Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tax Cuts for the Rich

Here we go again.

As if we haven't been over this point more than enough times, let's hammer it home one more time.

A report last month from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development showing Canada to be one of a minority of OECD countries where tax cuts and other fiscal policies have primarily favoured upper income groups doesn't shore up the notion that inequality is a passing happenstance. Moreover, the fact that inequality and poverty have grown during booming economic growth when a rising tide was thought to lift all boats raises the question of what will happen when or if the economy slips into recession.

Remember the "trickle-down effect"? It's the completely unfounded idea that giving massive tax cuts to wealthy people and corporations will somehow, eventually, improve the quality of life of everyone. Have we seen enough evidence to discard this self-serving theory invented by wealthy economists to rationalize their greed?

If you want to fix inequality, you fix it directly. You tax wealthy people on the basis that they depend for their wealth on lots of poor people getting free education and health care. You directly "float all boats" by lifting the water level. This is the only method that has ever been shown to work.

But as long as the op-ed pages are run by wealthy people who hire wealthy economists, we will continue to hear about the benefits of free trade - basically repeated diatribes that third world workers in horrid conditions somehow aren't dragging down our labour standards and wages, as if somehow the laws of competition can't reach across an ocean or a border to force us to work in lousier conditions.

Eventually, it will get bad enough that we'll force our governments to stop it. But first look for a severe recession before people care enough to learn how the world really works.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Evils of Atheism

If you've ever used the Interwebs to discuss religion, you'll find that you invariably come up against religious people and atheists trying to blame each other for the world's evils.

a) a religious person will declare that you can't lead a moral life without god-belief.
b) an atheist will point out that many atheists lead moral lives and many religious people don't.
c) someone will point that Hitler was a Christian/Atheist and provide quotes to back it up.

I think this misses the point. There are nice people who are religious and there are jerks who are religious. There are nice atheists and jerk atheists.

The point I want to hit on is that there is a difference between religious and non-religious people when it comes to doing Bad Things. Bad People tend to do Bad Things, and it doesn't seem - as far as I can tell - that either religion or atheism can prevent this.

The crucial difference comes when a Bad Person tries to convince other people to do Bad Things with him. If the other people are religious, they have been taught obedience to a higher power in the place of logical morality. The more that religious people insist that "you can't be good without God", the deeper they dig this hole. What they're saying is that only God knows right and wrong and our job is to obey.

As an atheist, I find it extraordinarily frightening that other people would surrender their own moral centres the way that, for example, Abraham did.

If you can convince a man that whatever "God" says is automatically the right thing to do - regardless of the innocent people that will be hurt, regardless of any harm the act will do, regardless of the lack of humane benefit involved - then you can convince that man to do pretty much anything at all.

That, to me, is the crux of this discussion of whether atheism or a God-based religion provides a better moral compass.

If you want to convince an atheist to hurt other people, you have to convince him that a greater good is being done or that the people being hurt deserve it in some way. If you want to convince a devoutly religious man to hurt others, you need merely insist convincingly, but really on your own authority, that God wants it done.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It Ought to be Treason

I don't understand how this could have happened.

This is not the Canada that I believe in.

How could our nation have descended to the point where the head of our military can give orders that violate both the will of the people and the will of the elected Parliament?

Shouldn't there be a law against this? Shouldn't someone be in jail at this point? Shouldn't our Minister of Defence, Gordon O'Connor, have relieved General Hillier of his duties the moment he found out that Hillier had sent Canadian men and women in to the Iraqi war zone?

I looked up the definition of treason in Canada. The only way to commit treason in Canada is to either try to assassinate the Queen or to help enemies of Canada to defeat Canadian forces. This even includes giving away secrets.

There's nothing in there, however, about taking Canadians in to war. Somehow it isn't considered treasonous to take us unwilling in to war. It's only if you fight on the wrong side that you get in trouble.

But honestly, how is this not a betrayal of everything that it means to be a democracy?

The worst part is that there's no way for the population to punish General Hillier for this travesty, this immoral venture disguised as a "training mission". He isn't an elected official. We can't bounce him out in the next general election. The only guy we could really punish is the Minister of Defence - who was already forced to resign for his piss-poor handling of the abuse of prisoners taken by Canadian forces. Gordon O'Connor probably won't even run in the next election, otherwise I could vote against him. (He is, of all things, my "representative" in Parliament. How ironic is that?).

No. For hiding this from us, we have to punish the entire Conservative government. We have to throw them out and tell them they've betrayed us and betrayed us horribly. They've cut deep in to the honour of our nation, of what it means to be Canadian. We must punish them and let every future government know to keep a tight rein on the military brass who would cheat us like this.

We are not your warmongers. We do not revel in martial exploits. We are proud of the honorable service of our soldiers, but not in foreign aggression. Never like this.

That's not who we are and we won't let you change us.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Canadians Fighting in Iraq

Canadians are flying "training missions" in Iraq.

Remember when George Bush and his fellow liars misled their own country in to a immoral, illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq? Remember when they lied about nuclear weapons? Remember when they lied about Al Qaeda being in Iraq? Remember when they lied about Iraq having anything to do with 9/11?

Remember how Canada, Canadians and their Parliament said "No" to participation in the invasion of Iraq?

Apparently, our military feels that the civilian leadership made a mistake, because the military has decided that Canadians can participate in the disaster the Americans have created in Iraq.

"Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of Canada's defence staff, wrote to Gordon O'Connor, then minister of national defence, in May 2007 that in the summer and fall of that year, Canadian military aircrew would fly into Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. That decision was taken without informing Parliament."

Enough is enough. That's a war they are having over there. We didn't declare war on Iraq. We want no part of the war in Iraq and yet our military, without any approval at all, has involved us in a war.

General Hillier's only defence is:
"The overall risk associated with allowing CF aircrew to operate on USAF C-17 missions to Iraq is low."

Oh, that's reassuring. You've gone off and illegally ordered the involvement of our soldiers in a war we morally oppose but it's okay because - drum roll - they didn't get hurt doing it. This is a dirty, stupid trick the military has used to appease the American brass - an "apology", if you will, for our failure to charge full-bore in to the insane mess they've created.

Our military is no longer under our control. It's bad enough that our previous Minister of Defense was a defense industry lobbyist. It's bad enough that there's a tangled web of former military personnel, former and present government officials and defense industry spokesmen who blast us through the media with their pro-war rhetoric. Now these people, even when they completely fail to "educate" the population on the "value" of going to war, go to war anyway. And they tell us about it a year later.

This is not democracy. This is not freedom. Our soldiers are our responsibility, not just in terms of the injuries they sustain, but in terms of the moral consequences of the missions on which we send them.

If we don't know what they're doing, how can we make sure they are being used for moral purposes?

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