Friday, June 20, 2008

Mr. McCain goes to Ottawa

So John McCain, the Republican nominee for president of the United States, came to Ottawa and gave a speech to a group of business-minded people at the Economic Club of Ottawa.

After some back-patting, he gets down to the meat of his discussion, things like "the flows of our energy" which must be a reference to the fact that NAFTA prevents us from holding back the flow of our energy south of our border.

And you can't be a Republican without talking about 9/11, although he managed not to talk about the "spectre" or "wake" of 9/11, he did have this to say:

Our governments have made real progress in keeping our borders closed to terrorists and open to trade.
I could equally well argue that this rock keeps tigers away. I'll sell it to you for five dollars (American money accepted at par).

Already, we cooperate in preparing for emergencies-- exchanging information and manpower to coordinate our response to danger.
Yeah. We're not very happy about that. You see, we think (in our strange democratic way) that the people should be aware what sort of agreements their governments are making - especially if they involve certain kinds of military "manpower" from other countries "helping out". That's why the whole SPP thing has everybody nervous. It was bad enough when NAFTA let American companies sue the Canadian government for demanding that a certain carcinogen be removed from gasoline. Now you bring "manpower" in to our country?

At the same time, Canada and America are joined in other vital causes around the world-- from the fight against nuclear proliferation to the fight against global warming, from the fight for justice in Haiti to the fight for democracy in Afghanistan.
Nuclear proliferation? Are we talking the nonexistant WMDs in Iraq or the nonexistant WMDs in Iran? Or should we talking the new ones that have been added to the arsenals of India and Pakistan? Or maybe the ones Israel has or the new ones the U.S. military is designing?

And global warming? Give it a rest. The last I heard from the Bush Administration was that there was nothing we could do about it so everyone should just learn to live with it.

Lastly, Afghanistan is nothing like a democracy. The place is run by a "loya jirga" of rich warlords embezzling funds out of the reconstruction money.

Canada and America are still fighting in defense of Afghanistan-- in the honorable cause of freedom for that long suffering country, and greater security for ourselves.
Defense. What a word. We imposed a government on the country and put a guy who consulted for an American oil company at its head. And why was Afghanistan long-suffering? Because the Americans intentionally drew the Soviets in to Afghanistan and used it to bleed them dry with Osama bin Laden's fanatics. "Lesser of Two Evils" was the argument, I believe.

It happens that I also regard the prison at Guantanamo as a liability in the cause against violent radical extremism,
That's pretty bland for a guy who was actually tortured in a prison camp. His chief complaint about the prison camp seems to be that it isn't effective. One supposes that if he could find a way to make an illegal, immoral, war crime useful he might not oppose it.

Under U.S. and Canadian leadership, the Montreal Protocol began the process of phasing out gases that were destroying our planet's ozone layer. That cap-and-trade system removed the threat of acid rain.
Are you sure? Can you back up that bit about acid rain? Isn't it also true that most of North America's manufacturing actually moved to East Asia? Wouldn't that have more to do with the pollution reduction?

And now McCain (or at least his speech writer) manages to get subtle.
As you all know, Canada is America's largest energy supplier ... We stand much to gain by harmonizing our energy policies, just as have gained by cooperating in trade through NAFTA ... We have established North America as the world's largest economic market
Do you see how that works? Do you feel the glue on your shoes? The quicksand swallowing your country whole? Yes Canada, little pet, you have all that energy and you're so, very, very important. Let's harmonize, hum a little song together. Look how you get to be a part of this big "North America" when you join us. Yes, so powerful, my little pet, with your quaint "humanitarianism" and your "reconstruction". Yes, rest your eyes and listen to the lullaby. Ignore how your military has stopped doing all that "peacekeeping" of which you were so rightfully proud. The operation won't hurt a bit and when you wake up, everything will be all better.

Doesn't he seem to be pushing NAFTA a little hard, especially to the business community? What's he so afraid of? To whom is he really speaking?

If a treaty allows a foreign corporation to sue a government for protecting the health of the nation, it's a bad treaty. If a treaty is used to prevent a country from safeguarding its natural resources, then it's a bad treaty.

If a treaty needs to be filled out in secret and signed against the will of population with hoards of misinformation in the press, then it's definitely a bad treaty.

NAFTA is a bad treaty. But then, I'm only saying that because I believe in democracy (the will of people) as opposed to "democracy" (supporting the Bush Adminstration and its financial backers in bombing and victimizing whomever they want).

Thanks for coming out, Mr. McCain, but we'll all be very glad to see the back of your part come January.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Deregulation is just Thievery

I'm beginning to feel that I can make it a blanket statement: "If a man comes on the news espousing 'deregulation', that man is a thief."

It's coming out now, in regards to this spike in the price of oil, that the real culprit is simply deregulation. There's a bit from NBC that you can listen to here. They talk a lot of about "single commodity futures" and the various personalities that were involved in making deregulation of oil trading happen.

But the crunch is not the single commodity future. It's not monopolization (as it was in California). It's deregulation. The "Enron Loophole" as it's being called, allows trade in certain energy futures to be conducted without any oversight of the S.E.C.

It doesn't matter, at that point, what the mechanisms are. Whether it's single commodity futures, sub-prime mortgages or Savings and Loan, if someone isn't watching stock brokers and traders with an eagle eye then we're going to have cheating eventually. Eventually, we'll be hosing the general populace. There are a host of ways to cheat and the average person is absolutely helpless to understand any of it.

That's why the S.E.C. was created - to police a complicated financial system using people who new how the game could be gamed. Take away the S.E.C. and you end up with $140 barrel oil when market principles tell us it should be around $80.

My point isn't just about oil though, it's about deregulation. Deregulation is sold as a way to "increase competition" and let the free market take care of everything. Never, ever believe it.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Obama's 57 states

If you've ever wondered about the utter vacuousness of the right wing in the United States, at their utter inability to put together a platform, just search for "Obama 57" on youtube.

For example.

Yes, believe it or not, Senator Obama made a joke about the insanity of his travel itinerary and said that he had traveled to "57 states". You could hear his audience laugh. That's because it was a joke of weary exhaustion.

But look at the comments. It's as if these people have never even heard of sarcasm. Obama thinks there are 57 states! OMG! Let's get on the interwebs and internet to everyone about it!


Here's a clip regarding the "57 state gaffe" from Fox News. [Don't you learn that in] "3rd grade, 4th grade?", the anchorwoman asks.

I suppose that you learn the number of states in third or fourth grade. But when do they teach you about sarcasm as a literary and rhetorical device? Maybe not until high school.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Do we still need a Carbon Tax?

The idea of the Carbon Tax is to increase the cost of fossil fuels - or at least the burning of fossil fuels - in order to discourage their use. This is a good idea for a number reasons regardless of your stance on anthropogenic global warming. The contribution of fossil fuels to pollution, terrorism, the Bush Administration and all sorts of other evils is well established.

My question is in regards to how much of a carbon tax were we planning on imposing. This idea had its genesis when a barrel of oil was somewhere in the $20 range. Oil just bounced off $140 per barrel. Were we planning on establishing a tax that would make oil 600% more expensive? I find that very difficult to believe, but I never did see any hard numbers from the Carbon Tax people stating where they'd be placing the tax and how much it would have to be.

My impression is that even with a complete shift from corporate and personal income taxes all the way over to a carbon tax, the effective cost of oil would not be more than the current price.

And is the current price enough to change our use of fossil fuels? Just barely.

And does it make sense to still support a carbon tax, given the crushing effect the current price of oil is already having on the lives of lower income people and the economy in general? My suspicion is that introducing a carbon tax now, piling on top of the soaring cost of oil, would prove to be destructively shocking to our way of life.

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