties with conservative ideology in this country; Reform, Alliance and Conservatives. But they weren’t going to win any elections so they joined forces. (Okay, big business forced them into it. But still, they did it to great effect.) The powers that be recognized something essential which has escaped the left. You cannot split your strength and regain or maintain political clout.

If the N.D.P and the Liberals joined forces they could form a Canadian government that actually cares about Canadians. There is only one thing standing in the way here- Ego. The leaders of these parties are not going to want to step aside and no party wants be the first one to propose this idea. My answer to that is; who cares? No, honestly. Who cares what they think or want? They are public servants and should be reminded of that fact. And if they don’t want to do this for the good of their own country then we go back to the numbers and realize something. The Liberals don’t need the support of the N.D.P to do this thing. The Green party has 7%. Their cooperation in this plan would still give the Liberals enough to form a Minority government. Consign the other parties to the political wilderness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Poetic justice, if you ask me.

So, come on! E-mail your M.P’s and raise hell! Lets Save Canada! It’s worth saving. It’s worth fighting for. To us, it’s worth everything.

Coming soon – an online petition:

http://www.letssavecanadaonline.ca

Just Desserts.

(please click on title for full text.)

March 7th, 2009

Something delicious happened in Ontario politics on Friday.

As reported in the Toronto Star, the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives lost a by- election and has no seat in the Legislature. ( For our American cousins, we have a Parliamentary system up here which means, among other things, that, for a short period of time, a political party can have a leader that hasn’t won an election and doesn’t really hold an elected office. Or, in this case, has lost an election. When this happens, said leader has to scramble around looking for a seat.)

So, a Progressive Conservative candidate lost in a PC stronghold. That’s good enough for celebrating in and of itself, but the best part is who he lost to. A musician! Yep, the guy has 5 albums of children’s music out there. He has a rather impressive public service resume’ as well but that fact that he’s a musician just makes his victory all the more sweet as the PC’S have been brutally cutting our Arts programs both provincially and nationally.

So, why did a Tory, named Tory, lose in a Tory riding?  I think there are a couple of things at work here. The most obvious one (and one which the writers of the article pointed out) is that people vote their own self interest.  A Liberal government is in charge in Ontario which means they are going to write all the checks from the Federal Stimulus money when it comes in.

(When is it coming in by the way?)

I think the other motivation here is more subtle. I think people resent unfair aspects of our political system. I am referring to the one where an elected official steps aside during a campaign for office and lets someone else run in his or her place.  Voters had elected a particular person to represent their riding and they didn’t like having their will usurped by the system. ( I know that we really vote for the party of our choice and the particular person shouldn’t matter – but lets face it-to us, it does matter. ) So, here comes a guy parachuting in from another riding 100 kms away and claims he can represent the locals better than one of their own. It didn’t go over very well. In fact, it didn’t go over at all.

So, score one for the voters! Now if we could only get rid of that pesky, “First Past The Post” system……

C.I.A – or Keystone Cops?

headshot (please click title for full article)

March 4, 2009

I just read an article in The Washington Post by Carrie Johnson and Joby Warrick entitled, “C.I.A Destroyed 92 Interrogation Tapes, Probe Says”.

Turns out that even though the A.C.L.U had obtained a court order demanding the C.I.A turn over all materials relating to harsh interrogation tactics in 2004, the C.I.A went ahead and destroyed any incriminating evidence in 2005.

” If anyone thinks it’s agency policy to impede the enforcement of American law, they simply don’t know the facts”. ( C.I.A Spokesman, George Little)

Hey George! I got news for you. That’s exactly what we think. You may be thinking that a good defense is a strong offense but you have to admit that the C.I.A’s credibility has been stretched beyond the limit in the last 8 years or so. Wasn’t it your agency who told us that there were W.M.D.s in Iraq?  Wasn’t it your Agency that talked about Yellow Cake Uranium? You guys are beginning to look like the Keystone Cops – except they were comical. Maybe I should say, ‘ like the Keystone Cops with Waterboards’?

How many people have died in Iraq, George? How much suffering? Oh yeah, I forgot. You guys don’t keep records of civilian casualties. How about our soldiers? How about their suffering? It seems you don’t like to keep records of anything around too long.

But don’t feel that you’re alone. We have our own version of Keystone Cops up here in Canada. They are called the R.C.M.P. Even as I write this, four R.C.M.P officers are testifying as to why they tasered a man to death in Vancouver’s airport. One officer, by way of defense, said that he, ‘feared for his safety’. That’s not a bad story but unfortunately a tourist videoed the four officers standing over a writhing, screaming man on the floor who had just been tasered –  then they tasered him again.

We used to have an expression in the playground, “Saying it’s so doesn’t make it so”. It may have taken us awhile but I think you will find that we’re awake now.  You may have to try a different tack – before the new Commander in Chief finds a back door of the Pentagon to hustle you out of.

Steve MacGregor