The longer things go on, the less I trust or like the American administration. Even Mr. Bush's show of grief at the bombing in Mosul rang hollow to me, and I couldn't avoid laughing at the irony of his promise to "finish the mission" in light of his aircraft-carrier-top appearance under the heading, "Mission Accomplished!"
In other news, yesterday I almost wished I was Polish. The initiative shown by one Polish minister to show up and "object" to the fishy but not ichthyological entry in the Fisheries and Agriculture Ministers' session renewed my wobbly faith in the ability of governments of-, by- and for-the-people to stand up to huge well-funded multi-national lobbies. Up with Poland!
The other thing I've found amusing was the opposition by the currently sitting but retiring MLA for my former provincial riding (we've moved since the last election) given to one of the candidates looking to replace her. First some background: governments in BC tend not to win byelections (called when someone must step down, up or aside in mid-term) unless the current government is hugely popular. The current Liberal (just not federal Liberal) government is not.
A byelection in a riding in neighbouring Surrey fell to the NDP, which whether you like the NDP or not is probably a good thing since it increased the opposition benches by 50%. The failed candidate there is gunning for Lynn Stephens (perceived to be) much safer seat. Ms. Stephens recently endorsed all the candidates (eight) seeking to replace her except that one. What reason did she give? "We need a local candidate. There are other ridings in Surrey she can seek nomination in."
Ah, the things that doomed-to-be-short-lived huge majorities bicker about. I chuckled.
The Citizens' Assembly, although its report is not due to be submitted until December, its content is now known: along with Ireland, Malta, New Zealand and Australia, we will be using the Single Transferrable Vote system.
I think it's a good idea. You can read all about it here, and as regards BC specificallly, here.
The Green Party of BC is, surprisingly, against it. Perhaps because it isn't the idea they supported in the first place. I'll have to go back and understand why. Doubtless there is some merit to their ideas, but to oppose it seems anti-democratic (which isn't automatically defined as "wrong") at this point.
STV: Recognize it, Understand it, and I say, "Support it!" but you, do so, only if you think it's the best option for Canada's western outpost.
Judi Sgro, a member of Paul Martin's newly minted Minority Cabinet, is adding dangerous folly to folly as she builds her governmental record. During the previous election campaign, she debased her former cabinet portfolio to the status of Minister of FUD by appearing at a campaign stop of the current and former Leader of the Opposition, with the sole intent of throwing heckling questions at him designed to raise doubts that he would re-open the abortion debate in Canada.
"Mr. Harper, whose rights are you going to take away today?" she squeaked from the sidelines. Never mind the very real philosophical doubt about when life begins and when a fœtus becomes a human worthy of protection under law — and no matter what side of the political debate you may find yourself on, you must deal with that question one way or the other. To do so flippantly in either direction is offensive. But in this case, it was just a whining innuendo that Mr. Harper would be sure to revoke 25 years of judicial and legislative ambiguity over the heads of any protest, given the chance. An implication that her party would be a better protector of civil society than Mr. Harper's.
But now, as Immigration Minister, she is perfectly willing for the sake of expediency to pressure the churches to relinquish their practice of offering sanctuary as a faint hope to those whose pleas for harbour from nasty countries of origin have met with a rebuff.
In Canada, we like to think of ourselves as a more civil society than that of our southern neighbour but knocking this notion of houses of faith as places of refuge flies in the face of that impression. Such a legal provision of final refuge goes back a long ways, beyond the Middle Ages, back to Græco-Roman times, back even to the ancient Jewish Torah. Perhaps the churches need to temper their offers of refuge once a "final appeal" has been lost as even the "Cities of Refuge" laws demanded. But to ask the churches not to offer themselves as final refuges places our legal system in danger of adopting some of the arbitrarily tyrannical characteristics of pre-Hammurabic law.
This is not a direction we want to go, people. Because even if you're in the majority today, one of your descendants may someday be in an oppressed minority and if you erase the recourse to refuge today, so as to stop the Terrorists! your actions will quite possibly expose your own flesh and blood or that of close friends and neighbours to the overzealous working of the long, strong arm of the law.
The right way forward here may not be that hard: Instead of asking the churches not to supply perpetual safe-harbour, perhaps the right thing would be for the churches to find other 3rd countries that would welcome (and give long-term safe harbour to) these individuals whose plea for refuge in Canada has fallen on deaf ears. But trying to pressure the churches into relinquishing their millenia-old role as the harbour of last resort is not just foolish (as the "heckle Mr. Harper" episode was) but dangerous in the sense that it increases the risk that unjust turns the law might take at the behest of tyrannical majorities would have no limit to their power of exercise.
Stop it, Ms. Sgro. Have none of your own forebears ever needed this safeguard? I cannot believe it. Will you nor any of your descendants never need it yourselves? It seems still more unlikely. You'd probably be hurting yourself if you succeed; but even if you aren't, removing this recourse isn't building up the civil society your anti-Conservative FUD was implicitly promising Canadians that the Liberals would be better at defending.
Don't Forget About DelightI'm sometimes in danger of forgetting delight.
Amid the rumours and the expectations
And all the stories dreamt and lived
Amid the clangour and the dislocation
Of things to fear and to forgive,
Don't forget about delight.
You know, what I'm saying to you.
Don't forget about delight, you know.
Amid the post-ironic postulating
And the poet's pilfered rhymes
Meaning feels like it's evaporating
Out of sight and out of mind. But don't forget...
Though you find yourself alone and stranded
With no friend to take your side
On the endless road afoot and empty-handed
Where the wild-eyed cossacks ride, don't forget...
Spring birds peck among the pressed-down grasses
Clouds like zeppelins cross the sky
Anger drips in pools and then it passes
And I say a prayer that I don't forget...
This last Sunday, an American friend made a remark implying that I probably didn't agree with his publicly stated well-wishes to the United States of America on its 228th birthday (we live in Canada). I have made no secret of my annoyance with the government of the United States of America -- I'm no good at all about keeping secrets that have any emotional impact on me, just ask my wife -- but I was shocked into mostly-silence, and it was only yesterday evening, 30 hours later, that I came up with a response.
I was grieved that he believed that I would wish ill on anyone from any country, even if I happen to dislike things that their government does. For anyone to exact terror on anyone for any cause is wrong.
I object to the terror the US has been exacting from other countries for the last 100 years. And I will understand when (not if) someone exacts that kind of terror on the population of the US. But I do not relish that day nor do I wish for its hastening.
You must understand, too, that nobody has yet exacted that kind of terror on the US, regardless of what 9/11 looked like.
9/11 was not an example of "that kind of terror" no matter how big its effects were made to appear. It was actually only a tiny pop-gun of terror compared to what the US has done to the Phillipines, Iran, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Cuba, Grenada, Afghanistan and Iraq. (If one included countries where US tacit approval or quiet support resulted in local tyrannies acting murderously towards their own people, this list would be much longer.)
The actual victims of 9/11 numbered only 0.001% of America's populace. A similarly calculated percentage of victims in the above-mentioned countries numbers at least two orders of magnitude greater.
"That kind of terror" is definitely coming -- at whose hands I know not. But it has definitely not yet struck. And I will grieve when it comes, long and deeply, even if I understand the cheers of the survivors of the US' brutal history in their countries.
"The word, 'mercy' is gonna have a new meaning
When we are judged by the children of our slaves..." -- Bruce Cockburn (who else)
So, here are the results of our national election.
In the end, the scandals (HRDC, sponsorship), the gun registry and the callous disregard of the Liberal Party of Canada for regions that don't elect members to their government didn't cost them the government. It just cost them absolute power. Good enough for now.
I have mixed feelings over this election since I wanted to see more diversity in parliament and I wanted to see the Liberals reduced to the regional rump they've been so fond of accusing all the other parties of being over the last ten years. Neither of this happened.
At the same time as I wanted that, and at the same time that I agree with some aspects of the Conservative platform, I didn't want Canada to be drawn too closely into the orbit around the Bush White House.
So what did we get?
- Liberal reduction: Canadians could have sent a message to the Liberals that the corruption they displayed in office over the last decade wasn't good enough, but unfortunately, only Qu&eactute;bec did that. Even more unfortunately, they did it by electing sovereigntists. I'm happy with half of that result, but not the other half.
- Diversity: We have a sitting independent. Actually, he's a very popular Conservative member whose riding association and nomination process was hijacked by an interest group that was otherwise out of step with the bulk of their riding. This one can be played the other way: the members of the Conservative party who cared to get out to the nomination meeting spoke and Chuck Cadman's insistence on running anyways could be interpreted as sour grapes. The fact that he has cancer and may not live out his term will only enhance the human-interest aspects of this story.
- Not like in America? Well, actually, if you look at the negative attack ads (filled, by the way, with mis- and dis-information) run by the party that said they would keep us from Americanization, you'd have to say that for non-America-cosy politicians they sure were acting like American politicians.
Q: What's less successful, more likely to back-fire, in Canada, than trying to buy Québecois loyalty to Federalism?
A: Americans telling Canadians how to vote.
We may like you folks, our neighbours to the south, as individuals, but we don't like your government, we only grudgingly appreciate aspects of your culture (but mostly because we have few other options and because so many Canadians have made it big in your market) and we don't like to be told what to do by you or by anyone else.
Imagine for a moment how much it would hurt a presidential campaign for foreigners to tell Americans not to vote for the other guy. It'd be a kiss of death, usually. We're no different from you on that score.
Your pundits would never have the gall to tell the Brits or the Spaniards how to vote. Latin Americans in the US would rise in anger at "brains" who presumed to tell the Mexicans how to vote (not to mention how that would affect the voters there if the word got out!). Why are they wasting their breath telling us?
Chances are, neither Ralph Nader nor Michael Moore (both of whom have told us whom not to vote for) understand the integrity issues that are very rightly dogging the Liberals (can you trust an insincere guardian of a social safety net?). And they probably don't realize that there are other parties, including the NDP (and even the Greens) who could come out of this election with surprising levels of influence. Our system is different enough that a Ralph Nader wouldn't be the same spoiler factor here as he was, say, in Oregon.
Who I'm going to vote for is my business and I choose to divulge that "publicly" to my ballot paper only. If you ask me whom in your election you should vote for, I might or might not tell you. I wouldn't think it appropriate for any public figures from up here in Canada to be telling you folks whom to vote for.
Ralph: loved the book (Unsafe...) but it's getting a little long in the tooth.
Michael: your movies knock me flat and they have made me think more lucidly.
You're both good at what you do, but when it comes to Canadian elections, you know not of what you speak. And as non-voters you have neither standing nor competence. Please, just be quiet and watch. Mr. Chomsky, another chap from your country who has opened my mental vistas, is saying nothing. There's an example you could both afford to follow.
If we ask you what you think, say it, by all means. But in the meantime, this is an election year in your own country: why don't you concentrate on that and let this one be.
President Lyndon Johnston declared War on Poverty. Today the poverty problem in the US is bigger than it's ever been.
President Richard Nixon declared War on Drugs. Today the drug problem in the US is bigger than it's ever been.
President George W. Bush declared War on Terror. Given the record, did the US really want him to do that?
A co-worker encouraged me to read All the Shah's Men, Stephen Kinzer's exposé of the CIA's complicity in the downfall of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh (محمد مصدق) of Iran, Time Magazine's 1951 Man of the Year. From the Foreword, where an innocent question to a female Iranian writer results in a tirade against America: "Why did you do that to us? We believed you were on our side and then you betrayed us. We never understood then why America would co-operate with the British imperialists against our people."
Apparently that outburst pushed Kinzer to go back 50 years to understand how one month in 1953 affected 1979 so deeply; how it could still be echoing down the corridors of international relations between the US and the Middle East in 2004. The result is chilling. An honest assessment of all parties doesn't leave Mossadegh looking entirely like a saint but it's far more damning to the British, the Americans, and the various royal families of Iran from the 17th century forward.
Peace to Iran! and a government that takes its people's aspirations seriously!
One may well ask how he gets these famous people to talk but listening to him, ploddingly introducing the same facts again and again, adding a bit here, then again the next time, you can guess what the effect on one of his "victims" would be. He only talks about what he knows plus a little bit about what he guesses. If you don't challenge his guesses but sound as though you know what he's talking about, he introduces one more little tit-bit, maybe intentionally including a false one. Eventually you fall silent or you become a waterfall of more information which he then tucks into his little kit-bag for use when he meets his next victim -- who may very well be somebody you name. Brilliant, relentless, and very effective. Eventually, when he lays it all out, he can just let the facts speak for themselves and that's more than eloquent enough.
Apparently, Chomsky called Pearson a War Criminal and Gzowski went ballistic so that the 15 minute interview had to be cut back to 10 minutes. Then the switchboard lit up. Not with people complaining about anything Chomsky had said but taking issue with Gzowski's outburst. That would have been a scream.
He makes several points, though, about Canada as an American colony, that America doesn't really want to absorb Canada outright, that Québec is better off within Canada than they would be alone: alone they'd be an even bigger target for colonization by the US than they are as part of Canada etc. etc.
There's a habit of thought here that needs to be more widely pursued. This is a kind of prophet we could do with more of today. But if you're thinking of filling the bill, beware: prophets like that lead very lonely, marginalized lives.
Something fell on Saskatchewan in 1885
Where is it now when we need it in this century of jive?
The axe falls as if through water: it never leaves a trace...
- John Kerry on Iraq and on the American economy Initially he carefully side-stepped when asked whether he would send in more troops to Iraq or not, and only answered in a way that supported the troops as humans and not necessarily the failed policies that got them there. But to me, the real interest came from some of his rhetoric about "a failed Iraqi state is in nobody's interest" is a clear sign that the monied interests have realized that their heretofore favourite's actions in Iraq have not led and are not going to lead to greater profits for them.
- The other item was about Brazil and nuclear weapons. Brazil swears up and down they're not developing weapons, and maybe they're not.
But what if they look at the example of India and Pakistan? Look at the more rational way in which these two countries have been treated by the rest of the world, but especially by the US, since they both became nuclear powers. When the possibility that a border skirmish would spiral up into a "strategic" nuclear exchange (and isn't that a moron's oxymoron!) arose, everyone who could engaged both India and Pakistan and now their cricket teams are touring each other playing one-day and test matches.
If the number one problem a minor power has is staying out from under the American thumb -- and if there is only one hyper-power then this is a smaller power's biggest problem -- then becoming a nuclear power is exactly what a ruler with a keen sense of the national pride and interest is going to do -- just not out in the open.
If the development of a bomb is going to lead to problems -- loss of support, of friends, of freedom to act in the "community of nations" -- but having a bomb leads to respect, you're going to do your darndest to develop a bomb under the thickest cloak of secrecy. Then when you're ready, you test it in some way that will expose your population to as little danger from it as possible and then sit back and watch the R-E-S-P-E-C-T begin to roll in. If you don't believe that then just read ESR's essay about his first pistol shoot, especially this bit:
In fact, I found that the sight of three dozen people wearing pistols and casually socializing was curiously bracing. It said more clearly than words ever could: "We are adults. We trust ourselves and each other and take ultimate responsibility for our actions. We are armed, we know each other fit to be armed, and we are proud to be so fit."I don't hold with weapons except for food-hunting but that's another story. Still, on the international stage, right now, national nuclear weapons are the pistol that bestows resepect-as-among-equals on the nations of the earth. I don't like it, but that's the way I see it.
Dreams again...I was born in 1963 and was troubled in my early adulthood by regular dreams of Global Thermonuclear War, specifically, places that I know and love well being destroyed by incoming MIRVs whose approach it was impossible to predict or prevent. 1989 came along and everyone seemed ready to abandon MAD approaches to international relations and the dreams stopped.
In the aftermath of the 9-11 + invasion of Afghanistan + invasion of Iraq + bombing in Spain, they've started again, as of last night.
Oh Yay! Just what I needed.
The symptoms of the age are obvious to everyone. The causes seem equally obvious to me, but obviously they don't appear so obvious to our Glorious Leaders -- and I don't even live in a country that sent troops to Iraq!
As Londo Mollari once said: "Blood cries out for blood. There is no other way." (Yes, I'm a Babylon 5 fan -- and whatever I'm a fan of, I tend to "know" too much about it for anyone else's comfort) The blood that we, the West have shed in all parts of the globe (including our own but majoring on other parts) have been an investment with a certain though not fixed maturity date. This, just as truly as the crimes of "Monseigneur" in France (as logged in "A Tale of Two Cities") were a "reciting of the Lord's Prayer backwards", whether we knew it or not. When the demon of horrific terrorism aimed at our civillian populations, which we have systematically and thoroughly invoked, is visited upon us, we ought not to be surprised.
Rather the only hope that all our children and grandchildren will not play out lives threatened or shortened by terrorism is for us to acknowledge, turn away from and make restitution for our wrongs.
All our wrongs.
It's called repentance, not just as individuals for individual wrongs, but as societies for societal wrongs that have been perpetrated and allowed to be perpetrated for far too long. I know better than to hope for it barring other, just as impossible looking events. But I have other, even more fantastic hopes than this so that hope isn't too much of a stretch.
Book read this week: 9-11 by Noam Chomsky, Seven Stories Press, New York. ISBN = 1-58322-489-0, LOC# HV6432.7 .C48 2002
"I was not impressed with the evidence.... Wouldn't it be paradoxical if you march in with 300,000 troops and you find no Weapons of Mass Destruction?"
"That's the critique one would field against both the UK and the US that the leadership did not exercise sufficient critical judgment."
Reading some Chomsky: Understanding Power
In the midst of all the brilliant analysis (or is that argumentum ad hominem abusive?) of why and how political power elites keep dissenting voices from being heard, despite free speech guarantees, a free press and all that, I'm struck again by the meta-conclusion that I came to after watching Manufacturing Consent. If you want your dissenting voice to be heard, you need to unite into a new collective.
Whose voice may be one you don't always agree with.
Whose means and tactics may themselves become so open to question that you're left with the feeling of being used in another way.
we thought we could change something
we helped them win
they changed the slogans
we get hunted again
when you're the fighter
you're the politicians tool
when you're the fighter
you're everybody's fool
... guess who? those who know me wouldn't even ask
And that's why I'm not rushing out to join the NDP or the Green Party any more than I've ever rushed out to join the Reform Party or the Christian Heritage Party. To use another quote:
"I am not entirely on anybody's side, because nobody is entirely on my side."
-- Treebeard (in Lord of the Rings)
Two impressions hit me and seem likely to stick for some time:
- The deep and subtle humanity of a character who is often demonized -- whose music and artistic style I, incidentally, find objectionable -- to wit, Marilyn Manson. His answer to Moore's question, "What would you say to the students of Columbine High?" was the kind of answer I would want to give.
- Charlton Heston's utter inability -- unwillingness? -- to answer a life-time NRA-member's questions about the cause of America's proportion of gun-deaths to population. Old and senile? Owned-outright? He reminded me a lot of Londo Mollari -- in possession of much that others envy but without the power of independent action or the of expression of an independent thought.
- "Bullet Control"
- Snoopy the Hunter
- Americans in Windsor
- exposing the many faces of Lockheed-Martin.
- news that hypes causes to fear as a driver of consumption
In moments like those I feel sure that, in the end, F/L-OSS (Free/Libre - Open Source Software; Free/Libre in contrast to Free/Gratis which would make the acronym unpronounceable and untenable to those who want to make a living with Free Software) will WIN.
I don't believe it can do anything else but win when all the facts are known.
I'm not sure why I didn't mention Thunderbird and its built-in Bayesian filter in the next breath. Maybe next time.
Four Quadrants of people: Expressive, Analytical, Amiable, Driver (Working Styles)
Four Quadrants of time use: Urgent vs. non-Urgent X Important vs Unimportant (Covey's 7 Habits)
And now Four Quadrants of Money Styles: Employee, Self-Employed, Businessman and Investor (Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad books)
It's so easy to classify intangibles, isn't it? But, for those frameworks that outline intangibles for the purpose of enabling change (if a member of the audience feels such is necessary), how does one organize one's life according to those concrete descriptions of the intangibles. If one is the author or a close associate of the same this question is moot. But what about the rest of humanity?
And then, before one begins to address that question, try this one on for size: How does the change to align with these new paradigms align with other principles that one already accepts as givens? One can't just embrace a new defining framework. One must examine it against one's current values and only embrace it if it makes sense. And one must have the bravery to say the Emperor (new framework) has no clothes (no sense) if indeed no sense can be found in it.
"Know yourself!" said Socrates, meaning in part, I believe, "Know yourself that you may better yourself."
And if "better yourself", then also, "change yourself".
And if both "better yourself" and "change yourself", then also, "be on the watch for new ways of changing".
So, look at and accept new paradigms -- but do so provisionally. A wise man is just as ready to throw away a bad pair of glasses as he is to try a new prescription when he realizes that his vision could be better than it is.
In the midst of all this, there is a striking image in the growing number of illegal (mostly Latin) immigrants in the US and the bizarre contrast of the growing drive to expel all illegal immigrants (mostly Latinos) with the growing influence of Latinos in the American political political process.
And now the Dutch have begun expelling asylum-seekers -- not that the politicians believe that's the right thing to do. They're just scared spitless that another Pim Fortuyn will show up to replace the one who's gone.
The countries of the world are becoming irrelevant and not even the one-and-only hyper-power, the USA, is exempt. The funds being spent on immigration-regulation enforcement are sunk costs that should be brought up short at the earliest possible opportunity. The money being spent on them should be poured into something more profitable and beneficial, and not just for those countries who feel this compelling need to protect their own borders. In recognition of the fact that there is but one planet and one human race they should be into things that benefit humanity outside the borders of those countries. And it should be done in small pieces because it is at the level of individuals, families and neighbourhoods that the lasting change must be brought about to remedy the basic lacks that are fuelling the desparate felt need for what ends in "Illegal Immigration."
These people should not need to feel that in order to better themselves, they must leave their own country to go to another one that must have their labour but is not necessarily willing to admit it (or them) even to themselves. Such opportunities can and must come to them where they are and ultimately we will find it more cost-effective to service these people where they are than to keep them out of our own home towns. But if we can't attract them to stay where they are, rather than chasing them down to try shipping them back, we should recognize the value that folks with more-than-average initiative and chutzpah are likely to contribute to us than drain from us here in their new homeland of choice.
"Tolerance" sounds so compassionate in the sense that all positions are acceptable but where do you draw the line? Supposing you are in a stratified society where one segment lives, as their forefathers have for generations, on the proceeds of theft? Whom do you tolerate more: the thieves or their victims who wish to incarcerate, banish, maim or kill them? So you must make a judgment between them, that one is right and one is wrong. So, tolerance has let you down.
But how then, if another part of your society living under your "democracy based on tolerance" is convinced that something that another portion of society does is morally wrong? Choose your subject: homosexual sexual acts or corporal punishment of children; eating pork or eating beef or eating meat at all? What if one group or the other makes one of these issues the crux on which tolerance turns. And what if the other group "calling a spade a spade", states that such acts are morally wrong? What if they do so repeatedly and publicly, but by and large without calling their audiences to what we would term hate-crimes against those who do them? And what if the first group says of the second: "Because you are calling this action which defines who we are as morally wrong you are inciting to hatred"?
In that case, some form of democracy may continue but more likely tolerance will be pulled up from the foundation of democracy and crushed into rocks with which one group or the other2 attacks and incarcerates, banishes, maims or kills the other. And after the smoke clears what will be left will no longer be democracy, even if it retains much of democracy's forms.
If things do not degenerate to that point, public discourse will become ever shallower until nothing being said is actually worth saying. That, too, is not democracy but is rather an empty shell which may or may not retain much of democracy's forms.
No, democracy requires, as a first principle, a strong moral code with an objective bent, even if it is open to a certain latitude of subjective interpretation. Perhaps I'll expand that thought the next time I try to post here.
1 One friend of mine was seconded from a government ministry to being a member of the related cabinet minister's political office. He went in with a strong principles-based socialist position from, but came out in disgust at the intolerance he saw exhibited against those with some strong principles that disagreed with their own.
2 the one that is more bellicose, perhaps? or more given to busybodying? or just better organized?
Recently, I moved into larger digs with my family. Thanks so much to the people who helped us move.
Un-thanks for the lack of good information from our local telecom on whether DSL was going to be available in my area or not.