Friday, September 30, 2011

The Liberals, NDP, and Greens Should Unite to Form a New Party

On the basis of this week alone, progressives are in for either four or, some have said, twenty years of soulful weeping. It's downright despairing.  I mean what's the use of following the House of Commons' deliberations when the outcomes will always be forgone conclusions arrived at by the Harper Regime's autocratic, mean, and twisted thinking?

What's to be done? Well there is always grassroots organization and massive protests about particular issues - letter writing, tweeting, blogging, marching, etc - but such a strategy while it is cathartic and may attract the media and therefore public attention will not sway this fascistic government one bit. Get real, eh? Besides, the conventional rhetoric of protest as a strategy has in general lost its edge because it has become so predictable and so commonplace.  It no longer startles.  Protest smotest says the general public and the government says even less.

There is always genuine guerrilla revolution - and it may actually come to that if the effects of global warming become  increasingly manifest  here in Canada - but for the moment that would seem a very drastic albeit not necessarily a totally undo-able choice under extreme circumstances.

So what could be done that is practicable and practical?  Well, this may sound a bit crazy, but the Liberals, NDP, and Green Party could get together to form a new party of progressives.  True, there is a significant conservative element in each of these parties and that's a good thing as a check - some conservative principles in and of themselves have value - but the progressive elements in all three parties far outweigh that conservative component. Of course each party would like to preserve its respective brand, and of course there would be hard negotiation and unpalatable compromises. But if things continue as they are this week, all three of these parties, I predict,  will feel themselves becoming increasingly frustrated and trapped, as will the 60% or so that did not vote for the Harper Regime.  This possibility may very well present itself in such a strained context.

In the meantime, perhaps we in the grassroots ought to begin lobbying each party in an effort to bring them together to initiate at least discussions of the possibility. It may be, under our current institutional system of government, the only way to get our country back.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

New copyright Legislation is a Cave-In to US Studios to Prevent Lost Revenue Streams

Michael Geist is right on the new copyright bill: one part seeks a fairly good balance; the other, punishing digital lock breakers, is a cave-in to US Studios. People will find ways to copy a digitally locked DVD to mobile platforms and computers despite the deterrent. The question is shouldn't they be allowed to if they own the DVD? Public screening rights - in which, as a former film producer, I believe - should not apply to personal playback devices. What's the essential difference between playing back a movie on a DVD player and a mobile device? I suppose you could argue that a mobile device provides a disposition to share, but that's a weak and cynical argument assuming the worst of people: we'll legislate against fair use on these devices just in case they do decide to share. True, one can copy a DVD that doesn't have digital locks, but what commercial distributor is ever going to market a digital-lock free DVD?

This legislation is not about protecting creators' rights, as James Moore claims; it's about coercing us into buying either the DVD/Blu-ray with a digital copy or a downloadable digital copy for playback on a mobile or portable device. In other words, this is all about lost revenue streams not for creators, but distributors, who have a very powerful lobby in Washington - nothing more.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Leeds Grenville All Candidates

Only Charlie Taylor of the Green Party of Ontario offered a consistently progressive perspective at last night's safe and cozy Chamber affair. (I have yet to see a serious disagreement at any of these North Grenville Chamber of Commerce nights let alone a debate.) Both Dave Lundy (NDP) and Ray Heffernan (OLP) speechified us all night long in a desperate bid to gain support in what they know in their heart of hearts is a losing cause, and of course Steve Clark offered his usual slick talking gloss in addition to an enumeration of how many babies, figuratively speaking, he has kissed throughout Leeds Grenville since winning the seat from mad dog in a bi-election.

But Charlie came off as a real person, admitting at one point that he knew he hadn't a real chance of winning the seat and, on another, that he was no politician but was in it because he cared about the issues. This was no act: his sincerity was palpable and, most significantly, persuasive. Vote for the values to which you subscribe despite the political odds against you was one of Charlie's main messages. In other words, don't play politics with your vote.

The problem is that heroic effort was wasted even if it was cathartic, as all such pitches to our intelligence are in Leeds Grenville. Last night's attendance was sparse - but apparently larger than all the other all candidates meetings so far in the riding - but of those in attendance, not counting the wives and kids of candidates, at least 85% were over 65 while the other 15% were perhaps in their 40s or 50s. Of these, I counted 6 potential progressives, 3 of whom were Charlie's parents and partner. What's that tell you? You could run an orangutan in Leeds Grenville for the PCPO, and s/he win, and this has been going on for 92 years at the provincial level. Steve Clark could stay home and watch the whole thing on Cogeco and he'd still win. He wouldn't even have to send an avatar. The only question is by how much.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

J. E. Hoover Trailer

Probably Leo's best performance ever and perhaps Eastwood's best work too. DeCaprio is the best actor of his generation and is only going to get better as he ages. He, like Daniel Day Lewis and Johnny Depp, has extraordinary screen presence, but, unlike these two, DeCaprio's will become even more powerful, I predict, with age. (Who watched Bogey in his 30s? We adored him in his 40s and 50s.) ) Lewis is second to Leo in intensity, and Depp is second in range. Pitt, Clooney, Norton, and all the Ryans, etc. are all second tier compared to these three. So sayeth a former film producer.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Alberta Has More Than one Reason to Feel Guility

But apparently doesn't, according to the Globe's Time to Lead Piece of September 12.2011:

"Alberta is the land of coal production and consumption. It’s also Canada’s dirtiest province for greenhouse gases, producing a third of the country’s emissions with a tenth of its population. The single-largest culprit isn’t from the province’s booming oil and gas sector, however. It’s a coal power plant that generates more emissions than any oil-sands facility.

Coal provides just over 70 per cent of Alberta’s power. It’s cheap (existing plants can keep running at about a third of the cost per kilowatt hour of building new nuclear, for instance) but dirty. It’s why a day of air conditioning an Alberta home can produce an entire ton of carbon pollution, and the average home’s washer, dryer and flatscreen TV often produce as much GHG as a family car. Buying an electric car in Alberta makes little difference – a Chevy Volt is just 25 per cent better than an internal combustion engine when plugged into Alberta’s coal-fired power grid."

Friday, September 9, 2011

Deconstructing Hudak's Weak Ploy

Any affirmative action initiaitve always draws forth twisted logic from its detractors. We've seen this response with language, race, and gender affirmative programs many times before. That Hudak's advisors are using the old binary opposition ploy again assumes not that they are intellectully weak, but that their target for the pitch is. They might just be right.

Setting up binary oppositions such as hardworking "Ontario" workers, on the one hand, and privileged "foreign" workers, on the other, is a common propagandistic strategy - the good guys on one side; the boogeyman on the other stealing your job - but one easy to deconstruct since the so-called foreign workers are in fact, as every journalist who questioned Hudak knew, Ontario workers.

But, as it turns out, these are vulnerable workers who need a boost and whose contribution to Ontario's economy could be significant with that help. With this policy the Liberals are of course being every bit as political as the Conservatives, but the policy is nevertheless a worthy one since there are indeed a significant number of recent immigrant professionals in Ontario who cannot practice their profession because of accreditation challenges. This has been a longstanding issue requiring some sort of feasible solution, and so the tax credit incentive to hire these people is a good one.

Hudak would appear to prefer Ontario chain gang workers cleaning up Ontarians' trash than Ontario's immigrants working and contributing in established professions. Which of these two group is going to contribute more both socially and economically to Ontario?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

System Change: Naomi Klein from Council of Canadians

Nothing Exposes the Failures of Our Economic System More than Climate Change, which is not merely an isolated, separate environmental issue, for the effects of climate change are in fact the direct result of our market based model of economic growth and all its various capitalist strategies for profit and exploitation including the most damaging - because transportation generates such massive CO2 emissions - global trade. One could say, as Prince Charles has recently (Humans at Risk of Extinction), capitalism as we know it is destroying the planet.

Monday, September 5, 2011

LabourDay's May Yet Come Again

I'm always shocked when I hear people - frequently working class and rural Canadians but many middle-class business types - rail against unions and, because they're unionized, public servants as if they were fat cats. They never seem to remember in their rant that they might not be making even the meagre wages they are had it not been for the union movement's elevation of working stardards in general. Would there be such a thing as minimum wage standards without the union and civil rights movements of the 20th century? Historical amnesia or, more likely, ignorance.

Of course, unconsciously if not consciously, they want to bring the fat cats down to their common level rather than find a collective way to rise to the better working conditions of union members - which ought to be the stardard to which all workers, whether in the private or public sector, aspire. They also fail to recognize that the core principle of capitalism - and hyperbolically so with corporate capitalism - is exploitation in the name of profit, a process in which real people are merely one of several production components, but the category most ripe for compromise if not deep exploitation in these recessionary times.

Not to mention the appalling increases in CEO's salaries and bonuses on the backs of these culled and compromised workers and the shrinking real value of their wages over the past 30 years or so. What is startling to me is how readily the middle managing underlings under these CEOs do their bidding, failing to recognize that they too are part of the great capitalist exploitation wheel. There is absolutely no point in arguing with the anti-union perspective of business types, be they corporate or small-business, who obviously see unions as a threat to both their power and profit.

Yes, unions can be abusive, dictatorial, misguided, and tenacious; but, in general, despite their failings, they remain the last guard against further exploitation of real people in their effort to maintain humane working conditions, sensible hours of work, reasonable wages, and half-decent pensions and benefits.

Many argue that in our gobalized economy and the resulting massive shift in North America away from manufacturing towards service industries, unions will wane even further. Perhaps. But perhaps, too, unions will make a comeback in this age of significantly increasing "unemployed, under-employed, and anxiously employed." Barbara Ehrenreich, quoted by Jim Coyle in his Toronto Star piece on 04.09.11)

Labour's Day may yet come again.