Friday, March 26, 2010

To my Dad. . . .

Dear Roy

Today I saw the first Robin of the year. I wish you could have been there. We always enjoyed talking about the excitement of spring and the wonderful feelings of the world coming to life again. The day after you died I saw the first geese coming back. It was so painful to see them return so shortly after you passed because you always got such a thrill seeing them return once again and looking forward to the wonderful season to come. Every year it was our communal right of passage to see and hear the geese echo in new year and we warmly talked about the future and the past; the fun times we had had and the enjoyable time we were looking forward to. I must admit that when I saw the first robin of the year today I could help but weep a little bit for the void you have left in our lives. But the weeping is always made a little more difficult in the realization that you would hate to see us feeling sad. You so often quoted to me the Christina Rossetti poem entitled 'Remember' the last two lines of which are 'Better by far you should forget and smile/ than that you should remember and be sad.' But is hard to live by this simple wisdom. I want to remember even if it means terrible sadness. You were so much my friend, my ally, my compatriot in art and philosophy. Already I miss our simple companionship so much. I want to remember, let the sadness fall where it will.

Over the next few weeks I will see a great many Robins as they begin to repopulate their summer grounds. And with each one I will smile and weep anew. I will see sunsets that you loved so well and I will smile and weep anew. I will hear your granddaughter laugh and I will smile and weep anew. I will feel the chilly spring breeze which will no more embrace your skin and I will smile and weep anew. I will see injustices against which you so passionately railed, and I will smile and weep anew. I will see an old picture show which you loved to enjoy and I will smile and weep anew.

I cannot forget, so I guess I will have to remember and be sad, at least for now.

I miss you Roy.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Coulter, Levant, and Free Speech. . . .

I generally shy away from saying anything about people like Ann Coulter because I think as a general rule she is simply beneath contempt. I am not even sure if she actually believes half the things she says or whether it is simply part of her overall self-promotion strategy designed to increase sales of her books and ultimately pad her bank account. And anyone who pondered on national television why Canada still wasn't a good American ally like when we followed them into Vietnam (!??!) is obviously so ignorant of fairly straightforward geo-political facts that I would doubt their suitability to be a spokesperson for almost anything. 

Now, I am generally a fairly staunch advocate for freedom of speech. I think people should, if they really want, be able to publish cartoons of almost anything. But what I am always surprised about is that people like Ms Coulter or Mr. Levant are surprised when people get angry and even unruly when they decide to say things obviously designed to provoke a response. If you go to into Harlem, for example, and start yelling the 'N' word you are going to provoke a dangerous response. And to hide behind some arbitrary rule of respectability and 'law and order' when you are so obviously being intentionally provocative is simple-minded and hypocritical. There is a great deal one can say about almost any controversial subject in a respectful or at least rational way that is not designed to provoke an angry and violent response. But if one uses the 'free speech' principle to intentionally provoke an angry and hot-headed response, then don't feign an air of appalled disbelief. Ann Coulter famously said that Muslims should not be allowed to ride on commercial airplanes and that they could 'take a flying carpet' if they wanted to have access to air travel. Two days ago, when asked about this by a Muslim woman in London, who pointed out that their were no such things as flying carpets, Ms. Coulter suggested that she could "ride a camel" as an alternate form of transportation. Now, Ms Coulter can try to pass this off as a witticism, but given the thousand plus years of racism, violence and oppression that Muslim culture has endured by Westerners such as Ms. Coulter, such a remark is obviously designed to provoke an angry and even violent response. You will notice that Ms. Coulter is aware enough of such processes that she doesn't walk around the States suggesting that African Americans eat more 'fried chicken and watermelon.' Because such statements are universally recognized as racist and such remarks would be dangerous and disrespectful in the extreme, Ms. Coulter would not say such things. But prejudice against Muslims and Homosexuals is still, to a degree, tolerated in the American political discourse, so she feels free to say some of the things she says in order to intentionally attract attention.

Well, I say to Ms. Coulter and Mr. Levant, if you are going to stoke the flame, don't complain about the fire. It reminds me of the American military which, when it invades a country, complains indignantly when people fight back. Well folks, when people are pushed, they fight back. And when you build on centuries racism and prejudice with intentionally provocative and racist statements about people's ethnicity, people will react. 

And this brings me to my final point. Making prejudiced statement against a group which has been (in recent history) the victim of violence and oppression, is uniquely provocative. Ezra Levant is fond of saying that people are free to make provocative statements against, say Christianity or main-stream 'white' culture, but he sadly laments that he gets criticized when he publishes cartoons that are perceived as racist against Muslim culture. But the comparison is specious. There is a long history of racism and prejudice against Islam from Western nations and everyday in this country people of color, Muslims, and Homosexuals feel the pressure of prejudice. Mr Levant and Ms. Coulter must understand very little about the nature of power not to understand the difference between remarks made by the powerful against those who lack power, and remarks made by those who regularly experience victimization. 

Perhaps people like Levant and Coulter should be allowed, within certain limits, to say what they want. But let's not have any false surprise and indignity when people fight back. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Latest Books in the Mail. . . .

This past week has been difficult with the death of  my father. I have felt very tired and will not, I am sure, get my grove back for some time. But I have continued to read and write through the process as much as possible. My novel is three-quarters done and my next book on Charles and Mary Lamb is half-way there. 

During Roy's last months I regularly red to him. Nothing grand, just essays and poems; small entertaining things. The last poem I read to him was The Diverting History of John Gilpin by William Cowper. It is an amusing poem in 63 quatrains with the simple rhyming scheme of a-b-c-b. 

Though he is little known today, William Cowper was a very popular poet of the second half of the 18th century. His naturalistic themes and common language were genuine precursors to the poetry of the English Romantics. Cowper died two years after the publication of Wordsworth's and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads and that monumental book owes a great deal to the work of Cowper. 

The day after my dad died I received the Complete Works of Cowper (in Eight Volumes) which includes a biography and a great many of his letters. This version is the 1835 edition of William Haley's very first collected works published in 1812. It is amazing to read books published in 1835 because they are old enough that one feels almost if one is reaching back into history. 

Cowper was very much admired by Charles Lamb (my own literary hero). And Lamb felt close to Cowper in part because like Charles Lamb and his beloved sister Mary, Cowper suffered from serious mental disturbances. It is generally thought that he suffered from what we would call today bi-polar disorder which in its most extreme form can be difficult to distinguish from even more serious disorders such as Schizophrenia. In an effort to cope with his mental disease Cowper turned to religion and is often remembered as an important writer of Christian Hymns. 

Cowper's most widely known poem is The Task(1785) written in six books. Cowper's friend Lady Austin suggested that he write a poem concerning the subject of 'the sofa,' and Cowper took this prosaic subject as the launching point for a long poem about everything from religion to the natural world. Robert Burns was a great admirer of The Task.

I will think of my dad as I read these volumes. I know he would have enjoyed them. 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saying Good By to my Dad. . . . .

Many have heard now that my father, Royston Evans, died this past weekend. He had been sick with cancer in recent months and had grown frail and somewhat weary. In the end he succumbed to a heart attack on Sunday the 14th of March at about 2:30. I was with him in his last hours and at the moment that he passed away. It was a difficult time but I was glad that I was able to be with him.

Royston lived a long life and was only a week or so short of his 78th birthday. I know that Roy got a kick out of the fact that he managed to outlive the life expectancy by nearly two years. Even though he always thought that he was in rather poor health, in reality Roy lived very well for most of his life and was very lucky. Roy lived with my wife Sylvia, me, and the kids for the past five years and we were able to ensure that his last years were happy and comfortable. Even though the three oldest were, technically, only step-grandchildren, he loved them all and enjoyed spending time with them. But perhaps the greatest joy of his last years was that he was able to see Cairo grow from a baby into a sweet little girl. When he was still healthy Roy spent a great deal of time with Cairo and he often played with her for many hours in a joyful, childlike manner. If the greatest joy of life is to retain the spirit of a child, then Roy certainly enjoyed the very best that life has to offer.

Roy was born in March of 1932, in a tenement building in Errol Street in London England, just off the Whitecross St. market. He had one sister, Kitty, and a younger brother, Chris. Kitty passed away in 1997 and Chris still lives in England. During WWII Royston and his sister were evacuated out of London, as many children were, to the countryside to take them out of harm’s way. Though during the last period of the war he lived in London and witnessed some of the bombing that so devastated London.

After Roy completed school he did many different jobs looking for the passion that would guide his life. Not only did he do many different kinds of practical jobs, Roy also tried his hands at being a poet, a cartoonist, and even a fashion designer. Roy finally found his true vocation in art and design and spent a couple of years drawing and sketching before entering art college in London at what was then called the Regent’s Street Polytechnic. After attending the Polytechnic Roy went on to do an advanced design diploma in Typographic design.

Roy married my mother Lynne in 1962 and after my sister and I were born we eventually moved to the US and Roy and Lynne pursued a career in Advertising design. We lived in Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Los Angeles. Together Roy and Lynne won many awards in design and enjoyed their life in Commercial Art. After my parents were divorced Roy and I moved to Calgary where he took a job teaching graphic design and illustration at the Alberta College of Art. Up to that point Roy had lived a rather itinerant life-style and he never expected to stay in Calgary as long as he did. But in the end Roy was happy to have the stability and enjoyed the time he spent as a teacher. He genuinely felt that he was contributing to people’s lives and I believe that his gentle, human touch helped many young art students to find they way.

After twenty-two years in Calgary Roy came to live close to me in Ottawa. He eventually joined us here in Manotick which is a small town just outside of the city. He enjoyed living in the village and in the summer he loved to sit at the beach in the Rideau River Provincial Park just south of here. Ever since he was very young Roy had always dreamed of a quiet country life where he could read and draw and just enjoy life. Though he was a London boy, born and bred, his real personality searched for something much smoother and more gentle. A couple of years ago he wrote a short essay entitled The Village that spoke to these feelings. That essay ends with this paragraph.

Los Angeles may have no winter. And in January and February when the temperature here drops to minus 30 or lower, I sometimes miss sunny California. I don’t want the cold and I envy those who enjoy perpetual summers. But there is no perfect place to be, and what I may feel about the cold is just a natural human reaction. My happiness in this village life, even with its cold season, gives me pleasure day by day and almost makes me forget my years of moving from place-to-place. Before Manotick I stayed in places I happened to be at the time. Now in this village I have, after searching for so long, found my way home.


Royston Evans did a great many things in his life and had a very dynamic personality. A short obituary of his life can do no justice to all that he was. He was generous, loving, creative, funny, silly, political, dynamic, self-educated, and always ready to lend a hand. Like all of us, Roy had his weaknesses and short-comings but, following his truly generous spirit, he would be the first to admit them, and even laugh about them. Most of all Roy always said that he was lucky. He knew that no matter how hard we try and how much we think of our talents and skills, fate holds us in its hands and none of us are more than one lucky break from great success or one break away from disaster. The most important thing, he always said, was to keep laughing along the way and when you have good luck pass it on to others.


One of Roy’s favorite books, among the thousands that he read over his lifetime, was Eric Wright’s memoir Always Give a Penny to a Blind Man, because he said it reminded him of the fragility of life, the role that luck plays in it, and the need to support others. With this in mind I ask everyone who read this to put a five dollar bill in your pocket and give it to the first homeless person you come across. I hope they will buy a good meal with it, but if they don’t, remember we are all just struggling, vulnerable souls looking for love and care. And then remember Roy’s favorite saying, “I blew all my money on wine, women, and song. . . . . and the rest I just wasted.”


So long Roy, you will be sorely missed.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Markets and complexity. . . .

There seems to be a growing popularity of cut-throat ideologies such as those of writers like Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein. I find this growth interesting because it is happening at the very same time that society is growing remarkably more complex, markets are becoming necessarily more regulated, and the possibility of a right-wing libertarianism is ever less plausible. Even the right-wingers who publicly profess to be in favor of more free-market policies are torn between the internal problems of capitalism which point increasingly away from unregulated markets particularly where there is a growing threat of monopolization which works against the supposed market principles. The two world leaders that claimed to take the most inspiration from ultra-right philosophy in the past generation, Thatcher and Reagan, both ended up working de facto in the opposite direction. By the time the seventeen years of Tory reign ended with the election of Blair, the government in Britain was actually larger, and taxes overall were actually higher. This is not necessarily because the Tories didn't believe what they claimed, but more because the demands of complex modern society inevitably work toward the opposite of what people like Thatcher told us. 

Frankly I have always found the ultra-right wing philosophies quite amusing because even relatively 'primitive' society demand so much cooperation that if any society really tired to live by an extreme individualistic philosophy things would break down pretty quick. Kropotkin, for all of his intelligence may have been wrong about mutual aid in the animal kingdom but I think it is clear that he is right about an underlying principle of mutual aid in human society. Without an extreme degree of cooperation and mutual aid, human society simply would not work. 

New left paradigms. . . .

One of the problems with human society in general and our modern complex society in particular is the degree to which human emotion influences how we seek to organize ourselves. Unfortunately for any kind of objectivist philosophies, it seems pretty obvious that humans are not guided by some fundamental process of rationality, and it is not clear that they ever could be. In his theory of Communicative Action, Habermas divides human claims into three categories: claims to fact, normative claims, and dramatological claims. Despite centuries of human philosophies, it is not at all clear that claims to fact can be meaningful guides to normative claims. Normative claims involve the states of being that we think 'ought' to prevail and as Hume taught us so effectively, we cannot derive an ought from and is. It seems clear to me that as humans we hold certain basic values as important which are not derived from any kind of rational discourse or investigation. All of this suggests that there are certain inherent limits on what we call 'rationality.' 

Why am I saying all of this? Well lately it has occurred to me that political processes are increasingly dominated by an effort to sway people's emotions. And I think inherent in this effort is not only to 'sway' peoples' emotions but to form emotional responses that have little to do with what is going on in the world. The order of the day seems to be to feed on peoples' most basic fears or prejudices in order to create an agenda which victimizes societies more vulnerable people while at the same time fostering a system of extreme (often unnoticed) power for unaccountable large corporations. The problem is that in an increasingly complex society technology becomes a remarkably effective method of spreading such emotional responses. The problem is that the right-wing has an inherent advantage in such circumstances as illustrated by their recent focus on a crime wave that doesn't exist. Other areas where the Right-wing has fairly simple advantages in this process is the fact that feeding fear is much easier than creating confidence. Thus you will constantly hear, even today, Conservatives red-baiting etc in order to actually shut down political discourse rather than actually fostering genuine debate. 

The problem is entropy. Destruction is always easier than creation. It is much easier to lead people down the path of anger and fear (welfare bums are ripping us off, criminals are lurking around every corner, teenagers are getting away with murder etc) than up the path of goodness and encouragement. In his novel The Reivers, William Faulkner makes a very astute observation, the gist of which is that 'if you are out to do bad in the world people will come out of the woodwork to help you, but if you are out to do good, you are usually on your own.' The only area of fear that the left could even feed on if they wanted to would be in relation to corporate power, but how do you do this effectively when the very corporations you are being critical of own the mediums by which you relay that message? 

It is becoming clear to me that the Left, if it is ever going to be effective, needs a new methodological paradigm. What will that paradigm be? Let me know if you come up with it....

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is the House really supreme or not??

I must admit that I am somewhat amazed by what is going on in the House of Commons these days. The opposition parties stand up every day now and demand public inquiry knowing full-well that the Government will simply ignore the request. How long can this go on? A week? Two maybe? Eventually the opposition parties will have to piss or get off the pot, as they say. Not one of the opposition leaders has the courage to do anything! Quite frankly I am most surprised by Mr. Duceppe's recalcitrance. The Bloc really has nothing to lose here they could even force an election and probably still win a couple seats. 

My message to the opposition leaders is, if you do this for much longer you will look foolish and strengthen the Conservative supporters claim that you are just playing 'gotcha' politics. You must bring forward a motion to hold the Government in contempt, or something substantial to back up your claims that the Government is doing something wrong by not complying with the demands of the House. Otherwise your claim that the House is supreme is hollow and empty because your own actions will have proved that you don't believe this to be true. Only powerful actions on the part of the opposition will properly iterate the claim that the House is supreme. 

Corporatism and the attack on Democracy

There is an inherent conflict at the heart of modern conservative theory between its social and fiscal elements. On the one hand conservatives want to hold on to certain supposedly traditional aspects of our social system, particularly those surrounding the 'family,' sexual preferences, child rearing, gender mores, ages of sexual consent etc. As a result many conservatives publicly lament the divorce rates, the abundance of single-parent or blended families, same-sex marriage, the sexualization of teen-agers, the absence of the traditional stay at home parent, etc. The problem is, of course,  that these social factors are being pushed forward by gradual changes in the market, changes promoted for the most part by. . . . conservatives. The most obvious element in this process and one which many sociologists and social commentators have talked about has been the growing necessity for both parents to go out to work in order to maintain an average family. Huge increases in housing costs (which has grown in large part by government's resistance to rent controls or the production and maintenance of decent social housing) has been a major element in this. In the Western countries, deregulation in trade has also put increasing pressure on households by making it easy for manufacturing jobs to disappear to third-world nations. Traditionally, if one parent went out to work it was the father because his earning potential was greater and this lead to an exacerbation of the power inequities between men and women at home and in the economy in general. As it has become increasingly difficult for one parent to stay at home during the early childhood years, women have ironically gained more economic and social power despite the negative pressure put upon them by conservative ideology which has fostered guilt for mothers who feel that putting their children in the hands of day-care workers is a sign of poor parenting. But the increasing financial power of women has also had the natural effect of increasing divorce rates as women who were once trapped in the bonds of marriage by their financial incapacity to act independently are now able to make more choices. Conservatives have begun to adapt to this reality at least in terms of their rhetoric, because you seldom hear mainstream conservatives condemning 'working women.' This shift in ideology has allowed conservative parties not to actually address these issues which could be done by giving significant tax breaks for families (particularly so-called income splitting), or by protecting the kinds of jobs that would make it easier for a live at home parent, or to institute living wage legislation. The conservatives essential pursue policies that push countries like Canada toward third-world economies while lamenting the disappearance of the traditional family (something which ironically existed for a very small group of middle and upper-class people for a very short historical period). This is why a conservative like Mike Harris, former Ontario Premier, makes more sense than a traditional conservative. Mike Harris essentially jettisoned the social aspect of the conservative agenda because at some level he knew that the forces of the Market that he was choosing to pursue were a major factor in the breakdown in traditional mores and it therefore made little sense to, say, attack parents for not staying at home to raise children. 

But the increasing power of the market, particularly as exercised through new technologies has also been a major factor in other aspects of social change. Marketing to children has been an important factor in the sexualization of teenagers, particularly teenage girls. The globalization of the entertainment industry, made so powerful through new technology, has given rise to a whole industry of sexualized teenagers that is evident in everything from Disney Television to music videos. Huge multinational corporations like Fox, Disney, Viacom, etc, have been instrumental to the globalization process and have also been major marketers to children. This has led not only to younger people exploring their sexuality but to the increasing profile of so-called alternative life-styles which traditional social conservative so abhor. Conservative parties, being largely allied to these very same forces of globalization are not about to put restrictions on such things as children in advertising or to the significant sexual content of music videos. Conservatism is more economically tied to multinational corporations than it is to a decreasing number of social traditionalists. As a result the ideology of conservatism is increasingly jettisoning its social aspect in favor of the rhetoric of the market and globalization in the full knowledge that its real power lies in the increasing strength of multinational corporations which will exploit any market to feed the insatiable greed of the casino economy. 

This is particularly evident in the agenda of the Conservative movement in Canada which has a decreasing interest in social traditionalism. While they attack recent increases in NGO strength to struggle for the rights of women, for example, they do so not because they are promoting a traditional family agenda but because their market model increasingly seeks to undermine the ability of people, particularly the most vulnerable, to fight back against the amazing increases in the market and the centralization corporate power. Meanwhile they make conscious, if entirely fabricated, efforts to hold on to their traditional base by paying lip-service to such issues as crime, which they know full-well has been on a steady decrease despite supposedly lax crime legislation which the aging population imagines 'coddles' criminals. 

Ironically this situation has lead to an increasing strength for Conservatives at the very time when the population in general is increasingly liberal in many ways. While multinational corporations have more and more power over the political agenda, people who are frighteningly ignorant of the economic processes at the heart of the very system they live in, become convinced of the inevitability of the corporate agenda at home and abroad. In fact, people become convinced that it is not an 'agenda' at all but a 'natural' and organic process of economy. This is an amazing display of Marx's concept of reification playing out at the heart of  modern capitalism. Meanwhile the traditional conservatives will not shift their vote to another party because their is very little space for the emergence of an actual conservative (in the broadest sense) party. These factors, coupled with the vagaries of our first past the post system and the splits in the Center and center-left means that conservatives can exercise an inordinate degree of power despite the growing liberalism of our age. 

The most problematic part of this process is that the majority of people remain woefully unaware of the actual corporatist agenda at the heart of the shifting conservative ideology. The neo-liberal movement has been remarkably effective at convincing people that the changes in the global economy are not the result of a conscious and concerted effort on the part of corporations and their political allies, but that they are an organic growth of an economy which they want us to believe that we have no power to influence. In this circumstance it becomes relatively easy to make attacks on democratic processes because the political system increasingly appears to be a simple administrative body which "administers" the economy rather than actively guiding society according to a general will. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bluster, Once again. . . . all bluster and nothing else.

Well, folks as expected it looks like the Liberals are going to fold once again and let the Con-men set the terms of debate. They continue to bluster on about allegations of impropriety on the part of the government concerning their failure to follow the constitution and hand over the documents as ordered by the House. But what are they actually going to do?? Absolutely nothing. They love to make noise but not sign of a motion of contempt or a request for a ruling from the SCC. 

Bluster is as much as they have. 

And this goes for the other opposition parties as well. No courage. No genuine political will. Nothing. The Prime Minister can wipe his ass with the Constitution and the opposition might as well do the wiping for him. 

Monday, March 8, 2010

International Women's Day. . . . Lots of work still to be done.

So one more International Women's Day has come and looking at my five year old daughter and the future that she faces I realize that we all have a lot of work to do. When you look around the world women continue to be second-class citizens (both de facto and de jure) in many countries. Women continue to lack political rights, they lack inheritance rights, as a group women suffer much greater rates of poverty, and violence against women continues to be a terrible stain on our entire race. 

But the problem is not just some abstract 'third-world' issue, it is a vital issue here in our own country. Women in Canada are woefully underrepresented in our political system and in the power centers of power in general. Just because we have a female Chief Justice of our Supreme Court doesn't mean that there is not a lot to be done to guarantee women an equal place in our society. Even Pakistan has a greater percentage of women in their nation legislature than we do. And the present Government has gone to great lengths to undermine the ability of women to find equality, including cutting funding to many women's groups and undermining the struggle for pay-equity. 

But we certainly can not only blame the present government for the difficulty of the on-going struggle for equality. Unfortunately many people in this country believe, or at least claim, that total gender equality already exists in this country. These people continue resist any serious effort to bring more women into political and social organizations, or they restrict such efforts to platitudes such as simple statements of equality which they imagine will somehow magically overcome generations of oppression and lack of access. Unfortunately, among this group are many women who claim that any kinds of affirmative action processes are an insult to women or to their own achievements. This is an simplistic approach which overlooks the social and historical role played in the marginalization of any social group. For generations women have had less access to education and administrative roles at all levels of society. But more than this women have been socially conditioned away from certain pursuits and vocations. Of course, there will be women who have and will continue to overcome the social barriers to full participation. But for a woman to raise to a high position in, say, politics she is often required to be even more pushy and ambitious than her male peers and she must conform to a male dominated and male-created culture which women have had very little part in forming. The only way to change this kind of cultural barrier is to find processes that bring a much wider group of women into processes such as politics. 

This is why the struggle for women's equality touches all of us. Because not only is it in all of our favor to push our culture to greater equality where women our concerned, but for all people. The struggle for democracy is in large part the struggle to bring marginalized and vulnerable people into the political processes as well as all aspects of our society. People with physical and mental challenges, people of color, women; all people who have socially conditioned struggles, as well as personal ones, to overcome must play an ever greater role in our society if democracy is to be meaningful and if our society and its members are to achieve all that can be achieved. 

As a man I believe that one of my responsibilities in the struggle for equality is to encourage the women in my life to believe in themselves and to pursue their dreams no matter what. It also means that I consciously try to step back at times in my life to make sure that I don't use my socially conditioned male aggression to speak over women or anyone else in a marginalized position. And it is time that many other men did the same. In many organizations men too willing come to the fore to occupy leadership roles, in many cases in organizations which represent larger numbers of women than men. Stepping back to let others take a larger leadership role is not condescending, rather it means finally facing up to the fact that the opinions of middle-class white men is over represented in our society and that there are other important experiences and opinions that can enrich our society. 

Happy international Women's day to all. 

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Where did MR. Attaran see these documents. . . .?

So now the question must be asked: Where did Amir Attaran see these documents?? And if he has seen them why haven't our elected officials seen them? 

Mr. Attaran has accused the government of war crimes based upon documents that he has seen but that the government insists that our own representative are not allowed to see. And since Mr. Attaran is a professor of law, he knows the implications of accusing the government of war crimes on national television. He must be pretty sure of himself in this regard. But he knows that if the Government takes legal action against him it will only get them further into the mire in which they now find themselves. 

The next week should be very interesting. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Dear Opposition Leaders: This is a Constitutional Crisis . . . . DO SOMETHING!

Don't buy Rob Nicholson's smokescreen. It is a stalling tactic to put the Afghan detainee documents in the hands of retired judge to make a judgement that is none of his business. The Canadian parliament has the ABSOLUTE and Constitutionally guaranteed right to the documents that have asked for EVEN IF, AND THIS IS IMPORTANT, EVEN IF their release is a question of national security! That is for the House to decide, not the sitting government. The constitution is clear and the Government knows this. If Nicholson and Harper were sure of their position they would ask for a ruling by the Supreme Court on the question of constitutional rights. But they KNOW that they would lose. And Courts have ruled on such matters before and it is clear. 

Rob Nicholson, and Harper Government is in direct violation of the Constitution. They are now actual criminals who should be in jail and if the Liberals fail to immediately enforce the order of the House in one way or another then they don't deserve to be the official opposition. 

Your constitution is under attack Canadians! It needs to be defended right now. By failing to abide by an order of the House Harper has taken us into the realm of dictatorship and he knows it and so does every informed Conservative supporter. If the Liberals were denying an order of the House every Conservative in the Country would be up in arms. THIS SHOULD NOT BE A PARTISAN MATTER! This is a matter of simple constitutional law. 

I say to all three leaders of the opposition parties: do something immediately! This tyranny cannot stand. 

Wars in the Middle East, imperialism part. . . . Oh I lost count.

It amazes me that there are still people out there who believe that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea. The greatest irony of the war was, of course, the simple fact that the invasion, and the entire ‘Bush-Doctrine’ was a violation of the very international laws that the invaders claimed that they were enforcing in the first place. This should be enough to dissuade any rational person from supporting the war to begin with. However, despite their claims to the contrary, those who supported and continue to support the war have very little rationality on their side anyway.

Supporters of the war were of course forced to abandon their initial arguments for the war very soon after the actual invasion. The idea of WMDs went by the wayside very quickly. This fact should motivate any rational person to doubt the legitimacy of the invasion not just because there were no weapons but because it makes clear that the actual motivation for the invasion was contrary to the publically stated one. Now given the history of British and American imperialism, anyone who fails to understand that the invasion of Iraq was motivated by a continuation of this history must either a) tacitly support this history or b) be so wildly uninformed about American and British actions over the past 100 years or so that they really can’t understand this issue to begin with.

The invaders quickly found a new spin to put on their illegal action – so-called “regime change.” Now this is a strange one since they are the very ones who set up the regime in the first place and continued to support it through the worst of its abuses as long as it functioned as an ally in the region. George Bush senior even addressed a joint meeting of Congress begging them not to pull funding from Iraq after Hussein gassed the Kurds because though he had done some pretty nasty stuff, he was still an American ally and deserved financial and military support.

The Iraqi State going “rouge” didn’t mean it was a brutal dictatorship or that it killed its own people, in American parlance it meant that Iraq would no longer do the American bidding exactly the way they wanted it done. This is where we must question the long history of US and British support of every kind of terrible dictatorship. The Shah in Iran, Surharto in Indonesia, the so-called Malayan Emergency, countless dictatorships in Africa and Latin America, the list is too long to recite.

So the argument of ‘regime change’ begs the question, if the US and Britain were so concerned about the evils of the regime in Iraq why did they support it for so long and why do they continue to support dictatorships all over the world and undermine democratically elected leaders when they don’t conform to US and British globalization strategies? (By the way, the US and British support of the de facto dictatorships in Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, two states that they use to launch attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq respectively, should be enough to make any rational person doubt the argument of regime change. )

The answer is, as it usually is, a combination of factors. One is that the US and Britain have proven time and again that they have no real interest in human rights or democracy except where they can manipulate them in order to further their overall strategy of the movement of Capital. The Iraqi regime had become a serious thorn in the side of this strategy particularly because of the movement of oil and the need to blindly support the State of Israel as the main military force in the Middle East. With dwindling justification for the military spending in the US in particular, a serious new motivation had become necessary for such expenditures. Dick Cheney had already made this argument in a frighteningly explicit way years before the invasion of Iraq. US military expenditure constitutes not only the largest in the world by far by also has been the most effective way for the US government to funnel huge amounts of tax money from average people to large corporations such as Lockheed – Martin, General Dynamic, and others. Beginning with the invasion of Iraq, this spending not only went on undeterred but actually increased with the formation of huge deficits spent almost solely on the purchasing, design, and use of new weaponry.

An overall justification for huge military expenditure was the primary motivation of the invasion of Iraq. The Bush Doctrine, the Cheney-doctrine (sometime referred to as the One Percent Solution) and the so-called ‘Wolfowitz Doctrine’ which has its origins in the 1990s, all add up to the necessity of finding a serious war that would be able to turn the attention of the US population (and hopefully the populations of other states like Britain) to a resurgence of the military-industrial complex which guarantees the supremacy of a Capitalist class which can continue their raping of not only their citizens but of the world’s resources.

“Regime Change” was just another neo-imperialist spin, not unlike the way the so-called ‘white man’s burden’ was the spin for the initial phase of British imperialism. A frighteningly obvious exposure of this fact is that the regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to be de facto dictatorships run by undue Western control. Now instead of children dying because of Western supported sanctions they die because of the use birth defects created from the use of radioactive and phosphorous weapons during the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US and Britain continue to support dictatorships bordering on both Iraq and Afghanistan, and they continue to tacitly allow Israel to maintain an Apartheid-like situation in the occupied territories.

Every justification of the invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq is either naïve or based on a fundamental lie about US and British neo-imperialist goals. Over the past few months, the situation in Afghanistan has become particularly blatant in its effrontery to reason as we have watched bogus elections and the increasing power of war-lords running the country. Countries like Canada who had normally not been engaged in these kind s of neo-imperialist adventures now find themselves in the position of supporting a non-elected government which imprisons its people indiscriminately, uses torture routinely, and punishes homosexuality with death. Meanwhile in Iraq, different forces jockey for position against the backdrop of continued death, destruction, and extreme want. Independent organizations like Amnesty continue to show that Iraq is a torture state while birth defects run rabid through the country.  Thousands of US troops continue to be in Iraq with no schedule for departure and any hint of democratic decisions that contravene US goals are quickly put down.

Regime change really meant no change at all because the more things change the more they stay the same.

For those still unconvinced let me make a simple analogy. Let's say a guy goes into a room full of Mafia Dons and he shoots one of them, justifying his act of murder with the claim that he did it because the gangster was involved in murder and organized crime. If the same man then drinks and socializes with many of the other Gangsters and publicly calls them his friends despite the fact that they are guilty of the very same crimes as the man he just murdered, then we can reasonably assume that his stated motivation for his act was a lie. If we then investigate the man and learn that not only has he supported this and many other Mafia leaders in the past but has been guilty of the very same crimes that he claimed to have motivated his act of murder, then we have learned that far from an altruistic act of charity, this was what they call in New York, a gangland slaying. Now we may not mourn the death of that particular Mafia leader we also cannot justify his murder by another criminal who has done so simply as part of the typical jockeying for position by Gangsters. 

Fact: The US, just like the murderer in our analogy, supported Hussein for years while he was guilty of the same crimes they later condemned. 

Fact: The US, just like the murderer in our analogy, continues to support (with financial and military aid) other dictators in the region who are guilty of the same crimes.

Fact: The US, just like the murderer in our analogy, is guilty of the very same crimes all over the world.

Fact: The US is the largest producer of weapons in the world, selling them to many dictatorships.

Fact: After the end of the Soviet Union the US lost its primary justification for the more than 50% of its national budget that it spends on the military-industrial complex.

Fact: At the end of George Bush Sr.'s reign as president Cheney and Wolfowitz wrote documents specifically saying that the US needed a major Military event to justify its continued military supremacy. 

Simple Conclusion: The US invaded Iraq (and in large part Afghanistan) to reinvigorate its military position and spending in a post cold-war world. 


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Misdirection and Politics. . .. .

Misdirection is a form of deception in which the attention of an audience is focused on one thing in order to distract its attention from another.

 Misdirection takes advantage of the limits of the human mind in order to give the wrong picture and memory. The mind can concentrate on only one thing at a time. The magician uses this to manipulate the "victim's" idea of how the world is supposed to be.

For the word 'magician' read politician. The technique of misdirection has proved frightfully easy for politicians to adapt from the art of magic to the game of politics. I guess Harper doesn't need to be bright, the rest of the people just have to be gullible. 

The Wikipedia page on Misdirection has a section on Magic, Warfare, literature, and TV and Film. Someone really needs to add a section on Misdirection in politics. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Polievre and intellectual honesty. . . . .

My own dear MP Pierre Poilievre was on the radio today accusing the opposition of intellectual dishonesty!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, I know, that in itself could be a blogpost because the idea of Mr. Poilievre accusing anyone of intellectual dishonesty is so dripping with narrative irony that one hardly need say more to raise a good laugh and a good cry from one's readers. But then he quickly went on to refer to the opposition parties as the "coalition parties." That's right! Without even a hint or irony in his voice he just called them the "coalition parties." When Kathleen Petty called him on it, he just said "well, whatever you want to call them." 

This is Karl Rove politics in action! Some US, or American style advisor has obviously told the Con-men to throw that little tidbit in to the conversation whenever possible for that (not-s0-subtle) psychological effect of keeping the idea in the back of people's mind that there are secret deals happening in the background all the time with the opposition parties. Now, this won't work with me because I have no problem with coalition politics since they foster compromises and promote better understanding. And the only reason that this negative angle works on other is that some people are fool enough to be sucked into the idea that coalitions are somehow undemocratic. 

But since Mr. Poilievre has set the precedent here it would be quite amusing to see the other parties follow it. Since we all know that the Con-men were against gay marriage and we recently found out that they have taken equal rights for gay and lesbian people out of the Citizenship manual, from now on when ever an opposition politician is referring to Government they should call them "the prejudice party." They have to make sure to say this as though it is their actual name, not as though they are making a political statement. 

And since there is not actual coalition and Mr. Poilievre's statement therefore is actually a lie, we could just call the Conservative Party anything, couldn't we? In news conferences the opposition could refer to them as the "racist party" or the "or the anti-democratic party." Oh, wait, those are both actually true so it would still make the opposition more 'intellectually honest' than the Con-men. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Put Rob Nicholson in Jail. . . .

As I said two posts ago, the opposition now has in their grasp the opportunity to bring this government down in a legal and complete sense through orders of the House. First instruct the Speaker to instruct the Sergeant at Arms to go the the Ministry of Defense to obtain the desired documents. If anyone stands in the way of the Sergeant at Arms put them in prison. Next, move a motion to censure the government for failing to obey the law of the land. Next put Peter Mackay And Robert Nicholson in prison for disobeying the law. And keep in mind that Mr. Nicholson is doubly guilty because he is the minister charged with ensuring people abide by the laws! And if necessary but Harper in Jail, we all know that is where he belongs. 

Don't forget people, the tradition of the British Parliamentary system is very clear, the House is the highest court in the land, when the House makes a directive no one can supersede it, not even the Supreme Court. When the government made excuses about why it 'couldn't' hand over the documents, that was just so much bile and nonsense, because the House can order you to do anything regardless of other laws, because in matters of direct orders of the House everything else is superseded. This is one of the reason why such order are rare. 

If the opposition allows the Conservative government to once again ignore the law, Harper will become further emboldened until he simply eliminates parliament altogether. And if you don't think it could happen you are just naive. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Harper Hates Democracy. . . .

I read a really interesting book in manuscript form over the weekend while I was nursing my cold. It is about a man's personal journey to political enlightenment throughout certain adventures in England, the US, and Latin America. The adventures, such as being held in an El Salvadoran prison, are interesting but what I found particularly good was that it reminded me of why so many modern right-wingers hate democracy so much. The book uses a quote from Milton Friedman, the gist of which is that if democratically elected representatives enact any policies which are perceived to be controls on the so-called 'free-market' then these decisions are a priori anti-democratic. In other words, Friedman used the argument that Democracies are good only so long as they bring about decisions that he  agrees with, otherwise they are not actually democratic at all. 

This reminded me that modern right-wingers (and this doesn't necessarily apply to old school tories) hate democracy because they don't believe that the people of a nation can form a general will that has as its goal some kind of social plan, particularly about the distribution of resources. But since this is the primary goal of democracy, to believe such a thing is to hollow out the entire concept.

I remember a meeting in the 90s where a World Bank official was speaking about so-called 'good governance' and democracy in the Third World. The WB official was suggesting that Third World democracies had to follow the World Bank policies of eliminating social programs and deregulating markets. But when asked "what exactly is the point of democratic elections if the agenda is already set by a set of World Bank officials" the man had no response. 

Men like Harper hate democracy because they want us to believe that there is no society, just a bunch of individuals pursuing their own wealth. The last thing they want is the population actually deciding how society should be organized or how resources should be distributed and used. In other words, Harper wants his model of society to be perceived as 'natural' and immutable; and not something that democratic processes should be able to touch. Ironically of course, Harper's model actually consists of using the government to funnel tax-payer's money to large corporations while pretending that they believe in 'free markets.' 

Harper hates democracy because he hates people and loathes the idea that we can get together and collectively decide on our future. But society does exist and it belongs to the people who form it and we have democratic processes to decide on how we will form that society. If the market was all we needed, there would be no need of democracy. 

Milton Friedman is, by the way, quite dead and his model will die as well. Harper is a follower of Friedman and has shown his contempt for democracy again and again. But people will eventually realize that tyranny is not freedom and that society and the economy belongs to them and not to the CEOs of Bay Street, and the people will eventually take it back and the Harper era will be considered a dark period of our history. 

Either that or Harper and his ilk will slowly destroy everything good that society has built. 

The hopeless Liberals. . . .

The Federal Liberal Party is, and has been for a few years now, the most hopeless group of strategists gathered in one party that I have seen outside of the American Democrats. 

It now seems clear that the Liberals are backing away from their effort to force the Government to abide by an order of the House and produce documents relating to the Afghan detainee issue. They are making noise again about a federal inquiry but they will soon let that go as well. It seems that they have backed off because the the proverbial fear of an election after the so-called Olympic boost and the good press that they think the PM has received over the Federal Response to Haiti. 

So once again we are back to the same story, the Liberals bluster about actually doing their job in opposition but when the time comes they back off because they don't see ideal conditions for an election.

When are the Liberals going to understand, winning conditions for an elections are not going to simply appear out of thin air??? YOU MUST CREATE THE CONDITIONS!!! And you do this by pushing key issues and refusing to back off. IT IS REALLY SIMPLE! 

Take this issue of the order of the House to produce documents. If you find the Government in contempt and banish a couple of ministers from the House (or even imprison them which the House has the right to do) as a penalty, this unprecedented step would make world headlines and cripple Harper. Parties that have been found in contempt and have Minister in Jail don't win elections except in Honduras. 

For some reason, conservative (not just in Canada but most Western nations) are the only ones willing to play hardball anymore. And each time you push and then back off like the Liberals constantly do, you lose a little more credibility and you bolster Harper's image of untouchability. 

Fight back you idiots, or face extinction.