Saturday, June 27, 2009

Don't Stop Until You Get Enough...

I guess that his heart had enough, because I know that I had had enough of Michael Jackson. Listen, I understand mourning the loss of such an impactful artist, a talent musician who had one of the greatest impacts of all time on the industry. I concede that something has been lost, for better or worse? I watch these legions of adoring fans that seem unequivocally convinced that this man was falsely accused of child molestation, and I shake my head. Take a step back, and take a deep breath. This man peaked artistically about 20 years ago. What he has produced since has sucked. We are not talking about Tupac and Biggie gunned down in their 20s, before they had a chance to do their best work. Michael Jackson, however significant his influence was on the music industry, has sucked for nearly a generation.

When I heard over my radio at work that he was dead, I did not feel any sorrow. I did not feel sad that this avenue of art had been closed permanently. He sang some great songs, yes, but honestly just about everyone outside his most devoted fans recognized that there was likely to be no new good tunes coming out of that music maker. Was he a misunderstood product of a lost childhood that he forever desired to re-capture? Perhaps, but for whatever the reason, his kid fetish was just way too fucking out there for me to feel any empathy over his demise. Even on the 15% chance that there was no fire at the source of all that smoke, there is just too high a probability that children hardened his dong for me to feel empathy. When you look at his life through the eyes of hindsight, that whole “we are the world, we are the children” riff is just way too fucking creepy to hide behind the veil of philanthropy.

The world lost a probable pedophile yesterday. Explain to me how I should feel any fragment of sorrow? When Yasser Arafat died, I gave out a solid “Tiger Woods fist pump”. The world was a better place without the Middle Eastern Bernie Madoff. When Saddam died, fist pump. I have fist pumps waiting for Osama Bin Laden, Hugo Chavez, Kim Jong Ill, Charles Taylor, Robert Mugabe, Ahmanbeenajad, and a few other world leaders should they ever meet an untimely demise. I wept over the death of Steve Irwin, but when I learned that Jacko was dead, I felt no emotion. Infact, if I felt anything, it was a little slice of satisfaction knowing that there was one less sicko sticking his hands down the underpants of children. Yes he was an innovative artist and the evolution of his life fucked him up in ways few can understand, but his thing with kids crossed a line that if anyone crosses they should be forbidden from hero worship.

I have not written much this past week, because as a hockey fanatic I have been knee deep in NHL Draft probability theory. I have scribbled together part of a rant on CUPE, but I will save that for another day.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Nudged off a cliff

At the onset of the 2008 American Primary season I was cheering for Obama to win the Democratic ticket. My first choice for President was Rudy Giuliani, but if I had to settle for someone on the other side of the aisle, Obama was my first pick, at least in the beginning. He had an alluring swagger, a persuasive type of “funky cold medina”. Having also read “It takes a village idiot” P.J O’Rourke’s review of Hillary’s book, I had no appetite whatsoever for a Hillary Presidency.

Then one day while I was driving my car, listening to the Economist podcast, I heard something that set off alarm bells in my head. It was an interview with one of Obama’s economic advisors Richard Thaller discussing his theory called “Nudge”. The basis of the theory is that people are essentially too stupid to make optimal choices when presented with a wide variety of consumer products, and thus the government should “nudge” them in the direction they ought to go. You are too inept to select the optimal cell phone plan, therefore you require Uncle Sam to intervene, reduce the number of available choices, and then shove you towards the phone that the government feels is best for you.

Need a new car? Well don’t bother getting off the couch you lazy Neanderthal, you need a Chevy Volt! As I was listening to this man speak, a man helping to shape Obama policy, advocating the government usurping choice because people are too stupid to be consumers; that was the moment when I “jumped the shark” on Obama. From then on, my “Spider Sense” was tingling, and I began to see the forest through the speeches. By the time Obamania had accumulated an insurmountable lead, I was yearning for Hillary!

While I have been marginally satisfied with Obama’s foreign policy, his budget and stimulus packages are a disaster waiting to happen. They are taking over banks, General Motors, are talking about a massive cap and trade bureaucracy, nationalized health care, and running a deficit of 15% of GDP at a time when ballooning national debt is teetering on the verge of collapsing the treasury and the American Dollar. Their government is extending an alarming level of control over the private sector in the name of bailouts, despite the fact that economic evolution is best served when bad business is allowed to wither into extinction.

At this pace, Uncle Sam is becoming Uncle Fat Albert. The economy is showing signs of recovery, which some experts think is a “dead cat bounce”; while other experts believe the worst is behind us. The kick in the pants is that the Obama economic Manhattan Project hasn’t even started yet! It is all in the pipeline, but most of the money has not yet been spent. So what happens when the market has been trending upwards for months, then Obama activates his stimulus, and the economy tanks? Jon Stewart may have to apologize to Jim Cramer, who tried to warn us back in February that this is too much too soon. Too big to fail? They should have let GM go out of business, because then other more efficient producers would have stepped in to fill the void. Instead, the taxpayers just bought real estate on the Titanic, which has once deemed too big to sink, but guess what happened?

There are inefficiencies in consumerism to be sure. If banks keep giving people extra credit cards, people will spend the money whether they can pay it back or not. If people make less than $30,000 per year, they will sign that sub-prime mortgage for the $250,000 house they can’t afford because they want the nice house that much. That does not mean that we need a massive new regulatory framework for the financial system. All we need is a simple mathematical equation that says banks are not allowed to issue credit beyond a fixed percentage of a person’s net income. Done! I do not want to see government start to manipulate the banking system, the automotive industry, the insurance industry, and suddenly start pushing and nudging me in the direction that I “ought” to go because Uncle Fat Albert knows best and I am just too stupid to make choices.

"When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators."

-P.J. O'Rourke

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Charles Adler knows best

If you did not hear this open letter to Michael Ignatieff on the radio, or did not read it at, I strongly recommend it. Mr Adler said it far better than I ever could. I suppose that's why he's paid to be "the boss of talk" while I am just an opinionated citizen who receives no financial reward for blogging. I heard this on the radio, and I was on my feet applauding.

Hey Michael, when will you stop shooting at the Liberal brand?
Dear Michael,

It must be very strange being Michael Ignatieff. You are operating in your usual manner. Your M.O. has the same three-boned skeleton that is the architecture of your unreliable character:

1) No firm decisions;
2) No serious commitments;
3) No 100 percent certitude.

And yet this unreliable character has put you on the list of every wine and cheese party on the planet, this unreliable character has made you one of the world's leading public intellectuals, this unreliable character has gotten book reviewers to read your books and book readers who read the book reviews to buy your books, this unreliable character seems to be out of sorts with retail politics.

It must be strange having lived on this planet for nearly six decades and only just begun to realize that you are a wholesale dude - not a retailer. You really do belong to a select subset of the general public. But the all demanding, always fickle public seems to want far more than Michael Ignatieff is prepared to give.

The public expects you to lay out a vision of what you would do someday if Liberal activists and their media stooges get what they want, an Ignatieff government. Now in ordinary times a vision might not be all that important. There are times when the public just wants a manager to manage the status quo. But as you may have read Michael, the status quo isn't inspiring right now for many members of the general public, the ones who don't attend your wine and cheese howlers, who don't read your book reviews, who don't pretend to read your books. And so these poor sots are expecting that the dude who has been touted as this big brain, with a big heart, and a big, big database of phone numbers and email addresses that include members of Barack Obama's inner circle, well they are expecting a vision, a show, an attitude, a vibe, a feeling of change in the air, of an economic spring after a very long and dark and dank economic winter. Who can blame them?

Michael, you have talked incessantly about the Prime Minister giving you a report card on what his government is doing on infrastructure, on deficit, on EI, and on Isotopes. What have you been doing? What have you been offering for ideas, suggestions, a map that is coherent and accessible and motivational? Do you think if Rahm Emanuel, Obama's mainframe, main brain were to give you a grade, it would be anything above C Minus? Is the general public excited about getting to vote in another election, less than eight months after the last one, just to have the opportunity of voting for a C Minus Ethical Lightweight?

Michael, in recent days you have called on the government to spend, spend, spend, to try and get as much money into infrastructure as possible, knowing full well that government revenues are shrinking. You don't have to be a graduate of the Harvard Business school to know that when those great, big Ontario factories shut down and lay people off, they are going to be throwing off a lot fewer dollars to the treasury. And you don't have to be an Oil Sheikh to realize that when Alberta crude is selling for 30 and 40 and 50 bucks a barrel, it will be throwing off a lot fewer dollars to the treasury than a year ago when it was selling for 130, 140 and close to150. So Michael, when you look at the numbers, you quickly realize that even a ten-year-old with a Made in China calculator purchased at a Dollar store, can figure out that when you demand that the treasury borrow mega-billions for infrastructure and bailouts, while the same treasury is taking in much less money, it means that an airplane called government is going to fly into a great, big headwind called a deficit. And since you know at least as much as a ten-year-old Canadian kid with a one buck calculator, big deficits are inevitable under the current circumstances, so why are you blowing all this gas around about the deficit?

Now if you want me to treat you like a grownup Michael, I can throw some other metrics at you, the kind you would have to deal with if you climbed the staircase to a spot where you couldn't just offer political science seminars to media admirers and book reviewers. At the moment, we have a country where the unemployment rate is still going up, the debt to GDP ratio is going up, credit card debt and bankruptcies are going up, exports are going down, government revenues are going down and our trade deficit is going up. How are we doing so far? Which one of these metrics do you want to deal with if voters put you at the grown ups table?

Got a clever sound bite to offer on any of these real life concerns? This isn't the low-hanging fruit, like a five-hour tape of a minister gabbing with her flack and using the s-word as an adjective for the c-word. That's the easy stuff Michael. Do you have a plan if one day you have to take this huge Airbus called Canada through the turbulence I have just outlined? You can't solve the real problems by ripping and reading Toronto Star columns or feeding Jack and Gilles a couple of BLT's , and a case of Lager, and waiting for them to emit some carbon dioxide that you can sequester and then recycle at your next news conference. Have you noticed by the way, that even the media admirers are getting frustrated at those news conferences, waiting for you to own up to your real responsibilities, to come up with a better plan than what's coming from the government and then work to defeat the current government so that you can then rescue the country. That was the media narrative and there was always only one problem with it. They had you wearing the Superman cape and you apparently are something less than Superman, something less than Clark Kent, something less than what the carnival barkers at the Liberal convention said you were. Michael, you keep talking about the House not having confidence in Mr. Harper. You can prove that by engineering - vote against him. And I suppose you would if you were brimming with self-confidence. Is that where the real confidence problem lies? In your mind? In your heart? In your so-called guts?

Michael, one of the issues that you think you have a handle on is Employment Insurance. You were charming that snake for about a month before you abandoned it, like you do everything else. You were talking about how you want it to be a uniform approach in all parts of the country regardless of whether it's a high or low opportunity region. Ok, so you wanted us to buy into the idea that it shouldn't matter whether you are looking for work in the Greater Vancouver area or the Greater Moncton area. You ought to be treated the same way and if you worked at least 360 hours in any given year, that is if you worked nine weeks in any given year the taxpayers, the country ought to send you cheques for the rest of the year. Anyone understands why the NDP supports that and why the French version of the NDP, the BlocQuebecois, supports that. But for a while you were on board with that too. And I guess someone told you that you were being careless once again, having the left-wing, tail waggin' your Liberal dog in yet another three stooge coalition that really wasn't good for the party's reputation. The Liberal brand requires that it maintain - despite all facts on the ground - the appearance of being this natural, national governing party. With your clumsy handling of the EI file, you make the Liberal brand look like some little red wagon being pulled by two kids named Jack and Gilles.

Those members of the general public who don't read reviews of your books and don't pretend to read your books can read you pretty well at this point Michael. You're the guy who is willing to jump on or jump off any little red wagon depending on whether or not it's moving forward with you doing the least amount of pulling. On infrastructure and deficits, the wagon worked for you until the math just didn't add up. On EI, you're on the wrong wagon and you seem to have abandoned that one yesterday at your news conference where you no longer were demanding that Stephen Harper agree to your position on EI, which of course was never authentically yours anyway. The library card may have been yours, but the book you were borrowing from was authored by Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe. No wonder those two jokers can't stand you. You keep stealing their talking points and then dissing them and then ditching them.

I know this worked when you were a frat boy. But as a Political Strategist it doesn't inspire very much confidence. Oh, there's that nuisance word again. Confidence. You need some when you keep threatening to bring the government down. Around hump day of last week, you said you were waiting for the PM to release his progress report on infrastructure spending and you would grade it and decide whether or not to flunk your student Stephen Harper by pulling the pin on the government. Well the Prime Minister released his report. You said you would look at it, sleep on it, and make a decision on Friday. The decision you made Friday was to postpone the decision until Monday. You announced that you had decided to ask the Prime Minister questions and then Question period came along and you had no questions for him on EI or the Deficit or anything else having to do with Canada’s most important issue - not your book reviews - the Economy. No decision. No questions. You indicated you wanted to meet with the PM and excoriated him for not meeting with you. One of your admirers, Peter Mansbridge, asked if you had asked for a meeting. Apparently, you had not. And now that you have very publicly asked for one, you have gotten one.

Michael, now that you are getting to meet the Prime Minister, I would drop the threats. I would drop the idea of removing the Glock from the Holster. It seems every time you do that and shoot, you end shooting at your own message and your own credibility. Keep that pattern going and you run the risk of the Prime Minister publicly saying to you what I will tell you right now.

When you fire a weapon, the idea is to fire at your opponent. If you insist on doing away with yourself, do it behind the barn. The country doesn't want to see your pathetic DNA on the Prime Minister's Harry Rosen Suit.

I'm Charles Adler on the Corus Radio Network.

Re-Count implies that you counted in the first place...

The more that I hear about this “so-called” election in Iran, the more suspicious I am as to its integrity. The Grand Ayatollah has announced that a partial re-count is under way, but for the word “re-count” to be applicable, the votes would need to have been counted the first time. I am beginning to doubt that they ever were, and there is a strong case of circumstantial evidence to prove it. Hard evidence will be considerably more difficult for the outside world to acquire as I expect any proof of election rigging to be closely guarded if not destroyed.

Emperor Khomeienie and sock puppet Ahmadabajab declared a resounding victory 2 hours after the polls closed; therefore asserting that over 40 million hand marked ballots were counted in less than 2 hours. Having worked for Elections Canada in the past 2 federal elections, I can say with confidence that it is highly improbable that Elections Iran was able to accomplish such an impressive feat. I would like to know how many counters they had, because if they were able to count even close to the efficiency of Elections Canada, I calculate that they would require at least 700,000 counters to count over 40 million ballots in under 3 hours with the proper oversights and checks and balances, which does not account for registration and security personnel.

It is not impossible to count that many ballots that fast, but it would take an army of workers and I don’t know if we can ever know how many clerics were conscripted into counting. Laura Ingraham based her entire theory of a fraudulent election on the speedy declaration of victory, but again I say that it is possible however improbable.

What I find to be a more compelling indicator of a fraudulent election is in the regional disparities or lack thereof. As different polling stations around the country began reporting their “results”, Ahmadinijab was winning with roughly 63% of the vote everywhere in the country (give or take 2%-3%). When you observe the results from healthy democracies, there are huge disparities from one region to another. The probability of these analogous regional results is virtually zero, and far more improbable than counting 40 million ballots in 2 hours. But when you combine the unlikelihood of the speedy count with the impossibility of regional homogeny, the election itself is about a one in a trillion likelihood of being legit. Where the Russians tend to favour stuffing ballot boxes in their elections, it is becoming increasingly likely that Iran never counted any ballots. Either that or they sent their elections officials on a fool’s errand and modified the results.

There is another conundrum that I am struggling to wrap my brain around. All candidates for President require the approval of the Guardian Counsel to get their names on the ballot. Thus this Mousavi dude who favours increased friendliness with the West and reforming the Iranian system got a stamp of approval from the Grand Ayatollah. Clearly Khomenee did not want a reformist President, as he endorsed the status quo hard liner. Then why even put any reformers on the ballot? Or is that question moot because he never actually had a chance of winning? I’m just trying to figure out the logic of approving the candidacy of a reformer that could not be allowed to win. Having said that, I assume the Guardian Counsel never imagined that hundreds of thousands of Iranians would protest the victory of the hard line sock puppet.

What is clear is that these massive protests against the status quo does not benefit the ruling regime in any way shape or form. Hence why the Revolutionary Guard is going to great lengths to suppress them. Given that Mousavi is encouraging more protest and claiming the “Ayatollah endorsed” election results are a fraud, it is safe to assume that he is not in the pocket of Guardian counsel. I’d say either the puppet master can embrace the reformer or have him locked in a dungeon, striking the Sheppard to disperse the sheep. The latter is far more likely than the former.

It is an interesting question to ask what is leading this revolution in the Middle East towards increased democratic transparency and fairness, women’s rights, and a shift away from extremism. Christopher Hitchens recently wrote a fantastic piece where he discussed encouraging democratic trends in the region. Hezbollah suffering an embarrassing defeat in Lebanon, Iraq’s safe elections with a shift towards moderates away from militias, Kuwait electing women to parliament for the first time, and now Iran is revolting against a repressive hard line regime. There are also reports that Hamas would be soundly defeated if elections were held in Palestine today.

I have always maintained that the liberation of women is the most significant accomplishment that we could achieve to placate the region. Is it possible that the decision to place a democracy in the heart of Babylon and liberate millions of women from oppression could eventually prove to have been a progressive act of enlightenment, even if it was done for the wrong reasons? Maybe, maybe not. Only time will tell and it may yet all go to Hell. I just know that when I see thousands of people marching through the streets of Iran demanding reform from repression, it makes me feel a little more optimistic about the future of the Planet Earth.

“I have always felt that a politician is to be judged by the animosities he excites among his opponents.”

-Sir Winston Churchill

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Apathy towards Ignatieff = Iggathy

When Ignatieff first became the Liberal leader, I wanted to know what he had to say. I was curious as to his policy positions, because as a moderate if he checks off more of the priorities on my checklist than the governing Conservatives whom I voted for, I would have to consider the Liberals as an option. I can't call myself a pragmatic Tory if I don't at least consider the other side when they try to move to the center. Dion tried to outflank Layton on the left, and look what happened. Ignatieff knows that the greatest quantity of votes are to be had in the center. Having said that, I want to know what he thinks the government should do before I even consider voting for him. I need policy, and the longer this charade goes on with these pointless press conferences with no substance whatsoever, I am starting to just tune Iggy out. Apathy that I will nickname “Iggathy”. I don't care anymore what he has to say, because it is just superlative elaborate rhetoric with no real policy position. If you have a better idea, tell us what it is! If the opposition can’t offer substantive ideas because that “is not my job”, then minority governments are pointless. So far the only policy position he will repeat is the NDP Marxist 45 day work year, which ironically he dropped as soon as Harper started referencing the 45 day work year. So we need to spend more, but we're spending too much? It is all fucking crazy, and where at first I wanted to hear what he had to say, I just don't care anymore.

And his latest appearance on the Newman Show was the most creeped out that I have ever been watching a politician on TV. I believe it was Don Martin at the National Post who recently wrote a piece about how often Ignatieff uses the words "I" or "me" too often when referring to the actions of the Liberal party. The ego-centricity of his "that's why I voted to support the budget" when as party leader it would be far more appropriate to discuss matters the Liberal Party did in unison as "we" or "the Liberal Party". It calls into question just how big this man's ego is, someone who has never governed anything but emphasizes his opinions as holier than thou.

"Ignorance is bliss when it is folly to be wise"

-Jim Lahey, Trailer Park Supervisor

Loving Democracy

I love Democracy. Government of the people, for the people, selected by the people. When a Government is accountable to its citizenry, it is forced to make decisions on the basis of improving the lives of its people. When they fail or do a poor job, they can be ousted in a peaceful means that does not require a military coup. Chairman Mao (who I believe never ran in a single election) once said “Politics is war without bloodshed. War is politics with bloodshed.”

There are flaws in the democratic process to be sure, and it is a continuous battle to ensure that the best interests of the people are served. Sadly fundraising has a disproportionate effect over policy on the ability to get elected, and corporate sponsorship can skew policy away from the greater good. Occasionally the miraculously gifted public speakers such as Adolf Hitler and Barak Obama are able to seduce the masses into a hypnosis like the Pied Piper swooning rodents. The good news is that even the most gifted public speaker has to deliver quality of life to his electorate, because failure of government is a very strong smelling salt to snap supporters out of their political coma. I don’t care how gifted you are at performing that speech on your teleprompter; I just want to see if your policies work.

What really chaps my ass is when elections are held, people go through the process of voting believing that their opinion matters; but it doesn’t because the process is rigged and the election itself is nothing more than a fictitious ceremony to convince the populace that they support the dictator, whether they do or not. You see these charades in Putin’s Russia, Saddam’s Iraq, Myanmar, and a slew of other dictatorships masquerading as democracies. That repressive Knights of the Roundtable in Burma held an election in 1990 and lost in convincing fashion to one of my heroes Aung San Suu Kyi. They decided that they did not want to give up power and proceeded to arrest most of the people that had just defeated them in free and fair elections. (as an aside, if you have not seen Rambo 4, I strongly recommend it)

Then there are examples like Robert Mugabe, who was once truly popular with his people and was even knighted by the British. Whether he was corrupted by power or overdosed on “Marxtasy” (a word I just invented combining Marxism with ecstasy), he decided to strip the successful farmers of their land entitlements and redistribute them to poor unsuccessful farmers in the name of post colonial social justice. At the time Zimbabwe was one of the top food exporters in Africa, and they relied on agriculture for most of the country’s wealth and prosperity. While many of us may fawn over the noble deeds of Robinhood stealing from the rich to give to the poor, what may flourish in fairy tales can indeed be disastrous in reality. So what happened in Zimbabwe when they deposed the productive and elevated the inexperienced? You guessed it, massive catastrophic failure leading to the collapse of their national economy and eventually their currency. Today it costs something like 10 billion Zimbabwe dollars to buy a loaf of bread.

His policies were directly responsible for a catastrophic economic collapse, and when he held an election last year he promptly lost. For a megalomaniac running the electoral machinery to lose by 5%, likely means that his opponent realistically won by more than 30%. Did Mugabe do the honourable thing and step down? Not at all. This righteous man of the people decided to hold a new election, except this time he would improve his odds by jailing, torturing, and killing hundreds of the opposition party members and supporters. His police forces were busy little bees, ensuring that on his second attempt things would be as they ought to be in the world of the tyrant. His opponent was forced to drop out of the run-off race, lest all his political colleagues be killed or imprisoned before Election Day. It makes me sick to see a lunatic who is a disgrace to Democracy, who tarnishes the dignified concept of representative government.

I’m not sure why Marx was against democracy, I’ll have to look it up. He probably thought that people are too stupid to make an intelligent choice, which seems to be the basis for most of his theories.

And then there is Iran, but that rant will have to wait for another day…

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Prince of Persia

It would appear that there is a growing movement of dissatisfaction in the streets of Tehran, in the wake of a “landslide” victory by the “allegedly” popular Mamood Ahmenadeenajab. It is always a clear signal of a healthy democracy that when a “wildly popular” leader wins a landslide election, tens of thousands of people pour out into the streets to protest. If you did not sniff out the sarcasm in that last sentence, the objective was to use satire to illustrate that if Amhedamnedijab were indeed as popular as he claims to be, then the Iranian people would not be gathering in such staggering force to protest his “victory”. You never see crowds of angry citizens 10 miles long if the victor enjoys the support of 65% of the people. I was proud of the Iranian people who risked their freedom and safety engaging in a Tiananmen Square style gathering. So to the people of Persia, I salute you. I just hope that your bravery doesn’t get you shot or imprisoned.

I find this show of disapproval encouraging, but I am concerned that this pro-democracy protest may be crushed with a military action. I rank Ahmayabadabadoodab very high on my shit list of world leaders, but if a genie granted me the power to depose megalomaniacs, Ahmadinerjab would not be a top priority. My top three are Kim Jong “Mentally” Ill, then the sick twisted Knights of the Roundtable running Myanmar, then Comrade Hugo Chavez in a virtual dead heat with Robert Mugabe with an honourable mention to the cocksuckers running the Sudan. As crazy as I believe Ahamananananajab is, he is little more than a glorified sock puppet for the Ayatollah. I am less concerned about the Prince of Persia than I am about the Sultan, and what exactly is his end game.

The Sultan, err Ayatollah, has said publicly that God wants Ahmaboobjob to be President, a strong divine endorsement for his sock puppet. That means that the puppet master approves of all the crazy shit coming out of the puppet’s mouth. This elaborate ventriloquist act is not making the world a better place. On one hand, they advocate vaporizing Israel, while on the other are developing a nuclear program that would provide them with the capacity to do so. The excuse is that they sorely need a nuclear program to produce energy, despite Iran sitting on top of one of the largest supplies of energy in the world. It would be ironic if it were not so disturbing.

What are the benefits to antagonizing Israel by threatening to destroy them and then openly pursuing the means to do so? Are they trying to goad the IDF into a preventative pre-emptive strike? Israel has nothing at all to gain by attacking Iran and would do so only to prevent their nuclearization and their own potential destruction. Wasn’t one Jewish Holocaust enough, oh that’s right, Badmood Ahmadimajab hosts international conferences to debunk that the Holocaust ever took place. If Ahmabeeninabedwithjihad, were to tone down the anti-Semitic rhetoric and mothball the exploding atoms program, his country would benefit greatly from the increased trade and economic activity. Why they feel a combative and destructive path is the road best followed makes no sense to me. But hey, I view the world through the eyes of a practical pragmatist and the actions of some lunatics just cannot be evaluated on the basis of rational decision making.

I wish the Iranian people all the best, and I applaud their courage. Their government has two options, do a recount or suppress the protest. A recount of a rigged election accomplishes what exactly? The question is to what lengths is the Supreme Leader prepared to go to protect his sock puppet? Would this alternative reformer also allow the Ayatollah’s hand up his ass, or would he loosen the Sultan’s grip on absolute power?

Was the election fixed? I cannot prove it, but given the “alleged” level of support and the level of backlash against his victory, all signs point to yes. If one had his hands on all levers of power, which the Ayatollah does, rigging an election would be very easy. In healthy democracies, great efforts are made to separate the machinery of democracy from the coffers of power. Elections are run by independent organizations and scrutineers are allowed from all stake holders to observe the crucial voting and counting processes. Somehow I doubt that the Sultan allows this necessary level of transparency in Iranian elections. Typically in rigged elections, the ruling party asserts itself the support of 80% - 99% of voters to provide themselves with the strongest mandate possible. Clearly the puppet masters realized that the opposition to their power was too strong to assert that level of support, so it is easy to see where they came up with the figure of 63%. In 2000 George Bush won with less than 50% of the vote, but you didn’t see massive rioting in the streets of Washington. I suppose in Persia, trying to scam the voters into believing that 2/3 of the country supports the unpopular incumbent is not working, because if so these protest would not be taking place.

"The test of success is not what you do when you’re on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom."

- General George S. Patton, Jr

Monday, June 15, 2009

Being a Red Wings Fan in Vancouver

I am proud to confess that I have been a Red Wings fan for virtually my entire life. I latched on well before puberty, and on my tenth birthday I was privileged enough to attend a Wings game at Joe Louis Arena and to attend the LA Kings practice the next day. I got to have a sit down chat with Marty McSorley, after the practice and have my picture taken with him, while I was dressed head to toe in Red Wings gear. I have nothing but the fondest memories of Marty, and on my death bed I will herald him as one of the kindest ambassadors of the game of hockey that I have ever met. In 1993, I was a student in a class swarming with bitter Leaf fans. When Detroit went up 3 games to 1 in the series, I went to class early the next day and decorated the classroom with Red Wings paraphernalia. When Toronto came back and won the series, thanks to Nikolay Borshevsky, I was devastated. My dad had to drag me out of bed kicking and screaming the next day to take me to school.

When the Wings lost to San Jose in 1994, I was equally devastated. When the Wings lost the New Jersey in the Cup final in 1995 thanks to the introduction of the neutral zone trap, I was once again devastated. When Detroit won in 1997, I was literally bouncing off the walls, and eventually found myself on my knees in front of the television crying tears of joy when Steve Yzerman accepted Lord Stanley’s Cup. Then Detroit won again the next season, and I was equally as excited when they won it for Vladdy Konstantinov who was in a wheelchair. I was spoiled with success and finally those Montreal Canadians fans at my high school who continued to come at me with “have you ever been alive to see your team win a Championship?” finally shut up. When Detroit won again in 2002, I was happy, but not ecstatic. As a sports fan with championships, there are diminishing marginal returns of happiness. Such that when the Wings won again in 2008, I was happy but not excited. I didn’t even watch the clinching game because I didn’t need to in order to derive pleasure from the experience.

In 2005, I moved to Vancouver. I always liked the Canucks, but once I moved here I adopted the home team as my own because I had already been spoiled with success and I would rather see my home team win than my favourite team. I worked for Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment, I love the city of Vancouver, and I have plenty of Canucks merchandise in my possession. I put up the Canucks car flags every year in the playoffs, when they have made the playoffs, because I want the city in which I live to share in the joy that I once felt seeing Steve Yzerman hoist the Cup.

This year, I was still cheering for the Canucks, but when I went out onto the golf course I proudly wore my Wings jersey. It is fun to wear a hockey jersey on a golf course, ala Happy Gilmore, because a lot of hockey fans golf and it invites conversation. So I wore my Wings jersey every day that I golfed throughout the playoffs, and despite being in a hockey hot bed, nobody said anything to me. So when the Wings lost to the Penguins Friday night, I already had my Saturday tee time booked. I was torn, do I wear the golf shirt, or do I suck it up, be a fan, and continue wearing my Wings jersey? Note that I do wear a Canucks hat with my Wings jersey, so the locals know that I do support the local team. I have noticed that some people to gaze in my direction with a look of confusion, but fuck it, I am a life long Wings fan who also cheers for the Canucks.

On Saturday, I wore the Wings jersey after they lost in the Cup finals as a social experiment in a hockey mad market just to see if any of the locals would say anything to me. When I showed up at the course, a few locals pounding back some beers at the clubhouse looked at me and pointed. As I passed, one of them said “it takes a lot of pride to wear that jersey today” and I responded with “4 Stanley Cups in a little over a decade, I have nothing to be ashamed of”, and that shut them up. After golfing 18, my buddy (wearing his Leafs jersey) and I went to another course to golf a round of twilight. When I got there, the grumpy old man working the pro shop (who saw me wearing the Wings jersey all playoffs) said to me “it is time to stop wearing that jersey” and I came back with “no, I am 24/7/365 and I have nothing to be ashamed of. Unlike Canucks fans who at the nearest sign of adversity start jumping off the bandwagon like Robert Downey Jr at Mardi Gras, I will continue to support my team through better and worst.” He had no response.

In closing, I want to see Vancouver win a championship. I have shirts and hats and will support them. But this was the first time that I wore a Red Wings jersey the day after they were eliminated from the playoffs, and I was still proud of my team. In my life growing up in Northern Ontario, I was pretty much alone as a Red Wings fan. I knew a few others, but most hockey fans in North Bay supported Toronto or Montreal. In grade 9 in 1994, I even played on a hockey team with one of the few Red Wings fans in my city. He was killed in a car accident in the middle of the winter, and my father (our coach) gave the eulogy at his funeral. Near the end of his eulogy he said when you go up to heaven, Craig will be the one wearing a Detroit Red Wings jersey. This tragic death happened before Detroit won their first Cup in 50 years in 1997. Each of the four times they have won the Championship since; I have glanced up into the heavens and thought to myself, I know one soul up there who is happy right now. That is why I made the decision to wear the jersey whether they won or lost, because I know there is at least one eye in the sky who held his chin up high.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Buffalo wants Southern Ontario to "Buy American"

While Jimmy B is locked in a legal battle in the Arizona desert for the rights to relocate the Coyotes, we were “privileged” to hear the ominous warnings of a soothsayer in Buffalo predicting the demise of the franchise if Jimmy gets his team in Hamilton. The Sabres estimate that anywhere from 15% - 30% of their revenue stream comes from Southern Ontario and that they would be unable to survive with only their Buffalo-centric customers. What I trust is not lost in translation is that the people of Southern Ontario are being forced to export their consumer dollars to the United States in order to consume a product that they can’t otherwise access. Hamiltonians can either spend 80 years on a waiting list for overpriced Leaf tickets, or they can “Buy American”! The justification for forcing these hard earned Canadian dollars south of the border? Upstate New York does not have enough hockey fans to sustain a franchise.

The gluttony of irony does not end there. The people of Buffalo elected Democrats to both houses of Congress. What did house Democrats do immediately upon being elected? They included a “Buy American” clause in their stimulus legislation which stipulates that only American made products (such as steel) be purchased in government infrastructure projects. Which city happens to be one of the top steel producers in Canada? Hamilton! With declining demand for steel (compounded by buy American) Hamilton has lost thousands of high paying jobs which has rippled across the local economy. I seriously doubt that any Hamilton made steel will be purchased for use in the Buffalonian infrastructure projects.

It doesn’t take a Rosetta Stone to read between the lines on this one. Buffalo wants to have its hypocrisy and eat it too. They are telling us that we should deprive the already suffering people of Hamilton from acquiring something that they want and from which they would derive great pleasure, because Buffalo needs them to continue shipping their precious Canadian dollars south because there is insufficient demand in Buffalo to sustain a franchise! We must buy American, but they won’t buy Canadian? Buffalo elected Democrats, Democrats advocate protectionism, and now a Buffalo city counselor is releasing press clippings pleading with us to allow them to continue leeching off the strong Canadian demand for viewing NHL hockey? This is fucking crazy.

Even if it is true that a Hamilton franchise would devastate the Sabres, (I contend that there is adequate demand to support multiple teams) the NHL cannot cite the inability of Buffalo to compete as grounds for cock-blocking Jimmy. As soon as they do, Jimmy has a slam dunk anti-trust case. The fact that third party interests are ringing Hell’s Bells is a public relations exercise. Does this sway public opinion? Not in my world, as this is one case where I feel no empathy whatsoever. Or perhaps they are hoping that this Arizona judge will read the press clipping and rule in their favour? This judge is about to set a legal precedence, because we are really in unchartered waters. Will a court say that you must keep a franchise where it is not sustainable because the league Commissioner is an egomaniac who is unwilling to admit that it was a really bad idea to rip the Jets from the city of Winnipeg? We will find out soon enough…

“Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value.”

-Albert Einstein

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

When they can't see the forestry sector through the trees...

As much as it pained me to see my government take an equity position in Generous Motors, ultimately the government had no choice. Given how political circumstances are evolving, the Conservative party needs to win the seats where these automotive jobs are located. It was a poor decision economically, but a necessary decision politically. Whether or not this decision proves economically viable in the long term likely depends on the engineering effectiveness of the Chevy Volt. We’ll see if it works. I personally blame the demise of Generous Motors on the Autoworkers Union, which was able to secure too big of a piece of the pie, squeezing R&D.

Sure enough, when it rains it pours and now the forestry sector has its hands out for government money. Where GM can become more viable if it were able to break its Union contracts (which bankruptcy would possibly facilitate), the forestry sector has lost demand that it will never get back. The internets are here to stay, and information displayed on a computer screen has evolved to dramatically decrease the need for words printed on dead trees. The blackberry alone has reduced the demand for how many dead trees annually? I’m guessing a lot. Add to this the real estate bubble that has been inflating for decades in the United States thanks to federally subsidized mortgages, a bubble which has now been popped and is unlikely to ever recover to anywhere near what it was. We have at least a million vacant homes in North America thanks to overproduction, so even when the economy recovers from this crisis there will be a significant time lag before demand for new building projects resumes with any significance. Lest we forget that we also have an upside-down population pyramid, and once we start moving the baby boomers into old age homes, there will be more homes than people to live in them.

The forestry sector must go through a reduction style restructuring because their demand has been decimated and any recovery will be years in the making if it happens at all. You can’t force demand, and if you attempt to subsidize a reduction of it, you are pumping tax money into a black hole. When the economy recovers demand for automobiles will also recover. The trick is that you have to supply what people want to buy. We’ll see if GM can do that. Forestry on the other hand, has lost demand that cannot be recovered by means of innovation. Certainly I would agree that the “black liquor” subsidies in the United States are a fraud and against the interest of international free trade. Just as the Byrd Amendment was a violation of the NAFTA, this subsidy is skewing the market to accomplish a partisan objective.

I would just like to remind the left wingers north of the border whom I have been hearing scream foul over the Byrd Amendment and the “black liquor subsidy”, that these were first written by and the second happened under the watch of…drum roll please…THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS! Just as the NDP is opposed to free trade and now take the pious high ground of the NAFTA laws, the far left in the United States which has substantially increased their power in government favours protectionism. Canada was overwhelmingly in favour of Obama and the Democrats in this past American election, so those people can’t be shocked that suddenly we see trade barriers erecting faster than Pee Wee Herman at an adult theatre.

But what are the origins of the left wing opposition to trade, and the right approval of free trade? Of course ideologies can as usual be traced back to their roots, Adam Smith V Karl Marx. Recall that Smith died 30 years before Marx was born; therefore he never had the opportunity to debunk his detractor in his theoretical works. Smith recognized that if country A is good at one thing and country B is good at another, then it benefits both to exchange these goods. Specialization creates a more efficient labour force capable of producing a greater quantity of trade goods at a lower cost. The access to external markets allows the country to produce a greater quantity of their most effectively produced goods than they consume while external markets benefit from purchasing a product that they need for far less than it costs them to produce. If every country engages in trade, we can grow the world economies beyond the sum of its parts and see the type of rapid technological innovation that we have seen since World War II. The amount of computing power in an I-Pod would have filled a skyscraper in 1960. Socialism did not create that innovation. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a “Progressive Socialist.”

Marx had a much more narrow view. He opposed trade because in his opinion it created “surplus value” that would be “realized” in an external market. This disregards the fact that a proportion of the “surplus value” is also “realized” in the domestic market in the form of greater revenues and employment, not to mention the whole wide World benefiting from countries engaging in free and fair trade. Marx believed that all production should be local, and anything of need should be produced only where it is needed. Building industries that specialize in specific forms of production increase wealth and prosperity, where Marx was opposed to success. We should all just exist, and not endeavour to be the best that we can be. That inherent desire to suppress success and achievement is why socialism has always failed. Moderate socialism is not as disastrous, but in literally every instance where the pendulum swings too far to the left, failure is the outcome. I know some of my North American counterparts will point to Europe for the success of socialism, but the pendulum over there is swinging back to the right because the Euros have seen light…

On the resource issue, the American left that is now in power is increasing the trade barriers; not only in forestry, but in several commodities and manufactured goods. While Canada should do whatever it can to discourage American protectionism, if the Socialist Democrats want to follow the Marxist doctrine, there is precious little that we can do to stop them. We need the American market as much or more as they need our resources, so our best course of action is patience. We should find new trading partners for our commodities in Europe and Asia, and send the message that if the USA wants to inhibit the flow of goods from Canada, lets also inhibit the flow of the goods they really need, namely resources. We don’t need to start a trade war, just find new customers. Europe is swinging back to the right. They realize that the socialist experiment is not what was promised in the brochure, and that they need a little less Marx and a little more Smith. Let’s sell our energy to Europe, to help them break the hostage-like grip that Russia has on their energy market. Let the USA learn the lessons that Europe has already learned. If the Americans want to experiment with Marxism and its subsequent protectionism, let them see experience for themselves where that road leads, because it ain’t paved with yellow bricks and there sure as hell ain’t no wonderful wizard at its end.

“and whatever happens next is all a blur,
but you remember fist can be a verb,
and when you finally regain consciousness,
you’re bound and gagged in a wedding dress,
and the prison guard looks the other way,
because he’s the guy you flipped the bird the other day…”

-The Bloodhound Gang

Friday, June 5, 2009

Who the Hell is Bob Geldoff?

I was recently browsing through my archives of written work, and I stumbled upon a piece that I wrote on the 4th of July in 2005 right after being introduced to Bob Geldoff. Despite being raised in the 80s, I had no idea who he was until I saw him promote his second Live Aid in '05. Despite my writing this nearly 4 years ago, I believe it is just as relevant today as it was then.


Who the hell is Bob Geldoff? Until I saw him pop up on my TV last week to promote his new Live 8 concert, I had no idea who he was. So I asked my older sister about him and learned that he was the lead singer for a cheesy eighties rock band who threw a concert 20 years ago to raise money for Africa and has since been knighted by the British. I saw a man who is now celebrated as a visionary for his humanitarian work, which is undoubtedly a noble pursuit that attempted to affect real change. As a result of Live Aid, at least in part, the developed world has pumped tens of trillions of dollars in aid money into the continent over the past 20 years. But when you look at the statistics and the talking points being heaved at us now (and then), it is clear that very little has changed.

I know that throwing billions in food aid at the problem only prevents the growth of domestic agriculture in Africa. "Free food" competes with local producers, and diminishes the long term sustainability of domestic production leading to impoverished countries being unable to feed themselves in perpetuity. Should we put billions of dollars in a plane and rain money all over that continent? Who will benefit the most from that, the people starving to death, or the Warlords who have created the worst of the problem? You can't cure poverty without ending civil war and government corruption. Political stability is a precondition to economic prosperity. Therefore it has become a choice between Nation building or putting a band-aid on a broken leg. Considering current global opinion about the attempt at Nation building in Babylon, it is now as unpopular as ever to use military force to remove a corrupt regime; so how can aid improve living conditions in a country with a corrupt ruling regime?

When I watch these musicians demanding that my government spend more of my tax dollars on a solution to a problem that has not been working, I feel contempt. On one hand I don’t doubt that these self-indulgent superstars do feel that this cause is important, but they do benefit greatly from the positive press coverage that they receive. I think Ed the Sock said it best in one of his “EDitorials”, so I will include that wonderful piece of opinion at the end of my rant. When was the last time Bono or Geldoff got bad press? Ask Michael Jackson about the difference between good press and bad press. Lest developed nations feed impoverished nations forever, there will always be starving children on our television screen. Even when we try to feed them all, it never seems to be enough. Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him forever.

Let’s not talk about money. Let’s talk about solutions that actually work. So long as corruption and civil war reigns supreme in Africa, money will not help the average person. I care more about how the money is spent than how much money is spent. Should we get into the business of nation building? Defeating corrupt regimes so that the people need not suffer? Ending corruption can do more to end poverty than 100 trillions of dollars thrown out of an airplane. But Nation Building is very unpopular, so how do we end corruption? Perhaps we could offer corrupt governments a million U2 CDs to be nice? So lets spend billions on millions of U2 CDs to end corruption! Who benefits the most from that? A starving child in Africa, or Mr. Bono? For every article on the benefits of Live 8, lets talk about the benefits of such publicity for rock stars.

What has Sir Corey Haim done for us lately? Sir Vanilla Ice? Sir MC Hammer? Or should they hire a new publicist?


The story begins, appropriately enough, in Africa.

In 1985, Ethiopia was suffering from a devastating famine when UK rocker Bob Geldof organized Band Aid, a collection of Britain’s top artists that came together to record a benefit single for famine relief.

The single was “Do They Know it’s Christmas” – in retrospect, a stupid question to ask about a continent that has no snow and is overwhelmingly non-Christian. But I guess “Do They Know It’s Kwanzaa” didn’t have the same ring to it. But the charitable zeal spread across the pond as American stars organized USA for Africa and it’s benefit single – We Are the World – a sentiment that would later be echoed by a US president. Canada got into the act too with Northern Lights, the only celebrity benefit where the performers arrived by bus. Even eastern Europe got in on the action with a benefit song by the world-famous Shmenge brothers and Israel’s single, No They Don’t Know It’s Christmas, you meshuginnah goyem.

Emboldened by their successes, the biggest names from all the efforts came together in a giant benefit concert called Live Aid that was telecast globally and raised millions for the cause.

Not all the artists at Live Aid were top sellers…among the performers was a band known in the UK but otherwise rather obscure – an Irish rock combo called U2. The group had released The Unforgettable Fire a month earlier to a collective American yawn, but Live Aid launched U2 from uncharted territory to worldwide success.

The global exposure of Live Aid and the goodwill associated with it put U2 on the map. By 1985, Rolling Stone magazine was calling U2 “the Band of the Eighties.” All from the strength of Live Aid. In short, Africa was berry berry good to U2.

And here began the U2 pattern of major charity efforts coinciding with an album release or concert tour.

Which may be why Bono jumped at a chance to be a part of the single Sun City by Artists Against Apartheid, protesting the iniquities in South Africa. Humanitarian as his concern no doubt was – U2’s EP, Awake in America – didn’t start selling in the US until after Sun City was released…hmmm…African charity concert…album sales…African protest song…album sales…do you need to be a musician to see the rhythm? (See U2 Timeline)

But his time in Africa really sensitized Bono to the plight of Africans…in fact, he’s said to the press that Africa isn’t a was an emergency. (Bono has made this ‘emergency’ line part of his stump speech. Here are some examples)

So what was his response to this emergency? Ummmm…nothing for a few years, which is a strange way to respond to an emergency. It’s like paramedics putting you on hold.

1987 was the year it all hit for U2. Among the socially conscious rock fans of the 80s, U2 had become heroes for their politically charged music and African benefit music. The Joshua Tree became their biggest album ever, which they quickly followed up with the documentary film Rattle and Hum – which pushed U2 into full-blown overexposure.

But while U2 was finally finding major success…Bono didn’t feel the need to be a part of any big African relief project. (See U2 Timeline)

Hmmmmmm…apparently, the “emergency” in Africa seemed less immediate while people were taking his picture. While he did make mention of Africa from the stage, it seemed to backfire. Could it have been that a preachy multimillionaire rock star subsumed in an orgy of a concert tour trying make working-class crowds feel guilty about poverty might have seemed a trifle hollow?

And by the time of Achtung Baby and the ZooTV tour, talk of Africa and anything else political had given way to radio-friendly tunes and an over-the-top sensory display. And their follow-up PopMart tour was even more awash with mindless spectacle. Not just that, but critics had started noticing something about U2’s new music – it was crap! And the fans could smell it too as U2 played to less-than-full arenas and their tour almost went teats up.

Then suddenly, Bono re-discovered world suffering. But Africa somehow slipped his mind as he concentrated on the more headline-grabbing tensions in Bosnia. U2 played a concert for Sarajevo – right around the time they released a new single.

Then Bono sang on a benefit song for a British children’s charity, and he and the Edge joined the protest for debt relief for poor countries at the G8 economic summit in Germany – at the same time as they were promoting U2’s Greatest Hits CD.

Charity work…record work…record sales…charity work…record launch…charity work…record launch…didn’t Pavlov do this experiment with dogs?

In Germany, Bono met Jamie Drummond, the head of a UK campaign called Jubilee 2000 which was agitating world governments to cancel 100% of the debt for the world’s poorest countries…which of course still included Africa. Drummond reminded Bono that Africa, in the form of Live Aid, had made U2’s career, and it was time to give something back.

So Bono signed up and became a tireless cheerleader for the cause. Yet 2000 came and went and the debt wasn’t cancelled...but U2’s album “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” debuted at number 1 in 22 countries. I’m sure all the free exposure Bono got from his charity work had nothing to do with it.

Bono kept going even after the Jubilee campaign wound down, and was in the process of producing a charity single for African AIDS relief when the planes flew into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. With 9/11 the focus of the world’s attention, Bono suddenly forgot about Africa again and diverted proceeds from the song to 9/11 relief efforts. What about African suffering, a crisis Bono had termed “an emergency?” 9/11 was just more immediate. Apparently, Bono practices a form of triage philanthropy.

But the 9/11 benefit song secured U2 a spot at that year’s Superbowl, where Bono literally wrapped himself in the American flag…after which All That You Can’t Leave Behind, which had been out for a while and had dropped down the charts, jumped more than 40 places on Billboard album charts, and The Elevation tour went on to become the second highest grossing tour of all time.

Sure – you could argue that it’s all a coincidence and Bono’s political activism just happens to coincide with U2 product launches. You may also find it a coincidence that Clark Kent disappears when Superman shows up. But at least Bono finally remembered the African emergency, and in 2002 he formed his own relief organization, Data.

Not related to the pasty-skinned Star Trek character, DATA stands for Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa...or Democracy Accountability Transparency Africa…even they aren’t sure, which is consistent with the mixed messages of his organization, one day agitating for debt relief, the next day for money to fight African AIDS.

DATA’s professed goals are: “…to raise awareness about, and spark response to the crises swamping Africa: unpayable Debts, uncontrolled spread of AIDS, and unfair Trade rules which keep Africans poor.” – That’s a lot of newspeak which basically means they’ve created a charity to inform us that Africa is impoverished and ridden with illnesses.

Sally Struthers has been doing that in one minute TV commercials for 20 years. So, nobody else is working for African aid? HMMMMM…. So it seems that maybe there ARE a few others dabbling in the cause. So why create another charity to do what others have already been doing?

Well, those charities won’t do is splash Bono’s mug on every page of their website. What another charity will do is divert already thin resources to a duplicated effort, otherwise known as donor fatigue , defined by long-time relief group Doctors Without Borders as “a state in which donors no longer contribute to a cause because they have become tired of receiving appeals for donations.” In other words, too many charities asking for money, so all of them get less. Thanks Bono.

And what does DATA actually do? Again, according to its website: “DATA does not either directly offer program money to development projects on the ground nor does it make grants to implementing partners. DATA is solely focused on spreading the word about the crisis and advocating solutions that will work.”

Yes, you heard right. No medicine, no volunteers, no money for Africa. They say their purpose is to lobby Washington, but that’s the same purpose as the other 36,959 registered US lobby groups.

That’s a lot harder than selling iPods.

DATA also pushes governments to increase foreign aid to African nations. Bono has been really outspoken on the issue, even chiding politicians who don’t meet Bono’s stringent standards for aid levels.

Yes, Bono is all about telling countries to increase their foreign aid. And you know where countries get their funding for foreign aid? Tax dollars. Tax dollars, of course, come from taxpayers.

Know who isn’t a taxpayer? Bono. At least not on his earnings from U2. In his home country of Ireland, where thanks to pro-entertainer tax laws, the members of U2 pay no tax on their earnings from the band.

To put that into perspective, In 2002, Bono’s taxes alone from the Elevation tour would have been in the neighborhood of 3.5 million dollars…that’s not even factoring in album sales. (Based on band’s earnings for tour, split 5 ways, taxed at 25%)

If, according to African relief agencies, it costs $1 a day to feed a starving person in Africa. The money Bono avoided in taxes in one year from one concert tour – no album sales or other income factored in - could feed almost 3 ½ million starving Africans.

A picture is worth a thousand words….in Bono’s world, maybe they’re worth a thousand dollars too. They certainly are in PR value for an aging rocker fronting a mediocre band.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't

This past week I had a political chat with one of my buddies on the golf course. He happens to be a left winger, but we both love sports and love playing golf. I queried him about his opinion on Iraq. He strongly supports the withdrawal of American soldiers from Iraq, and yet strongly believes that the country will descend into a chaotic civil war when they do. This presented a curious contradiction. If you are cheering for the withdrawal and believe the country will go out in flames if they do, are you then cheering for the country to descend into anarchy? He could not answer.

After the 10th green, we started talking about Africa and the countries that are messed up because they are led by megalomaniacs. We both agreed on the crazy leaders who need to go, such as Mugabe. I said that the Bono/Geldoff model applied over the last 20 years has not worked, and he agreed. I proceeded to ask whether we should put together a military force of African membership to take out the megalomaniacs, and he disagreed. To him the best solution was that we strangle them with sanctions, even if millions of their citizens die of starvation. Force innocents to suffer for a longer period time rather than embark on a quick action to remove the cancer.

It was an agreeable conversation, but to me illustrated a contradiction on the left. They advocate a position that will increase suffering in the name of suffrage. Sanctions are more likely to punish the vulnerable than those in power. Dumping aid on an unstable continent does little if anything to help the needy. And yet, leaving the crazies in power leads to more pain and suffering. This then begs the question, if military force is not to be used, what on earth can help alleviate these desperate situations all over the world that both on the right and left agree is detrimental? I don't know the answer.

“An idealist is a person who helps other people to be prosperous.”

-Henry Ford

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My new favourite song

This evening I heard this rap for the first time, and it is my new favourite song.

Young Con Anthem

My only asterix is that I have no objection to Gays getting married. I don't even care if a farmer wants to marry a sheep. I am mostly indifferent on abortion. I favour "thinning the heard" wherever possible, I just say get it done early. Once the kid grows to the size of a GI Joe, then I consider it alive and killing it feels immoral. I was very fond of my GI Joes as a child.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


You need to appreciate the irony of NHL Commish Gary Bettman invoking the right of fast food chains to decide where its restaurants are located in a vain attempt to justify excluding Jimmy Balsille from his ownership cabal. Is the NHL now on par with Burger King? The key difference between the fast food industry and the NHL is that one is a highly competitive market, the other is a monopolistic oligarchy. Fast food restaurants are distributed efficiently such that supply satisfies demand. You don’t hear MacDonalds saying “we’ll put only one franchise in Toronto because everyone there loves our food and we can charge $100 per burger and people will sit on a waiting list for a lifetime for the right to pay it; so instead we’ll put a franchise in the middle of the desert where nobody eats meat.” It is lunacy of the highest order.

The inconvenient truth that you won’t hear in a Bettman “state of the union” address is that his job is potentially on the line. He is an employee of the NHL owners, and his ability to maintain his employment is based on a delicate balance of confidence votes. If his arch nemesis is successful in his bid to get a team that tips the balance in the other direction. If he is able to replace Moyes with a hand picked candidate, he increases his job security. It is a conflict of interest. Past confidence votes show that the “pro-Bettman” crowd in the ownership cabal is a very slim majority. What has me befuddled is why more owners are not pushing Gary to shift franchises to markets where people actually want to consume the product. This insistence that Gary continuously advocates that hockey can work in these non hockey markets is like watching Alice in Wonderland. How many hundreds of millions can you drop down the rabbit hole before you snap out of the hypnosis?

The list of failed Bettman experiments seems to be growing larger by the day. Phoenix is reportedly worth a mere 67 million dollars as is, and owes 240 million in debts. The Florida Panthers are now officially for sale. He wants $220 million for team and stadium (the list of potential buyers is one). If Jimmy doesn’t get the Coyotes next week, he has other options. Do you think that the Florida owner will appreciate Gary telling that he needs to take a $110 million dollar bath for no good reason? The Nashville owner received a sweetheart deal to join the Minnesota ownership group for accepting less for the Predators. Quid pro quo. The Columbus Bluejackets were recently found to have lost over $80 million dollars in the past 6 years. The Dallas Stars defaulted on their expense payments last season. They could not pay their employees and needed help from the league. The owner of the New York Islanders recently admitted that it was a terrible mistake to buy the team. The list of “have nots” is growing and eventually these guys are going to want to sell. Who will want to buy a team that loses millions annually on the precondition that it has to stay in the very city where it is failing? Then the rich teams will be forced to bail out the operating loses of Bettman’s failures. It is bad business. Meanwhile the revenue produced by the six Canadian teams are a cash cow for the league.

On the matter of territorial rights, it is murky from a legal perspective. It is not exactly something written into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but rather the NHL rulebook. There is precedence favourable to Hamilton, such as the Devils, Islanders, and Mighty Ducks. It is unclear whether the NHL can legally block a transfer on the basis of “territorial rights”, but at the least they can charge an entry fee. The catch is that the NHL cannot come out and openly cite competition as their legal justification for cock blocking Jimmy. If they cite competition, then Jimmy has an anti-trust case. Most insiders believe that competition is at the heart of the NHL opposition, but Gary has no choice but to say making it work in the desert is why Jimmy can’t move the team. So while Gary is wandering through wonderland, the people of southern Ontario are being deprived of a product that they want to spend money to consume.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Where Environmentalism Ends and Marxism Begins...

Once upon a time in its infancy, the modern environmental movement led by Greenpeace engaged in more noble pursuits than activists of today. They sought to end the practice of dumping toxic chemicals in our lakes and oceans, they strived to prevent the extinction of endangered species, slow the rapid destruction of the rainforests, and so on and so forth. These were noble, practical endeavors that made sense on a pragmatic level. But as time progressed, the ranks of the environmental movement became increasingly occupied by zealous socialists. I’m not certain where the tipping point came, but I listened to a recent interview with a former President and founding father of Greenpeace who explained that he withdrew his membership in the organization he helped to create because it had been subjugated by socialists.

I am reluctant to speculate how or why this took place, but I suspect that after the fall of the Soviet Union and the fantastical failures of the policies of Chairman Mao (which climaxed at Tiananmen Square); the dream of creating a classless utopia, heaven on earth, was dramatically diminished. The Marxists had lost their mojo, and needed to evolve in order to survive. Whether the environmental movement was targeted because of overlapping ideologies or the righteousness of protecting the planet, I can’t say for certain. What is certain is that during the 90s the message of the enviro movement began to change its tone to “global warming” then to “climate change” and now to “climate crisis”. A remarkably convenient crisis of cause and effect that is simple to explain, impossible to prove, and challenging to refute. The cause: humans burn fossil fuels. The effect: catastrophic climate Armageddon.

If you had access to the time travelling phone booth from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, it would be fascinating to retrieve Adam Smith (the Scottish grandfather of modern economics) and Karl Marx (the anti Christ) for a live televised debate. One of their most significant points of contention would be on consumption. Marx regarded it as the root of all evil, while Smith recognized it as the root of all progress. To Marx, the desire to consume and acquire material goods is a corrupting influence and the indulgence of consumptive behavior leads to competition and inevitable conflict among the populace. Smith regarded consumption as an almost divine rite that is the driving force behind production. Consumption is responsible for virtually all economic activity and therefore drives employment, growth, innovation, prosperity, and ultimately happiness.

It is unfortunate that the lines between environmentalist and Marxist have been blurred. I don’t want to paint all enviro activists with a broad brush because there are voices in the movement that I respect, such as Bjorn Lumborg; but at least those moderates are pragmatic enough to become skeptical of Al Gore when they find out that the world hasn’t “warmed” since 1998. Gore on the other hand goes “all in” and insists that the crisis is as dire as ever. When the world starts to cycle into a cooling trend and you hear activists turn up the volume on CO2 induced warming, alarm bells should start ringing in your head.

Where the theory of CO2 warming is convenient for the modern Marxist is that it allows them to attack consumption in a much more discrete manner. The desire to consume is a natural human instinct that is programmed into our DNA by virtue of a million years of evolution. Trying to convince people that they should not covet material goods which they clearly desire, or that they should not yearn for that tropical cruise that they would obviously enjoy; is a losing battle. You cannot convince people to reduce consumption at the individual level. It is something that must be forced upon them, and instituting mandatory caps on consumption would be political suicide in a democratic country. Therefore if you are a political entity seeking to inhibit consumption as a matter of public policy in a democracy, your only feasible option is to make it more expensive.

The overwhelming majority of consumption is directly facilitated by energy, be it by electricity or fossil fuels. A significant proportion of electricity is also generated by burning fossil fuels. Manufacturing consumer goods and distributing them to retail outlets is dependent on energy. Increasing the cost of fuel is passed on the consumer in the form of higher retail prices. As goods and services become more expensive people are forced to consume less. Therefore a carbon tax or a strict cap and trade help to accomplish a key tenant of Marxism.

I am all in favour of developing alternatives to fossil fuels, which as a finite resource will inevitably happen eventually. The market will be able to accomplish this transition without government intervention. As the supply of fossil fuels decreases and price increases, a substitute becomes more profitable and thus the private sector will invest more in research and development. The big question is how quickly this adjustment will become necessary. There seems to be conflicting estimates of the size of the remaining supply. Regardless of the long term sustainability of oil based propulsion and production it is clear that the political left is shifting demand to electricity without significantly increasing our capacity to produce it. Like lemmings marching towards a cliff, they are trying to steer us in a specific direction without providing us adequate means to get there.

How many nuclear power plants are being built in North America right now? When you do the math, nuclear power is the best means of producing electricity given the current level of technology. Though I suppose even uranium is a finite resource. It will be interesting to watch how the environmental Marxists adapt their platforms if and when we shift our energy consumption to an emmissionless renewable means. That will force them to shift their war on consumption to a new front. Granted this transition is unlikely to happen in my lifetime; or perhaps their proposal to replace fossil fuels with wind turbines and solar panels is a feigned offensive because they know that you can never build enough wind farms to produce as much energy as oil and coal do today. They could be sending us on a fool’s errand. Shifting demand while leaving supply stagnant will have the same price effect as reducing supply.

Before Michael Moore comes at me proclaiming that the recent market downturn is proof that capitalism doesn’t work and that Adam Smith was wrong, I say find me the chapter in The Wealth of Nations where Smith advocates the necessity of subprime mortgages! The recent downturn in the market is a result of the financial sector over-extending credit to too many people and businesses that would never be able to pay them back. The market will eventually correct itself. Banks will learn to be more prudent with their loans and credit cards. The notion that we need to regress into Marxism because banks made bad loans is absurd. Be advised that when you hear an activist railing on the evils of consumption, you are likely listening to a Marxist whether they admit it or not. Personally I believe that socialism is best in small doses. There exists a Nash Equilibrium where a modest safety net contributes to the greater good of society. But if you swing the redistribution of wealth too far to the left, that net transforms into a magnet and guides us towards economic catastrophe by means of moral hazard. That’s why I am so passionate in my opposition to the NDP. God forbid they ever get even a hand on the steering wheel…

“Communism doesn’t work because people like to own stuff”

-Frank Zappa