Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Same as It Ever Was in 2014: America's Owners Kept Themselves Far From the Madding Crowd

George Carlin
Many years ago, Thomas Gray penned these famous words that still ring true and apply to the workings of those who own America:
 
Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
Along the cool sequestered vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
                   (Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard)


In fact, the year ended with a lot of "ignoble strife" in America: white police officers killing black males; a black male killing two police officers in New York City.  And let's not forget about the CIA.  The Senate Report on CIA torture reveled details on how the agency tortured suspected terrorists, brutal in its methods and ineffective with regard to maintaining meaningful intelligence.

Same old, same old.  Different year, same old shit.  Only the names have changed.

Yet, above the heated fray that defines daily life in America, sit the owners of America, who go about quietly doing their business of sucking up as much cash as they possibly can.  No more ching, ching.  Just the noiseless transfer of zeroes and ones from our electronic accounts into theirs.

Although their methods have changed, the tenor of their ways have not, something best captured by George Carlin in his classic rant about the power structure of American society:



So, what can we expect for 2015?  Pretty much the same as 2014: increasing inequality and more weird weather as the planet continues to heat up.  These two things go hand in hand.

Nevertheless, I would take this opportunity to wish Happy New Year to all of you that take the time to read my blog.  May your year be filled with joy and love.



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The End of Empire and the Rise of the Intelligent Network


As 2014 comes to a close, a great many of us are keenly aware that something is amiss.  The great wars of the previous century are over, yet we are still not at peace.  While a tiny minority continues to amass more and more wealth, the vast majority of people in the developed world sit and watch as their living conditions slowly get worse, so much so that their is a general malaise concerning the quality of life for future generations.

Try as they may, common folk cannot bring about any meaningful change and for good reason: the political systems that we have inherited from our imperial past were never designed to promote the common good: they were designed and continue to function as a means of extracting wealth from a population and the territory they inhabit.

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From time immemorial, empires have used centralized hierarchies with their command and control structures to rule and to increase the wealth and power of those at the top.  Those at the bottom must be content with the scraps that are thrown their way, and they must be prepared to give up their lives for whatever cause the elites deem to be just and noble.

Yet, over time, technological change has brought about significant improvement to the quality of material life to entire societies.  We need just think about what consumer products now find their way into the homes of the majority and compare them to what we had as little as fifty years ago to understand the scale of the change.

And then came the Internet and its first cousin, the World Wide Web. 

Thanks to the rise of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), we now spend more and more time in cyberspace, a seamless world without borders that enables us to communicate with people around the globe twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

We now live in the Age of the Information Network, held together by competing ICT platforms and computing devices.  Indeed, power has shifted from territorial-based nation states to legal corporate entities that roam the world in search of ever increasing market share and profit. 

Years ago, real political and economic power was vested in those people who headed the ministries of the state.  Now, they appear to be little more than marionettes manipulated by their corporate masters.

Essentially, money controls the political process, especially in the English-speaking nation states.  There is a direct correlation with how much money gets spent during an electoral campaign and who gets elected.  The worst case is, of course, the most powerful empire in the world, the United States of America.  With corporations being able to invest as much as they wish in support of corporate friendly candidates, it should come as little surprise that the American Congress has literally become a millionaire's club.

The cornerstone of the political process that leads to the creation of a disenfranchised population is an electoral system that transfers the sovereignty of the people to one of two political parties, which are in reality two sides of the same coin minted by monied interests.  Low voter turnout reflects the widespread realization that the political game is rigged and that participating in such a process is pointless.

Historically, it was necessary to elect representatives because of the time and effort required to communicate information and the necessity to have the representatives come together for face-to-face meetings in order to make decisions.

However, this necessity of electing representatives in order to facilitate the process of making political decisions no longer holds true and is an anachronism of nations before the invention of  electricity -- an epoch when might made right.

Today, it is a common occurrence for someone to post an electronic document on the web and have millions of people download the document and then discuss its contents.

Why do we need intermediaries (our elected representatives) to interpret the information and make up our minds for us with regard to its relevance?  Furthermore, why do need the same intermediaries to tell us what should be done?

We don't, but the empire's elites do.

That's how they control the political process.  So, nothing changes.  We continue to elect politicians that have been bought and paid for, and they continue to pander to those who put them into office.

In order to break the stranglehold that the empire's elites have on the political process, it is necessary to knock over their command-and-control pyramid that sucks the wealth and well-being from those at the bottom and the middle to those at the very top.

Today, people no longer need others to make their decisions for them.  There is a wisdom that emerges from crowds when technology is used properly to ensure its release.

Conceptually, we need to scrap our belief that we need to organize ourselves into command-and-control pyramids and begin to organize ourselves into something we already belong -- intelligent networks.

In other words, let's use the organizational structure that gives rise to human intelligence as the organizing principle to guide our social lives.  The human brain, the organ at the very core of our existence, embodies a network structure.  Indeed, our very sense of being in the world emerges from a neural network interacting with the other systems of the body where no command and control center exists.  All human experience arises from the interaction of the brain's and the body's component parts.

Like the neurons in the brain, humans can function similarly.  Deciding yes or no are the human equivalents of a neuron being turned on or off.  Just as intelligence emerges from the pattern of which neurons are turned on or off, the same can be said of the intelligence that arises from a veritable democratic assembly in which the participants simply vote yes or no to the motions presented to the assembly.

Importantly, the work of a democratic assembly deliberating in terms of a network logic does not experience the same limitations imposed by the physical constraints of time and place experienced by a traditional elected body.  In short, a virtual assembly can have its members carry on the work 24/7.  Working documents are easily posted and people can participate in smaller groups through the use of applications and in larger groups via webcasting.  In such a context, having the financial means to liberate oneself from the time it takes to earn a living is no longer a prerequisite to meaningful participation in the political process.  Today, those with limited means no longer need the well off to represent them, which is a good thing since the immediate interests of these two groups seldom coincide.

For the most part and for most of the time, political power should reside primarily with the polis, a group of citizens who live in close proximity to each other and who consequently share a common concern about the quality of life to be had in their locality.  Concerns of a greater scale, the well-being of the network of networks, and of a longer time period, what we would like to happen in the future, can still be deliberated by representatives, but there is no need to transfer the sovereignty of the local network to a single individual who will decide on behalf of his or her constituents.  Modern technology allows for decisions made at the level of the local network of citizens to work their way upwards in concertation with other local networks very rapidly in a manner that mimics the way the brain functions.

Of course, the motivation for implementing a network structure of governance is to harness the collective intelligence of the people in order to advance the common good.  As a result, those who are interested in accumulating wealth have no interest in seeing such a model of governance come about.  The model represents the antithesis of the wealth extraction normally found at the heart of all empires.  It goes against the immediate self interest of the elites who seek at all costs to obtain and maintain a disproportional share of a nation's wealth.

Therein lies the challenge.  Presently, the existing political structures are designed to perpetuate themselves and the privileges that they confer to the elites that control them.  To bring about the necessary organizational changes to bring about a network form of governance requires people that are willing and able to disperse political power to the masses and to safeguard the integrity of the new political process from those who would try to coop it for their own benefit.

It's a tall order, one that is totally out of the realm of possibility for the English-speaking nations.  Perhaps, a late bloomer, a nation recently liberated from its colonial past and that believes strongly in the advancement of the common good could make it happen.          













Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Challenge of the 21st Century Is To Extricate Ourselves From Existing Empires

Some empires change outward appearance over time.  For instance, the British Empire has morphed into the American Empire; the Russian Empire went from the czar to the communists to Vladimir Putin; not to be undone, the Chinese Empire also had a flirt with the communists before returning back to oligarchic rule; finally, the European Union today looks a lot like the former Holy Roman Empire. 

Some Empires shrink back to their original territory.  I am thinking of the former French, Dutch, Spanish, and Japanese Empires.  These were the losers in the struggle for imperial conquest.  Each one had its day, only to be eclipsed by a rival empire: the French, Dutch, and the Spanish lost out to the British, while the Japanese were crushed by the Americans.

Perhaps, the world's greatest empire, the Roman Empire, did not disappear altogether but simply shifted its focus from military conquest to the struggle to control men's souls.  Taking into consideration the expanse of the Roman Catholic Church's assets and revenues, the fear of god is as much a potent force to subjugate a population as is a Roman legion.

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At the heart of each empire, regardless of the manner in which it is constituted or the means employed, is the desire to reduce people to subjects, which is to place them under the power of another, the king, plutocrats, oligarchs, or a sovereign assembly.

The means of maintaining empire consist of using military conquest or the threat thereof, ideological domination that excludes alternative ways of thinking about organizing a society and its economy, and religious zealotry.  Most often, a ruling elite will make use of more than one of these methods to maintain its ironclad grip on the reins of power.

As a Canadian citizen, I live in a country that is a vestige of the British Empire.  As a result, I am subject to the laws of Parliament, a most undemocratic elected assembly, that provides oligarchic rule in which its adopted laws must receive the Royal Assent from a representative of Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, before they come into force.

Only in rare circumstances are people capable of escaping the clutches of those who want to expand or maintain an empire without a massive amount of bloodshed.

For instance, the wars in the Middle East followed the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the retreat of European colonialism, plunging the region into successive bloody conflicts between rival factions.  The same can be said of the Balkans, whose peoples had the misfortune of being subjected to repeated imperial conquests of the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Soviet empires.

To make matters worse, "a drowning man will clutch a dragon."  Taking advantage of a people's desire to escape the repression of imperial occupation, despots first seize power and then extract a nation's wealth for their own purposes.  This was the case in Libya Iraq, Syria, and Romania.

But there are exceptions.  The Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) were able to escape from Soviet rule without armed conflict just before the collapse of the Soviet Empire.  Similarly, Tunisia, the pearl of the Arab Spring, having been freed from French colonial rule, overthrew a despot and has become a democratic nation.

It should be noted, however, that each of these countries is rather small with regard to territory and possesses a highly homogeneous population, making it much easier to channel the desire to create an autonomous state.

Today, we are witnessing the Ukrainian struggle to create an autonomous state from a former empire.  Historically, they have been the victim of successive imperial conquests.  As well, in seeking independence from Putin's Russia, they must also deal with their own recent history of widespread corruption throughout their newly minted political system and the ethnic divisions that exist within the present Ukrainian borders, due to the melding of national groups into a single political entity, a throwback to the old divide and rule mentality of former empires.  Moreover, given the recent austerity measures adopted by the European Union, which reflects the domination of a neoliberal ideology that rewards financial elites at the expense of the common people, alignment with a competing empire may simply mean changing one set of problems for another.

The overwhelming challenge for the Ukraine resembles the struggles for the creation of veritable democracies in other former colonies, both in the developed and developing world.  The question that needs to be asked is whether it is possible to dismember existing nation states that were born out of imperial expansion into smaller democratic nations, where the principles of democracy trump the politics of nationalism.

This is not an easy task since those who maintain empire, for the most part, control the media and the use of state-sanctioned coercion.  It is extremely difficult to mobilize a population to confront the oppression from within; it is even more so to move toward a political system that is based upon the fundamental equality of its citizens and to have this equality reflected in the political process.

But this is the challenge. 

Previously, we could think that it was just a matter of time, quite often a very long time, before an empire collapsed.  Today, we can no longer afford to wait such long time because the economic exploitation of the planet brought upon by ever-improving technological advances threatens the planet's ecosystem.  In the face of catastrophic climate change, there will be no place to take refuge.  All humans, the powerful and the powerless, will have to confront the possibility of a massive die off.

Importantly, only smaller political entities that provide government of, by, and for the people are up to the challenge of making the necessary changes to effectively reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. 

Empires by their very nature are geared for continual economic expansion because it is only through expansion that those who rule can attempt to satisfy their need to ostentatiously display their wealth.  In reality, this need is unsatiable, and those who have their hands on the hands of the steering wheel give no second thought at the possibilty that they are driving us off the cliff.  If anything, they are pressing even harder upon the gas pedal.

Consequently, our shared future on the planet will either go in one of two directions: the breakup of the existing empires established in the twentieth century into smaller democratic nations, or the planet-wide devestation of the planet's ecosystem.

No wonder more and more films like Interstellar, depicting humans fleeing earth in search of other habitable planets, are making their way to the cinemas worldwide.  The theme has become part of the Zeitgeist of the 21st century.













Thursday, October 9, 2014

After Five Years, This Democrat Is More Disgruntled Than Ever


Well, a little more than five years have passed since I started writing this blog.  Despite the efforts of a number of agents for social change, we are as far away from living in a veritable democracy as ever.

And it's not for a lack of trying.  At the provincial level in Canada, there have been four referendums on changing the voting system to make it more democratic, one in the UK with the same objective, and a referendum on independence in Scotland.  Each democratic initiative did not pass.

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As for me, I chose to go way of the courts to challenge the constitutionality of the first-past-the-post voting system only to have the Supreme Court of Canada refuse to hear our case for reasons unknown.

 I found the whole process to be a farce because in order to gain status before the courts to question the constitutionality of the voting system, I had to demonstrate that I was personally affected by vagaries of the voting system in question.  In the lower court, we gained cause and were allowed to proceed.  Thereafter, having participating in the electoral process as a candidate for the Green Party was then used to sufficiently demonstrate that my democratic rights were not impinged upon by the very fact that I could become a candidate.

Talk about a Catch 22 situation.  Gain the right to bring the question to court because I was a candidate for a small political party, but then have the question tossed aside because I had been a candidate for a small political party.  All the evidence that we brought to the Court was not even considered.  The judges couldn't be bothered even to address a single one of our arguments to show that we had erred.  WTF?  The fix was on.

Now that a couple of years have passed and the dust has settled, I can see things more clearly.

What I notice is that throughout the Anglo-American Empire there really isn't much of an appetite for democracy.  That being said, it is an impossible task to try to graft onto a body politic a set of cultural values that are foreign to its core set of beliefs.

From top to bottom, the societies of the Anglo-American Empire are all about the accumulation of material wealth.  From time to time, prosperity is shared on a wider basis, but it usually takes a series of catastrophic of events, like the Great Depression followed by Second World War, to bring about this state of affairs.  Most of the time, in most of the countries within the Empire, the rich get richer while the poor are lucky if they can tread water and keep their heads above the poverty line.

Let's not kid ourselves.  Democracy is quintessentially an egalitarian ideology.  The market is not.  So, when doing a survey of the countries with the Empire, it should not come as a surprise  that they are all market-based political economies.

For the most part, the entire population buys into this set of beliefs.  Yes, there are a few individuals that would prefer to live by a different set of values, but each political system in the Empire has a political system rigged so that alternative views to free market thinking never gain traction.

In fact, the composition of the societies in the UK, the USA, Canada, and Australia are remarkably similar.  At the top is the rentier class, the top one tenth of the top one percent of the population, who can never get enough because they are always struggling to maintain face in the social sphere of extreme ostentatious consumption: no yacht, no mansion, no private jet is ever good enough. Beneath, come the petit bourgeois of the lumpen professional class. If they intermarry, they can earn enough to send their children to the best of schools so they can perpetuate their socio-economic advantage.  Further down, we have the vast majority who try as best they can to hang on and not fall into the ranks of the destitute.  Oddly, within this class we find a massive instance of Stockholm syndrome in which huge numbers of the population actually identify and empathize with their crony capitalist captors, accepting the free market cant as if it were gospel while watching their quality of life deteriorate.

Forget about trying to bring about democratic reform in these countries within the present socio-economic context.  The super rich own the political process which controls the armed forces; the smart ones are only looking out for themselves: and those who would have the most to gain be living in a democracy are simply too fucking dumb to know any better.

So, what is a democrat to do?  Suck it up and try to live one's life so one doesn't feel soiled at the end of the day?  Maybe, it would be better to simply move on to somewhere where people actually get and value living in a democratic society.

I wonder if I could claim status as a politic refugee and become a citizen of one of the Nordic countries?

















Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Should We Go or Should We Stay Now: Can Scotland Escape the Status Quo Trap?


Two days to go before the Scots will decide in a referendum whether to create their own independent country or to continue as part of the United Kingdom.
Apparently, the upcoming result is too close to call.  Although the "No" side had a substantial lead six months ago, the "Yes" vote has increased substantially as the date of the referendum approaches.

But is it enough?

I'm very sad to say that I don't think so.

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The arguments to create a new independent country free from the dysfunctional governance of Westminster and the City couldn't be clearer.  I would highly recommend George Monbiot's excellent op-ed piece, "A yes vote would unleash the most dangerous thing of all -- hope".

But these reasons to vote yes are not sufficient to carry the day.  Unfortunately, there exists in Scotland a large bias towards the status quo that is simply part of human nature.

In short, better the devil you know than the devil you don't.

It's that simple.

Forget the value of the oil in the North Sea, whether an independent Scotland could continue to use the pound, and what happens to Scotland's share of the UK's accumulated debt.

The real ballot box question is whether independence is worth the bother.

If the Scots decide yes, they'll have to deal with a lot of shit that is now being decided for them at Westminster and in the City.  Certainly, things will become a lot riskier for the Scots and there are no guarantees that life will become better.

So, given the uncertainty, why not let the status quo remain?  Life ain't all that bad.  Have a cuppa and watch a wee bit of what's showin on the tele.

Robbie Burns must be rolling in his grave.







Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The American Rentier Economy: Has the US Become a Failed Nation?



 
When I first started to write this blog five years ago, to make the point about how the concept of the economy is used to the detriment of the vast majority of the population I distinguished between the real economy and the zombie economy.  Essentially, those who derive their wealth from non-productive financial practices prey upon the living who exchange real goods and services in the real economy.
 
To be more precise, I now prefer to use the term rentier economy because although the practice of wealth extraction is still the same, the term rentier has been used for a great many years in traditional economic discourse.

In a great article posted on the web, The Age of Rentier Capitalism, Guy Standing asserts:

Rental income enables people to make money simply through the possession of scarce assets. Sometimes assets may be “naturally” scarce: if fertile land is owned by a few landlords, they need not work themselves but can rent it out to others for a high price. This income is rent, not profits from a productive activity, as the landlords do nothing to earn it aside from owning the land.

These days, rental income is mainly derived from “contrived scarcity.” This is explained by the Lauderdale Paradox, named after the eighth Earl of Lauderdale, who in 1804 observed that as private riches grew, public wealth fell. This is because the more the rich own, the more they can limit the availability for others, driving up the price. Today, such contrived scarcity has become pervasive and global, which is paradoxical, since globalization should have resulted in a surge of extra goods and services.

While there are indeed more goods and services than ever, the means of obtaining rental income have multiplied. They include control of natural resources by a few corporations and plutocrats, a new intellectual property regime, a system of state subsidies that go to asset holders, and myriad mechanisms that entrap people in debt.

Importantly, today there is a greater return on investment from seeking rents and the exchange of financial securities than from the profits generated from the exchange of goods and services.  This means that there is less money that gets invested into economic activities that require human labour.

 
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For instance, entrepreneurs who become billionaires as a result of their business acumen no longer need to maintain their entrepreneurial skills once their accumulated financial assets generate more profits than their businesses. 
 
Once this happens they can successfully cash in their chips by selling off their shares in their business adventures and live in extreme comfort from the rents that their financial portfolios generate.

Moreover, the CEOs of America's biggest corporations earn more from their stock options and their subsequent manipulations than they do from salaries generated from the profitable management of real assets in the real economy.

As a result, corporations now imitate the members of the rentier class.  Just as the
ultra-rich transfer their financial assets to offshore tax havens to avoid paying taxes in the countries where they reside, corporations now transfer the location of where they are legally incorporated, moving the legal entity offshore to as well avoid paying taxes in the countries where they first prospered.

Like rentiers, American corporations are now sitting on huge piles of cash, estimated at more than two trillion dollars, with no intention of investing in real economic activity, which has effectively reduced the cash flow into investments that would generate jobs.

The economic term that describes this state affairs is "secular stagnation",  a condition of negligible or no economic growth in a market-based economy, a term, in my opinion, as hollow as "collateral damage" which is used to describe the unintended civilian casualties caused by a military operation.

In this case, the civilian casualties are those unlucky enough to be living and working in the real economy.  The damage inflicted upon their lives results from the unbridled greed of those who profit from the machinations of the rentier economy, which, however, is anything but unintended.

Given this state of affairs, it makes me wonder whether the US is heading down the road to become a failed nation, one in which extractive economic practice overwhelms any attempt to bring about inclusive economic policy.

I don't think that it would take much to convince the estimated 46 million people living on food stamps in the US that the nation has already failed them.                                  
















Friday, August 15, 2014

The Bright and Shiny Lumpen Professional Class of the Post-Industrial Age

For Karl Marx, the lumpenproletariat -- I love the sound of the word, "lumpen" -- is the lowest stratum of the industrial working class, including also such undesirables as tramps and criminals.

The members of the Lumpenproletariat—this “social scum,” said Marx—are not only disinclined to participate in revolutionary activities with their “rightful brethren,” the proletariat, but also tend to act as the “bribed tools of reactionary intrigue.”

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I wonder what he would think of those well-paid, well-educated, employees of the state, usually with defined benefits pension plans, that make the system run and are as about inclined to bringing about any meaningful change to the present status quo as the "social scum" of Marx's day were inclined to participate in his so-called revolutionary activities.

Just as the lumpens of olden days gave no second thought to the well-being of the population at large, the same could be said of the bright and shiny lumpens of the post-industrial age.

Marx got it wrong.  Capitalism is much more resilient than he ever dreamed of.  There is no inevitability to its collapse in the foreseeable future.  Instead, increasing productivity brought on by technological change drives a deep wedge into what he believed to be the existing solidarity of the so-called working class.

Pay those who would otherwise "rouse the rabble" well enough so that the gulf between classes separates those who make the system run, (elected officials, school administrators, senior bureaucrats, doctors, lawyers, etc.) from those that the system is supposed to serve, the vast majority of those who have to work for a living, and you have figuratively cut the head, those who could lead, from the body politic.

Those who are able to climb the rungs of our meritocracy are much more inclined to pursue the material rewards that their taxpayer-funded salaries afford than to serve the real interests of those whose lives are affected by the quality of the social services that the state offers.

In other words, make the system run, not so that it runs well -- that would require a significant redistribution of wealth -- but that it runs well enough so that nothing emerges that would challenge the ever increasing share of the nation's wealth that is destined for those who never have to work for a living.

In exchange, the bright and shiny lumpen get a much cheaper and much more scaled down version of the lifestyle that the haute bourgeoisie enjoy, especially if two of the bright and shiny lumpens decide to marry and raise a family.

In this case, the lumpen couple can afford to live in a neighbourhood that offers a social milieu very favorable to the development of their children: daycare, schools, summer camps, access to private schools if necessary, and family vacations abroad, which gives them a huge advantage in performing well in our meritocracy.

Just as material wealth is transferred from generation to another, so are the soft skills and competencies that enable people to earn higher salaries.

Indeed, research shows that the only factor that is of importance in the prediction of the child’s educational attainment is the education of the parents. Most importantly, the children of parents with less than high school education are much less likely to proceed beyond high school than are the children of parents at other educational levels. And the children of parents with university degrees are much more likely to complete university themselves than are the children of parents with lesser education.

In general, people don't tend to marry others with lower socio-economic status.  As a result, those who could make a difference to the plight of Marx's proletariat don't make a difference.  They are too busy looking after themselves and their own.

With regard to being effective agents of social change, the bright and shiny lumpen professional class is as about as useless as Marx's lumpenproletariat for the former will never bite the hand that feeds it.








Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Weight Loss Industry In North America Is Built Upon A Web Of Lies And Deceit


According to the data by Marketdata Enterprises, a market research firm that specializes in tracking niche markets, Americans spend north of $60 billion annually to try to lose pounds, on everything from paying for gym memberships and joining weight-loss programs to drinking diet soda.

Considering that as of 2012, the US led the way in obesity rates among OECD countries with Mexico a close second and Canada sixth, it would appear that the potential profit within this industry is, for lack of a better word  -- enormous.

How is that so many people could become so overweight and have such difficulty shedding the unwanted pounds, so many dollars spent with so little to show with regard to sustained weight loss?

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Well to begin, when it comes to food choices, the North American public was told one of, if not the biggest lie in the history of public health.  In short, they were told that if they wanted to avoid cardiovascular disease, they should eat a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.  As a result, North Americans reduced their consumption of saturated fat and at the same time increased their consumption of trans fat and the simple carbohydrates proffered by the food industry, even though that research demonstrates that neither saturated fat nor cholesterol correlates with increased levels of morbidity.

To say the least, this change in the North American diet was an unmitigated disaster for the population at large, but was most certainly a boon for the weight loss industry. 

For example, between 1980 and 2000, obesity rates doubled among adults in the United States. About 60 million adults, or 30% of the adult population, are now obese.


Similarly since 1980, overweight rates have doubled among children and tripled among adolescents – increasing the number of years they are exposed to the health risks of obesity.
Direct health costs attributable to obesity have been estimated at $52 billion in 1995 and $75 billion in 2003.
In other words, there is a ton of money to be made once the population gets fattened up: some of it goes to the health care industry while another share makes it way to the weight loss industry.
Once declared obese, an individual is then subjected to the bogus promises of the benefits of following the latest diet or dietary supplement.
First, another deceitful line of reasoning must be planted into the unsuspecting mind:
when it comes to body weight, calorie intake minus calorie expenditure equals calories stored.
No shit Sherlock!  That's like saying that rich people are ones that make more money than they spend. 
Here comes the kicker: surrounded by tempting foods, we overeat, consuming more calories than we can burn off, and the excess is deposited as fat.
The simple solution is to exert willpower and eat less, which is another way of saying "go on a diet, you fat fuck!"
The problem is that this advice doesn’t work, at least not for most people over the long term.  According to Dr. Mark Hyman, the average person gains five pounds for every diet that they go on.

Even worse, when the lose weight, they lose muscle and fat. When they regain the weight, they gain back all fat. And since muscle burns seven times as many calories as fat, their metabolism is slower than when they started the diet, meaning that for 95% of those that set out on this course of action will be worse off than when they started.

Talk about repeat customers. 

Having been set up to fail, the average person, convinced that it is just a question of willpower and finding the right miracle diet, oblivious of the effect that dieting has on his or her endocrine system, is easily duped into buying the latest weight loss method endorsed by a celebrity spokesperson.
Too bad, we don't often hear the rather simple method of maintaining a healthy weight: be physically active (10,000 + steps a day) and eat a balanced diet like the Mediterean diet.

Such sound advice with so few takers.

Not enough hype.






Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Truth Be Told: The Rich Don't Give A Shit About The Economy That You Live In


It never ceases to amaze me that we continue with the charade of watching how the economy performs.  Last week, we learned that the American economy grew by a whopping four percent during the last quarter.

Whoopee shit!

Am I supposed to fall off my chair thinking about what a great job those in charge are doing in managing the economy?

Yeah, pretty much.  That way you don't give much thought to what really matters: for the last 35 years the vast majority of Americans have been shafted royally.

Think about it.  Since 1980 the US economy has grown roughly 4% annually.

Yet, during the same time the population at large faces what is at best an uncertain future.

Three things strike me to be a lot more important than the rate of annual economic growth.

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First, the percentage of workers that have defined-benefits pension plans has shrunk from 60% in 1980 to about 11% today.  This represents a massive reduction in the quality of life for an aging population, especially when we consider the vast wave  of baby boomers that are and will be retiring in the next 25 years.

Second, the cost of a university education has created an emerging generation of wage slaves.  Since 1985, the overall consumer price index has risen 115% while the college education inflation rate has risen nearly 500%.  Pursuing the American dream by obtaining a higher education has become a debt trap.  Indeed, low paying, precarious employment does not generate the revenue to pay down the debt and to provide for a middle class lifestyle.  Consequently, a great many millennials do not have the means to move of their parents' basements in order to make it out on their own.

Third, income growth has stalled for most Americans.  At $51,017, the real median household income in 2012 is even less than it was at the end of the eighties ($51,681) and down from 9% from its high in 1999 ($56,080).  Conversely, during this period (2009 to 2012), 95 percent of all income growth went to the top 1 percent of income earners.

Clearly, something is amiss and it what needs to be pointed out is that the scale of the problem suggests that it's not just a question of not following the right economic policies as would the progressive economists like Paul Krugman and Robert Reich would have us believe.

What's really at issue is that the super rich, those who make it on the Forbes list of the top 400 wealthy Americans, are no longer dependent on the performance of the American economy to increase their wealth.

Yes, there is still a great amount of money to be made from selling goods and services to the top 20% of American income earners, more so since production can be sent off shore where wages are significantly less, and corporations can be inverted so that on paper they appear to be owned in jurisdictions where the tax rates are lower.

But over and above these ploys that leave the majority of Americans out of the wealth generating loop, even greater returns can be had in the financial sector.  After all, it makes much better sense to pursue a greater return on investment in a sector that is not exposed to the risks of unfavorable economic performance and, in fact, has the risk of failure (too big to let fail) underwritten by the government and the American taxpayer.

What a sweet deal!!!

Seen from this perspective, the latest economic reports are of little or no significance.  What matters is what happening in the investment portfolios of those at the top of the food chain. 

And let's face it, the game is rigged in their favor.  Hedge fund managers can only make billions if they are able to make even more for their clients while the little guy is left to fend for himself, trying to sell his labour in a market in which there are less and less buyers.

So why bother?

In short, it keeps the natives from getting restless.  As long as progress can be shown on the economic front widespread financial difficulties within the population can be dismissed as nothing more than personal failure.

In other words, as long as the majority of Americans give credence to the existing economic discourse they remain effectively sedated.

So much so, they are unable to oppose the massive wealth extraction that is taking place by means of sustained wealth redistribution enacted through the political process.

As well, the population through their tax dollars continue to fund the largest military force ever assembled to protect American interests (American capital) abroad.

The overclass in America has never has it so good.

All it takes is a little statistical smoke and mirrors.








 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

By Now It Should Be Obvious: It Is Not An Invisible Hand But The Big Laughing Dick Of Wall Street That Runs Things


They say that a stiff prick has no conscience, but a stiff prick that laughs too is phenomenal*, especially when it laughs all the way to the bank after fucking you up the ass without any lube.

And that ladies and gentlemen is what has transpired in both the UK and the USA during the last ten years.  The wolves of Wall Street and the City have had their way and a bewildered population wonders what the fuck happened.

In the USA, for example, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom ninety percent became poorer.

Without question, the financially engineered Great Recession brought on the largest redistribution of wealth in a century.

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As Peter Van Buren notes in his wonderful piece, "Why Don’t the Unemployed Get Off Their Couches?", last year eight Americans — the four Waltons of Walmart fame, the two Koch brothers, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett — made more money than 3.6 million American minimum-wage workers combined.

Moreover, the median pay for CEOs at America’s large corporations rose to $10 million per year, while a typical chief executive now makes about 257 times the average worker’s salary, up sharply from 181 times in 2009.

At the same time, the inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003.  Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline.

Overall, 1% of Americans own more than a third of the country’s wealth.

According to Van Buren, none of this is accidental, some sort of invisible hand at work.

Importantly, by owning more of everything, rich people have a mechanism for getting ever richer than the rest of us, because the rate of return on investment is higher than the rate of economic growth.

In other words, money made from investments grows faster than money made from wages.

According to Thomas Piketty in his highly acclaimed book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century, the wealth of the wealthiest Americans is rising at 6%-7% a year, more than three times as fast as the economy the rest of us live in.

Let's face it, the economy is for chumps. 

Guided by an invisible hand?  Give me a fucking break.  The latest figures on GDP, unemployment rates, and balance of trade are nothing more than statistical sleights of hand that distract the clueless while their collective pockets are being picked.

Forget trying to manipulate the levers of the economy in order to rev it up towards full employment.  The very idea makes the laughing dick chuckle.  Instead, focus on raising the minimum wage ,taxing capital gains, getting corporations to pay their taxes, and implementing a real wealth tax.

That would make even a laughing dick suddenly go limp.



*The stiff laughing prick image is from Henry Miller's Tropic of Capricorn.












Thursday, June 26, 2014

Taking Back Sovereignty


Now, thanks to Thomas Picketty's highly influential study, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, we have historical confirmation that wealth begets wealth.  In other words, the rich are different from you and I.  Chances are that they were born into wealth and then used their resources not only to hang onto it, but to get a better rate of return than you and I could ever get on our meager savings.

The key to this process, of course, is to make sure that the masses keep their hands off of their stash.  To do this, it is absolutely essential that the redistribution of wealth be considered a mortal sin, and that it is more likely for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for an individual who thinks that wealth distribution is a good idea to get elected to a national assembly.

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Try as they may, progressives simply cannot garner enough votes to make a difference, especially when less and less people even bother to show up and vote.

Let's not be delusionally optimistic about this state of affairs in North America changing anytime soon. 

The playing field is not level.  The deck is overwhelmingly stacked to protect the status quo as a result of the electoral process.  If you want to get elected, you need money, and people who have money to give don't give their money to support candidates who propose to restrict their capacity to make it.

So, for those who know about such things as the common good and the social gradient with regard to health outcomes, it's time to get out of the electoral process altogether.

The Athenians figured this out about 2500 years ago when they set up the world's first democracy.  In order to prevent private interests from taking over, Athenians did not elect representatives.  They represented themselves in the citizens assembly and the officers of the assembly were rotated on an annual basis on the basis of a lottery.

Centuries later, the French political philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau, argued in his brilliant work, The Social Contract, that it is crucial that all the people exercise their sovereignty by attending legislated assemblies, for whenever people stop doing so, or elect representatives to do so in their place, their sovereignty is lost.

If sovereignty is lost by electing representatives, how can it be regained?

Do like the Athenians.  Refuse to elect representatives.  In the Age of the Internet, we no longer need them.

We already have the technology.  We can create a permanent assembly of citizens who meet and exchange their ideas and opinions and can vote for themselves on the issues that concern them directly in a virtual agora, free from the tyranny of private interests who more or less choose who will be the intermediaries that will distort the general will of the people in order to align it with their private gain.

A political party is nothing more than a corporation designed to transfer the sovereignty of the people to its executive body.  Once this is done, it is relatively easy for a privileged elite to influence their decision making.  This would not be the case if sovereignty remained in the hands of the people.

Put another way, a government of, by, and for the people only comes about when the people retain their sovereign right to vote directly on the matters that concern them.  Once sovereignty is transferred away, government becomes of, by, and for the wealthy, at the expense of the people.

As a result, if social outcomes are to change for the better, people need to stop shopping for the best political party they can find and get down to work on building a permanent citizens assembly in their electoral district.












Monday, June 16, 2014

Congratulations Ontario For Having Successfully Outsourced the Governance Function

Way to go Ontario!  When it comes to thwarting democratic rule in Canada, you continue to lead the way.

Not only did Ontarians peviously vote in a province-wide referendum against the notion of changing the anarchistic voting system (first-past-the-post) that allows a political party to form a majority government with less than 50% of the popular vote, they were able to elect a new government with the participation of about half the eligible voters in last week's general election.

Talk about efficiency!

In Ontario, depending on how the vote is distributed, a political party can go on to rule the province as if it had the support of the majority of the citizens with as little as the support of 20% of the electorate.

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For example, the Liberals garnered 38.65% of the votes cast by the 52.1% of the eligible voters that bothered to show up and vote on election day.  That works out to be the support of 20.14% of all of the eligible supporters.

Fuck democratic legitimacy.  Democracy is way too complicated and requires sustained effort in order to participate meaningfully.

Ontarians, as their recent history clearly demonstrates, would rather outsource the responsibility of governing the province to a single political party for four years and then decide whether or not to renew the contract at the end of its legislative mandate, unless, of course, the political party decides to force the issue earlier by calling another general election.

That way everyone can go on with their pursuit of the cheaper version of the American dream and leave the important decisions to be made by someone else.

After all, why devote any energy to a collective project where the benefits will be distributed widely to the entire population, when you can concentrate your efforts to endeavours where you as the individual will be the principle beneficiary.

Just make sure the trains run on time.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Unlanded Gentry Have Captured North America's Political Economy

During the first few decades of the industrial revolution in Britain, it was the landed gentry that ruled.  They did not have the good fortune of being born into a noble family, but they did have the good fortune to own considerable tracts of land.  As a result, they were able to get elected by other landowners to the House of Commons, the seat of real political power in Britain.  They wrote the laws, under the close scrutiny of the nobility, that ensured the mutual protection and further accumulation of wealth for the upper classes.

However, as the industrial revolution progressed and the creation of wealth shifted away from an agricultural economy towards a manufacturing economy, political power also began to shift.  A new merchant class needed to be accommodated.  As a result, the House of Commons broadened its electoral laws to grant the right to vote to more of the rising number of citizens with increasing means and appetites for more wealth.  Property requirements were kept throughout the 19th century and it wouldn't be until the beginning of the 20th century before universal suffrage would come into being.

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Essentially, two world wars and the Great Depression laid waste to the capacity of the landed gentry to control the political economy within the circumscribed territory of their respective nations.  The concerns of the working classes could no longer be ignored, especially with the spectre of communism looming on the horizon.  Much to their chagrin, increasing levels of prosperity brought about by technological advances wedded to the conspicuous consumption of the lower classes resulted in a much more egalitarian distribution of the nation's wealth up until the end of the nineteen seventies.

During the post war years of exponential economic growth, a new elite was born and began to take control of the richest political economy in the world in the United States of America.  These were the corporate men, the men who financed and ran America's mighty corporations.

No longer bounded by territorial limits, America's richest corporations expanded their operations across the globe and began to leave behind their national compatriots in their pursuit of profits.

Inevitably, this corporate elite would come to realize that their participation in a political economy that actually considered the well-being of the population at large placed limits of their ability to accumulate wealth.

This would have to change and change it did.

With the arrival of Reagan and Thatcher at the end of the seventies, the corporate elite began to claw back the portions of the economic pie they had lost to the lower classes.  Over the next thirty years, they were successful in re-establishing levels in income inequality that hadn't been seen since the gilded age.

In short, they leveraged their attachments to corporate entities that over time gained more and more of the rights normally reserved for humans so that they could maintain lower tax rates, gain favorable interventions into the political economy from Congress, and, most recently, monetize the electoral process to such an extent that have the members of the US Congress are millionaires.

America is now ruled by its corporations, legal fictions that have attained the state of person hood, marauding groups of individuals aided by limited liability to enhance their capacity to extract wealth from the ordinary Joes who slog away in the sometimes less than the cost of living wage economy.

Residing in their corporate principalities, the financiers and chief executive officers are seldom held accountable by the laws of the land.  Nevertheless, they are able to control how the laws are to be written and to maintain the world's largest military machine, ironically funded by a land-locked public, that serves to protect and uphold a socio-economic order that is wholly favorable to their desires.

In days of old, it paid to have passed on to you the property rights that were handed down from one generation to the next.

Today, it pays to inherit an investment portfolio and to gain access to America's elite universities, where the social networks that are forged more often than not open the doors for membership in the corporate social sphere, far from the maddening crowds who have lost all hope for a better future.









  

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

In America Being Fat Is Like Being Poor: It's Your Fricken Fault


At some point in time, probably not in the immediate future, the Anglo-American world is going to wake up to the fact that no man, nor no woman, is an island. The environment, beginning in the womb, has profound effects on the people we turn out to be.

Seems pretty straight forward, but if Anglo-Americans actually accepted this into their worldview they would have a fuck of a time trying to justify their rapacious greed.

On the economic front we all know the neo-conservative cant dating back to the English Calvinists landing on American shores that the poor are poor because they are lazy bastards and the rich are rich because God has decided that they should be.

And if you are fat, it's because you spend too much time watching TV scarfing down Twinkies and swilling back litres of Coke.

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But wait a minute, what if it isn't that simple?

Consider the following from a recent NY Times article:

The popular emphasis on calorie balance reinforces the belief that we have conscious control over our weight, and that obesity represents a personal failure because of ignorance or inadequate willpower.

In addition, the food industry — which makes enormous profits from highly processed products derived from corn, wheat and rice — invokes calorie balance as its first line of defense. If all calories are the same, then there are no bad foods, and sugary beverages, junk foods and the like are fine in moderation. It’s simply a question of portion control. The fact that this rarely works is taken as evidence that obese people lack willpower, not that the idea itself might be wrong.

Hey, there's a reason why, "I bet you can't eat just one".  The food industry works diligently to find out what are the bliss points for the unnaturally delicious and unnaturally fattening foods that they market.

In short, the food industry uses science to get us to eat their shit, but when we take them to task for the unhealthy consequences that widespread consumption of their products wreak upon the population, they fall back on a seventeenth century conception of human psychology so to dodge any social responsibility.

Sounds a bit dodgy I must say.

But ain't that America, the land of the free, the home of the brave, and the greatest number of fat asses on the planet.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Falling Into the Fat Trap


This week we saw some startling figures concerning obesity rates around the world.

Researchers found more than 2 billion people worldwide are now overweight or obese. The highest rates were in the Middle East and North Africa, where nearly 60 per cent of men and 65 per cent of women are heavy. The U.S. has about 13 per cent of the world's fat population, a greater percentage than any other country. China and India combined have about 15 per cent.

So, in other words, if you are feeling like a fatso, you are not alone; you are a member of the 2billion person club.

Given the incredible advances in science, how come we aren't able to help people maintain a healthy weight?

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In a nutshell, for most of the last century, our understanding of the cause of obesity has been based on immutable physical law. Specifically, it’s the first law of thermodynamics, which dictates that energy can neither be created nor destroyed.

When it comes to body weight, this means that calorie intake minus calorie expenditure equals calories stored. Surrounded by tempting foods, we overeat, consuming more calories than we can burn off, and the excess is deposited as fat. The simple solution is to exert willpower and eat less.
The problem is that this advice doesn’t work, at least not for most people over the long term.
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, the average person gains five pounds for every diet that they go on. Even worse, when the lose weight, they lose muscle and fat. When they regain the weight, they gain back all fat. And since muscle burns seven times as many calories as fat, their metabolism is slower than when they started the diet. The cruel fact is that they need even less calories to maintain their weight.
But what, as was pointed out in a recent NY Times article, we’ve confused cause and effect? What if it’s not overeating that causes us to get fat, but the process of getting fatter that causes us to overeat?
This is what I call the fat trap, a percentage of body fat that alters significantly a person's metabolism, rendering the person metabolically inefficient, a downward spiral in which the person gets fatter and fatter.
According to this alternative view, factors in the environment have triggered fat cells in our bodies to take in and store excessive amounts of glucose and other calorie-rich compounds.
Since fewer calories are available to fuel metabolism, the brain tells the body to increase calorie intake (we feel hungry) and save energy (our metabolism slows down).
Eating more solves this problem temporarily but also accelerates weight gain. Cutting calories reverses the weight gain for a short while, making us think we have control over our body weight, but predictably increases hunger and slows metabolism even more.
In other words, once you have fallen into the fat trap, it is extremely difficult to get out. Quick fix solutions like diets only make things worse. It's as if once your fat cells reach a critical mass, they take over, forcing you to feed them so they can multiply over and over again until you can no longer see your nether regions.
Alas, all hope is not lost, but if you are going to climb out of the fat trap, it is going to take a major transformation of your lifestyle. Counting calories is not going to work.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

In the End, Quebecers Are Not All That Different From the Vast Majority of Canadians: They Prefer To Be Governed Than To Govern


Mercifully, this sorry spectacle of a general election in Quebec is over.  I can't remember a campaign so empty of any real debate as it came down to a choice between an extremely lame Charter of Values that would have banned the overly overt display of religious affiliation in the public service and the dubious notion that the new government will somehow better THE economy.

More importantly, this collective decision was made in the context of a pause in the deliberations of the Charbonneau Commission, which will now turn its focus on how the alleged criminal behaviour surrounding the awarding of public works contracts and the illegal financing of Quebec's two major political parties, the Liberal Party of Quebec and the Parti Quebecois.

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Only 18 months ago, the electorate ousted the ruling Liberals, just weeks before the Commission began its work.  Last night, the same electorate re-elected the disgraced Liberals to a new four year term.

What's up with that?

At first glance, it may appear that Quebecers have rather short memories, but it goes deeper than that.

Essentially, Quebecers would rather offload the responsibility of running their own affairs to a small group of politicians that they can always get rid of later rather than being engaged in the messy business of democratic self rule.

That's why when Radio Canada declares a Liberal majority government with only 41% of the popular vote that, other than the two deputies from the leftist Quebec Solidaire who unabashedly contested the legitimacy of a majority government elected with less than 50% of the popular vote, everyone else goes along for the ride.

Whew, glad that's over.  Now we can get on with the important business of piling up more personal and public debt as we pursue a quality of life that we can no longer afford.

No matter.  We'll just pass on the mountain of debt to subsequent generations.

So, deep down Quebecers are not all that different from the rest of the vast majority of Canadians.  We'll gladly defer to authority as long as we can periodically change who exercises that authority over us.

Democratic self rule?

Nah, leave that to the Scandinavians.  I wonder what is the Swedish word for democracy.




Monday, April 7, 2014

Thanks But No Thanks Quebec: Take My Ballot And Shove It


Well, I have decided not to vote in this charade of an election.  My principle reason is that my vote does not count -- it is totally ineffective -- because I live in a region where the same political party, the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ), has taken all of the region's seats for the last forty years.

Last election, I "lent" my vote to my wife and dutifully went down to the polls and voted strategically for the party that had the best chance of defeating the outgoing Liberal Member of the Quebec National Assembly, which at the time was the Parti Quebecois (PQ).

But even that didn't work out since the Liberal candidate won the riding.

As a last resort, I would go out and vote if I knew that the manner I voted controlled how the state subsidy for each vote was awarded.  I would make the trip to the polls if the Quebec Green Party and only the Quebec Green Party would receive an extra dollar fifty each year because I had voted for them.

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But the greedy bastards that run this province, the PLQ and the PQ, changed what was previously in the electoral law so that they would be the principal beneficiaries of my right to vote.

In the recently adopted amendment to the law, each name the appears on the electoral list is worth $1.50 and goes into a pot to be split up on the basis of percentage of the vote each party receives during the general election.

WTF?

That means that the lion's share of the state subsidy will go to the two political parties I detest.  If the PLQ gets 40% of the vote, they will get 60 cents each year because my name appears on the electoral list. 

The same goes for the PQ.  If they get 30% of the vote, they will receive 45 cents each year.

In total, the two political parties that refuse to change the voting system so that my vote might be effective in determining who gets to sit in Quebec's National Assembly by introducing a proportional voting system into the electoral process, actually use the principle of proportionality to fund themselves, and thereby keep the voting system from changing as they have done for the last forty years.

As a former candidate for the Quebec Green Party and a plaintiff in an unsuccessful suit against the Quebec Government to have the present voting system declared unconstitutional because it does not respect my right to participate meaningfully in the electoral process, a right supposedly protected by Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I think you can understand that right about now I am feeling that I have been royally fucked over.

In short, in Quebec we have two political parties that control the province and have funded their campaigns largely on the basis of illegal donations and then rewrite the electoral laws for their benefit while systemically discriminating against the smaller political parties.

So much for any semblance of democracy.

I guess the only meaningful gesture left to me is to vote with my feet and get the fuck out of here.





Friday, April 4, 2014

Parasites Have Infected And Taken Over Quebec's Body Politic

In nature, there are parasites that invade a host, take control of its movements for their own benefit, often leading to the host's demise.n

My favorite example of this life process is the Lancet liver fluke (Dicrocoelium dendriticum).

In short, as an adult the Lancet liver fluke spends its time in the liver of a cow or another grazing mammal. Here it mates and lays eggs, which are excreted in the host's feces.


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A snail eats the poo, taking in the eggs at the same time. The eggs hatch in the snail and make their way into its digestive gland, where they asexually reproduce. They then travel to the surface of the snail's body. As a defensive maneuver, the snail walls the parasites up in cysts and coughs up the balls of slime...doing exactly what the parasites wanted it to do.
An ant comes along and gobbles up the fluke-laded slime balls. The flukes then spread out inside of the ant, with a couple of them setting up shop in the insect's head. When night approaches, the flukes take control.
They make the ant climb up a blade of grass and hold tight, waiting to be eaten by a grazing animal. If the ant is still alive at dawn, the flukes release their control and the ant goes about its day like normal (if the ant baked in the sun, the parasite would die, too). At night the flukes take over again and the cycle repeats until the ant becomes cattle food.
Essentially, Quebec's two long-time governing options, the Quebec Liberal Party and the Parti Quebecois, have invaded the heads of those who make up the Quebec electorate and make them vote for either one.  It doesn't really matter for which one since the two political parties are in a symbiotic relationship: when one of them forms a government, the other waits for the inevitable moment when the ruling party falls from grace and the Quebec electorate chooses the other to become the new ruling party.
The cycle repeats over and over again.
Like the ants that serve the well being of the Lancet liver flukes by climbing up the blades of grass, Quebecers dutifully go to the polls when called upon to elect one of the two parasitic political parties.
That both parties are alleged to be fundamentally corrupt as documented by the revelations of the Charbonneau Commission doesn't really matter.  Both parties have gotten into the heads of Quebecers and compel them to behave in a presricibed manner, leaving little choice but to decide between sovereignty or unbridled greed.
Once the election is over, the cycle begins anew. 
I guess that the majority of Quebecers are not even aware that they are sacrificing the well-being of their collective future for the benefit of a few parasites.