Category Archives: Neoliberal Economics

Rich Coleman Has a Home; How Many Thousands Don’t?

There seems to be a debate about how many homeless people there are in BC right now. 5,000 up to 15,000?

At any rate, quite a few.

Rich Coleman, minister responsible for homelessness, however is happy to have a home. I don’t begrudge him being able to afford a home. I just wish he’d do more for the many thousands who cannot enjoy all of what he does.

Minister Coleman’s Facebook page tonight [above] has this juicy little bit [a close-up of the above page]:

In The Tyee you can read the debate about numbers. And my freedom of information requests to BC Housing about their definition of and methodology for counting the homeless may be instructive, whenever they arrive. Even if we go with Coleman’s sad, low number, we read in The Tyee that the government isn’t interested in addressing the needs of more than 1/3 of them.

I know from an ideological standpoint, the Campbell neoLiberal government doesn’t like social housing; nor does Vancouver’s NPA. That communitarian response undermines the market approach of worshiping market housing and just providing grants to some needy [and able to jump through administrative hoops] folks, leaving many of the desperate shivering under overpasses and such.

While there may be a myriad of hidden assistance programs [not that the government is interested in making it hard to apply for assistance for things!], BC Housing’s Rental Assistance Program requires you to have some income from employment to get rental assistance as well as a dependent child under 19 and be regularly filing income tax returns: not conditions that apply to everyone on the street tonight.

I wonder if Coleman’s “it won’t last” is some cosmic, karmic omen…

Happy winter, everyone!

Steve’s New Hoax: Legislative Ratification of Treaties

I’ve taken to calling it Executive Overdrive: the urge in BC, Ottawa and elsewhere for the executive branch of government to find ways of secretly doing constitutionally significant things [like the SPP or creating a de facto economic union between BC and Alberta with TILMA [which you’ve probably never heard of]] without legislative oversight or a large public referendum.

But now I see that the Harper government is pledging to actually put international treaties before the House of Commons. On first blush I got very excited to see something so awesome coming from someone so clearly tyrannical.

But then I read past the first sentence. The whole steaming mess is below and here if you want to see it with its DFAIT webpage background.

Putting a treaty before the House like the Americans do with their Senate is a fascinating nod to the appearance of “democracy”[tm]. But allowing voting to merely be an option is cynical. Calling the idea of legislative ratification “unnecessary and cumbersome” is more Steve’s style.

But the worst part is reserving the right to just skip the whole charade if cabinet thinks it is an exceptional circumstance.

In the end, there is no binding substance to the announcement. It looks like democracy matters, but in the end, it’s just cruel window dressing.

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: News Release 20 – CANADA ANNOUNCES POLICY TO TABLE INTERNATIONAL TREATIES IN HOUSE OF COMMONS
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2008 11:30:07 -0500

January 25, 2008 (11:30 a.m. EST)
No. 20

CANADA ANNOUNCES POLICY TO TABLE INTERNATIONAL TREATIES IN HOUSE OF COMMONS

The Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today announced that the Government of Canada has changed the way it signs on to international treaties.

“As of today, all treaties between Canada and other states or entities, and which are considered to be governed by public international law, will be tabled in the House of Commons,” said Minister Bernier. “This reflects our government’s commitment to democracy and accountability. By submitting our international treaties to public scrutiny, we are delivering on our promise for a more open and transparent government.”

In the 2006 Speech from the Throne, Prime Minister Stephen Harper committed to bringing international treaties before the House of Commons to give Parliament a role in reviewing international agreements.

A treaty creates legal obligations for Canada under international law and the government believes that further engaging Parliament in the international treaty process will give it a greater role in ensuring that these treaties serve the interests of all Canadians. Under the new process, members of the House of Commons may review and discuss the treaty—examining, debating or voting—before Canada formally agrees to ratify it.

With the new policy, the Minister of Foreign Affairs will have the responsibility for tabling all treaties to be signed for Canada.

– 30 –

A backgrounder follows.

For further information, media representatives may contact:

Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
613-995-1874
www.international.gc.ca/index.aspx

Backgrounder

TREATY PROCEDURE IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS

The government intends to table all international treaties in the House of Commons before taking further steps to bring these treaties into force. It is committed to giving the House an important role in reviewing Canadian treaties.

Description

The procedure is similar to procedures used for a long time in the United Kingdom and Australia.

The government will maintain the executive role in negotiating agreements.

Prior to the government finally binding Canada to an agreement, it will table the treaty in the House of Commons. The Clerk of the House will distribute the full text of the agreement and an explanatory memorandum giving the salient issues in the treaty to each Member of Parliament.

The government will observe a waiting period of 21 sitting days from the date of the tabling before taking any action to bring the treaty into effect. When treaties require legislative amendment, the government is committed to delaying the legislation until this 21-sitting-day period has passed.

The House may debate the agreement, if it chooses to do so. The government offers the House the opportunity to discuss treaties that it judges important.

This is similar to practice in the UK. It avoids an unnecessary and cumbersome procedure where every agreement would be put to a resolution of the House.

Role of the House

Members of the House of Commons may wish to review and discuss the policy of the treaty.

The government will maintain the legal authority to decide whether to ratify the treaty. It will, of course, give consideration to the view of the House in coming to a decision.

Very exceptionally the Government may have to bind Canada to the treaty before the treaty is tabled, informing the House of the treaty at the earliest opportunity.

Downtown Ambassadors: Subsidizing the Thug Class

Well, it took a great deal of digging in the hopelessly inadequate free daily “newspapers” today, but it was eventually possible to get the full story on the city of Vancouver spending almost 3/4 of a million dollars to match the funding for the downtown’s Business Improvement Association’s private thug force.

The privatization-happy neoliberal Non-Partisan Association [sic]-dominated Vancouver city council finds it easier to use our money to fund a private security force than to just privatize the police. Vision City Councillor Tim Stevenson said public money should go to a public police force; the flip side is that public money should not be subsidizing a private security force accountable to the Business Improvement Association. Let them pay for their thugs to criminalize the poor.

But that makes us wonder if even that is such a good idea. In the article above, Irwin Loy “examines” the other side of the story by including Stevenson’s comment and another idea that the money should be spent helping the needy.

The real other side of the story, though, is that the Downtown Ambassadors are the thug class that Naomi Wolf is writing about in The End of America: a group of private enforcers for the business class to do more than just help tourists find the nearest Starbucks and ask the homeless to not spit in front of Roots on Robson Street.

The Downtown Ambassadors used to look like innocuous doormen from an almost swanky hotel in 1976, with garish red costumes and big hats. Today, as the picture above shows, they look like the rent-a-cops that they are, complete with red stripes down their pants. Their mandate includes tasks like “report crime and ‘quality of life’ concerns to appropriate agencies and assist in mitigating these from taking root.” Quality of life concerns have in the past been moving the homeless out of public lanes and alleys because that is too close to a business. Assisting in mitigating these from taking root is far more than reporting them to the real police. The Downtown Ambassadors have been roundly hated by the poor and their advocates for some time now.

And lackey Dave Jones explains that the real police are so professionally trained that they shouldn’t be bothered with asking those homeless to stop spitting. The flip side of that is that the Downtown Ambassadors are not so very professionally trained. And they are far from sufficiently trained to deal with the levels of mental illness among our street people. And why should they be…they aren’t being tasked with fixing that problem, just with sending them back to the Main and Hastings ghetto and off Robson and Granville.

But the rest of the story is to be found in the city’s other terrible free “newspaper” where David Eby from the Pivot Legal Society is announcing the plan to give blankets to the homeless. On those blankets are listed their rights as citizens of the country, though as the poor, their rights are being squashed by neoliberals like Lorne Mayencourt, Geoff Plant and Sam Sullivan in their plans to sanitize and criminalize the poor.

If you look carefully in the photograph you can actually read one of the rights of the homeless in our society. In distinguishing between private and public property, security guards are allowed to move people from private space, but they have no power to move people from sidewalks and alleys.

And that is the point of the whole mess. Pivot actually cares about the rights of the rapidly disenfranchised poor. The Downtown Ambassador thug class is all about tracking them to better shunt them out of the business realms.

But you had to actually read both rag “newspapers” to get the whole picture. Oh, the humanity.

The Liberal Party: The Other Half of Harper’s Majority

As much as this photo just plays into Stephen Harper’s quest for a majority government, it also truthfully reflects the tone of the Liberals: don’t vote, don’t act, choose to do nothing and let the Harper government have a functional majority.

But as Jack Layton spoke to the BC NDP convention tonight, the tone of the federal NDP as the unofficial, yet effective opposition continued to ring.

In reference to Dion et al and their penchant for abstention “for the good of Canada,” they are providing a de facto majority government for Harper. Their internal incoherence and lack of effective support of Dion makes the Liberal Party afraid to force an election despite Harper’s poison pills.

At the same time they abrogate their responsibility as “official opposition” as the party with the second largest number of seats.

Since the Bloc voted for Harper’s budget last spring, we can’t really call them much of an opposition.

That leaves the NDP actually opposing Harper’s anti-social tax cuts in an era of surplus.

And when do we start docking the pay of MPs who abstain in a vote?

Logical Absurdities: Only Anti-Government Sentiments Are Political

So, US Iraqi war veterans who oppose the political mission, though presumably they support the troops [themselves, their comrades and friends], aren’t allowed to march in a Veterans Day Parade in Long Beach.

“They do not fit the spirit of the parade,” she said. “The spirit being one of gratitude for what the veterans have done. We do not want groups of a political nature, advocating the troops’ withdrawal from Iraq.” Parade coordinators work hard to keep the event free from politics.

This is the absurd double standard that plagues people cursed with an inability to understand paradoxes.

I remember the early 1990s and how hard it was to make it through the relativist paradox of elements of post-modernism. As an early post-modern zealot, I rejected absolute truths because I rejected any truth as being able to be absolute. I was trying to embrace that concept while rejecting the arguments that have supported the human misery that resulted from absolute truths: white supremacy, genocide in the Americas, heterosexism, two millennia of imperial Christianity.

But at the same time, there is the relativist paradox that rejecting absolutes is itself an absolute.

This inability to contend with the modernist-postmodernist tension shows up in the “support our troops” nonsense, whereby anyone who rejects Canada’s presence in Afghanistan doesn’t support the troops, even though the troops didn’t make the politician send them there.

It also shows up in the more single-minded culture in the USA. If you oppose the government, you are being political. Yet it is not a political act to support it. So a Veterans Day parade is for apolitical people.

It also shows up in this surreal Flickr group, America, America!

It is hard to fathom:

About AMERICA, AMERICA! 1200+ members & growing! **** WE ARE NOW A GROUP OF 1200+ MEMBERS! AWESOME! YAY! WOW!
GOD BLESS AMERICA, AMERICA! THANKS TO ALL OF OUR MEMBERS, OUR FAMILY!
****************************************************************************************
OUR PERMANENT THREAD IS FLAG DAY, PLEASE ALL MEMBERS POST ALL PHOTOS OF OLD GLORY IN THE “FLAG DAY” THREAD! We are building the biggest best collection of American Flag photos on Flickr!! Let’s do it together!!
****************************************************************************************
THESE THREADS ARE CURRENTLY OPEN FOR POSTING:
AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL,
MY HOMETOWN;
SPORTS STORIES;
SPACE, THE FINAL FRONTIER!
PLANES, TRAINS AND MOTOR VEHICLES
FLAG DAY (PERMANENT THREAD)
Anyone who posts in any thread receives a special award and will be eligible for front page exposure!

GROUP RULES: NEW RULE, POSTING LIMIT IN POOL 1O PER DAY! Any pictures, photoart, digital art that depicts the good and positive things about America or any place that loves freedom! Photos and photoart that depict patriotism, the spirit of America, family life, and that which shows the ways God has Blessed America and the world. Please *NO POLITICS OF ANY KIND*, *NO CAMPAIGN PHOTOS FOR ANY PARTY*! NO AMERICA BASHING, NO rude or BAD LANGUAGE, and NO nudes. This is a wholesome family oriented group about America and the people who make her the greatest nation in the world.
If you have a gripe about something, write a letter to the editor at your local newspaper -THIS is NOT a forum for anger. Thanks and enjoy! Fantartsy AKA JJ

IMPORTANT NOTICE: ANYONE who blocks administrators will be banned from the group and all their photos WILL BE REMOVED!JJ/ administrator

GROUP MOTTO: FOR THOSE WHO LIVE IN OR LOVE THE IDEALS OF FREEDOM AND INDEPENDENCE FOR WHICH AMERICA STANDS. Thanks to each and every member for making this a great AMERICAN group! JJ and all the administrators and helpers!

Beyond the planes, trains and motor vehicles fossil fuel worshiping, the philosophy of the group is similarly blind to the reality that they themselves are expressing a political view of supporting the government, an act they ban by definition. I remember in the 1980s Bruce Springsteen said blind faith in your leaders or in anything will get you killed.

The good and positive things about America or any place that loves freedom, however that is defined by the group leaders. Patriotism, the spirit of America, family life [defined again I suspect by the group leaders], how God has blessed America and the world [again, defined by the group leaders]. No politics of any kind shows they have no sense that their whole group is a political expression of rigid, uncritical conformity with the government line.

And yes, America is the greatest nation in the world. I’m always wondering what criteria people use to say that. Constant overt and covert invasions and subversion of other countries for over two centuries? Largest military expenditure? Only country to use nuclear weapons on civilians? Economic imperialist supporting multi-national corporations creating global feudalism with half the world’s 6.6 billion people in the world dying on less than $2/day?

Anger and “gripe” belong in newspapers. And while they have the right to have Flickr group that shows blind support of America’s junta, saying they brook nothing political is just silly.

They also say this for a current event:

fantartsy (a group admin) says:
04 Nov 07 – YAY!!1000+ members!!** .VETERANS’ DAY THREAD, open for 2 weeks only! Post a photo of the veteran you want to honor> ANYONE FROM ANY COUNTRY may post in this “special” thread!OPEN NOW! JJ/admns

I suspect that if Iraq Veterans Against the War members try to post pictures of events that are critical of the policy in Iraq, those pictures will be removed.

Canada: "Economic Injustice for the Poor!"[tm]

Just to start off, any country that spends the post-Cold War period eroding its progressive tax system so that the richest 1% of families pay a lower tax rate than the poorest 10% of families is just offensive. And I don’t care about the relative dollar value of tax paid by these two groups. The principle itself is regressive and abhorrent.

Welcome to Canada!

Welcome also to the reality of federal Liberal and Conservative governments. It doesn’t matter which is in, the rich get a windfall and the poor subsidize it.

The latest CCPA study is full of shock and further offense:

  • Provincial tax cuts are the key culprit for the increasingly regressive nature of Canada’s tax system but the problem has been exacerbated at the federal level with billions of dollars worth of post-2000 tax cuts.
  • The richest one percent of taxpayers saw their tax rate drop by four percentage points between 1990 and 2005.
  • Most Canadians saw their tax rate fall by two percentage points of income, but not so for the poorest 20 percent of taxpayers, who pay three to five percentage points more in taxes.
  • Middle-income families pay about six percentage points more in total taxes than a family in the top 1 percent.

Sam Sullivan’s Latest Re-Election Schemes, 54 Weeks[!] Before the Election

Today’s fresh new email from Mayor Sam Sullivan [see below] graced my email inbox with an upfront expression of his concern for the recent shootings in Vancouver. After the debacle of his attempt at union-breaking strike management he now wants to assure us he’s out to protect our lives.

Start the email with fear and the calming words of a leader out to protect us all. Boo. Truly scary is during the civic strike he spoke in similarly glowing terms of municipal employees. His walk did not match his talk there. Further, invoking Stockwell Day shows how much Sam is out of touch with the kind of figures who resonate with Vancouverites.

Then Sam moves on to his personal, unscientific, but sure to be quoted for the next 54 weeks of the municipal election campaign [and even longer] survey of citizens on the necessity of extending Skytrain to UBC.

The context of this is important. In order to force the TransLink leadership [democratically elected, pesky as that was] to commit to the Canada Line privateer-megaproject for the Olympics, after failed votes, eventually northeast suburb politicians were bribed with the Evergreen Line to Coquitlam Centre in exchange for voting for the Canada Line.

Democracy is an inconvenient truth in BC. The BC neoLiberal government is currently in the legislature ramming through a bill that will remove all democracy from TransLink and put the board directly in the hands of corporate appointees.

I seem to remember something before our time about the American revolution being about taxation without representation. Now in the 21st century we are embracing it in BC, legislatively so. Shame.

Back to Sam, though. His personal, unscientific, qualitative survey is all about justifying a future bid to supplant the Evergreen Line timeline to get the next Skytrain leg out West Broadway to UBC. Maybe this isn’t his plan, but since it may be a decade before this extension is supposed to occur, after the northeast sector, what is Sam’s rush to meet with West Broadway businesses now and embark on this poll on his personal website?

The pdf on his site on why we should complete the Millenium Line [to UBC] has some sound arguments. As a fan of transit, I think they’re great. But they’re second in line behind the Evergreen Line. The day Sam starts squawking about why the northeast sector should wait–again–is the day I look back to his website survey with complete cynicism.


Message from Mayor Sullivan regarding recent shootings

Like all residents, I am very concerned about the recent shootings that have taken place. We are taking this situation very seriously.

Late this afternoon I held a meeting with Chief Constable Jim Chu to discuss the issue of gang violence in our city. Yesterday I met with federal Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, and Chief Chu and I will be meeting with the federal Justice Minister tomorrow. In addition, I have written to the provincial government and will be meeting with mayors from Metro Vancouver next week to discuss ways to coordinate our efforts and attack organized crime.

I want to reassure residents that the men and women of the Vancouver Police Department are among the best in the world. They are working with our partners in the region to solve these crimes and bring these criminals to justice.

The solution to addressing these problems requires a coordinated and intelligent response. We will deliver that for our citizens.

– Mayor Sam Sullivan

Mayor’s Millennium Line Survey – Have Your Say

Mayor Sam Sullivan invites residents, businesses and community organizations to provide their views about plans to complete the Millennium Rapid Transit Line from VCC Station to Central Broadway – and ultimately UBC.

Disclaimer: this is a qualitative survey of website visitors. Results are not considered as scientific.

Child Sexual Abuse Treatment: BC Government Lies About Underfunding


Some lessons to heed from question period this week:

1. BC’s neoLiberal party abuses Freedom of Information requests to make themselves look good and justify leaving abused children vulnerable.

2. BC’s neoLiberal party has lied about the need for better funding for treating children who have suffered sexual abuse.

3. The installation of a Representative for Children and Youth last fall should be viewed in this new light.

4. The government should actually hold legislative sessions for public accountability.

5. Tom Christensen’s offices are just gorgeous [see above] with their new renovations using money that could have paid for child sexual abuse counsellors.

It was a sick, sick Halloween when in question period, Minister of Children and Family Development Tom Christensen tried to dance around being caught by the Times Colonist [see below] in redacting critical elements of a report, thus allowing the Ministry to deny providing poor service to child sexual abuse victims.

Christensen, with no sense of irony: “It’s unfortunate that the opposition is choosing to politicize this issue.”

Then NDP MLA Rob Flemming followed up the questioning, “Sadly, it isn’t the first time they’ve tried to cover up failings when it comes to protecting children. Last fall the opposition revealed an FOI which was sent inadvertently to the opposition, complete with handwritten sticky-notes. That FOI about child protection in the Coroner’s Service had a handwritten note from the Deputy Solicitor General asking for more severing because it ‘contradicts what we’ve said to this point.’ The FOI also showed the public affairs bureau has been given sign-off authority by this government.”

Christensen’s ass-covering reply: “I can tell you that the Ministry of Children and Family Development receives well over a thousand FOI requests each year. I have nothing to do with a single one of those, but in fact we have a piece of legislation that balances access to information with a number of other considerations.”

So much for ministerial responsibility. I know he doesn’t process FOI requests, but the minister is responsible for the ministry’s actions. Further, the FOI legislation isn’t designed for the government to sever information in FOIs that contradicts their public messaging to keep from appearing duplicitous.

Christensen, later: “I’m proud of what this government has accomplished for children and youth with mental health issues across this province — a child and youth mental health plan that is the envy of jurisdictions across Canada.”

I wonder if those jurisdictions envy the BC neoLiberals’ ability to redact documents to justify defunding child sexual abuse treatment programs.

And now I think back to last November when the government reluctantly decided to actually hold a legislative session to appoint a Representative for Children and Youth, a session that the NDP stretched out to a whopping 3 days. Knowing now that at that time the government was hiding the report that was critical of their funding of child sexual abuse treatment, maybe that helps explain why that Representative appointment was enough to justify actually holding a fall legislative session.

2006 report identified problems with B.C.’s child abuse programs
Lindsay Kines
Times Colonist
Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The B.C. government has known for 18 months that its program to help sexually abused children is in trouble and needs help, documents obtained by the Times Colonist show.

Long before stories broke last spring about children waiting months for counselling, a review by the Ministry of Children and Family Development uncovered extensive problems with its Sexual Abuse Intervention Program (SAIP).

The April 2006 review concluded that the 47 agencies and societies helping abused children felt neglected, isolated and short-changed by government.

“Providers were unanimous in their view that program funding is insufficient to meet the needs for SAIP services,” the 26-page review stated.

The report said the program was a “critical element” of services related to child and youth mental health and “deserving of a more explicit focus.”

“There is a pervasive view among providers that the program has been neglected by government decision-makers over the past several years,” the report stated

The ministry blanked out those comments from a copy of the review released under the province’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

But the TC has obtained an unedited version of the report that shows many of the agencies complained about a lack of money for training, poor wages for counsellors, an inability to travel to provide services in remote geographic areas, isolation from decision-makers and deteriorating relationships over the past 10 years.

“A more intensive focus on sexual-abuse intervention programming should yield greater satisfaction among providers and improved access and quality of services for clients, resulting in a more consistent standard of care across the province,” the report said.

The province’s sexual abuse program made headlines last spring when Victoria’s Mary Manning Centre was forced to issue layoff notices to three part-time therapists because of a lack of funding. The subsequent publicity prompted public donations totaling more than $130,000 that allowed the centre to re-hire therapists and eliminate a waitlist for sexually abused children.

A TC investigation at the time found that other agencies were also struggling, that sexually abused children were waiting up to six months for treatment in some regions, and that the program’s budget had been frozen at $3 million for 17 years.

Children’s Minister Tom Christensen expressed concern last May that the budget had been frozen for so long.

“I’m asking my staff questions about that to see if it’s something we need to be looking at more closely,” he said.

The ministry’s review a year earlier, however, had already identified key areas requiring attention, including “establishing appropriate funding.”

“Providers maintain that funding has not kept pace with population growth, particularly in high-growth geographic areas, or inflation,” the review said.

Christensen said in an interview this week that he did not know all the details of the review last spring, though he was aware his ministry had been looking at the sexual abuse program. The review was done about five months before he was appointed minister.

“Having said that, quite frankly my answers in the spring wouldn’t have been any different,” he said.

Christensen said it’s no surprise that when the ministry surveys agencies to see if they have a shortage of cash, “you get the answer, ‘Yes, there is.'”

He noted the review found little consistency among how agencies run sexual-abuse counselling programs across the province, and stressed the need to establish standards before dealing with money matters.

“That’s the work that’s been underway for the las
t number of months,” Christensen said. Draft standards are ready for review, and the ministry recently held a training session on trauma counselling, he said.

“We are moving forward in terms of trying to ensure that this is an effective program and that the public can be assured of quality services, regardless of where they may access them in the province, and that there’s some consistency of standards,” he said.

Once that’s done, he hinted at a possible budget boost for the program in the 2008-2009 fiscal year. “I didn’t make any secret of it in the spring that I was surprised that the funding had been frozen, and I certainly am of the view that when people have suffered sexual abuse and we have effective counselling that can help them to deal with that, then we need to be working hard to make it available.”

USA vs. Iran and Cubazuela

When w.Caesar should be gracefully entering his presidential lame duck status and thinking about who to pardon [whoops, he already got on that with Scooter Libby], he is instead feeding warm, bleeding horse meat to the dogs of war.

From today’s Washington Post:

In approving far-reaching, new unilateral sanctions against Iran, President Bush signaled yesterday that he intends to pursue a strategy of gradually escalating financial, diplomatic and political pressure on Tehran, aimed not at starting a new war in the Middle East, his advisers said, but at preventing one. …With yesterday’s actions, which included the long-awaited designations of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and of the elite Quds Force as a supporter of terrorism, Bush made clear that he is willing to seek such leverage even without the support of his European allies.

I seem to remember the rhetoric in late 2002. Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction and that despite all the OCD midnight rifle barrel cleaning, w.Caesar only wanted peace, until the UN Security Council wouldn’t sanction the US invasion plans making him invade with his ethereal Coalition of the Willing instead of Old Europe.

Life is rarely this simple: listen to politicians so that we can believe the opposite of what they say. w.Caesar is good for that.

Moving on to our own hemisphere, w.Caesar can’t stand anti-neoliberal, democratically elected leftist governments in Latin America.

Responding to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said that Hugo Chavez is a “threat to regional stability,” Venezuelan Vice-President Jorge Rodriguez affirmed that Hugo Chavez is indeed a “tremendous threat” to the “empires of the world,” and assured they would continue to be a “greater threat” as time goes on. “Of course he [Chavez] is a threat to the stability of the empires of the world, for those who consider themselves the world police, for those who think they have a right to invade countries and massively murder the population,” replied the Venezuelan vice-president to a recent statement made by Robert Gates during a visit to El Salvador. …

Gates then warned that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was mainly a “threat to the freedom and economic prosperity of the people of Venezuela.” According to Gates, Chavez “has been very generous in offering their resources to people around the world, when perhaps these resources could be better used to alleviate some of the economic problems facing the people of Venezuela.”

Gates should have said the word “rich” when he called Chavez a “threat to the freedom and economic prosperity of the rich people of Venezuela.” Conveniently, Gates ignored all domestic economic and social reform in Venezuela.

I’m not entirely comfortable with Hugo Chavez’s desire to have decree power. When he has such legislative support, I’m not sure it’s necessary. The USA criticizes Venezuela as being dictatorial, despite its electoral unambiguity compared with Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 and hundreds of other jurisdictions with Republican electoral fraud this decade. Add to this a steaming pile of soft fascism in the USA and we get a sense of US hypocrisy: w.Caesar’s signing statements asserting which parts of legislation the executive branch will not obey, and this tasty list of Amnesty International’s worries about the land of the free and the home of the brave that sounds quite a bit like Chile after 9.11.1973:

  • Secret detention
  • Enforced disappearance
  • Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
  • Outrages upon personal dignity, including humiliating treatment
  • Denial and restriction of habeas corpus
  • Indefinite detention without charge or trial
  • Prolonged incommunicado detention
  • Arbitrary detention
  • Unfair trial procedures

So then yesterday when w.Caesar warned the world that there will be a transition coming in Cuba [presumably when Castro dies], but Cubazuela responded assertively:

“He spoke like an imperialist and a colonialist,” said Venezuelan parliamentarian Saul Ortega about Bush’s statements. Ortega assured that the reaction to these threats will be increased unity among the people of Latin America. “In response we have to close ranks in defense of the principles of sovereignty and self-determination,” he said.

Vice-foreign minister Rodolfo Sanz assured that the United States was making a mistake with their statements towards Cuba and maintained that the “times have changed.”

“We aren’t going to sit here with our arms crossed before some diabolic adventure,” he said. Sanz assured that the Cuban people can count on support from nations like Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua, among others, stating that “Cuba is not alone.”

The boldness of the Latin American political economic agenda in the last decade is a testament to the recovery of economic shock, terror and genocide visited upon them by Milton Friedman and his neoliberal storm troopers over the last 35 years. Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine‘s final chapter talks about how when people or cultures rebuild their communities and name their oppressors when they recover from shock. This is the spirit in which Cubazuela has responded to w.Caesar’s signaling of regime change in Cuba. Let’s be honest. The US corporate interests in Cuba are legion. Cuba will become the next Haiti as Canada and the US have squashed hope into desperation there.

Words like diabolic, imperialist, colonialist, sovereignty, self-determination and the simple phrase–times have changed–indicate that a Grenada-style hemispheric military excursion into Cuba will not easily guarantee the Republicans’ retention of the White House or a recovery of Congress.

Cuba is indeed not alone. The whole hemisphere is tilted against w.Caesar with the exception of business/media elites and the apolitical or ignorant, RRSP-hoarding, gadget-worshipping [dwindling numbers of the] middle class in NAFTAland and Latin American compradors.

And with the record oil profits that w.Caesar has facilitated as he helped oil pass $80 a barrel, he has ended up funding Venezuela’s upgrading of its military.

Back to Naomi Klein, however, to follow her thesis: war is good for corporate profitability and the GDP. Peace impairs economic growth. So it might not even matter to the disaster/conflict capitalists that a war with Iran or Cubazuela is just, desirable or winnable. It’s just another opportunity to bankrupt governments and shift public wealth to global corporations.

Luckily the other Naomi [Wolf] and thousands of others including sitdownfortheconstitution.org have started what will hopefully be a 54 week campaign for Americans to steal back their constitution.

The rest of our hemisphere better get on [not off!] our asses and support them in their attempt to stifle w.Caesar’s soft fascism before it grows horns and starts sending Blackwater mercenaries into US streets. Oh, I forgot. It is already be too
late for that since they’ve been in New Orleans.

Note to TransLink: Your Riders Are Not Customers

I went to the TransLink website just now to search for the word “customer”. I found 376 references.

I also have noticed that in recent days a canned announcement pops onto Skytrains regularly asking “Skytrain customers” to not leave their lame faux-news free daily newspapers [Metro, 24] lying all over the trains cluttering them up and creating a slipping hazard for most everyone.

As part of the large trend to commodify all things public and common, riders are no longer riders, we are customers purchasing a service: mass transit. As customers we are told the class of our existence on what used to be public transit.

Now the new TransLink board is being appointed by a gang of mostly business-folk, a board not accountable to the token Council of Mayors who will be “consulted” on decisions. Public money spent by unaccountable directors appointed by mostly business interests.

If you resent being classed as a “public” transit customer instead of a co-owner of a commonly held public “public” transit system, you had better start paying more attention to the Campbell neoLiberal government’s agenda to sell us [and everything held in common] down the river.

And it would help to read Naomi Klein’s new book to get a primer on the last few decades of rationale behind the premier’s manifestation of neoliberal cancer. And if you don’t have time to read it all, you can get the 6 minute primer here.

And a few facts to make you wonder just what price we pay for a privatized, deregulated world.