Leave it to a secret recording of Mitt Romney giving a speech to wealthy donors to teach us more about the man behind the Etch-a-Sketch. If what he said is to be believed as genuine thought then I’d have to say the leaders of the Republican Party haven’t grown in intelligence since George W.

First off, in the speech recorded secretly at a $50,000 a plate Florida fundraiser back in May he said “There are 47 percent who are with him (Obama), who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

He wasn’t done; “Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people.”

Romney doesn’t seem to understand two things; first, everyone pays taxes. The 47% he mentions has been a conservative pundit talking point for years, but it cloaks the real truth. Close to 2/3 of the 47% pay a pay-roll tax. A family of five making fifty grand a year only pays this pay-roll tax and its percentage is usually higher than Mitt’s capital gain tax. The other 1/3 is made up of senior citizens or the disabled collecting social security and those whose income is below $20,000/year.

Second, and I wonder if Romney realizes this, but the States where people are disproportionally dependent on the government for handouts and “don’t pay taxes” are all Republican controlled States with only one exception (Idaho). That’s right; Romney is insulting the very base of his supporters, lucky for him most of these voters are uneducated, uninformed or too religious to vote for a democrat. Republicans have a history of getting people to vote against their interests going back to Nixon.

The second item in Romney’s speech that caught my ear was his little tale about his trip to a Chinese factory back in the nineties. He talks about the factory having one little bathroom at the end with maybe ten bedrooms. The rooms had 12 girls each with three bunk beds on top of each other. Around the factory was a huge fence with barbed wire, and guard towers.

Romney said “Gosh, I can’t believe that you, you know, you keep these girls in.” The tour guide said that the barbed wire and guard towers were there to keep other workers out and Romney bought it. The guide also told Romney that the girls leave during the Chinese New Year and some save up enough money so that they don’t come back. It never occurred to him that the New Year is the only time they’re permitted to leave and they don’t come back because they don’t like working with a gun in their back for a dollar a day.

Regardless, if you’re as gullible as Romney or if you’d prefer to take the guide at his word, the point to this lies on Romney’s appreciation of the situation. No one knows if Mitt purchased this particular factory, but it appears as though the visit inspired him to buy one just like it while at Bain Capital. Romney told this story to explain a comment he made that “95 percent of life is set up for you if you’re born in this country (the US)”, born with a silver spoon that is.

The last thing I should mention about the speech is Romney’s almost unthinkable prospects for Middle East peace. He said “I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel”. That might be true, perhaps if he were talking about Iran or Hamas, but the majority of Palestinians want peace as much as most Israelis, they want security as much as Israelis, they want a country like Israelis and have for decades.

What kind of potential leader of the free world goes and dismisses the prospects for peace and just hopes that something good happens? Are you fucking kidding me? What leadership! He then goes on to say “the only answer is to show your strength. Again, American strength, American resolve, as the Palestinians someday reach the point where they want peace more than we’re trying to push peace on them”

Say what you want about Palestinian ideology, politics or tactics, the only way America or Israel has pushed peace on them is by imprisoning their citizens, dropping bombs and by blockading, annexing and occupying their land for 45 years. How much more does the US & Israel have to “push”?

Well there you have it, but what do you expect from a man so ignorant and out of touch that he believes that the average middle class family earns $250,000 a year. Romney was mocked during the primaries as someone likened him to an Etch-a-Sketch for his flip-flopping nature, a contrast that has since faded. I believe that the Etch-a-Sketch label is still a valid comparison, the only difference being that the Etch-a-Sketch is permanently erased.

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If only the world would heed my advice and keep their religion at home, what a place this could be. Alas not only do we seem destined to bicker about the one true faith to the end of time, some of us continually feel the need to criticize and insult each other over it as well.

Hard times usually bring out the crazy in people, whether it’s economic hardship in the United States or political adversity in the Middle East (or vice versa). Religious radicals tend to thrive in these environments, but as this past week has shown, the misapplication of the freedom of speech is all that is required to demonstrate the ugliness of our societies.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (AKA Sam Bacile), A Coptic Christian immigrant from Egypt posing as a Jewish real-estate mogul from Israel created a trailer for a film called “Innocence of Muslims”. The film was designed to enrage the Muslim community with the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, a homosexual and a child abuser.

On Sept. 8, a two minute clip of the trailer was aired on Egyptian television and it resulted in a few hundred radical Muslims revolting at American Embassies in Egypt and Libya on Sept. 11. In Egypt, the American flag at the embassy was replaced by an Islamic one, but in Libya the protest appeared to be used as cover for an assault on the American embassy which saw the death of their ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.

If this amateur anti-Muslim film were written and directed in Canada, there is a good chance Nakoula would be in jail or facing heavy fines thanks to our laws against hate speech. In the United States however there are no such laws, people are free to say whatever they want, whenever they want and nobody would have it any other way—it’s their first amendment right.

We can debate all we want on hate speech laws or unfettered free speech, but there is no denying that any type of freedom requires responsibility in order for freedom to flourish. Those who made this film with the sole intention of angering an entire faith clearly failed in this regard. Not only did they anger an insignificant portion of the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, but they managed to put a black eye on one of America’s most sacred rights.

I read a sign being carried by one of the protesters the other day and it summed up the situation better than I ever could, it read “You have the freedom of speech; we now have the freedom to act”. People seem to forget these “Arab Spring” countries recently went through a huge political shift.

Egyptians, Libyans and others are still not accustom to the freedoms we enjoy, take for granted or in this case abuse. Many of these Muslims can’t yet understand that an American man’s actions aren’t sanctioned by the American Government and it leads to further anti-American sentiment.

I’m not shelling out excuses for the actions of the protesters; violence is wrong regardless of the circumstances. Extremists of all stripes have a tendency to overreact when it comes to their religion, especially Muslims when you mock their prophet, let alone depict him in any way.

One thing I’ve noticed though, no matter how angry Muslims get, they never turn to the same tactics. It’s rare to see a Muslim burn a crucifix or hang an effigy of Jesus, they just prefer to burn flags.

Mr. Nakoula will likely go unpunished for his irresponsible actions. Whether you agree or not will depend on your religion, nationality or views on civil rights. Whether these events occur again will hinge on the ability of radical religious leaders on all sides to start preaching coexistence rather than hate and prejudice.

After all, Christians, Muslims and Jews all believe in the same god, there is no rational reason why they can’t all get along. Then again, who ever said religion was rational?

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Every American general election that has taken place in my life time has come down to a choice between the lesser of two evils. Despite the first African American President’s several accomplishments, Barack Obama’s first administration has turned out to be more hype than hope.

Last week during the Democratic National Convention, Democrats made great speeches about Obama’s endeavors of the last four years and managed to belittle the Republican platform at the same time. While some of his accomplishments were significant, his shortcomings were just as important and obviously went without mention at the Convention.

Bush Uninterrupted

My first major disappointment with Barack Obama came shortly after he was elected when he said he would not pursue criminal charges or turn over the previous administration to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Obama appealed to the American people to leave the past in the past and instead look to the future.

Obama’s inaction has consequences greater than just letting warmongers and advocates of torture roam free, he paved the way for future presidents to do the same and get away with it. Mitt Romney’s foreign policy team is largely made up of the same chicken hawks that pushed for President George W. Bush to go to war with Iraq and supported the use of torture.

Gitmo Blues

Barack Obama promised to close the national embarrassment known as the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, but failed to do so. As many as 775 detainees have had a stay at the military prison base in the last decade.

Most have never been charged with a crime, many have been subjected to torture and there is no telling how much longer the remaining 170 men will have to wait to have their fate decided. The unlawful detention and torture of potentially innocent men should not exist in a land that claims to hold civil rights in such high regard.

Corporate Healthcare

Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act might one day prove to be his biggest achievement, but only if it eventually leads to actual Universal Healthcare. Obamacare might protect millions of Americans who previously went without health insurance, but it benefits the middle men (the insurance companies) who will always put money ahead of their client’s wellbeing regardless of the law. Furthermore, the bill still leaves ten to twenty million Americans without any kind of coverage at all.

The failure here comes from the President’s inability to convince some Democrats to support universal health care. Obama enjoyed a majority in the House and Senate during his first two years in office, but could not use it to his advantage. Many of the president’s colleagues argued that they risked losing the next election if the supported national healthcare and Obama failed to convince them otherwise. In the end, many Democrat Representatives lost their seats in 2010 midterms anyway.

Drug War without End

The forty year old war on drugs has continued unabated under the Obama administration, in some ways it has even escalated. Innocent Mexicans continue to die in the thousands at the hands of drug cartels armed with American made weapons, countless Americans rot in prison without committing a real crime while the bankers who launder the money rarely get punished. It has gotten so bad that California now spends more on prisons than higher education.

Obama has done nothing new concerning the war on drugs apart from going after the legal medical marijuana shops. Lately the President has said he would be ready to re-examine the drug war during his second term, but expressed an unwillingness to even legalize or decriminalize pot, leading me to believe he’s all talk.

The Great Divergence

Thirty years of trickle-down economics, deregulation and free trade (among other things) has left the biggest wealth gap between the rich and poor since the 1920’s. Obviously, no president can repair the damage that’s been done to the middle class in only one term, but in this respect Obama is talking the talk more than walking the walk.

Fixing this problem will require years of planning, dialog, ideas and international cooperation, just to name a few. So far all we’ve seen through the President’s office is record corporate profits, continued Wall Street gambling and a stimulus package that contained mainly tax cuts.

Barack embraced the occupy movement of last autumn promising to do what he can to improve the ever increasing wealth gap, but an undertaking such as this is much more complicated than simply raising taxes a couple of percentage points now that we all partake in the global economy.

Assuming he’s re-elected, if Obama wants to be remembered as the man who ended the great recession or the man that ushered in a new age of equality, his second term better not look like his first….

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Most people would agree that finding a politician who lies is as easy as coming across a man who pays taxes. After all, politicians are normally bred in a law school and/or business school and taught how to win regardless of how. But while a legislator who lies isn’t all that new, the method and rate of how they fib has changed in the last dozen years.

With exceptions such as Nixon, Bush Jr. or Clinton who each told a real whopper, lying in politics used to be reserved for incumbents who simply went back on their campaign promises. This election cycle, rather than lying about their own policies, the focus appears to be lying about the other candidate. Nowhere was this more evident than at last week’s RNC.

Before the Republican National Convention started, GOP pollster Neil Newhouse told an ABC News forum in Tampa that “We’re not going let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” Newhouse was referring to a Mitt Romney ad that claimed Barack Obama had “gutted” work requirements for welfare recipients. Obama had simply given that option to certain States that had asked for more control.

So with the stage set, the Republicans wasted no time dedicating a whole night to “We Built This”, taken from a completely out of contex Obama quote. That same night New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said during his keynote address that “we choose respect over love” meaning Americans wanted the truth rather than political pandering. He then went on to say “We have a nominee who will tell us the truth and who will lead with conviction. And now he has a running mate who will do the same”. Less than twenty-four hours later, Christie was made a liar.

The night after the New Jersey Governor spoke those words, said running mate Paul Ryan gave his Vice Presidential acceptance speech. Now, I’ve heard politicians of all shapes and sizes stretch the truth from time to time, but I’ve never heard so much nonsense come out of a single speech. Here is but a sample:

• He blamed the nation’s credit downgrade last summer on Obama even though the agency specifically blamed Republicans for refusing to accept any kind of further tax revenue.

• He said Obama had added more to the national debt than all former presidents put together. Although Obama inherited an annual debt of $1.2 trillion from Bush, the debt has risen by one third making Ryan’s claim impossible.

• Ryan claimed that Obama had broken a campaign promise to save a GM plant in Wisconsin, not only did Obama make no promise, but the plant closed during Bush’s term.

• He accused Obama of doing nothing with the creation of Bowles-Simpson (National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform). Ryan actually led republicans to vote against the plan.

• Ryan also mentioned that Obama had cut $716 billion from Medicare. Obama simply eliminated inefficiencies that were no longer required thanks to the affordable care act. Ryan’s own budget called for the same cuts.

Notice these are all falsehoods about Obama. It’s as if political speech has become an offshoot of television attack ads where making the other guy look bad is more important than making yourself look good.

Paul Ryan’s speech was actually covered half decently in the corporate media; at least once they got their facts straight, even Fox “so-called” News had a couple commentators state that his speech was full of lies.

Mitt Romney for his part did mention a couple of these fabrications during his acceptance speech the following night, but mainly stood clear of talking about anything. He failed to mention climate change, immigration, Afghanistan, social security or financial reform.

It seems even in the information age, the Republican Party is practicing “proof by assertion”, where if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. What’s scarier than the Republicans adopting a strategy used by Adolf Hitler’s Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels is that it just might work; Republicans know that a good part of the electorate are uneducated or uninformed and don’t pursue the facts.

I’m curious to see if this strategy continues in the coming months. I’m equally curious to see if the Obama campaign adopts a similar approach should they start to fall behind in the polls. If this is to be the new way campaigns are run, the people will have to get informed even more than since their word will mean even less than it did before.

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Even though I’m a news and politics writer, I’ve been neglecting the provincial election in my own front yard. My apathy comes from there being no major candidate I can, in good conscious, support.

Picture Quebec politics as a box of melted chocolates: no matter which piece you reach for, you know your hand is going to get dirty.

Quebec politics of the last forty years hasn’t been about left or right, instead it’s been about whether you would check the yes or no box during a referendum on Quebec independence. Voting along these lines for decades has led us to a 2012 election where you have fascists, separatists and French supremacists vying for the Quebec crown. Make no mistake; both the French and English are to blame.

The Fascists

Let’s start with the former federal PC leader turned Liberal Premier of Quebec Jean Charest. Since his election in 2003, Jean Charest has consistently garnered the criticism of the labour unions in the province thanks to his pro-business policies. In fact, with a full corruption investigation underway it may turn out that Charest and/or his Liberal Party was overly generous to the construction industry and possibly organized crime.

Jean Charest

Charest has raised taxes every which way on ordinary Quebecers in order to increase government revenue. He raised Hydro rates, auto insurance premiums, most government fees, and he even raised the provincial sales tax by a full percent. The only tax Charest introduced on corporations was a carbon tax in which the fossil fuel industry pays less than a cent on every litre of gasoline it ships.

When budget time came last year, Charest decided that in order to tackle the provincial deficit he would raise student tuition fees by $1625 a year over five years rather than raising any corporate taxes which are among the lowest in North America. The students of Quebec didn’t take kindly to Charest’s policy and promptly acted.

The result was this past spring’s student strike that saw hundreds of protests throughout the province over a four month period which reaped international attention. Charest feeling the pressure, but unwilling to give in to student demands decided to suppress the student protesters by passing bill 78, one of the most anti-democratic laws the province has ever seen.

Despite Jean Charest’s possible corruption, pro-business views and draconian laws, Charest knows he can always count on the federalist vote thanks to the ever present fear of Quebec sovereignty. English voters in the province have blindly flocked to the Liberal Party for decades thinking they are the only Federalist Party around. I would bet, even if the Liberal Leader suddenly went on a deadly shooting rampage, he would still get the majority vote in Montreal’s West Island.

The Separatists

Thanks to the splintering of the Parti Québécois (PQ) over the years, there are now at least three major separatist parties in the province, Québec Solidaire, Option Nationale and of course the PQ.

François Legault

Option Nationale is a hardcore separatist party founded in 2011 by former PQ MNA Jean-Martin Aussant. The party says a vote for Option Nationale is an electoral decree for complete independence and would adopt the constitution of Quebec as an independent country even before a referendum was held. Option Nationale was recently indorsed by former PQ premier Jacques Parizeau.

Québec Solidaire represents the left wing of the separatist movement and is one of the newer party’s in the province formed only six years ago. QS shares many of the same principals as the federal New Democratic Party including social justice, environmentalism, aboriginal rights and proportional representation. If elected they would eliminate student tuition fees and raise corporate income taxes to more moderate levels—it’s just too bad they want to break up the country.

The conservative Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) leader François Legault claims his party is neither sovereignist nor federalist, but nationalist and has called for a ten-year moratorium on a new sovereignty referendum. Regardless, the party wants to decentralize healthcare, provide government resources to businesses, and they are a big advocate of austerity. Furthermore, they want to limit immigration and decrease the use of the English language in Montreal (making it easier to win a referendum down the line).

The French Supremacists

In a province where 95% of the populace speaks French fluently and less than 8% of the population speaks English, you have to wonder what PQ leader Pauline Marois has up her ass. Throughout her campaign she has repeatedly spoken of the need to toughen up on the already-ridiculous language laws in the province. Within 100 days of taking power, companies with between 11 and 50 employees would come under her revised French-language charter and needless to say, millions more in government funds will be spent on the language police.

Pauline Marois

Marois has also promised to bar non-francophone citizens from running for public office. If you’re an Anglophone from Montreal who wants to run for office you’ll be forced to pass a French exam beforehand, the same goes if you’re an Inuit running for a seat up north. Marois has since backpedaled on this issue, but only because of the outrage that it received.

A PQ government would also bar members of religious minorities working on the government payroll from wearing religious symbols such as Jewish kippahs or Muslim head scarves. Why? Because the French population is predominantly Catholic. The crucifix would still be permitted.

Since the 1970’s, there have been 244,000 Anglophones who have taken the “bon voyage” down the 401. They might have preferred to drive away than stand their ground, but at least the exodus has more or less stopped in recent years. The PQ knows that in order for a future referendum on independence to be successful, they must try something more than just chasing the immigrants and English out of the province.

Marois has promised to pick fights with the Canadian Government if she’s elected, but they will not be the typical battles we normally see between premiers and the Prime Minister’s Office. Marois knows that if she passes these “French Supremacist” laws, they will be overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada and she will then use it to her political and separatist advantage.

I have always placed great importance in voting, but nothing would make me happier to see these candidates end up with 0% of the vote. But since I live in the real world and I’ve never been a big fan of placing a “strategic” vote, I’ll still be voting, just not for a fascist, separatist or French supremacist.

Get up, get out and vote!

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Back in February, five members of the Russian, anti-Putin art collective known as Pussy Riot performed a “punk prayer” at the altar of Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. The song they belted out was a plea for the Virgin Mary to remove Vladimir Putin from power just weeks before his re-election.

Days after the demonstration, three of the members were arrested, charged with “hooliganism” and denied bail. After a speedy and one sided trial, Judge Syrova found Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alekhina guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and sentenced to two years in prison.

The three women had insisted there was no intention of offending Russian Orthodoxy, but wanted to bring attention to the church’s close ties to the state. “Our goal was to bring attention to Father Kirill’s public statements that the Orthodox must vote for Putin,” Alekhina wrote in a lettered statement “I thought the church loved its children. It turns out the church only loves those children who believe in Putin”.

Head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill with Vladimir Putin

The verdict and subsequent sentence prompted protests from people across the globe including from musicians such as Paul McCartney, Anthony Kiedis and Madonna, as well the governments of Britain and the U.S. (Canada has said nothing).

The judgment highlights the Russian president’s increasing crackdown on dissent. Putin has taken to raiding the houses of anti-Putin activists and anti-corruption bloggers. He has also passed several laws including one that raises the fine for taking part in an unauthorized demonstration to about $7000 USD (Bill 78 anyone?)

With the exception of the Russian church, what Pussy Riot did in the eyes of many was a simple act of civil disobedience; an action that was taken in order to educate the Russian public on the church’s close ties to a president who has managed to abuse his power for far too long.

Pussy Riot knew full well what the consequences of their Cathedral protest might be given Putin’s reputation, but they did it anyway. This band of activists has a passion for the welfare of their country, a deep desire to make it better. What they did took guts, something sorely missing in western democracies.

We don’t face the same problems as the people of Russia, Syria or other similar places, but that doesn’t mean we should sit back and enjoy the ride. To quote an American punk/metal band; “the greatest weapon of a fascist is the tolerance of a pacifist”. Those lyrics were written over twenty years ago, but resonate more in North America today than when they were first sang.

Today we live in a country where the people take a backseat to corporate power. A new authority determined to syphon as much profit from the masses as it possibly can at the expense of the environment, our health and our very wellbeing, to make matters worse it is doing so with the help of our governments.

The occupy movement brought this fact to light, but at the same time, local governments were quite effective in dispersing the crowds and the momentum the 99 per cent created. Awareness is only a stepping stone however; sitting in a park will never end decades of growing corporate dominance. What we need to do is follow in Pussy Riot’s example, sometimes a simple act of civil disobedience can galvanize a movement—look at Rosa Parks.

If some punk band burst into the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City to protest Mitt Romney’s 1 per cent presidential candidacy, do you think the band would get arrested? Absolutely, but people would take notice and perhaps start something. Besides, it’s not as if they’d go to prison for two years, thanks to the renegades in America’s past, we don’t live in a place like Russia.

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What are we to make of the Julian Assange drama unfolding in London these days?

Assange may be a hero or villain (I lean towards the former) to millions of people and internet users all over the world for establishing Wikileaks and exposing the hypocricy of governments’ (especially the U.S.’s) foreign policies, but, and it must be said, his decision to seek asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, was not his finest moment. Though the gambit may have achieved its ultimate purpose of gaining Assange the sanctuary he set out for, it has also resulted in a stalemate between British police—who have an arrest warrant and a court order to extradite Assange to Sweden for questioning on sexual assault allegations—and what is probably the oldest of all international legal principles: diplomatic immunity.

While we may have some doubts about the thought process that would lead a man to take such drastic measures to avoid a possible trial, there is certainly no doubt about the legality of his current situation. He can not be removed by force from the premises of the embassy, period! This is enshrined in every form of international treaty (The Vienna Declaration, 1961) doctrine, case law (The Iran Hostage crisis) and international customary law (i.e. diplomatic immunity) you can name. No domestic law invoked by the British authorities in violating this sacrosanct legal norm, would make one bit of difference.

Of course, this won’t stop them from trying. The British government is already, citing the obscure Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act (1987) which it claims give it the right to enter the premises of the embassy if the state in question “ceases to use land for the purposes of its mission or exclusively for the purposes of a consular post.” The only problem is that such as law goes against every rule in the international legal rule book and isn’t recognized by any international court, anywhere.

Assange is still very much painted into a corner, though. He can do one of two things: stay put in the embassy and pray that the Brits are bluffing (more than likely) about the invasion threats. Or he can attempt some sort of daring cinematic escape to Ecuador (less likely, but a hell of a lot more fun!).

Either way, Britain should respect the age old principle of asylum and grant Assange safe passage to Ecuador, instead of listening to those in the U.S. (and Tom Flanagan in Canada) who view him as some sort of international terrorist mastermind. It’s hard not to conclude that the Brits’ hard line stance in this case is due, in part, to being pressured by the Americans, who would sorely like to get their hands on Assange for his part in any number of leaks that have embarrassed the U.S. government over the years. It also looks an awful lot like a double standard that would be almost unimaginable if this were a case involving one of the more important embassies in London (e.g. Canada’s) harbouring any dissident other than Assange.

*Photo from Democracy Now! (Under a Creative Commons license.)

This past Saturday, presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney selected Congressman Paul Ryan as his choice for vice-president. Two weeks before the Republican national convention, Romney hopes that his selection will reset his campaign and refocus attention on the economy rather than the tax returns he refuses to make public.

Mitt’s choice of Ryan was well received among Republicans and Democrats alike. Ryan was the author of the now infamous “Ryan Budget” that took great steps to shrink the size of the national government, provide tax cuts that disproportionally favors the wealthy, and defunds various social programs—it’s no wonder Republicans love him.

Democrats on the other hand see this as an opportunity to point out the vast differences between the two parties. President Obama will be able to expose the Republican plan for what it is: an all-out assault on the poor and middle class.

You see, Paul Ryan is first and foremost a libertarian who hailed Ayn Rand as his hero and mentor saying “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.”

Rand was a 20th century libertarian author (and prophet to some) who centered on the idea that selfishness is a “virtue”. She described altruism as “evil,” and condemned Christianity for sympathizing with the poor. Ryan was forced to distance himself somewhat from her philosophy in 2012 (Republicans don’t mix well with atheists), but the influence can’t be so easily washed away.

The corporate media is already calling the 2012 election a clash of ideologies regarding the government’s role in society. The republicans prefer low taxes and few social programs, small government, but one that is friendly toward business. Democrats by comparison are… also friendly towards business, but at least they still recognize the plight of the poor. The Republican ticket seems to consist of a very wealthy businessman and a man who wants to make him wealthier.

Paul Ryan’s controversial budget raises taxes on the poorest of Americans while lowering them on the richest, it would also end Medicare and replace it with a voucher system. Ryan wants to eliminate Pell Grants for more than 1 million poor students, privatize social security which he characterizes as a “ponzi scheme” and, of course, repeal Obamacare. Unless you’re a rich man, you stand to lose.

Like most politicians these days, Paul Ryan was bought a long time ago by the energy industry. He’s received $65,000 from the Koch Brothers alone, $432,181 from natural resource companies which includes close to $250,000 from oil and gas. It’s no surprise then that the congressman has rejected the effects of climate change. It should also come as no surprise that his budget would retain a decade’s worth of oil tax breaks worth $40 billion (small government indeed).

Since the coming of Reaganomics over thirty years ago, the wealthy in the United States have never had it so good, but that doesn’t mean team Romney don’t want to try and make it even better. But for those who think putting a businessman in charge will miraculously repair the economy, consider this: there have only been two successful businessmen in the last hundred years to be elected president; the first being Herbert Hoover and the other being George W. Bush. The first one had the Great Depression start under his watch, the other brought on the Great Recession.

During the occupy movement last year, the 99%’s slogan that referred to the greed of the banking industry was “Never have so many been screwed by so few”. If Romney manages to win the White House, those words will merit repeating.

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*Photo under Creative Commons license. 

Last month, the CEO of the fried chicken chain known as Chick-fil-A came out against marriage equality. Dan Cathy speaking on a radio show said “we’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about.”

Cathy later defended his comments saying he was “guilty as charged” of being “supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit”.

Cathy’s public comments are a little surprising and very rare for a business leader given that remarks such as these are first and foremost bad for business in the long run. No CEO goes out with the intention of alienating a large portion of their customer base, so while other business owners might be defending Cathy’s freedom of speech, they are not sharing in his religious opinions.

Free speech aside, the LGBT community has not been protesting Cathy’s words, but his company’s actions. Chick-fil-A has given at least $5 million to anti-gay organizations, including known hate groups and proponents of ex-gay therapy. Chick-fil-A also has a zero rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which signifies that the company doesn’t offer any protection for its LGBT employees.

Conservatives will continue to approach this matter as a first amendment issue, they have to, it’s the only way to defend a religious view point that is intolerant of others. Former presidential candidate and Fox News host Mike Huckabee had enough of what he called the “vicious hate speech and intolerant bigotry” aimed at the restaurant and called for a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” (Apparently the denouncement of intolerance is equal to vicious hate speech and is intolerant itself).

Nevertheless on August 1st conservatives heard the Huckabee call and came out in record numbers to eat fried chicken, exercise their first amendment rights and condemn the LGBT community. Gay couples countered a few days later with a same-sex “kiss in”.

If there are any victims in this war of words and ideology it would have to be the employees of Chick-fil-A, especially the gay employees who are forced to take customer criticism from both sides while remaining neutral. A gay employee in Colorado said that Cathy’s comments weren’t as bad as “constantly having people come up to you and say, ‘I support your company, because your company hates the gays,’”

Another gay employee from Atlanta has been hearing it from both sides as one man said “I’m so glad you don’t support the queers, I can eat in peace” the employee also said he got yelled at for being a god-loving, conservative, homophobic Christian. As you can see, the only thing the CEO’s commentary managed to do is spread the hate.

Mr. Cathy’s public stance against gay marriage has managed to combine business with religion and politics, three different institutions that should remain separate at all times. Business mixed with politics can lead to fascism, religion mixed with politics can lead to fundamentalism and unless you’re a preacher; business doesn’t mix with religion at all. I won’t remind anyone of what all three can lead to.

Hopefully other business leaders will continue to reject Dan Cathy’s example and stick to selling products rather than dogma. The last thing we need is for the business community to divide the nation on religious and ideological lines, we get enough of that from our politicians.

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With 204 nations taking part, nothing seems to bring the world together like the Summer Olympic Games. Nowhere was that symbolism better demonstrated than during the lighting of the Olympic cauldron last Friday night.

During the parade of nations, each country had a child carry out with them a “petal” that was later attached to a branch of the cauldron. When the individual petals were lit, they lifted up and came together to form one. Truly breathtaking.

Many people, especially westerners, give the impression that the Olympic Games are all about medals. How many medals will the US, Russia, China or whatever country you come from bring home this time? Honestly, who cares. Did you know if you took population and GDP into account you’d find the most successful nation four years ago was actually Jamaica?

The Olympics aren’t about medals at all, in spite of of how the media decides to promote it. The games are about fair play, getting along with others (despite the fierce competition) and most importantly; playing to the best of your ability. The Olympic motto is “faster, higher, stronger” not “win, win, win.”

It’s a shame the leaders of our world don’t strive to be on par with our athletes. Imagine politicians playing fair, getting along or even doing their best, what a world it might be. One only needs to look at the United States and the upcoming election to comprehend my point.

In regards to fair play, the Republicans have been playing dirty. Up to five million voters are being left off the voter rolls in various Republican led states, they have denied passage of job bills to sabotage the economy and are taking in untold millions of dollars in corporate interests thanks to Citizens United. It’s been only about winning since Obama took office.

I’ll admit I don’t watch much American television, but the little I have seen tells me both parties don’t get along when it comes to political ads, in fact you’d think they’re at war. I’ve seen advertisements using an opponent’s statement out of context and Super PAC ads claiming just about anything.

I’ve yet to see an ad that talks about past accomplishments and more importantly I haven’t seen either party try and explain how they intend to improve the country. It’s about burying the other guy, instead of raising yourself up.

It’s also quite clear that neither party leader is living up to their full potential. Mitt Romney has changed his views more than I change my shorts. How can you do your best when you can’t even decide what the best is? Obama on the other hand knows what he believes, but is too chicken to fight for it, gun control is a prime case in point.

I might be using an American example here, but the same can be said for international politics as well, whether it’s elusive peace in the Middle East, the economic situation in Europe or global warming.

Most Olympians sacrifice everything just to participate in the games, often without the prospect of winning something. They do so with the hopes of testing the human spirit and pushing the boundaries of what humans can accomplish. It’s a disgrace that our leaders aren’t willing to do the same.

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Congratulations to the Canadian women’s gymnastic team for advancing to the team finals for the first time in Canadian history!

Last Friday, America woke up to the news of another mass shooting in Colorado. A man dressed in black body armour, helmet and gas mask open fired in a packed movie theatre in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

The perpetrator lobbed smoke canisters into the crowd before open firing with an AR-15 assault rifle with a high-capacity drum clip, a twelve-gauge shot gun and two pistols. The end result was 12 dead and a staggering 58 wounded with 9 still in critical condition.

This sort of scene is all too familiar in a country with 250 million licensed firearms, an immensely powerful gun lobby (National Rifle Association) and a two hundred and twenty-one year old amendment to the constitution that allows citizens the right to keep and bear arms.

Normally in the wake of this kind of tragedy, the media re-opens the gun control debate. This time around the talk has been less about actual gun control and more about politicians’ refusal to discus the topic, especially the presidential candidates . Not so long ago, Barack Obama was a big advocate of gun control and Mitt Romney as governor of Massachusetts passed a ban on assault weapons (Romney has since flip-flopped of course). Now in the middle of an election year they both offered their sympathies to the victims without addressing the root cause of the massacre or even mentioning the word “gun.”

The AR-15

Over the weekend I’ve heard some of the same old weak talking points coming out of the mouths of Republicans. “If only every one in the theatre was armed, this type of tragedy could have been avoided.” In reality, everyone in the theatre would have needed body armour and gas masks to even have a chance. What do you think would have happened in a packed room full of smoke with armed and scared citizens?

Republicans also prefer to converse about punishment rather than prevention and are not able to understand that people who engage in this type of slaughter don’t care about the repercussions. Many, in fact, take their own lives after their “mission” is complete. No amount of sentencing or executions are going to prevent this type of tragedy from occurring in the future.

While conservatives are getting out there and defending the second amendment, Democrats are remaining disturbingly quiet. Republicans have long been the party of the NRA (National Rifle Association) and receive 88% of the NRA’s political donations; it’s no surprise then to see the GOP speaking on their behalf.

Democrats on the other hand are terrified of the gun lobby group and the political consequences that can occur from standing up to them. Both parties have effectively been muted from speaking out in favour of tougher gun laws.

The Democrat’s fear of introducing gun control laws is not completely unfounded. Back in 1994, Congress approved a 10-year ban on 19 types of military-style assault weapons. A few months later Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years, many Democrats blame the loss on the assault weapons ban. George W. Bush allowed the assault weapons ban to expire in 2004 with little opposition.

Politics aside, public support of stricter gun control laws in the United States has been in decline over the last twenty years. According to Gallup back in 1990, 78% of those polled believed gun laws should be stricter. That number decreased to 54% in 2004 and down to 43% last year. These numbers might explain why gun control is such a political hot potato, not even the public supports it.

I’m completely dumbfounded by the double standard certain Americans have on this  issue. The United States as a country does everything in their power to keep potential foreign terrorists from obtaining weapons that can harm their citizens. On the other hand they do absolutely nothing when it comes to keeping guns away from potential domestic terrorists; in a sense, Republicans and the NRA proudly encourage the opposite.

Average Americans are so brainwashed and steadfast in their philosophy on liberty and freedom that they don’t see the social cost of their beliefs (that can be said about more than just gun control). Around 10 000 people are killed each year with guns and around a 100 000 are wounded, but the amount of human suffering is secondary to the freedom to buy an AR-15 assault rifle with an extended magazine.

Sadly, this latest incident is destined to become just another story the media can exploit for a few days before moving on to less dramatic events. Without more politicians (like Mayor Bloomberg) trying to alter the national dialog on this topic, no change will come.

The American people and their law makers will continue to sit by deaf and dumb to the real tragedy. The real tragedy being that nothing positive will come out of those who lost their lives in that theatre and it will happen again… and again.

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It’s been a tough summer for English language media in Montreal. In May, the Hour (later known as Hour Community) ceased operations of its weekly alternative newspaper and on-line website. The death of the Hour came as no surprise; it had been in trouble for years.

Concert promoters led by Gillett Entertainment Group (known presently as Evenco) opted to concentrate their advertising in only one alt. weekly (the Mirror) in order to save money, marking the beginning of the end for the Hour as other advertisers followed suit.

In June, it was announced that the Hour’s only English rival was also stopping the presses permanently. Montreal’s oldest alternative weekly the Montreal Mirror published its last issue on June 21 and simultaneously closed its website.

Unlike the faltering Hour, the demise of the Mirror came as a shocking surprise to many. Sun Media, a subsidiary of Quebecor and owner of the Mirror cited the “the growing popularity of digital media” as the reason for its decision.

If that decision is to be believed, I have to wonder why the “digital media” aspect of the Mirror was shut down as well. The online version of the Mirror could have been the place to go for all things Montreal; instead I’m left to wonder if the more conservative Sun Media simply didn’t want to continue publishing a more left-leaning weekly newspaper.

Last week, Bell Media applied to the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) to convert TSN Radio 990 into a Francophone equivalent RDS 990. Montreal’s only English sports radio station and home of the Montreal Canadiens is being put out to pasture.

Bell Media says the motive behind its decision to convert to French was due to Bell Media’s acquisition of Astral Media earlier this year in which Bell took over three English language radio stations (an acquisition still under review). The CRTC does not allow a corporation to own more than three stations in a market with less than eight; unfortunately the CRTC also sees English and French as separate markets even in the same city.

The CRTC however is not the problem, if anything the CRTC is not strict enough and it should reject the Bell/Astral deal outright. The last thing we need is one or two media empires controlling our airwaves and information, not to mention the higher consumer prices it will lead to.

The dilemma with TSN 990 lies with Bell Media itself. In a case like this, I would have expected Bell to file for a CRTC exemption in order to maintain ownership of the growing English sports station. Bell of course didn’t even bother, leading me to believe this had been in the works for months.

I’ll be the first to admit I have a profound interest in keeping TSN 990 on the air; my uncle is none other than former voice of the departed Montreal Expos and co-host of the 990 morning show Elliott Price. It would have been nice to get a few comments from him on this piece, but apparently the on-air personalities of the station are not permitted to talk about the situation.

My Uncle Elliott and I back in the day

So…in a city of over 800,000 anglophones, Montreal is still the sixth largest English community in Canada and yet we are left with no alternative newspaper, one major newspaper (the Gazette) and soon to be six privately owned radio stations. To put things into perspective, Winnipeg with a population less than 700,000 has 21 English radio stations (four French).

If the current trend persists, English culture in Montreal will continue to decline. I understand I live in a French city, in a French province. I also understand that some of our hard-line French populace might wish to see this trend continue, but I’m not convinced it’s even about language. Guess how many American radio stations are broadcast in Montreal…six.

As with everything these days, money is the driving force behind these corporate decisions, and as always it’s a minority that stands to suffer the most. Capitalism at work I guess. Hopefully the CRTC will do the right thing and deny the Bell/Astral deal, but I’m not holding my breath.

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The occupy movement was fairly successful at bringing to light the massive influence that corporations have over our governments, the internet and our daily lives. If only they could see what was going on in San Diego, California. Cloaked in secrecy, negotiations are taking place between 600 industry advisers and non-elected trade representatives to engineer an international agreement called the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The negotiations were initiated by George W. Bush back in 2008 and after a brief pause under Barack Obama talks have continued since 2009. Nine countries are currently taking part; Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States. Canada and Mexico received invites last month, but are not actually permitted to take part in negotiations (they are only permitted to join).

On the surface, the TPP seems like just another free trade agreement, but the majority of these countries already have free trade agreements in place, so what’s the point? Why the secrecy? The answer is simple; the policies of the TPP would never survive public scrutiny.

In fact, less than 10% of the chapters in this agreement actually deal with traditional free trade. It is essentially an international attack by the one percent on national sovereignty and personal freedom. Participating nations would be obliged to conform all their domestic laws and regulations to the TPP’s rules, but that’s just the start.

Through the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, foreign firms would gain a vast array of rights, including:

• Rights to acquire land, natural resources and factories without government review
• Risks and costs of off-shoring to low wage countries eliminated
• Special guaranteed “minimum standard of treatment” for relocating firms
• Compensation for loss of “expected future profits” from health, labour, environmental laws
• Right to move capital without limits
• New rights cover vast definition of investment: intellectual property, permits, derivatives
• Ban performance requirements, domestic content rules. Absolute ban, not only when applied to investors from signatory countries

The agreement will empower corporations to sue governments, outside their domestic court systems, over any action the corporations believe undermines their expected future profits.

The corporate coup d’état goes further, it picks up where SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and Bill C-11 left off. Leaked documents reveal that TPP includes what Open Media refers to as an internet trap. It would in effect criminalize some everyday use of the internet, force service providers to collect and hand over your private data and give media conglomerates more power to fine you for Internet use, remove online content (including entire websites) and even terminate your access to the internet altogether.

It’s amazing that in the age of information, something this extreme can go unreported. The few reports you might have seen from the mainstream media would have you believe that it’s just another free trade agreement aimed at benefiting us all.

Unfortunately, the opposite is true, this deal is being deliberated by those who have it all, yet want more. Those who benefit most from the TPP will be those at the top and it will remain there. Since NAFTA and similar pacts were signed, five million people have lost their jobs and fifty thousand factories have closed in the United States alone, yet corporate profits are at record highs.

The Trans Pacific Partnership has no end date and no limit to the amount of countries that can join so long as they obey their draconian laws. If this deal is approved as is, our lives, our laws, even the way we are taxed will be vastly different in the near future.

Please get informed and help spread the word:

OpenMedia.ca & citizen.org

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Back in the day, as I was just graduating from high school, a bold undertaking took place in Rio de Janeiro. The Earth Summit as it was called was a twelve day United Nations conference held to address mankind’s lack of concern for the environment.

The Summit involved 172 governments, 108 heads of state and tens of thousands more. The issues focused on vehicle emissions, air pollution, the growing scarcity of water and how to replace fossil fuels. World governments in 1992 were intelligent enough to realize the quandary the planet was in and were sufficiently ambitious to come up with the Convention on Climate Change which led to the Kyoto Protocol.

Last week, world governments gathered again in Rio to mark the 20th anniversary of the historical summit and try once more to find solutions to our various environmental problems. This time around, the summit was to last only three days and key heads of state, most notably Barack Obama (US), Stephen Harper (Canada) and David Cameron (Britain) among others were missing, casting doubts on the usefulness of the summit from the beginning.

Canada’s Stephen Harper said he did not have the comfort of worrying about environmental concerns while the Canadian economy sluggishly rolls along; that did not prevent Conservative Brian Mulroney from attending and signing on the dotted line twenty years ago, even with unemployment 4% higher at the time.

In 1992, faced with a tough fall election, George Bush Sr. reluctantly attended as not doing so would have been political suicide thanks to the immense media coverage. This time around using the same fall election excuse, Barack Obama refused to attend, but with the lack of a credible news media in the United States; no one cared.

Even without the big names, it was hoped that Rio+20 would energize and kick start talks on how to improve environmental sustainability through a green economy (an idea completely lost on the leaders who did not attend). What we got was a commitment for countries to pay more attention to climate change and to talk about it more in the future; no dollar amounts, no timeline, no nothing.

Canada’s environment minister Peter Kent, who was recently the recipient of a letter from environmental guru David Suzuki for concerning himself with the economy rather than the job he’s actually paid for, said he was “very happy, very satisfied” with the outcome of the summit.

Two things were made abundantly clear to everyone as the Rio+20 conference came to an end; one, the greening of our economies would be left to everyday people. Two, yesterday’s government ambition has turned into today’s government apathy.

When it comes to the environment, in other words the future of the human race, politicians just don’t give a shit. Oil refining and hydraulic fracturing are at record levels, Alberta oil sands continue to expand, even the usage of coal continues to climb.

Greed is of course the bottom line and politicians have given no real incentives for things to change, even the milder, well intentioned programs have failed; owners of electric cars with government subsidized rebates have an average income of $220,000/year. At least the 1% can be green if they choose.

In my opinion we’ve come upon a bit of a paradox. With the politicians refusing to listen, invest or legislate, it falls upon individuals and the free market to take action. The fossil fuel industry will never change, that’s a given. Multinational corporations won’t revolutionize themselves so long as the money is rolling in – and it is, even in a struggling economy.

That leaves just the smaller firms and businesses that don’t necessarily have the funds required for sufficient research and development. So who is left to step up? The way I see it, the nations of the world have done very little to curb global warming up until now, as a result things have only gotten worse; corporations along with big business were free to step in anytime, but they didn’t.

In 1944, Eisenhower referred to D-Day as the great and noble undertaking. The world spared no expense in ridding the world of Nazi tyranny and in doing so brought an end to the Great Depression and ushered in decades of economic prosperity.

In the 21st century, humanity will face no greater enemy than the one we created ourselves and yet our leaders lack the vision and integrity to put us on a more righteous path. Like everything else these days, it seems the next great and noble undertaking will have to start in the streets.

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“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”. Those words were spoken a couple years ago by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. It was a sentiment that Republicans at the national and state level, along with corporations, business owners and Supreme Court Justices put into action even before those words were spoken.

For starters, Republicans who are the minority in the Senate have all but changed the system. The majority used to rule in the hundred member senate, whichever party got fifty votes plus one (the tie breaker belonging to the Vice-President) won the vote.

Today Republicans in the senate have made the filibuster a part of their culture, forcing Democrats to need a three-fifths majority or sixty votes. Republicans have used this tactic to block important job bills from being passed and have done so repeatedly.

With the help of majority Republicans in the House of Representatives doing likewise, it’s been said that Republicans are purposely bringing down the economy to prevent Obama’s re-election. According to McConnell’s statement, it is more important than helping the people who elect them.

In 2010, the conservative leaning Supreme Court ruled in favour of the conservative non-profit organization Citizens United. The landmark ruling said that the First Amendment prohibited the government from limiting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. In other words, money is equal to free speech.

When it comes to corporations and unions, it should come as no surprise as to who each is allied with and which has more funds to spend. If the recall election in Wisconsin was any indication, the era of the Super PAC gives Republicans a huge advantage. Scott Walker in Wisconsin outspent his Democratic rival nearly 8-1, mostly from cash outside the state.

In support of Republican nominee Mitt Romney, billionaire Sheldon Adelson has already spent $35 million of his own money and plans to spend over a $100 million before the election. Adelson is but one man; the billionaire Koch Brothers will spend even more.

So while conservatives are donating tens of millions at a time, Obama is forced to fundraise instead of leading his country. In fact, Obama has already held more fundraisers than the last six sitting presidents combined and he is still behind.

Most might think that blocking job creation bills and outspending their opponents by wide margins is enough for Republicans to reclaim their throne. Just in case, State Republicans have been playing their trump card across the country (and I don’t mean The Donald).

Paul Weyrich

The founder of the American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC) and conservative activist Paul Weyrich once said: “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down”

Weyrich may be deceased, but the words he spoke over thirty years ago have been put into action by ALEC and has resulted in new voting laws being adopted in at least a dozen Republican controlled state legislatures.

Hundreds of thousands of potentially legal citizens are being purged from the voting rolls in places like Florida and Texas. Other states have mandated new voter IDs, barred convicted and previously convicted felons from voting, cut down voting periods, etc.

These conservative measures don’t amount to a conspiracy, it’s wide open for everyone to see. The problem is for people to see it, the corporate news media would have to report it. I’m not just talking about Fox so-called News who would prefer to add fuel to the Republican fire; I’m talking about the other networks that used to keep the two political parties in check. The fact is they’re too scared to lose out on the billions of Super PAC advertising dollars that’ll be coming in.

With the odds increasingly stacked against him, Obama is going to have to resort to old fashioned politics. I believe his chances are going to rest on his ideas and his ability to articulate them. Sadly, that might not be enough.

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Conservatives in North America identify Europe (Scandinavia in particular) with its high social safety net, health care systems and high tax rates as “welfare” states. A welfare state is a country where the government provides for the well-being of its citizens, the objective is to create greater economic equality and ensure a certain minimum standard of living.

On the other side of the pond, Conservative politicians in the United States are quick to criticize the countries that care for their poorest citizens and decry those who wish to see the US follow the same path. I wonder if they see the hypocrisy.

You see, the United States does have elements of these so called “welfare” states, such as welfare, social security and unemployment. Far right conservatives are trying to do away with these important programs, but at the same time they continue to subsidize corporations who don’t need it.

These same people, who supposedly believe in the free market as much as they believe in Jesus, prefer to give billions in tax subsidies to oil companies, weapons manufacturers and farmers, rather than giving it to those who actually need it. After all, these companies are “job creators”, the less they pay in taxes the more jobs they create right?

I saw an interview about a week ago featuring Honeywell CEO David Cote. During the interview he was asked what he thought the effective corporate tax rate should be; Cote to no one’s surprise said zero, he argued “jobs come from companies and if we wanted to create the most effective foreign direct investment pipeline you’ve ever seen, we would have the lowest rate possible.”

Honeywell CEO David Cote

Well… as it turns out, between 2008-2010 Honeywell received $1.75 billion in federal tax subsidies making their effective tax rate -0.7%, better than Mr. Cote could have dreamed.

With that kind of tax rate Honeywell must have created lots of jobs, right? During that same time period their jobs gain was -996 and managed to use loopholes in the law to fire hundreds of union workers and replace them with cheaper labour.

With all these negative numbers, Honeywell must be struggling to stay afloat right? Actually they profited $4.9 billion over that time period and David Cote himself got paid $37 million last year for his efforts.

Honeywell’s example of corporate welfare can be compared on a lower level to a personal welfare recipient who sells drugs on the side. Conservatives desire to shut down the entire welfare program because of individuals who cheat the system. Why then do they continue to subsidize companies who are not only on their feet, but flying over everyone?

The answer is simple: lobbying. From 2008-2010, Honeywell spent $17 million to lobby politicians and received $1.75 billion in tax subsidies for their hard work. For every dollar they spent, they received a hundred back. Do you think if I gave Prime Minister Harper a $1000 donation I could get $100 000 back on my taxes?

The type of corporate welfare we have in North America is the product of corporate influence over politicians; money buys power and therefore benefits the wealthy at the expense of the poor who have no money and consequently no say in the goings on in government.

It’s a reverse Robin Hood if you will. Whether it’s the tar sands in Alberta or the oil, corn and arms industries in the US among others, government subsidization of profitable corporations creates more wealth for the already wealthy and increases government debt. It does absolutely nothing for the common man.

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