Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bienvenue Pascal

Bienvenue, Pascal! Vous pouvez nous écrire soit en anglais, soit en français. J'aimerais recevoir des impressions outre-mer. La vision stéréoscopique est le jeu de DEUX yeux qui envoient des images chacune un peu différente l'une de l'autre..

Friday, December 16, 2011

Laffin' an' fiddlin' while Rome burns

             Ah the Tories, one's gotta love 'em! Funnier than a barrel of monkeys..

              When Canada was "awarded" the Colossal Fossil boody prize in the Durbin (post Kyoto protocol) talks, Conservatives MPs laughed and cheered.


                Behind the good ol' boy laugh up and self congratuations, there is a truth being revealed here which the Left, the Center and the Moderate Right ignore at their peril. In the psychology of reaction, facts, alternative views, the civil rights of scapegoats can all be dispensed with by collective ridicule (or outrage or denigration - it's called Group Think). Ridicule conveniently replaces intelligent reasoned response and debate which, of course, require intellectual effort. In addition, Ideology provides justifications and rationalizations for injustice (laziness, racial inferiority, "clashes of civilizations"..) and provides a norm to which "reality" must be forced, wily-nily to conform. Thus, ideologically speaking, for the Global Warming "sceptic", Global Warming simply CAN'T be happening. Therefore, scientists and academics - despite credentials and field experience - who claim it is happening, MUST be lying and planning to corner the market on carbon credit trading and rake in "trillions" (on a professor's salary??!! - no mention made, of course, of those fossil fuel companies, their executives and shareholders and what THEY stand to profit from continued use of fossil fuels "to the last drop"..)

                    More specifically, democracy requires free flows of information up and down the hierarchy of governance. Theoretically - not to mention practically! - the public needs proper information on the pros and cons of important issues so they can decide which of the various platforms proposed by political parties they choose to support. Unfortunately, the type of nervous, reactive, ideological arrogance exhibited by Tory members of the house of Commons is fundamentally incompatible with the transparency of information flows required by democracy to function.

                    1- Ideology blocks openess to alternative views. The ideologue's mind is "opaque" rather than "transparent" and permeable to conflicting facts and viewpoints.

                    2- Perhaps even more toxic to the free and open give and take of opinion which democracy requires is the fact that ideology encourages intellectual - and eventually moral - dishonesty: all those inconvenient FACTS - what to do about them.. In the long run, the notion of the "Public Good" vanishes, replaced by partisan fighting - and infighting - for status, position, favor, bakchich..

                   Here's a good example of what Ideology can do to "Democracy" in practice: a Canadian artist who had her funding cut, seemingly because she was too pro-Global Warming in her thinking..


                   While my appreciation of history may be hindered by my ignorance, we believe that reaction is a (nearly) sure sign that a society is failing in some fundamental ways: France before the Revolution of '89, Russia before WW I (and the Russian Revolution which, be it noted, turned out to be a debacle); Europe in the between wars, 1919 - 1939, and the rise of fascism, the contemporary rise of skinheads and U.S. militias.. What the nexus of the crisis will be, will vary, of course, from one concrete historical situation to another.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dirty tricks: the New World Order

           I wonder if anyone out there remembers why the Harper Conservatives got elected in the first place? Remember? The Liberals left us with the bad tasting legacy of the Chrétien government's "sponsorship scandal". Monies earmarked to polish the Feds' image in Québec - in order to weaken the separatist movement in that province - were diverted either into the pockets of federal Liberal party supporters or into the coffers of the Liberal party's warchest. Taxpayers were taken for millions of dollars. For details:


           The population was, justifiably, miffed by all this. Many were hopping mad. To worsen things, the Chrétien government's arrogance and / or disconnect with physical reality contributed to the growing climate of political apathy and cynicism, especially among the young. Under the Chrétien Liberals Canada ratified the Kyoto Greenhouse Gas Emissions control accord - and then simply ignored it! (The current government continues that policy but at least have the honesty to proclaim their open hostility to the Kyoto accord, affording them, at least, a record of consistency on the issue.)

            The Haperites deftly exploited the climate of political cynicism and "neo-conservative" self-interestedness while mouthing pious populist platitudes about a "return to traditional values" of "responsible government", "transparency" and "law and order". In this image creating venture it is hard to fault them.

             Today, into its second mandate, the Harper government inspires anything but confidence when you examine the list of their accomplishments and the quality of the governance they have provided our country. One commentor was even moved to say that the Harperites have reached a degree of arrogance and cynicism that would give envy to the most corrupt Liberals but in a much shorter period of time - they rotted on the vine even faster than the Libs!

               A shocking display of the nature of today's political climate was recently revealed in what might be called the  "Cotler affair". Liberal federal deputy (Montréal), Irwin Cotler has been the victim lately of a "dirty tricks" campaign. Cotler's constituents have been receiving phone calls implying that he plans to step down and that a by-election is imminent. The calls have been traced to Campaign Research, an Ontario-based market research firm with ties to the Conservative Party. Cotler argues that the difusion of false information is hindering his ability to carry out his public duties.

               "Ok", one might argue, "dirty tricks are unfortunate and there are always rotten apples in every barrel" but in a blatantly cynical appeal to "free speech", the Harperites in Ottawa didn't even bother attempting to conceal their involvement! Has the rot really set this deep? One can only wonder..


                 In a shocking admission of the degree to which short term political expediency has come to rule, House of Commons speaker, Andrew Scheer (Conservative) conceded "I can understand how [Cotler] and others are seeking relief from the climate of cynicism — not to say contempt — about parliamentary institutions and practice that seems to prevail. But I fear that such relief is not within my gift: the Speaker’s powers in these matters are limited, as my predecessors have repeatedly stated". Really Mr. Scheer?

                 I really beg to differ here. I think two points are in order. 1- You guys are in power. You were elected to lead the country which means, in effect, maintaining a healthy political, social, economic and foreign relations climate in which democratically elected government can function. Obviously an impossible task but your job - your "mandate from the public" as you like to say so often - is to approach these goals as close as is humanly possible: this is what taxpayers are paying you fat salaries for.. 2- Mr. Scheer, let us not be disingenuous, you guys were specifically elected on a platform of good governance, transparency, etc with the specific "mandate" of cleaning up the mess the Liberals had left behind. If you are so powerless to clean up the mess, why the hell did you delude the public in promising clean government  in the first place? Were your camplaign pledges therefore made in bad faith, Mr Scheer..

internal blog link: 29 feb, 2012, So this is governmental transparency, eh?