Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Internal Contradictions of Neo-Conservative Ideology

         Québecois author, Christian Nadeau, is a prof of philosophy who studies conservatism in the N. American context. Here is a google search result, en français, of his work:


          Nadeau uncovers what we consider to be the fundamental flaw of neo-conservative ideology: it claims to prioritize "individual liberties" (thus continuing the Revolutionary movements of the Enlightenment: French and American Revolutions) but, in practice, destroys the means to attain or defend those very liberties.

         This fundamental contradiction is seen in the Harper government's attempt to emasculate the national census by rendering the long form voluntary. This is done in the name of "individual liberties" but has for its practical effect the reduction of the information flows the federal government requires for targeting and monitoring programs which "level the playing field" for disadvantaged Canadians. These citizens thus find themselves with de facto reduced opportunies (and the freedom of action which derives from opportunity).

         Such behavior, Nadeau believes is explainable on the grounds of an obsessional - ideological - commitment to an American-style "the less government, the better" vision of society and the world. The pernicious outcomes of such behavior are simply ignored..

         Reactionaries love "tradition" (a loaded word if ever there was one!) and oppose all forms of "moral relativism". This language often is a cover for ethnocentrism and racism, of course, and too often masks an excessive love of "authority" and "strong man" figures: one thinks of the machisme of a Mussolini or a Hitler.. This excessive, fear-driven, need for "authority" leads to abberations such as the perversion of religious symbols, myths and terminology to prop up, rationalize or justify reactionary policies. American "conservative christians" argue that ecological and climatological crises are signs of the "end times" prophesized by the Book of Revelations. Ecologists and those struggling for social and ecological justice are portrayed as "defying God's Will" and "serving God's Enemy, Satan" - no less! 

            The reactionary perversion of thought extends even into places one would not expect: science. We see this trend in the puzzling rise of such pseudo-scientific curiosities as "intelligent design" which, we imagine, functions to reinforce "religious" authority (bible, charismatic interpreters..) and to generally suppress the cultivation of critical thinking especially among the young.

Monday, December 13, 2010

strip searches: authoritarian shift in police culture?

       According to an article on this morning's "The Current" (CBC radio), police in this country might be resorting to psychologically intimidating / denigrating strip searchs on one third to one half of all arrests, at least in large urban centers.


        Such practices continue despite Supreme Court rulings that strip searches be conducted only out of necessity, that they are "inherently degrading" and that they require the permission of a supervisor:


        Why are such practices tolerated in a society which considers itself "democratic" and "liberal". Such practices are more in line with the philosophy and psychology of totalitarian societies were police brutality is used as a means of suppressing public dissent..

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Unelected senate should not ride rough shod over parliament - Harper

        Well, you have to give 'em credit. No moss grows on the this stone..

        Way back when, before he was elected, Steven Harper was a staunch defender of populist democracy,

“disgraceful, undemocratic appointment of undemocratic Liberals to the undemocratic Senate to pass all too often undemocratic legislation.”


          Hard to be clearer than that! 

         Until, of course, you get elected and you stack the (unelected, still) senate with Conservatives. Then along comes the NDP with an environmental bill committing Canada to an 80% reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050. And without a debate - the first time in 7 decades - the bill was killed. 

        Harper, of course, lamely rationalized / justified this undemocratic procedure by playing the phoney "lost jobs" card:

"“It sets irresponsible targets, does not lay out any measure of achieving them, other than by shutting down sections of the Canadian economy and throwing hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of people out of work,” Harper said."

           reported The Star.


          Once again, unfortunately for all that transparency we were promised when this government was elected, these "facts" provided by Prime Minister Harper are pure bullshit. As Scandinavian countries are demonstrating, green jobs, in reality, create more jobs than they destroy. They tend to be in labor-intensive sectors of the economy, requiring relatively modest investments and plenty of work for many hands. Ironically, it is the fossil fuel sector - Harper's buddies in the Oil Patch - that is highly CAPITAL INTENSIVE - big investments - while being relatively weak on job creation. Harper has stood things on their head! I guess it's who pays the piper..

"The volume of renewable energy produced within the EU-27 increased overall by 57.0 % between 1998 and 2008, equivalent to an average increase of 4.6 % per annum."


Monday, November 1, 2010

Oh dear! They're at it again, procurement..

          The Harper team got elected on a platform of clean, transparent / limpid, accountable / responsible government. Procurement scandals, well, those were things of the Liberal past. These are heady new days..

           Or maybe not.. Federal auditor general, Sheila Fraser, has found that the Harper team talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk. They don't play by their own rules, she says.

           Federal purchases of Chinook and Cyclone helicopters for the military will prove to be considerably more expensive than lawmakers were led to believe, claims Fraser. Full costs and estimated life-cycle costs were not divulged at the time of debate. Transparency, you say? Accountability? 

"..costs have since skyrocketed, in part because the initial estimates didn't include long-term servicing costs. The 15 Chinooks were supposed to cost $2 billion, but are now estimated at $4.9 billion with support. They're due to be delivered in 2013.

The 28 Cyclones were initially estimated $3 billion. The costs have since been revised to include long-term service support and are now estimated at $5.7 billion. They're due to be delivered in 2012."

           Thus, by my estimation, what should have cost $5 billion has now ballooned to $10.6 billion, an impressive 110% cost over-run. Such "scandalous, irresponsible behavior" a thing of the Liberal past, you say? Think again..


Friday, October 29, 2010

The law and order thing

         The Haper Conservatives, like conservatives everywhere, are tough on crime, big on law and order. Under the Liberals, no Canadians serving time in US jails were denied the right (or privilege) to serve part of their term in Canada during the period 1998 - 2005. According to documents obtained by the CBC, in the first 4 years of the Harper government, the percentage of refusals on the part of the federal government rose to 14.5%, 43%, 15.5% and a whopping 62% in 2009.
           Such "toughness" of course appeals to their redneck populist base - and to many closet rednecks - but does it actually "make our streets safer"?
            Here's some food for thought..
"Canadians convicted of crimes in the U.S. and serv(ing) their entire sentence there have no criminal record in Canada after they're deported back to their home country and are not given a supervised release.
This means that a criminal record would not show up on the Canadian Police Information Centre if that person were ever stopped by authorities."

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/10/25/prison-transfer-denials.html#ixzz13lg936Rg
            That's right, the "tough on crime" boys, by refusing prison transfers to Canada, are providing criminals, when they return to Canada, with clean police records (at least for the crimes they served time for in the US). "Safer streets" - not so sure about that one..
            It should also be noted that, while serving time in the US, Candian cons are NOT eligible for American rehabilitation programs because they are aliens! Such programs have been shown to reduce recidivism rates (some studies show a halving). Thus the ex-cons turned loose after serving a stint in US jails are more likely to re-offend than if they had been extradited and followed a rehabilitation program here. This is not good, definitely not good.. (But it does put on a good "tough on crime" show for the rubes..) 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Transparency denied: federal scientists complain of being muzzled

        A government elected on a platform of law and order, accountability, decentalization and transparency and which imposes tight - authoritarian / centralizing - controls upon the access of federally employed scientists to the media.. Wha' the hell is going on ???


         This website, representing Federally employed scientist, provides ample evidence that the Harper Conservatives are following the lead of anti-science, populist right-wingers in the States.

          Thus John Geddes in a MacCleans article, 13 sep, 2010, reports:


"For instance, when Environment Minister Jim Prentice announced a $5-million study into the feasibility of creating an Arctic marine conservation area in Lancaster Sound last year, I tried to do a few quick interviews with federal biologists who study the sound’s abundant sea birds. But the bird guys told me they were required to go through an approvals process that would have prevented them from talking to me on the record quickly enough to meet my deadline for posting an item on the subject on this website that same day."

           But, goddamit! these are only bird scientists, BIRD, like the ones that fly around your feeder or shit on statues in the park. This isn't even global warming science.. Good Lord! Have these "transparency" mongers lost it completely? Is their mania for control (centralization) and censorship that strong.. One wonders. And if one believes in democracy, one fears..

           Bruce Cheadle, in The Star, sep 19, 2010:


           Paradoxically, the current restrictive policy flies in the face of the government's own objectives stated in their "Communications policy of the Government of Canada" dated 1 aug, 2006:

"Openness in government promotes accessibility and accountability. It enables informed public participation in the formulation of policy, ensures fairness in decision making and enables the public to assess performance.”

           Why then this puzzling shift in practice relative to their own stated agenda? What happened in the intervening four years? One can only stand puzzled, reflecting on the corrupting influence of power and vested interest on noble goals. For example, Cheadle notes that such "censorship" and "creative re-interpretation" of research on cod stocks was rife in the Dept of Fisheries way back in the 90s, long before the Harperites hit town.

          Of course, the real issue here is the "fit" between "theory" and "practice". In theory, Democracy is rule by the People. In order to rule, the rulers must 1- be informed (that is, they must have access to all relevant data required to make an informed decision) and 2- they must participate in decisional procedures (example: by electing representatives - members of parliament - who "stand in" for their electors in decision making and who are accountable to their electorate for their actions). 

           Is part of the reason so few young people vote because they are aware of the fact that they are not being informed by their governement and elected representatives..

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Transparency and the role of press freedom in a democracy

        Democracy is based on the rule of the People. The theory holds that, in order to make informed and intelligent choices, the populace must have access to the information required to make those choices. Traditionally, this information could come through a variety of chanals: word of mouth, public meeting including debate, theater, and street demonstration; the pulpit, the press and related printed or graphic materials (posters, artwork..)..

         The Canadian Journalism Project provides a litany of broken promises and bad faith on the part of the Harper government with regard to journalistic access to information, the very information - don't forget! - that democracy requires in order that the People make wise decisions in public matters.



          Thus we are left with the intriguing paradox that a goverment elected on a platform of "transparency" and "diversity of opinion" is guilty of seeking to control and direct the timing, spin and accessibility of information in the public domain. "One hand knoweth not what the other does"..

           One can even argue - I do - that even when the letter of the law (Charter of Rights) is respected, the spirit of the law - and of Democracy itself - is being violated. Justice must not just appear to be done, justice must be done.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What would accountable government look like, anyway..

         The Harper Conservative government won the last election on a platform of "law and order", "accountable government" and "transparency". Enough time has passed for us to make a judgement of their performance in meeting their own stated objectives.

          The results have - alas! - been, to say the least, disappointing. Take the issue of "accountable government". According to one on-line definition, the adjective "accountable" means:

"subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something; responsible; answerable"

        In general terms, authorities (parents, teachers, health professionals, ministers of religion, civil servants..) are under obligation to protect those they are held accountable for. This is often expressed in legal language with penalties attatching to those authorities failing to meet their stipulated obligations. Penalties, including fines, loss of office or renumeration, and prision may be applicable. Thus parents who do not provide adequately for their children are indictable under child protection legislation. Applying the same logic, a government which does not provide its citizens with adequate information concerning potential risks associated with industrial activities is morally indictable for breach of trust with its citizenry.

         An article appearing today, october 14, in The Globe and Mail raises the spectre of moral indictability on the part of the Harper government in its (mis-)management of the shale gas extraction file:

".. there is no requirement in Canada for companies to disclose what chemicals they use in fracturing – as there is in several (American) states."

           Now the hick is that several of the chemicals used in "fracking" operations to liberate natural gas from its mineral matrix are toxic and potentially capable of contaminating potable water aquifers. Why does our government not require gas extraction companies to divulge the chemicals they employ in their operations? If they do not establish such regualtory frameworks are they not showing a lack of accountability, one of the planks they ran on last election?

            In reality, the list of failures of accountability on the part of the government is quite shocking:

- lack of adequate Federal (or for that matter Provincial) regualtory frameworks for the rapidly emerging shale gas extraction industry

- lack of knowledge of adequate treatment / long term storage of the large quantities of contaminated water resulting from extraction

- the provinces estimate badly, if at all, the nature or extent of potential conflicts between various categories of water consumers: domicile, industry, agriculture, tourism, natural ecosystem services upon which we all depend.. 

      Do we have accountable government in Canada today?  

      In closing, I would merely like to underscore the overlap (?redundancy?) of the nature of "transparency" and "accountability" when applied to those holding high government office. A lack of transparency - failure to divulge information necessary for enlightened decision making on the part of the citizenry - is a precursor of failure to act accountably (responsibly). Transparency is not a question of governmental "style": it goes to the very heart of democracy itself. The people cannot decide intelligently unless and until they have all relevant fact before them. As democrats, we should hold this to be the sine qua non of responsible government in any democracy, ours included. Clearly, the Harper government, while talking the talk does not or cannot walk the walk.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Climate Science Suppressed?


BUT, BUT, BUT... I thought this government was elected on a platform of law 'n order, government accountability and.. and.. TRANSPARENCY

Francophone? Noam Chomsky explique comment les néolibéraux manipulent la conscience collective. Leur cynisme est agaçant, mais leurs jours sont comptés..


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lies, lies, lies and more damned lies..

Populism once more rears its ugly head in Canada

      Maxime Bernier, conservative backbencher, has claimed that he received "thousands" of complaints from Canadian citizens concerning the intrusiveness of the long form census back in 2006 when he was industry minister.

     However, a CBC follow up has revealed that - untransparently - the truth may not have been well served by M. Bernier and his anti-long form Conservative supporters. The actually number of complaints generated by the 2006 census was not "thousands" but just under a thousand, of which an impressive twenty-two were complaints about census question "intrusiveness" - 22 ! And for twenty-two complaints we scrap the long form - at high cost to the taxpayer, while reducing the - internationally recognized - effectiveness of the government's data collection capacity. Incredible! - but why would any party - especially one so committed to "cutting fat" and waste - deliberately waste taxpayer money to reduce the effectiveness of a well-run government program??

Is that an ideological rat we smell?
        As is so often the case with this curiously untransparent government - which ran on a platform of transparency - one suspects that the truth lies deeper than appearences. The message conveyed by Conservative MPs is that Canadian citizens' "freedoms" are being trampled on and they didn't like it. 

       But whose freedoms exactly? The twenty two people who actually did complain about the long form census questions' intrusiveness? Or, perhaps more pertinently, those groups receiving funding and who depend upon accurate sociological data to determine funding levels? Little groups (linguistic minorities..), disenfranchised groups, municipalities (especially smaller and rural ones - ironically just the folk who tend to vote Conservative!)..? Politically expendable groups..? 

      One suspects that we have another case here of our neocon wanabe government playing the populist card to its hard core voter base. Whip up the angst and /or ire of the rednecks against convenient scapegoat groups to win the cheap vote..

      No policy, no program, no political vision, philosophy or thinking required but instead the easy recourse to the basest, lowest common demoninator; scapegoat bashing: "artists", "intellectuals", "elites" (unspecified), "peaceniks", "baby killers", "atheists", "tree huggers",..

      It's a low blow but, hey, politics is a dirty game.. even for those who promised us "transparency", "responsible government", "law and order", and even "justice" (apparently this does not include "social justice" since the long form census provided data required by government programs providing a measure of social justice and equity..)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

      The feds and the oil sands
      The feds seem to be taking a role supportive of the Albertan provincial government in respect of oil sands development.

         In a recent study, University of Alberta biologists and ecologists concluded that measured quantities of 13 polluants (lead, cadmium..) were at concerning levels along stretches of the Athabasca River, impacted by oil sands extraction projects. Downstream levels exceeded upstream levels indicating that it was the projects themselves - and not natural processes - that were responsible for leaching the contaminants into the riverine ecosystems.

         Unfortunately, the feds who should be protecting the Public Domain and working for the Public Good appear to be riding shotgun for the Oil Patch (Harper's home province):

"Earlier this summer the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development decided to pull its much-awaited report on the impact of bitumen development on water. Astonishingly, an official parliamentary document on this particular issue will no longer be released. As tar sands ‘truth-seeker’ Andrew Nikiforuk explains, “the parliamentarians even destroyed draft copies of their final report.” 
           Citizens, this is not a government acting in a transparent fashion! They have been elected for one purpose: defending the Public Domain and promoting the Public Good and they act in a totally contrary fashion: promoting and defending the interests of an entitled few..
           Is this situation tolerable in a viable democracy?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

patriotism: standing up for our boys, eh?

“What seems to be missing is the principle of honouring Veterans by generously providing benefits.” 


           Twitter from veterans' ombudsman retired colonel Pat Stogran regarding the federal bureaucracy's attempts to block initiatives favorable to veterans. 

           Surprised? The Conservatives publically strike a populist "Canada # 1", "we support our boys" pose combined with a militaristic foreign policy. However, this stance is less transparent than it might appear at first glance. Stogran and other veterans' advocates are discovering that there is a hidden agenda of penny pinching public service cutting (everyone likes tax cuts, right - should we expect an election soon?).

             Like other public servants whose attempt to perform their duties with diligence has found disfavor with budget slashing, "Little Government / Free Market" ideologues, col Stogran has found himself out in the cold: nonrenewal of mandate.

"Col. Stogran joins a long list other federal government appointees who've been shown the door, including Peter Tinsley, former head of the Military Police Complaints Commission and Linda Keen, the former head of Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission."

              For another similar case, see yesterday's entry in this blog..

              Also indicative of the lack of transparency of the feds is the refusal to discuss the reasons for the dismissal of the various ex-mandatees who would not tow the neocon party line:

 "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." - attributed to Karl Rove of the Bush cortege.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Law 'n order, eh?

         Well, looks like Canada's homegrown neocon wanabes are back to their old tricks again.

         PM Harper, recall, was elected on a populist platform of "law and order": get tough with those legions of criminals and deviants the liberals, socialists, secular humanists, etc are letting go free to predate on the law abiding citizen. The public is going to be protected from the criminal legions by the good Harperites who represent the "Will of the People" (tarah.. tarah..) Right? You remember all that?

The Result: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/gun-registry-advocate-latest-in-tory-pattern-of-quashing-dissent-critics-say/article1677053/ 

"The senior Mountie in charge of the controversial long-gun registry is being replaced on the eve of a vote about its future.."

          Marty Cheliak, in effect, did his job too well. He did all the things conservatives like: he cut costs, boosted efficiency. And he defended the long gun registry, something the Conservatives populist core doesn't like. Read the readers' comments (Edmonton CTV):
          Of course, a convenient "cover story" had to found for silencing Mr Cheliak (? elections coming ?). Well, here 'tis. On the eve of an important conference during which Mr Cheliak would go to bat for the retention of the long gun registry, it is suddenly discovered that he needs - get this! - "French lessons". Sure, given his position, he needs bilingual proficiency. Sure, he probably should have taken lessons a few years ago. But let's get real folks! This lack of transparency (honnesty, goodwill..) is simply too transparent in its obtuseness.

           Isn't it just about time we, the public, began to put Harper's feet to the fire, recall to him all those promises about transparency, good governance and, yes, law 'n order too?

            Perhaps we should even be thinking about better ways to target funds directed toward crime prevention. Something the Harperites don't talk about much: crime rates are falling as the population ages (few white haired grannies in tennis shoes go around mugging people or blowing people away over crack deals done wrong..). Perhaps now is the time to target unemployed young men in big cities joining gangs, make sure they don't end up as the "hardened criminals and deviants" the Conservatives fear so much, for example..


Thursday, July 29, 2010


The slow, even unconscious, erosion of democracy in Canada? 

Before you blow the thought away, read the article first..

Thursday, July 22, 2010

FEDERAL TRANSPARENCY: the record of the Harper government on the Alberta Oil Sands

Their cynicism and contempt for the public is unbelievable.

More unbelievable still: WHY exactly does the public tolerate this
crap on the part of those paid to be "public servants"?


"Just two weeks ago the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable
Development abruptly cancelled a big report on the tar sands and the
project's extreme water impacts. The parliamentarians even destroyed draft
copies of their final report."..


Please.. please.. take a moment to reflect upon that phrase

And these neocon wanabes were elected on a platform of "transparency" and "responsible government", eh? Is that it..

This is what those who believe in a just society or "redistributive justice" are REALLY up against. This is the TRUE FACE of the Beast: think about long term health and envrionmental impacts in the affected water basins, think about the long term geopolitical impacts of Global Warming on arid countries undergoing accelerating desertification..

Allen Ginsberg: "Howl". See part II, "Moloch":


What to do?

Can this scandal be used as a "wedge issue" to - eventually - force a wider debate on the issues of responsible governance and national goals? (This period may prove to be a "tipping point", given the state of the global economy, ecology and climate..)

My suggestions:

- bitch to your MP
- get your friends to bitch to their MPs
- ask your friends to get their friends to bitch..
- write letters, articles and op-ed pieces for local newspapers, church or professional group bulletins, get on community radio..

Is anyone interested? We have more impact if we co-ordinate our efforts..