A War On A War On

November 1, 2011

To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.

From the great orator, Winston Churchill, to President Eisenhower at the White House in 1954 after a snout full of brandy one must presume. Really, Winston? This from the man who said such things as, “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others.” And this, “The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.” And this, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

I guess the occasional lacklustre quote polishes the sheen of the better one that much brighter. Still, the point is taken. War only as a last resort when all other options have been explored and found wanting. “ It is better to talk jaw to jaw than to have war,” as the quote was later cleaned up to sound more Churchillian.

War is a declaration of defeat for all the values we as a civilization allegedly hold dear. Reason. Discourse. Consensus. This is especially true when we speak of the metaphorical wars that are proclaimed regularly.

The War on Drugs. A denial of the socio-economic and genetic causes that can lead to horrific personal outcomes. Not to mention that drug use isn’t all inherently bad. Just a blanket criminalized prohibition of something you don’t approve of, easily wished away by three simple words: Just Say No.

The War on Terror. We were attacked! Let’s not stop for a minute to try and understand why it happened and just lash out at all our perceived enemies. They hate us for our freedom, people. Bombs away!

More locally, how about our War on Cars? Traffic sucks. I’m spending more and more time in my car. It must be because downtown elites hate cars and anyone who drives them. What other answer could there be? Let’s end the War on Cars.

And this one just in: I Hate the War on Mayor Rob Ford. It seems some of the mayor’s ardent supporters have seen his falling approval ratings, looked around to discover the reasons for the decline and decided that it’s just because people don’t like him and have declared a war upon his administration. Or in their own words:

You may not like him. You may have voted against him. But LIKE this page if you’re sick and tired of the non-stop character assassination by the media and special-interest groups against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who is simply trying to do the job he was elected to do with a mandate from over 50% of Toronto voters!

Now first, a minor quibble. Mayor Rob Ford was not elected “… with a mandate from over 50% of Toronto voters!” Actually, he clocked in at about 47%. Big deal, you say. What’s 3%? Well the ‘over 50%’ claim suggests that a majority of Torontonians voted for Rob Ford which simply isn’t true. And to base some sort of movement on a factual inaccuracy kind of undercuts the entire enterprise, doesn’t it? But, as is often the case, a lie serves as a springboard to war.

More significantly, the people behind I Hate the War on Mayor Rob Ford and their growing legion of Likers want us to believe that the mayor has been laid siege to based solely on ‘non-stop character assassination by the media and special-interest groups’. You see, it has nothing to do with the fact that Mayor Ford has systematically pulled one plank after another out from his campaign platform. The election platform that enticed 47.114% (not ‘over 50%) of voters to vote for Rob Ford last October.

Those who believed that Rob Ford could cut wasteful spending (i.e. The Gravy Train) without cutting services. Guaranteed. Those who believed Rob Ford when he said that the city had a spending problem not a revenue problem. That who believed Rob Ford would bring a new era of openness and transparency to City Hall but now watch as he fundraises for legal fees to fight off a Compliance Audit Committee request for a closer look at his campaign finances.

No. Those now declaring war on The War on Mayor Rob Ford see only spite based criticisms of him based purely on sore-losing and consisting of name calling and other types of ‘non-stop character assassination.’ It is a convenient way of avoiding answering more substantive questions about how spectacularly and quickly the mayor has jettisoned the most basic of his campaign promises. Fiscal responsibility and accountability.

Instead, they are attempting to wrap him up in a cozy blanket of victimhood. (A disturbingly frequent habit of conservative bully boys when faced with mounting opposition.) Any criticism is seen as some sort of personal attack or motivated by nothing more than self-interest, so not worthy of a rational, civil response. They don’t have to engage because they’ve determined that we’ve declared war on the mayor. We’re the irrational ones not them.

How else do you explain the ‘home invasion’ last week by This Hour Has Twenty-Two Minutes’ Marg Delahunty aka Mary Walsh? A bit she’s been doing to politicians now for, I don’t know, 60 years and suddenly it’s become a felony? Never mind that many of the mayor’s detractors agreed with him that the appearance at his home crossed the line and that the story basically grew legs and ran because, for some reason, he saw fit to call 9-1-1 not once, not twice but three times when the police didn’t immediately appear for what was, clearly to everyone but the mayor, a non-emergency situation.

When you’re at war a silly little set-to becomes a ‘home invasion’ as part of some grand conspiracy orchestrated by our ‘state-run broadcaster’. The rhetoric is pitched. The reasoning reduced to nothing more than us-versus-them simplicity. You don’t have to justify or explain yourself to the enemy. That’s something you do in times of peace not war. And in case you haven’t heard, there’s a war going on. A War on Mayor Rob Ford.

peaceably submitted by Cityslikr


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


A Plea To Conservatives Everywhere

February 16, 2011

I wish, I really wish, there was one tenet espoused by modern conservatism, one article of their faith that I could glom onto and accept as true or factually sound or anything even approximating that ideal. I really do. Otherwise, I may have to accept the possibility that I’m nothing more than a partisan stick in the mud, addled by “motivated reasoning” and hopelessly and immovably entrenched in my views.

Anybody? Anybody? Come on. Throw me a bone.

Linking through the overload that is this information age, I went from here to here to here, Joe Keohane’s article from last July in the Boston Globe, How facts backfire. In a nutshell, we’ve gone from the utopian, Enlightenment bathed conviction of Thomas Jefferson who opined (between sackings of his slave, Sally Hemings, no doubt) Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government to the very likely possibility that we may be physiologically incapable of becoming fully informed. Is that what Mr. Keohane suggested? I’m not sure but that’s what I believe he wrote, so I’m going with it.

We hold beliefs, believing that we’ve come to them rationally, objectively and open-mindedly. But when presented with facts that run contrary to our beliefs, it seems we have a tendency to dig in our heels and believe our beliefs even more. And worse still, there is some suggestion that the better informed you are, the more “politically sophisticated”, the less open you are to new, opposing information and thus less likely to alter what you believe.

So, if I’m following my line of reasoning correctly, the more informed we endeavour to become, the less informed we end up being. Something so-called experts in the field (although I’m beginning to suspect such entities cannot actually exist since more information only leads to further misinformation we’re told… or, so I hear) “confirmation bias”. Our inclination to latch onto information that confirms what we already believe regardless of its veracity, and to disregard information, valid or not, that disputes what we believe to be true.

The makings of the political logjam we currently find ourselves in. (If true that is, and since I’m not sure it is, that renders it questionable.) I believe what I believe. You believe what you believe. And never shall the twain meet. How is a society supposed to function under such factional pressure?

Badly, it would seem, looking around us. The Democrat-Republican divide in the U.S. The Conservatives against everybody else here, federally. In Toronto, an unyielding right-left split on council built upon a firm structure of urban-suburban antagonism.

So, in a spirit of co-operation and bipartisanship, I attempt to set aside my beliefs and preconceived notions of modern conservatives as masters of malevolent delusion, and ask once more for someone of that ilk to step forth and sway me to your side on the strength of a well-reasoned argument. Show me how further corporate tax cuts will kick start our economy. Persuade me that de-regulation and less oversight wasn’t at the source of the financial meltdown. Go bigger! Prove this whole trickle-down theory to me. How rising tides raise all boats. We’ve been at for 30 years or so now. There should be some model to point to. If not, how much more time do you need?

Give me the facts and figures showing that the War on Drugs has accomplished the goal of decreasing drug use and not simply criminalized a large segment of our population and made prison building a growth industry. We’ve been at this for awhile, too. There should be a solid school of evidence telling us that we’re on the right path. Harm reduction, schmarm schmeduction. Give me the straight goods on why punishment is the better way to go.

Maybe how about you provide even the teensiest bit of proof that this whole climate change thing is a sham and humans aren’t responsible for it even if it did exist. Which it doesn’t. So show me.

One thing. Just give me one conservative thing I can latch onto and say ‘yes’, ‘yes’, you’re right. That is a good idea. We would be better off if we implemented or passed or introduced that. Just one. I’m begging you.

Otherwise I’m going to have to start believing that I’m stuck in my little mindset, blind and deaf to all protestations and opinions that don’t match my own. That this impasse we’ve reached is as much my fault as it is those I don’t agree with. I want to break that deadlock. I want to be the bigger man. So please, conservatives. Prove me wrong and prove me open-minded.

in the spirit of cooperationally submitted by Cityslikr