Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Our taunting PM.....

I find Harper's reaction to the robo-con scandal remarkable. He expressed no real concern, no hint that something is really wrong, and simply taunts and excoriates the opposition saying "Prove it!" He claims that conservatives weren't behind the calls, even though it would be absurd for anyone else to have been behind the calls.

Now, while many might give the PMO the benefit of the doubt concerning the calls, there is obviously no question that conservatives where behind the calls. It was a large organized effort that could only have benefited the CPC so based upon the simple principle of que bono, obviously some conservatives  somewhere were behind it.

And since we know the CPC to have violated election laws before on more than one occasion, and since they have demonstrated a systematic effort in this regard, it is unreasonable to suggest that Conservatives were not behind the calls.

But what disturbs me most is the continual "prove it" mentality of the PM and his claims that the opposition is undertaking a so-called smear campaign. While in criminal matters we obviously adhere to a innocent until proven guilty principles - we should surely be holding our government to a very high standard. There is something unseemly about a government that has systematically broken and ignored the laws in the past as well as used all of its power to smear and discredit any opposition to taunt the citizens of the country by saying "na-na-na boo-boo" you can't prove anything, so there." Based upon a the preponderance of evidence that is the past, we have every reason to believe that a large national undertaking designed to benefit the Conservative Party of Canada in an election was undertaken by them. In fact, I think at this point if you don't think they were behind it, then you are hopelessly naive.

Harper sounds more like this everyday. 
It is indeed unseemly for the de facto head of state to be mired in a scandal that goes to the heart of our very democracy to be taunting us. Instead he should be concerned and be desperate to not only clear his, and his party's, image but to renew people's faith in democracy. The fact that he is not concerned and that he is taunting the nation, is pretty much all the proof you need that the CPC is at the heart of these illegal and imoral acts.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Why I think Mr. Kinsella is Wrong. . . . (and So is Vic Toews). .

In his blog today Warren Kinsella has been bemoaning the revelations concerning the private life of Vic Toews. He tells us that what separates other parties (his beloved Liberals in particular) from the Conservatives is that they have boundaries. The logic goes like this - the rather uncomfortable issues of Vic Toews' divorce have nothing to do with the the terrible legislation that Toews was introducing and nothing to do with his politics in general and the issues should therefore be off limits.

The problem with Mr. Kinsella's logic is that it is flagrantly wrong. The two issues are intimately and inseparably connected. At a general level this government has made a very big show about ethics and morality, using any opponent's supposed short-comings in this area as evidence of their unfitness for governing or anything else. It is not unlike Prime Minister John Major's moral crusade which he undertook at the very time that he was having an ongoing extramarital affair or Newt Gingrich's incessant attacks on Bill Clinton as being moral unfit to be president while he was also having an affair. If Toews and his government had never attempted to take the moral high-ground, if they didn't claim to be better than everyone else, and if they didn't claim that everyone else was ethically unfit to govern, then Mr. Kinsella would have an argument. However, as it stands now, Kinsella has nothing like an argument. Far from the Vic Toews revelations having nothing to do with his political agenda, they have everything to do with his political agenda.

Mr. Kinsella's argument is made even weaker by the fact that the particular legislation that Vic Toews has introduced is about personal privacy and it demonstrates the total and utter disregard that the Harpercons have for privacy. The Conservatives claim (like so many conservatives) that "if you have nothing to hide, you don't need any privacy," and this is precisely the philosophy that the Bill in question puts into action. Well the revelations concerning Vic Toews is simply the application of his own political philosophy to himself, and he came up wanting. For this reason Mr. Kinsella is more than wrong, his opinion is the very reason that the Liberal Party has been a failure - it hasn't understood that being principled isn't simply about applying one standard to everything, rather it is about applying the appropriate standard. While, Mr. Kinsella is correct in believing that there may be some things that are never appropriate, in general terms, the appropriateness of actions often changes with changing circumstances. For example a politician may say that one principle he would never break is obedience to the law, but if that same person found herself in the Syrian opposition today, that principle would not necessarily apply. Martin Luther King understood this when he said that it is as much a duty to oppose unjust laws as it is to obey just ones.

Having said that, I certainly don't think that the Toews case is such an extreme one. If Vic Toews was concerned with people's privacy, if he was not (like most of the Harpercons) a moralistic blowhard who pretends to be ethically superior to anyone who opposes him, if didn't claim that anyone who opposes him is a child-pornographer, then yes, his personal life would be off limits. He should have learned from the sad example of Gary Hart - if you make a show of being ethically pure and you invite journalists to follow you around to demonstrate how morally pure you are, then you, yourself, have removed the barrier of privacy. You cannot hide behind a principle of personal privacy if you have demonstrated that you don't believe in such a principle and you cannot make the ethics of personal lives a major political issue and then cry foul when people expose your own ethical failures in your personal life.

I think the lesson here is that, while I appreciate Mr. Kinsella's desire to avoid the proverbial laying down with dogs and getting up with fleas, we must also understand that if you have a political opponent that is willing to break any law or principle to maintain power, then the boundaries of political appropriateness have a priori changed and if you don't react to those changes you are bound to fail. This is not to suggest that the Vic Toews case is an extreme one and therefore 'the ends must justify the means.' Rather, the Toews case if very simple, the only really meaningful demonstration of the bankruptcy of Vic Toews' political philosophy in this regard is if the standards applied in his Bill and in his political strategy in general are publicly applied to him.

In other word, the Conservatives have demonstrated that they have no regard for law or principle and if we do not apply appropriate standards to them today, we will be in the position of the Syrian opposition later and none of this debate will matter.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Reagan Legacy, The GOP and Harper. . . .

I very seldom comment on politics in the US. I grew up there and left in 1990 because I just saw no future in the country. It is a dying neo-colonial power that I thought would, like most colonial powers, fail to cope with its decline in a constructive way. Time has, I believed, proved me correct and I have watched the US tailspin into a decline largely of its own making as it actively destroyed its own manufacturing base, destroyed the unions that actually kept the nation strong, and pushed greater amounts of wealth in fewer and fewer hands.

Amid the nation's decline we have watched the Republican party go into hyper-decline as it is more and more the voice of the fringe elements of religious extremists and know-nothing Tea Party wackos. But a great deal is being written in both the blogosphere and the mainstream media about how today's Republican party is a new animal and not the party of the past. People are particularly quick to say that the Republican Party has abandoned the example of Reagan.

However, I came out of my US slumber to say that much of the noise concerning the Republican Party is just nonsense. The GOP of today is exactly the inheritor of the Reagan legacy in both style and content. Ronald Reagan was really the beginning of the modern extremely divisive, nasty partisanship of today's politics. But more importantly Ronald Reagan's philosophy is exactly what the GOP represents today - a party that claims to be about a strong nation, a good business approach, individual liberty, and small government, but is actually anathema to all of these things. In Reagan's acceptance speech he famously said "government is the problem not the solution," but he (and almost no republicans after him) ever actually acted as though they believed this. They only believed that the problem of government was it tried to create more equality instead of less. Thus the Republican Party built bigger government with more power and less individual liberty. But unlike the traditional democrats who thought government could be a large institution which helped average people, the Republicans stood for big government that wants to help corporations (and not necessarily American corporations, just any large corporation). And this political approach not only had no interest in keeping the government out of people's bedrooms (a place where republicans continually want to go) it systematically bankrupted the US by actively promoting the movement of capital and manufacturing out of the country without any interest in replacing traditional manufacturing with a modern, smart, hightech economy (as many European countries have attempted to do). Even the so-called Tea Party supporters who talk about smaller government with more individual liberty have no real interest in such approach to government. Instead they are just hyper-Reaganists who want to impose their sexual and religious morals on everyone else while continuing to promote a big government that acts in the interest in a global corporate elite.

Thus I think it is perfectly reasonable to say that, though the rhetoric today is more extreme and more religious, the Republican Party today is just a natural extension of the Reagan Republicans of the 1980s. The only reason that people think it is different is because they are foolish enough to believe the totally disingenuous spin of the Reagan Republicanism.

And the reason that it is important for us in Canada to think about is that a great deal of what the Republicans represent are the core impetuous of the Conservatives here. Though the religious rhetoric of the Harpercons is milder thanks to very different histories of the two countries, Harper, and many of his strongest supporters are Born Again Christian Dispensationalists just like Bush and his ilk. But, perhaps more importantly, the present Conservative Government has no interest in small government or personal liberty (though they will use this front whenever necessary) their only real interest is in creating a government that furthers the global corporate agenda much the same way Reagan did.

Corruption is Great! (As long as it is our corruption that is). . . .

We are now at the point where political bloggers could just write about the continual scandals and abuses of power courtesy of the Conservative Party. Today we have another one that, if the Liberals had done it, people all over the country would be up in arms about.

Taking a look at the Conservative Blogs in the past couple of weeks (or years for that matter), one can reasonably draw only one conclusion; Conservative have never really cared about all the corruption and power abuse that they compulsively complained about under the Liberal government - corruption and abuse of power is fine with Conservatives as long as it is their own party that is guilty of the crimes, no problem. In fact, we can go even further than that - we can conclude that Conservatives are actually actively in favor of Big Government, wasting federal funds, being outrageously fiscally irresponsible, abusing power, having no accountability in government, abusing power, making the military an arm of the party, illegally suppressing the vote. Conservatives are in favor of all of these things - as long as it is their own party is the one doing these things.

Well, all I can say is enjoy it while you can conservatives, because it will end your government the same way it has ended other governments. And then we can look forward to ruthless indignation on the part of the conservatives as the next government does all the things that Harper as taught them to do so effectively.

The only idea the Left needs is how to shut up the Right. . .

Warren Kinsella cited the ever pontificating Fancis Fukuyama today claiming that he was confused concerning the failure of the left to take advantage of the obvious failures of capitalism in recent years. Only, like all rightwingers, Fukuyama (and it seems Kinsella) is confused about what is really going on. Kinsella writes that "chief" among the left's failures have been a "failure of ideas," and that the so-called "old formulas" don't work anymore because (and here's the clincher) "we can't afford them."

All of these points are, of course, complete nonsense. The left has not, in anyway suffered from a deficit of ideas. Rather, the right has such momentous control of the media and the economic discourse that they can simply convince everyone that nothing can work except rightwing solutions. Look at the recent Liberal Party. Even most Liberals tout the nonsense that lowering corporate taxes is a good thing. Besides being flatly counterfactual, it is part of a discourse of globalization that has been a concerted effort to lower standards everywhere and create a war of all against all.

Furthermore, characterizing traditional 'leftwing' ideas as old ideas that have failed is also flatly wrong. The ideas of the left didn't fail, rather, the right's control of economic discourse through globalization and media power took advantage of an ignorant population to de facto brain wash a huge portion of the population.

And lastly, of course, is the rightwing myth that we "can't afford" pensions and social programs. This is the greatest nonsense of all.  There has never been more wealth in history than there is today. Not only can we afford the traditional solutions to poverty and economic inequality, we can afford them better than we ever have. The problem is not the amount of wealth but where the wealth actually is. If you have a society in which the majority of wealth is in the hands of a few people, then of course you won't be able to afford social solutions to your problems. Over the past forty years or so the right (and that includes Liberals in Canada) have fundamentally shifted the wealth and power structure toward large corporate bodies that function in the absence of meaningful control, transparency, and social responsibility. This is the problem, not the the lack of leftist ideas or lack of resources.

The ideas of the left are better, more rational, and more ethical, than any of the ideas on the right, and if we were actually debating these ideas in a meaningful way the left would win every time. The problem is people like Fukuyama, and Mr. Kinsella, who propagate ideas based on certain defunct rightwing ideological nonsense, and frankly are incapable of a meaningful economic and social analysis because they are far too steeped in the global rightwing discourse. Mr. Kinsella's article ironically (or maybe intentionally) further obfuscates the problem and maintains the myth that the left is out of ideas, while the real solution is very simple, and always has been. It is the same solution that has always been meaningful in a context of extreme economic inequality - shift resources and power away from corporations and rich corporate masters and back into the hands of the population in general. It is an idea as old as economics and the only one that has any meaning or would ever work. We don't need new economic ideas - we just need to figure out how to expose people like Fukuyama and Kinsella for what they really are - pedlars of an unethical ideology hiding behind media respectability.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Where do We Go from here?

So two more scandals hit a government that is now so mired in scandal and abuse they make previous Liberal Governments look like a bunch of nuns. It seems that Peter MacKay has established the Canadian Military as an arm of the Conservative Party and the CPC has undermined the very structure of our democracy in a way that suggests that Canada's future is now in serious trouble. However, I have little doubt that the Conservative Cabal will simply ignore these scandals like they have ignored all others until the media gets tired and moves on. I am beginning to believe that we could find out that Harper is a child molesting agent for the CIA and the media would make some noise for a few days and then forget about it.

This leaves us with a serious question; what do we do when we realize that our system doesn't work? What do we do when a national Party can gerrymander the system, illegally fund themselves, actively suppress votes, and still get elected with a majority and function as a virtual dictatorship, all with the active support of the nation's media? This is a serious dilemma for anyone, conservative or liberal, who actually cares about our future because this is not about policies any more. The Conservative Party has a number of really bad policies, but these are small potatoes compared with their deliberate assault on democracy and the active and tacit support that they have received in that effort from the media.

The recent scandals are not just typical political scandals, they demonstrate that we now have a rogue government that is gradually colonizing the military and attempting to make the institutions of democracy dysfunctional like a thirdworld dictatorship. As a nation we will soon have to determine if we are willing to give up our country  or not.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Robogate and lackey Scapegoats. . . .

Saint Stephen on Robogate

Yesterday Pat Martin said on CBC that the Conservatives were "laying the foundation for throwing some kid under the bus," as a result of the massive conspiracy that is Robogate. Well, it didn't take long did it? Look here to see the scapegoat that the Conservatives have targeted to take the fall. I mean, I am pretty cynical but even I was surprised by the speed at which they found some foolish Conservative lackey on which to attempt to put the blame. I really have to wonder how many times the CPC can attempt to do blame some pion before the majority of people actually start to catch on.

This one surely won't wash with anyone who is not blindly partisan or has some commonsense. Robogate took a great deal of effort and organization from many ridings to be effective. Since only known Liberal and NDP supporters received phone calls in a wide variety of ridings, there had to have been a central organizing group that got these lists in order to make the calls. It is simply inconceivable that any one person made this happen, particularly a lackey like the one that they have targeted. It is now clear that on more than one occasion the CPC has engaged in large-scale organized efforts to undermine the democratic process. Meanwhile, as a commentator on my last post pointed out, Conservative bloggers, faced with their party being a criminal, anti-democratic organization, are desperately trying to suggest that the Liberals or NDP must be behind this conspiracy because Saint Stephen can do no wrong. 

How long will the centre hold?

Our Banana Republic. . .

Anyone who believes that the anti-democratic robo-calls were not made directly on the orders of the upper echelons of the CPC is just hopelessly nieve. This was not some guy in a basement but an organized and concerted effort on the part of the Conservatives to thwart the democratic process and since the organization that did it directly billed Stephen Harper's constituency office, it is clear that the PM is directly implicated.

However, whether Elections Canada can actually press any charges remains to be seen. What is very clear, regardless of charges, is that Elections Canada should nullify the last election on the very clear basis that the results are tainted by the Conservatives' dirty tricks. This is no less than the conservatives would call for if the calls had been sponsored by the LPC or the NDP and one of those parties had won. If the previous election continues to stand then Canada can think of itself as nothing less than another banana republic where the ruling party does anything it likes to stay in power. The CPC has demonstrated again and again that it is nothing short of a criminal organization that routinely breaks election laws in order to get elected. And with their recent gerrymandering of the electoral districts our country is now in the grips of a dictatorship, the likes of which will only be eliminated with active revolution. Do it now or do it years from now, it will have to be done eventually because with all this law-breaking it should be clear that this cabal will never give up power until they are forced to do so by the active will of the majority who oppose them.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Revolutionary Defeatism. . . .

In an act of what they used to, in the old days of Marxists discourse, call "revolutionary defeatism" I have a perverse kind of hope that the Conservative regime will indeed pass its crime bill as well as spend useless billions on ridiculous fighter-jets. These two policies are so hopelessly misguided and fiscally irresponsible that they will guarantee the defeat of this incompetent government at the next election. This tragic-comic regime is so aggressively stupid that they think that outrageously irresponsible policies that are attractive to their uneducated, cynical base will keep them in power regardless of how badly they will bankrupt the nation and dismantle many of the things that even their base supporters take for granted. Even rightwing US lawmakers have now realized that their so-called "tough on crime" agenda has been a complete and abject failure which has not only made no impact on crime but has also bankrupted many US states. Anyone with even an ounce of common sense, (let alone with an actual knowledge of the issues), knows that the Conservative Crime agenda will be an epic and colossal failure in every sense that a policy can be a failure. The only ones who don't seem to realize it are the actual members of this cabal that calls itself a government. But sometimes you just have to watch stupid mistakes in the knowledge, (cold comfort though it be), that it is these very mistakes that will reveal just how incompetent someone is - in this case Mr. Harper himself.

Unfortunately, I also know that Mr. Harper's incompetence is going to hurt a lot of people and leave long-term scars (both social and economic) on this nation. Thus, the best case scenario is our own kind of "Arab Spring," which overthrows this government before it is too late. Excepting that we can only hope that the provincial governments and the courts stop this regime and expose it for what it is - an ideologically driven, hopelessly incompetent group of bullies who have no interest in justice, equality, prosperity, democracy, and have a demonstrable contempt for the constitution and the rule of law.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

First Chapter of A Book I wrote. . . .

I am posting chapters from my short, autobiographical novel concerning a year of my childhood in Santa Monica California. They are all very short chapters that can be read in a few minutes. It may be interesting to some, boringly self-indulgent to others. Feedback will be appreciated. 

City of Angels

I wasn’t at all surprised to find out that the town I lived in was actually called the City of Angels because I saw them all the time – the angels I mean. It was mostly the lowest order of angels because those were the only ones that frequented the places I went. It is not like Seraphim are going to hang around in Baskin-Robbins. They must have better things to do.
Even the archangels seldom came around because they are, I imagine, fairly busy even on weekends. When I was a kid the universe struck me as a delicate and vulnerable web of reality that probably requires difficult and regular maintenance to keep it running at peak efficiency. So the higher orders of angels must have their hands full most of the time. And the recreations of a ten year old are not high on the angelic priority list.
I do believe that I once caught a glimpse of Gabriel at the bumper-cars on the Santa Monica pier. He appeared as a tremendous shadow of light, a solar corona, which on closer examination could have passed for a slightly rotund, aged man with tiny reading spectacles and a tweed coat. But when I tried to run into him with my bright green bumper-car he not only eluded my efforts, he vanished and was replaced by a snotty-nosed kid who was hell-bent on the destruction of every other car in the place.
The pier was actually a common place to see angels because as far as I could tell they liked to lie on the beach and sleep the hot afternoons away. Unlike people, angels dream stark-white, fuzzy cloud-like dreams. I don’t know why angels need to dream but they do. I suppose even divine perfection requires the occasional recreation and the release of dreams. I am sure this must be true because I have seen them go a little squirrely on occasion, wearing sombreros and playing with jump-ropes in odd places.
Saint Bernard said that the wiser you are for others, the more of a fool you are for yourself, and angels are no exception. As far as I could tell, angels seldom have a clear awareness that they are bugging out. They can keep watch over millions of living beings all over the universe, but they are seldom clued in to their own mental deterioration. They are luscious and forgiving creatures and it is just not in them to admit their neediness. Instead they store it up inside them like squirrels gathering nuts in their cheeks for winter.
I have a theory that this is why angels occasionally become visible. When they have built up enough stress the angels become sort of like us and so they grow nearer to our less ethereal plane of existence and start appearing among us. This theory is supported by the antics they sometimes undertake on such occasions. Instead of the divine behavior that we expect from them, they become tricksters and start hiding our car keys and burning our macaroni and cheese. And their divine status usually guarantees that they will remain blameless because no one wants to be heard uttering such accusations. And who would believe you anyway? People tend to look at you funny when you suddenly announce that an Angel ate your oatmeal cookies.  
One day in July I watched just such an example of stress motivated trickstering. It was at the very end of the pier where the old men used to fish in the days before the pier was gentrified and made tourist-friendly. I watched a small smiling angel repeatedly hook fish on the end of an old guy’s line only to take them off again just before he reeled them in. The poor old man was becoming acutely frustrated by his sixth or seventh fish. And then as if he suspected some divine intervention, the man shook his fist at the sky and yelled “Why Me?” with an air of melodramatic affectation.
“It is that angel doing it,” I told him calmly while pointing at the sky and hoping, for some unknown reason, that the information would soothe him.
He stopped shaking his fist and looked down at me rather sadly. Then he looked around as though he were expecting to see a Candid Camera crew and seemed genuinely surprised when he saw nothing.
“I swear to God it’s true,” I offered somewhat ironically. “That smiling angel keeps hooking the fish on your line and then taking them off again. He’s bugging out, I have seen it before.”
Then the man just sat down heavily on his folding stool which promptly ripped and sent him tumbling to the ground.
“That wasn’t the angels,” I told him sympathetically, “your stool was just old.” The man glared at me harshly. I am sure he could have been the Olympic champion of dirty looks. He watched me intently for a few moments and then made a loud hissing sound as though to express his complete disregard for me.
“What’s with you kid?” he asked me. “Did they open the gates to the insane asylum today or something?”
I didn’t answer because there really was nothing to say to that. But it did remind me that people don’t like to talk about certain things, and the appearance of meddlesome angels was pretty high on the list.

Attack Toews and all his Friends . . .

I think the Vikileaks attack on Vic Toews is the best news-story to emerge over the last year. I say we as Canadians should expose every single detail of the lives of the disgusting tyrants of the CPC. They are profound hypocrites who have no interest in liberty or public safety, they are just another 'big-brother,' rightwing government who wants to destroy democracy, and freedom in order to turn the population into an obedient, corporate workforce. As far as I am concerned we should use any means necessary to expose them for what they are and if that means exposing the hypocrisies of their private lives, then so be it!

And, in case anyone still needs a demonstration of the Harpercon's hypocrisy just listen to the deplorable, soulless, pontificating, windbag that is John Baird. He has the gall to condemn what he calls "dirty tricks" of others!!! These guys brought the poisonous negativity of politics to new levels, they are the party personification of dirty tricks and nastiness, and those who live by the sword will, in this case, surely die by the sword.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Death Penalty Redux . . . . .

It is quite interesting that the very week that I decided to write a blogpost about, in part, the dangers of the  death penalty, the Harper regime decides to push its new legislative efforts at having near total control of surveillance of our citizenry. And that appalling demi-god, draconian, Machiavelli-like Vic Toews tells us that if we are not fully in favor of the police having access to everything we do, then we must be child-pornographers. Far and Wide had a good blog today on the subject.`

So they tell us that making people register their guns is hitler-like, that filling in a long-form census is a dangerous invasion of privacy, but letting the police spy on every citizen in the country with no checks on that power is no problem at all.

Now, anyone who still thinks a government could administer the death penalty without significant abuse, put your hand up. Now everyone with their hands up, go get a brain-scan, you may not have one.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

On the "Reawakening" of Debates. . . . .

Well, as anyone with a pulse and 10% of political common sense knew, now that the conservatives have a majority we, as a nation have begun to talk about abortion and the death penalty again. As they have always done, the Harpercons have essentially generated this discourse by stealth, attempted to instigate a discussion in such a way that it seems as though it is not them that wants this discussion but like it has been organic or self-generating. This rhetorical technique is familiar to anyone that has looked after kids or is a parent, you gently guide the conversation with the child so that it appears to them that it was his or her idea to go to Subway instead of Macdonald's. If employed effectively it is remarkable how you can convince almost anyone that it was not you that wanted to have a certain kind of conversation or go to a particular event but it was someone else's idea.

However, I have no delusions about the Harpercons - I know that they want to outlaw abortion and bring back the death penalty and they are going to work very hard over the next few years to pursue that agenda while trying to make it look as though it was not them that tried to make it happen.

So, before we go too far down that road, I want to make my position clear on these issues - if only for the sake of self-discourse. I oppose the death penalty under all circumstances and I oppose all laws limiting abortion.

First the death penalty - Liberal discourse on the death penalty has been well summed up by Warren Kinsella in recent days - he, like most liberals, opposes the death penalty because they know that the legal system is imperfect and that, even though in many cases one might want revenge on a killer or a rapist, one should strive for reason over passion. (I hope this very short summation does not mis-characterize Mr. Kinsella's position) Now, this is a decent, rational position because, indeed all legal systems are deeply flawed and in places like the US the death penalty is demonstrably racist and classist. Blacks, and working-class people who dont' have significant funds to protect themselves from courts will always fall victim to the law more than others and they will always be victims of the death penalty more than people with greater resources. If you don't understand that this is always the case in legal systems then you simply have your head in the sand. However, what Liberals like Mr. Kinsella are not doing is taking this argument to its logical conclusion. Many of the flaws in the legal system are simply illustrations of flaws in the state itself. Though great strides have been made by activists over the last 200 years or so since the creation of the modern state to make sure that it represents and protects the people in general, at some basic level I believe the state continues to be an institution that most represents the interests of the wealthy-class. The legal system favours the wealthy because the structure of the entire state is generally built that way. Furthermore, no matter how truly representative a state is, it will always be an institution of power, and power is self-defending and self-replicating. I therefore not only oppose the death penalty because it is demonstrably racist and classist, not simply because it is demonstrably ineffective, not only because it is immoral and 'unchristian,' but because the state apparatus will always have an advantage over people and to use the state in such a brutal and negative way will always represent an imbalance of power to me, and an imbalance that is not intended to protect people but one that is intended to harm them.

Second comes abortion - I will always opposes limiting abortion for the same kinds of reasons that I oppose the death penalty. You can argue at what point "life" begins till you are blue in the face and it doesn't really matter to me. What matters is the fact that even if I were to see abortion as a terrible and tragic act, the right for a woman to control the basic functions of her body will always outweigh for me the other issues of abortion. I don't have a problems with the state outlawing, say, certain kinds of drugs or promoting certain kinds of healthy living, but at a basic level, to me, forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy to term is a kind of control that is just too draconian. Thus, beside the fact that there is a deep-seated sexism involved in men in suits trying to enact laws limited what women can do with their bodies, I just don't believe that we should ever give the state the right to have such control, there are just too many pitfalls to such a system of laws.

I suppose, I am a product of a long history of Anglo-radicalism which found its first voice in activists like Thomas Paine and the members of the London Correspondence Society. I believe that we must continually work toward democracy and work toward the state playing an important role in protecting people, creating a fair distribution of wealth, and creating as much equality of opportunity as possible, but at the same time I also know that the wealthy-class and those who seek power will always have an advantage over those with fewer resources and those who live in a more vulnerable situation, I thus always maintain a healthy skepticism about the state over-reaching it powers in areas where certain kinds of basic rights are concerned.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Changing Mood. . . .

I was communicating lately with another blogger whose work I greatly appreciate about the way the mood has changed in the country in recent weeks. I have found in my own experience, as well as in my historical reading, that even significant political changes occur in a kind of mysterious moment during which the mood changes and with the change of mood significant changes follow as though unstoppable. It happened, I believe, at the moment of the Kent State massacre. It happened during the famous tennis court oath in the opening days of the French Revolution. In recent years it happened to the government of John Major in England when, less than a year into their mandate, chancellor Norman Lamont was forced to go back on a longstanding promise and take England out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism, which was not only a policy reversal, but it was one that cost the government many millions of wasted Pounds  in what was a total failure. Something tips the scale of people's feelings and Fortuna's wheel suddenly shifts directions.

I am not the only one who noticed the change in mood in Canada that has taken place over the past couple of weeks. I said for a long time that what allowed Stephen Harper to appear to be a kind of Teflon-man for so long was largely the fact that he was a minority PM. This status not only kept his very worst instincts in check, but it also created the illusion that he was not really in complete control so that he could effectively deflect blame for many things that might otherwise have hurt him. The minority status also allowed the government to function in a continual campaign mode with a certain degree of justification. I am absolutely certain that if Harper had had a majority from the beginning he would have been universally despised by the end of his first four years because he would have gone in with his ego full and nothing would have stopped him. But years of minority government taught him the value of more subtlety and caution. However, having said that, Harper's ego has also prevented him from understanding that, as sometimes happens with politicians, it is generally historical chance that has put him in power rather than significant support for his political ideology. And this fact is going to make it difficult for Harper to continue his strange brand of stealthy ideological change. The game has changed and I am not sure that Harper can change sufficiently with it to avoid a seismic political change.

As any careful observer has surely noted, the change is already underway. The way in which Harper is being talked about in the media and on blogs has shifted significantly in only a few weeks. Suddenly people are focusing on Harper as a kind ideological bull in a china-shop who now has absolute power to do anything his wants. As the economic difficulties begin to be drawn out and become more structural, people are already talking about Harper's failure to respond to people's needs. For years now Harper has been selling a narrative of giving more money to corporations which will supposedly trickle down to average people. But with the sudden departure of Caterpillar from Ontario people's attention is suddenly on the 'trickle-down" model that Harper has been selling people for the past few years. Just today the Ottawa Citizen's Saturday headline reads "The World According to Stephen Harper." Newspapers that only a short time ago demonstrated almost unqualified support for Harper are changing their language. Journalists are talking about the "risks" that Harper is willing to take with an attack on Pensions and there are mainstream sources actually talking about the idea of a "manufactured crisis." Meanwhile more than one Conservative MP is talking about the caucus being too controlling and the need to have more freedom to speak. Political parties that have spent years in the wilderness often go through a period of extreme control. But politics, like all other fields, suffers from the effects of entropy and eventually the center doesn't hold.

I don't know to what degree the general mood has shifted and to what degree it is his status as a majority PM that has apparently changed Harper's fortunes. But there is no question in my mind that things are different. The central pillar of Harper's ability to stay in power has been stealth and diversion. His status as a minority leader allowed him to exercise this technique quite effectively, particularly at a time when the opposition was in disarray. But this pillar is gone now. Remember the episode of Seinfeld in which George is dating a girl who has a male roommate and because of his insecurity he manages to convince her to kick the roommate out? Jerry says to George "he was shouldering half the burden, now you are the man and that is not a very good role for you." This, in a sense, is what has happened to Harper and the Conservative Party. The disarray of the opposition and the status of a minority were shouldering half the burden for Harper and his party. But the attention will now be focused much more on Harper and the strategy of diversion and stealth will be significantly more difficult to undertake effectively.

These events also explain, I think, the fall of the NDP in Quebec. I suspect that many people in Quebec are starting to feel the need to get rid of Harper is more important than which particular party they vote for and they are now looking around at their options.

There is a new game in town and though a week might be a lifetime in politics, parties in Western democracies seldom stay in power long without being very flexible, and flexibility is not something that Harper has ever been accused of.