Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Obama Embraces Neo-Con Agenda

President Obama continues to embrace a conservative reformist agenda with his Monday fiscal summit and his speech to the congress last night. In particular in education he has embraced merit pay and he told congress his administration wishes to expand charter schools. This later move has been the child of the Cato institute in the U.S. and the Fraser Institute in Canada. It is the bugaboo of the neo-con revolution, market delivery of public education by private companies. Setting up competitive private schools in competition with public schools. It as been tried in Alberta and B.C. and has not delivered any greater success in student achievement than public schools. Where it has succceeded is due to a simple fact; smaller class sizes which results in more indidivdual student attention.
At his Monday joint summit meeting, proposals for education reform included merit pay, despite union opposition to this idea, While on the surface merit pay may appear a good idea, it is all in the details. Who decides what merits the pay increase? Is it test scores? Is it an evaluation by students and parents? If it is the former test scores do not reflect real cognitive learning, rather they reflect the limited ability of rote learning; memorising anwsers to test questions.
The Obama administration is embracing other neo-con ideas as well in the areas of health care and social security reform. They begin with the premise that some one is ripping off the system, and a review of health care rip offs was announced to congress by Obama. He also promised that younger American workers would be able to supplement their social security with a persoanl tax free retirement investment plan. Where have we heard this before? Why from the Bush and Clinton administrations of course.
Like Clinton before him, he is a classic liberal, and as I have pointed out here before, classic liberals are embraced by libertarians, radical republicans and liberals. That he is willing to embrace ideas of the neo-con era, shows he truly is bipartisan

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

1930's Oscars

Did anyone else notice that this years Oscar's ceremony was a flashback to the 1930's. It contained a depression era set, sepia toned back drops of store front hoardings, complete with a 1930's vaudeville dance routine, straight out of a Fred Astaire movie. Yep they got the message, America is about to enter a depression. And with the overwhelming win of Slumdog Millionare, the message could not be clearer, don't worry be happy. All that was missing was Hugh Jackman singing; Brother can you spare a dime.

They used to tell me I was building a dream, and so I followed the mob,

When there was earth to plow, or guns to bear, I was always there right on the job.

They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead,

Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?

Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.

Once I built a railroad; now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;

Once I built a tower, now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,

Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,

Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,

And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don't you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.

Why don't you remember, I'm your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,

Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,

Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,

And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don't you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.

Say, don't you remember, I'm your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime

Harper Does Right Wing Talk Shows

PM Stephen Harper visited NYC yesterday to assure U.S. business interests that all is well in Canada. Especially with our banks. Interestingly his handlers set him up to appear on cable news shows. They chose to have him appear on right wing pro capitalist shows, in the morning he appeared on Fox Money News and in the afternoon he appeared on Larry Kudlows show on CNBC. Neither of these is as widely watched as say CNN or MSNBC political programs. But they were safe waters with both Fox and Kudlow cushing over the PM's presence. On Fox he once again defended NAFTA and warned against protectionism/isolationism. And of course he didn't appear on PBS. Nope these were safe right wing news programs that tossed him puff balls for questions. Kudlow in particular did not know that in Canada GM's union is not UAW but CAW, opps someone didn't do their research. Aw well the PM finally had an appreciative media audience not like the Press Gallery he has to suffer with up here.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Obama's Bipartisanship

Missed by the American media pundits on the cable political talk shows was that Obama's bipartisanship has nothing to do with charming Republicans but about meeting with Conservative PM Stephen Harper.
"If Canadians were no fans of Mr. Bush, their conservative leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, found in him a kindred philosophical spirit . . . "

In personal terms, there should be excellent chemistry between these two guys. In generational terms, they belong to the same baby-boomer cohort. Harper was born in 1959, Obama in 1961. They both come from modest backgrounds, where their mothers were the most important influence in their lives. They both saw themselves as agents of change, both made audacious reaches for power at a young age, and both have grasped the brass ring.

Never mind that Obama is a liberal Democrat and Harper is a right-of-centre Conservative. Both have taken parties of chronic losers and made them winners. That's the starting point between them. And in any event, the left in the U.S. can be to the right of centre in Canada. Obama wants to double U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan, while Harper has promised to pull Canada out of the country by 2011. Obama would never support legislation or constitutional amendment to legalize same-sex marriage in the U.S., while Harper called a free vote on it in Canada, and dropped his opposition when a parliamentary resolution backed the courts.

After all as I pointed out here on several occasions Obama is a classic liberal, that is a 'progressive' conservative. While Harper too is a classic liberal, though more influenced by American Republican interpretations of libertarianism equating it with Ayn Randism. Underneath their discourse was the common view that it was time to fortify the gates of fortress North America, which includes Mexico, over issues of common security, shared climate change policy and mutual stimulus packages.

Despite big differences in philosophy and style, Obama and Harper presented a common front on issues as varied as the war in Afghanistan, reversing the recession and pushing back the hot-button issue of trade protectionism.

Together, they announced a "clean energy dialogue" aimed at finding technological answers to the twin environmental dilemmas of Alberta oil sands and American coal.

For left wing Americans and Canadians who think Obama is left wing, their enthusiasm for Obama is simply their misunderstanding of his realpolitik, as Thomas Walkom notes.
His vision is that of Lincoln Republicanism, especially the radical Republicans who have nothing in common with the right wing evangelicals who took over the current party under Reagan, nor anything in common with the isolationists of the Republican Party of the FDR era.
In that he and Harper share a common understanding of the classical liberal politics of self improvement through self reliance and self responsibility, progress through merit, not class or status. These are the masonic values of the enlightments further espoused by the utilitarian philosophers.

Yes the visit to Canada was truly an expression of Obama's successful bi-partisan politics, the politics of radical republicanism.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Big Auto Crisis is the Crisis of Capitalism

The time has come to quit pussy footing around the issue at hand. Capitalism is in collapse. But the truth is that factories still are capable of production, raw resources are still available, technology has increased worker productivity, and workers are still able to work. So why are GM and Chrysler incapable of being productive. Because they rely not on creating products but creating profit. And the bottom line is that while their Canadian factories are some of the most productive they now face closure. No bail out by taxpayers, no bail out by bond holders (that's you folks who own mutual funds and bonds, including your pension funds which are institutional bond holders) nor concessions by workers will end the bleeding at GM or Chrysler. Indeed you can include Ford in that as well.
Instead of bailing out the Big Three it is time to fire the executive class, stop the bleeding of white collar and blue collar jobs and socialize big auto under workers control. In fact that should be the agenda of the left from the NDP and CLC through to the more radical of the left.
And yet nowhere do I hear the call to socialize capital under workers control. Despite statist attempts to nationalize banks and financial institutions by various governments of diverse ideologies, this is simply a public bail out of private capital.
Capitalism is the problem contrary to Gordon Brown, George Bush and Stephen Harper, it is not the solution. The solution is not taxpayer stimulus of existing infrastructure of capitalism and its state. Rather it is the complete and total overhaul of capitalism by socializing it, recognizing that capitalism is currently publicly funded by workers wages, pensions and taxes. It is time to restructure all production under workers control, to reconstitute government as the administration of things rather than people.
Just as big auto cannot restructure itself neither can capitalism. Ownership at GM and Chrysler has not changed, the executives have not changed, the command structure of the organisation has not changed. Nor has concessions, nor bail outs changed the fact that big auto like capitalism in general is simply about the creative destruction of workers and factories, in order to get slim enough to increase the bottom line; profit. And what is profit? It is the surplus value accumulated for further investment to make, more profit. It is this simple equation which exposes the capitalist system as being incapable of solving its own crisis. Which is not a crisis of production but of profit making.
This is the solution that needs to be shouted from the roof tops. And yet I find no cheerleaders for socialism, rather the left seems as despondent as the apologists for capitalism. It is time to challenge the established propaganda of the day that capitalism is a horrible system but it is better than the alternative. The alternative is socialism which contrary to popular mythology is not the same as state owned public works. Socialism is socialized capital, and production under the democratic control of those who own and use it that is us the vast majority of people.
Socialism as a democratic restructuring of capitalism and its statist forms is the unknown country, still to be explored. In this crisis it is time to begin the broad discussion that was so vibrant forty years ago, after the failures of Stalinism and Labourism, about new forms of community and worker control, extending democracy to the work place and into our public institutions, etc.
Unless we have a vibrant vision of a new world, being built in the shell of the old, we will not be grave diggers of capitalism, but rather labour and its political parties will simply dig themselfves into a grave created for them by the current capitalist crisis. Their lack of imigination is their failure to see beyond things as they are, because inevitably for the past fifty years they have abandoned the belief in the revolutionary potential of the working class they claim to represent.


There Is An Alternative To Capitalism

Auto Solution II

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