Monday, December 21, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Please don't read this if you are unwilling to engage in respectful and rational political debate.
Saying anything about Israel is, of course, by the very nature of the situation, controversial. But I for one am very tired of the fact that if one is at all critical of Israeli policy you are slapped with the epithet of anti-Semitism. This is simply not right and not conducive to rational political discourse.
I was thinking about this because of Mr. Netanyahu’s recent proposal to stop issuing new building permits for the occupied territories with the notable exception of East Jerusalem. First of all it must be said that the exception of East Jerusalem is designed to thwart progress from the very beginning. It is like swearing to a judge that if he sets you free you will swear to stop committing crimes with the exception of shoplifting. Then you have to ask the question; why is the Israeli state issuing building permits for the occupied territories in the first place? This like the municipal government in Ottawa issuing building permits for contractors in Toronto. Listening to reports about the issue the other day on the radio I was once again appalled at interviews with Israeli citizens who were criticizing Netanyahu for restricting any building since, in their words, ‘the Torah gives them the divine right to build anything they want anywhere in the occupied territories.’ Frankly, you cannot have a real political discussion with this as the post basic assumption.
And all of this reminds me of one of the most basic principles of politics; use your advisories to your advantage. The fact is that nothing generates as much anti-Semitism as the various expansionist acts of the Israeli government. But in a seemingly paradoxical but classic move of political strategy these attitudes are the very thing that keep the State of Israel firmly on its expansionist path. The very last thing that a man like Benjamin Netanyahu really wants is a real decline in anti-Semitism, let alone a cessation of such sentiments. Without these feelings the Israelis would have no serious excuse for continuing their gradual effort to take the entire occupied territories for themselves. This is the way in which the Palestinians are playing right into the hands of right-wing Israelis. But being on the losing end of the stick, so to speak, it is very difficult to do anything else. If you were, say, a twenty-five year old Palestinian you will have never know anything other than occupation. And you will have grown watching your people live in squalor, poverty, and powerlessness in the face of one of the largest, best equipped military forces in the world. All this would be happening against the backdrop of the foreign occupier gradually taking more and more of your people’s land and you are helpless to stop it. It wouldn’t really matter what your politics are in such a case, in most instances the situation would decide for you. And this is the very thing that keeps politicians like Netanyahu going; as long as there are young Palestinians who are seething with resentment at Israeli expansion, and as long as there are people all over the world who sympathize with this resentment, Netanyahu will have the excuse he needs to keep up the policies of building. Under pressure from the Obama administration Netanyahu has temporarily halted the West Bank building. But he knows with all the building that is already going on as well has his exception of East Jerusalem real peace will be impossible – and that is just the way he wants it.
Now, I understand that there are many Israelis who, also having lived in what they feel is a constant state of siege and that they assume that they cannot achieve peace. I think the better of these folks have simply been duped by men like Netanyahu who are willing to take advantage of anti-Semitism (much of which has been generated by such policies in the first place) to see their political goal move forward.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Today I got my weekly update email from my city councilor, a one Mr. Glen Brooks, a man who instead of engaging in real political discourse once sent me an email telling me that on my next vacation abroad I should only purchase a one-way ticket. This weekly update is voicing his support for a legislated wage freeze for public sector workers. Now, Mr. Brooks isn’t all bad, he does make the concession that he thinks that instead of a total freeze he believes that it should be tied to the rate of inflation. Then he makes that always nauseating claim that he too is willing to take a wage freeze. Isn’t that big of him?
Well I will never support a legislative wage freeze because it goes against the very principle of collective bargaining which is one of the central mechanisms responsible for most of the workers’ rights and decent working conditions that people enjoy today. However, I will tell you what Mr. Brooks, if you vote to cut the City Councilor’s pay to the same rate as, say, the person who mops your office floor, then we will talk.
I am sick and tired of right-wing ideologues, whose very political impetus is the pursuit of personal greed, try to prevent people of earning even decent wages that allow them to raise a family and live in acceptable housing. Today’s right-wingers have really come no further than the ideological drivel expounded by Thomas Malthus two hundred years ago have they?! They continue to be guilty of the worst kind of conceptual idiocy and reification while at the same time parading themselves as intellectuals and genuine leaders. Well, my friends, if Edmund Burke, a man of remarkable eloquence and occasional brilliance, couldn’t make right-wing coherent, then what chance do intellectual midgets such as Glen Brooks have? But put the reification aside people; our society does not consist of relations between things but between people. We build our society and we can take control of it as we wish. If our economy is not providing for people, it is not the people that need to change – it is the economy. And anyone who argues that this cannot happen is either hiding their own ideological greed behind conceptual clap-trap, is half-witted, or is the worst kind of materialist (philosophical and economic) and foolishly believes that as human beings we are simply subject to abstract laws of mechanism and have no control over our destiny. But if we can take hold of our individual destinies, then we can administer a significant influence on our collective destiny too. But you see, ironically right-wingers know this or they wouldn’t take part in government and pass legislation etc. It is only when average working people say we need to pass legislation that ensures that they cannot be exploited that right-wingers suddenly set the limits of our legislative possibilities. But this is just an ideological game played by greedy, self-serving people who set the limits of our collective power at the protection of corporations to enhance their bottom-line.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
The waters of politics have become seemingly very muddy in recent years. The traditional terms that people used to rely on like ‘progressive,’ ‘radical,’ and ‘conservative,’ seem less clear than they once did. I started thinking about this because of Sarah Palin’s statement that Canada should dismantle its public health-care system. You see, people who would traditionally be considered ‘conservative’ have tried to portray themselves as somehow ‘radical’ or ‘progressive’ by claiming that they are the ones with new ideas and they don’t want to rely on the old political notions. This is, of course, a ridiculous claim if your so-called ‘new’ ideas are just a return to the past. It is not, in other words, progressive to want to eliminate the gains that radicals brought us through generations of struggle. This would be like the Bourbons in France claiming that they were ‘radicals’ because they wanted to bring back the divine right of kings after the fall of Napoleon. Radicals, you see, seek to preserve the rights and privileges that we have gained and push forward to new and better ones. This is why the political term ‘conservative’ was never very meaningful; most conservatives want to dismantle the gains that we have made in workers’ rights, healthcare, human-rights, social welfare, etc. This is particularly true of the present government in Canada which came to power with what was essentially a ‘secret agenda’ to dismantle every element of responsible government that they possibly could. That is why that haven’t minded running up the country’s largest deficit in history; because they know that it will give them, or future governments, the excuse they need to eliminate social spending, including health-care. And to top that they even want to dismantle other areas of responsible government like freedom of information, the rule of law, ministerial accountability, etc. And since they really want to destroy government and society as we know it, calling them conservative is certainly something of a misnomer. Those who we commonly call conservatives are really just people who want to bring back a time when money and power were what really mattered; when those who were most vulnerable had little or no chance to live decent lives. In other words, they want to return to the law of the jungle or the idea that might makes right. We should, therefore, properly refer to ‘conservatives’ as ‘regressives’ because they want the human species to regress to a more primitive form. As ‘progressives’ we want to see a society in which everyone lives a decent life and everyone has a chance to excel. We don’t think that just because you are born with a ‘disability’ or born a woman or a person of color, or born in the wrong part of town, it should be difficult for you to do well in life. In other words, we want the human species to evolve beyond the law of the jungle to a higher state where compassion, cooperation, and care are the laws to which our society adheres. This is what our political struggle is all about and the reason why we will continue to be the true torchbearers of ‘radicalism.’
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Anyone who has been paying attention to the situation in Afghanistan has hopefully run across the remarkable Afghan woman named Malalai Joya. She is an amazing thirty year old Afghan MP who was suspended from parliament by the dark forces in that country for her outspoken criticism of the foreign occupation, the corruption in government, and president himself. While our government offers platitudes and has the gall to act as though President Karzai has been duly elected, this woman risks her life speaking about what a lie the Western invasion has been. Ms. Joya is an excellent and historic role model for young girls and women and will be proud to teach my own daughter about her life and work.
But one issue that the events surrounding Ms. Joya raises in my mind is the question of the legitimacy of democracy in our age. A great deal of what have come to expect from democracy has vanish slowly before our eyes and has gone unnoticed by many in our society. Extreme events such as those in Afghanistan often give us a glimpse into the real workings behind a process like democracy. And watching such ‘elections’ as those they recently had there illustrate the real failings of the democratic process in the modern world. Ideally a democratic system should be nurtured by a healthy public sphere (now sometime mistermed ‘civil society,’ a term with a long and complex history) in which ideas about the ‘good life’ and our collective future are openly debated in honest meaningful way. However, in recent years such an ideal has receded so far beyond reach that we cannot even talk about a fair process let alone reach that process. Money and power have corrupted the system so severely that the vast majority of people don’t even understand the possibilities of political debate anymore. The influence of money in the process gradually narrows the terms of debate and the essence of our collective possibilities to the point that democracy grows gradually meaningless. It is similar to being stranded on a desert island with, say, twenty people, and three of them have most of the supplies and guns. Even if one attempted to institute a democratic decision making process in such circumstances they would mean little because the three people with the inherent power would easily control the terms of the debate. And these three individuals were also mean-spirited and nasty (as our present leaders here in Canada are) democracy would become completely meaningless.
Ms. Joya reminds us of the courage of some individuals in the face of the threat of death to work for justice. Unfortunately she also reminds us of the corruption of democracy and the degree to which the ideals of democracy are quickly receding.
Monday, November 23, 2009
A number of things are disturbing about the recent outbreak of the story concerning Canada’s role in the torture of so-called Afghan detainees. The first thing that comes to mind regarding the distastefulness of this story (other than the very fact of torture itself) is the fact that this story has been around for years but the media has largely ignored it. Anyone who was paying even the slightest bit of attention to the events in Afghanistan knew full-well that torture has been a matter of course in the prisons of Afghanistan ever since we began to prop-up what is a corrupt, undemocratic, essentially fascist state there. Until Mr. Colvin testified in front of a House committee, the media simply stayed silent on this issue and bought the line of the Harper Government that we have no hard proof and therefore torture must not be happening. Shame on the media one more time for largely ignoring a story until it becomes fashionable. By the way, all reliable sources tell us that torture is also routine in Pakistan, another Canadian ally, and no one talks about that story either. The media has also failed utterly to make it clear that for Government officials to be indictable for war crimes they didn’t actually have to have proof of torture. All that really matters is that detainees were handed over in the presence of a reasonable suspicion of torture. This is the part of the story that the government is most afraid of. Other distasteful elements in this whole story include the Government’s horrendous attempts at assassinating the character of Mr. Colvin as though suddenly this high-placed diplomat is a fool or a patsy because he has been willing to take seriously what everyone already knew. Amnesty International has been an outspoken critic of the Afghan government’s use of torture so why don’t we see Peter Mackay stand up daily in the House of Commons and tell us that Amnesty International has no credibility and is being manipulated by the Taliban.
But by far the most disturbing thing about this whole story is the number of people, who have essentially don't really seem upset by the prospect of a few Taliban prisoners having been tortured because they are only Taliban, and the only thing that really matters is the idea of a cover-up. This is part of a disturbing trend since the events of 911 whereby groups of people are marginalized to the point that they don’t qualify for the very human rights for which we have supposedly been fighting. The fact is that this attitude is the very reason that this has been allowed to happen in the first place. People have systematically ignored the fact that torture has been happening because for far too many in the West the people of Afghanistan don’t really matter. Thousands of civilians have been killed, we have propped-up with military what Malalai Joya calls a photo-copy of the Taliban Government, we have stood by and tacitly endorsed torture, all in the interests of a geo-political struggle to assert Western power in a strategically important region at a strategically important moment in history. Until people realize that this war has never been about helping a few young girls attend school in Afghanistan, the torture that the media has ignored and that Mr. Harper secretly endorses won’t matter.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I am somewhat surprised to see very little in the so-called ‘blogosphere’ being said about the testimony of senior diplomat Richard Colvin in front of a House Committee yesterday. This morning the NDP rightfully called for a full public inquiry concerning the events which Mr. Colvin talked about. For years now people in the intelligence community as well as many in NGOs have been talking about the torture of detainees that have found their way into the hands of the dubious forces of the Afghan government through Canadian hands. Yet any time anyone has asked important questions Harper’s government representatives have marginalized these concerned citizens by openly suggesting that they are naïve lackeys or even unconscious allies of the Taliban. This is, of course, the Harper way; instead of addressing actual concerns about corruption or incompetence they simply attempt to deflect criticism or potential scandal by accusing their accusers. Up to now this technique has been fairly successful, and it may yet work for a while. Eventually, like all such dishonest and centralizing strategies, it will come undone and the government will fall because of some scandal. Of course, the biggest strategy is the precedent that the Harper government will have set for future governments which will feel justified in ignoring scandals and accusing anyone who criticizes the government of being some kind of terrorist or evil-doer.
In the case of this impending scandal, the most distasteful thing I see is that a significant number of Canadians really don’t care if our armed forces or even our government has been directly complicit in torture. There has been a disturbing growth in the number of people who don’t believe that the principles on which our democracies are supposed to be established are to be applied to our supposed foes. However, principles are by their nature always applicable – that is the meaning of the word ‘principle.’ If we do not apply the principles of human rights to everyone, then we simply don’t believe in human rights. If we abandon the principles of rights and the rule of law in the face of some perceived foreign or internal threat, then we have already lost the very fight in which we are claiming to be engaged.
Monday, November 16, 2009
This morning on the CBC they were talking about a steel-workers’ strike. Not surprisingly the strike centered on the restructuring of pensions, an issue that has been inciting labour unrest all over the world in recent years. What struck me in particular was an interview with people around the community of the strike many of whom took the position, summed up by one interviewee, that “there is a new business model and people need to adjust to it, and if that means reductions in, or even elimination of, their pensions, that is just how it goes.” This position, though apparently widely held, strikes me as not only naïve but profoundly dangerous. It is naïve because it fails to recognize that business has always tried to undermine the power, the conditions, and the prosperity of workers. It was not that long ago in Western history that children worked in factories and mines and some workers were literally chained to their machines. And any effort to improve the wages or conditions of these workers, or to legislate the use of child labour, was met with terrifying predictions by business of economic disaster. These terrible conditions still prevail in many countries in the world and anyone who does not understand that business everywhere would be glad to bring back the bad old days is deeply naïve. Even where some people in business would find such regressive moves distasteful, they are structurally compelled to move whenever possible in this direction. What many people fail to understand is that what workers are actively pursuing are not just better conditions for themselves. Workers struggles are for all of us. Today we have rights to decent wages and working conditions because generations of union activists have struggled for these things. And every generation has been derided and cursed by many in the community while their victories have been enjoyed by all people in the labour force.
The prevailing opinion is dangerous because it fails to understand that it is not the people are not there to serve the economy, rather the economy is there to serve people. If we have an economic model that cannot provide adequate wages and decent pensions then it is the model that is wrong not the people. The simple fact is that the vast majority of wealth in every country and all over the world is in the hands of a very small group of people and there is plenty of wealth in the world for everyone to live a decent life and if someone claims that the model is changing in such a way that will not always, say, good wages, pensions, and a safe work environment, then the model must be changed. It is as simple as that. In the days when children worked in factories wealthy business people assured us that if we tried to change the business model it would just end in disaster. But here is the simple fact; the regions of the world which have seen the greatest number of regulations of such things as workers’ safety, environmental standards, and workers’ rights, as well as the strongest efforts at redistribution have seen the highest standards of living. The economics of this, and an idea that many would not like us to understand is that workers rights, high wages, and pensions, instead of being a drag on an economy are overall a impetuous to innovation. This has always been central to the development of capitalism. In fact capitalism grew in part out of the ravages of the black-death which made labour scarcer and more expensive, forcing innovations throughout the productive economy. When labour is expensive capitalists have been forced to innovate which has beneficial side effects for all of us. One of Marx’s most important insights was that the capitalist economy tends toward reification; that is the illusion that the economy is a set of relations between things and not between people. Capitalists will, of course, tell us that any efforts at changing the economic model will be disastrous. But the fact is that the economic model that exists today did not happen spontaneously, it was a creation of individuals acting quite consciously in particular ways. This is evident in the fact that we do not have a ‘free-market’ economy but a highly regulated economy the processes of which have been consciously designed to function in certain ways. The problem today is made more complex by the process of globalization. But it is still essentially the same problem and until people understand that we can make the economy serve the interests of everyone if we choose and as long as we let people promote the myth that the economic model is a force of its own then we will continue to be victims of the brutal self-interest of a small minority of wealthy and powerful people. It is a story as old as civilization which is rehashed for each generation but the struggle will and must continue.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
It is funny that the degree to which people in the media are debating the status of Barak Obama now that he is nearly a year into his term. There is all this surprise that he seems to have done little of any significance and can hardly be said to be a very ‘different’ president from others in recent history. Citics on the left have pointed out that Obama has supported many of the same policies as Bush did including keeping the war machine going (despite a Nobel Prize), spending millions for Wall Street, and even supporting the same kind of domestic spying programs. I have only one question: who was naïve enough to expect anything different? Oh yes, we all had a moment there when we believed in the audacity of hope. But then we regained consciousness. The fact is that the American political system, though democratic in principle, suffers from certain fundamental problems. Without any real party system, the US representatives are reduced to a bunch of individual politicians trying to maintain their little fiefdom; there is no national policy, nothing that the US public can get behind and fight for. Thus even though a strong majority supports a national healthcare program, for example, it can’t get done. Barak Obama isn’t getting anything done because his is one guy trying to get the consensus of hundreds of Representatives and one hundred senators, all who are acting on their own for their own political future. Barak Obama could be the greatest guy in the world and really want to make significant changes and it wouldn’t matter, he could only make these changes if, like FDR, he were willing to go way out on a limb to push a radical agenda, but he is just not that kind of politician. I grew up in the States and I went to high school and grad school there. I met many great people, may radicals who wanted to make changes that to me didn’t even seem very radical. But I realized fairly soon that the US is not unlike the Roman Empire, once power structures have been established and stabilized, and many people have huge amounts of money and prestige to protect, change doesn’t come easy, particularly in a political system which was created to maintain the power of an upper-class (think of the so-called founding ‘fathers’) change will not come easy.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I used to think we were learning something from history but the more I see the more I agree with H.G. Wells; that the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history! I grew up in the US during the tumultuous time of the war in Indo-China. And I thought this would cure the US population from gullibly supporting another neo-imperialist war. But no. The US is now actively involved in two such wars with no end in sight. I guess I used to be naïve about a lot of things. But I am cured now. Not only is Obama a huge fraud who supports many of the policies of George Bush without any of the backlash, but voters everywhere seem to have an infinite capacity to ignore what is going on all around them. Our government in Canada is frighteningly awful. It not only has poisoned the entire political culture of the nation beyond repair, but it lies continually, has abandoned every principle it claimed to stand for, is centralizing power to a dangerous degree, is dismantling democracy in every way that it can, it is hopelessly incompetent and corrupt. And every day they become more popular. Why? Because democracy is an epic failure at the whim of those who have the most money and can manipulate the system most effectively.
And here is the rub. . . if the Conservatives left office today, it would be far too late to save Canada from the damage they have done. The only moment of amusement we have to look forward to is when the next government is in power and it cripples the conservative with the very standards that the Conservatives have instituted. Though amusing, it will be a hollow victory because as often happens the Conservatives will have pushed the political agenda in this country so far to the right that it won’t change for several generations. Have fun. . . .
Monday, October 26, 2009
Blogging has confirmed in my mind at least one particular idea; that one of the primary problems people have in understanding each other and finding creative solutions to our problems is that they think quite firmly within a particular paradigm. The inability to think outside the paradigm in which they are operating makes it very difficult for people to see that certain social interactions or even scientific problems have numerous, sometimes countless, solutions but they are prevented from seeing them because a paradigm, or worldview, is like a hard frame that forms around our thought preventing us from seeing beyond our thought to creative solutions. The philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn wrote extensively about this idea in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. But his conclusions are easily transferable to other areas of society. Ironically, academics are probably some of the people who are most vulnerable to paradigmatic blindness because they are steeped in a certain culture so deeply and because they are well educated they imagine that they are very open minded. It is doubly ironic that the process of peer review continually reinforces this process. Living as I did for many years on the margins of the academic community, I saw this process first hand and was continually shocked by it. But it happens everywhere in our society; in the arts, in politics, in religion, etc. Thus we often discuss things at cross purposes because people can seldom even identify the paradigm in which they are operating and if you don’t even understand that you are operating from a particular world view that is confining the ways and patterns in which you think, breaking out of this will be nearly impossible. Thus we often discuss issues at cross purposes with very little, if any hope, of coming to an understanding because we are operating from conflicting and unidentified world views. People are usually convinced that they are objective and can see all points of view but are only operating in an inter-objective manner, that is, within the confines of their own paradigm what they are arguing makes sense but looked at from another point of view the same argument might be entirely senseless.
I have no solutions for this problem. I just mention it because many of the comments I have received on my blog have been so completely beside the point that it has amazed me. But when I realize that the person is operating in a different paradigm it makes more sense.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
As we all know, one of the primary problems with social and political reform is that those who resist it are driven by powerful egos and are convinced in almost all matters of life that they are correct in their judgments and that anyone who opposes them must be naive and/or stupid. Those who resist reform, who oppose the extension of democracy and the increase in generalized social interests, live in a constant state of irony because they accept major parts of society that were once considered radical and foolish by their political predecessors who would have rejected them as foolish and naïve. Yet they accept these ideas while being convinced that while reforms toward greater social education and health, more worker’s rights and reduction of power for the wealthiest class were fine in the past we have now reached the de facto ‘end of history’ and further reforms will end in total disaster. The conservatives told us that any system of minimum wage would make capitalism explode in total destruction. They told us that women voting would end society. Etc. Etc. Thus conservatives are people who accept radical ideas a hundred years after the rest of us understood them.
But the present class of ‘neo-liberal’ conservatives are much worse than traditional conservatives. A conservative like Edmund Burke, who is often considered the intellectual founder of Toryism, argued that social changes happen slowly through the gradual change in society. He understood at some level the powerful in society had an important social responsibility to society as a whole. Noblesse oblige, if you will. Modern Conservatives like Harper have a whole different M.O. They actually want to turn society backwards to a time when health and education was not universal but was the pleasure of those who could afford it. They want to take away the rights to collective bargaining and legislated safer workplaces. Harper and his ilk would like to take us back to a time when money and class made the decisions about whether some got a decent education or had decent housing. And they believe these things because they are driven by an extreme ego illness that convinces them that they are naturally part of the privileged class by dint of their A-Type personalities and that in a society of extreme inequality they will be somewhere near the top of the heap. This is why Harper never actually talks to average Canadians; he imagines himself as some kind of king who is complete beyond association with such commoners. And when people disagree with Harper or his ministers they get belligerent because they can’t believe that someone has the gall to disagree with them, their opinions must a priori be correct because they are the privileged ones. Thus the Conservatives never actually have a political discourse. They just deride and marginalize everyone else because no one deserve respect except those who agree with them.
This is the poison that has infected the Canadian political system, and democracy itself will be in danger until it has been purged.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
I haven’t blogged much in the past few days because it doesn’t seem worth it anymore, at least not from the political perspective. The NDP has rolled over and become Harper’s lab-dog, the Liberals are running namby-pamby ads which will have no impact at all because it’s like fighting against a guy shooting an Uzi by dancing ballet, and Harper is just getting worse every day. Writing about politics now seems like trying to a have a rational discussion about aerodynamic while the plane is going down, interesting but superfluous.
In light of this I will just mention the books I got in the mail this week. I got a three volume edition of the Letters of the Wordsworth family edited by William Knight, published by Ginn and Company, Boston, 1907. The set is in very good condition but is discarded from the library of Occidental University so the spines are numbered with typical white numbering. It should be interesting to read many of the letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth to some of the other great literary figures of the age. Though I am not a big fan of Wordsworth, he knew a lot of people and writes a surprisingly good letter. This is not, of course, the exhaustive collection of Wordsworth letters. The complete letters are published by Oxford I believe in a multi-volume edition and each volume can cost a couple of hundred dollars. But I am certainly not a Wordsworth expert and am more interested in the letters as background reading concerning the Romantics in general so this set will do for my purposes.
I also received six volumes of the writings of Thomas de Quincey. I already had two of these volumes but I won the set on ebay, and the two new ones are in better shape than the old ones. These published byf Ticknor & Fields of Boston and are part of a nineteen volume set of the complete works of De quincey published in the 1850s. I have never been able to figure out why a publisher like T&F, a company that was well known for their fairly good quality publications, would invest this kind of effort in publishing this multi-volume works of De Quincey. From what I have been able to determine, De Quincey was well known but hardly popular enough to warrant such an elaborate publication, particularly in the US. Interest in the Romantic poets was growing in the 1850s and De Quincey knew all of them and had written a great deal concerning them and their lives. But that would only have taken a couple of volumes, not nineteen of them. And the strange thing about this set is that it doesn’t include any of De Quincey’s correspondence.
De Quincey is, of course, most well known for his book Confessions of an Opium Eater which appeared in the London Magazine in serialized form in the early 1820s. This book quite needlessly exposed the addiction of Coleridge to Opium and was not a very flattering picture of the great poet. But De Quincey in general is quite an enigma and why he wrote certain things is a complete mystery to me. His prose is some of the most complicated of the whole romantic era and can be extremely difficult to read at times. Some of his work is very interesting if you can wade your way through the long digressions and get to heart of the matter. Such complex writing is best read out loud to get the true effect of the pomp of prose. I encourage people to read a biography of De Quincey because he presents such a strange and enigmatic picture that it is always interesting.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Dear Mr. Layton;
For months now I have been defending the NDP while Liberal bloggers have subject it to constant excoriation. Many have said that once Jack Layton thought it was to his advantage to support Harper and his cronies his so-called principles against the Torys would suddenly evaporate. They said that your criticisms of the Liberals for supporting Harper were just empty political games because under pressure you would stand up with some lame excuse to support the Tory government. And though I have never been one of your most outspoken supporters, I foolishly rejected this contention. I assured people that though you are not politically perfect, you would never stoop so low as to keep the worst, most dangerous Prime Minister in Canadian history in office. Imagine my shock and disappointment when I learned that all your talk about Harper being untrustworthy was just political rhetoric? I was doubly shocked to see that you are willing to sell out the people of this country for bogus EI legislation that will do nothing for the vast majority of workers.
If you think average NDP supporters are going to see this as anything less than crass political opportunism you are surely wrong. And all of this begs the question, if you were going to be willing to support the Harper government on something as empty as this EI reform, why did you spend so long criticizing the Liberal Party for doing exactly what you are doing now? Is it just outrageous political incompetence that would drive you to such a public reversal? Are you just so surrounded by yes-men and fools that you can’t see what your actions really mean out here in the world to average people?
What you are doing now Mr. Layton is the very reason that democracy is in crisis. Politicians constantly say one thing and do another. They play political games with constant harsh rhetoric which is suddenly contradicted by their actions. You don’t have to ask yourself why voter turn-out is so low, you need only look in the mirror. People are turned off by this opportunism and hypocrisy.
It is very sad that we now have no real alternative to look to in Ottawa because you are all playing the same game.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
There is a consensus among many people, even some conservatives, that Harper has jettisoned most of his political principles for the sake of political expediency. And indeed, it does appear this way. He certainly didn’t create a more open government, and the biggest deficit in Canadian history brought to us by a man who said he would never run any deficit; these are certainly damning events. Coupled with his appointment of so many political cronies to the senate and the radical increases in taxes (income trusts and HST both mean many people are paying a lot more tax under the CONS) makes Harper look more like a political opportunist than a man of principle. Now, die-hard conservatives will rationalize these policies as necessary compromises given the circumstances, but of course principles, by definition, are not abandoned simply due to difficult circumstances, if they are then they ipso facto are NOT principles.
However, I have begun to wonder whether we might look at this a different way. I think that the only principle that Harper came into office with was to destroy the major gains of our social democracy. Harper and his cronies couldn’t stand that Canada was a country with major social programs that worked fairly effectively, it was eating them up inside because of their cut-throat capitalist ideology and their hatred of anything ‘social.’ During the first couple of years the Harper government began to chip away at some very important aspects of our social democracy. For example, they cut all adult literacy programs, many women’s programs, the court challenges program, and they tightened up government so that it is now considerably less open and access to information (one of the prime hallmarks of a healthy democracy) is a joke. They geared all their social policies to ‘results based’ requirements, something that is notoriously ineffective for real social programs. They monumentally overspent in their first two years of government to bring the country to the brink of deficit because they knew that a recession was coming and the last thing they wanted was a fiscal cushion. Then when the recession did come and they were forced into running a deficit, this did not challenge their principles, rather it gave them a new opportunity to reach their goals. They brought forth a budget that had permanent tax cuts and insignificant and temporary infrastructural spending. This strategy has ensured that any future governments are going to be forced to make major cuts to social programs. Voila, the Conservatives have lived up to their principles because their only real principle was to destroy Canada’s social democracy. The Conservatives, by the way, faced no real challenge from the Liberals in laying waste to the country.
Judged thusly, the Conservative have done exactly what they wanted to do and Canada may never be the same.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I know the Liberal wants to live in a universe where negative ads don’t work, but they don’t. I am appalled at the distasteful ads that the Conservatives are running because they are not attacks on Ignatieff’s policy positions or what he has done as a politician, but instead they are attacks on his person. But it is time for the Liberal party to wake up to reality. They are running against the worst PM in Canadian history, a liar, a cheater, an amazing flip-flopper, a mean-spirited, incompetent, self-centered demagogue. They could be running ads that specifically point out to Canadians the terrible degree to which this Prime Minister has lied to the Canadian public.
He said he wouldn’t tax income trusts: HE LIED. He said he wouldn’t appoint senators: HE LIED. He said he wouldn’t run deficits: HE LIED. He said he would stick to four year elections: HE LIED. He said he would create open government: HE LIED. The Liberal Party should be running ads to this affect over and over and over. If they were they would be way ahead in the polls, pure and simple. You cannot fight a government like this with nice, warm-fuzzies, it just won’t work. If the Liberals were fighting Rommel’s panzer divisions would they use feather dusters??
Wake up Liberals, or prepare to lose another election.
The NDP bloggers on New Democrat Online have, for a long time now, taken every opportunity to deride and excoriate the Liberal Party of Canada for continually voting with the Harper Conservatives. They have, however, been ominously silent in recent days about their own leader’s overtures to Harper and his cronies, rationalizing the potential agreement as a genuine effort of the NDP to get some concessions that will help working (or no-longer working) people.
Anyone who has looked at these so-called concessions knows that they don’t even fulfill the Liberal demands let alone the demands of the NDP. Now I know that no vote has yet taken place (and the NDP may not support Harper) but come on Leftist bloggers, let’s see some indignation at the very idea that the NDP would keep the Harper government alive so that Jack Layton and Peggy Nash know how we feel out here!
Monday, September 14, 2009
Today Paul Dewer, NDP MP for Ottawa Centre, talked to the media directly after the Tories presented their EI reforms. Mr. Dewer told us that it would be “irresponsible” for the NDP not to closely examine the proposals before making a decision on whether to support the government or not. This is nothing short of complete political hypocrisy and opportunism! They didn’t need to read the previous budget, and instead the NDP told Canadians that because Harper and his government simply couldn’t be trusted it didn’t really matter what the budget said. Now, suddenly when they cannot blame the Liberals for propping up Harper, the NDP is into political responsibility. How disappointing! I agreed with the original NDP position, to wit; this government cannot be trusted, period! But it is disappointing to learn that they didn’t really mean it and it was just political posturing. Mr. Layton has now proven himself to be just like any other political leader in this Parliament; an opportunist who is more concerned with his own pension than real principles. (I have, of course, seen this before in Mr. Layton who failed repeatedly to condemn the invasion of Afghanistan until the political wind shifted and he saw the condemnation of Canada’s role as politically expedient. )
If you cannot stand on principles Jack, why are you the leader of the NDP? You need to resign now. . . . (And while you are at it Mr. Dewer, you need to resign also.)
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Well it wasn't much of a summer. Besides there being a lot of rain (the wettest July on record here in Ottawa), personal stuff prevented me from really enjoying the summer and I only got to take Cairo to the beach twice and that was in June.