Thursday, September 15, 2016

Silly Regressive Politics Part 3 - The Ideological Right and Taxes

This story caught my attention a few days ago:

Do you remember Brad Trost?  Neither did I, but he's in the news about God and taxes and the Conservative Party.

What also caught my attention were some comments....not that I ever read FB comments....

Rochelle Knox Paul in Romans 13:6-7 "That is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."

Rochelle Knox Jesus in Mark 12:17 "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." (In response to the question in verse 14 "Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?")

Leighton Tebay In the Jewish law a number of different taxes were charged. They are more commonly called tithes, but it was essentially the same thing. It was controversial in Jesus' time to pay tax to the occupying Roman state, but when the time came Jesus paid it. From this interaction we get the phrase "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's." Later on the apostle Paul encouraged Christians in Rome to pay taxes because the government has a God given role in society.

I say all this to point out, if Brad Trost's God put him on earth to stop taxes, he is very much in conflict with the God described in Jewish and Christian tradition.

Rochelle Knox And technically the 10% tithe of the Old Testament was a tax because the Israelites lived in a Theocracy.

Dave McCormick I have no particular problem with Trost believing what he wants, but he'd be a fool to sincerely believe that ALL taxes should be done away with. After all, some of those taxes pay his salary, and his pension, and his travel and living expenses.... On the other hand, if he and his ilk had to live on what people "wanted to pay", we could all be happy. Sort of a believer's tithe, if you like. I could live with that, I think.

Everyone should be concerned with government waste, but I don't think that's what he's talking about. He's talking about dismantling the things that make our country a good place in which to live. Of course, I would hope he'd be against fake lakes at G20 meetings, expensive gazebos, an unlimited amount spent on F35 fighter jets.... Need I go on? The last bunch of "conservatives" we put up with for 10 years were NOT good fiscal managers.

My main concern with "conservatives" like these is that they'aren't builders. All they know how to do is tear down the things that make our society good, tolerant, civilized. If you don't believe me, then just look at where the USA is going. How's that working so far? They tend to dismantle all decent programs until they don't work and people get angry and frustrated, at which point they sell the infrastructure to their corporate buddies. If this isn't, in fact, reality, someone needs to prove to me that it isn't so.

I do have a problem with these "evangelicals" who deny evolution, climate change, medical science and science in general. If they want to live in the Dark Ages and believe that the earth is 6000 years old, I guess that's OK with me, but they should NEVER be in a position where they can control the advancement of knowledge for the rest of society.

So Trost can believe what he wants. Fortunately, I believe that the majority of Canadians have very little interest in religious zealots and his kind of negativity. That should keep him out of any position of real power forever.

So.  Now you know who Brad Trost is.  Seems Brad fits into this little cartoon quite well.  Someone to watch, obviously.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Regressive Politics Part I - The Present-Day Conservative Party & the CBC

  1. 1.
    becoming less advanced; returning to a former or less developed state.
    "the regressive, infantile wish for the perfect parent of early childhood"
  2. 2.
    (of a tax) taking a proportionally greater amount from those on lower incomes.

I'm thinking this will be a series of posts dealing with the regressive policies of government, whatever political stripe.  Of course, my predilection will be to focus on policies of the Conservative Party of Canada because I feel they exemplify this behaviour best, but I'm open to any possibilities

First, though, relates to a story that appeared just yesterday.  In it, a Party leadership hopeful, Tony Clement, takes aim at bridge tolls, Canada Post and the CBC.

His stance on the CBC, unsurprisingly, is that funding should be cut with the expectation that the National Broadcaster would "go the way of the Dodo", "liberating" taxpayers from the cost of supporting the CBC.

My initial rejoinder would be that perhaps Canada should be liberated from governments that spend taxpayers money on fake lakes and gazebos.  And this was just the tip of the iceberg.  That meeting of G8 leaders became a sinkhole into which a staggering $47 million disappeared.  The "Government of Fiscal Responsibility", indeed.  Party loyalists might have forgotten, but this model of "fiscal restraint" was all in the news back then.

But back to the CBC.  I understand that some people just don't like the idea of the CBC, or perhaps it's the reruns of "Anne of Green Gables" or really, who knows.  It ain't Fox News, that's for sure, proving that there is at least some sanity in this crazy world.

Detractors wave their arms and shout that the CBC is a Liberal Party mouthpiece.  Now, I've been around a few decades, long enough to have seen the CBC handle a number of different federal regimes.  There was the Liberal "Sponsorship Scandal".  I'm deliberately providing links to CBC reporting here, by the way.  Then there is this list of the Top 10 Scandals in Canadian Political History, provided by the CBC.  The assertion that the CBC goes easy on the Liberals is nonsense.  There was a good deal of critical comment when Jean Chretein attacked demonstrators and the RCMP pepper-sprayed students and other demonstrators exercising their right to peaceful assembly and their right to peaceful protest.

I could provide other examples, but a possible conclusion is that Conservative or other right-wing loyalists just can't handle criticism and when a broadcaster, any broadcaster, is critical of the party they cherish, they see red and feel rage.  They forget the grilling of parties they hate.  In particular, they seem to forget that the job and the duty of any broadcaster is to ask questions and to take any government to task.  I think the CBC does a pretty good job of this and, quite frankly, a better job than many other media outlets.

Nation-building is also important.  Canada is a big country and holding it together is a difficult task.  Having a National Broadcaster that is able and mandated to present stories that reflect the diverse nature of this diverse and large country is a significant part of maintaining our identity and our cohesiveness.  Likely there are those who don't think this is important.  Maybe they should stand up and let everyone know how little they value the country that is our home.  The story linked to above also points to other matters that need to be fixed.  It's not just about the CBC.

And finally, just remember the 3-hour+ concert featuring the Tragically Hip.  As a friend of mine pointed out: "With no commercials? In prime time? When it went overtime? During the Olympics?"

With any luck, the Conservatives will continue down their current path, the one that resulted in their defeat at the polls last fall.  Their stay in political oblivion could continue.  Perhaps they too can join the Dodo.....

Fixing Harper - Part 11 - Trade Deals

In the aftermath of Brexit, the lurking debate over the TPP here in Canada, Donald Trump's rhetoric about trade deals in the USA and bringing home jobs, I discovered this post I put on Facebook sometime back during the election.

Letter to the Editor, Toronto Star:
"Stephen Harper has been boasting of the 43 trade agreements Canada has, implying that this somehow is good for our economy and a tribute to his economic policies. He neglects to mention that of the agreements he has signed with 38 countries since 2006, we have a trade surplus with only one, Norway.
We are actually supporting the economies of the other 37 countries although this includes countries of the European Union with which he signed an agreement in principle but which has never been settled nor finalized by the governments of any of the countries including Canada and is currently in limbo.
Of the other five countries with which we had an agreement before 2006, our trade surplus is with only one, the United States, and that has fallen drastically as the auto industry deserts us for Mexico and the southern U.S. states. Other than the U.S. and Mexico and Korea (since January of 2015), the trade with all the others is minuscule and, while negative, is only a tiny part of our global trade.
Mr. Harper has a well-honed skill in dropping figures without context to confuse the voters and cover up his incredibly poor economic skills."
Denis McKee, Toronto

We learned yesterday that Mr Harper had cleared out his office and has officially resigned his seat in Calgary.

Friday, August 05, 2016

More Chats with Climate Change Deniers

Yes, it seems I can't resist temptation....

It all started, as most things do these days, with a post on Facebook.  The Fraser Institute (you know, that neoliberal "think tank" funded by right-wing fanatics and the oil industry... that "charitable organization" that the Harper government refused to examine along with others during it's witch-hunt a couple of years ago) recently came out with a paper claiming that "A Carbon Tax is Not a Price" .

I noticed some comments that were taking the usual climate change science denial tack.  So I decided (ie: what better judgement?) to stick in an oar or two.

Almost all the comments posted must come from people who wait expectantly on the edges of their chairs for the latest missive from the Fraser Institute and then jump in to show how much they support whatever regressive notion the Institute is promoting this time.  At least that's what I think is going on.  How else to explain the sheer number and almost complete unanimity of message apparent in their comments.  A selection (I've included names just to prove that I'm not making this stuff up):

Doug Dawdy Please man. Most of what you wrote is bullshit and has been proven as such. Read something other than what enviro fasists put out and promote. Spend some time researching the subject instead of sipping away at the koolaid.

 Ryan Marsh Of course the climate is changing! It's always been changing, and will always be changing. Do you really believe that we're the cause? We have such an insignificant effect, that it's not even worth trying to change. One volcano pumps out more green house gas than our species has in all of history. The solar cycles are more of a contribution to climate change than anything else. Maybe if we tax the sun we can save the climate!

 Danny Cameron anyone that supports this is a fool.they aren't doing anything to reduce pollution or to clean up the mess that is all over the world.if you want to change things how about taking the profits from oil companies and invest it into our country to make things better instead of taking more from the people who doesn't have enough to survive now.
Of note here is the complete lack of anything to back up their claims.  Of course, this is the usual tactic - spew vitriol and attacks but avoid facts.... probably because there aren't any.

For instance, the comment about volcanoes and solar cycles.  First, the sun's activity has been decreasing so we're actually getting less heat from the sun and, second, volcanoes are an insignificant contributor to climate change.  In fact, most volcanoes will temporarily cool the climate.  For a reference, there is this. 

 In fact, every single argument trotted out is old, tired and answered, in many cases, years ago.  You can see them all here, posed and answered.

You might well ask.... Why bother?  These people can't be convinced.  They have no evidence.  Evidence doesn't matter to them.  So why bother?

I have a simple, two-word answer:  For Fun.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Yes, They Finally Have Gone Crazy

Very little surprise, really.  But the RNC (Republican National Convention) has endorsed Donald Trump as their presidential candidate.

This is who they think is presidential material:

Donald Trump Sexism Tracker: Every Offensive Comment in One Place.

Even Jon Stewart came our of retirement to weigh in on the decision.

Social media has a near-constant stream of videos and cartoons making various connections with certain unsavory historical figures.  Here is one.

Another discusses the rise of Hitler in pre-WWII Germany and leaves the viewer to draw his/her own conclusions.

His acceptance speech has even been subjected to some "fact checking".

Trump, of course, has been whipping up sentiment over immigration.  Talk of a wall along the Mexican border spawned this tiny wall around Trump's Hollywood Walk of Fame Star.

Some cartoons make fun of the content of his speeches.

And then there are the more "serious" analyses.

Buzzfeed posted a video comparing the American candidate to Canada's current Prime Minister.

Even the Calvin & Hobbes cartoons are getting into the act.

This is going to be the main topic of conversation for the next few months.  The election is in November.  With everything else that's been happening south of the 49th recently, one might well ask: "What next"?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Brexit - A Variety of Views

Just a few days ago, the voters of the UK had their say on whether they should stay part of the European Union or leave.  They voted to go, but by a slim margin: 52% to 48%.  Voter turnout was reportedly high.

Since then, the markets and the Pound have been understandably nervous and under downward pressure.

Of course the pundits, the economists, the politicians, and the columnists have all had much to say about the outcome.  Was it a vote against the elite?  Was it a vote against immigration policies?  Was it a vote to "take the country back"?

In this article, the vote was seen as proof of the "Insularity and Failure of Western Establishment Institutions".

This article claimed that the outcome wasn't a vote against the EU but rather a vote against the modern world.  Hmmm.  Perhaps.

This author posted in Counterpunch that the vote was "A Blow for Peace and Democracy".  Anger against "globalization".   

And then there were those who noted the divide between older voters and younger voters, the latter voting in a solid majority for remaining in the EU.  The divide between old and young voters regarding Brexit mirrors the generational divide over climate change.

And then, of course, there were the opinions of the Trumpster, illustrating, once again, why he is exceptionally poor presidential material.  Take note, Americans.

It's an unsettling time. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Navigation (What the guidebooks don't tell you)

A few driving tips gleaned from 5 weeks of driving in France and Switzerland outlined here for your amusement or education.  Fortunately, everyone drives on the right, so at least you don't have to contend with that issue.  It means you have to wave your sword out the left window and brandish it with your left hand, but c'est la vie.

First, get yourself a good, high resolution road atlas.  There are many roads in many directions and many towns and villages.  Trust me.  You will need a road atlas.  Not a road map.

Second, get a navigator.  You may think you have a good sense of direction but it will be of little use and will not equal having a live person in the passenger seat with their nose glued to the pages of the atlas (Did I mention the atlas?), making decisions.  This navigator should be able to infer significance from subtle clues linking the atlas to the reality in front of you.  Being comfortable with indecision and uncertainty are helpful attitudes, for both navigator and driver.  Such attributes will be put to the test in heavy traffic, especially where everyone is moving at higher speed.

Switzerland makes almost no use of route numbers other than on their few big highways, and then seemingly only as an afterthought.  This may seem of little importance until you experience trying to find the names and locations of towns you don't know, all in German.  It's not especially user friendly, let's say.

France, on the other hand, makes liberal use of route numbers.  There are "A" roads (usually toll), "N" roads (usually good, usually wide, sometimes multi-lane divided), and lastly, the "D" roads.  These can be much like "normal" roads and are definitely scenic, but they also may be very narrow.  What can I say?  Rent a small car.

Despite using route numbers, France almost never gives you advance warning about which route number is turning what way up ahead.  That information will not be revealed until you are actually "at" the intersection.  At a roundabout, for example, there will be a sign in advance, but it will only show which towns can be accessed from each exit on the roundabout.  Frustration in Switzerland with relying only on this information is duplicated here too.  Try to know in advance which towns you are headed towards and hope they are in the list provided on the signs, otherwise, get comfortable with making quick decisions and hope someone else isn't right on your tail, aiming for the same exit. 

That said, many of the intersections are in the form of roundabouts.  It's quite possible to simply go around and around the roundabout, keeping to the inside lane, until you feel confident about which exit choice you are about to make.  It may seem an odd thing to do.  Silly-looking, even, but you won't see these people again, so do what you have to do.

Avoid cities.  You will drive through many small towns and villages, but cities are to be avoided like the plague.  Streets are narrow, convoluted and clogged with vehicles.  If you must visit a city, and there are many interesting cities to visit, find a place to strategically park and then walk.  The interesting bits of these cities are usually pretty compact, so walking is a great option.  And besides, walking is good for you.

Although the "A" roads can be a quick way to get places, their traffic jams can be truly awful.  Kilometers of barely moving vehicles can make quiet, narrow country lanes and villages seem very tolerable.  Avoid Monday mornings.

Travel time means more than distance.  What with the villages, the traffic, the corners, the hills and switchbacks, getting anywhere will take far longer than you would think.  The only solution to this is to use the "A" roads.

Lastly, a sense of humour and adventure will be beneficial.  Despite the best efforts of navigator and driver, mistakes will be made.  One of you will realize that somehow, you are on the wrong road. Sometimes the best discoveries are made when those accidents happen.  Sometimes the road less traveled has just been missed by everyone else. "Carpe accidentum" and make the best of it.  Remember, you can always turn around or you can keep exploring.