Saturday, April 30, 2011

What if the NDP wins

There are three things that can happen when you throw a pass, and two of them are bad.
attributed to Woody Hayes

I should say that in this blog the phrase "Socialist Horders" or "Red Menace" will not appear.

Since last weekend, we have witnessed an incredible surge of support for the NDP. I'm not talking up to 20%, we talking at least the Official Opposition or even, dare we say it, Government. Will we really say "Prime Minister Jack Layton" after the 2nd of May? Some have dismissed the surge as an invention of media in an attempt to spice up an otherwise dull election. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, still there is something happening; even the Toronto Star has come out in support of the NDP. Now that is a shock, the Official Organ of the Liberal Party of Canada comes out to support the third party. Impending sign of the apocalypse I am sure.

So what will happen if the NDP wins on Monday night. I want to suggest there are three possibilities, as as the quote from Woody Hayes says, two of them are bad

Scenario #1 The NDP decides to go ahead and as a party of principle and implement as much of their election platform as possible. Some of them include giving Quebec a guarantee 25% of the seats in the House of Commons. Even though the province is home to 23% they will be weighed a bit more then the rest of Canada. I believe was part of the Meech Lake Accord, which as memory serves, was rejected by Canadians, sorry that was the equally maligned Charlottetown Accord. Then there is the cap and trade, or the cash and grab, which fills government coffers with money and establishes a new market of trading carbon credits- think corruption. Of course the idea will be to punish the major polluters and force them to pay, which they will immediately pass on to the consumers, so we get almost no reduction of carbon and higher prices, a sure win-win scenario. You can read my thoughts about cap and trade in the blog before this one, remember I'm a supporter of the Green Party. Other promises will cost money and while laudable, it has to be realized, its costly to get more doctors and nurses. While the Star comment talks about the fiscal responsibility of many provincial NDP premiers, one name is oddly absent and that is little Bobby Rae, the NDP Premier of Ontario. Anyone want to remember Rae Days?

Then there is the issue of a lot of neophytes in the place of power, hopefully the party is full of quick learners because they will need to be. The problem is as a party of ideology, there may be many who will refuse to compromise and will go ahead with their agenda irregardless of the consequences. An important part of politics is compromise and will this be a skill many in the NDP can exercise, especially when given the reins of power?

Scenario #2

The NDP comes to power having excited a new portion of the electorate. They are inspired by the vision given by Jack Layton and the Platform. There are videos on YouTube from inspired people, think "Yes We Can" by Will.I.Am. They win and then the cold light of reality shines its bright cold ray upon the platform. The party leadership realizes it can't keep the promises, even right now there is some backpedalling. The question is, what happens when it becomes prominent. I think we have the example of this when we look down south. I noticed the NDP has tried to hitch their wagon to President Obama, but look at his track record, the US is still stuck in Afghanistan with no exit strategy, Gitmo is still open and doing a booming business and the health care, IE Obamacare is the dog's breakfast. The result is a lot of supporters of Obama, especially those of the fabled 'Generation O' are disappointed and will probably not bother to come out in the next election. I want to suggest that if the Republican Party could nominate a candidate that is intelligent, articulate and a war hero, such as, oh I don't know, Colin Powell, instead of freak shows such as Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, they would be in control of the White House after November 2012. Even when it carries out promises, it ends hurting rather then helping. Consider the cap and trade, it will effect the major polluters, those same polluters are corporations that employ a lot of the core supporters of the NDP, such as the Auto Industry, it gets hammered and the companies either inform the unions of huge lay offs or demand major concessions, its like the 90's all over again.

Scenario #3

On May 3rd the Dominion wakes to the reality of Prime Minister Layton and for some reason the Sun decides to rise in the East. The party under the wise leadership of Jack Layton is able to maintain a nice balance of compromise and remaining true to core beliefs. Even though the markets react at first badly, over the course of months they realize Canada is stronger for the NDP and things improve. People are supported and overall there are some increase in taxes but a lot of the social programs generally protect people. Seniors are protected and the health care system finally has the funds to provide people with a first rate system. Yes there are some hiccups along the way but the overall strength of Canada is such that the early teething problems of the government are soon forgotten. The Party becomes a moderate social democratic party and all is made stronger.

So those are some of my thoughts for this evening.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cap and Trade

Much is now being made on the promise of the NDP to institute a 'cap and trade' to deal with carbon emissions in Canada. There are a number of voices that are speaking out against this plan stating it is a bit of madness and will only hurt the economy and do nothing for the environment.

That's not my problem with the scheme. If that was the only issue, that is was opposed by those on the right I would not feel against it. I know that I'm standing against a lot of green political philosophy, but I feel I am correct in this.

My main problem with cap and trade is that I'm not at all confident that it will actually do anything to solve the problem. The number one problem is that it keeps the carbon based economy in place, yes it wants to lower carbon emissions, or does it. The idea is that governments will set the cap that it will allow all industry to release into the environment. The belief is that the governments of the world will set the cap lower and lower with each passing year. Those industries that are above the 'cap' will be penalized by a 'tax'. Some call it a carbon tax, I realize that's not for the entire project, but it exists as part of the plan. Of course there is always a loophole and that is the second part of the phrase 'trade'. If company 'A' is a large polluter they could always buy the credits from a energy efficient and a clean energy company, so company 'A' can keep on polluting because its not doing anything to harm the overall cap of carbon. To make sure this happens, there's got to be a way to buy the credits and of course there are various markets that will do just that.

There is a very interesting documentary called "The Story of Cap and Trade", there is a teaser:

There is a few other problems and here are my thoughts,

the moment you make a tax on a thing you effective remove any incentive to get rid of it. This is especially true with governments, for so many years governments have told us that taxation is a way to change attitude and behaviour. The primary is the so called 'sin tax', this is special taxes and levies on things such as cigarettes and alcohol. After all the taxes on these items I am sure you will agree the taxes have worked, consumption of both have decreased dramatically. The actual answer is 'not at all'. Governments know that no matter how high they put the tax, they make more money, in fact the few that decide to quit don't put a chink in the armour of money made through these taxes. In fact, it is in the vested interest of government for people to keep smoking and drinking because they get more money. Yes put the taxes up too high and it will encourage smuggling- think the smoke shacks on the Six Nations Reserve. However for the most part, people will keep buying cigarettes. It is in the best interest of governments, therefore, for people to smoke and keep smoking. As for alcohol, think of how the Liquor Stores have changed from places to restrain the purchase of alcohol to the fun places to go to buy your spirits. They want to encourage the sale of alcohol because the more sold means more money and more for the coffers of the government. Now take this same mindset and turn it into carbon taxes, it is in the interest of governments to perhaps tinker with the amounts of carbon emissions on an annual basis but it will maintain a carbon economy because the money is there to be made. Let's get back to cigarettes, everyone agrees smoking is bad for your health, this is given. It is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt- to the point of, is the government was truly serious and this is a suggest I heard a long time ago, they should declare cigarettes dangerous products and not for consumption by people. A person who said this suggested that for those who simply can't quit smoking and the government should make quit smoking strategies free to those who need them, would be to make them available through a prescription. I know there would be those who would argue that smuggling would go through the roof, well, let it be. One of the purpose of governments is to protect society and there are a lot of things that are declared dangerous to human consumption. We don't allow arsenic our food, we don't take those foods that contain arsenic because its that dangerous.

So now the government catches onto a huge source of money, cap and trade. It makes them money- which ultimately comes from all of us, since corporations pass on their cost to us. What incentive is there to get rid of carbon emissions, none, because it brings in revenue. Who knows, will we see statements such as 'Pollute Responsibly'? After all, that's the notice in Casinos and Liquor Store, there is no attempt to stop, rather enjoy so you don't harm yourself and others.

There is nothing to inspire the work to get the planet off the Carbon Economy. Forget cap and trade, we need to re-think how we run this planet. What is the dynamite energy source that is clean and green? I know some may think or say, that is the purpose of cap and trade, providing funds for future inventions. Yeah. Right. We need to kick this diet of fossil fuel and find the next source of energy.

Do we need cap and trade? In my mind is no, it is only a masquerade that looks good but in the end hides what always has been and changes nothing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One Week to Go

That's all there is, one week until election day. You can almost sense the excitement in the air. People are talking about nothing else then the election, providing you count 'when are they finished?' as election conversation.

Still I thought about the leaders of the various parties and wondered what they think of this final week. So here's some thoughts:

Stephen Harper- since the last election he developed a layer of Teflon in that nothing sticks to him at all; contempt of parliament, please; G20 scandal, big yawn, big honking fighter jets, yawn yawn yawn. I think he wants to get through this final week with as little pain as possible. He has been running a flawless campaign, no major gaffes, no comments about culture that cost him Quebec. It's looking like he might get his majority after all. If he wins, he will spend time in his secret lair with his pals from the Illuminati, the Trilateral Commission and the Bilderberg Group. As leader of them all, he plans to control the world and it starts in Canada.

Michael Ignatieff- less then one week and the nightmare ends. The pain will stop and he can go back to doing whatever he does when he's not trying to run for Prime Minister of Canada. The question is when will he resign? I suspect there will be discussions with Liberal leadership and all the people who want his job. No doubt they will promise not to stab him too much if he leaves right now.

Jack Layton- hasn't this past weekend been interesting for the NDP. I've often written that Jack who is very popular with Canadians was never able to have a halo effect, well was I wrong. It seems the party has come from its usual doldrums of 13-16% to nearly tied with the Liberals. If that wasn't exciting enough, he's leader of the pack in Quebec. I believe he hopes the week ends with the momentum either growing or consolidating. He's also hoping it ends before he has to renege on any more campaign promises and people start asking too many hard questions, like 'where's the money coming from'? He's already starting to gut his green policies. Could be interesting.

Gilles Doucette- he's going to have a tough week because he's actually going to have to campaign. With the surging NDP on his home turf he's got to give people a reason to actually vote for him. I mean usually by now he's crabbing about how rotten the rest of Canada is to Quebec, which is usually how he starts the campaign. This is good enough, but now he's got some competition. It's new territory for him, will be interesting to see how he reacts.

Elizabeth May- it's time to win at least your seat and maybe a couple more.

The Electorate. In a week we will decide the outcome of the election. We will enter that little polling station and receive a small piece of paper. With pencil in hand we shall vote for the person to represent our riding. If enough from one party win, that party will form the government and the party leader will be prime minister. If one party gains a majority then we will enjoy the fact that as much as they will ignore us, we can ignore them. Politicians are like all officials, they do their best work when we don't notice them, for when we notice them, it means they screwed up.

Don't forget to Vote

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Race for Second

There's still a lot of electioneering to happen and a lot of things can go right and or wrong for the various political parties, but as I look around the Dominion today I think there are a few truisms taking form; the next government will be formed by the Conservatives under the leadership of Stephen Harper, the campaign is rather boring and the real race is starting to heat up. You may ask what race is that? The race for the position of Official Opposition.

I've noticed recently a few changes in the advertisement that is filling up my television screen, mainly the Conservatives are positioning themselves as looking governmental and Harper as Prime Ministerial. The Liberals, almost non-existent and the NDP has now got Ignatieff in their sights. It's interesting how the latter has happened. For the last few elections, the Liberals have been trying to take votes away from the NDP- after all it is the compassionate progressive party, not the NDP that's for sure- they're a bunch of dirty commies, after all. However, things have changed, the debate gave Layton, whom a lot of Canadians like an opportunity to shine and shine he did. What he did was go after Iggy. I know some could suggest that is an easy target, but that makes me think they, the NDP know something that there is an opportunity for breakthrough. Just today I got in my email some mail from Jack- he's going after a breakthrough in Newfoundland & Labrador.

Could it be we see the NDP take both votes and seats from the Liberals. This will be a great assistance for the Conservatives because if the Centre-Left is split it will guarantee the Conservatives picking up a few seats, perhaps enough to form a majority government? Let's remember that the Chretien era back to back majorities was marked by a split of the right. It wasn't that Canadians loved the Poutine, its just he rode a split in the opposition. So we could witness Harper reaching his dream of a majority on the basis of a surging and strong NDP.

I haven't said anything about the Green Party so far, let me correct it- they have a great platform. In fact I would put their platform up with any party. To give a few examples: regarding the Internet and Net Neutrality
The Internet has become an essential tool in knowledge storage and the free flow of informationbetween citizens. It is playing a critical role in democratizing communications and society as a whole. There are corporations that want to control the content of information on the internet and alter the free flow of information by giving preferential treatment to those who pay extra for faster service.
The Green Party of Canada is committed to the original design principle of the internet - network neutrality: the idea that a maximally useful public information network treats all content, sites, and platforms equally, thus allowing the network to carry every form of information and support every kind of application.

Then there is this comment on public transporation:
Urban sprawl means commuters crawl. More roads don’t solve the problem; they make it worse. Gridlock means more air pollution and more greenhouse gas emissions. A transition to efficient light rail transit and coordinated buses will take cars off our roads, breaking the cycle of an increasing number of cars on increasingly-crowded roads to make our cities more livable.
We must build our way out of the problem of clogged roads and smog-choked cities, not by building more roads and bridges and more distant suburbs, but by building “smart growth” infrastructure.
Excellent public transit and efficient housing in high-density nodes along existing transit corridors will make cities more livable and people-friendly. The federal government must take the lead in funding the “greening” of Canada’s cities. (see Section 1.14 Infrastructure and Communities for more on federal municipal

I think its time for Canada to vote in a Green MP. If Australia and the UK could do it and survive, so can Canada. It is time for a fifth party.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Much Depends upon the NDP

A couple of articles in two different newspapers brought some interesting and different points of view. The first comes from the National Post, the headline read; "Tories, NDP get top marks for national campaigns". On the same day, the Toronto Star, the in-house organ of the Bloc Toronto (aka Liberal Party of Canada) declares: "NDP fortunes falling fast in latest poll"

Of course, the National Post is a rather right leaning newspaper that would be rather sympathetic to the claims of the Conservative Party of Canada and Stephen Harper. Consider the election strategy of the two main parties, for the Liberals, the best way to ensure election victory would be for the NDP to implode. They believe that if they can catch the votes of disgrunted or disillusioned NDP'ers, then they stand a chance to win, if not a majority then at least a minority government. They need the NDP to go away. You might remember Buzz Hargrove, he joined the Liberal team and told his, I suppose, his former NDP friends to vote Liberal. So the Star has to have headlines that state support of the NDP is collapsing, they want those now disappointed NDP'ers to vote Liberal. They know there is no way for NDP'ers to ever think of voting Conservative. Never going to happen. The startegy is to get them to think the Liberals are the next best thing and the place to put their vote.

As for the Conservatives, they need a strong NDP. Now let me say this, they know there is no way disgrunted Conservatives will go that far to the left. Conservatives will not vote NDP just as NDP'ers will not vote Conservatives. I don't think their thoughts is that Liberals will go over to the NDP, although I supposed more left leaning Liberals will go NDP. But, the votes can't go the other way. The supporters of the Conservatives need a split on the Centre-Left vote. Much like during the days of Chretien, the right was split between Conservatives and Reformed/Alliance group. Chretien was able to coast to a few majorities because of the split. Now the shoe is on the other foot, with a strong party left of the Liberals, that vote won't go to the Liberals.

It wouldn't surprise me if some with the Conservatives think it might be a good idea to completely ignore the Liberals and concentrate on the NDP. They need a strong NDP and a weak Liberal Party.

Should be interesting.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Branding Terrorism

I was coming to the end of the book Zero History by William Gibson, when I read this quote from one of the people involved in the story. It was during a discussion when Garreth says:
Terrorism was almost exclusively about branding.

First of all, let me say, Zero History is an excellent book. It has been considered the third and final book in the Bigend Cycle, which started with the book "Pattern Recognition". Let me say, there is, near the end of the book the introduction of a character that was important in the first book. I'll say no more because I don't want to spoil the story. In fact the purpose of this blog is not to review the book, except to say, it's an enjoyable read. So either buy it or borrow it from your local library.

The quote is what interested me, in fact I stopped reading to write it down. This way I could think about it. It has been in the mind of other readers as well; during my research for this blog I came across this interview with William Gibson. He is asked about the comment and gives this:
If you’re a terrorist (or a national hero, depending on who’s looking at you), there are relatively few of you and relatively a lot of the big guys you’re up against. Terrorism is about branding because a brand is most of what you have as a terrorist. Terrorists have virtually no resources. I don’t even like using the word terrorism. It’s not an accurate descriptor of what’s going on.

Terrorists are now, if you believe that quote and comment is more interested in developing brand awareness and branding rather then the overthrow of whatever government or interest the terrorist is attacking. If this is true, then this is quite a change, I remember years ago being involved in a discussion about terrorists. To give you the time, terrorists were groups such as the Red Brigade and the Baader-Meinhof Group. The story discussed was called, the Wasp. It dealt with a wasp that had flown into a car and was bothering the driver. The driver would react and attempt to swat the wasp, in doing so, brought about a car crash. This was the purpose of terrorism, to overthrow the state. It was involved in bombings, suicide as means to this end. Now with Mr. Gibson, terrorism is on the same level as Tommy Hilfiger, Old Navy or Nike. As I typed those names, I could see each of them being the template for modern day terrorism. It is all about getting into the public eye. Oddly enough, terrorists probably wear Nikes, Old Navy and Tommy Hilfiger shoes and clothing.

As we look at the major terrorist organization, al-Qaeda, it becomes fascinating to change the mindset. It seems no longer involved in directly overthrowing or destroying the enemy. In fact the article from Wikipedia gives the five strategies of the group:
1. Provoke the United States into invading a Muslim country.
2. Incite local resistance to occupying forces.
3. Expand the conflict to neighboring countries, and engage the U.S. in a long war of attrition.
4. Convert Al-Qaeda into an ideology and set of operating principles that can be loosely franchised in other countries without requiring direct command and control, and via these franchises incite attacks against countries allied with the U.S. until they withdraw from the conflict, as happened with the 2004 Madrid train bombings, but which did not have the same effect with the 7 July 2005 London bombings.
5. The U.S. economy will finally collapse under the strain of too many engagements in too many places, similarly to the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Arab regimes supported by the U.S. will collapse, and a Wahhabi Caliphate will be installed across the region.

Interesting how ideology does not enter the equation until step 4, prior ideology was the motivator for the terrorists. Terrorism was either extreme left or extreme right, all for overthrowing the government. Now it is more interested in developing franchises and regions, more like McDonald's then the successor to anarchists groups.

This brings to the thought, is all this a relevant for global events or a lot of spacious writing. This is the crux of the matter as well, by reading the strategy there is no attempt to turn the US or the West for that matter into a part a new and global Islamic Empire, they just want them out of their area. So all they have is the desire to keep the heat up and their names in the media.

If all this is the case, then terrorist acts are part of brand awareness and a suicide bomber is more a marketer or a cool brander.