Thursday, April 5, 2012

L'Internationale, Right Wing Elite Style

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is of course a Nobelized mind of nearly unmatched intelligence but all that sagacity usually made him keep his gloves on when handling right wing hysteria. He used to tentatively throw a "Disappointing" here, or a "Mr Ryan made a highly dubious assertion.." there. And that was as far as his frown went. But lately reading his latest op-ed was like finally watching him wake up to the sound of imminent disaster. Fascinating... Brilliant. Needed. But late, much too late.

Yes, Scott Walker attack of the Unions were a "power grab", the focus on tax relief to the ultimate rich through tax cut, tax holidays or trickle-down policies amount to a"corporate cash con" of national scope, and his "Oligarchy American Style" could have been written in 2008. Now the tides of radicalism in the Republican Party is so over the top that most of its member do not only embrace it but promote it in all media outlet with much vigor and foam at the mouth. It's like encountering 500 little Rush Limbaugh on every comment space of every country political websites all very high and all very angry. One could say that right wing spring madness is upon us -internationally.

Here in Canada, Stephen Harper is slashing in all that could be construe as a common cultural heritage with a jubilating efficiency and draconian cuts to the CBC/Radio-Canada  or in any department created for the protection of the public that could give Harper & friends a hard time with pesky legislation and scrutiny.  The Food Inspection Agency, Public Safety Canada, Transport Canada will all be affected for a grand total of more than 19000 jobs out of the door. So, more money to spend on useless jets and military posturing maybe?

Foreign Aid will now mean giving money to Canadian companies that establish themselves internationally and that offer foreign natives different "in-house training" programs. The money, Ottawa tout, will help "create jobs" in countries that need them the most. It almost makes sense. But nowhere is it mention the condition of these jobs, their salaries or the amount per workers that Canadian companies will pocket as pure profit as a gift from Harper & friends.

800 million in the2012 Canadian Budget will be taken from the poor and given to the richest of Canadian citizens under guise of tax cuts or frozen tax rates. The Conservatives, who at their heart are still the Reform Party, are now a Alberta private club affair: it's all steams a-head for oil, pipelines, mining, crude export tanker, gas and circumventing environmental hearing for a fast track from crude to pure cash for Energy investors. And prisons for kids. Promised are almost 300 million dollar in cuts to Correction Canada in the next 3 years but Harper won't build anything new. Guess we'll be calling those US private juvie prisons people soon...

And keep those private US Health Insurance phone numbers at the ready too. Your tax won't grow but all your private expenses will. Especially since Harper & Friends will cut 300 million per year to our Healthcare system. When Harper was only a mini Stockwell Day and the new tech guy for his Reform Party, he totally agree with the party's adherence to bankrupt the National Healthcare system and replace it with a two-tier private health insurance system. His Conservative Party is nothing like the party of Mulroney and Joe Clark  as much as the Republican Party of today has none of the restraint or moderation of the Republican Party under "Ike" Eisenhower.

The approach and grievances of the "build a firewall around Alberta" gang is transparent and did not change since Ernest Manning's day as the "soul" of the Social Credit Party Of Alberta:
-the demise of the National Energy Program that regulates prices,
-the dismantling of the Department of Indian Affairs,
-they were strongly against women right to choose in abortion cases,
-they opposed extending certain rights to homosexuals,
-they were against any immigration "designed to radically or suddenly alter the ethnic makeup of Canada"
-and they think that too much attention and power are given to Quebec and the rest of Eastern Canada.

Harper was a representative of that platform before the Canadian Alliance cannibalized what was left of the Conservative Party. I don't think anything he will do, now that he finally has a miraculous majority, will deviate much from that wish list of the Canadian Alliance Party/Reform Party/Social Credit Party.

 For certain projects public debate will be curtailed- which is ironic giving the new budget propensity  for vague wording and ambiguous itemization inexplicably free of charge ( about consultation of Aboriginal bands, “appropriate legislative and regulatory frameworks related to oil spills and emergency preparedness.”, the new "enhancement to governance and oversight framewok" for the CMHC )- which means we will probably need more of it.

EcoEnergy Programs are deleted, National Council on Welfare gone, the new "modernized" immigration system will be controlled by corporations for corporations...  after spending more than 12 million dollars on advertising on its promotion, the Jim Flaherty Budget was a right-wing hit love song promising that the best was yet to come.

So when I read Krugman finally calls US conservatives "fraudulent""phonies", it fun and heartwarming. But when he calls their policies "wishful thinking", we all have to stop smiling. There is nothing funny or left to chance here. The right wing forces are not the Three Stooges. There is in all countries caught in the grip of a conservative administration a very deliberate, a carefully calibrated, a very thoughtful process of dismantling 80 years of social democracy economical policy that relied on the citizen as a emancipated agent in a union of equals to transform that same citizen as a pure economical assignee- from citizen to consumer, from a protector of national good and commonwealth to a producer and consumer of goods, period. The government that must be "drown like a baby in a bathtub" to paraphrase a conservative policy maker, is to be no more concern by its citizens than ...a bathtub by a drowning baby.

The "economic growth" of the world 2% rich elite is what is sought after with austerity measures from now on. Everything else must be paid for at the most expensive price by you... while you drown in debt. The right wing motto never was prosperity for all. Too bad millions will lose much before they will ever figure it out.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Crazy Brits Make for Interesting TV: Sherlock and Black Mirror

Sherlock & Black Mirror
I don't know exactly what's in those pints but whatever it is, keep it coming!

I already spilled my guts about my total infatuation with The BBC ONE Sherlock revival. Smart, charming, quick witted, cute like a slightly deranged poodle and- in the first season at least- openly gay, he was one hell of a success on my screen time list. Watching the show set up Sherlock and Watson explosive chemistry was akin to an intoxicating head rush. Like it's main protagonist, the show's writers trusted the viewers to jump and follow the stories without missing a beat and asking pointless question - and of course, they did. Those who knew the Conan Doyle canon by heart were treated to little inside jokes, while the others were just so grateful to be totally in the thrall of such masterfully controlled script writing and engaging acting that they just savored the experience and tagged along, smiling just like Holmes (sometimes more) all the way.

So Season 2 was a bit of a disappointment when a Sherlock in love started to save devilish dominatrix in distress in film noir settings and when everybody and his senile mom could easily suspect what was wrong with the savaged darkened marshlands of the Hound of Baskervilles.The wit had dulled, the scripts were of the written on a corner of a pub napkin variety, the famous Holmes/Watson banter, that magical tit for tat chemistry, falling flat most of the time... One  could appreciate Russell Tovey's cameo that brought  Georges from Being Human to fight his inner demons and some potentially ironic werewolves as a moment deserving a chuckle or two no more. But where the two first installments of this season stand lacking in finesse and human connections, the last episode made up for it in suspense. Though a bit teary and obvious in its emotional contrivance, it all came down to a duel of Masters, with a hair-raisingly creepy Moriarty exceeding our expectation as super villain to the point where we as viewers cannot tell illusion from reality and neither can Watson. In another word, the head rush was back and we could see that, for the creators of Sherlock, the best was undeniably still yet to come.
(Source: machomachi)

Daniel Kaluuya gave the same maladapted warmth that made him such a joy to watch in The Fades to his prisoner in Black Mirror. Describe as an "hybrid of The Twilight Zone and Tales of the Unexpected ", but focused on how new technologies affects aspects of our humanity. Writer Charlie Brook's Black Mirror travels the usual road of sci-fi dystopian  fantasies: uncomfortable arrangements are made with the truth and the devil inside our institutions and individual souls. The opening episode was a playing for shock affair with a pig, the prime minister and a lot of youtube. If it sounds like a schoolboy ideas of a dirty joke it's because it basically is. But what saved the whole enterprise and made it worthwhile despite the usual rehash about our voyeuristic instinct was the often straight to the heart criticism of  the actual state of our 5th estate. Little shards of truth rarely make a complete picture, scraps of details on camera with a voice over is not news. But that is what we get stuck with while trying to reconstruct the world around us, politically or otherwise.  And nothing, not even art, can really help us make sense of it but immediacy, Charlie Brooke seem to tell us. We see, we feel, we forget and grow older, colder, faster.

But in the 15 million Merits episode, the metaphors grow smaller and more focused. If you've seen THX 1138 or read Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood or H.G. Wells' The Sleeper Awakes, the elements here are nothing new. Daniel Kaluuya's gentle geek persona and the frail, touching voice of Jessica Brown-Findley from Downtown Abbey are reality TV fodder and passive prisoners to a rat wheel of a place that feel horrifyingly familiar. All we can hope is that no marketing exec will ever tie our eyesight to  search engine optimization and pay per click porn - ever.  The episode is a slick stylish affair, all in drab modernist grey blueish tone and glacial steel. Rupert Everett, playing the X-Factor "bitchy" judge with evident delectation,  makes the girl's Juliette innocence a rating gimmick and the guy's Romeo angry resentment a ticket to a bigger, emptier cell. Nothing new here then, but a sick feeling that the walls are coming closer and the screens bigger.