Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Harpocricy Wins the Day

Harper’s appointment of 18 senators is one of the greatest exercises in political hypocrisy in recent years. And like all great acts of hypocrisy, the hypocrite blames someone else for his lack of integrity. Thus Harper, who said he would never appoint a senator (at least not an unelected one), says it is his political opposition that is to blame for this reversal. So it goes. But even more outrageous than Harper’s hypocrisy are the 18 individuals who accepted an appointment to the senate under such conditions. To accept an appointment to the senate while parliament has been prorogued for partisan political gain demonstrates a remarkable lack of integrity. Harper has a clear constitutional right to make these appointments but to do so when he has continually been opposed to such appointments and while the House has been prorogued demonstrates his amazing lack of leadership. Harper is just another political hack who makes promises that he has no intention of keeping or should know that he cannot keep. It is ironic that the Conservatives have tried to portray every other political leader in the country as dithering and hypocritical, when their own leader is so hopelessly dishonest and fickle in his supposed political commitments.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Political Hypocrisy

It is always the hypocrisy in politics that makes me crazy. People will rationalize and justify things that are done by the party or parties that they sympathize with, but if the party they opposed did the exact same thing they will criticize them with visceral aggression. The recent events are a very good example of this hypocrisy. Harper prorogued parliament because he didn’t have the confidence of the House. If a Liberal had done this Conservatives everywhere would be going crazy telling us all that this is a typical example of the Demagoguery that is in the very nature of the Liberal Party. We would never hear the end of it! This is what drives me crazy. It is just pure hypocrisy.

People’s reactions to labour disputes are another common example of political hypocrisy. People will fight and complain about their own working conditions no end, but if some group of workers is willing to go on strike to defend their rights for better working condition, then anyone who is inconvenienced by this strike will go on alarmingly about how greedy and inconsiderate the workers are and how they shouldn’t even have the legal right to strike.

Political hypocrisy is consistently evident in the always problematic area of political promises. Politicians constantly make promises that they either have no intention of keeping or should know that they probably cannot keep. And political supporters always rationalize these broken promises. The Liberals didn’t eliminate the GST even though they said they would. They knew that they probably would be unable to keep such a promise. And their failure to follow through was rationalized by Liberal supporters and has been an area of criticism for Conservative ever since. And remember when the elected members of the Reform party said that they would never take the MP pensions? When they opted to accept the pensions, most of their supporters just quietly forgot their promise. Now we have Harper who said he would never appoint unelected senators, and is now about to appoint twenty of them right after a precedent setting proroguing of parliament. No problem, quick rationalization and the Conservatives actually blame the Liberals for the broken promise, suggesting that they have left Harper with no choice. This is rich! Not only do they break promises they blame their political opponents for forcing them into it.

In many cases the politicians simply make promises that they know they won’t be able to keep. This demonstrates political opportunism and lack of leadership. Our mayor here in Ottawa made a big deal of running on a promise that he would ensure Zero city tax increases. Now, besides the fact that this is an irresponsible promise because the city taxes should at least keep up with inflation, the mayor has no power to keep such a promise since taxes are determined not by the Mayor’s office but by the council in general. Then, when taxes predictably rise, the mayor’s supporters don’t blame him for making a promise that he had absolutely no way of being sure that he could keep, instead they blame the council for undermining the mayor. Similarly Harper has, for years now, been making a big deal about the fact that he would NEVER run a deficit. This is a promise that anyone who has any sense of how the federal budget works knows you might not be able to keep. If a government looses tax revenues half-way through the year because of a sudden economic downturn, they have already made spending commitments which will result in a deficit, pure and simple. But when the Harper government goes into deficit do you think its supporters will blame Harper for a broken promise? Will people say that he should never have made such a promise because as a trained economist he should have known better? No, Conservative supporters will say it’s not his fault, it is just the economic forces beyond his control. But of course if the Liberal did the same thing Harper would be on television everyday telling us what hypocrites and poor leaders the Liberals are.

How exhausting!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Convention of Cintra

The Convention of Cintra was an agreement signed in August of 1808 which allowed the defeated French Troops to evacuate from Portugal, thus allowing Napoleon’s forces to escape from the British, ensuring nearly six more years of French occupation for Spain. The Convention of Cintra deeply disturbed many in England including radicals who, though they supported the early days of the French Revolution and similar political reforms at home, were disgusted by French aggression on the continent and the wilful slaughter of Spanish citizens. Several of the English Romantics spoke out against the Convention. Leigh Hunt, close friend of Byron and Shelley, used his periodical the Examiner to attack the Duke of York, the King’s brother who had been the head of the army and was seen as the main perpetrator of the Convention. Hunt’s attack nearly landed him in jail but he managed to escape with the help of a very good defence attorney. Wordsworth wrote a pamphlet condemning the Convention which was edited by his friend Thomas De Quincey. In a poem written at the same time as the pamphlet Wordsworth wrote:

I weigh the hopes and fears of suffering Spain;
For her consult the auguries of time,
And through the human heart explore my way;
And look and listen – gathering, whence I may,
Triumph, and thoughts no bondage can restrain.

Lord Byron also lamented the Convention in lines fro his Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

And ever since that martial synod met,
Britannia sickens, Cintra! at thy name.

What will the poets write about our own political troubles? The tribulations of Canadian politics are, perhaps, only a storm in a teacup compared to the Peninsular War. But our parliament has been prorogued and the precedent has been set for all future Prime Ministers to simply squelch the sovereignty of the House on a partisan whim. And now, just to reiterate his rule by decree, Harper will appoint a bunch of senators after he had lost the confidence of the House. The implications of this are monumental for our political system. Our soulless and sinister Prime Minister would be glad to rip the very heart out of our system for his own petty and partisan interests. Consider in what interest he is really acting.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Shelley's political language

One of Percy Shelley’s greatest poems was the Masque of Anarchy written as an attack on the brutality of the British government of the 2nd Earl of Liverpool who was Prime Minister from 1812-1827. Liverpool surrounded himself with such distasteful men as Viscount Castlereagh and Viscount Sidmouth. Shelley’s attack on these brutal and cruel men was visceral and passionate. For those who don’t realize that even a Romantic poet can use provocative political language, here are a few verses from the Masque of Anarchy.

I met Murder on the way--

He had a mask like Castlereagh--

Very smooth he look'd yet grim;

Seven bloodhounds followed him:

All were fat; and well they might

Be in admirable plight,

For one by one, and two by two,

He tossed them humanhearts to chew,

Which from his wide cloak he drew.

Next came Fraud, and he had on,

Like Lord E--, an ermined gown;

His big tears, for he wept well,

Turned to mill-stones as they fell;

And the little children, who

Round his feet played to and fro,

Thinking every tear a gem,

Had their brains knockedout by, them.

Capitalism and the Auto Bailout

The US Senate failed to approve the congressional bailout of the auto industry today. The bailout didn’t pass largely because Republicans wanted the UAW workers to take significant pay and benefit cut to bring them in line with non-unionised workers in the same sector. The right has been continually suggesting that the failure of the US auto industry is almost exclusively the cause of auto-worker greed. And this is a common refrain of many people. Somehow capitalists and right-wing elements in the media have convinced people that workers are greedy and think of nothing but increasing their wealth. They have convinced people of this despite the fact that most worker’s strikes are not motivated by pay issues but by working conditions.

And here is the sixty-four thousand dollar question: why are people so willing to condemn worker greed and so unwilling to look to the unbridled greed of the market and upper management? Companies like Nortel can be pushed into bankruptcy simply because their ‘projections’ for profit are not sufficient for investors! They are still making a profit you understand, just not a high enough rate of profit. Meanwhile, in the auto-sector for example, upper-level managers can make multi-million dollar salaries.

When workers struggle for a few more dollars or a couple of extra sick days, they are just trying to carve out a slightly better life for themselves. They want better lives for their children, an occasional vacation, homes that are not in a constant state of disrepair. That is not greed. Meanwhile in some industries managers are flying in private jets and buying homes with cash.

If the north-American auto industry fails, or the US economy in general goes into recession, it will not be because of worker greed. It will be because capitalists have fashioned an economy that is driven by a market that requires greater and greater rates of profit for public companies to stay afloat, by companies that have no conception or concern for the public good, and by managers whose rates of pay increase to outrageous levels even when the companies they control are going bankrupt. Of course, this is not an unusual occurrence in history. Before the French Revolution as the French economy began to sink, the aristocracy was so out of touch with reality that it was not uncommon for them to complain of the laziness of the peasants as a cause for their nations troubles. All this while most of the poor ate bread that was made with as much sawdust as wheat.

The next time you ate worried about the economy or your daily struggles, don’t blame your bus driver or the guy who assembled your car. Blame those who make millions of dollars while producing nothing for society.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thomas Hood, Mrs. Biddell, and the Song of the Shirt

Thomas Hood was an English poet and humorist of the 19th century whose work is largely forgotten today. Hood edited several journals and periodicals and his work appeared in many of the early issues of Punch magazine which began in 1841. Hood’s work is interesting and amusing, though some of the humour is now lost because times have changed so significantly from when Hood was writing. Perhaps Hood’s most memorable achievement is a poem that appeared anonomously in the Christmas edition of Punch in 1843 called The Song of the Shirt. It was written in honour of a Lambeth widow named Biddell, a seamstress living in wretched conditions. In what was common practice Biddell sewed pants and shirts in her home using materials given to her by her employer for which she was forced to give a £2 deposit. It seems that in a desperate attempt to feed her starving infants, poor Mrs. Biddell pawned the clothing she had made thus accruing a debt she could not pay. Mrs. Biddell, whose first name remains a mystery, was sent to a workhouse and her ultimate fate is unknown, but her story became a symbol for those who actively opposed the wretched conditions of England’s working poor who spent seven days a week labouring under inhuman conditions, barely managing to survive and with no prospect for relief. The Song of the shirt quickly became a phenomenon, centering people’s attention not only on the Briddell case but on the conditions of workers in general. And though Hood was not a genuine political radical, his work, like that of Dickens, contributed to the general awareness of the condition of the working class which fed the popularity of trade unionism and the push for stricter labour laws.

Here are a few lines from The Song of the Shirt.

With fingers weary and worn,
With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread –
Stitch! Stitch! Stitch!
In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
And still with a voice of dolorous pitch
She sang ‘The Song of the Shirt!’

Work – work – work!
My labour never flags;
And what are its wages? A bed of straw,
A crust of bread – and rags.
That shattered roof – and this naked floor –
A table – a broken chair –
And a wall so blank, my shadow I thank

Let’s remember poor Mrs. Biddell, whose struggle is ours. And remember Thomas Hood, poet and friend of humankind.

The Arc of Justice

The great Dr. King said (though I believe the quote originated elsewhere) that the ‘arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.’ But if the arc does indeed bend toward justice it does not do so without our constant struggle and vigilance. We move toward justice through the constant effort of countless people who make a continual effort to fight prejudice, inequality, and the arbitrary exercise of power.

We have a bus strike going on here in Ottawa and I am amazed at the degree to which people condemn the workers for the labour strife. The bus drivers are basically striking to retain the right to play a roll in determining their own work schedules. In order to ensure that the Union would have no public sympathy for the struggle, the employer put a $2000 signing bonus in their offer, an effort at bribing the majority of workers and which, if unsuccessful, would ensure that the public would have no sympathy for the transit workers. The right-wing radio hosts are livid at the thought that transit workers (people they constantly belittle as ‘mere bus-drivers’), receive a living wage in a time of economic troubles and then have the gall to want to take part in their own scheduling. And much of the public just mimics the right-wing talking points. Yet these are the struggles which workers have been waging for centuries. Most average people enjoy the basic rights and working conditions that they do because average people have sacrificed their lives for generations in an effort for rights and protections. Most people are unable to see the big picture of history and their place in it, and they forget that when workers struggle for their rights, they are struggling for everyone; because it is only when people win their rights through struggle that these rights and protections become generalized. Furthermore, many people imagine that things are different now; that age when workers were forced to work countless hours under terrible conditions, sometime literally chained to their machines, for little pay, is now over.

“That’s all in the past,” people will tell you, “no one would do such things today.” But the appearance of civilized behaviour by capitalists and corporations in Western countries is only ensured through constant diligence. Simply travel to a country like Guatemala and you will see that, in the absence of laws and unions, workers are still treated like slaves. The arc of justice only bends toward justice if we pull hard on it. It is so sad that so many average people are so quick to buy the right-wing demonization of unions. Every struggle of every worker is made in the name of all people. The arc must bend toward justice for all of us.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Leadership

Mr. Ignatieff is correct in taking a cautious approach to his up-coming confrontation with Harper and his thugs. He is smart not to appear to have judged a budget that has not been written. He has nothing to lose by suggesting that he is ready to work with the Tories if they write a decent budget; one that is not simply an ideological attack on democracy. This is a kind of Pascal wager because if he is wrong he has lost nothing and made himself look as though he is ready to be cooperative.

Ignatieff is particularly free to take this approach because there is such a slim chance that the Tories will come up with anything meaningful. It is generally accepted that Harper is the most fiercely partisan Prime Minister in Canadian history. He is mean spirited and obsessed with destroying his political opponents to the point that he will end up destroying himself. His budget will only pay lip-service to the financial crisis and he will surely be unable to resist his desire to add a number of neo-conservative attacks on worker’s rights, freedom of information, women’s rights, and other basic elements of democracy. Ignatieff’s only real concern is to determine how to ensure that the people of Canada see Harper and his policies for what they are; a Machiavellian effort to make the rich richer and shaft the rest.

I guess we will see what happens. But we know that the Tories have already begun to work on efforts to portray the new Liberal leader as an undemocratic leader who was parachuted into the position by elite Liberals from Ontario and Quebec. But they are not dealing with Dion anymore, and I suspect that Ignatieff will not be so easily cornered. I get the feeling that he is ready to fight back in a way that Liberals have not done for years. Liberals have good reason to celebrate today, and hopefully we will all reap the benefits if Ignatieff can unseat Harper and his evil regime. The problem is that to defeat the Tories Ignatieff will have to resort in part to the same tactics that Harper and his bullies have used for the past few years. I just hope that once they destroy Harper, Ignatieff can give up that seductive strategy and bring some civility back to Canadian politics.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Kevin Coleman

My good friend, Kevin Coleman, died 17 years ago today. I honour him and remember him in the struggle for greater human freedom and prosperity.

Democracy and Money

There is a spectre haunting democracy; the spectre of money. Modern democracy is in a terrible state of decay as money colonizes every little corner of the structure. While many on the right and in the centre of political spectrum continue to imagine that democratic governments are an expression of the general will, others with a more dynamic definition of power understand that so-called democratically elected governments are less and less the expression of any general will as money plays an increasingly powerful part in the process of elections and the daily running of government. As society sees an startling increase in the difference between the wealthiest and the majority of working people, apathy and alienation rob people of their belief in democracy and their commitment to electoral results.

This democratic deficit is made considerably worse by the fact that the majority of people have no clear idea of how their own system of government works. This is true throughout western democracies but was made particularly clear in recent events in Canada. The majority of Canadians appear to believe that their votes translate into a general will of the people in the House of Commons. For this to be true we would have to have a system of proportional representation. But of course we do not. Instead we live in a constitutional monarchy in which representatives are chosen by a series of first past the post, local elections. In our system, sovereignty is held first in the monarch or her representative. That sovereignty then flows down to the body of representatives who sit in the House. Though we have political parties, in the House, parties actually mean very little in an ideal sense because the House elects a leader to be a first minister. It matters little in our Parliamentary system whether you voted with the goal of one party leading over another. What matters is the sovereignty of the House. The will of the House determines the Government, period! Whoever maintains the confidence of the House will be the First Minister and will form a Government. This person might be someone who represents the party for which the majority of electors voted, or it might not. Tradition dictates that whichever party got the greatest number of seats has the first opportunity to form a government but the will of the House can ratify this or not as it pleases. The problem is, of course, that in a fractured parliament, whichever party gets the most seats is unlikely to reflect the majority of voters. This creates a democratic deficit. As a result of this many parliamentary systems have opted to look toward coalitions so that the government better reflects the general will of the voters. The most democratic option is for proportional voting coupled with coalition governments. In extremely fractionalized countries this can be unwieldy so they opt for a combination of some proportional representatives along with some first past the post, local representatives. Either way, in a parliament we elect representatives who constitute a higher sovereignty than individual votes.

Of course, all of this is perverted if the majority of people do not understand it, and is doubly perverted by increased concentrations of wealth in politics. But if Canadians are to move toward greater levels of democracy we must come to grips with the system we have. We do not live in a system of plebiscites in which everyone votes on everything. Such a system itself is actually impossible in the modern age because a system of direct democracy can only be meaningful with a small number of people. In a large complex system someone would still have to fashion the policies on which everyone could vote. If Conservatives in Canada are really concerned about democracy and making their vote count they would be actively pursuing some form of proportional voting system. But of course most conservative don’t give a toss about democracy, they care about power. And in our ‘democracy’ power flows through those with the money, pure and simple.

So next time you hear a Conservative (or a Liberal for that matter), complain about lack of democracy, slap them firmly across the mouth. Tell them to learn about their own system of government or actively work to change it, or keep their mouth shut.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Rite of Passage

The other day I had to partake of one of the great rites of passage for any parent; the teacher-parent interview. Many of the other parenthood obligations pale in the face of this dreaded duty. Choosing a name, midnight feedings, hundreds of diaper changes, being vomited on, all of these are mere child’s play in the face of the first teacher-parent interview. Of course, nothing is ever as dreadful as the fervent mind imagines it will be. But still, what a difficult responsibility it is to have to face your child’s first teacher with all the requisite obligations and possibilities.

After all, nothing can bring your own childhood back to the foreground of your mind than having to face a teacher again. The smell of the class-room, the chalkboard, the posters reminding you of the letters of the alphabet; they all serve to transport you suddenly back to a time of sheer terror. Then you find yourself crushed into one of those little under-sized chairs staring a teacher in the face and you are a child again. No matter how hard you try to look old, to act experienced, it’s just no good. The circumstances make you a child and you are paralysed with inadequacies. Somewhere in your head, you are still an adult worried about the fact that you forgot to put snow tires on your car, but all your grown-up responsibilities are nothing in the face of the teacher’s powerful gaze. You could be a emergency-room doctor who just sewed someone’s finger back on after a bagel cutting accident, but if that teacher tells you to sit down and be quiet, you are suddenly a helpless six year old who will do whatever you are told.

Not that there wasn’t many moments of joy and excitement in your school-days. But somehow they all fade into the background when you find yourself back in the classroom. You don’t want it to be so but there is seemingly nothing you can do about it. And to make matters worse, my daughter’s teacher was suffering through a bad cold, making her voice deep and raspy, and therefore even more authoritative then it might have otherwise been. She is a nice woman, she really is, but as nice as she might be, it is difficult to see her as anything but a teacher. I am quite certain that she could have told me to write “I will not bring gum to parent-teacher night” fifty times on the blackboard and I would have done it.

It didn’t begin very well. When I got to the classroom, the previous parent was still there talking to the teacher so I sat down on one of the very low tables to wait. I didn’t think anything of this. After all, it is a pretty big class and from where I sat I couldn’t hear what was going on between the teacher and the parent. Anyway, how much confidential information is revealed concerning the details of a kindergartener’s school career? But my daughter’s teacher quickly put me in my place. With little ceremony, she asked me to wait in the hall and I was quick to oblige. Then I found myself sitting in the hall for nearly ten minutes with my mind in overdrive. Because, as sure as one is that your child is basically intelligent and well behaved, there is still a part of you that worries what the teacher is going to say.

When I was eventually let into the class and approached the little table that served as a stand-in for the teacher’s desk, my trepidation was by no means eased by the teacher’s first words. “I will just take out Cairo’s file,” she said in her flu-infested voice which made her sound more like John Lee Hooker than a grade-school teacher.

“Take out her file,” I thought to myself. Is she a kindergarten student or an FBI suspect? This really disturbed my equilibrium. Seeing my daughter’s teacher lay her ‘file’ gently on the table like she was J. Edgar Hoover on the hunt for some public enemy really did a number on me. At that moment I don’t think I would have been surprised by anything. She could have told me that my daughter was the class bootlegger and I would have taken it in stride.

But she had no major crimes to report. Instead, she showed me a detailed sheet of student evaluation on the various tasks that my daughter regularly undertakes. And there was nothing negative to report. Not only was my she adequately fulfilling all academic expectations, but she was even exceeding them in a few areas. It seems that she loves drawing and produces unusually colourful and elaborate drawings which seemed to genuinely surprise the teacher.

And after being shown a few dozens drawings and being assured that Cairo is happy at school and plays well with others, I began to feel more at ease. These assurances allayed my biggest concerns because my daughter has always been at home with me and though she has three siblings, her brothers and sister are considerably older than she, which means she has never been compelled to compromise with other children her own age.

After the interview I was sent on my way with my daughter’s school pictures and the teacher’s assurance that all was well. All in all, a pretty favourable outcome given my concerns and fears. Of course, this is only junior kindergarten and there has been little time for things to go wrong. But I am proud to say that I have conquered another of the great rites of passage of parenthood with little more than the loss of a few nights sleep and few difficult childhood flashbacks.

A Window on Childhood

I have never been a big fan of winter. It is probably because I spent a substantial part of my important childhood years in southern California. Melancholy old men talk as though everyday of their childhood was bright and sunny. But for me it was true. Southern California is essentially a desert and one so seldom sees rain that people even write songs about it.

As a child, winter consisted for me of that time of year when it was a little too chilly to spend a comfortable day at the beach. My sister and I usually only saw snow in Christmas movies or on one of those rare occasions when we would go to the mountains and see the real thing. In those few years before my parents were divorced and we had something of a normal family life, there were a few such occasion when we would be bundled excitedly into the car for a two hour drive into the San Bernardino mountains where some patch of snow was making a brave stand against the California sun. It was as though we were going to see some nearly extinct animal in a zoo; like the snow was a Blue-sided Treefrog of which there were only a few specimens left in the wild and it was our good fortune to see it for one last time before it disappeared forever.

And of course my sister and I loved it because it was like a holiday; and as everyone knows, everything looks better when you are on holiday. You can be in some hot, humid third-world country on a vacation, and as long as you don’t have to live like the majority of the local citizens, you will just see the beautiful vistas, the colourful traditions, and the exotic foods. The snow was like this for my sister and I; we didn’t have to shovel it off our driveway or dress in six layers of warm clothing to go to school every morning, so all we saw was a beautiful white playground. Furthermore, our snow-day earned us bragging rights at school where a handful of kids had never even seen snow first hand.

In retrospect, I have no idea where my sister and I got all the supplies for a day in the snow. I have photos of us with big coats, hats, and gloves playing in the snow. But we surely possessed none of these things as a matter of course, we must have purchased them for that particular occasion, just so we could enjoy an afternoon in the snow.

But these are nothing but fond childhood memories now. Today winter is no longer just some holiday opportunity of childhood; I have to live with it. Freezing feet and hands, snowdrifts blocking the end of our driveway, ice-dams on the roof constantly threatening to create leaks; all of these things are part of the struggle of daily life at least four months out of the year. It is difficult to maintain the excitement of childhood when the daily threats of winter press upon you. On the days when we wake up to a foot of snow, the only excitement that I can look forward to is the smile on my daughter’s face who still lives in that distant country of childhood where snow is an opportunity for fun. But even that excitement dissipates somewhat after the ten minutes of struggle that it takes to put on her snowsuit, her boots, and her gloves. Her socks are never quite right and I am forced to remove her boots several times before she is satisfied. Inevitably her gloves have been turned inside out and we can never get her fingers to fit comfortably inside. It is a palaver with which most parents are familiar and it can quickly rob one of the joy that one gets from the face of your child playing in the snow.

Nowadays, when the weather report predicts a serious snowstorm I hope that either they will turn out to be wrong or that the storm will be so significant that we will all be snowed in, giving us an excuse to stay home under blankets. This is one of the few occasions that I am still able to recapture an occasional moment of enjoyment from the snow through the illusion provided to me by windows. Sometimes when the snow falls leisurely on a Saturday afternoon but with sufficient heaviness to coat the trees with thick blanket of white, I am momentarily able to see the beauty in the snow, the beauty that I saw when I was a child. Of course, I can no longer enjoy the blind excitement of playfulness, but there is still some magic to be had in the beauty of the snowfall.

It recently occurred to me that windows do this for us. All of the pleasures that age has compelled us to abandon, can be at least partially recaptured through a window. Whether it is just our living-room window looking out on a snowy day, or the window of a train or airplane making a picture of some perfect landscape, there is a subtle magic worked by a window which allows somehow for us to recapture part of our youth. Windows are like filters which take out some of the burdensome elements of the world for tired eyes. The lightness of the world that usually only a child can see, can be partially recaptured in that filtered protection. Even dilapidation can be picturesque. Travelling through the countryside in a comfortable car, a rundown farm can look beautiful. As long as it is not my barn that is falling down, it can look Christmas card perfect through the window of a car.

Just around the corner from my house is one of the oldest farms in the entire region. And from the road you can see a wooden silo that must be a hundred years old. It is beginning to twist under its own weight and is threatening to come crashing down at any moment. The other day as we drove by, my daughter noticed it and told me with unbridled excitement that the building was going to fall. And from the warmth and comfort of the car I could see the teetering silo just as she saw it. I didn’t think about the danger it presents to the barn to which it was attached nor the money that the clean-up might cost.

Of course I am certain that there are many things on which the filter of a window could never produce a picturesque glean. I remember driving through Montana some twenty years ago and seeing thousands of acres of dead, brown trees; killed by the Colorado pine beetle. There was something irretrievably sad about the scene even from the comfort of my car. But for the most part even winter, once the occasional playground of my sunny childhood, can be partially returned to its beauty by a frosty window.

Friday, December 5, 2008

what's next

Anyone who believed in the Coalition might as well forget it. If the Governor-General allowed Harper to porogue parliament when it was clearly just to avoid a confidence, then she will never allow a Coalition Government to go ahead. But this morning things seem even worse. A poll shows that Harper is now even more popular than before the Crisis began! This is a man who hates democracy, displays an utter contempt for the House, and will attack the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in society just to make the rich and powerful even more so! And the people are lapping it up! The reason is simple; the opposition is fighting a modern war with stones and arrows. Harper has shown that he will do anything to win; he lies, he cheats, he calls people names, he red-baits, and he is even willing to entirely marginalize Quebec with rhetoric that verges on racism, just to win. But the opposition are still trying to be ‘gentlemen of the House.’ You cannot fight fascists with polite debate and a simple appeal to truth! It would be equivalent to playing a game of chess in which you opponent plays as though all his pawns are queens and you allow it, and then wonder why you are losing. You cannot win such a game. You can’t put out an oil-well fire with a squirt-gun. As distasteful as it is, you must fight Harper, in large part, on his ground. He must be shown for the man that he is. And his thugs and bullies like Baird and Poillievre, and Kenny and all his other lapdogs that pretend they are bulldogs, must be battled the same way! I don’t know about you but I remember being bullied as a kid and calm, rational discourse was never very effective in stopping their shenanigans. This is the sad truth.

Thus the only hope now for the Liberals is to use the emergency measure in their constitution to choose a new leader immediately and get on with the real battle. Will they do it? I doubt it. But you can forget about the Coalition and probably democracy in Canada because once Harper gets a majority God help us all.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Victory or Loss?

So it really happened. The Prime-Minister prorogued the parliament. Some people have suggested that there is still a victory here. After all, the opposition stopped the Government from taking away the right to strike, and Harper was unable to take away public funding for political parties. But this victory is purely temporary. At a practical level the Governor-General has shown that she will not stand up an protect the constitution. This means that she would never have allowed a Coalition in the first place. This means that in January, when the Tories bring a budget to the House with all those things from the Economic Statement that we have temporarily stopped, the opposition will just have to let them go through in the budget. Because the GG will not sanction a Coalition and they can’t have an election three months before the Liberals choose a new leader. All that has happened is that the Tories bought enough time to spend millions on advertising, lying to the public about pretty much everything. There is no victory here.

Instead we have suffered a terrible loss. Because the Governor-General has shown that Governments of Canada can put an end to parliament any time they wish. This means that if a Government is clever they will never have to face a confidence vote again. What we really learned today is that the Government of Canada can rule by decree and that we live in a dictatorship. No, there is no victory here, neither at a practical nor at a principled level.

Remember the words of Yeats

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed eye is loosed and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.


How to make no sense of Democracy
Here is a simple rational exercise to demonstrate what is wrong with what Prime Minister Harper has been saying.

Harper has said time and again that the Coalition is a ‘threat to democracy.’ But he asked the Governor-General to porogue the parliament to avoid a confidence vote because he clearly believes that the Governor-General would give the Coalition an opportunity to govern the nation. However, if the Coalition is a threat to democracy and the Governor-General could legally let them govern, then it follows that the Governor-General is a threat to democracy. But the Governor-General represents the ultimate authority in the Parliamentary System. The Prime Minister believes therefore that the Parliamentary system is a threat to democracy. But Harper is supposed to be the leader of the House of Commons in that very system. So what exactly is he defending?

In simple terms, Harper keeps telling us that he was duly elected in a system that is, ipso facto, a threat to democracy. It necessarily follows that Stephen Harper believes that Democracy is a threat to Democracy.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Political realities and political mistakes.

I have made it clear how I feel about the idea of a coalition government. It is not only constitutional but beneficial. The Conservative government is little more than a criminal organization full of thugs and bullies.
Having said that, I believe that Dion and Layton made a political blunder almost as significant as that made by the Prime Minister last week. If the Coalition partners really wanted to oust the government and bring in an alternative they should have kept that entirely quiet until they had defeated Harper in a normal house vote. In the mean time they could have sent their letter to the Governor-General and probably gained the outcome they were hoping for. However, now with all the hype they have given the Harper government all the ammunition they could want to discredit the Coalition forces and undermine democracy. They will run radio ads and maybe even television ads trying to portray the coalition effort as a coup and they will most likely succeed. And they will succeed in large part because Canadians don’t understand their own form of government. They think that the people elect the government in Canada, when in fact in the British parliamentary system, the people have never elected the government. Rather the people elect a set of representatives and whoever has the confidence of the majority of those representatives elects the government. You may not like it. You may think the system needs reform but that is the system as it exists and has for hundreds of years. Before this system worked in Canada it worked in England. By all means reform the system but make no mistake, the Conservatives are just wrong when they say this is a coup. People forget that Winston Churchill himself, often considered one of the great leaders of any parliament at any time, was elected not by the people but by a majority of the representatives in the House, many of them in the party he opposed, to lead a coalition government. But now, because of the prematurity of the coalition partners, we will now have to watch the Harper bullies and thugs misrepresent the very nature of our political system as well as the opposition parties.

And one last thing – I wish the Tories would stop suggesting that the Bloc somehow has no right to be in parliament and represent the people who elected them! Many people may not like the Bloc and may disagree with their political program. However, they have as much right to be elected and represent their electors as anyone in the house.

Coalition Government

I am amazed that people have been belly-aching for years about the need for our representatives in the House of Commons to cooperate and now suggest that it is undemocratic and undignified when they actually do it. Rex Murphy, who proves time and time again that he has absolutely no serious abilities for political analysis, said yesterday on CBC that these events prove that Canadian politics are nothing more that partisan politics. What a beautifully Orwellian moment! Three major parties making an agreement to work together proves that they are overly partisan!? Double-speak in spades. Sorry Rex, as always, you are completely wrong. This is an attempt to step beyond partisanship. Granted the three parties are cooperating against another party. But only because the Conservatives presently are the most overtly partisan, ideological, and anti-democratic party in living memory. Finally some sanity returns to parliament and Rex Murphy, the Conservatives and many others, are trying to portray it as undemocratic, shame on all of them! This is why I am a cynical and jaded man.

Of course, I believe that Harper would do almost anything to avoid losing power. He is Machiavellian in his lust for control. The Conservatives are arrogant, boastful, fascistic, and completely and utterly partisan. They are so afraid of losing power that it has shaken them to the very core, you can see it on their faces. Harper will, if the GG lets him pirogue parliament. And if not I wouldn’t even be surprised if he declared marshal law. More than anything Harper wants to have and keep power. And the Conservative’s claim that a coalition would constitute a coup is the real attack on the constitution. Desperate men do desperate things. Let’s hope that nothing untoward occurs, but have no doubt, Harper is a dangerous man and the Economic Update just displayed his meanness and lack of judgement. Let’s hope it doesn’t continue.

And my advise to the Governor-General; remember that your primary duty is to the general will of parliament, clear and simple. In the English parliamentary system, elections don’t elect governments, the House of Commons does. You have a letter in you hands Ms. Jean, which demonstrates the will of the majority of the House. Your constitutional duty is to listen to that majority.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Harper's Will to Power

National Post Correspondent Don Martin, a fairly conservative columnist, said this week that Harper showed his mean-streak this week by trying to stop subsidies to political parties. He said that the problem with Harper is that he is the type of guy that when he sees the opportunity for a ‘sucker-punch,’ he just can’t resist. Meanwhile the Globe and Mail said that Harper’s desire to destroy the Liberal Party verges on the ‘pathological.’ Finally it is becoming clear what Harper really is: to wit, an ego-maniacal, power-hungry fanatic who not only lusts for power but, perhaps more disturbingly, he is driven by pure cruelty to destroy all of his political opponents at any cost. He is a vicious machine who is worse than pathological; he is a psychotic marauder bent on destruction. Harper supporters have tried to suggest that he is a cautious moderate who has taken a carefully considered middle position. But if he cannot resist an taking an intensely partisan and ideological position in an economic update while he is in a minority government, what would he do if he had a majority? Harper is a politician in the mould of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, a man so blinded by his viciousness and ideological drives that he cannot even imagine what it means to compromise and work cooperatively. This is why he is so disgusted and repelled by the idea of a coalition government, because to Harper is about absolute power and one man’s ability to wield it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Time for change

Well the Tories economic statement has made it clear that Harper’s government is completely unfit to rule and the opposition parties must, by any means necessary, stop this fiasco. Here are the highlights (or should I say lowlights?) – 1. The elimination of public funding for political parties. This is another in a long line of deeply anti-democratic moves. All major democracies have some form of public support for parties in order to ensure that smaller parties, particularly ones that represent the working-class and minority groups have a voice in the political process. This is just another mean-spirited and partisan effort on the part of the government to undermine opposition in all its forms. 2. The elimination of the right to strike for public sector workers. This is just a typically fascist move that strikes at the very heart of basic human rights. 3. The multi-billion dollar sell off of government assets to avoid a deficit that a. won’t be avoided anyway, and b. would not have been a threat if Harper’s government had not given away the store in tax breaks to the rich. Selling off government assets now while the market is at a low point is a shameless effort of the government to practically give away what belongs to the people and put it in the hands of the rich. And all of this while the government denied during the election that there was any serious economic problem and still seems to be ignoring the depth of the situation.

It is time for real solutions. Serious investment in infrastructure, a huge commitment in alternative energy, a commitment to national childcare, the return of the Kelowna accord, serious electoral reform, a real commitment to transparency and freedom of information.

It is time for the opposition parties to work together in a coalition for the sake of these vital policies and reforms! The NDP, the Liberals, and the Bloc should make at least a one year commitment to a government of national unity – treating the situation like a national emergency. After these reforms are set in place it will be clear to Canadians just how incompetent the Harper government is and how bankrupt the conservative ideology has become.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembrance Day

Remembrance/Veterans Day, has always been a holiday that has deeply troubled me. My feelings of unease stem largely from the fact that I believe the vast majority of wars have been entirely unnecessary and they have been instigated by a ruling elite for the primary reasons of increasing their wealth and power. These elites have consistently convinced average people that the military cause is, for one reason or another, noble and altruistic. So average people pay for the wars and fight the wars, while the rich and powerful seldom fight and make huge profits. Remembrance day continues to pay tribute to soldiers who died supposedly protecting some noble cause, but they actually died to pad the pockets of people who never do the fighting or dying. The First World War is the greatest case in point. WWI was really nothing short of a conflict for colonial power between the ruling-classes of various European nations and yet we celebrate it as though it were divinely inspired.

I have seen hundreds of war memorials over the years in a number of countries but I don’t remember seeing a single one that honours the millions of innocent people that have been killed who couldn’t or wouldn’t fight and have been the real victims of war. This is because, whether we want to admit it or not, our culture, like most cultures, is enamoured by the whole idea of military conflict. We think there is something inherently beautiful, romantic, and splendid about being a soldier and we celebrate war constantly. Organized sports, so prevalent in our society, is really just a glorification of military conflict in a more palatable and acceptable form. The uniformed soldiers of sports are like battalions in war who train like soldiers are organized like soldiers and go into ‘sudden death’ if there is no clear winner. Civilizations like the Romans understood this and made no pretence about the nature of organized sport. No one wants to remember the civilians and non-combatants with memorials even though these people didn’t volunteer and have been, by far, the largest group that have suffered in war. I honour those few veterans who actually want to remember war only so that we don’t make the same mistakes again. But I have seen very few veterans, particularly in Canada, who have been activists against war. Most of them seem to say that they abhor war but are the first ones to rally around the flag in the cause of another, usually neo-colonial, military effort.

Today I call on everyone to remember the millions of innocent people, many of them children, who have died because most men can’t grow-up and still want to play soldier and are willing to kill for the benefit of men like Dick Cheney who are multimillionaires because they start wars with no regard for suffering of others. For those of us who really oppose war, let us reclaim Remembrance day for the real victims of war and mourn our aggressive nature that allows us to be led by A-type men who, though they would never admit it publicly, secretly love war.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Alan Greenspan and capitalism

So Alan Greenspan was “shocked” by the failure of his ideology! How about that folks??? He was shocked that people all acting in their own interested resulted in an economic disaster. The great stalwart of modern capitalist ideology was surprised by this??!! Of course if he had paid attention to even the simplest games theorists like John Nash or Garret Hardin, then he would have known what was coming. The game theory called ‘the tragedy of the commons’ tells you all you need to know. Capitalism, if it is to work at all, must not let the self interest of individuals go unchecked but there must be mechanisms to protect us from the excesses that lead from people’s self interest. It is not very complicated and the fact that Alan Greenspan who was chairman of the Fed for all those years didn’t understand this shows that either he was irretrievably stupid or that capitalism is a hopelessly blind ideology. Well I think in this case it both factors came into play. Now, I am a socialist and an idealist and I can live with the idea of a mixed economy for now, perhaps that is all that the human psyche is prepared for at this moment in history. But it is finally time for people to wake up and understand that certain elements of society simply don’t function if left to the self-interest of individuals or corporations, period! Time to wake up from the dream Stephen Harper and see what so many of us have know for ages, capitalism is on its way out.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A message to Capitalist...

A message from the socialists to the capitalists......WE TOLD YOU SO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Harper is a Fascist.

Well, I have written quite a number of these blog entries in the lead up to the federal election, and I am not sure that there is much left to say. Things look bad and I fear the worst. I feel like decent citizens must have felt in 1933 in the Weimar Republic as the Fascists were threatening to take control. …Yea, that’s right, I have just made and implicit comparison between this Conservative government and the Fascist parties of Europe in the 1930s. It may sound provocative but I believe that the correlation is clear and demonstrable. Let’s see, shall we…. One of the over-riding characterizes of European fascism (as defined in this case by Mussolini) was a profound cooperation between big-business (particularly finance capital) and the government. Well, this coloration is clear. Another similarity is that Fascist parties were secretive and centralized, often with one man or small group of men exercising complete control of the organization and precluding others from speaking. Sound familiar? The Conservatives have, like the Fascists did, consistently undermine democratic processes and institutions. In this case we just have to think of the Conservatives saying on a number of occasions that they would ignore bills legally passed by the House of Commons, as well as recall the hand-book they wrote and distributed to their committee chairs instructing them how to thwart committee business that they didn’t like and even close committees down. Another important similarity between the Conservatives and fascists is their efforts to foster fear of crime and social disorder as a way of gaining support. The Conservatives have done this, by the way, while crime rates have consistently gone down. This brings us to another important fascist tendency; the maintenance of some frightening foreign group, “the other,” to which we can direct our attentions to create the fear that our culture is somehow in danger. Stephen Harper, following Bush’s lead, has done this quite effectively. Another fascist method of control shared by the Conservatives is the effort to marginalize the opposition by suggesting that they are treasonous or unpatriotic. Remember how Stephen Harper consistently suggested that the Liberals were pro-Taliban just because they wanted to talk about the mission in Afghanistan? Then there is, of course, the fascist effort to continually increase military spending, an effort which is in some sense tied to every one of the above points. And let’s not forget the fascist tendency to attack and victimize vulnerable groups, and their association of Homosexuality with the moral degeneration of society. Fascism also usually included some basic level of racism. Just yesterday a Conservative candidate in Calgary was caught making racist comments. And all of this is done against the backdrop of a pseudo-populism that attempts to create the illusion that their efforts are based in a grass-roots ground-swell of support.

Now, of course, things are different today than they were in the 1930s. Today overt militarism and racism are socially unacceptable so they have to be kept under wraps and hidden. Just as the Conservative’s racism is hidden in their recent immigration bill. What I am pointing to is what political scientist Bertram Gross referred to as ‘Friendly Fascism’ in his 1980 book by that name. But make no mistake, there is a direct correlation between Harper’s government and fascism. And while other parties in Canada my be guilty of one or two of these tendencies, only the Conservative party has display all of them in a systematic manner. And the scariest similarity between now and Germany in the 1930s in particular is that the opposition is weak and divided making disaster almost inevitable.

Harper is a Fascist.

Well, I have written quite a number of these blog entries in the lead up to the federal election, and I am not sure that there is much left to say. Things look bad and I fear the worst. I feel like decent citizens must have felt in 1933 in the Weimar Republic as the Fascists were threatening to take control. …Yea, that’s right, I have just made and implicit comparison between this Conservative government and the Fascist parties of Europe in the 1930s. It may sound provocative but I believe that the correlation is clear and demonstrable. Let’s see, shall we…. One of the over-riding characterizes of European fascism (as defined in this case by Mussolini) was a profound cooperation between big-business (particularly finance capital) and the government. Well, this coloration is clear. Another similarity is that Fascist parties were secretive and centralized, often with one man or small group of men exercising complete control of the organization and precluding others from speaking. Sound familiar? The Conservatives have, like the Fascists did, consistently undermine democratic processes and institutions. In this case we just have to think of the Conservatives saying on a number of occasions that they would ignore bills legally passed by the House of Commons, as well as recall the hand-book they wrote and distributed to their committee chairs instructing them how to thwart committee business that they didn’t like and even close committees down. Another important similarity between the Conservatives and fascists is their efforts to foster fear of crime and social disorder as a way of gaining support. The Conservatives have done this, by the way, while crime rates have consistently gone down. This brings us to another important fascist tendency; the maintenance of some frightening foreign group, “the other,” to which we can direct our attentions to create the fear that our culture is somehow in danger. Stephen Harper, following Bush’s lead, has done this quite effectively. Another fascist method of control shared by the Conservatives is the effort to marginalize the opposition by suggesting that they are treasonous or unpatriotic. Remember how Stephen Harper consistently suggested that the Liberals were pro-Taliban just because they wanted to talk about the mission in Afghanistan? Then there is, of course, the fascist effort to continually increase military spending, an effort which is in some sense tied to every one of the above points. And let’s not forget the fascist tendency to attack and victimize vulnerable groups, and their association of Homosexuality with the moral degeneration of society. Fascism also usually included some basic level of racism. Just yesterday a Conservative candidate in Calgary was caught making racist comments. And all of this is done against the backdrop of a pseudo-populism that attempts to create the illusion that their efforts are based in a grass-roots ground-swell of support.

Now, of course, things are different today than they were in the 1930s. Today overt militarism and racism are socially unacceptable so they have to be kept under wraps and hidden. Just as the Conservative’s racism is hidden in their recent immigration bill. What I am pointing to is what political scientist Bertram Gross referred to as ‘Friendly Fascism’ in his 1980 book by that name. But make no mistake, there is a direct correlation between Harper’s government and fascism. And while other parties in Canada my be guilty of one or two of these tendencies, only the Conservative party has display all of them in a systematic manner. And the scariest similarity between now and Germany in the 1930s in particular is that the opposition is weak and divided making disaster almost inevitable.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The distruction of beauty.

I was driving along the Rideau river today and looking at the beauty of the changing foliage as it notifies us of the gradual shift in the season. I was elated by the warmth of the sun and the easy feeling that autumn is always so willing to offer up. I saw a Crane rise slowly out of the water against the soft blue background of the sky and disappear across the river to some unknown destination. I thought of the sweet innocence of my daughter’s face this morning as she jumped on the school and the smile that tickled her lips as she looked back at me over her shoulder. I considered the remarkable poetry of Coleridge that I have read lately and the depth of feeling that is available to us through the historical voice of our greatest poetic voices.

Then, from the corner of my cheerful eye, I caught sight of a Conservative election sign and I was overcome by a wave of nausea as I was brought back to the ground from my lofty heights. And I was forced to recall the terrible events of the last few weeks, and indeed over the last two and a half years as the Conservatives have slowly chipped away at the potential beauty of life. I thought about how almost every controversy or gaff in which the conservatives have been involved has demonstrated their fundamental meanness and dark and twisted way in which they look at society and the world. Think of it; while other parties have lost candidates to foolish mistakes like smoking to much marijuana, the Conservatives have been constantly caught making mean-spirited, cruel, and malicious comments about their opponents or some vulnerable group in society. The real tragedy of human life is not that events occur that cause human pain and hardship. Rather, the tragedy is that it has become acceptable, nay, even fashionable, to not only ignore these hardships but to cruelly persecute those who have suffered from misfortune. It is regrettable that the mean-spirited ideology of the Conservative party is being enshrined in our very system.

Despite the efforts of the great poets, despite the odes of Horace and the sonnets of Shakespeare, despite the most sensitive humanity of so many lovers and artists, caretakers of the human spirit, even with all these efforts, still the ruthless goons of pettiness and meanness can twist the fortitude of our endeavors into the basest coarseness of commerce and utility until there is nothing left of the beauty of life’s potential.

Charisma and leadership

We are all asking ourselves – ‘Must we watch Canadian democracy be destroyed because Mr. Dion has no Charisma?’ Because this is what it all comes down to. If the leader of the Liberal Party was a charismatic speaker with style who imbued people with a sense of confidence and hope, the Conservatives would have no change and would be lagging badly in this election. But then maybe it does come down to leadership, because a good leader is able to take advantage of his opposition’s inadequacies, And the record of the Conservative Government is so terrible that if the opposition had any kind of leadership, everyone in the country would be talking about their awful scandals and their fundamental attacks on democracy. But no one is talking about those things because the Liberals seem to have no chutzpah. I am not a big fan of Jack Layton but at least he is running some kind of campaign and trying to remind people just how terrible Stephen Harper has been. But then maybe the Liberals don’t really want to win. After all, if Harper just got another minority, then six or seven months from now Harper will have proven just how hopeless he is in taking care of the economy and will have destroyed any chance he had of securing a majority.

But then if we Canadians are looking down the barrel at another Conservative government just because the liberal leader has no charisma, we are surely luckier than the American public who are facing another Republican president simply because the Democratic candidate is an African American. Because make no mistake, if a Democratic candidate had come along with the style, charisma, and background of Obama – and he were white: he would now be so far ahead of McCain that the election would have already been decided.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Market disasters and government bailouts

Why is it that over the past one hundred plus years, every time so-called conservatives and the right-wing deregulate markets and let ‘capitalism’ move unfettered, they bring us to the brink of total economic collapse? It happens over and over again. In the past century some of the major meltdowns have been 1907, 1929, 1987, and now 2008. And here is the kicker: every time this happens, the free-market gurus called in the government to bail them out and save them from ruin! This is the government that they never tire of telling us is inefficient and totally useless. Well, if it is so useless why does the market need it so often to come to the rescue? There are, of course, a few simple answers to this question. First of all, ‘free’ markets are a myth like the Yeti or his north-American cousin the Sasquatch. Almost no one has really believed in ‘free’ markets for well over a hundred years. What conservatives and the right-wing really believe in are selectively controlled and regulated markets designed to maintain the profitability of banks and large corporations. If we really had a ‘free’ market the system would collapse before you could say ‘junk-bonds,’ leading to mass-starvation and chaos. The reason that the Right pretends to believe in ‘free’ markets is because it creates a smokescreen for the so-called conservative agenda in which the rich get richer and average people get the shaft. And the poor saps who buy this imaginary ideology keep voting for the right-wing which works against the interest of the vast majority of people. But of course the right-wing, market gurus are happy to use the tax money of this majority to bail the ‘market’ out of disaster.

The fact is that markets, even well regulated ones, simply don’t work very well, particularly in areas of society concerned with ‘social’ interests like education or health-care. When markets are allowed to even partially function in these areas of society they only serve to highlight the discrepancy between rich and poor. When are the people going to wake up to the lies that the right-wing has been peddling all this time about inefficient and useless governments and the divine perfection of the market? But I suspect that not enough people will realize the sham and if the government is able to bail out the system again this time, twenty or so years from now we will be right back where we started with the useless and inefficient government once again saving the infallible market!

Make no mistake, Stephen Harper’s entire ideology is giant confidence trick perpetrated with smoke, mirrors, and misdirection. It is time for us to stand up and admit that markets need more regulations not less, and market forces need to be kept out or more parts of our society to avoid social inequality and disaster.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Harper, the new Hoover

Well, a growing number of economists are beginning to discredit Stephen Harper on the economic portfolio. The recent declines in the stock-markets will only begin to manifest themselves in the economy in a clear way through the winter and into the spring. But Harper has made it clear that, like many conservatives, he has forgotten the lessons taught to us by the great depression. Harper imagines the market, left to its own devices, will somehow solve the very problems that it created in the first place. Does this sound familiar to any of you? For years Herbert Hoover told the suffering and destitute of the United States in the 1930s that they just had to wait for the market to solve their problems. And while Hoover enjoyed the very best that life could offer, the destitute became evermore desperate. Well just today Mel Watkins, Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Toronto, wrote that “Stephen Harper looks like Herbert Hoover who brought us the Great Depression.” Now to give Mr. Hoover, who has long passed from this world and is therefore not here to defend himself, a fair hearing, he was not as committed to laissez-faire ideology as is sometimes claimed; he did make certain legislative efforts to stop the crisis in the economy. However, Hoover, like Harper didn’t understand that the economy in such a deteriorating state requires intervention en masse to stop a downward spiral. But perhaps more importantly, no matter how bad things got for average people Hoover would never commit to any serious legislative relief for those suffering the ill-effects of the depression because he believed that it would create an atmosphere of dependence. This ideological claptrap continues to be shared by most conservatives and is a particularly strong among Harper and his old-boy’s network. Even if one believes this, which I don’t and I think it is demonstrably incorrect, surely it only applies under fairly ideal conditions. After all, when people are drowning and stranded after a flood, no one says ‘let those people caught in the flood’s path work it out for themselves, if we save them now they will just become dependent on that help.” We don’t say it because a basic level of human compassion requires that we are, at some very essential level, our brother’s and sister’s keeper. Hoover opposed legislative intervention because at some simple level he did not understand the basic lessons of Christian compassion. Harper suffers from the same disease. Christianity is in fact fundamentally inconsistent with real laissez-faire ideology for the simple reason that the economy is a product of ‘man’ not of God; we create it and work it; it does not happen by some sort of magic. If we save drowning people from a flood, commonly thought of as an act of God, why would we hesitate to save people from an economic disaster which is an act of ‘man.’ Harper is like Hoover because he doesn’t understand the very basic elements of Humanity and compassion. The coming crisis demands the same kind of intervention and compassion that Roosevelt practiced, otherwise in a few years from now tens of thousands of people will loose their houses, their livelihoods, and their happiness; and Harper will suffer the same kind of historical verdict with which Hoover has rightly been branded.
Harper and Hoover; two conservative peas in a pod.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Conservative malevolence and Liberal incompetence

As badly as the Conservatives have done in almost every respect, it is remarkable that anyone, even dyed-in-the-wool supporters, would vote for a conservative candidate. The primary source of my surprise is found in the horrendous way in which the conservatives have handled the economy, the area where they have always lauded themselves as the most effective party. Their failure on the economy is probably the primary reason that they called this snap-election (which they promised never to call early in their own party-political interests), because they are fully aware that by spring Canada will be in a deep recession, leaving them no chance at reelection. (Of course, we cannot overlook the possibility that their total failure to ensure economic prosperity has been part of their plan which, coupled with their corporate tax-cuts which have brought them to the brink of a deficit, would give them the excuse they wanted to make even deeper cuts to social programs and instigate private healthcare.) Anyway as blind as conservative voters are to the simple facts of Harper’s lies and incredible incompetence, we cannot overlook the total ineptitude of the Liberal party to run any campaign, even an ineffective one! They have continually, even before the election was called, let the Conservatives set the agenda and terms of debate on almost every issue. They have done almost no advertising, and what they have done has been remarkably ineffectual. They have watched as a Prime-minister who has nearly bankrupted the country, is wallowing in numerous horrendous scandals, and who has the personal charm of a komodo-dragon, and they have done nothing! Meanwhile the Conservatives have continually attacked Dion’s character without any fear of a response. The Liberals have given the notion of ‘swift-boating’ a whole new dimension! The Liberals will lose this election to the most incompetent, most draconian, coldest, most malevolent Prime Minister this country has ever seen while they are sitting on their hands doing less than nothing!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Harper (with apologies to Steve Martin)

I believe that Stephen Harper can make this country what it once was … an arctic wasteland devoid of life!

Conservatism and history

I have trouble understanding the conservative mindset. Almost every good idea since the dawn of time has been opposed by conservatives. In the modern era conservatives opposed the abolition of slavery, universal suffrage, legislation protecting people in the workplace (even children), the vote for women, almost every social welfare program, universal education, universal healthcare, environmental restrictions etc. Face it, if we had listened to conservatives since, say, 1750, slavery would still be legal, only rich white male property owners would have the vote, women would still have more or less the status of property, and children would still be working in factories. Anyone who denies this is simply denying some simple facts of history. Most of the positive social legislative ideas we enjoy today, from education to the five day work week, exists today because radical people on the left conceived the idea and then struggled for it. Conservatives only accept these ideas fifty or a hundred years after they are instituted by liberal or left-leaning governments. The tragedy now is that, through massive propaganda efforts, help from the religious right, and great influxes of money from large corporations, conservatives are actually now slowly trying to dismantle many of the ideas that we have taken for granted. They are dismantling health-care, education, and they are even slowly attempting to dismantle the fundamental elements of democracy. If the conservatives have their way workers will lose all their legislative protections, only the rich will get an education, and democratic accountable government will slowly disappear.

History continued

It is history that people have trouble with; they have trouble learning lessons from the past and placing those lessons in their own time. If they could see history more effectively they would know what the forces of conservatism have meant in the past, and they would know the dangers that they represent for the future. Even Edmund Burke, the conceptual founder of modern Toryism, as brilliant as he was, was unable to place himself in historical context. He had spoken so eloquently in defense of the established powers of society, and had helped to define the modern notion of conservatism and yet when it came time for him to retire, Lords Bedford and Lauderdale had opposed the granting of his pension on the grounds that it was contrary to his own principles of conservatism. Many of the people who today vote conservative will eventually suffer its wrath when their children or grand-children can no longer afford health-care or get an education, or eventually they will lose their most basic and fundamental rights. There was a time, not that long ago, when people were chained to their machines in factories. The only thing that saved us from these worst excesses of capitalism were people who sacrificed their lives in the trade-union struggle against the forces of conservatism. Read history and don’t be fooled by conservatives who have us march headlong into the past.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Destroying Democracy

The real tragedy of the Harper government is not the recession that they have brought upon the country and the incredible tax breaks and subsidies they have given large corporations, ensuring that the government cannot buffer the country against the deepening economic crisis. (People should now realize that the Conservatives are not nearly as fiscally responsible as they claim) The real tragedy is that the Harper government has systematically taken the government out of the hands of the people, centralized it and made it significantly less accountable. Besides giving ministers greater powers, and outlining specifically how committee chairs can disrupt the democratic process, the government has made specific moves to ensure that government can function with greater secrecy without citizen access. One significant move that Harper and his cronies made was to end the Constitutional Challenge program, ensuring that governments can institute almost any policy without fear that their efforts will be overturned by the supreme court. Another move that will significantly impact how governments function in the future is Harper’s total failure to enact a meaningful accountability act. The pitiful Accountability act that the government did bring in was nothing but a smokescreen to create the appearance of accountability. Judge John Gomery specifically said that Harper’s effort to centralize the PMO is a ‘danger to democracy.’ To paraphrase Gomery – just because you call something an accountability act doesn’t mean is intended to create accountability! Other things that the government has done to destroy democracy include making freedom of information significantly more difficult, undermined organizations that work to protect women’s and minority rights, and, perhaps most tragically, destroyed almost all government funded adult literacy programs. In a democracy knowledge is power, keeping a population in ignorance has always been one of the favored ways for right-wing governments to undermine the democratic process. Even going back to men like William Pitt and Edmund Burke, Tories have done everything they could to undermine the spread of knowledge and education to ensure their continuing power. In two years of Harper’s leadership democracy has suffered a terrible blow, a Harper majority will debilitate democracy in Canada, perhaps irretrievably.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Heil the Fuhrer!

"Sieg Heil!"

If Harper gets his majority we will all learn our place in the New Order of Canada! Be afraid .... be very afraid!

What will happen

If the Tories win a majority, I am seriously considering hanging myself before they do it for me.

Harper on the NDP

Stephen Harper, in a speech to the Council for National Policy, said that ‘the NDP is a kind of proof that the Devil lives and interferes in the lives of men.’ (Now, despite Mr. Harper’s obvious sexism, I will give him the benifit of the doubt that he also thinks that the devil interferes in the lives of women) Anyway, let’s look at what this statement really means. Mr. Harper believes that the New Democratic Party is a demonic organization, the policies of which are inspired by Beelzebub. Of course, the statement does not make it clear in what capacity or to what degree Lucifer has guided the workings of the NDP. After all, many levels of interference are possible. Mr. Harper might simply think that the devil is responsible for Jack Layton’s mustache, or might assume that the entire leadership of the Party are agents of Satan. Or perhaps he believes that Jack Layton is the himself the Prince of Darkness, spreading his message of evil through environmental policies and the guarantee of universal childcare. I guess it’s a stretch but I can see it. It’s like this; the federal Government makes childcare available to any family that wants it. This means that the financial burden on parents is greatly alleviated and suddenly a lot more women go out and pursue greater levels of education and career opportunities. Not only do these women quickly realize that their husbands are a bunch of beer-swilling bums who spend most of their time watching sports but they are faced with the fact that men get paid significantly more for the same work. These realizations leads women to band together in groups which, naturally, leads women en masse to choose to turn to lesbianism as a ‘life-style.’ In turn, the traditional family begins to disappear and the general morality of society breaks down, creating perfect conditions for the Prince of Darkness to swoop in and capture the souls of Canada’s unsuspecting population. Thus we can establish that there is a direct causal link between NDP policy and Satan’s reign on earth. If affordable childcare can have this devastating effect on society, imagine what could happen if we had guaranteed income for seniors, insured that anyone who needed medication could get it, demanded that corporations be more responsible for their actions, created more stringent environmental regulations, and finally ensured that the people of the First Nations had clean drinking water! Satan would have a field-day!

Don't forget the Tory history

Two hundred years ago Stephen Harper would have been the type of man who opposed the abolition of slavery on the grounds that it would have hurt British enterprise in the Caribbean. (A prime reason given against men like William Wilberforce and John Clarkson by Tories that abolitionist efforts were misguided.)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Don't Vote for Harper

Why People Shouldn’t Vote for Harper

Let’s forget for a moment whether one agrees or disagrees with the various policies of the Conservative Party. Frankly I am appalled by a number of policies of every party. And lets forget for the moment that Harper consistently lied about various issues like taxing of income trusts. Any party in power is going to be guilty of lying about a few issues if for no other reason than certain realities of governing are going to be a surprise even to the most ideological or experienced party leaders. One might notice that there is a great irony in the fact that the Conservatives built their entire public image on the notion that they were more honest and dependable than the Liberals but there are no surprises here. The over-riding reason that no one – no matter what your politics – should not vote for Harper’s government is very simple: They have shown time and again they have no respect for the sovereignty of parliament! On more than one occasion when the House has passed a bill that the Government doesn’t like or agree with, Harper has explicitly stated that they will simply ignore the law! A Government that has said that it is not bound by the will of the House has said in essence that it is not bound by the will of the people. Such a government has made it clear that they are not bound by democracy and has therefore lost the right to govern. When Harper’s Government said that it would ignore the House concerning the principles of the Kyoto accord or the issue of the lowering of the Flag, it showed that as long as the democratic process leads to results it doesn’t like, these results will be willfully and flagrantly ignored. (And, by the way, the Harper Government has shown that they will also ignore the results of international democratic process as well.)This is the stuff of which dictatorships are made. People who believe in democracy should never vote for a party or government that doesn’t believe in democracy!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Green Shift part II

I don't want anyone to imagine by my last posting that, because I criticized the Liberal Green Shift plan, I in any way agree with the Conservatives on this issue. The conservative attitude is to simply ignore the problem, give tax breaks to the rich and keep saying in the media that their plan is working even when they have no plan. I think besides providing positive incentives for people to go green, and taking an active part in developing new technologies outside of the so-called free market, the government needs to make radical new regulations on corporations like car makers. Tell Ford and GM for example that they need to have all new vehicles get 80 or 100 miles to the gallon in 5 years and that half the vehicles they produce or import have to be electric or hydrogen. They will complain and finally admit to us that they have no ability to innovate but they will get on with it if they have to. We also need absolute caps on emissions from industry. I think regulation and caps are the flip side of positive incentives. Nathan Cullen is correct when he says without absolute caps any green plan is just a shell game.

The irony of the whole think is that Harper attacks Dion's plans suggesting that they can never be revenue neutral, yet his shift in taxes just favours the corporations and the rich. Maybe the Liberal plan cannot be revenue neutral but the Conservatives have given so many tax breaks to the wealthy and they have undermined government revenue so badly that now that a recession is coming they are helpless to stop it. Herbert Hoover would be proud!

Liberal 'Green Shift'

Ok, now that Dion has outlined his so-called ‘Green Shift’ I can admit there is something very fundamental that I just don’t understand. First of all I don’t really believe that it could be revenue neutral because the rich always seem to fair better in any tax change, and tax credits for rural and low-income Canadians won’t really make the difference. But let’s just say, for the moment, that it could. Here is the problem I just don’t get; if the objective is to reduce carbon usage by taxing carbon usage what happens if it works and people and corporations reduce en masse the amount of carbon they consume. Won’t this mean a sudden and radical reduction in Government revenue? And if this is true, won’t the government have to go right back and increase the very tax breaks they bring in with the ‘Green Shift’? I think there are other problems with such a plan and I think negative incentives are never as effective as positive ones. Take, for example, the recent rise in gas prices; are they really causing significant reductions in overall gas usage? And even if they are, they reduce recreational usage such as vacation trips which in turn hurts other parts of the economy. I believe the only real way forward is a massive ‘positive’ shift in incentives including radical and direct government investment in new technologies and huge tax breaks and credits on purchasing green appliances, cars, furnaces etc. But even if the Liberal ‘Green Shift,’ which relies on negative incentives were to works over a long period of time, there will have to be a constant shift in the bureaucracy to compensate for the reduction in revenue that obtains from the reduction in usage. It just seems a little bit backward to me. And, by the way, this is the main reason I have no faith in the Green Party of Canada; almost of its proposals involve radically negative incentives, and despite prevailing wisdom, I don’t think they are nearly as effective as positive ones.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


It always makes me laugh when someone, usually a Tory, appeal to the so-called ‘free-market.’ There is no challenge or problem faced by society for which someone won’t offer the market as a solution. From health-care to endangered animals, some people think the market will solve all the problems; or at least that is what they say. The problem is that for all the talk, virtually no one really believes in a free market. Modern society is more heavily regulated than any in history and in the case of most of these regulations even the most ardent Tory or free-marketer are not willing to dispense with them. For example, when people talk about the market as a way of solving health-care issues, what they really mean is that we should create a situation in which large multi-national corporations can make more money out of the people’s illnesses and suffering. When was the last time you heard some free-marketer suggest that anyone should be able to offer their services as a doctor or sell home-made drugs to treat illness? Never, I am willing to wager. This is because no one really believes in a free-market; period. Every part of capitalist exchange in our society is heavily regulated and very few people would have it otherwise. Anyone who has tried to start a small business knows first-hand just how regulated things really are. Regulations determine what you can sell, where you can sell, how you can advertise what you can sell, etc. In fact, our so-called markets are so thoroughly regulated and controlled that I wager that Adam Smith would not even recognize our mode of production and distribution as free-market at all. It has been a while since I read the Wealth of Nations but I do recall that Smith was careful to distinguish between the ‘market’ and ‘capitalism.’ The market is a place where we exchange goods and services, but capitalism is a mode of production that is nationally based and one that the state helps to maintain in the national interest. (I think most people, including free-marketers would be surprised to realize the degree to which Smith embraced 19th century nationalism)

Now, I am not saying this to suggest that I object to regulations of markets, far from it. I mention it because once you start paying attention and realize that these free-marketers don’t really believe in free-markets at all, you are suddenly struck by the question; “what are these people really going on about then?” Well, if you take a close look at the economy in which we live, it doesn’t take much analysis to understand what is going on. Tories and ‘free-marketers’ drag out their inane, tired arguments about the market whenever they see an opportunity for big capital to make more money, or see a threat against big capital continuing to ensure their profits. And when you see the sorts of people who are involved in many Western governments, and you see the ties they have to oil companies, mineral companies, pharmaceuticals, developers, etc., the issue becomes frighteningly clear. In recent years these relations have, in many cases become embarrassingly obvious. Bush’s ties to big oil and the Saudi Royal family, and Dick Cheney’s connection to Haliburton are only the most public examples. And it is this connection between so-called free-market governments and big business that makes the whole thing seem to be a tragic-comedy. Because parties like the Conservatives in Canada, the Tories in Britain, and the Republicans in the US, almost never make significant changes in the market that benefit small business people, yet these are consistently the core of their support. There is a mass-hallucination in Western society that causes people to suffer from the delusion that Right-wing governments are ‘fiscally responsible’ and in favour of free-markets. And our hallucinations are constantly fed by media sources that help to perpetrate them. These illusions are closely tied to another prevailing unquestionably accepted notion in modern Capitalism, to wit: that private corporations can do anything that governments do, only more efficiently. The prevailing acceptance of this idea is confirmation of the adage; ‘tell a lie often enough and people will believe it.

I remember seeing Noam Chomsky asked in an interview if he thought there were any real alternatives to a ‘free-market’ system, and he replied , “Yes, the system we have now.” The fact is that we already live in a system that has little to do with the ‘free-market.’ Thus socialist alternatives are not really radical ideas to pursue within the confines of our current mode of production and distribution.

So next time some Tory of free-marketer appeal to some principle of the free-market, just laugh in their face because they are only interested in market driven solutions when the price of access to that market is substantial enough that average people have no chance of actually benefiting from it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

On Scholarly Honesty

Essay iv of Coleridge’s The Friend concludes with a – word sentence that is remarkable in its form as well as content. Wordsworth was known to have admired this particular sentence for its ‘architecture’ and was said to have been cited by a statesman, perhaps George Canning. It is a sentence from which we can learn both grammatically and ethically. And although Coleridge did not always live up to it himself, it is a welcome recommendation. The sentence addresses the question of intellectual integrity in the process of scholarship. Coleridge writes;

“As long therefore as I obtrude no unsupported assertions on my Readers; and as long as I state my opinions and the evidence which induced or compelled me to adopt them, with calmness and that diffidence in myself, which is by no means incompatible with a firm belief in the justness of the opinions themselves; wile I attack no man’s private life from any cause, and detract from no man’s honors in his public character, from the truth of his doctrines, or the merits of his compositions, without detailing all my reasons and resting the result solely on the arguments adduced; while I moreover explain fully the motives of duty, which influenced me in resolving to institute such investigations; while I confine all asperity of censure, and all expressions of contempt, to gross violations of truth, honor, and decency, to the base corrupter and the detected slanderer; while I write on no subject which I have not studied with my best attention, on no subject which my education and acquirements have incapacitated me from properly understanding; and above all while I approve myself, alike in praise and blame, in close reasoning and in impassioned declamation, a steady FRIEND to the two best and surest friends of all men, TRUTH and HONESTY; I will not fear an accusation of either Presumption of Arrogance from the good and the wise, I shall pity it from the weak, and despise it from the wicked.”

Friday, June 13, 2008

Supreme Court just pulls it out.

We should all be happy that the US Supreme Court finally made it clear yesterday that the Constitution must be upheld and that the Bush regime cannot simply place some people outside of the reach of the courts and basic human rights. But even though we should be relieved, we should not be complacent. The Supreme Court decision was by no means unanimous and Justice Scalia wrote a shocking dissenting opinion which further tried to fire the flames of fear, a strategy which Bush and his cronies have relied on to dismantle the Constitution. What we should find frightening is the fact that the Supreme Court only defended the Constitution by the skin of its teeth.

This should remind us in Canada that we have a government that models itself on the Bush Regime and would emulate it in any way that it is able to. Stephen Harper never tires of condemning so-called ‘legislation from the bench’ and would love to curtail the powers of the courts to defend us from the arbitrary power of his tyrannical government. The US Supreme Court has barely been able to prevent the United States from falling into what is essentially a kind of neo-fascism in which people can no longer rely on the fact that they are free of arbitrary search, seizure, incarceration, and even torture. And even though Harper, like Bush, is happy to use to the courts to his advantage wherever possible, he instantly condemns courts whenever they make decisions that contradict his Machiavellian plans. The Harper government has shown time and again that it has nothing but contempt for democratic processes and for the sovereignty of the courts and Parliament. It should be clear to anyone that is paying attention that if he could possibly suspend the power of Parliament and the courts he certainly would. Harper would relish in absolute power, and the people who would suffer under his yoke would be the poor, the physically and mentally challenged, visible minorities, gay and lesbian people; essentially anyone who does not fit into his crypto-fascist, big-business capitalist agenda.

I am glad that the US Supreme Court has been able to uphold, for the time being, the rule of law and the Constitution. But we must not be complacent because Neo-Conservatives everywhere are chipping away at our rights and, given time, they could take control of the courts and ensure that we have no defence against the arbitrary exercise of government power.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Coleridge, Plagiarism, and Authorship

"A mixture of lies doth ever add pleasure." -Coleridge, "The Friend" essay 1

I have been reading a great deal lately about Samuel Taylor Coleridge, English Romantic poet a philosopher. Coleridge was a remarkably interesting man and not only changed the course of English poetry but had an important influence on literary theory and indirectly on philosophy. There is a great deal of controversy concerning Coleridge’s alleged plagiarism, particularly of various passages of German idealist philosophy. In the 1970s Norman Furman wrote an exhaustive text on this subject entitled Coleridge: Damaged Archangel, a phrase that he took from the great essayist Charles Lamb who was a friend of Coleridge. Personally, despite all the work that Furman put into his book which runs to some 500 pages, I believe that the majority of Coleridge’s plagiarism can be put down to a combination of his opium use, a rather disorganized and muddled mind, and simple scholarly carelessness. I say this because Coleridge’s brilliance is something agreed upon by supporters and detractors alike, and his direct plagiarism is often surrounded by sophisticated and ground-breaking analysis and summery that, if it were just properly foot-noted would, on its own, constitute important and original work. He had, therefore, little to gain by lucid and conscious plagiarism of the work of German philosophers that he had a more thorough knowledge of than any other thinker in England at the time.

Another interesting issue in the literary biography of Coleridge is his habit of changing the dates of certain poems or even fabricating stories surrounding the writing of certain work. The most famous example of this is the story he told about the creation of his renowned poem Kubla Khan, which he claimed was revealed to him all at once in a opium induced sleep. Upon being interrupted by a mysterious person from Porlock, Coleridge claims that he lost his connection to this nether world and was unable to complete the poem which ever remained a fragment.
What I find most interesting about both these issues is not the hard facts about the degree to which Coleridge’s plagiarism was conscious or not, nor whether or not some of Coleridge’s greatest poems were really written under the influence or drugs or not. In the end these are issues that probably cannot be settled anyway and what matters more than the facts is the way you choose to look at the life and work of this remarkable man. What all of these issues really point to is the degree to which the facts of ‘authorship’ are really slippery and shadowy issues that seem, at first glance, clear and orderable, but on closer examination are not clear at all.

This idea got me thinking about the concept in literary theory referred to as the ‘intentional fallacy.’ This concept, first used in the forties by Wimsatt and Beardsley, can basically be summed up in the idea that the intention of the author doesn’t really matter when it comes to analysing and understanding a work of art or literature. Over the years this idea gained ever-increasing currency and today, in the atmosphere of post-modernism and deconstruction it is taken as read that an author’s intent is largely irrelevant to a work of literature. Putting together the idea slippery status of authorship as raised by the issues surrounding Coleridge’s work with the notion off the intentional fallacy, I began to think about the creation of a new, more radical concept which we could refer to as the ‘Authorial Fallacy.’ This idea would help to remind us that originality and authorship is never really a clear cut issue and that, despite the current obsession of academic authorities with plagiarism, the lines of authorship constantly blur.

This blurry world of authorship is in large part what makes Samuel Coleridge such an interesting and challenging writer; he created not only stories and ideas but stories about stories and ideas about ideas. Where reality fiction begins and reality ends is never clear and the lines of ‘truth’ are constantly shifting. This is also what might make Coleridge one of the great precursors to post-modern thought.

The great French writer, Lautremont (himself a precursor to the Surrealists) once said; “Plagiarism is necessary; the world demands it!” I wonder when we will catch up to this strange and enigmatic 19th century thinker?