Tag Archives: Spin

Exploring the latest Wiki-leak on the TPP – CBC, Canada Post in danger

You may have heard that Christmas, er, election season is coming early this year. The signs are all around us (figuratively; wait a few weeks for the signs to literally be on every lawn). From the campaign-style announcements of big cash giveaways, to the barn-storming leaders’ tours through key regions, to the swirling rumours that our Fearless Leader is going to visit the Actual Head of State’s Puppet Representative to get ‘er Majesty’s permission to dissolve Parliament, cause that’s how we roll here in Canada, still, for some reason nobody’s ever been able to convincingly explain to me, it seems that everywhere you look, the election is in the air.

Some have questioned the timing of this election call, given that by law, the actual election day is more than two months away. If the rumours are true, this will be the longest election Canada’s had since the twenties – and you gotta remember that back then, YouTube’s market penetration was WAY lower, and so politicians had to go around the country by train to make sure their vicious personal attacks got heard by key constituencies in swing ridings.

These things took time, y’see.

But this time around, the logic seems to be that under new campaign finance laws (which the Conservatives unilaterally passed without consulting either the Opposition or the public) the Conservatives are pretty well set up to have way more money than any of their opponents. (Funny how that works out.) So the longer the campaign is, the more the Cons will be able to outspend the opposition.

In other words, if you’re already fed up with the constant drone of radio commercials basically implying that Justin Trudeau is a stoned fratboy who wants to have sexytimes with terrorists and fritter away your hard-earned tax dollars on daily visits to the hair salon, you may want to consider either leaving the country or hiding in the woods until late October, cause that shit’s about to kick up several notches.

Of course, pissing on/belittling/slandering your opponents doesn’t by itself win elections. It’s also necessary to massively distort and oversell your own accomplishments and plans. The Cons had no doubt been counting on running on their strong economic record, but given the latest monthly data (Scotiabank analysts called it “ugly”, which lemme tell you won’t be good for the economy’s self-esteem at all), it seem that they’re going to have to come up with something else to pompously monologue about for the next two and a half months.

Enter the TPP – that once-obscure “trade” treaty which has shot to recent prominence as negotiations near completion. Apparently Harper & Co. are pushing for the deal to be done within the next few days, so they can start bragging about their Herculean international prowess right out of the election’s starting gate.  Continue Reading

ICYMI – Canadian and Ukrainian PMs sign deal to screw over Ukraine’s working class

It’s a great misfortune that the very words “trade agreement” have been known to cause eyes to glaze over, yawns to spring unbidden to mouths, and minds to wander. “I should probably do the laundry when I get home,” you think, “but I don’t really want to,” as some blowhard drones on about the significance of CETA or the TPP (that second one’s by yrs truly, btw -I am that blowhard!).

Trade agreements are notoriously boring subjects. They are stuffed with arcane legal terminology and have an absolute alphabet soup of acronyms, and they are entirely lacking in sex appeal, action shots, and gripping human interest angles. For precisely these reasons, they don’t sell newspapers or attract viewers. The most exciting visuals you’re gonna get out of them is a formal signing ceremony, replete with the flags of the member nations and earnest besuited politicians earnestly mumbling about the incalculable benefits of free trade and the incredible economic opportunities that will ensue from this agreement – a scene much like this one:

That’s right – Canada just signed a free trade agreement with Ukraine! Surprise! Bet you didn’t hear about it.

But before your eyes go all focussed-on-the-middle-distance-y and your mind gloms on to the first thing it can find to distract you from the menace of listening to me talk about the nuances of a bilateral trade agreement with an eastern European nation, just let me say that I promise to do my best to make it entertaining. (Although I can’t do anything about the total lack of sex appeal, I can promise you some rock and roll if you stay tuned to the end.) Continue Reading

Would a recession by any other name sound as bad?

What if, instead of calling it a recession, we call it a cracked tree that might someday maybe fall on your neighbour’s house?

This past Wednesday, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz, as was widely expected, announced that the Bank would be lowering its overnight interest rate by 0.25%, down to a mere half-percent, which by historical standards is extremely low. The move comes amidst increasing signs of a slowdown in the Canadian economy, with bank analysts from TD and Bank of America, among others, projecting that Canada entered a recession in the first half of 2015.

While we won’t have the final statistics until September (just in time for the federal election campaign!), the emerging consensus is that growth in Canada has been at best stagnant so far this year. So market analysts were keen to hear what Poloz had to say when he announced the new rate.

Poloz has been extremely careful with his language as of late, ever since he found himself in hot water for (accurately) describing the outlook for the Canadian economy as “atrocious” this past March in an interview with the Financial Times. Though the first-quarter numbers turned out to be worse than even the pessimistic Poloz projected, the backlash against his comments was so strong that he’s been striving to strike a tone of cautious optimism ever since.

So perhaps it was no surprise that he went WAY out of his way to avoid actually uttering the word “recession” this week.

But the disingenuousness – and sheer politicality – of his cautious language deserves calling out.

Let’s let the man speak for himself (while the CBC’s Terry Milewski gently mocks him): Continue Reading

As Canada’s economy slides into recession, how safe are the big banks?

Bank of America said it on the 1st of July, and TD said it on the 6th, but I knew that the economy was in a recession as soon as I heard federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver deny it way back in early June.

That would be the same Joe Oliver who “balanced” the budget with a whole host of lies, tricks, creative accounting, and the promise of future union-stomping. That surplus was a total fabrication, a clumsy election-year subterfuge designed to make the Cons look like responsible stewards of the economy.

Also that’s the same Joe Oliver who was forced to delay unveiling of that budget by several months because of “market volatility” (aka the tar sands getting kicked in the shins by the collapse in oil prices). Despite the total lack of improvement in the economy in the interim, Oliver was confident at the time the budget was released that things would get better – soon.

And that’s the same tune he was singing last week when BofA became the first of the big bank to project a recession following the release of stats for April showing the economy contracted for a fourth consecutive month. Oliver angrily denied that we’re in recession territory, and predicted strong, strong growth – right around the corner!

“We don’t have a recession. We don’t believe we will be in a recession,” Oliver said Friday in Toronto. “A recession is technically two consecutive negative quarters and we don’t have results from the second quarter.”

Statistics Canada reported this week that gross domestic product shrank by 0.1 percentin April, on the heels of a 0.6 percent annualized contraction in the first quarter.

However the finance minister sees indications that consumers and manufacturers are more optimistic. “There are, I think it’s fair to say, mixed signals at the moment,” Oliver said. “We’ll and wait and see what the numbers, in fact, will be.”

The federal budget, released in April, forecast annual GDP growth of 2 percent for the country, based on projections from private sector economists. Those projections haven’t been updated, Oliver said.

Of course the projections haven’t been updated – that would make the phony surplus Oliver worked so hard to engineer completely disappear! But in order to make good on those projections, the Canadian economy will have to grow at an annualized rate of roughly 4% in the second half of the year – a pace we haven’t seen in the last fifteen years. Continue Reading

Politicians pretend to be cowboys, and the media pretends this is somehow reasonable

This past week, the self-proclaimed “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” was responsible for the death of yet another two horses, in the name of tradition. Despite the objections of animal welfare advocates, organizers of the atrociously retrograde chuckwagon races insist that there’s no problem here:

The Stampede Chuckwagon Safety Commission said there have been no similar incidents for the last “three or four years.”

“I think the Stampede does an excellent job that the horses are fit,” said the commission’s Stan Church. “I don’t think there’s anywhere in the world that does as much to ensure that the horses are fit when they come onto the track.”[…]

[M]ore than 50 horses have been killed during the event at the Stampede since 1986.

Old traditions die hard. They seem to linger long after the logic behind them has been revealed as flawed, leaving them looking ridiculous and arcane to any observers who aren’t themselves steeped in the traditions.

And so the Calgary Stampede also witnessed a parade of federal political party leaders, dressed awkwardly in their Hallowe’enified Wild West gear, flipping flapjacks and dishing out baked beans and doing their damndest to seem like cartoon portrayals of fairground cowboys, despite the fact that all were born and raised east of Mississauga. To my Ontario eyes, they looked nothing short of ridiculous.

This is one of those cases where a picture is truly worth thousands of snarky words: Continue Reading

Electoral reform and the inadequacy of proportional representation

(This is the third in an ongoing series on the question of voting. See part one and part two if you’re interested.)

Now let me just start off by saying loudly and clearly that I’m in favour of proportional representation.

If we’re going to have a representative democracy – or even pretend that we do – then it’s long past time that we switched to an electoral system which yields results which reflect the actual vote totals. The obviousness of this proposition makes it hard to believe that this policy has never been enacted, especially since all of the major parties in this country have been on the losing side of an unfair election result at some point or another.

The introduction of a more democratic method of allocating the seats in Parliament would go some way towards alleviating the tendency of parties with a shot at winning government to abandon all principle and run toward the perceived “centre” that I discussed last week, and would no doubt encourage people who support marginal parties and parties unlikely to win their riding from voting anyway.

All of this is good.


(You knew there was gonna be a “but”, right?) Continue Reading

In solidarity with the people of Greece, on the eve of a ridiculous referendum

Pity the people of Greece.

Those folks have been screwed over by everybody. And tomorrow, no matter how they vote in this supposedly critical referendum, they’re gonna get screwed again.

And yet in most of the articles on this debacle that I read, I run into the conventional framing of this story, which still dominates coverage of Greece despite the fact that it’s total bullshit. I’m referring to the wrong-headed notion that the people of Greece somehow brought this on themselves, and that if they had only been more disciplined and responsible, they wouldn’t be in such a desperate fix.

So I wanted to take this opportunity, on the eve of a vote that nobody quite understands, to point out how guiltless the people of Greece are.

The essence of the story of this debt crisis, in fact, is that the Greek people have been fucked over by pretty much everybody.

They were enticed into the eurozone by what turned out to be fantasy promises by an institution whose architecture was pretty much designed to fail. European bureaucrats, Greek politicians, and French and German bankers were well aware that Greece was a risky proposition, but they were willing to look the other way because there was money to be made: Continue Reading

Justin Trudeau: He didn’t come back for you, either

Imagine, if you will, somebody who only gets their news from Conservative Party attack ads.

It’s not as far-fetched as it might sound – it’s perilously easy to avoid paying any attention to what goes on in the world, but political advertising penetrates the farthest reaches of classic rock radio and sports highlight reels.

Such a person as we’ve imagined would be quite justified in wondering why, exactly, anybody in their right mind would vote for Justin Trudeau or his party.

It’s a fair question, to be sure. I think it’s safe to say that if Trudeau ever had a brain, at this point it’s been surgically removed and replaced by a committee of pollsters, focus group analysts, cigar-smoking backroom party strategists, and ordinary middle-class soccer moms. His every utterance is calculated for maximum political effect on swing voters, his party’s platform a hodgepodge collage of popular ideas cadged from any source he could get his hands on. (See this brilliant takedown of his recently announced electoral strategy.) If the man’s had an original thought in the last decade, he’s kept it to himself.

But this line of argument would be foreign to our hypothetical attack-ad-saturated individual. No, they would have a somewhat different view of Trudeau; he would seem to them to be dangerous, a man unhinged, bent on power at all costs, lacking in any basic human decency, a friend to our enemies and a menace to the nation. Just look at what the Conservative Party has paid advertising firms to say about him (CW: graphic violence against prisoners): Continue Reading

On Timbits and terrorists and Thomas Mulcair

Over the past few weeks, the Conservative government has been introducing a flurry of bills that they have absolutely no intention of passing.

Many of the bills, which include motions to sentence certain criminals to life without the possibility of parole and to ban women from wearing the niqab during citizenship ceremonies, have been labelled as potentially unconstitutional by legal observers and rights groups. But that’s besides the point.

The Conservatives are betting on two things: first, that these bills will be popular with their base, and second, that they can slur the Liberals and NDP for opposing these motions. As the CBC puts it, “who wants to run an election campaign arguing against tough sentences for murders and rapists?”

To claim that opponents of their measure are sympathetic to vicious criminals is a classic example of an ad hominem attack. If you’ve never heard of it, the ad hominem is an attack on the arguer rather than on their argument, an attempt to discredit the speaker rather than refute the speech. Ad hominems are common on schoolyards everywhere – like for instance, “What do you know about sports? You’re just a girl!” or, “Nobody cares what you think anyway, you dummy!”

Which sound pretty obvious. But I still remember watching George W Bush gravely intone in a speech to Congress days after 9/11 that “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” to wild thunderous applause. Now, that’s barely one step removed from “If you don’t agree with me, you’re clearly an idiot”, but I don’t remember the New York Times calling him out on that one. Continue Reading

Bono is an arrogant self-important jerk who doesn’t care about the poor

Several years back I ran a kitchen on a volunteer hippie farm near Newcastle, Ontario. We had all types of transients coming through the farm, and all of them were strongly encouraged to either help tend the crops or work in the kitchen cooking the day’s meals or preserving the harvest. In the spirit of the dysfunctional laid-back-to-nature vibe of the farm, I kept rules to a minimum in the kitchen. In fact, there was only one hard and fast, non-negotiable rule: You can listen to whatever shitty music you like, but no Bono.

Looking back, I have a lot of regrets about that time of my life, but my injunction against U2 is something I’ll stand by proudly. Bono is quite possibly my least favourite person in the world today – and if you follow the news as closely as I do, you’ll know that that’s quite a statement.

My beef with Bono is that he’s very much “part of the problem” – he’s pretty much the quintessential “part of the problem” – but he’s managed to convince seemingly everybody that he’s part of the solution, that he’s being the change we need to see in the world. Which couldn’t be further from the truth: Continue Reading

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