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Millionaire celebs sell Americans out - are Canadians next?
Dateline: Tuesday, November 04, 2003
by Ish Theilheimer The US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq is becoming a growing nightmare as US authorities sneak the body bags home and family after family experiences the dreaded knock on the door from officers in grey cars. Lies are added to lies. Are we expected to forget that the architects of the Vietnam disaster uttered the words "We're making progress" repeatedly for ten years? Now America finds itself creating enemies of Iraqis it formerly thought of as friends. And its reputation globally is badly damaged.
On the positive side, corporations like Haliburton and Bechtel - run by the closest of Bush administration friends and colleauges are doing just fine. In his amazing review of two new books on the alarming developments in American politics, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman lists many instances where it has become public knowledge that Bush appointees have been personally paid millions by the biggest coprorate polluters and swindlers. Scandals involving enormous graft and corruption surface repeatedly. But the public doesn't seem to care.
Bush II buys and steals an election in full view of the world and puts the country on a permanent war footing. Wall Street tycoon Michael Bloomberg buys himself the mayoralty of New York City and proceeds to gut education and social services. A(nother) movie star is elected governor of California with ominious consequences for public services.
Krugman writes: "The chapter [from the Molly Ivins book Bushwacked] on ergonomics-i.e., regulations to prevent injuries from poor working conditions-is startling, not so much for the what and the how as for the who. There we learn about the career of Eugene Scalia, now the Labor Department's solicitor general. This is an appointment that should have raised eyebrows, even if the younger Scalia had a history of labor advocacy. Just to be blunt about it: here we have a president who reached office despite receiving fewer votes than his opponent, thanks to a highly questionable Supreme Court decision -and now a plum job goes to the son of the justice who muscled that decision through. Wow."
Later he concludes "The success of today's right, despite its manifest greediness and irresponsibility, remains a puzzle." Whats so surprising? Money talks and lots of money talks loudly. It helps that the right is masterful in propoganda techniques. But it especially helps that its backers are loaded. While lefties struggle to maintain chippy little websites, the right owns newspaper chains and TV networks. Even Krugman's New York Times, with its liberal reputation, can be counted on not to rock the establishment's boat too strenuously. Why expect more outrage?
Here in Canada, we are fortunate things have not come quite so far, largely through the dogged persistence of social democratic forces led by the NDP, the labour movement, the social movements, and Quebec nationalists. It is a concern, therefore, to note the imminent canonization of St. Martin of Convenient Flags.
Unlike his tycoon counterparts in the US, Martin faces constraints on how much he and wealthy friends can spend to get him elected, both because of existing campaign finance laws - however pourous - and Jean Chr?tien's campaign finance reforms that come in January 1. These reforms seemed almost calculated to hamstring his rival Martin. Even so, Martin raised a reluctantly-disclosed $10 million to pay for his leadership campaign.
We are fortunate in Canada to have more political choices than voters have in the US. It may be that with the merged and purged Conservative Party and the rightward-rushing Liberal party that Canada will entertain more room for a younger, hipper NDP, especially if the NDP were to actually elect its leader Jack Layton to Parliament. The imminent by-election in Ottawa Centre offers a tantalizing opportunity for the bilingual, hip media magnet Layton to get elected by a media-savy electorate. By contrast, running against the millionaire celebrity Dennis Mills - who only managed to land the Pope and the Stones for Toronto - seems a suicidal mission.
Meanwhile in Straight Goods' home province of Ontario, the NDP is still hoping to regain parliamentary status and consequently staff funding after winning more votes and fewer seats in the October election. It looks like a vain fight. Incoming Premier Dalton McGuinty made it clear on election night he intended to drive a stake into the socialists' heart. He changes course on many things but on this one he looks unusually firm.
Ironically enough, McGuinty himself will provide amply fuel for the kind of outrage the NDP needs to survive and rebuild, with or without party funding. And beyond a certain point it becomes unseemly for the party be seeking sympathy from the Liberal Devil. That Devil is now about to break or indefinitely delay every single election promise and needed reform that costs money as a result of the "surprise discovery" of the true size of the province's deficit. Hydro rates have been uncapped. We hope students waiting for the promised reduction in class sizes and nurses waiting to be rehired aren't holding their breath.
To get back into the game, Ontario's NDP - like any other party down in the election cycle - will need to do what all parties need to do at times like this. It needs to modernize its fundraising so it can compete in the main area. It needs to take control of its own research and communitcaion needs so it is not dependent on public largesse. And it needs to modernize and rebuild its campacity to communicate and organize in a new era.
The election this year as mayor of the crusading coronor Gordon Campbell in Vancouver and the surge (as I write) being enjoyed by crusading lawyer David Miller in his mayoralty campaign in Toronto gives us hope that with the right combination of organizing, money and celebrity, Canada's still-quite-functional left can help the nation resist the dangerous directions in which the corporate right with its celebrity figureheads has taken American.
Golden Lake, Ontario, 4 November, 2003
-------------------- -I'd rather have a frontal lobotomy than a bottle in front of me
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