Sunday, November 16, 2014

Why I will NOT vote NDP in the next Election. . .

If the NDP was looking to create reasons for us not for vote for them then their past year has been a resounding success both provincially here in Ontario and Federally. If you want to know what is wrong with the contemporary NDP you need look no further than this weekend's Ontario NDP convention. Despite Andrea Horwath's miserable failure as NDP leader, yesterday at their convention she underwent an obligatory leadership review and received more support than she did last year. If you are having trouble letting that sink in, I will repeat it for you. She received more support than she did last year. Andrea Horwath is an embarrassment to the NDP that extends well beyond Ontario's borders and a poster-girl for hypocrisy. As you will recall, after supporting the minority Liberal Government for years, in their last budget round she suddenly decided to pull that support and force Ontario into an election. This election held serious problems beyond Ms. Horwath's crass and crude style. The plain truth is that the Liberal budget was arguably left of any budget that Horwath herself would have presented if she had been premier and at the very least if an NDP government had presented this budget Horwath would have been the first to champion it as a great leap forward. This is just hypocrisy. There is no other word for it.

But aside from this act of unabashed hypocrisy, it was the political style of the Horwath campaign that progressives should find most troubling. Whether or not Horwath has taken the party to the right is something many people have argued about. But regardless of the veracity of the claim, many traditional NDP supporters were concerned during the election and this concern prompted 34 NDP heavyweights to write an open letter to Horwath saying that they she was "rushing to the centre." The people who wrote this letter, like Judy Rebbick for example, surely did not take this step lightly and the very fact that it emerged demonstrated that there was a serious breach taking place in the Party's core. Did Horwath or her team take these issues seriously the way anyone committed to democracy should do? Of course not. Instead they accused thee NDP 34 of being "hacks" and "has-beens" and NDP strategist Kathleen Monk even went so far as to suggest that they were working for the another political party and intentionally sabotaging the Horwath campaign. That accusation in and of itself is reason enough to never vote NDP again.

This Karl Rove/Stephen Harper strategy-style has not only infected the Ontario NDP, it has become the stock-in-trade of the federal NDP under the leadership of Tom Mulcair. Let's take two important events in recent NDP history. First, the NDP's prevention of the nomination of Paul Manley. The NDP clearly blocked Mr. Manley's nomination because of his (and his father's) stance on Israel, particularly on the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. Not only did the NDP deny that this was the reason for blocking Manley's nomination (a denial that is universally suspected to be false) but, more importantly they  adopted the Harper political strategy and proceeded to smear him publicly. Manley claims that in private the NDP admitted that Palestine was the reason that they denied him a nomination. The NDP denied that claim, but when Manley asked for a written reason for the blocking of his nomination, the NDP, in true UN-Democratic style flatly refused. But the wording of this refusal was deeply problematic. Andrew Mitrovica wrote about it on ipolitics in an article well-titled, "Is Mulcair just another Harper with a Beard?" Mitrovica wrote -

"To blunt the blowback, McGrath (The NDP's National Director) wrote concerned and outraged NDP supporters, telling them "I can assure you the issue being cited in stories and social media about Manely's rejected application is not accurate. The rejection is not related to the NDP's position on the Middle East." That just poured gasoline on an already out of control fire. Not surprisingly, Paul Manley saw this as a "smear" because it leaves open the possibility that he was guilty of some immoral, illegal, or unethical act."

Mr. Manley rightly pointed out that this was not a job application but was supposed to be part of a democratic process. It is one thing for a Party to block nominations, but to fail to give reasons for that is an entirely different matter and is blatantly untransparent and smells distinctly undemocratic. Mr. Manley is correct to see what Anne McGrath said as a blatant smear because the vocal refusal to explain the blocking of the nomination coupled with a denial that it is Manley's stance on Gaza suggests to anyone who is paying attention that the nomination prevention is rooted in something nefarious of which Mr. Manley is guilty.

But worse than their treatment of Paul Manley was the NDP's treatment of MP Sana Hassainia. Ms. Hassainia ostensibly quit the NDP over their overt support of Israel and their failure to defend the rights of Palestinians. Though the Party did attempt to defend its position in the days following Ms. Hassainia's resignation,  (a defence which in my opinion was sorely wanting) they quickly reverted to their Harperesque default position which was to attack and smear Mr. Hassainia. Party spokespersons quickly suggested that Ms. Hassainia had a terrible attendance record in the House and that she was too busy being a new mother to be an effective MP. The entire affair was nauseatingly reminiscent of  the Harper regime's attitude toward anyone who disagrees with them.

The fact is that there are many significant policy reasons for progressives to stop supporting the NDP. But increasingly there are also many other reasons to reject the poison politics of the NDP and the provincial and federal levels alike. There is no question that the Harper regime has poisoned Canadian politics. But the NDP can choose to follow the Harper example or to operate with integrity, transparency, and honesty. It is increasingly clear that they have rejected the path of good and opted for the path of poison.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Can we move beyond our culture of violence??

One only need reject a few of the prevailing beliefs of one’s society to be almost entirely alienated from vast majority of people. In Canada all you really have to do is dislike Hockey and you suddenly find yourself marginalized. But all marginalization should be not be regretted, because sometimes holding unpopular beliefs is the beginning of chance. Some marginalized beliefs can keep you outside the mainstream while giving you counter-culture credibility. The abolitionist movement in England was such a case. Over a period of one hundred years the abolitionists went from being marginalized to being a credible, and much admired, political force. However, certain core beliefs of a society are so widely accepted without question that to bring them into doubt not only sets you against the vast majority but also can make you appear downright unhinged by most people. If, for example, you were an Aztec and you suggested that the sun was not a god, your fellow citizens would simply think you were crazy.

According to the well-known German philosopher Jürgen Habermas this notion of unquestionable beliefs is what sets modern society apart from so-called more traditional ones. Habermas in his ground-breaking work The Theory of Communicative Action, claims that what sets “modern” societies apart is that its citizens can voice competing moral and normative claims and that those people can, if called upon, discursively redeem these claims. In simpler terms, this simply means that, according to Habermas, we can disagree about social and moral issues and we can discuss them and potentially defend them through some form of ‘rational’ discourse. When I read Habermas’ work in the early 1990s I was fairly dubious about this claim. The more I thought about it the more it seemed to me that, just like older societies, our own “modern” society contained certain beliefs that are simply not up for discussion. If, for example, you claim in our society that competition is a bad thing, ninety-five percent of people will simply think are crazy or stupid.

There are other, deeply held, beliefs that our society overwhelmingly accepts without question. Patriotism is one such belief. Try questioning the notion of patriotism in mixed company and watch the reaction. People will either have a strong (even violent) reaction, or they will just seem utterly confused and treat you as some kind of weird hippy or naive, mental incompetent. I know this because I have experienced such reaction to many of my beliefs all my life. And no belief has elicited a stronger reaction than my rejection of the military.

From the time I was a young kid, I was deeply disturbed and confused by society’s unquestioning and unconditional support for the military. (And I grew up in Vietnam-Era US, where there was much more doubt about the military than there is today.) My argument was, and continues to be, simple. The military is an institution whose sacred operational mechanism is blind obedience among its members to kill anyone that the state tells them to. Of course, as I became older I realized that like with so many things, the majority of people believe that their own nation’s military is somehow different from all the others in the world and throughout history, and that their military would only do good things. But regardless of what I believe is willful naivety on the part of most people, I think the issue is still very simple, and history demonstrates it remarkably well. Standing armies unquestionably obey any orders that they are given and killing is their stock and trade. Let me dispense, from the beginning with the obvious objections that will come, probably vociferously, to many people’s minds. Of course, killing isn’t the only thing that soldiers do. Professional Hockey players don’t only play hockey – their job involves lots of activities – but hockey is their institutional imperative. Putting aside whether this or that war is ‘necessary’ or morally justified, many good things might happen in the midst of an armed conflict. The real question here is the notion of what they used to call a ‘standing army,’ a fixed institution that relies on a set hierarchy and blind obedience within the ranks and, ultimately, to the state.

Part of my objection to the military grew gradually out of my experience with people’s reaction to armed conflict. Though practically everyone I met claimed that they thought war “is bad,” the claim more often than not seemed entirely hollow. The longer I live, the more I think that the slogans “war is bad” or “war is a necessary evil” are ideas that people feel the need to say but seldom actually believe. In fact, as Bertram Russell came to believe through his pacifist activism, I think many people are secretly thrilled by the idea of war. If they weren’t, I don’t think war movies and violent action films would be so overwhelmingly popular. The idea of military conflict makes people feel powerful and in many cases I would even contend that it gives many people (particularly many men) a psychosexual thrill. I have come to believe that this thrill has become central to our social and political systems. People continually pay lip-service to ‘peace’ and to anti-bullying campaigns, politicians tell us that violence is terrible and even cowardly, but bullying and violence are integral to their very operation.


The violence and machismo that is at the heart of our military, and people’s admiration of the military and unwillingness to question it, is part of a web of violence that permeates our society. There has been a great deal of talk recently about our ‘rape culture.’ But we will never eliminate our culture of rape while bullying and violence still permeate every part of our society. Albert Einstein said that “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” And he is right. To achieve peace, equality, and a life without violence means fundamentally changing the way we think about our most sacred institutions like the military, sports, education, and our political culture. It cannot happen overnight. We are all, to a great degree, products of our environment and we carry all sorts of difficult baggage into daily life. But until we are willing to at least question notions like “necessary war,” or cut-throat elections, or our hero-worshipping, our obsession with appearances, etc., then real social change will continue to be well beyond our reach.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Another Remembrance Day, And my Scepticism Lingers . . . .

Four years ago today I wrote a blogpost expressing my concerns with the modern manifestation of Remembrance Day. Even as recently as this week I received a positive comment on that post. I genuinely believe that more people would express concerns about Remembrance Day but they fear the reaction. This is unfortunate. When people in what is supposed to be a democratic society are hesitant to express rational and meaningful concerns about something, particularly about the dangers of nationalism, I get concerned. But since almost no one else is willing to talk about it, I will.

I grew up partly in Los Angeles California during the height of the War in Vietnam. It was a turbulent time and even as a child I had a sense of the turbulence, the violence, and the ideological rifts that were tearing apart the nation and the world. Though my parents weren’t activists, they were still vehemently against the war in Indo-China and the inhuman way violence that was being committed there. Though my maternal grandfather was a retired Master Sergeant in the USAF there was little sympathy for the war even in my grandparents’ household.

However, strangely enough what I knew about war and soldiers I was mostly learning from someone who was not in my family. Mr. Campbell was an old man who ran a little five and dime store in my neighborhood in Santa Monica. He as a grizzled, yet charming, old guy who never failed to be cheerful towards me when I came into his crowded little shop despite the obviously difficult life that he led. Mr. Campbell had fought in WWI and had been left nearly blind by gas. “The Germans did everything they could to kill me,” he would say will a crooked smile, “but I am still here.” Despite his injuries, he wasn’t bitter about the war and he didn’t seem to hold it against the Germans as many seemed to do. He even pointed out to me more than once that he had married a German woman despite the war. She had died years ago but whenever he spoke of her moisture came into his eyes and even as a kid I understood the unspoken sadness that overcame him.

I have a few vivid memories of Mr. Campbell, one of which occurred on Veteran’s Day, the US name for Remembrance Day. It must have been in 1973 because I remember it was a Sunday and I walked by Mr. Campbell’s shop and was surprised to see it open on Sunday. I went into the store and there was Mr. Campbell sitting as usual on a tall stool behind the counter reading one of those large print books for people who have severely impaired eyesight I knew it was Veteran’s Day because I had seen some kind of military celebration in Douglas Park on Wilshire Boulevard. I greeted Mr. Campbell and he smiled, as he always did, when he heard my voice. I asked him why he was open on a Sunday, and then mentioned that it was Veteran’s Day.

That was the first and only time that I saw Mr. Campbell look angry, and he spoke to me at length in a way that even now, forty years later, I still recall.

“I have never celebrated Veteran’s Day,” Mr. Campbell told me. “When I was gassed no one cared and they kicked me out of the army with almost nothing. They pinned a Purple Heart on my chest and then kicked me to the curb. And since then I have watched Veteran’s day celebrations with nothing but contempt. They act like they want people to remember but they don’t care. They just use the whole thing as a way to promote another war. They will always have another war for young kids to fight and it is all for making money for some jerk who sells weapons and bombs and acts like it is all noble. But it isn’t, it is just bull.”


I don’t know exactly why I remember these events but they stuck in my head. Perhaps it is because as Mr. Campbell told me these things the war in Vietnam still raged and young Americans were still coming home in boxes. And over the years I came to realize through my youthful friendship with Mr. Campbell that if Remembrance Day is to mean anything it should be a painful reminder that wars are an outward manifestation of our worst failures as a race, and a reminder of the terrible price that people pay for those failures. Meanwhile, blindly pro-war leaders like our own Prime Minister blatantly use Remembrance Day as a way of promoting patriotism and whipping up the very emotions that lead to these terrible human failures.

Perhaps the saddest part of all of this for my life is that Vietnam obviously failed to teach us is that our wars are almost always a machine for making wealth. But the skepticism that Vietnam brought to people didn’t last long and by the 1990s it was all but gone and once again Western Governments seem to be able to commit their nation’s to war with a minimum of critical thought on the part of the media or the people. One war comes on the tail of another and the only thing they have in common is that regular people suffer and the rich make billions of dollars from them.

Here in Canada one war stopped and the next one quickly began. Meanwhile, the many millions that the Government spent celebrating the War of 1812 (a war that was fought before we were even a Country), was spent while they are busy cutting services for the very veterans that they are supposed to be celebrating. It is perhaps the greatest act of hypocrisy from a government that has made a career of hypocrisy.

So I chose to remember Mr. Campbell and the terrible record of human failure that allow our leaders to take us into one war after another. And when people talk incessantly about the “fight for freedom,” I remember that it is not foreign countries that have been a threat to our freedoms. Just like today, the greatest threat to our freedoms are our own governments and the corporation who support them. Every freedom we enjoy from voters rights to gay marriage has been wrenched out of our governments by committed democratic and unions activists.


So while our leaders are ‘leading’ us once again into another ridiculous war remember that such violence almost always bespeaks a basic human failure  and that the real threat to your freedoms are the ones from your own leaders whose chest thumping and drum beating is just another diversion from their real intent.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

War and Righteous Christian Warriors. . . . .

Stephen Harper's motivations to have Canada get involved in the new war in Iraq are essentially two fold. On the one hand Harper is a religious fanatic who has, for many years, hungered to demonstrate his Christian righteousness in war with the 'barbarian heathens.' Harper's other motivation is a last ditch effort to get himself reelected through a portrayal of himself as a Putin-like strong-man. Because of the nature of these two motivating factors, they probably are not subject to reversal. On the one hand Harper's religious fanaticism is, though never talked about by the mainstream media, very real. He would take any genuine opportunity to simplify the world into the "good" and the "bad" and put himself in the place of a Christian warrior wielding the sword of god in the name of righteousness. On the other hand, it is clear to almost everyone (and maybe even to himself) that if things kept going the way they were, Harper had no chance for reelection, so he is deeply committed to any kind of war as a path to another stint in power.

The strategy, however, is not without glaring pitfalls. For a war to be a path to reelection within the context of modern Western democracies it requires two basic principles - it must be short and it must be successful. However, I have heard no credible military strategist (even the ones who are in favour of this war) who say it can be short. And they uniformly admit that to stop ISIS with a military effort will require a great deal more than simple airstrikes. In fact, only a couple weeks into this war and we are already seeing analysts saying that these bombing efforts are not having their desired effects and may even be making the situation worse. Furthermore, anyone who is actually honest and familiar with recent events knows that Western military efforts in the Middle East have only increased instability. Therefore, we can fairly easily conclude that Harper's involvement in this war will leave him with a troubling dilemma. As it becomes clear that bombing ISIS will not bring about the desired effect, the West will either have to abandon the effort or increase and widen the war. If Western nations like the UK and the US start putting "boots on the ground," Harper will either have to commit Canada to a similar effort or demonstrate a troubling hypocrisy. He has made such efforts to tell us that this is a "noble" (read Holy) war, and that Canada doesn't sit on the sidelines, that if he doesn't commit ground-troops with other nations his publicity strategy will be exposed as a fraud. And as sheep-like as the Canadian public can be, I think a troop commitment in Iraq will be a career-ending move by any politician.

And these are by no means the most troubling issues for Harper where this war is concerned. What if, as history demonstrates, this war dramatically increases the instability in the region? What if it strengthens al-Assad's power in Syria? What if Turkey gets drawn into the war in a significant way, making Western nations obliged to be more actively involved? And perhaps most dauntingly, what if this effort makes Canada a target of a successful and significant terrorist attack on home soil? This will make Harper's military efforts toward righteousness a significant political liability.

What seems clear to me is that history teaches us that this war will do nothing to reduce instability in the Middle East. Western military efforts in the region have done nothing but make the situation worse. This is because the narrative that Western leaders continually tell us about the Middle East  is simply false. Militant, Anti-Western Islam doesn't exist simply because "they" hate our democracy and our decadence. Oh, of course there are always crazy people out there in all religions who do all sorts of terrible things. But to create large, unified forces you need something more than a twisted religious fervor. At the risk of committing "sociology," it should be clear to anyone with common sense and even a mild familiarity with the situation that it is generations of injustice that has fed the ranks of militant, anti-western Islamic organizations. If men like Harper really wanted to solve these problems they wouldn't be screaming out a call to war. The solutions are fairly simple, support a just and equitable solution to the Palestine problem, give them their land back and give them a proper state and make them stake-holders in prosperity and peace in the Middle-East. Stop supporting dictators in countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE, and compel those dictators to creating more democratic and equitable societies. Then take all the billions of dollars that you are spending on bombs and war planes and put it into development in the region (schools, hospitals etc.) These efforts will not solve all the problems immediately, but over time such solutions will rob the radical, violent groups of their constituency and give reasons to commit to a peaceful and just society rather than to a life and death in some kind of 'holy-war.'

Harper is surely betting on his war efforts to run fairly smoothly at least until the next election rolls along. Because Conservative strategists can't be stupid enough to think that they can register a huge an immediate military victory, they must be thinking that all that has to happen is that things don't go terribly wrong over the next 12 months and their leader will come out smelling like a rose while the opposition will look like terrorist enablers. And on the surface that must look like a good strategy. The so-called 'quagmire' problems that I have been talking about here could take a number of years to develop, and Harper only needs a relatively short window of renewed popularity to get reelected. However, once again there is a significant problem here. Everything running "smoothly" means the war not registering significantly in the public mind. The problem with that is that then the 'strongman' leader effect cannot play in the public mind. This means that the things that are leading to Harper's general unpopularity will still be there. Thus Harper's strategy runs the very real risk of being a zero sum game, and at worst (if things go horribly wrong) being a total political disaster for him.

Of course, with a man like Harper, most of this may not even register. His fanaticism might be trumping all these potential downfalls. Instead Harper may only be living in space in which he is a righteous Christian warrior doing God's work. We all know how well that worked for Tony Blair.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The War Cycle Continues. . .

Few things make my palms more sweaty than a political leader telling me that the war into which he wan't to lead us is "noble." They say that every war has its own excuse, but behind of every call to arms is some guy (usually a man in a suit nowadays) telling us that it is not only necessary but noble. If every act of war was as noble as the leaders tell us it is then we would be an awfully noble race. The problem is that there is something sick and twisted about the very idea that killing people can ever be a noble act. But that is the great lie that leaders must sell in order to rally people behind the flag.

There is one sense in which we can see war as a failure. Most wars seem to be a result of the failure of politicians and policy makers in one way or another. Many historians talk of WWII being a direct result of the shortcomings of the Treaties at Versailles. The past looms over us like a deathly shadow threatening to burst out again in another useless conflagration. Politicians beat the drums of the past to whip up the war-like sentiment of the people as the French leaders did at the beginning of WWI with Alsace-Lorraine. Or they use some supposed immanent threat which, upon examination, is actually the direct result of their own failings in the first place. This is the situation in which we now find ourselves. The existence of ISIS is a direct result of a century of outrageous, colonial-minded decisions on the part of the Western powers. More recently, it is the direct result of a series of unbelievable failures in Iraq and Syria. A long history of supporting dictatorships until it is no longer convenient and then completely ill-considered invasions with a dramatic lack of understanding of indigenous political issues. All this against the backdrop of a continually one-sided approach to the Palestine Question, an approach that is a never ending source of recruitment for radially anti-Western Islamic groups.

The West makes bad policy, supports dictators, sows discontent, and then through military adventurism it creates power vacuum that results in another threat or conflict. How many times are the leaders going to ask us to support another war that is the direct result of their failings?

But then there is another, perhaps more cynical (perhaps more accurate) view of these events. Perhaps these are not failures on the part of our leaders but successes. They might be viewed as such if one remembers the amount of profit that is made by large corporations each time another one of these military adventures comes along. Let us not forget that each time the US launches another Tomahawk Missile at ISIS, McDonnell Douglas makes another cool million. And let us also remember the trillions of dollars that was spent in the war in Iraq, some of it going to arms dealers and manufacturers, some to infrastructure builders, and a great deal of it now entirely untraceable. Perhaps behind their rhetoric of the nobility of war, the simple profit motive is the real success story here.

No, there is nothing noble in Harper's war, the war that he has been longing to get into for over a decade and the one that he hopes will get him reelected. None of us doubt that ISIS is a bunch of terrible people. But it is Western wars and militarism that brought them into a position of power in the first place. More war isn't going to solve the problem. It is less war and more peace and development that we need. This is just another white man in a suit who is diverting tax money to arms dealers in a never ending cycle of conflict while the real injustices that feed the conflict go unaddressed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Harper and the Elections Rumours. . .

The rumour mill has been working overtime predicting that Harper might call an early election. These rumours went into overdrive this week when an April date was set for the Duffy trial. The speculation of many of my esteemed peers in the blogosphere, goes like this - Harper seems to have run out of his political cache (as so many leaders do as the years go by), Trudeau continues to be very popular in spite of (or, indeed, maybe because of)  continual Conservative attacks on him, Harper has lost a number of important Supreme Court rulings and has set himself to lose more (with the prostitution bill and the Union disclosure bill), and as all his scandals gradually chip away at the Conservative credibility in general, and Harper's credibility in particular, the Duffy trial could could be the last nail in Harper's political coffin, particularly coming, as it will right before the election.

All of these facts are clear. However, I don't believe that they point to an early election, for a number of reasons. The first reason is simple: Harper is a deeply deluded and power-hungry individual and he is probably oblivious of his growing unpopularity. Harper, like many politicians with a dissociative disorder, is detached from much of what is actually going on in his own country. Furthermore, like other such leaders, Harper has surrounded himself with grovelling yes-men who don't dare point out the stark political realities to him. Harper's growing isolation, coupled with the fact that he won't want to face potentially negative news, means that he probably isn't even aware of the possible need for an early election. Reason two is this - if Harper is aware of the dire situation then he must know that calling an election a short time before a potentially devastating court battle would be perceived by everyone, even his base, as blatantly self-serving and could have a fatal effect on the electorate who already perceive him as too sneaky and partisan. (He did call an early election last time, but remember he was in a minority situation and there was no impending scandal.) The third issue that few seem to be considering is the fact that Harper doesn't actually need to have an election until may of 2016. Therefore, a more likely scenario in my mind than an early election is a late election. If Harper can avoid testifying in the Duffy case (or at least have his testimony covered by a publication ban), he can ride things out for another year, thus distancing the election from the events of the trial.


 The biggest reason that I don't believe that Harper will call an early election is that his real strategy  is now becoming clear. Like Thatcher in the early 80s or Bush in the early 90s, it seems that Harper is hoping to use a war-footing to get reelected. Perhaps aware that the Conservative record in almost every field is in tatters (poor economic record, poor environmental record, poor labour record, poor job record, poor legal record, etc), Harper is hoping to pull Canada into war in the Middle East and near war in the Ukraine because he knows that most populations, even Canada's, have a tough time not wrapping themselves in the flag. He also knows that the opposition parties don't have enough backbone to oppose his war agenda, and he can therefore make the opposition look compliant at best, weak at worst. (This worked very effectively for years with the Liberal Party that essentially rubber-stamped everything that Harper did, making their vocal opposition to him seem slightly ridiculous). I simply believe that Harper is hoping to have enough time to implement his war-footing strategy and believes that it will override his perceived unpopularity and continual scandals. Think about it, everyday on the news all we hear about now is Harper's international dealing concerning the Ukraine and the Middle East. And let's not forget that elections have been postponed beyond the five year rule in times of war before.


Stephen Harper's reign has been a kind of national nightmare for Canada. He has gradually eroded much of the good that this country represented and as taken us into what some people are calling a "post-democratic" era. He has made it clear that he doesn't like the constitution and walked all over it in his pursuit of power and his rightwing agenda. He has hired an army of communications staffers whose sole job is to spin all events in a pro-Conservative light, and has more or less turned the government of Canada into an arm of the Conservative Party, the guiding principle of which is to make money for the oil companies. He routinely has government spooks spying on anyone who opposes his agenda, and is using various arms of the government to shut down groups or silence individuals who might speak against him and his interests. Harper has so entrenched his party in power and held that power with such unscrupulous negativity, that it is not even clear that the Conservative would ever leave power voluntarily, even if they loose the next election.

Harper will do anything, absolutely anything, to stay in power and the best way to achieve that goal appears to be not to call an early election but to postpone it as long as possible to give his war strategy time to work or even to use a war to postpone an election beyond the normal constitutional limit.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Harper Tipping-point, Hope or Fear ?

I tend to agree with Heather Mallick in her recent interesting (and surprisingly forthright) article on why people like Trudeau over Harper. And I agree with what many commentators (and most of the polls) suggest, that we have finally reached the tipping point of Harper's political currency. Outside of conditions of extreme nationalism and social turmoil, it is very difficult for any politician to maintain power and popularity with a political persona of anger, hate, fear, and extreme secretiveness. Harper's zenith was inevitable and we now have a confluence of events which are dragging the Con's political machine ever downward. This confluence consists of typical voter weariness, growing evidence that economic and social inequality is drastically increasing, clear signs that Harper and his cabal are not simply strategic in their negative/secretive political style but that their nastiness is at the very core of their political identity, the rise of a very likeable opponent in the person of Trudeau (and let's face it, regardless of one's political stripes Trudeau is a likeable public persona), ominous signs that an over-emphasis on oil extraction is not only environmentally dangerous but economically short-sighted, and (perhaps most importantly) a slowly percolating mood in the country that we have been sleep-walking through a kind of collective nightmare of a government that is actually trying to destroy the positive aspects of democracy, good-will, hope, and peacefulness, that many once thought defined our country.

But even as we teeter at the tipping-point, there are stormy clouds ahead. For one thing it appears that, in the face of political disaster, Harper is intent of dragging this country further into the dark waters of hate, fear, and violence. Deep inside, I believe that Harper is desperately courting war in any arena, as a strategy to stay in power. In what we might call the Falkland Island gambit, Harper is increasingly ramping up his war rhetoric in every part of his foreign policy and, I believe, really hopes that the nationalism and rhetoric of a war will do for him what the Falkland Islands did for Thatcher.

Another disturbing political development is found in the fact that Harper has created a classic political vacuum around him. Harper has surrounded himself with yes-men, flunkies, and Ministers who he knows cannot pose any kind of national competition to his power. Men like Baird, Kenney, and James Moore, Oliver, and Fantino, are all (for different reasons) probably unelectable as party leaders. Not only is Harper's growing unpopularity potentially fatal political baggage for anyone who was part of his cabinet, I believe that Harper has consciously chosen ministers with their own kinds of political baggage so that they cannot challenge him in the way that, say, Martin did with Chretien. This kind of political vacuum may only be bad news for the Conservative Party, but such vacuums often create political chaos that can engulf entire nations. I would never put it past Harper and his flunkies attempting a coup in the face of an electoral defeat and with nothing but yes-men around him, people whose political careers essentially depend upon Harper himself, there may be no dissenting voices among his own.

Any kind of tipping point creates interesting events. But the curse of living in interesting times is a very real possibility now. The question is will the Harper years end with a bang or a whimper??