Monday, March 28, 2011

Endorsement of Sorts: Anyone But Harper!

I want to get ahead of competing media sources like the Sun and the Globe and file my endorsement only 3 days into the Canadian election campaign.

Here it is and it couldn't be simpler. I endorse the candidate in your riding with the best chance of defeating whatever contemptuous, climate change-denying, trash-advertising, closet-tea-bagger, Harper has running there.

Have a hard keen look at polls in your area and make sure you are on the right side for not splitting the anti-NeoCon vote and allowing the Conservative snake to slither up the middle towards Ottawa.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

On Dredging Up the Other Guy's Past

So here we are, Canada, into yet another federal election. Prime Minister Harper is predictably dividing his attention in these earliest campaign days between implying that the election was not something Canadians want and trying to arouse fears that the three other main political parties are surreptitiously planning a coalition coup d'etat. I predict that neither theme will get far: having someone whose government has just been historically held in contempt of parliament, sounding off about what average Canadians want sounds, well, a little but like listening to Qaddafi claim that his now squelched military actions against Libyans were launched because he loved them so much.

As to the coalition bogey, no one is all that interested and any trace of authenticity to Harper's fear-mongering have been gloriously detonated by Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe's incontrovertible evidence that the PM was pussyfooting about in 2004 cobbling together precisely the kind of alliance he now pontificates against. Frankly, I think Canada and Quebec would be very well served by an experiment in collaborative governance wherein patriotic Canadians and avowed separatistes were obliged to explore innovations in our fragile federalism.

But mentioning patriotism brings me around to the real thrust of what I have to say about the rhetoric of the incipient election campaign. For many weeks now, Harper's party has been running malicious ads about Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. The thrust of these is that Ignatieff abandoned Canada, coming back only to claim a patrician's due right of governance. Intimations of a longstanding Canadian phobia for absentee rule abound in this unsubtle, mean-minded screed. Weirder yet, coming from George W.'s once-favourite hand puppet is the evidence trumpeted in the ad that Ignatieff - sit down please - admires the USA! What a sin to feel affection for our closest friend, ally and most significant trading partner.

The curiously counter-intuitive message is that an internationally respected public intellectual who has the merit to obtain senior academic posts at Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard, and who has won acclaim and significant international awards for his writing, should be ashamed of having lived outside Canada. He has, in the Harper claque's estimation, the wrong pedigree not to mention divided allegiances.

The problem with probing into one's opponent's background - quite aside from the daft attempt to re-cast incredible achievement as a source of shame - is that it prompts a similar inquiry into one's own background. While Ignatieff was triumphing in noble, world-renowned institutions, Stephen Harper was also putting mind and heart into service for another immediately recognizable global entity - Imperial Oil. Analogous to Ignatieff's following in the footsteps of his famed diplomat father, George, Stevie also was making his dad proud. Papa Joe worked as a star computer expert and accountant for years for the oil giant and no doubt nudged and winked his baby boy into early summer jobs and later a start down a similar vocational pathway, doing financial programming for ExxonMobil's Canadian subsidiary.

The lad's strong identification with oil company interests drove him out of an early involvement in Young Liberal politics and into the welcoming arms of Alberta political crazies who eventually became the Reform Party, Canadian Alliance and now the Conservatives. Trudeau's National Energy Program which only slightly and temporarily constrained the financial free play and mega-growth of the oil patch, was the Darth Vader forcing Harper's youthful rightward conversion.

This, then, is the personal past that Harper invites us to stack up against the skeletons, such as they be in Michael Ignatieff's closet. Perhaps, my fellow Canadians as you ponder the choice you should ask this: if Micheal's heart really and secretly resides with the institution of Harvard University while Stephen's belongs to the corporate headquarters of Imperial AKA Exxon, which covert fealty should concern us more?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Gaddafi's "Luck"

Definitive disclaimer: I am deeply concerned for the noble people of Japan who have in the past five days faced three interconnected cataclysms of unimaginable duress. We should help in any way we can as individuals, communities and nations. This said, I was stupefied when this morning's flagship CBC newscast, World Report covered nothing, zilch, nada - not 10 seconds about the continuing free hand Qaddafi is having rolling over the Libyan citizenry, using advanced weapons he bought from the west and Russia and China with profits gained from selling us all oil, developed with the expertise of our corporations.

The result is that the public here - and I fully imagine the same is true in Europe and the USA - is having its always deficient attention riveted on the quake, the tsunami, and the failing nuclear power plants while losing any zeal it had to urge our feckless leaders to do something tough in Libya. Qaddafi's henchmen are rolling east, behind air-power that ought to have been knocked out weeks ago. The noose is closing on Libyan citizens who are soon going to wish they lived in the stricken prefectures of northeastern Japan.

When the smoke clears from all this tumult there are going to be millions of traumatized Japanese who we will help and smugly feel good about ourselves for doing so; and there are going to be no fewer Libyans, murdered or reincarcerated in a brutal state and by a lucky madman whom we could have helped them get rid of.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

"Yes We Cant" or 6 Million Kitty Genoveses

I wonder as I write this what dwindling percentage of the population knows the name of Kitty Genovese. For we graying boomers who were just teens when she was murdered in 1964, the story and the somewhat embroidered myths of neighbourly indifference are never to be forgotten. As it was told back then, Ms. Genovese, a late shift bartender was attacked close to her New York City apartment and allegedly within the earshot of a famous 38 uncaring neighbours. As the story goes, they could hear her screams but simply closed their windows and pretended nothing was happening.

Also iconic when one is speaking of violent death is the number, 6 million. But I am not referring to the victims of the Holocaust except that many of them too could have been saved had indifference and prejudice not kept their refugee vessels offshore. No, I am building an analogy based on, Kitty lying bleeding and dying on the street, her assailant initially scared off but, emboldened by neighbourhood apathy, coming back to finish her off. And the analogue is the vast majority of Libyans (2010 pop. est. at 6.42 million) who have been willing to struggle against horrid odds and actions, while the richest most militarily capable nations on earth - ones who've partnered shamelessly with the Libyan madman, stand by and wring their hands. Like Kitty's attacker, Winston Moseley, Qaddafi seemed initially hesitant to mount a full deadly force assault. What would all these countries, recently chummed up by well-paid Western PR consultants, do if there was a counter-revolutionary slaughter? But he soon realized how toothless were these tigers, that the West would pontificate but be secretly relived in having to do nothing knowing that, inevitably, the far greater tyrannies of China and Russia would nix forthright UN Security Council action. These pompous bloviators are like one of Kitty's neighbours who, it is said, raised his window on that March night 47 years ago, and said "Hey, stop that!" then closed the window and probably went back to the TV wrestling matches.
Each day hundreds of brave freedom fighters die and Qaddafi's henchmen, using the modern materiel that our western development and markets for Libya's oil have financed, draw closer to a major massacre. And now we get limp "hey-stop-thats" from, among others, a Nobel Peace laureate who used to proclaim "Yes, we can!"