The Price of Now?

I wonder how many people will fall for Monday Magazine’s little April Fool’s joke by editor John Threlfall about the planned opening of the “Now Museum” that it’s claimed will be housed in the long-vacant Now furniture outlet on Douglas Street, here in Victoria.

Who will be the poor fool not to catch on after reading a quote from founding director M. Lee Khar? Surely that name has to ring a bell with local residents and casual patrons of the arts. And although they might not jump out from a quick reading, it’s pretty hard to miss cues like the $149 million grant from non-existent Ministry of Integral Development and Social Concerns and the ludicrous nature of the Museum’s opening exhibition that Threlfall reports will focus on “the positive side of homelessness, which perfectly meshes with our portfolio,” according to minister Rip Oph, by featuring “a live-in theatrical recreation of urban camping.”

I’ll be scanning the letters to the editor next week with keen interest to see if Monday managed to lure some irate rubes citizens into firing off intemperate, painfully earnest letters of outrage in response to this delightful little jape. That would be hilarious. Pity the Times Colonist hadn’t collaborated by running a similar story so as to give the whole thing some added fake legitimacy.

Who is This Jerk…

flash

And why is he sending me 10-percenters?

Turns out it’s John Cummins, Conservative MP for Delta – Richmond East. For better or worse however, I don’t live anywhere near Delta – Richmond East, so why is this buffoon sending me unsolicited mail about the Harper government’s super-duper Tax-Free Savings Account?

Haven’t Canadians across the land expressed their profound displeasure with Team Harper exploiting a loophole in the mailing privileges afforded to members of parliament to shamelessly abuse the system for partisan gain? Paid for with taxpayer money, the mailings are intended to keep constituents up to date with goings on within their riding — not pimp the agenda of the Conservative Party of Canada!

The contemptible fraud of the whole thing aside (pretty much par for the course with this bunch of ethically-challenged hypocrites), you have to appreciate the irony of the blurb on the backside of the mailing:

Whether times are good or times are tough, putting money aside for future purchases or a rainy day is the responsible and prudent thing to do.

This coming from the same outfit that burned through a $3 billion “rainy day” contingency fund in the face of an oncoming recession. Brilliant!

One might also question the wisdom of manipulating the tax code to encourage people to save money at a time when interest rates are at record lows and, according to the Keynesian theory at least (which the government is currently subscribing to), what’s actually needed to kick-start the economy is more consumer spending, rather providing a financial incentive that contributes to the counterproductive “paradox of thrift”… Talk about working at cross-purposes. But then coherency never was the Conservatives’ strong suit.

21st Century Schizoid Man

Riffing off the King Crimson song of the same title as his starting point and working through the themes outlined in a recent article by author and journalist Chris Hedges about the moral bankruptcy of the “military-industrial-academic complex,” Uptake contributor Dennis Trainor asks “what do we have that we really need that requires the survival of companies like AIG?”

Here’s an excerpt from Hedges’ piece at TruthDig:

We live in an age of moral nihilism. We have trashed our universities, turning them into vocational factories that produce corporate drones and chase after defense-related grants and funding. The humanities, the discipline that forces us to stand back and ask the broad moral questions of meaning and purpose, that challenges the validity of structures, that trains us to be self-reflective and critical of all cultural assumptions, have withered. Our press, which should promote such intellectual and moral questioning, confuses bread and circus with news and refuses to give a voice to critics who challenge not this bonus payment or that bailout but the pernicious superstructure of the corporate state itself. We kneel before a cult of the self, elaborately constructed by the architects of our consumer society, which dismisses compassion, sacrifice for the less fortunate, and honesty. The methods used to attain what we want, we are told by reality television programs, business schools and self-help gurus, are irrelevant. Success, always defined in terms of money and power, is its own justification. The capacity for manipulation is what is most highly prized. And our moral collapse is as terrifying, and as dangerous, as our economic collapse.

Hedges concludes by quoting the post-war German philosopher Theodor Adorno. “It is especially difficult to fight against it,” warned Adorno speaking of radical evil, “because those manipulative people, who actually are incapable of true experience, for that very reason manifest an unresponsiveness that associates them with certain mentally ill or psychotic characters, namely schizoids.”

I’m not terribly convinced by either Trainor or Hedges (there are some very cogent counterarguments in the comments to the article worth checking out), but it’s thought-provoking stuff nonetheless. And the King Crimson angle… hey, I couldn’t resist that.

Stopping the Presses

From today’s edition of CBS’s Sunday Morning program (which you may have missed if you were watching the Dear Leader appear on another network), Jeff Greenfield reports on the headline the newspaper industry would rather have buried — the demise of the great metropolitan daily.

On the same theme, the featured speaker on C-SPAN’s program The Communicators today was Tom Rosenstiel, Director of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, talking about the think tank’s State of the News Media 2009 report, and the industry’s future.

Update: Jack Shafer at Slate argues that it’s time to kill the idea that newspapers are essential for democracy…

Sucking & Blowing on Fox News

The Harper Media Shitskrieg Rolls On…

I suppose there’s tremendous benefit for Stephen Harper in being able to peddle his flim-flammery on American cable TV where his outright falsehoods about the economy will go completely unchallenged by gullible interviewers that are not only sympathetically disposed to his pseudoconservative ideology, but entirely uninformed as to how counterfactual and ludicrous his claims are.

“As a Conservative, I oppose raising taxes at the best of times, but we have not got the structural budgetary deficit that exists in the United States, that obviously limits the administration’s options,” Harper told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday this morning. He then went on to claim that Canada’s strong fiscal position heading into the recession — which as recently as last October, he denied even existed — means that his government can better afford to incur substantial “short-term” deficits and — unbeknown to most Canadians, I’m quite sure — that he has “solid plans” to reverse those deficits within a few years.

The man is clearly in denial… or delusional; quite possibly both. The fact of the matter is that even prior to his hastily contrived “Economic Action Plan,” the Harper government was already running up an estimated $13 billion deficit. Despite all of their talk of limited government and fiscal restraint, spending has actually been completely out of control under the Conservatives for the last couple of years, to the point where previous “tax and spend” Liberal governments now look like fiscal hawks by comparison. Compounding the problem, Harper cut the GST — a move universally condemned by every economist (but one) — at the cost of $12 billion per annum to the treasury. Furthermore, the government wantonly pissed away the $3 billion “rainy day” contingency fund with its reckless pre-election spending binge under the guise of “regional development” (cough) and other such worthy initiatives.

And yet, before his “illegal” bid to win a majority government, Harper vowed Canadians there would be no deficits, and denied unequivocally there was a recession. When the opposition parties demanded a round table meeting with financial experts to address this situation early in October 2008, he dismissed such a notion as them simply “panicking.” Harper claimed that if there was a recession it would have happened already and even suggested that it would be a good time to invest in the stock market (a disastrous bit of advice for anyone foolish enough to have followed it). In fact, as we would later learn, the recession was already happening, but Harper’s finance team had been hiding that unsettling information until after the election. Since then, it’s been admitted by Harper and Flaherty that there would be the possibility of a “technical recession” — a prediction that quickly spiraled into a “deep recession” with parallels to the Great Depression even being drawn by the prime minister in one of his more alarmist mood swings.

Now erratically lurching in the opposite direction, Harper is claiming that there’s no structural deficit, even though there’s a firm consensus amongst economists that this is simply not true, stating categorically that there will be no new taxes (read my lips) to pay for this shambolic fiscal mess he’s created, and repeating his sanguine yet hollow boast that Canada will be the first advanced economy to recover from the global crisis. “We were pulled into it last, and my belief is that we will pull out of it first,” he said. Well, aside from the fact that it contradicts Harper’s own statement that there would be no recovery in Canada until the U.S. economy has stabilized, there is absolutely no rational basis or historical precedent for this faith-based “belief” whatsoever. How fitting that it was made on a Sunday… and on Fox News no less.

Is Rob Anders Doomed?

Let’s hope not! After all, brilliant parliamentarians like the Conservative member for Calgary West are exceptionally rare creatures, to say the least. Just witness him in action here, dazzling the House of Commons some time ago with his fantastically thoughtful arguments and stellar rhetorical skills:

Behold his masterful, Churchillian statement to parliament last fall on the Grey Cup coming to Calgary:

“Our Stampeders are cowboys who tackled the National Energy Program and lived to tell the tale. They huddle in the most conservative, pro-business turf in the country. They have defended a can-do business attitude from the rookie fumbling hands of Stéphane Dion. At this rodeo, we are going to horn in the Liberal carbon tax and steer the country in the right direction. They make yards being my hometown and the ultimate touchdown. They are the team for Canada’s back-to-back elected, trusted and savvy Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Go, Stamps, go.”

“Go, Stamps, go.” Wow. Stirring stuff — a rallying cry for the ages.

And consider the extensive contributions the hard-working Anders has made to the Commons so far this year: three entire sentences of debate… and a petition too! Now surely it has to be agreed, that’s $155,000 in salary plus expenses well spent by the taxpayers of Canada!

So let’s all keep our fingers crossed that Anders will once again be able to mobilize the “true blue” wing of the Conservative Party to rescue him from his current difficulties so that he can secure the nomination that will absolutely, without the slightest doubt, guarantee a sixth consecutive election victory!

“What If…”

A very cool animation based on Ron Paul’s powerful speech before the House of Representatives last month regarding America’s tragically misguided foreign policy. Original video (Windows media) can be viewed here.