From Regina To Cairo, With Love And Maybe A Condom Or Two

The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan is about the only small-c conservative blogging (that I’ve been able to find, at least) who hasn’t gone over the John Gormley/Glenn Beck edge. He keeps a mind open enough to look at bloggers that he doesn’t always agree with every time … and one of the benefits of that is, in this case, a very insightful look at one of the underlying reasons why Egypt went into revolt last month. Apparently, the guys are love sick. (The New Yorker):

Valentine’s Day—Eid El-Hob or “Love Day”—is normally big enough in Cairo, celebrated in a way that American couples would recognize: red roses, plush hearts in gift stores, specials at romantic restaurants. This year, though, the revolution has overshadowed everything. As a friend put it to me, “I feel bad for the stores that stocked up on teddy bears. Everyone’s buying Egyptian flags instead.”
But love and revolution are not unrelated. There is much talk about a “marriage crisis” in Egypt—low employment rates lead to low matrimonial rates—and the protesters in Tahrir Square were, indirectly at least, marching against it. Lack of jobs was high on their list of grievances. Many of those I interviewed said that getting married and having a family were things they dreamed of most in a post-Mubarak Egypt. One twenty-eight-year-old man I spoke to, on a relatively quiet day in Tahrir last week, illustrated his frustration by thrusting his hips back and forth, explaining, “No money, no sex.”

Money doesn’t buy you happiness, but in the courtship world it does help to improve your bargaining position.

The story made me think back to what I had written about eight or 10 months ago, regarding the On To Ottawa trek and Regina Riot. (prairie dog). Bill Waiser told me that, far from wild eyed zealots looking to bring home the Communist Revolution, the participants were angry that they were forced into an economic system that not just let them down, but whose existence depended on keeping them down. And if you don’t have money, being able to cherchez la femme isn’t possible (as me, who was laid off from several small-town newspaper jobs in the 1990s, and that did to my dating possibilities what the threat of STDs and pregnancies couldn’t do — shut it down to absolute zero).

In the West, there are a few other outlets — porn maybe, a fantasy world — for those who are lonely and frustrated. And maybe that gives men more of an illusion that they can succeed in life at a time when not only the odds but the Powers That Be are arrayed against them. It’s a safety valve that states and business leaders shut off at their peril … which explains why most states that allow for the overt or covert commercial exploitation of sex seem to be immune to the power of a revolution in the streets. I’m not saying that Hosni Mubarak would have remained in power if there were strip joints in Cairo, but I could see how it could have helped.

Tragic Turn To Madoff Case

Mark Madoff, son of psychopathic fraudster Bernie Madoff, was found dead today of suicide. (Huffpo)  He leaves a wife, two little kids, and thousands of victims re-examining how badly they wanted the elder Madoff and his family to suffer.

Photo of Bernie, Mark and Andrew Madoff swindled from a good Vanity Fair article about the Madoff sons.

TDOC: Silly Season

I both love and hate Facebook. Love it because it lets me keep in touch with friends. Hate it because it provides editors with another route through which to hassle me about my shameless intransigence.

I really can’t help it folks. I am a writer after all. In my opinion a big part of the bargain I struck with the world is that I’ll agree to never be financially secure in exchange for having a life. Which is a long-winded way of saying I found this comment recently on my FB page from our beloved editor Stephen Whitworth:

“Hey whatever happened to your column The Death Of Capitalism??? It died as soon as it got a logo.”

Umm… yeah… right. TDOC. I have sort of been neglecting that ugly, basement dwelling redheaded step child (I kid, I kid… I’m a ginger myself) haven’t I? But I have a list of great reasons as long as my arm! (Did I mention I’m a writer?)

I was recovering from two broken legs and the baby learned to walk before I did. Then she turned into a toddler that required me to learn to run in my own hobbling fashion. (All while shrieking “Don’t eat that!”) Then my editors at the day job what pays my mortgage informed me that they actually expected me to complete some work for them after my vacation in hospital. Apparently when they say “Gord will be working from home” they really mean that “work” part…

And of course there’s that quietly unacknowledged reality… I was already at risk of becoming that weird guy who never left his house and always wore sweats… did I really need to elevate my risk factors by fixating on the economy, monetary policy, banking cabals and other tinfoil hat territory?

But despite my ability to generate excuses that even I’m ready to believe, I have to be honest with myself. I just didn’t feel like it. Nothing had been inspiring me, it was the summer and all the financial types were out at the seashore, preening in front of others of their ilk, and nothing was happening.

I’m told that watching a financial crisis is about as boring as watching a yacht race (Not that I’d know, I’m from Carrot River. I don’t think drinking in a rubber raft qualifies.) so for someone who’s personally more into hockey fights, it was time to ignore the whole thing.

But now summer’s over. The seersucker suits and white linen trousers are safely in storage. The summer place at the Cape is shuttered tight. All the bankers are back in their boxes in the sky. And the whole thing appears, to the uninformed observer, to be gathering speed in a sickeningly sudden fashion –- which again is how I’m told these things often go.

Continue reading “TDOC: Silly Season”

Oh, Brad.

It’s Saskatoon Day on CBC Radio’s  The Current. Woke up to the dulcet tones of Brad Wall in the first half hour saying something about carbon sequestration, clean coal technology (and all those knowledge jobs to go with it) as well as value-added uranium, getting them aboriginal people to work, rent supplements for the too high rent because of the boom and on and on and on.  The humdinger was about  the oil and gas industry and him saying something like “wouldn’t you rather hang with us while renewable energy is being developed?” I presume he meant elsewhere. (The Current) Absent of course, was any mention of Station 20 West. Or FNUniv. And you know, reality.

Hostage Drama At Discovery Channel

A gunman has taken at least one person hostage at the U.S. headquarters of the Discovery Channel. PZ Meyers at Pharyngula has reprinted his list of demands. In short: he wants the Discovery Channel to only broadcast shows that promote stopping war, fixing the environment and reforming the economic system.

The guy is clearly certifiable, but at least his heart’s in the right place. Funny how gun control doesn’t make his list though, eh?

Also funny how he’d think the Discovery Channel would be an appropriate venue for his message considering it seems to phasing out most of it’s educational programming in favour of tough-guy and believe-it-or-not fare like American Loggers, Ghost Lab, Destroyed In Seconds, and Survivorman.

Thing about this though that’s alarming is it’s yet more evidence of how damaged and unstable the American psyche is. That is one nation you don’t want to poke right now.

All You Need To Know About What Passes For Thought In America’s Conservative Movement …

A Missouri farmer who has accepted more than $1 million in farm subsidies from the United States government since 1995 is organizing a campaign against government spending on what he calls ‘handouts.’ (The Independent).

TDOC: Containing A Greece Fire

The Death of CapitalismA few trillion here and a trillion there and the next thing you know it adds up to real money.

The Death of Capitalism apologizes to the late Senator Everett Dirksen who it turns out may or may not have actually said those words that are so often attributed to him, but you have to wonder just what he’d have made of the super-sized public bailouts of today.

The latest instalment of course is a near-trillion dollar “backstop” fund announced by the Euro-zone countries in an attempt to deal with the fallout of the debt issues of Greece and the potential for a “contagion” that would sideswipe their unified currency and project for an economically and politically united Europe.

Amid all the hyperbole about those shiftless Hellenic socialists and their gold-plated social programs that led the country to the brink of bankruptcy, however, I think it’s important to note that this whole episode is fundamentally a failure of capitalism, not “socialism”… whatever that means these days.

To understand this we have to take a quick back-of-the-envelope look at what actually happened. Which appears to be that the main centre-right party colluded with the largest investment bank in the world to pull an Enron and dump the country’s debts off the books using a bunch of fishy instruments that made it impossible to see what was actually going on with the country’s finances. That allowed Greece to qualify for membership in the European shared currency.

Make no mistake, like any trade agreement or currency union, it was definitely the country’s business and political class that was behind this move, not the average Greek citizen. Now taxpayers across the Eurozone find themselves on the hook to backstop these fishy business deals and it’s beginning to look a lot like austerity measures (and the accompanying street riots) are the order of business for the foreseeable future as – irony of ironies – Greece’s main left-of-centre party cleans up the mess. Can someone please explain to me again exactly why the right always gets to claim to be better at running an economy?

And you’d better believe this entire exercise is about bailing out a bunch of European bankers and their interconnected web of debt who made lousy business decisions without doing proper due diligence — though in fairness one of their own was gaming the books, making that a tall order.

But the crisis seems to be contained – for now. But given the success of central bankers and their ilk in the past when it comes to forecasting containment you can colour me skeptical. More likely they’ve just papered over the problem for a few more months, and by kicking the can a bit further down the road, thus making the problem even bigger when the day of reckoning finally comes. My gut instinct tells me that when it does, that 1000 point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average is going to look like a bit of light turbulence.

And finally… a brief explanation for my prolonged absence…

As I noted in one of my last posts, about two months ago, I managed to break an ankle that required some surgery. Well, my own natural clumsiness managed to compound an already bad situation.

About three or four days after my release I wound up falling off my crutches and severing the quad tendon from the kneecap on my other leg, thus rendering me a paperweight for much of the past two months — albeit a mouthy paperweight with no shortage of opinions.

I wound up going through another even more serious surgery and spending nearly a month incommunicado in hospital confined to either a bed or a wheelchair while things healed. I’m back home now, hobbling around on a walker, as things rehab, and I’m really looking forward to getting back to making regular contributions again.

Who needs red tape when you have all those spare workers lying around?

Remember when Canadian business leaders were complaining about all the ‘red tape’ they had to face while doing their jobs? (Toronto Star) You know, all that stuff about safety and protecting the consumer interest? They don’t do that sort of thing in the U.S. And things are going just fine.

Oops. (Huffington post.

Double oops. (ABC)

Don’t worry, America. With a nine-per-cent unemployment rate, you can always find more workers.

The Death of Capitalism: Reality sets in

I’m not exactly sure when the realization first struck me.

Perhaps it was when I was stuck in voice-mail hell for the umpteenth time, waiting to talk to a real live human being to resolve a problem, all the while being bombarded with pre-canned propaganda about the company’s commitment to meeting the needs of ME the customer.

Or perhaps it was when I went looking for a pair of gloves in March a couple of years ago, only to be informed that the store was out of them and wouldn’t be getting another shipment from Asia until next fall.

It was certainly well before it became apparent that the Masters of the Universe ™ on Wall Street are nothing more than glorified grifters bellying up to the government trough whenever they mess up.

But it has become apparent to me that, barring substantial reformation, market capitalism as we have all known it for our lifetimes, is as surely broken as Soviet socialism ever was. It’s the early days yet, but I am quite certain that when you privatize gains and publicize losses, refuse to deal with the pernicious effect of corporate lobbying on democracy and generally stick our collective heads in the sand, we’ve got a big problem.

And before I get the predictable flood of comments from Libertarian types claiming “You can’t say capitalism failed, it’s never really been tried,” let me just point out that there were Marxists throughout North America saying “You can’t say socialism failed, it’s never really been tried” long and loud circa  1993.

The truth is that the largest “market” economy in the world is now apparently being run by a banking oligarchy, according to the former IMF chief economist, who says if IMF staff were given the raw numbers with the name of the country redacted, they’d currently be proscribing exactly the same kind of “shock therapy” that’s been long-inflicted on Latin America, Asia and a ton of other places.

Here in western Canada we have, so far, been mercifully spared the worst of this meltdown. We have a small population base, lots of resources and we’re pretty far from banking centres. But make no mistake, we will eventually feel it. And when we do, there’s a pretty good chance that what we’re going to be feeling are the effects of The Death of Capitalism.

Here on TDOC, we’ll be exploring this theme, occasionally engaging in a bit of schadenfreude, and, most importantly, looking for the truth amidst all of the happy talk about how recovery is just around the corner.