Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Harper and poor officiating. . . . .

This story makes me laugh - So apparently the other day there were two terrible calls at the World Cup. England got a goal against Germany that didn't count because the refs didn't actually see it go in and Argentina got a goal that counted even though it was clearly off-side. Besides the fact that this World Cup has been plagued by fairly atrocious officiating all along FIFA has refused to use instant replay because they say it would interupt the flow of the game. For the case of many calls such as yellow cards etc, this is fair enough because there is certain degree of subjectivity to such calls anyway. But regarding goals instant replay would be a pretty simple way to check for line-crossing, hand-goals, off-side etc. Many commentators are now apparently calling for the use of instant replay, particularly after the number of terrible calls that have been made in the past two weeks.  The embarrassing problem for FIFA is that with all the technology that exists today the people in the stands can watch the replay from several different angles right after the play so they know if the refs made a bad call or not. 

FIFA's answer to all these problems? They will no longer allow instant replay in the stadium of controversial goals, so that their officials won't be embarrassed by their poor officiating. That's  hilarious. Apparently FIFA is taking advice from Stephen Harper; don't deal with the problem by dealing with the problem, deal with it by  trying to hide it from your viewers. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Slow death of democracy. . . . . .

Today Nathalie Des Rosiers, the general council for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, told the Canadian Press that ``We have police brutality, illegal searches, arbitrary detentions, people being asked all sorts of questions and being harassed. It`s unconstitutional, it`s illegal and it should not happen.``

This is Harper`s Canada; a Canada in which parliament can be closed and police have unlimited powers. This is how it begins folks, and after you no longer have elections or Habeas corpus, you wonder where it all went wrong.

Do They Really Hate Violence?

I must say that I am tired of talking heads on television and even some rather ignorant bloggers who suddenly decide that they are apologists for the system, telling me how much they abhor violence and condemning the so-called 'thugs' and black-bloc, etc etc. Here's a little secret - THEY DON'T ABHOR VIOLENCE, THEY ACTIVELY SUPPORT IT. The G20 is by its very nature, violence. The elites of Capitalist nations have been getting together for years to pursue unified trade policies, market policies, environmental policies, food policies, etc, the aim of which has been to enrich the Western nations, largely at the cost of less-developed nations. That is violence; violence, the cost of which is beyond description. Of course they pay lip-service to various development and humanitarian issues, but unless you've been living under a rock you know that this has very little to do with improving the living conditions in the poorer nations. For one thing most of the promised money never materializes, and for another much of the money is always meant to further enrich Western providers of goods and services. If you know anything about the subject of (so-called) international development, you know that aid money is targeted to help Western Corporations in various ways, and when you talk to the people in a more intimate setting who have been involved for a long time in the requisition and movement of such aid, they readily admit this simple fact. And when economic and aid policies cannot achieve their aims, the Western nations pursue their aims with armed conflict in which hundreds of thousands of people die. The G20 is systemic and institutionalized violence on a grand and historic scale. And to defend their systemic violence they put thousands of police on the street in riot gear brandishing clubs and teargas to extend their violence into the streets of their own nations. They don't hate violence, they love it because it feeds their machismo and affirms to them that they are men of power and substance, and they are happy to use violence to pursue their aims. And yet while they do unspeakable violence to the planet, to the poor in the third world, giving subsidies to big oil and weapons  producers,  they have the unmitigated gall to condemn a handful of young people who break some windows. Don't tell me they hate violence; violence is their modus operandi, it is the heart of their system and the expression of everything they are.

Violence in the Streets. . . . .

Dateline - July 14th 1789, Paris France.

Early reports are emerging of lawless groups of thugs wearing red 'phrygian' caps, known locally as the red-bloc, making violent assaults on the Bastille. It seems that these groups, consisting of ragtag numbers of young terrorists, began gathering early and milling about the grounds outside the prison. Apparently they harbor a number of complaints against the government including the conditions of hygiene in their environs, the discrepancies between rich and poor, the restrictions on media, and other things.

Word is that after some hours of gathering the groups eventually coalesced and attacked the ancient fortress which was being protected by 82 soldiers and several dozen Swiss Grenadiers. An exchange of gunfire went on for several hours and eventually the red-bloc entered the Prison fortress. At least a hundred were killed in the incident, including one soldier.

"These are simply lawless thugs," one Swiss Grenadier was heard saying. "They are useless, violent, anarchists who have freed the inmates and put us all at risk." An official government spokesman defended the use of deadly force in the protection of the Bastille saying, "Our soldiers acted with complete professionalism in defending a public building. The violence was instigated entirely by the red-bloc, who have no respect for law and order and have decided to pursue their political goals through violent means. If some of them died it was entirely their fault."

When questioned about the outrageous cost of maintaining and defending a fortress like the Bastille in the middle of France's most populous city, another government spokesperson told us that "the cost was entirely appropriate for such a facility, particularly when it is clear that there are violent thugs like these who are ready to cause trouble." When asked about the red-blocs concerns over human-rights abuses by the government and fundamental injustices in the system, the government spokesperson waived off such concerns saying that "France is the greatest country in the world and should be a showcase to other nations, and the red-bloc was simply putting a stain on the country's international reputation."

Few of the so-called 'red-bloc' could be found to comment but one young women who held a small child in her arms told us that "people everywhere are suffering and the government spends millions of Francs on these types of things. There is no justice here and generations from now people will thank us for standing up for what it right."

A Dark Future for Canada. . . . . ..

Though I am not a Liberal it has in recent months become very notable what advantage a Liberal Government has over a Conservative one in this country. When the last Liberal Government was faced with a scandal of a significant partisan nature they called a public inquiry into the issue. Now we have a government mired in numerous issues of huge public significance a number of which should be publicly investigated by an arm's length body. These include the Afghan detainee issue, the In and Out Scandal, the isotope issue and the part played by Minister Lisa Raitt as well as the firing of the watchdog, the Maxime Bernier affair, the Jaffer/Guergis affair, and now the G20 fiasco. But this Government would not call a public inquiry into their own conduct even if we had video of John Baird and the Prime Minister meeting with high-level Montreal underworld figures. This Government's strategy; lie, stall, stonewall, deny, spin, turn the page, prorogue parliament, fire staffers, anything but face a process of accountability. Personally I even think that the Government's conduct surrounding the former coalition should be investigated by a public inquiry because we had a Prime Minister of  Canada publicly lying about the constitution and John Baird publicly suggesting that they would not abide by the GG's ruling if it went against them. This is called treason.

The message to future Governments of Canada? Dishonesty works! Do anything to manipulate the system to your advantage. And of course, future politicians will learn from all this and operate the same way. The future of Democracy and Government in Canada is dark indeed.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Toronto police and the Shock of Law-breakers. . . .

It was quite amusing listening to the Toronto chief of police (I think his name is William Blair) tell CBC radio that he had found the right balance between security and freedom. When they asked him if he thought this balance had been reached he said. . . . wait for it. . . . "Yes, I do." What did they expect him to reply "No I prefer a system heavily weighted to persecution and oppression and one in which dissent is made into a criminal act."

He then went on to tell CBC and its listeners that he was genuinely 'Shocked' that some people willfully go out to break the law. Really? A police officer is shocked by law=breakers? Call the newspapers! Stop the presses!

I am shocked that people are shocked that people willfully break the law at events such as the G20 whose real purpose is to maintain the wealth of the rich nations while paying just enough lip-service to poverty issues so that they can pretend they really care.

Police officers, like so many people, imagine that we live in a genuine democracy which consists of a (In Rousseau's phrase) a 'social contract' to which we have all a priori agreed. But of course those who pay the piper chose the tune. Laws are created by a rich and elite group in the interests of the rich and elite. The question one often needs to ask is not whether people have broken a legal restraint, but whether someone is violating a moral principle. When someone murders or rapes someone, we all know what is going on. But many people are protected by a whole structure of law because they are rich and powerful.  Thus I am sure that the William Blair is not shocked by the decades of Tobacco companies secretly filling cigarettes with a bunch of crap that makes them more addictive. And yet the people that have done this are not only not in jail, they live wealthy and prosperous lives in big houses with expensive sports cars. I am sure that Mr. Blair is not shocked by the fact that BP and Halliburton drill deep-sea oil wells with no way to cap such wells if they go haywire, and even cut corners to make more profit. Why? Because these moral criminals are protected by money and power and the laws are created in ways that protect them. It is a reification of corporate power. And Mr. Blair will not be shocked by the fact that no one will ever pay for these crimes. But William Blair is 'shocked' when a ragtag group of youths who care about the future of the planet and the outrageous violations of moral laws committed by our so-called global leaders, decide to come to Toronto and knock down a couple of fences or do other such things in a desperate attempt to get people to wake up to the international moral violations by people who are, in ethical terms, much worse than a few so-called anarchists will ever be.

This is truly shocking.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I have been one of those people who has been politically adrift for most of my life (to say nothing of being socially out of place). By the right-wing I have always been called 'naive' and by the left I have often been considered cynical. This is fine, I guess, it is probably a good thing to be made up of a healthy dose of idealism and cynicism.

I have been occasionally guilty of referring to some people as naive who don't necessarily deserve it, like one of my readers and occasional commentators, Leo (sorry about that leo). Naive is the wrong word for what many of my political opponents are. I think many people in our society simply fail to see their own life in a proper historical context. Many like to believe that somehow the age in which we live is 'different' from all other ages. These are the people who think that Trade Unions have outlived their usefulness, as though without constant diligence capitalists wouldn't regress right back to the 19th century techniques of controlling and abusing employees, a condition so well illustrated by Engels in his Condition of the Working-Class in England. These are people who, because they were born white in a prosperous Western nation that they have what they have because of personal merit or don't realistically understand that the majority of people in the world continue to live in abject poverty. These are people who fail to understand the degree to which the ruling ideology is the ideology of the ruling and that capitalists effectively control not just our political agenda but have colonized huge swaths of our social structure a well.

While some of these people are, of course, naive, many of them have just understandably bought most of the ideology into which they were born and raised. And when we consider that almost every part of the media we see is owned and controlled by wealthy individuals who have a vested interest in the capitalist status quo, it is not surprising that more people don't have a better sense of how the power structure of our society is working. Capitalist ideology controls our society much the way ideologies have always dominated societies, by standing in (in most people's minds) for the 'natural' order of things. This is why revolutions in history have been relatively rare; because it is a significant leap for people to question what they have been raised to believe is 'natural.' People have a tough time imagining how this order which appears to grow organically out of human affairs, could ever be really challenged and replaced with something else. It is also why revolutions are often so bloody; because the powerful are fighting for their lives and their defenders are fighting for 'god' or 'nature' or some ideological equivalent, and on the other side of this change they see nothing but chaos.

And while I don't defend violent revolutions per se, they are often historically inevitable. This is just the nature of the social dynamic. The irony is that while the real dreamers often inspire revolutions and revolutionaries, they are often not in favor of the violent overthrow of the prevailing system. This is very true of people like Voltaire, Rousseau, William Godwin, and even Thomas Paine. Paine, who was so violently hated for so long by so many, was a genuine inspiration for the American and French revolutions but when he fled England and found himself in Revolutionary France, he was one of the people that argued against beheading the King.

I am decidedly not naive. I think probably the human race will fail and regress back into a state of barbarism from whence we came. This is because there are many people (and our own Prime Minister is one) who would prefer barbarism and the destruction of the human race than to see an enlightened system of cooperation. Their identity is so wrapped up in the machismo of power and so-called individualism and materialism that they can't imagine a system in which we actually help each other. But society has often progress despite, in in spite of, people like this. The dreamers work to undermine the use and abuse of power and to create a society in which cooperation is the real motive, while the others entrench power in the hands of the few, the privileged, and the abusive.

So I wonder if I am a cynic.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

CSIS and 'foreign control' . . . .

So Richard Fadden, the chief spook of Canada tells us, on the eve of the G20 summit mind you, that several Canadian politicians are "under the control of foreign governments"

Really? We needed CSIS to tell us this?

Unfortunately the humorous quality of this story is somewhat dissipated by the fact that our so-called spy service isn't actually referring to the obvious fact that our Prime Minister and several of his cabinet ministers are shameless agents of the US and Israel. Stephen Harper's rather pathetic and frightening dispensationalism surely qualifies Harper for foreign control status.

But of course Mr. Fadden isn't referring to this kind of foreign control. It is perfectly acceptable when the Prime Minister shifts decades of policy to fall into line with US or Israeli goals.

Aha! Watch and wait.If the story wasn't simply an entire fabrication timed to help justify the billion dollar boondoggle of the G20 meeting, we will eventually find out that what Mr. Fadden is talking about is once again pesky communists. Because CSIS has never had a problem with foreign control, as long as it is the 'right' foreign control.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Happy Father's Day Roy . . . .

It has been a few months now since I lost my father and I am still shipwrecked. I continue to relive the end of his life over in my head and can find little consolation. This is father's day weekend and it has prompted profound feelings of sadness. I will enjoy the smile of my daughter on Sunday, but I will grieve not being able to tell my dad that I love him and thank him for all the great times we had together.

My dad wasn't the most adventurous of men but he had his moments and always encouraged people to relish all the little moments of their lives. In the last years of his life whenever I was leaving my dad or just hanging up the phone, his always repeated salutation was "Enjoy, Enjoy."

My father loved poetry and the 17th century English poet Robert Herrick was one of his favorite. I share with you a few lines from Herrick's most famous poem which my dad often quoted.

Gather ye rosebuds, while ye may,
Old Time is still a flying;
And the same flower that smiles to-day,
Tomorrow will be dying. 

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
The nearer he's to setting.

The age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse and worse
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And, whilst ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime, 
You may forever tarry. 

Happy Father's day Roy, I miss you.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Give them all the Lie. . . . .

Tell men of high condition
That rule affairs of state,
Their purpose is ambition,
Their practice only hate:
And if they once reply,
Then give them all the lie.

From the Poem "The Lie" attributed to Sir Walter Raleigh.

For the full text go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lie_(poem)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Fake Lakes and Fiscal Mismanagement. . . . .

The idea that Conservatives are 'fiscally responsible' is probably one of the most enduring myths of modern politics. If you actually pay attention to the balance sheets of Western democracies, Conservative parties have no better of a record than others, and in Countries like Canada their record is down-right abysmal. There are various reasons for this poor record at both the federal and provincial level. One reason is the simple fact that regardless of what Conservatives always tell us, Western economies are subject to the regular booms and busts of Capitalism and there is little or nothing, particularly in a global economy, that individual parties can do. (The best they can actually do is the very opposite or what conservatives do, and that is maintain a proper social safety net so that when recessions do come, the most vulnerable will suffer less of an impact) Another reason that Conservatives have a terrible record on fiscal management is that they just can't help giving away the store, so to speak, to their rich friends and corporations through tax cuts, and grants to those who need them least. Their "trickle-down" economics model was discredited long ago but they still keep doing it because that is their MO and their ideology is basically one of selfishness so why wouldn't they carry that selfishness into their fiscal (mis)management strategy?

However, the most disturbing reason that Conservatives are poor fiscal managers, and this is very much the case for this Government, is that they actually want to send the state broke in order to justify the dismantling of the social programs and the processes of democracy that they hate so much. The fact that Harper brought us to the verge of deficit before the recession hit and that he once wrote (apparently in his Master's Thesis) that running deficits is 'always' a bad idea economically speaking and that politicians only do it for electoral advantage, tells you the whole story. All of this suggests that their mismanagement was at least in part motivated by an intentional desire to more or less bankrupt the state and thereby discredit any social efforts on the part of government.

But of course, as is the case in many things in life, a strategy quickly runs away with itself and one loses track, and what started out as a strategy becomes a habit, and you find yourself buying multimillion dollar fake lakes and useless gazebos which quickly create the optics of ineptitude. So eventually Conservatives get voted out of office and leave others to clean up the mess while they walk away with padded pockets, rich pensions, and hefty bank accounts in the Cayman Islands where they don't need fake lakes.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Literary Endeavor Continues. . . .

I am happy to say that the work continues on the final edition of my book Humble Men in Company; The Unlikely Friendship of Charles Lamb and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It will still be a few months before it goes to print, these things work at a glacially slow speed. I have read a great deal since I put the manuscript in the hands of the copy editor at the publisher and look forward to going through the book again and adding a few important observations and making sure the prose has no major problems.

In the meantime, since my father died, I have finished my novel tentatively entitled The City of Angels which is a semi-autobiographical story of my last year in Los Angeles. Now the work must go ahead looking for a publisher. I am also now close to having a first complete draft of a new book on Charles and Mary Lamb. This one is an unapologetic appreciation of the wit and wisdom of Lamb and his sister, which is thematic in nature with chapters about friendship, death and dying, melancholy, etc.For those who love Lamb I hope that the book will be an enjoyable and insightful read. All of this work on Lamb is, as I have said before, a build-up to a more comprehensive book on the remarkable roll of interconnected friendships in the English Romantic period. Such a book, however, is many years in the making and must be constructed against the backdrop of much other work on the era.

I have not reported on any new books that I have received lately because I don't think I have ordered a single book since my dad died. But reading goes on apace and I am currently reading the Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey in six volumes circa 1834, compiled by his son. It is interesting but I always find reading about Southey a little frustrating because he was Romanticism's greatest turn-coat, giving up entirely on his youthful radicalism and embracing the Toryism and rampant nationalism that so dominated the mainstream of English politics in the generation after the French Revolution. So it goes.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Don't throw the Bums out, put them in prison. . . .

So today in Parliament Gilles Duceppe asked the key question concerning the prohibition of staffers appearing before parliamentary committees. To paraphrase the question it was "is the government ordering its staffers to disobey the law?" The answer is, of course, yes and they know it. The law is very clear, the committees have the right to order any citizen of the country to appear and to fail to do so is contempt of parliament and can be punished by jail time. It is as simple as that and regardless of your politics, it is not more complicated. In fact the Government is already violating the law. The Ethics Committee has sent a summons to Harper's Chief of Staff, Mr. Soudas, to appear before the Committee. But the deliverer of that summons has been prevented from delivering it to its intended target. That is called 'conspiracy.'

It is clear, time and again, that this government has no respect for the law and the principles of parliament. You can argue that the staffers shouldn't be called. You can argue that the committees are partisan kangaroo courts. You can argue anything you want. The problem is that if you claim to believe in the law, to be 'tough on crime,' as the Cons always do, you can't simply ignore the laws that you don't like. By their own standards a number of the Conservative government should already be in prison.

The committees should summon the staffers and if they fail to appear they should hold them in contempt and put them in jail. But I am saying this not because I am a big supporter of a tough on crime agenda. And  I agree with Martin Luther King in the belief that it is as much a moral responsibility to resist unjust laws as it is to obey just ones. But the Conservatives have never believed this and have never had much respect for Dr. King anyway. But most importantly, if the Conservatives were on the other side of the fence, so to speak, they would be going insane over these actions and they would be the first to say that 'you have to obey the law' or the 'will of the House' etc. And if you call them hypocrites in this regard, their only defense is that other people are hypocrites too. I say to those thirty percent who still support the Conservatives, your day of doom will come and when the future governments blatantly disobey the laws and use this government as the example and precedent, then all of you Harper supporters will just have to suck it up and say "well we destroyed democracy in are time so we can't complain now."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

G20 Boondoggles and the rule of fear. . . . .

Does anyone else have a nagging and troubling suspicion that Harper's Government may have somehow been involved in the fire-bombing of the Royal Bank in Ottawa recently. The scenario would look something like this: realizing that they had engaged in outrageously imprudent fiscal mismanagement in their on going effort to control absolutely everything, dark forces in the Harper regime might have looked around in a panic for how they might justify their billion dollar boondoggle. Having a bit too much to drink while brainstorming, these dark forces could have found their way out to commit an act of perceived terrorism that required no more than a Coke bottle and a liter of gasoline. And WHAM! Instant justification for spending hundreds of millions of dollars that everyone knows didn't need to be spent but was only another demonstration of their fiscal irresponsibility and tyrannical drive to control everything. Only a short ride from their offices on the Hill, the Royal Bank in the Glebe was a perfect target for their drunken panic. And of course such an event would be entirely in line with the overarching Conservative strategy, which is foster fear and hate as much as possible.

To all those government lawyers out there, this is, of course, simply a fanciful and speculative jest. To all of those naive folks who think such things never happen; OPEN A HISTORY BOOK!