Tag Archives: Voodoo Economics

Fallacy Friday: Substance and logic the big losers in last night’s debate

I watched the whole damn thing.

Really I did. Without the aid of intoxicants, I sat through a painful hour and a half of shouting, statistics, and (old) stock lines from the leaders of the Big Three Parties.

I even took notes!

Looking back over them now, I can see with more perspective how utterly incoherent the evening was, how jumpy. How each subject was dealt with perfunctorily, with the utmost brevity. How the super-liminal branding by the Globe and Mail was a hideous distraction, as was the ominously dark and distorted and angled and looming false-colour photo of the Parliament Buildings that they inexplicably selected as a backdrop. How much goddamn squabbling and shouting and incoherent crosstalk there was.

Some sample quotes from my hasty scribbles:

  • “TOTAL INCOHERENCE ON TAX RATES. They’re all wrong.
  • “Mulcair: ‘Harper dodged the question!’ Then he dodges his question.”
  • Fear-mongering! Lies!”
  • “Harper: Canada: it’s not great, but it’s as good as it gets!”
  • Child care is Mulcair’s answer to the housing bubble?!?!”
  • “Trudeau keeps saying ‘top 1%’ – I guess the focus groups liked that line?”
  • “SQUABBLE SQUABBLE!”

Upon further reflection, I think taking notes was a waste of time. Continue Reading

The Great Leap Forward – it sounds great on paper, but how do we get there from here?

If you haven’t heard about the Leap Manifesto yet, and you’re concerned about the future of humanity in the face of myriad challenges, challenges which are corporate, environmental, and white-cis-het-patriarcho-supremacist, then perhaps you could go take a look at it.

(I tried to pick a section to highlight and quote here, but it was all too reasonable and on point. So I’ll wait here while you read it.)

OK. So. A concrete plan for a transformation of the Canadian economy and political system and energy infrastructure and racial relations and worker/capitalist relations, all in the name of making Earth more habitable and life more enjoyable in both the short and long term.

Sounds great, right?

So why in the hell haven’t we been hearing more about this kind of thing from, I don’t know, ANY MAJOR POLITICIAN?

Funny you should ask…

Here’s the thing. We’ve never had any shortage of great ideas in terms of how we should radically transform the world to make it more inclusive, equitable, environmentally sustainable, racially just. Plans to conclusively end poverty once and for all have been kicking around for a century or more. And I’m not saying that these ideas and plans and schemes and manifestos have been ill-informed or poorly designed or unworkable in practice.

It’s just that, well… Continue Reading

TPP update – watch out for last-minute negotiations in the next few weeks

When we last left the TPP, it was on life support.

That was waaaay back in early August, when supposedly final negotiations in Hawaii completely broke down over fairly major differences. This gave hope to folks like me who have long been terrified of this insidious “trade” agreement.

(For some background on the Trans Pacific Partnership, see my summary here.)

But just as zombies are hell-bent on devouring brains, international corporate interests are hell-bent on extracting profits and rents wherever they can, and so the pressure to get a deal done – and soon! – is relentless.

Part of the big rush is related to Canada’s upcoming election; negotiators seem determined to seal the deal before we go to the polls October 19th. For the life of me, I’m not sure what they’re worried about; as Green Party candidate Paul Manly points out, the Big Three Parties are uniformly in favour of this sovereignty-destroying, regulation-eroding, wage-suppressing calamity of a treaty. Regardless of this election’s outcome, Capital will get what it wants out of these negotiations.

Another major component of the time pressure has to do with next year’s US election. Due to arcane Senate rules, any treaty must wait several months before receiving approval, meaning a deal must be sealed within the next few months to avoid running into the heavy-duty American election season, when nothing of substance can get done because the parties become completely incapable of cooperating.

(And we trust these people to make decisions on our behalf?)

Over the past week, negotiators from Mexico, Japan, Canada, and the United States met in Washington to try to resolve outstanding disputes surrounding the auto sector. But it seems that they weren’t able to resolve their differences, at least according to this Japan Times article: Continue Reading

This Week in Electionland: The press smells blood

If you read the political news recently, even a little bit, you’ll know that Stephen Harper had a bad week.

rabble went so far as to call it a “very bad, very ugly week“. Michael Harris at iPolitics dubbed it “the week that Stephen Harper lost the benefit of the doubt”. Maclean’s said it was the worst of the campaign for Harper and that the PM is now “seeking shelter” from the barrage of bad news. I’ll let Maclean’s sum up the damage:

The news of the week included a candidate who urinated in a stranger’s coffee mug, a candidate who impersonated a mentally disabled individual as part of a prank call, recent suggestions of turmoil within the leadership of the Conservative campaign and one anonymous Conservative’s subsequent assertion that someone was “obviously trying to f— us”, and, of course, the Syrian refugee crisis, a matter that, beyond serious questions of principle and policy, has had cabinet ministers complaining about media coverage (first, Chris Alexander’s unfortunate attempt to accuse the CBC of ignoring the issue, then, Jason Kenney’s admonition that the media was ignoring the government’s good work), campaign staff shielding another cabinet minister from reporters’ questions and a Conservative candidate’s spouse heckling a reporter’s attempt to enquire further of the Prime Minister. And before this week there had already been the trial of Mike Duffy—with its myriad of revelations and questions raised—and the official declaration of a recession.

Indeed, it really was one piece of bad news after another for the Conservative campaign this week – and the sharks in the press smelled blood.

It’s long been evident that the media elites in this country have it in for this Prime Minister. Hell, even the Sun called for his resignation at the height of the Duffy scandal in 2013. So it’s no surprise that they’re pouncing with all their might now, when they feel Harper is most vulnerable.

When I use the phrase “media elites” I feel a little bit like an Alex Jones-er, one of the Illuminati-obsessors, or even just a regular old Canadian Conservative supporter. It gives me a bit of an icky feeling.

But let’s be real here – our mainstream media in this country is dominated by a handful of extremely wealthy people who aren’t just in it for the chuckles. When, across the board, you see reporters and editorialists joining the pile-on and saying that Harper’s time has come, that he’s really fucked up this time, that the Conservative campaign is on a fast train to Nowheresville, then you gotta know that the big boys at the top are done with Steve-O.

Let’s take a look, shall we? Continue Reading

This week in Electionland – Through the Looking Glass edition

For some mood music, jump to the end of the article. CW: misogyny, violent lyrics, profanity. But also some damn good mashing up.

This was the week when I gave up on the election.

I’ll admit that even going in I was extremely skeptical. (See for instance my seven-part series on why voting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and probably isn’t even a worthwhile exercise most of the time.) And granted, my patience was essentially gone by the end of last week. But keeping track of the literally absurd squabble over deficits that ate up several news cycles this week pushed me past my limits.

I tuned right out.

Which perhaps was the intention of most of the parties involved. Because while “the economy” may be a top priority for many voters, those same voters quite likely don’t want to spend more time than is strictly speaking necessary thinking about the specifics of the federal government’s budget. They just want to have secure jobs and decent incomes.

And besides, partisans are going to stand by their parties no matter what position they take. As the brilliantly-named “O-bots” have shown over the past seven years, loyal party members are happy to denounce a policy when in opposition and then whole-heartedly embrace that same policy when in power, and never mind how contorted the mental gymnastics involved are.

So, for instance, witness supporters of the NDP straining to reconcile themselves to Thomas Mulcair’s words of praise of Margaret Thatcher: Continue Reading

Trudeau on surpluses – ours were good, Mulcair’s would be bad

Oh my friends, my friends – the things I do for the sake of political coverage!

I just spent the last half hour of my life – a half hour I’ll never get back, I hasten to add, a half hour which brought me thirty minutes closer to death – watching a Liberal Party rally livestreamed on the CBC’s website. I watched first Paul Martin and then Justin Trudeau lecture a crowd of rowdy partisan holding incoherently eerie clearly-aiming-at-being-subliminal red-and-white signs reading “leader” and “plan”, on the virtues of Liberal economic leadership. I heard Paul Martin tell the crowd that he knew a thing or two about creating a balanced budget, and that the Conservatives had squandered his surpluses, to raucous applause, and then I heard Justin Trudeau tell the crowd that a balanced budget was entirely the wrong decision for Canadians right now, to raucous applause.

Oh my lord the cognitive dissonance was real. To hear about all the compassion that the Liberal Party supposedly has for average Canadians while also hearing Martin extol his many many surpluses in the 90s – surpluses that were racked up on the backs of working Canadians – was borderline nauseating. Continue Reading

This week in Electionland: There’s a war on for the soul of the NDP

ALSO: Duffygate and the things it distracted from; the Liberals struggle to stay relevant; campaign coverage is increasingly a story that’s being covered

For months, this week has been circled in red on the calendars of Cdnpoli nerds across the country. Nigel Wright, Stephen Harper’s one-time chief of staff, was scheduled to testify this week in the ongoing Mike Duffy trial about the $90 000 personal cheque he wrote the then-senator in an effort to make the rapidly metastasizing scandal surrounding Duffy’s residency expenses go away. The scheme backfired spectacularly, leading to Wright’s resignation from the PMO. Ultimately, Duffy was charged with bribery for accepting the cheque, although Wright, oddly enough, was never charged with anything for writing the cheque.

And, as expected, the testimony was contentious and scandal-ridden. Stretching over several days, and set to continue tomorrow, the Wright testimony has been a centrepiece of the still-young campaign, with Duffy’s legal team seeking to demonstrate that the Prime Minister’s Office sought to buy Duffy’s cooperation in their messaging war and attempted to deceive the Canadian people about the source of the funds Duffy paid back to the government.

But surprisingly, the real story of the week, at least from where I was sitting, was the increasingly visible internal struggle in the NDP.

Long-time NDP leftist stalwarts have been distressed by the rightward drift of the party over recent years – look at, for instance, the open letter from 34 prominent NDP members to Andrea Horwath in the midst of last year’s Ontario election campaign accusing the party leader of abandoning its base and running to the right of the Liberals in an ill-conceived attempt to win over Conservative voters. Up until this week, the federal NDP had been able to keep a tight lid on internal dissent over its increasingly neoliberal policies, but attacks against the party from within shot to prominence in recent days.

It began with candidate Linda McQuaig’s comments last week that much of the “oilsands oil” will probably have to be left in the ground – a position which is held by most prominent climate scientists and which, taken literally, is hardly controversial, given the vastness of Alberta’s reserves. The attacks on McQuaig and the NDP from oil industry lackeys was fast and furious, and Thomas Mulcair very quickly and publicly caved in, proclaiming that the NDP was committed to bringing tar sands oil to market. “We’re in favour of creating markets for our natural resources, we’re in favour of developing them, but that has to be done sustainably,” Mulcair insisted, a litany he would find himself repeating all week.

For instance, when he launched his campaign autobiography (which he apparently wrote on his BlackBerry, amazingly) in Toronto on Monday, the book-signing was interrupted by anti-pipeline activists who briefly shut the event down before they were escorted out. Speaking to reporters about the incident, Mulcair had this to say: Continue Reading

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses is doing Harper’s dirty work

[Bullshit] comes in three flavours. One, making bad things sound like good things. Organic, all-natural. Because factory-made sugar oatmeal balls doesn’t sell. Patriot Act. Because “Are you scared enough to let me look at all your phone records” Act doesn’t sell. So whenever something’s been titled Freedom Family Fairness Health America, take a good long sniff. Chances are it’s been manufactured in a facility that may contain traces of bullshit…

Jon Stewart

Today I want to look at a sneaky way that ideology gets passed off as informed opinion in news coverage: by hiding behind a front of bullshit. Specifically, I’m going to look at the impartial way one business group gets presented in coverage of the new Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP), and the extremely partisan and political reality behind their pseudo-reasonable front.

I’m not going to talk too much about the ORPP itself – I’m not even going to take a position for or against. Instead, I just want to use it as a case study of how right-wing advocacy organizations get their talking points taken seriously and presented as informed opinion or even fact.

Let’s begin, shall we?

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) is a business lobbying organization that says they like to stick up for the little guy:

With the strength of over 109,000 small business owners from coast-to-coast – entrepreneurs just like you – the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is the big voice for small businesses. For over 40 years, we have represented the interests of the small business community to all three levels of government in their fight for tax fairness, reasonable labour laws and reduction of regulatory paper burden.

Before we dive into demolishing the shit out of them, let’s just take a moment to admire how well-crafted this advertising copy is. They’re fighting for fairness, their cause is reasonable, and they want to reduce your burdens. What’s not to like?

They make a lot of the fact that they don’t accept outside donations and are strictly non-partisan. And as for the idea that they have a right-wing agenda, well, let’s just let their President, Dan Kelly, shake his head and laugh that notion away (caution: the link is to a HuffPo advertorial, so click at your own discretion): Continue Reading

ICYMI: Canadian pension plans investing in risky securities US banks aren’t allowed to buy

File this one under “Impending Economic Crisis” – a file that’s looking pretty stuffed lately.

Earlier this week Bloomberg reported on a disturbing trend: Canadian pension plans are increasingly investing in high-risk securitized loans in the United States, loans that new American regulations prevent domestic banks from touching.

The headline, “Shadow Banking Draws Canadians Where U.S. Banks Are Warned Away“, strikes an appropriately dire tone, and the details are pretty frightening:

Public Sector Pension Investment Board, Canada’s fifth-largest pension plan, said last month it intends to open a loan-origination business in New York by year-end. That follows the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board’s $12 billion deal to acquire General Electric Co.’s business that lends to smaller companies.

The Canadians are part of a wave of institutions unencumbered by U.S. regulation searching for higher returns in the market for risky loans to American companies. Bank supervisors there are pressuring the biggest lenders to pull back from deals that load up companies with too much debt, seeking to avoid a credit bubble that could damage the U.S. economy…

The Canadian funds, which have pioneered the strategy of using alternative investments in pensions, are joining private-equity giants KKR & Co. and Apollo Global Management LLC and other nonbank firms in seeking to profit from high-yield credit as central banks around the world suppress interest rates. Canada’s biggest private-equity firm, Onex Corp., has also moved deeper into the U.S. market, ramping up its business packaging the debt as securities with an eye to doubling that unit’s assets in two years.

That’s some serious investing, man! Like wow!

The PE funds are being drawn by the allure of high returns, but of course, with high returns comes high risk. And indeed, the very fact that this market is being flooded with billions of dollars only increases the risk, as it further inflates an already dangerous bubble. Continue Reading

The housing bubble is gonna pop, and it’s gonna pop soon

How soon is soon, you ask?

That’s the funny thing about bubbles. After a certain point in their inflation, it becomes obvious to just about everybody that prices are way too high, and they’ve gotta come down eventually, and when they do it’s probably gonna be pretty drastic. But nobody knows with any certainty when exactly that inflection point is going to be, and most people like to think that they’re smarter than average and that they’ll get out while the getting is good. Most people try to beat the bubble.

Or they go all ostrich-style and deny that the bubble is there, insist that the rapidly inflating prices (“Housing sales across the Greater Toronto Area climbed 11.3% in February from a year ago, helping to push the average sale price of detached homes in the city pass the $1 million mark for the first time”) are based on some until-now-unnoticed inherent value, and that there’s nowhere to go from here except up, up, up!

(All of those links, by the way, are to the Financial Post, which is my go-to source for finding out what’s definitely not going to happen in the economy.)

The poor fools who buy into this pap are the target demographic for subprime loans, which despite being a major cause of the US’s real estate debacle a decade ago are actually and truly still a thing here.

And the subprime market is starting to show signs of going belly-up: Continue Reading

Copyright © 2020. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.