A few random thoughts on yesterday’s Ontario election

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So, the Ontario Liberals have formed our new government. And it’s a majority. We now have our first elected woman premier (who is also our first elected out gay premier). Tim Hudak was handed his Not-So-Progressive Conservative ass, and has resigned in the wake of his resounding defeat. Meanwhile, Andrea Horwath, who led the provincial NDP — supposedly the most progressive of the three mainstream parties — got handed an object lesson in how NOT to win new friends and influence people. People who neglected to vote got just what they deserved, too: NOTHING.

And I, who swore over a decade ago never again to hold my nose and vote for a Liberal when the party lost to Ernie Eves and his nasty band of Harrisite leftovers (of which Hudak was one), have voted for a Liberal. I did not hold my nose this time.

And I’m not even sorry.

I didn’t leave the NDP; they left me. And they did it right around the time that Andrea Horwath decided it was clever to court the business vote and maybe pick off a few disgruntled SupposiTories, and throw the real, long-time NDPers under the big orange bus. And to cap off the ignominy, the provincial New Democrats ignored my demands to be taken off their call list, and instead deluged me with donation requests by phone and e-mail, as well as robocalls trying to rope me into an “unscripted” town-hall that I had no desire to take part in. I was pissed as hell over that. And yesterday, around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I finally took my frustrations out in the only way I knew. I voted for the local Liberal in my riding. And he won.

And that’s why I’m not sorry. My riding is a swing riding; it could go either way in any given election, and vacillates between Lib and Con. An NDP vote would be wasted here, and doubly so under the circumstances. The Liberal I voted for unseated the Conservative doofus who’d been squatting uselessly in Queen’s Park on our supposed behalf, making idiotic proposals to attract more tourists to our area by building covered bridges. Yeah, that’s right: he was shooting for The Bridges of Madison County. Only this is NOT Madison County, and it doesn’t have a lengthy tradition of covered bridges to preserve, let alone add to. But hey — wouldn’t it have looked cute? Guess that would have created maybe a couple dozen of those million new jobs Timmy promised us. No wait, that would be public-sector jobs. And Timmy was for chopping 100,000 of those. He seemed to think that with fewer taxes to pay and less accountability than ever, the private sector would pick up the slack. Since when has it ever done that? Since, oh, about NEVER. The only thing that trickles down from Uncle Miltie Friedman’s economics is raw sewage — and, if you have the misfortune to live and work in Alberta, tar-sands waste.

And Ontario voters, those who showed up yesterday at any rate, aren’t stupid. You can’t piss on our heads out here and tell us it’s raining. Which is what Tim Hudak was trying to do. And Andrea Horwath, too. The one was handed a harsh lesson in how not to do economics, and the other, in how not to do progressive politics. On both counts, they are bullets that I chose to dodge. As for the Greens, they’ve long been off the progressive radar here, because their environmental solution boils down to too much capitalism and not enough socialism. And again, Ontario voters not being stupid, we know that that’s not enough to keep our province clean and healthy. Trying to appeal to the goodness of a businessman’s heart is a losing proposition, because they don’t have one. Big Business will almost always pay only the merest of lip service to progressive causes, and very rarely do things differently out of a knowledge that the common good is also good for business. If you don’t believe me, watch The Corporation. If corporations are legally persons, then the kind of persons they are is diagnosably psychopathic. (And just think: That’s who Andrea Horwath was trying to court, too. Oy.)

So, all bullet-dodging and ass-handing aside, what was this election about?

In the end, the “surprising” Liberal majority tells me that there was something more at work here than just avoiding the worst and punishing their fellow-travellers for jumping on the dumb populist bandwagon. Hazel McCallion, the mayor of Mississauga (and the longest-serving mayor in the country), nailed it when she picked Kathleen Wynne for her endorsement. Hurricane Hazel is no lightweight; she shepherded her city through the great train derailment of 1979, when she was newly elected, and Mississauga was newly amalgamated. It could have been the kiss of death for her, but it proved to be her finest hour, because that was when she proved not only her political mettle, but her unswerving dedication to her constituents. Hazel McCallion has never lied or played her people false. She always stood up for them, and that’s why they kept voting for her, term after term after term. So her recommendation bore some weight with me. And lots of other Ontarians too, it seems.

And then there was the Globe & Mail’s editorial board. They all endorsed Wynne too, in a consensus that took time and thought to reach, only to have orders come down from on high to throw their weight behind Hudak instead. Now, those board members were not idiots, either. Whoever told them they were going with Hudak was. But then, the Grope & Flail has always endorsed the Tories, so I guess that was to be expected. Even though the party leader was a complete twit, it didn’t matter; tradition is tradition. And the editorial high command ended up mopping egg yolks out of their beards for that.

But then, is that really so shocking? Ontarians can’t afford to vote based on tradition anymore. And neither can politicians rely on conventional, traditional strategies for roping them in. The conservative base is aging and dying. They can’t be counted on in the numbers they once had. And that’s a good thing for progressives, even in this ludicrous first-past-the-post system we have. Because we younger voters of Generations X and Y are informed by grassroots movements like Occupy, Uncut, and the 99%. We are restless, and we don’t give a hang for party loyalty when the parties betray us. We are the untapped progressive vein that the traditional party strategists are missing. They think we’ll fall for some right-wing yutz when, in fact, we are much further to the left than any of the big parties. And we are the ones with an increasing power to force the most progressive candidates to the top. In this case, it was Kathleen Wynne…who ran as a Liberal, but sounded a lot more like a New Democrat than the NDP did. For me, she was a no-brainer choice.

My polling station was surprisingly busy, given that I live in a fairly small town. Line-ups are uncommon on voting day at any station here. Usually you’re in and out in less than five minutes. But yesterday, I found myself waiting behind another woman, who was waiting for yet another woman to vote. I wonder if we all voted for the same candidate. I wouldn’t be surprised if we did! I smelled motivation in the air…and desperation in the Conservative camp, which indeed there was. Maybe my single vote wasn’t much on its own, but then again, lots of others were probably thinking the same thing. And, quite possibly, that was what put our local Liberal very soundly over the top, with several thousand votes over the incumbent Conservative doofus. If you vote, you can still make a difference; if not, you might just end up getting not the government you want, but the one you deserve.

And now that that’s all over, it’s time for the next step: holding all the new electees’ feet to the fire, as well as those of the losers, and making sure they don’t get away with more of the same old. Which is to say, politics by, of and for the money, rather than by, of and for the people. We have to make sure they don’t go throwing a “surprise” austerity budget at us. Let’s hope they’re learning a thing or two from the Eurocrisis, and specifically, the French, who are throwing debt out the window in favor of the public interest. Ontarians should get a referendum on whether a “balanced budget” is really a worthwhile priority, instead of an inflexible law. It’s time to scrap the legacy of Mike Harris and Ernie Eves once and for all. No more tax cuts for big business, and no more austerity budgets to appease the suits. For that, we’ll need concerted action.

And a lot more of it than just dutifully turning out on election day.

Peace and order restored in Mérida

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So, how’s that coup going in Venezuela? Not so well for the putschists, ha ha:

Security corps have restored calm to the Venezuelan state of Mérida, following a spate of far-right violence dating back to last February, according to the Minister of Interior Relations, Justice and Peace, Miguel Rodríguez Torres.

“Mérida is liberated. Our Bolivarian National Guard will guarantee the right of free transit to its citizens. We want peace,” wrote the minister on his Twitter account, @RodriguezT_MIJP.

In another message, Rodríguez wrote: “There has been a tremendous effort on the part of our GNB officers to return peace to the city of Mérida.”

Rodríguez Torres congratulated the commanding general of the GNB, Justo Noguera, and the Bolivarian National Police “for their excellent work in re-establishing order in Mérida”.

The minister stated that “opposition radicalism has brought environmental and social disaster to this beautiful city.” Later he reflected: “This is how they try to gain power.”

Extortion, homicides, kidnappings and undue use of firearms stand out in the list of crimes perpetrated by the vandal groups who were operating in the sectors of El Rodeo, El Campito, and Cardenal Quintero, in the Libertador municipality of Mérida.

On April 25, Major-General Justo Noguera announced that more than 2,000 members of the GNB were active in the region to guarantee peace there.

To date 41 people have been killed, between February 12 and April 21, 2014. They were victims of violent blockades, traps set by the opposition, obstacles, and coups de grâce executed by terrorists.

Also, 5,000 trees were cut down indiscriminately, and damage was done to infrastructure and public property, causing losses totalling approximately $10 billion.

Translation mine.

All that death, all that wasted money, and what has it accomplished for the opposition? Nada. Zippo. Zilch. Bupkus. Madurito is still firmly in power, and democracy isn’t about to bow to terrorism. Or imperialism.

And those of you in the northern hemisphere supporting these violent so-called “protests” — don’t you feel like idiots now?

How many trolls does $1 billion a year buy?

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I don’t know, and neither do you. But I bet the Koch Brothers do…

Conservative groups may have spent up to $1bn a year on the effort to deny science and oppose action on climate change, according to the first extensive study into the anatomy of the anti-climate effort.

The anti-climate effort has been largely underwritten by conservative billionaires, often working through secretive funding networks. They have displaced corporations as the prime supporters of 91 think tanks, advocacy groups and industry associations which have worked to block action on climate change. Such financial support has hardened conservative opposition to climate policy, ultimately dooming any chances of action from Congress to cut greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet, the study found.

“I call it the climate-change counter movement,” said the author of the study, Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle. “It is not just a couple of rogue individuals doing this. This is a large-scale political effort.”

Billionaires spending billions to keep the gravy train rolling…and rolling right over any pesky government that would stand in their way. And how exactly does that work?

“This is how wealthy individuals or corporations translate their economic power into political and cultural power,” he said. “They have their profits and they hire people to write books that say climate change is not real. They hear people to go on TV and say climate change is not real. It ends up that people without economic power don’t have the same size voice as the people who have economic power, and so it ends up distorting democracy.

“That is the bottom line here. These are unaccountable organisations deciding what our politics should be. They put their thumbs on the scale … It is more one dollar one vote than one person one vote.”

Apparently, in the United States of Amnesia, any billionaire can set himself up as a charitable cause, hiring mouthpieces so that the money keeps on rolling…right back to him.

The vast majority of the 91 groups on Brulle’s list – 79% – were registered as charitable organisations and enjoyed considerable tax breaks. Those 91 groups included trade organisations, think tanks and campaign groups. The groups collectively received more than $7bn over the eight years of Brulle’s study – or about $900m a year from 2003 to 2010. Conservative think tanks and advocacy groups occupied the core of that effort.

The funding was dispersed to top-tier conservative think tanks in Washington, such as the AEI and Heritage Foundation, which focus on a range of issues, as well as more obscure organisations such as the Atlas Economic Research Foundation and the John Locke Foundation.

Funding also went to groups that took on climate change denial as a core mission – such as the Heartland Institute, which held regular conclaves dedicated to undermining the United Nations climate panel’s reports, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which tried and failed to prosecute a climate scientist, Michael Mann, for academic fraud.

AEI was by far the top recipient of such funds, receiving 16% of total funding over the eight years, or $86.7m. Heartland Institute, in contrast, received just 3% of the total, $16.7m. There was also generous support to Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group affiliated with the conservative Koch billionaires, which received $22.7m.

And if you thought Conrad Black was adept at setting up shell corporations to funnel money back into his own overstuffed coffers, that’s nothing…just look at these guys, who money-launder their own “charitable” donations:

The leading venue for those underground donations was the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, which alone accounted for 25% of funding of the groups opposed to climate action. An investigation by the Guardian last February found that the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund had distributed nearly $120m to more than 100 anti-climate groups from 2002-2010. The Donors group has now displaced such previous prominent supporters of the climate denial movement as the Koch-affiliated foundations and corporations like Exxon Mobil, Brulle said.

Other conservative foundations funding climate denial efforts include: the Searle Freedom Trust, the John William Pope Foundation, the Howard Charitable Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation, which also promote a free-market approach on other issues.

The sad part is, all this chicanery is apparently perfectly legal. Nobody has closed the loopholes on them…yet.

And in a comic twist, the climate-change deniers are even in the business of denying that they’re all paid hacks:

A number of the groups on Brulle’s list – both as funders and recipients – refused to comment on his findings or disputed his contention that they were part of a movement to block action on climate change.

Whitney Ball, the president of the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, said the organisation had no say in deciding which projects would receive funding. However, Ball told the Guardian last February that Donors offered funders the assurance their money would never go to Greenpeace. “It won’t be going to liberals,” she said at that time.

“We do not otherwise drive the selection of grantees, nor do we conduct in-depth analyses of projects or grantees unless an account holder specifically requests that service,” Ball said in an email. “Neither Donors Trust nor Donors Capital Fund as institutions take positions with respect to any issue advocated by its grantees.”

Why do I get the feeling that Whitney Ball is lying through her teeth? Oh, maybe because that’s what they all do. That’s what they’re all paid to do. They are being paid extravagantly to lie. And the lies are downright risible:

“Each of the scholars that work on any particular issue speaks for his or hers own work,” said Judy Mayka Stecker, director of media relations at AEI, in an email. She went on to write, however, that most of the AEI scholars who have worked on energy and climate change have moved on and would be unavailable to comment.

Well, that’s convenient!

“We do believe that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that man-made emissions will lead to some warming,” said David Kreutzer, an energy and climate-change fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “We are opposed to mandatory greenhouse gas emissions cuts.”

He said many conservatives saw a carbon tax, cap-and-trade and other climate policies as a government takeover by stealth.

“What we are not interested in doing is a huge shift of power to the government under the guise of preventing some climate problem,” he said.

Even though the government is the one entity powerful enough to effect any change that would actually stick — and work? Again, how convenient.

The Hoover Institution, which received about $45m, claimed to produce no work on climate change – while displaying on its website an article by a Hoover research fellow on an August 2013 Hoover poll on economic, energy and environmental issues.

“Hoover has no institutional initiatives on climate change,” a spokeswoman, Eryn Witcher, wrote in an email. “Individual Hoover fellows research and write on a wide variety of topics of their own choosing, but we’re not aware of any who are working in that field at this time, nor are we aware of any gifts or grants that have been received for that purpose.”

In the article, the Hoover fellow, Jeremy Carl, who works extensively on energy and climate issues, discussed climate change and fracking, concluding: “Many Democrats and liberals are in denial when it comes to reality on energy and climate policy, endorsing both science and political fiction.”

Funny, Mr. Carl, but any reputable scientist would say the same about YOU.

And, unlike you, they would be right.

PS: Barry Ritholtz has a very helpful map here. It’s a little out of date now, as it leaves the Donors’ Trust layer out of the picture. It would be located between the top tier and the conservative think-tanks (and maybe also between them and the front groups). Perhaps an update would be in order.

You have GOT to hear this speech

El Ecuadorable is absolutely awesome here:

And in case you don’t understand Spanish, or are reduced to a giggling jelly by the sight and sound of the world’s cutest president, here’s the story:

The president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, gave the final speech in the Second Extraordinary ALBA-Petrocaribe Summit, and underscored the necessity for states to work together to place humanity above capital and also denounce the role played by the transnational Chevron in Ecuador.

“To speak of Bolívar is to speak of unity, and it’s true, only unity can help us move forward in the face of a global order which is not only unjust, but immoral,” said the head of state in the plenary, held in commemoration of the 183rd anniversary of the Liberator’s death.

He took a moment to congratulate the Venezuelan people for their recent victory at the polls, and also Michelle Bachelet of Chile, who won the recent elections in her country.

[...]

He also criticized again the role played by the International System of Human Rights, and the Commission whose vision is in agreement with the politics of the seventies, which omits several risks of assault on said rights. “There needs to be a change of mentality in the Inter-American Human Rights Commission…and they have to change their headquarters,” he added, emphasizing the necessity that these topics continue to be discussed in groups such as ALBA and CELAC.

He denounced the blockade against Cuba, calling it “criminal”, and the ongoing colonialism in the Malvinas.

He also rejected what he calls “NGO-ism”, the influence of foreign organizations with the intent of destabilizing democratically elected governments, such as has occurred in Ecuador. “It’s all in the function of power, of the unjust relationship of power at the global level.”

He also spoke of the great struggle Ecuador is waging against one of the largest oil companies in the world, Chevron-Texaco, which, due to its proven environmental devastation in the zones where it operates in Amazonia, has dedicated itself to delegitimizing the Ecuadorian state via sophistries in an attempt to evade responsibility.

“We invite them to come to Ecuador, to Amazonia, and put their hands in the pools left by Chevron, and twenty or thirty years after Chevron-Texaco has ceased to operate, that hand will still come out black with mud and oil, that’s the Dirty Hand of Chevron,” Correa added.

Translation mine.

Coming on the heels of yesterday’s judgment by the Supreme Court of Ontario against Chevron, you must admit that this is mighty satisfying.

Ecuador wins Canadian case against Chevron Texaco

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Big Polluting Oil just lost a major judgment in the last place I expected it to: right here, in Harpolandia. How about THESE apples?

Pablo Fajardo, attorney for the Union of Those Affected by Texaco Operations, announced that the group won a legal case yesterday in Canada, when the Appeals Court of Ontario unanimously recognized that it had jurisdiction and competency to validate the Ecuadorian sentence and execute it in that country.

Fajardo specified that with this recognition, which three trial judges gave, it would be “an important step” to embargo Chevron assets in Canada and make the transnational pay for the judgment in Ecuador. He commented that the multinational has an investment there; that is, it extracts petroleum, an investment worth more than 10 billion dollars.

“This case opens the doors to make the business pay,” Fajardo said.

Fajardo says that this was an appeal presented by the multinational in Canada, and that the corporation could seek another recourse, before the Supreme Court at the federal level, but that it would be “very difficult for them to succeed at the Supreme Court; this case is very important in the battle with Chevron-Texaco.”

The lawyer maintains that the Canadian recognition opens the doors so that those affected can file suits in countries such as Australia, one of the nations in which the multinational has more assets. Of the 60 countries in which Chevron has assets, the Union of Those Affected has filed suit in three: Canada, Brazil and Argentina.

Translation mine.

$10 billion in assets. Of course they’re going to appeal this at the highest level, but if they lose…that’s gonna clean up an awful lot of rainforest in Ecuador. Which, by coincidence, is just what these big-time polluters mucked up.

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Quotable: Dr. David Suzuki on the biosphere

Did the CBC do propaganda-for-pay?

I dunno…you tell me:

I always did find that particular Mansbridge “report” awfully Harpo-friendly (and uncharacteristically so). And conveniently timed, too, as the above video says, with Pooty-Poot laying his own claims to the North Pole’s seabed and all that oil and gas underneath. Funny how the Harper Government™ always threatens to cut off the CBC’s funding on one hand, but then launders a cheque to the broadcaster through, of all things, a federal agency like Parks Canada (which is supposed to be promoting nature conservation, not oil and gas exploration!)

But then again, this is just so stinkingly typical for Harpo & Co. There just isn’t a thing they’ve touched that hasn’t turned rotten and corrupt under their oily, greasy, greedy fucking hands. Not one thing…whether it’s conservation agencies or our news media, who are supposed to be independent, after all.

What does the Fawkes say?

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I’m sure the real Guy Fawkes would be mystified at how his religiously motivated treasonous squib became the basis for secular, nonviolent rebellion. But whatever. This seems a much more constructive way to use this date than burning effigies of English Catholics, anyway.

Quotable: Winona LaDuke on water terrorism

Media Luna-cy: Older than previously thought

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Everybody knows that the governors of the “Media Luna” (Half Moon) of the richest (and crookedest) regions of Bolivia first began to conspire in 2008, after Evo was in power (and as an attempt to get him out of power by killing him in 2009) — right?

Well, not quite. Evo just revealed that the conspiracy is older than his reign, which began in 2006. Three years older, to be precise:

President Evo Morales assured on Sunday that there are documents which reveal that the governor of Santa Cruz, Rubén Costas, planned separatism in Bolivia in 2003, when he was acting president of the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz.

“Rubén Costas, who has been president of the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz, had already planned in September 2003 to separate Santa Cruz from Bolivia. It’s no lie — the documents exist, the recordings exist. I thought that separatism came recently, as of 2008, but no, it came as of 2003,” said Morales, during a speech in the municipality of Laja in commemoration of the 465th anniversary of the founding of La Paz.

Morales explained that this fact was found while reviewing publications and recordings about the so-called “Black October Massacre”, in which at least 67 persons died and more than 500 were injured, after a military repression of movements which opposed the exportation of Bolivian natural gas to the United States through a Chilean port, as proposed by former president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, who later fled the country.

Morales stated that vice-president Álvaro García Linera “is reviewing all the previous documents, the publications, re-examining the documents,” because he will be presenting a conference on this topic in the coming days.

Morales insisted that the documentation reveals that the intention to separate from the country began in 2003 and not in 2008, as previously thought due to the Bolivian federal police breaking up a gang of European mercenaries which was attempting to ignite a civil war in the country and promote, as in the Balkans during the 1990s, the secession of the Department of Santa Cruz from the rest of Bolivia.

Translation mine.

So, it looks like in addition to consorting with crooked US ambassadors, the crooked governor (and former leader of the shady-as-fuck Civic Committee) of Santa Cruz has been an unpatriotic conspirator for a very, VERY long time. And indeed, as Evo’s presidency was getting its feet under it in 2006, at least one deeply silly right-wing English language “news” site was prematurely toot-tootling the horn for the “new nation” of Media Luna, the roughly half-moon-shaped conglomeration of the corruptos’ respective departments. Which, after all this time (and money) has consistently failed to materialize. (Pardon me if I chuckle, but I know why. And so does The Dude Who Abideth in Bolivia.)

The hilarious irony of it is, back then, these weasels were conspiring against “Goni” Sánchez de Lozada, who was just as greedy, crooked, and fascistic as they themselves were (and still are). I’m guessing that the real reason behind that was the dinero. Bolivian natural gas comes from Santa Cruz. With the Media Luna suddenly a separate “nation”, that would have meant that they stood to receive all the profits that would have gone to YPFB, the Bolivian national gas company. And of course, white Cruceños weren’t so much against the gas pipeline per se, nor for legitimate reasons such as national sovereignty, respect for local indigenous peoples, safety, or the environment, but rather that they couldn’t make all the easy bolivianos off it, and render their department (and themselves) even more obscenely rich.

Yeah, NOW we can see why two bands of crooks were at war with each other, eh?

Only — ha, ha — Goni got run out of power by angry Bolivians, not white ones from Santa Cruz or anywhere else in the Loony Moon, but brown ones from Cochabamba and La Paz, who were pissed as hell that he had sold their water out from under them to foreign corporations, who would graciously sell it back to them at preposterous markups. Even rainwater collection was suddenly illegal, because it would prevent Bechtel’s local subsidiary, Aguas del Tunari, from taking its pound of flesh from mostly poor, mostly indigenous locals who were already damn near starved to death by 500 years of capitalism. One of whom, by coincidence, was a certain young Aymara dude — once a coca farmer, then a cocalero union leader, then an elected congresscritter, and eventually the president of the land.

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Yup, THAT guy. The same one who nationalized Bolivia’s gas company for real, so that the profits would finally trickle down to those not part of a small band of crooked corporate execs and corrupt governors. The same one who truly made Bolivia’s gas Bolivian, not Cruceño. The same one whom Rubén Costas, later governor of Santa Cruz, would conspire with a band of Balkan fascists and the US ambassador to have assassinated in the name of Media Luna-cy.

And, that said: I can hardly wait to read more about all these documents and recordings, and their connection to the Black October Massacre — yet another epic fail fine product of capitalistic greed, resource plundering, and imperialism in Bolivia.