Sunday, August 19, 2007

Homeless (and Sleepless) in Toronto by Louis Evan Palmer

Homeless in Jakarta is a reflection of abject poverty and high-level thievery.

Homeless in Toronto is a reflection of wilful neglect and high-level thievery.

The main difference between "have" countries and "have not" is that there's enough left over after the elite has taken their cut to fund a sizable middle class. However, when the middle class disappears, as is happening in the USA, then the gap will close and there is no more vicious animal than one whose sustenance has been taken away.

The great lie in the debate about homelessness is that they are on the streets by choice. It is obvious to even a casual observer that many homeless people have mental problems. Estimates run as high as one third of the homeless being mentally unbalanced to the degree that they are impaired. Another major issue for the homeless is drug and/or alcohol addiction. On its own, or as a result of the above, many of the homeless have physical health problems.

There is risk and danger to the homeless and to the people around them. Living on the street is a health and hygiene issue, a law and order issue, a public safety issue. To leave these people to the ministrations of angels of mercy and/or organs of the city health department is short-sighted and negligent.

To have levels of government haggling over the costs of necessary services - these are NOT frills! - is disheartening and maddening. The address is Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Each of those jurisdictions has a role to play.

While respecting their rights and dignity, the homeless cannot be allowed to jeopardize themselves and others, laws should be passed that will enable various authorities and agencies to remove people from the streets. Some belong in mental health facilities, others in hospitals or clinics. All need free or cheap (but decent) housing.

There are sufficient resources given the political will. We need effective management of the housing, strict security and safety for the tenants, access to programs and make-work programs as required. We've got to break the cycle and just leaving people on the streets won't do it. From a purely selfish point of view, society is only hurting itself by not dealing with homelessness.

Homeless (and Sleepless) in Toronto, Louis Evan Palmer, The Way It Can Be,
Copyright 2007 Louis Evan Palmer lives in Ontario Canada. His short stories have appeared in numerous publications.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Bets & Debts - Market Money "Phones Home" by Louis Evan Palmer

The despicable financiers have had their day again. Note how the bulk of the money flow is back home to the corporations and their (mainly American) home bases. So much for "act locally".

Obvious obligations have been brazenly neglected: bond agencies have suddenly discovered that the ratings they gave to bond packages containing subprime mortgages were misleading, maybe even criminally erroneous; complex misunderstood derivatives funds have been allowed to operate and even grow by regulators and banks; hedge funds have been permitted to grow and expand and disrupt the market. All of the forgoing in the pursuit of obscene profits and zero oversight.

What is the disguising of subprime mortgages except fraud? It is a form of money laundering where one hides bad debt in with the good, divides it up and spreads it around so it can't be found, and then turns that risky debt into AAA debt and sells it globally. It was never about spreading the risk around, it was always about hiding the risk, adulterating good debt with bad and making millions before the scheme crashed as it must.

What is the cancerous growth of hedge funds and derivatives anything other than greed triumphant and out-of-control speculation?

The regulation and oversight of financial institutions is woefully inadequate. We don't have the required expertise in place or the political will. We need much more control of financial instruments especially those that constitute the creation of credit. We need to implement tax-based controls on the movement of money and credit and strict regulations to limit and civilize speculation. To quote Richard C. Cook: we need the "recognition of credit as a public utility, part of the societal commons, not the private playground of the financiers.." There is good speculation and there is bad (most) speculation! It is suicidal for societies to allow rampant "bad" speculation and its associated accoutrements to reign supreme. Boom and bust is the inevitable result where the short boom is for the few and the long bust is for the rest.

Bets & Debts - Market Money "Phones Home", The Way It Can Be, Louis Evan Palmer,
Copyright 2007 Louis Evan Palmer lives in Ontario Canada. His short stories have appeared in numerous publications.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Globe & Mail's Neil Reynolds calls on birds to protect Canada by Louis Evan Palmer

"Birds, after all, have economies, too."

The United States will not have to look hard to find its slavish supporters in the journalistic corps as Neil Reynolds continues his misleading fusillades in favour of the Security & Prosperity Partnership (SPP). There is little doubt that a fully implemented SPP would cement into place a one-sided, disadvantageous relationship in favour of the US and would lead to the dissolution of any Canada recognizable to its current citizens. It's clear to anyone with a dollop of sense (or not blinded by ideology) that a 98 pound chimp will enjoy few, if any, rights in the house of the 800 pound gorilla.

Mr. Reynolds, although it most certainly caused him great discomfort, called on the restive spirit of John Kenneth Galbraith to support his grovelling on the part of his SPP masters. Mr. Galbraith, Reynolds asserts "never wavered in his conviction that economic globalization was an essential advance". Since Mr. Galbraith lived until he was 97 and wrote and was interviewed extensively, you could probably get almost any quote you want from him. Like the following in conversation with Asimina Caminis, Senior Editor of Finance & Development, Mr. Galbraith was quoted: "I'm an advisor to the American Heritage Dictionary on language use and I will not allow the word globalization. It is a very ugly term! That we will have closer international relationships in such areas as economics, culture, the arts, travel, and communications I strongly hope..." Hmmm? Maybe it was another John Kenneth Galbraith that Mr. Reynolds had in mind? But no, Mr. Reynolds go on by putting these further words into Mr. Galbraith's mouth "globalization simply expanded and extended co-operation among countries". Yes perhaps, except without the word "globalization"! I'd say that Mr. Galbraith was fairly clear on that.

Mr. Reynolds continues his parade of misquotes and faulty logic by claiming (one must assume with a straight face) that "economic integration in no way necessitates political integration". I guess all those other commentators and political leaders (and basically the whole world) got it wrong. The absurdness of this statement is breath-taking. Of course, economic integration leads to political integration. That's precisely what it leads to.

Professor Branislav L. Slantchev of the Department of Political Science, University of California, says in a lecture in his course "Introduction to International Relations" that: "The highest state of economic integration is the common market, which adds the free movement of labor and capital to the customs union freedom of goods and unified external tariffs. A common market is deepest and involves the largest loss of sovereignty, eventually requiring the relinquishment of important policy tools for controlling financial flows and stimulating the economy. Common markets are very rare." Don't be fooled by Mr. Reynolds rantings, SPP is no other than a different name for "common market".

Mr. Reynolds' trust in international institutions is as touching as it is naive and misplaced as John Perkins has made abundantly clear in his expose "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man". Institutions like the World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) have been co-opted, mainly by US interests, and are mainly used to indebt third world countries. David C. Korten elaborates on this in his widely-acclaimed book "When Corporations Rule the World": "The World Bank has served as an export-financing facility for large Northern-based corporations. The IMF has served as the debt collector for Northern-based financial institutions. GATT has served to create a corporate bill of rights protecting the rights of the world's largest corporations against the intrusions of people, communities, and democratically elected governments."

As befits a manifestly beneficial endeavour, the SPP has not been brought to Parliament, has not been debated or brought to committee. It has been snuck around in luxurious hide-aways attended by invitation-only members of the elite. Its shadowy Orwellian name "Security & Prosperity Partnership" calls to mind the raft of similarly falsely named laws & campaigns from Bush-Cheney's Amerika like Iraqi Enduring Freedom and Patriot Act.

When Gordon Laxer, a professor of political economy and director of the Parkland Institute at the University of Alberta, tried to address the energy aspects of the SPP "at a meeting of the House of Commons' international trade committee earlier this month, Leon Benoit, the Conservative chairman, ordered me to stop my presentation as an invited witness. My remarks, he ruled, were not relevant. When his decision was successfully challenged by other members of the committee, Mr. Benoit adjourned the meeting and left the room.

"For example, in researching how Canada's energy security would be affected by exporting more energy to the United States, I learned that Canada has no plans, or enough pipelines, to get oil to Eastern Canadians in the event of an international supply crisis. I asked if Canada, as a member of the International Energy Agency, will establish a Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The IEA was created to counter OPEC's boycotting power; its 24 members are supposed to maintain 90 days of emergency oil reserves.

"The NEB replied that Canada 'was specifically exempted from establishing a reserve, on the grounds that Canada is a net exporting country whereas the other members are net importers.' But that doesn't make sense. Canada may be a net exporter, but it still imports 40 per cent of its oil - 850,000 barrels per day - to meet 90 per cent of Atlantic Canada's and Quebec's needs, and 40 per cent of Ontario's.

"Of course, we don't even have the pipelines to fully meet Eastern needs and, rather than address that domestic deficiency, five more export pipelines are planned."

The above appeared in an article in the Globe & Mail in May of this year.

Yes, Mr. Reynolds, the SPP sounds just fine if you're content to see Canada disappear. In the meantime, please leave the birds out of it.

Globe & Mail's Neil Reynolds calls on birds to protect Canada, Louis Evan Palmer, The Way It Can Be,
Copyright 2007 Louis Evan Palmer lives in Ontario Canada. His short stories have appeared in numerous publications.


"Nothing to Hide" and Torture by Louis Evan Palmer

Recent revelations about the rendition of Maher Arar by the CIA confirm what many people who have a modicum of knowledge about so-called "intelligence" services already know: that the various intelligence operations have more than their share of wildmen, incompetents, blowhards and cover-up artists. The frightening component of this though is that unlike others of their faltering, stumbling ilk, they can abuse secrecy and other laws to block oversight and accountability and to torment and punish alleged "threats" into silence.

However, to zero in on the salient point, people like Mr. Arar shouldn't be complaining because as we well know if he has "nothing to hide" then he has "nothing to fear". The torture will exonerate him - why else would we do it unless it really worked, unless it was quick and effective? Yes, it might hurt temporarily but that would be gone and forgotten soon enough. Right? Can't seem to recall why we don't torture people ourselves though - at least not officially since the days of the Inquisition?

There is something ludicrous and malevolent about people who dwell in the shadows, who obscure their identities, their work, their whereabouts, and, who invoke secrecy and "need to know" at every turn, claiming that there is something wrong with personal privacy and people who need some privacy.

These individuals, safely hidden away, insist that we need to torture selected persons so that "we" can quickly confirm that they truly have "nothing to hide" or, if not, that we know what they know. If you're innocent, you'll be released albeit with some "bad" memories which will diminish over time, in most cases.

There is so much that avails itself to the "nothing to hide" argument.

If you have "nothing to hide" then you can have no bonafide objections to security forces tearing your place of residence apart. Or, tearing your luggage apart at the airport. Or, subjecting you to a strip search or a body cavity exploration or an x-ray. After all, you're innocent so you have "nothing to fear". Maybe we'll extend the same courtesy to your family especially as they, in turn, also have "nothing to hide".

With the new paranoiac, "reasonable doubt" and habeus corpus are unwelcome, and seemingly to many in the enforcement and investigative branches, not understood. This lack of knowledge and understanding about core democratic values and beliefs could prove to be its undoing.

"Reasonable doubt" was a key restraint on the search and seizure powers of the police and quasi-police agencies.

As Gwynne Dyer has amply demonstrated in many of his recent writings, the threat of terrorism is minuscule compared to other violent threats. In addition, other much more serious and daunting threats present themselves which we conveniently ignore: curable and preventable diseases, malnutrition, poor water, war, car and industrial accidents, pollution and massive climate change.

We have a phony threat being callously used to increase the power of the executive branches of government and certain investigative and enforcement arms and employing coercive techniques and propaganda such as "nothing to hide" to pry away the hard-won protections of a democracy.

As many a former agent will tell you, the biggest threat to an intelligence agency is other intelligence agencies. We need people who understand that and act appropriately to protect Canadians, and their rights, first and their "relationships" with other intelligence services well down the list.

The answer is less power, less scope, and a smaller mandate.

"Nothing to Hide" and Torture, Louis Evan Palmer, The Way It Can Be,
Copyright 2007 Louis Evan Palmer lives in Ontario Canada. His short stories have appeared in numerous publications.


Prisoners and The Right to Vote by Louis Evan Palmer

A surprising number of countries deny the right to vote to prisoners. Some, like America, make it dependent on the severity of the sentence, others like the UK apply it across the board although the UK recently lost an EU court case and must restore this right as soon as possible.

The denial of voting rights is not something that typically appears in a judge's statement along with the length of incarceration. It is more like a common practice that is assumed but may come as a shock to a given prisoner who had expected to be able to cast a ballot in a federal election.

In ancient Athens, losing your right to vote was a possible outcome of a conviction along with exile, death or a fine. It does highlight the fact that deprival of the right to vote has long antecedents. But then, when the "state" was a city, the reasoning behind denying this right was clearer, it was part of excluding a person from the city and the affairs of the city. Now it's less clear as exile is not an official remedy and the convict will remain a citizen and within the borders & jurisdiction of the state. And we hope that the theory and administration of the law has advanced somewhat in the intervening centuries.

In a challenge argued before Canada's Supreme Court, the reasoning, or lack thereof, was outlined and debated. The Court stated that "the government must show that the infringement achieves a constitutionally valid purpose or objective, and that the chosen means are reasonable and demonstrably justified". The Court found that the government did not show or prove their case - "The government has failed to identify particular problems that require denying the right to vote..."

Jack Layton, the leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), captured part of the government's logical dilemma when he asked "The courts don't sentence by taking away citizenship, and citizens have a right to vote in this country". Of course, in George Bush's Amerika, taking away a person's citizenship is exactly what will be done. Then we're thrown on the gentle protections of human rights. But, a government that has cast away its own citizenship protection will likely not be put off by human rights either.

In the political arena, prisoners might, at the least, be interested in criminal justice systems issues and have valuable insight and input. The size of the prison population is most countries would not be a factor in elections, especially in cases where the ballots may not count in a single jurisdiction.

However, this leads us to a disturbing observation. If a faction within a given country decided that they wanted to disenfranchise a group of people and they could manipulate issues and events towards that end, they could use a prison system that denies the right to vote as a way to accomplish that goal. As a bonus, while significantly increasing the prison population, a plantation-type economy could be imposed on them and a lot of money made with a cheap, captive labour force.

This is another unexpected reason why preserving the right to vote for prisoners is important. To preserve their voice in the electoral process and the law and order issues that get attention.

The United States currently has the largest prison population in the world and is serving as an example of how to wage an undeclared war on a nation's poor and minorities. While the crime rate decreases (since 1992), the arrest and incarceration rates increase. Cheap drugs deluge poor neighbourhoods, a phony War on Drugs targets them, a biased law enforcement and justice system arrests and convicts them. This is how you must do it to get the really big numbers - over two million!

The United States has a large number of vast, plantation-style private prisons that are run as low-wage, non-union shops that unfairly compete with other companies and sweet-talk and bully their way into lucrative state and federal contracts.

Typically, none of these American prisoners can vote. This is a sneaky way to re-introduce slavery and disenfranchise Afro and Hispanic Americans at a single stroke. In Canada and Austrailia, aboriginal peoples were/are similarly disenfranchised.

Yes, there are truly dangerous people who must be jailed, some for life. But, the current prison situation in the United States is far beyond that, there it's a class war where more than half the prison population has been convicted of non-violent crimes and, to a very large extent, represents poor or minority groups.

Let's not forget that the justice system is far from perfect with widespread corruption, wrongful convictions, flawed judicial proceedings. In many respects, the war on drugs which is the main source of new prisoners is the lashing and flailing of a prohibition-style campaign that's never going to get repealed until there's no one left to imprison.

The current American model of justice serves as a cautionary tale and vigilance must be renewed in other countries to not allow that type of factory prison farm to become established. Giving prisoners to right to vote is a step in that direction away from quasi-slavery and disenfranchisement. After all, most prisoners will rejoin society at some point and being engaged politically can only help in that re-integration and in dealing fairly with criminal justice issues.

Prisoners and The Right to Vote, Louis Evan Palmer, The Way It Can Be,
Copyright 2007 Louis Evan Palmer lives in Ontario Canada. His short stories have appeared in numerous publications.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Neil Reynolds leads Globe & Mail charge into SPP oblivion by Louis Evan Palmer

In today's Globe & Mail, another of G&M's bully boys for fascism rails against opponents of the Security & Prosperity Partnership (SPP) such as the Canadian Action Party (CAP) and the New Democratic Pary (NDP). He succinctly terms their opposition "nonsense" while less obviously and between the lines, he is also trying to categorize all opposition to the SPP as "nonsense".

In a fairly short article, Mr. Reynolds neatly demonstrates most of what is wrong with columnist-driven news: unsubstantiated statements & claims, slanted news bites and facts, opinion-driven conclusions disguised as fact-based reporting. Ever so convincing, Mr. Reynolds says on more than one occasion, " might be a good thing".

He argues that the CAP is no good (and its claims & opinions) because it has very little support. The NDP is no good because some of its claims as to the real disposition of power in Canada and elsewhere are similar to CAP. And, by the way, the NDP are not in power so how can they be right about anything? In Mr. Reynolds' universe, power is the balm that salves any problem.

Mr. Reynolds does not appear to have read any of Chalmers Johnston's last three books about the American Empire and its corporate and military leadership. Nor, John Perkins and his expose of the tactics and legacy of Economic Hit Men and the various agencies and institutions like the World Bank which work hand-in-hand with the "corporatocracy". It sounds a lot like SPP, Mr. Reynolds.

Mr. Reynolds pleads for rationality and "the market" without any inkling as to how fraudulent and malleable these forces really are. They are part of their very own "reality" that the current Bush regime is making. Mr. Reynolds seemingly has not heard of the Plunge Protection Teams, Hedge Funds, Currency Traders, secret Tax & Bank havens and other anti-market forces that operate with a frightening scope & frequency and breath-taking impunity. This is today's real world where unrestricted cash flows is the new piracy.

Mr. Reynolds is very much like the belligerent but rational Flat Earthers - it made perfect sense but it was wrong. People like Mr. Reynolds have no problem with Robert Nardelli, the former CEO of Home Depot, getting a severance package of $210m USD but let anyone suggest that these nouveau robber barons might have ulterior motives and plans - like the SPP, well, that is "nonsense".

It's lucky for Canadians, and those looking in on Canada from the outside, that we have Mr. Reynolds to patiently explain the true lies of what we think we see.

Unhappily though, there are those who see Mr. Reynolds as another G&M apologist for the demise of Canada which is the certain consequence of an SPP union. It would take about as long as it takes for Mr. Reynolds to write "it might be a good thing"!

No thanks, Mr. Reynolds! I'll take the CAP and NDP before that happens.
Neil Reynolds leads Globe & Mail charge into SPP oblivion, Louis Evan Palmer, The Way It Can Be
Copyright 2007 Louis Evan Palmer lives in Ontario Canada. His short stories have appeared in numerous publications.


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Stephen Harper & Michael Ignatieff no longer support Adolph Hitler by Louis Evan Palmer

Or the War in Iraq.

Saying the equivalent of "oops" is not enough.

For many reasons, there are long-standing rules & laws governing international relationships. Among them, Justice, Fairness, the preservation of the Peace. One of the most prominent of these governance strictures is the rejection of using "might makes right", or its camouflaged little brother "pre-emptive strike", as a justification for aggression.

Throughout history and continuing to this day, self-defence in its various guises has been used as a cover for military action and the thrust of a "no-one can stop us" realpolitik from the "just do it" and "bring it on" crowds. To prevent its fraudulent use, the only unassailable justification for military action is bonafide self-defence where it's an action against an aggressor who is physically threatening your actual borders.

Not a future threat. Not a potential threat (if this and that and that and that... then). Not a threat to an ideal like "democracy" in a given country or to a given group of people like the "Kurds" or the "Baluchi". Not the threat posed from an ideology or tactic as in the "War on Terror". Not any of these, or other, nebulous and easily conjured up reasons.

For example, an oft-used causi belli is where the people under threat are your own nationals placed, or having placed themselves, in a foreign country - then military action in that foreign country to protect and extract y/our citizens might be justified but only where the foreign country itself is not in control of the region in question or is not considered legitimate. If it goes forward, it would become a police action to rescue your nationals and would end with their safe extraction. It does not become the launch pad for outright aggression and occupation.

This highlights an important consideration, the proportionality of the response. This is typically the first clue as to the real intentions of the aggressor. When the response versus the "problem" is hugely disproportionate and would normally require significant preparation and pre-positioning, it strongly indicates that the "problem" is a pretext.

Harper and Ignatieff stood "shoulder-to-shoulder" with Bush & Blair & company in supporting and promoting a war of aggression. That decision resulted in war crimes and death and destruction for the nation of Iraq and instability and the threat of an expanded war for the entire region. This is a decision from which one cannot walk away.

This is why these decisions and statements by Harper and Ignatieff cannot be minimized or explained away. The various assertions about democracy and tyranny are stunningly threadbare. Advanced democracies do not support democracy by waging wars of aggression under whatever contrived names they care to devise. Period.

To then focus solely on this or that "tyranny", especially ones which received substantial (often surreptitious) "aid" is the height of hypocrisy. Calling a war of aggression, part of the "War on Terrorism", or a "War for Democracy", or whatever, does not change its moral wrongness and comes to be seen for what it is, self-serving propaganda.

Both Harper's and Ignatieff's diminishing support for the war now and their lukewarm repudiation of it ring false and hollow. They back away because it's not going well. They back away because the Canadian people don't support it. Poor execution, lack of popularity - these are not positions of principle to which both these men constantly point to as a distinguishing characteristic.

They and the armchair Generals who were crowing for war and about realism and facts on the ground and hard decisions and sacrifices are bellowing now about what's wrong with Iraq and Iraqi society and outside interference and the "situation" and not about the deep-seated illegitimacy of foreign intrusions into sovereign countries. Some of them also complain about the unfairness or lack of balance of their critics. Or, more ominously, the lack of patriotism of their critics.

Decisions like this prove that Harper and Ignatieff are not qualified for Canadian high office. The fact that they are better, smarter persons than Bush or Blair underscores how deep of a moral quagmire we're all in.

Stephen Harper & Michael Ignatieff no longer support Adolph Hitler, Louis Evan Palmer, The Way It Can Be
Copyright 2007 Louis Evan Palmer lives in Ontario Canada. His short stories have appeared in numerous publications.