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.
This week I received several great book purchases through our beloved Canada Post. The first, which I got for my dad, was a remarkable copy of the First Series of the Comic Almanac by George Cruickshank. Cruickshank was one of the most important illustrators of the 19th century and helped to originate the style of comic illustration that we came to associate with Punch magazine. He was the first important illustrator of the work of Charles Dickens and the success of Dickens’ comic novels owe a great deal to the wonderful pictures of Cruickshank. The nice thing about the book is that it had been very professionally restored and rebound using the original illustrated boards over a new buckram binding. Some people don’t like such restoration jobs even when they are done this well because they violate the original state of the book. This is, I suppose, the same as those car collectors who insist on restoring a car only to its original condition. I understand this sentiment and with some books I prefer the original condition too. However, in the case of a book like this where I really want to look through its pages extensively, it is nice to have this kind of restoration because I can enjoy the book without worrying about it falling apart in my hands. Furthermore the book is very thick, which always puts a great strain on the binding.
Another great purchase I received this week was a twelve-volume edition of the Collected Works of Charles Lamb, my great literary hero. This set was published early in the 20th century by the Merrymount Press and is #780 of only 1000 printed. It is in remarkably good and readable condition, particularly considering that it was once in the collection of Pepperdine University. There are faint indications of original library labels on the spine but they are light and don’t detract significantly from the attractiveness of the set. I already had most of Lamb’s works in other books but this set includes a number of miscellaneous writings that I did not have as well as a biography of the writer by the editor of the set Alfred Ainger. I will spend many happy hours reading this set and enjoying the subtle and comforting wit of Charles Lamb. The only problem now is that my 20 year old will bothering me to give her my other Charles Lamb books.
The third purchase I received this week was a set of the Historical and Critical essays of Macaulay. I have been looking for a good set of Macaulay’s essays for a while but they tend to be very expensive. I got this set of six books from Dave Shoots, bookseller in Saint John New Brunswick. It is from a larger set of the collected works of the writings of Macaulay but the set of six is the complete set of the essays. Macaulay was a good friend and admirer of Leigh Hunt and learned a great deal from him as an essay writer. My continuous work on Charles Lamb includes an effort to gain a thorough familiarity with the most important essayists among whose ranks Lamb has a hallowed place.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I am growing weary, as I suspect many people are, of the disgusting cold-war style rhetoric that this government constantly employs. It is as though Harper and his closest cronies are stuck in the 1950s and they think the world is being run by a bunch of ‘pinko, commie, left-wing, pornographers,’ and it is their mission to redeem the world from sliding into a great socialist abyss. John Baird has a cat named Thatcher, and Rona Ambrose is in love with Ayn Rand, a right-wing nut case who said that selfishness is a virtue and attracts college sophomores with her irrational, arbitrary thoughts on the beauties of self-interest dressed up as philosophy. You see, the reason that the Harper government seems as though it is stuck in the 1950 is that . . . well . . . it is! These blinkered, philistines are profoundly upset that the world has moved on from the days when homosexuality was illegal, people had no rights of habeas corpus, workers had no right to join trade unions, and universal primary education was considered a right rather than a privilege. As Harper’s secret speech demonstrated to anyone with ears and a brain, these people are chomping at the bit to march us back into the past when healthcare and education were only for those who could afford it, when workers had no rights and were chained to their machines, and corporations had no regulations to ensure that they act in a socially responsible manner.
Who opposed the abolition of slavery: Conservatives. Who opposed equal rights for all religions: Conservatives. Who opposed the legalization of trade unions and workplace safety regulations: Conservatives. Who opposed the vote for women: Conservatives. Who opposed universal education and healthcare: Conservatives. Who opposed non-discrimination laws for people of color and homosexuals: Conservatives.
While radicals have continually struggled to bring the human race to a state of justice and equality, Conservatives have continually strived to drag us back into the primordial ooze from whence we came. And the struggle continues.
The recent secret speech given by Stephen Harper is reminder of why this man is so sinister and so frightening. He says we wants to ‘teach us a lesson,’ and if he gets his vaunted majority I am sure he will. It will be a scary lesson about how quickly people in a supposed democracy can lose their rights and freedoms and how well a Conservative government can devastate a modern society and turn the clock back to the ‘good old days’ when children worked in factories. Harper’s suggestion that the judges in Canada constitute a radical left-wing conspiracy demonstrates what he really thinks of this country. Unfortunately, too many Canadians are profoundly ignorant of actually event and hold the same kind of antiquated, cold-war era notions.
If these are the kinds of things that Harper says in a semi-public meeting imagine the kinds of things he says in genuine privacy. Oh for one video tape of Harper speaking to John Baird and Pierre Poillievre behind closed doors as they engage in their homophobic, sexists, racist, right-wing conspiracy theories! Such a transcript would finally expose Harper for what he really is and end his political career once and for all. The funny thing is that people are so often excoriating left-wingers as being crazy, conspiracy-minded, whackos. Yet few people seem to mind that Canada’s Prime Minister is like J. Edgar Hoover on crack. So it goes. . .
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
I think that I suffer from a certain degree of political naivety. I grew up in the US amidst the Vietnam war and eve as a kid I had a sense of how people were appalled by what they saw as an unjust, neo-colonial escapade. Yet when the first gulf war began and I was involved in the anti-war protests, I was just monumentally shocked that the West was able to perpetrate another such all-out war less than 20 years after the war in Indo-China had ended. And then I was still shocked when the US was able to instigate the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which were so obviously more blatant efforts by the West to control geo-politics through a brutal war effort.
In the past year I have done a great deal of research for my book which has involved reading about the French Revolution and the British reaction to the events in France. Such research demonstrates that the same types of ideological efforts at defending war and oppression have been going on for centuries. Yet I am still shocked that average people are largely uninformed and utter incapable of seeing through the lies of the rich and powerful who perpetrate wars in their own interests while average people do the fighting and dying.
But my naivety continues because I am totally shocked that any Canadians are willing to support a government that is not only incompetent but self-interesting, mean-spirited, and profoundly corrupt. It just shocks me and I can’t get past it. I continue to be amazed that people will let their biases allow them to stand up for the most shockingly atrocious actions as long as those actions are committed in the name of their ideology.
So it goes . . .
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Anyone who doesn’t think that the Prime Minister selfishly broke his own law by calling the election last year must be far too partisan to have any sense of reality. The law passed by the Conservatives was quite clear and he broke the law in a crass partisan effort to benefit from circumstance, the very thing that the law was supposed to circumvent. But this is just typical Harper attitude, he cares little for the law or even for respectable fair-play. Rather, he cares about power and how to get it. The truth of the matter is that the court should not only resolve that the election was illegal but that the results should be overturned and a new election held with Harper being disqualified from running or holding a seat. This is exactly what Canadians would demand if the same thing had happened in a foreign country and we should demand no less from our own laws and constitution!
However, don’t look for the Court to recognize the serious breach of law that has occurred here. Few people within the establishment have the courage to call members of parliament to the same standards to which the rest of us are held. And they don’t want to be responsible for the messy clean-up that would have to take place when thousands of Canadians sue Harper and the Conservative party, holding them to financial account for what was an illegal election. And given that we usually can’t get our Courts to hold our own government officials to account, is it any wonder that governments in countries like Iran or Sudan can get away with almost anything?
If I am wrong, by the way, about what the court will decide, I will happily eat crow.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
As promised I will be among the first to call the NDP hypocritical when circumstances demand it. The NDP has, of course, not supported the government, nor will they, I believe, when the time comes to actually vote in the House of Commons. But Brad Lavigne is being deeply hypocritical recently by suggesting that the NDP will take events on a “case by case” basis and could support Harper if he is willing to do something about EI, credit card fees, etc. Well I presume that parties always take it on a case by case basis, however only last spring the NDP said they would not vote for Harper’s budget even before they read it because it didn’t really matter what was in the budget because Harper could not be trusted, period. I happen to agree with that position. However, what has changed Mr. Lavigne? Has Mr. Harper suddenly become more trustworthy? Why suddenly is it possible for you work with the government now? Hypocrisy, pure and simple.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Here are a few reasons why the Conservative Government should not be reelected.
Total contempt for parliament. The Harper Government has consistently shown that it has nothing but contempt for parliament. It has said on more than one occasion that it will simply ignore certain bills that have duly passed through the House. The most outrageous of course was the directive for the government to abide by the Kyoto standards. Remember also the creation of a hand-book of for committee chairs to shut down discourse and even shut down entire committee hearing if the Conservatives don’t like the direction that the committee is going. The government also broke its own election law for political expediency. This kind of contempt to parliament and open discourse should make us reluctant to elect any Tories to the House let alone let them act as the government of the nation.
Contempt for citizenship. The Harper Government has proven over and over that it has no respect for the principle of citizenship (particularly if you are a person of color). It has even used the courts to attempt to avoid living up to its responsibility to protect our citizens abroad. No party that fails to respect its citizen’s human rights or stand up to defend them against arbitrary abuse of power by foreign governments deserves to be reelected.
Contempt to the Constitution. Harper’s government has shown that it has no respect for Canada’s Constitution. The proroguing of parliament just to avoid losing power was a terrible and dangerous precedent. But the misrepresentation of the constitution to the people of Canada by suggesting that a coalition was tantamount to a coup was an egregious perversion of the constitution. As anyone who understands the British parliamentary system knows, a majority of the representatives in the House elect the Prime Minister and it has been so for hundreds of years. This misrepresentation of the Constitution should preclude the Tories from governing.
Contempt for the Law. Harper’s government ended the court challenges program because it strives to subvert the legitimate role that the courts play in a parliamentary democracy. Though they are happy to use the courts to their own advantage, when courts make decisions that they don’t like they suggest that judges are ‘legislating from the bench.’ However, the courts are an essential part of a democracy and they play the role of checking the power of the legislative branch of government from instituting laws that violate the principles as set out in the constitution.
Contempt for Opponents. The Conservatives have no respect for the basic principles of political discourse and fair play. Instead Harper runs a government of extreme bullies who prefer to belittle and divide than actually discuss political issues. The chief bullies are Pollievre, Kenney, Baird, Flaherty, Van Loan, and Harper himself. They run a constant stream of personal attacks on any and all opponents and their attacks almost never have anything to do with actual policy issues.
Contempt for the environment. The Harper Government has continually been uninterested in any actual environmental policy. It all began with their first environment minister Rona Ambrose. Ambrose has long been a friend of the oil industry in her native Alberta and consistently denied the existence of any kind of global warming. She is also a long time fan of Ayn Rand who consistently claimed that cut-throat, unfettered capitalism could never lead to environmental disaster, and that selfishness is a virtue. (Do a quick google search to see the wacko Randism streak against any kind of environmentalism)
Contempt for Democracy. When facing the threat that the majority of the people’s representatives might actually rule the House of Commons the Conservatives showed their true colors by not only suggesting that the majority had no right to rule but they spent much of their energy marginalizing many of the people’s representatives by labeling them “separatists” and “socialists.” They made it very clear that some people who are duly elected by the people have no business being in the House simply because the Conservative don’t like them.
Harper’s government is not just a poor and incompetent government; it is has poisoned the country and subverted the principles of democracy and human rights. Harper poses a genuine threat to our rights and the future of the country and don’t deserve to be reelected.