Responding To Our Responders

February 19, 2011

So we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke received, if not a deluge of comments to our post from a couple days ago, A Plea to Conservatives Everywhere, let’s call it a handful. A good percentage of which were from almost exclusively well-behaved self-described conservatives taking exception to much of what we’d written. It would’ve been time-consumingly impossible to respond to each one individually. Instead, we’re lumping them together into a single response post which, undoubtedly, will look as if we’re misrepresenting what everyone wrote and deceptively framing the terms of debate in order to make ourselves seem much smarter than we actually are.

Alas, the burden of ultimate editorial control.

There seemed to be four currents of argument running through the anti-comments that came in. When we asked to be shown “…how further corporate tax cuts will kick start our economy,” we got a lesson in the theory of corporate taxes. Yes, we understand the concept. We just weren’t sure where the proof was that cutting them further at this particular time was going to help. Unless you’re one of those anti-Keynesian absolutists, reducing spending along with taxes in such an anemic state of recovery doesn’t make a whole lot of economic sense.

Besides, we’ve been hacking away at corporate tax rates both federally and provincially for a few years now, haven’t we? When should we expect to see positive results? And if corporate tax cuts are such an effective weapon in stimulating the economy, why not lobby for their complete removal? Eliminate them entirely. If 13% is going to help, why not 0? Point to a jurisdiction with significantly lower corporate tax rates than ours are currently and say, see? They work. And if I can’t find one, like say Mexico, that counters your argument, I’ll lay down my sword.

A number of commenters suggested the burden was on me (or the entire Left) to prove that de-regulation and less oversight was the source of the global financial meltdown. I thought they already had. Google Nobel Prize winning Paul Krugman and see what he’s been saying over the last couple years. Or Jeffrey Sachs if he’s more to your economic taste. Check out Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone for the naked criminality at the very heart of the meltdown. Read Michael Lewis’s The Big Short or Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Too Big To Fail. Watch Charles Ferguson’s documentary, Inside Job. The case has been made quite definitively. You dispute it? You refute it.

And on a couple little side notes. One commenter asked if we wanted to return to the days of the Glass-Steagall Act “…which limited credit growth and therefore slowed down economic growth…” Errr, am I wrong in remembering that the full repeal of Glass-Steagall occurred in 1999, at the height of one of the biggest economic expansions in history? So how exactly did it slow down economic growth? The commenter then went on to point out that no Canadian banks failed due to smart regulations — which, while in opposition, the current Conservative government fought against — and kind of proves my point for me, doesn’t it? We missed the brunt of the financial shitstorm because of government regulation and oversight not because a lack of it. Or am I missing something?

“Prove this whole trickle-down theory to me,” I taunted. “How rising tides raise all boats.” That brought forth a litany of indignation, mostly in two forms. One, things were much better now than they were 100 years ago, owing to the miracle of free market capitalism. OK, sure. But my line of attack wasn’t necessarily directed at the idea of free market capitalism, only how it’s been conducted in the last 30 years or so. Cast your minds back, 50, 60 years ago, to the more immediate post-War era. Where governments taxed the richest of the rich more prodigiously and spent massively on things like infrastructure, established universal health care and sent men to the moon. An era when a single bread winner could buy a house, raise a family, put the kids through college and retire comfortably.

A picture, I’m sure, more idyllic than it actually was but one that is a pipe dream nowadays. Much of our prosperity is built on a mountain of debt. Two income households are the norm. Post-secondary education has grown into an onerous financial burden that is increasingly failing to deliver on its promise of leading to better lives.

Secondly, please, please, please stop bringing up China and India when attempting to defend modern day capitalism. Yes, millions of people are climbing their way out of poverty. And yes, China in particular has turned away from its Maoist past and heartily embraced aspects of the free market. But as another commenter pointed out, both countries remain planned economies, control highly centralized. If our governments here attempted to intrude into the economy the way the Chinese and Indian governments do, conservatives would howl in outrage before soiling themselves and passing out. Witness the reaction to the various stimulus packages.

Finally, conservative commenters took exception to our painting them all with the same brush. There were pro-environmental conservatives who believed in anthropogenic climate change. Conservatives who suspected the War on Drugs was a bust. Pro-choice conservatives. Non-Rob Ford voting conservatives.

Fair enough but that type of red Toryism or socially liberal conservatism is hardly in the ascendancy. Your movement has been hijacked by the radicals under your umbrella and they’ve seized Washington, Ottawa and city hall in Toronto. They’re attacking women’s rights. They’re declaring climate change hokum and maybe even beneficial. The federal Conservative government is trying to close down a safe injection site in Vancouver in the face of overwhelming evidence of its positive contribution. At the same time they’re attempting to roll back drug laws to a Draconian state in order to fill the prisons that they are building. These neocons hate government and everything it stands for.

They don’t believe much of anything you’re claiming to believe. In fact, your views sound much closer to my left wing bias. So why are you fighting me and not those who are doing great damage to your conservative brand and giving you all a bad name?

respondingly submitted by Cityslikr


What’s With The Hate On For Government?

September 2, 2010

“Libertarians like to rant and rave about how everything is funded `out of my pocket’. Like it’s just them. Go live in the fucking woods.”

“govt jobs are parasitic. we need PRIVATE SECTOR jobs. govt jobs are wealth transfer from those who work and save.”Ah, yes. The private sector. Saver of all that is good and holy. Our economic engine. Without the private sector we would find ourselves in a lawless, amoral, tribal society. It’s the difference between civilization and anarchy.

The private sector sent a man to the moon. Except it didn’t. The private sector invented this thing called the ‘interwebs’. Except it didn’t. It only commodified it. The private sector discovered insulin. Except no, no it didn’t. Apparently that happened at the University of Toronto.

Oh, wait. How about this? Private sector thinking brought an end to the Cold War and triumphed over History itself!

The all-knowing, all-seeing hand of the free market, left unfettered by the grubby demands of government brings prosperity to us all until such time when it doesn’t, and implodes in spectacular fashion, cracking and breaking under the weight of greed and deceit.

We haven’t arrived at this moment of dire economic circumstance because of out-of-control government spending. Actually, yes we have. Billions of dollars in bailout money to our teetering auto industry. Internationally, billions and billions of dollars to a banking industry whose self-interest knew no bounds and unscrupulously brought us to the brink of another, near total economic meltdown. Billions more to keep people working or to just simply keep them afloat when they lost their jobs and benefits in the, yes, private sector.

Now, don’t go getting defensive out there, all you Defenders of the Free Enterprise faith. I’m not suggesting we go all French Revolutionary on your asses, although there are some… no, let’s not go down that road. I just don’t know how all of this has become exclusively a government problem. Why are they now the bad guys?

I know you don’t want to talk about it since you’ve been so deeply in thrall with Milton Friedman for the last 30 years or so but according to Keynesian thinking, during times of economic slumps (and this one’s been a big one), governments take on debt in order to keep money flowing and everything from grinding to a dangerous halt. Done and done. Once things pick up, they then rid themselves of the debt through an increased tax revenue stream and trimming away at programs that are no longer necessary as folks are back at work, paying taxes, etc.

If you think that just two years after our near collapse that we’re through the woods and out onto the other side, you just haven’t been keeping up on your news. So government debt accumulates until such a time that things manage to get better. Doing anything else, like slashing and burning and selling off assets and other bullheaded ideas that cut government revenue seems unsound. Unless of course you’re using this crisis as an opportunity to rollback wages of those types you don’t particularly care for or to eat away at the government itself in order to limit its effectiveness.

But why would you want to go and do that? It stepped up when the private sector faltered, remember? In fact, it was because governments throughout the world dropped the ball in terms of regulation and oversight that we are where we are. Now you’re all like, up in its face, screaming how it’s the problem and how our lives would be so much better if government just backed off and let the private sector do its thing?

What’s that mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi keeps repeating over and over again out there on the campaign trail? “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. We let free enterprise run riot for the past few decades with little governmental interference and look what happened. Why are you demanding we do the exact same thing again? You’re not expecting another result, are you?

So to all you Dominion Pundits out there, wailing on about how awful government is, the glory and beneficence of the private sector and raising the specter of wealth transfer, in case you missed it, a massive one of those just occurred, plopping the cost of private sector speculation, risk and failure right down onto governments’ ledger sheets. You’re welcome. Calling for harsh measures that will only bring more pain and dislocation is not only mean-spirited and short-sighted. It smacks of the same dumbass ideology that got us into this mess in the first place.

wonderingly submitted by Cityslikr


The Nerve Of The Guy

April 17, 2010

In nixing hopes for the province to start living up to its obligations and resume funding of half the TTC’s yearly operating budget, Premier Dalton McGuinty said this: “We’d always love to be able to do more whether it’s transit or health care or education and the like but you’ve got to live within your means according to the circumstances for the time.”

Does the premier exist in an irony-free bubble? The dude is overseeing a record setting $20 billion+ provincial deficit and he’s got the balls to go around pontificating about living within your means? How does he do that while maintaining a straight face?

Normally I wouldn’t chide a politician for running a deficit, even an unprecedentedly large one, during the kind of economic times we have seen over the last 18 months. It’s classic Keynesian counter-cyclical spending. Increase it during an economic downturn; decrease it when things turn around. Any deficit you incur can then be paid down when revenues start rolling back in with the burgeoning economy.

But to have the temerity to muse aloud about frugality in others, especially when it comes to a municipal government that just balanced its budget because the province mandates that municipalities must balance their budgets regardless of the economic situation, is simply beyond the pale. It’s like some profligate, drunken, deadbeat dad who comes up short once again with his child support payments, telling the ex-wife and kids that they’ll just have to suck it up and tighten their belts to get by. I’d always love to be able to do more, he slurs. Help you pay the rent, buy groceries and a new pair of shoes for the kids but, hey, you’ve got to live within your means according to the circumstances for the time.

Oh, that’s alright, dad. It’s the thought that counts.

Well fuck you, Premier Dalton McGuinty, you hypocritical, patronizing prick.

Let me remind you again that the TTC funding you can’t seem to come up with is not even yours in the first place to withhold or bequeath whenever you see fit. It is an arrangement that’s been in place since before you were even born and only came to an end with the slash and burn ethos of your predecessor’s predecessor in the late 90s. It is an agreement that you promised to reinstate when you took office in 2003. It is a debt you owe not some gift you can generously bestow. So stop acting like we’re asking you for some favour. We’re not. We’re simply suggesting you stop welching on a deal.

And local politicians already in office and those out campaigning for a spot in the fall? Stop enabling the premier, helping him tar the city you are supposed to be serving. Cowboy up, as they say, and make a stand. Call the premier out for not holding up his end of the bargain and demand that he start doing the right, honorable thing.

blood boilingly submitted by Cityslikr


Meet A Mayoral Candidate — Part VII

April 2, 2010

Good Friday. A good Friday for another installment of Meet A Mayoral Candidate!

In the spotlight this week… Wendell Brereton For Mayor!

With the 1st unofficial mayoral debate officially behind us and nothing much gleaned from it aside from the fact that none of the candidates who have been mysteriously tapped as “serious” contenders have given us any reason to vote for them (and plenty why we shouldn’t), it is timely that we present to you the Wendell Brereton candidacy. One of the 19 registered candidates uninvited to Monday’s Summit of Giants®™©, even a cursory glance at Mr. Brereton’s website reveals the omission to be a glaring gaffe on the part of debate organizer, Councillor Mike Del Grande. Candidate Brereton possesses a platform packed with details in such depth that puts the front running campaigns to shame.

A 12 year veteran of the OPP, Mr. Brereton calls himself an entrepreneur and activist. Many of his approaches reflect that dual sensibility, with a heavy emphasis on promoting public-private enterprises in areas ranging from transit to waste and energy management while showing a Keynesian predilection for government spending during a recession on things like child care. He is for road tolls albeit much more modest than the $5 proposed by Sarah Thomson. Brereton would also introduce fees for bike permits as part of a very interesting approach to dealing with cyclists and traffic that is worth further exploration. His thoughts on the matter underline just how empty the bike lane debate that’s been going on between the “serious” candidates has been. Nothing but pure puffery.

This is true of almost every aspect of Wendell Brereton’s candidacy. After reading through his platform and watching his announcement video, we asked for some further details of his campaign and were almost immediately presented with 7 pages! Unlike his higher profile rivals, Mr. Brereton is not merely sloganeering. He appears to be slowly putting together a… what you call that?…  A vision thing. A vision for the city. A vision for how a Mayor Brereton would lead.

What stops us up of a full fledged embrace of Wendell Brereton for Mayor is his overt and enthusiastic public embrace of his religious beliefs. A Pastor at the Glorious Church-Faith Temple, there is no doubting the importance religion plays in Mr. Brereton’s life. To a bunch of godless heathens like we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, this makes us supremely uncomfortable especially when it manifests itself in an anti-gay pride position as it does in Mr. Brereton’s platform. He will have to explain himself much better than he did to us about the matter if he wants to speak to a wider audience.

On every other issue, however, Wendell Brereton deserves a fair hearing. Although excluded from Monday’s debate, he was in attendance and passed along a number of interesting points about what the candidates didn’t talk about. Waste and energy alternatives. Day care. Infrastructure. Serious plans about transit in the face of the provincial governments $4 billion renege delay. All important matters Mr. Brereton has views on and ideas for implementing.

How we ensure that he secures a place on stage at the next all candidates debate is in and of itself a matter for debate. Better civic minds than ours are at work devising a formula to allow serious candidates like Wendell Brereton in the door. Although at this still early stage in the campaign, there is little reason to exclude anyone from the fray and arbitrarily handicap the race. The time for winnowing comes later after we’ve had an opportunity to look at and assess all the candidates. Yes, that paves the way for the true fringe candidates, the cranks and crackpots (as if a few of those haven’t already slipped past the gatekeepers) to let loose. But we do live in a democracy last I heard. Everyone’s voice must be heard. It will be worth the effort for the exposure it would bring to viable and significant candidates like Wendell Brereton.

When asked our requisite question, If the present mayor would like his legacy to be that of the Transit Mayor, how would a Mayor Brereton like to see his legacy written?, he responded: Mayor Brereton, the Innovator.  That hardly does him justice in our opinion. A little too prosaic. So let us supply our own answer to the question: Mayor Brereton, bringing 22nd-century thinking to 21st-century problems.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr


Politics Straight Up

January 21, 2010

In the political trenches, the battle of ideas is almost always won by those who are best able to explain their position(s) clearly, succinctly and without the slightest hint of subtlety. “Keeping it simple keeps it real, yo,” I am told by a local political strategist and overnight/weekend infomercial host who asked to be quoted anonymously pending the outcome of legal proceedings. “That way, voters don’t have to think too much about it.” He goes on to say that ideally politicians should try to get their point across in one breath. “So Joe Q. Public will remember it easily and regurgitate it without having to forgo a mouthful of nachos.”

It is a strategy that conservatives — both big and little ‘C’s – have mastered. Ever since Ronald Reagan’s ‘Morning in America’ back in 1980, the political left has been, well, left stammering, hopelessly yammering on with awkward, tongue-tying slogans that have seldom resonated with voters. For every one “It’s the Economy, Stupid!” or “Change We Can Believe In!” there’s been countless numbers of clunkers that ultimately fell on deaf ears. Who can remember the rallying cry “Climate Change Is A Complex Dynamic of Inter-related, Multilevel Systems Susceptible To Even The Slightest Variation But Overall The Science Is Solid.”? Or how about even this pithy but obscure proto-Keynesian economic challenge, “Countercyclical Fiscal Policies Now!!”? Me neither, which has been the progressives problems for decades now.

Yes, governing is not simple. It demands complicated and multifaceted approaches that don’t always operate on easy-to-understand, intuitive gut levels. But that doesn’t mean explaining how you’re going to do it has to get bogged down with detail heavy insights, thoughtful deliberations or big, multi-syllabic words. If you want a crack at power, it’s all about “The Axis of Evil”, being “The Decider” and “You’re Either With Us Or You’re Against Us”.

Here at the local level, we can see this discipline already at work in the early days of this year’s municipal election. Toronto Sun columnist and Hater-Of-Everything-To-Do-With-David-Miller, Sue-Ann Levy, came hard out of the gate last week after Councilor Joe Pantalone announced his intention to run for the mayor’s office. Not even waiting until the first sentence, Levy brings the pain right there in the title: Mayor Pantalooney? No Way!

Ha Ha! Joe Pantalone? Joe Pantalooney!! He can’t be mayor. He’s crazy! Crazy as a loon, that Joe Pantalooney!!!

How will the man ever dig himself out from the hole Levy’s tossed him in? His twenty-nine years of civic duty which Levy dismisses as merely a “career” only serves to prove that Pantalone is categorically unfit to be mayor because he’s crazy. Who’d dedicated nearly 30 years of his life to public service? You’d have to be crazy. Probably couldn’t get a “real” job, that Joe Pantalooney.

Since Sue-Ann Levy doesn’t agree with anything Joe Pantalone stands for, ipso facto, the councilor must be crazy because certainly Sue-Ann Levy isn’t crazy. Would such an august operation like the Toronto Sun hire crazy people to fill its pages?

It’s a hardball approach that Levy seems to relish and that must save her heaps of time to not do reporterly stuff like investigative researching. Why, just a few days ago, she turned her sights on those “whining airport wingnuts” who were stamping their little feet over the possible expansion of flight numbers by the good folks at Porter Air. How dare a gaggle of “self-centred, ridiculous bunch of whiners” (Sue-Ann does love her quotation marks) treat the waterfront as their very own “fiefdom on the lake”! Haven’t these people cottoned on to the fact that the “fiefdom on the lake” is the personal playground for the likes of federal political patronage appointees, Robert Deluca and downtown business bigwigs who have neither the time nor the inclination to make their way out to Pearson when duty calls? The airport is here to stay, dammit, and anybody who continues to fight the inevitable is simply crazy. And probably a hippie.

So, to all you left wingers out there and island airport opponents who see its continued presence and Porter’s possible expansion as the ongoing extension of a politically underhanded and democratically dubious land and money grab of the Toronto Harbor Commission by the federal Liberal party over a decade ago… you see, there you go again, talk, talk, talking, like you’re being heard by rational, relatively sentient beings. Just blurt it out. From the gut to the tongue, bypassing the brain entirely. It’s worked for the right wing for decades now. It might even get you a job writing for the Toronto Sun.

insanely submitted by Urban Sophisticat