Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Canada's Little-Known War on Behalf of Terror

How nice of the White House to offer us six of its Boeing Co CH-47D heavy-lift transport helicopters at such a reasonable price--a measly 375 million dollars. A Pentagon spokesman explained that the deal is motivated by the kind of selfless, humanitarian vision that has come to define American strategic thinking:

"Canada needs these helicopters to enhance its capabilities in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) [yes, the thing has officially been given its own acronym]...Having the same configuration as the U.S. would greatly contribute to Canada's military capability by making it a more sustainable coalition force to support GWOT," the Pentagon said.

In other words, the more American stuff we have, the more efficiently our Forces can be absorbed into the American imperial system and be deployed as colonial levies in U.S.-led conflicts. Statements like these can leave no doubt but that the American military leadership sees our Forces as a servant of American geo-political ambitions rather than our own. In fact, the Pentagon--doubtless very aware that our current government is happily willing (and even eager) to swallow any species of American insolence--hardly bothers to hide its arrogance. It proclaims that:

...Canadian deployments in support of peacekeeping and humanitarian operations have made a "significant impact to global political and economic stability and have served U.S. national security interests."

The Pentagon obviously assumes that most Canadians will be delighted to hear that their tax dollars and the precious lives of so many of their countrymen have "served U.S. national security interests" rather than been wasted on Canadian security interests.

The Pentagon is probably right: in this dark hour of national demoralisation, the product of two-decades' worth of Canada-hating rhetorical flagellation by our self-loathing media and political élites, Canadians are apt to think that handing our Forces, our resources, and even our very lives over to the pleasure of the United States is but a barely sufficient atonement for our inherent worthlessness, for the abject pusillanimity of our very being, for having so scandalously presumed to deserve an autonomous existence beside a neighbour who embodies the perfection of all the virtues. Before 9/11, Canadian self-hating had been the fairly disreputable fetish of a marginal, mainly Albertan, gaggle of cranks; it now seems to have replaced fluoride as the main additive in our drinking water. One can hardly blame the Pentagon, then, for its plain speaking: they know that few Canadians will care.

Indeed, "interoperability"--for that is what our military's absorption into the U.S. war machine is euphemistically called--will continue apace and go unchecked as long as Canadians can be fooled into thinking that becoming ancillary sepoys in the service of American geo-political ambitions is an ideal way of redeeming our tradition of degenerate parochialism through global "humanitarian" interventions.

Our mission in Afghanistan is the opium which helps keep the masses hallucinating along those lines. News of Haiti's most recent agony should have removed the pipes from Canadian lips, but--as we've been convinced that Afghans are the only suffering people who deserve our development assistance--we've been allowed to keep sucking away at our opiate and, in the process, have forgotten our own shameful role in Haiti's tragedy.

Starving Haitians have lately been reduced to eating dirt and have thus reached depths rarely before seen even in that tormented nation. The collapse of their so-called government may herald the disintegration of what little remains of a functioning Haitian civil society. This is all happening despite the dilatory Brazilian-led "peace-keeping" effort to which Canada has contributed a token force since 2004. It is fitting that we are doing so little to help Haiti, since we have done so much to trigger its current chaos.

In 2004, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, one of the only two elected presidents Haiti has ever had, faced a rebellion fomented by criminal gangs and disgruntled ex-soldiers enraged by Aristide's wise decision to disarm the army (traditionally one of Haiti's most destabilising elements). Aristide had long been out of favour with the White House, which withdrew all humanitarian aid to the impoverished country in 2000 (with Canada and Europe shamefully following suit soon after), presumably in retaliation for the alleged irregularities that marred the 2000 election that returned Aristide to power and the allegedly "authoritarian" nature of his rule (America apparently having discovered some democratic scruples after having supported the homicidal Duvaliers for decades).

Without an army to oppose it, the rebellion gained traction. The White House decided to support the rebellion, thus providing moral and political legitimacy to a glorified street gang led by a violent thug who christened his motley band of killers with the darkly hilarious name, the "National Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Haiti".

Ultimately, in the latest act of a disastrous two-hundred-year tradition of neo-colonial interventionism, the White House decided to send in the Marines and remove Aristide, virtually at gunpoint, rather than protect his government while it completed the last year of its democratically-held mandate. A caretaker administration was installed, and an international force (with a sizable Canadian contingent) was brought in to police the new criminally established status quo. Thus, the U.S., with Canada's sedulous assistance, deposed one of the only legitimate national leaders Haiti has ever produced at the behest of the lowest dregs of Haiti's criminal underworld and of its defunct network of paramilitary death squads.

Canada's role in this catastrophe provides one of the most disgraceful examples of moral cowardice in our history, arguably in all history. While primping ourselves on the "nobility" of our Afghan mission--a project undertaken under the duress of American blackmail, premised on patently unachievable objectives, propping up an Islamist, Sharia-Law-driven, warlord-ridden regime, and now clearly failing on all measurable levels--we threw away a golden opportunity to make an easily achieved, quantifiable step towards the institutionalisation of democracy in the poorest jurisdiction in the Western Hemisphere.

Having been shorn of their heavy weapons, Aristide's antagonists were an Interahamwe-like rabble, carrying barely more than antiquated small-arms and big knives. Protecting the president would have required nothing larger than a mechanised infantry brigade without need of artillery or air support-- comfortably fitting within Canada's limited logistical capacity. After two and a half years of ersatz philanthropy in Afghanistan, here was an authentic opportunity to mount an idealistic, stand-alone Canadian operation--to use our small Forces to propagate Canadian values in the defence of a real, functioning democracy.

Instead, we held the Pentagon's hat while it demonstrated to all Haitians that no legitimate president is safe from their mobs, setting back by decades the cause of Haitian democracy and bringing its haunted people to their current horrific reality. You think it worrisome to have a failed state seven thousand miles away in Afghanistan? Consider the risks of having one just off the coast of Cuba, within easy striking distance of North America. If an extremist network ever takes root in Haiti, it will do so on ground made fertile by American venality and Canadian cravenness.

Stephen Harper and his barking acolytes continue to enjoin us to "Support the Troops". I say this: I shall begin to support our troops when they are made to re-connect with what is perhaps the most brilliant thread in the weave of our military history--our voluntary commitment to just wars. The troops I support have yet to be mustered: they are the ones who would have turned back the thuggish canaille converging on Port-au-Prince in 2004, not the ones providing the military life support for Hamid Karzai's failed, madrassa-pocked narco-state.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Restless Natives and Clueless Nabobs

Well, my sources inside Iraq's Green Zone just sent me an interesting little tidbit. I've lately been doubting if those monthly shipments of Cuban cigars were ever going to get me anything worthwhile, but, folks, the one-armed bandit of fate has paid me off in silver dollars.

With the security situation in Iraq apparently on the brink of diving back into murderous chaos, American military authorities are eager not to repeat past mistakes. They realise that poor troop cultural orientation and the infliction of heavy collateral casualties cost them the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. Now, with Sunni tribesmen becoming less susceptible to bribery and Muqtada Al-Sadr threatening to end his ceasefire, top U.S. brass are anxious to ensure that, when American troops resume large-scale anti-insurgent operations, they conduct themselves with irreproachable discipline and a punctilious avoidance of civilian casualties.

To that end, the Pentagon commissioned a training video to help their front-line troops relate to and communicate with the Iraqi people more effectively. Due to the severe budget constraints currently being placed on the Pentagon's Education and Training Unit, they were forced to contract the task out to the French, who just happened to have a video in their archives which suited the purpose superbly. The French generously let the Yanks have it for a song, reportedly in gratitude for having underwritten their occupation of Viet Nam for so long.

The video instructs the soldiers in the proper way to respond to a variety of scenarios faced daily by coalition occupation forces, but my sources indicate that some of the video's suggested responses were deemed questionable at best by some of the officers present at the video's première. For instance, the clip below is from the section entitled "What To Do When A Bunch of Islams Run Towards You". My sources inform me that it shocked many of the attendees, though the Blackwater guys, apparently, were loving it. Enjoy

Saturday, 26 April 2008

My First Annual Gossipy "Inside the Queensway" Post

Given that our society (and especially its political class) is quickly becoming almost parodically litigious, I think it wise to offer this post as a hypothetical.

Imagine that a certain Ottawa-area blogger is at a Second Cup chatting with an acquaintance while enjoying a coffee (no, not a spineless, cosmopolitan, "liberal" latté, but a morally unobjectionable, perfectly assimilated, "conservative" double-double, thank you very much). This acquaintance happens to work as a Commissionaire on the security detail at Government House.

Now let's say this woman mentions that the wife of the Prime Minister appears to have become good friends with the Governor General. In fact, the two gals--both health conscious and eager to retain their trim figures--often work out together. Conveniently, a small gym is situated on the grounds of Rideau Hall-- intended for use strictly by the Governor General, her staff, and her security detail--which has often been graced by the two ladies' sweaty presence.

Now, would it be entirely petty to wonder why the wife of the Prime Minister, already the beneficiary of public emoluments and already housed and fed on the taxpayer dime, feels the need to exploit yet another publicly provided service to which she is not entitled? Speaking of pettiness, is there not something petty about the wife of a generously remunerated head of government avoiding gym fees she could easily afford by using a facility which is really intended to serve as either a secure work-out location for the head of state or one of the few perks of boring and fairly meagrely paid jobs?

My own reaction would be to suggest that such a woman should choose: she could join the Governor General's staff if she wishes to use resources intended for its members; she could delve into whatever pin money her husband allows her in order to pay her own gym fees, or she could do so by actually getting a job.

Now, would it be unreasonable to feel uncomfortable at the mere fact of this hypothetical friendship? Would anyone else be concerned by the sight of the head of state and the head of government's wife strolling down Sussex Avenue, arm-in-arm, window-shopping for Manolo Blahniks?

Let's say the woman's husband were in a precarious minority government position. Would it be entirely illegitimate to wonder whether this friendship compromised the Governor General's ability to adjudicate impartially any sticky constitutional awkwardnesses that might arise? Are we so used to the notion of the Governor General as a spayed cocker spaniel pup, an executive irrelevance whose most significant task is delivering trite, soporific, Rotary-Club speeches to small, indifferent crowds at sod turnings that we've forgotten the key role she plays (or can play) in the fate of such a Parliament as is now in session?

I can't be the only one who would not want to see the holder of our highest office being taken to High Tea at the Chateau Laurier and being accosted with something like, "Oh Buffy, by the way... the polls are looking just fantastic, so my husband would like to make a confidence matter of a ludicrously trivial vote that he knows he'll lose, 'cause this whole "minority" thing's become such a bore. You'll be a dear and sign off on it, wont you--for friendship's sake?".

Wouldn't a government whose key theme is "transparency" seek to avoid the appearance of that most basic form of unaccountability--conflict of interest--especially if it is in danger of afflicting the highest office in the land?

It's a good thing this situation is only hypothetical, no?

Friday, 25 April 2008

And A Codicil...

Whilst re-reading that Globe and Mail piece about Ryan Sparrow, I was struck by something that I should have mentioned in my last post.

Since Stephen Harper's election two years ago, I've been telling anybody who will listen (a lucky handful!) that Harper is an amalgam of Richard Nixon and Mackenzie King--in his faux populism, in his achingly obvious inferiority complex, in his envious hatred of the "Eastern Establishment", in his raging paranoia, in his out-of-control need for total control, and in the rebarbative gaucherie of his public persona.

So I confess to having had Nixonian visions when the article described Sparrow this way:

The public face of the Conservative Party as it battles through an election spending controversy is a 26-year-old political science graduate from Edmonton: a young partisan described by one senior Tory as so loyal that he'd "literally ... take a bullet" for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Let's see. A young, fanatically driven ideological gladiator who is willing to do anything and suffer anything in the execution of his boss' agenda...

Where have we seen that guy before?

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Harper Valley: Pity, Eh?

As mentioned in my "Quotations of Chairman Harper" post of last week, I have never for a minute credited the media- and CPC-generated hype about Stephen Harper's allegedly sabre-sharp political acumen. To me, this uncritically approving susurrus sounded like a tin-pot emperor being fitted for new clothes.

Now, even though the lamentable aftershocks of last Sunday's ridiculous "Conservative" media minstrelsy should have been powerful enough to rip every last thread of those clothes from Emperor Stevie's back, Harperoid drones seem as eager as ever to strip naked, slather their shivering bodies with blue paint, and hurl themselves in human waves against a withering chain-gun fire of scorn and ridicule that always remorselessly rips to shreds the last remnants of their dignity and self-worth. Pierre Poilievre's abjectly but appropriately rabbit-like performance on Charles Adler's radio show is only one example of a recent CPC self-immolation for the greater glory of the Chairman and of the Great Leap Backward.

Naturally, the Blogging Tories are dutifully following Poilievre into the valley of imbecilic self-abasement--each in his own special way. For instance, a great many of that tribe are valiantly but pointlessly attempting to salvage the Chairman's reputation by arguing that Harper had no prior knowledge of Sunday's disastrous "press conference"--that Sparrow, Findlay, and Lepsoe acted as rogue agents, entirely on their own initiative.

I've already indicated my own total contempt for this assertion. Earlier today, I was delighted to encounter this insider confirmation of my own view:

"Tories privately say Mr. Sparrow should not be held responsible for communications strategies at party headquarters, saying the Prime Minister's Office is calling the shots for this hardball approach to the media".

Of course, I did not require this independent ratification of common sense, and neither, I'm sure, did my non-CPC readers. I offer this merely as a public service to my few Harperthought jihadists--a service which, doubtless, will go deeply unappreciated.

And, guys, I'll understand if you don't thank me. I can take it: I wont cry and run down the stairs.

P.S. Cringing apologies for the awful pun in the title (or, more properly, the pun that is the title), but I thought it might extort a chuckle from those d'un certain âge.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

It's Not Over Until the Fat Flunky Sings

I'm sure many of you have been entertained by the sight of "Conservative" flunky Ryan Sparrow rebuffing CBC reporter Keith Boag with the vacantly reiterated phrase, "I'm sorry, it's a private meeting".

Now, there seems to be a rumour going round that Sparrow was referring to the meeting occurring in the room to which he was blocking access. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, and the contention otherwise is precisely the kind of scurrilous tripe we have come to expect from our élitist media and their effete phalanx of far-Left fellow-travellers in the blogosphere.

In fact, Sparrow was merely enunciating Stephen Harper's theory of parliamentary government.

Now, for the love of God (you pinko leftoids), do try, in future, to interpret CPC communications strategies in good bloody faith.

Monday, 21 April 2008

The Eighteenth Brumaire of Stephen Harper

As he surveyed the risible pantomime of mid-19th-century French neo-Bonapartism, Karl Marx remarked that what first occurs as tragedy always re-occurs as farce. He forgot to add that the two can occur together, as Stephen Harper learned yesterday.

We cannot know how long it will take for the media to pick clean the bones of yet another dead and rotten myth of political unimpeachability, slain by Harper's own Elmer-Gantrian hubris. This we do know: while the media sifts through the debris field of yet another sordid scandal, everything that makes politics worthwhile, everything by which it should be motivated--ideas, visions, debate, passion--shall be banished from the national conversation, at a time when we have arguably never needed them more desperately.

Rather, a cheap Three Stooges routine unfolds, as a panicked government literally runs from hotel to hotel in a furious bid to avoid the Canadian Press and the CBC after having invited the media to a press conference.

This pitiable political equivalent of an under-written Hee-Haw skit might be a defining moment in the life of "Canada's New Government"--the moment when they became the Village People of Canadian politics, a pretend government, a put-on, a silly, camp confection whose large and fanatical fanbase merely acts as ironic confirmation of their besetting triviality.

I don't care how much one loathes the CPC or how twisted one's sense of humour is. I'm damned if I see a way to enjoy any of this.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Quotations of Chairman Harper

Stephen Harper's reputedly sharp intellect is like the mist that wafts up from a tray of melting ice cubes: it's an evanescence--an insubstantial product of specific environmental conditions. Thus, amid the backdrop of the dreary stupidity of our current political discourse, Harper--though blessed with all the charisma of rancid mayonnaise--often seems quite adequate, like a predatory, libertarian, slightly overweight but competent golf caddy.

One needs to pay close attention to what Harper actually says in order fully to appreciate the profound mediocrity of the man. Canada has, sadly, produced very few politicians whose words deserve a life beyond the immediate needs of the moment. Age upon age (as for ages to come), our Parliaments brim with two-bit lawyers, carbuncular sales reps, and middle-management technocrats who wouldn't know how to inspire incontinence in an over-fed infant. Harper is not the worst of these; he is merely one of them, as demonstrated by this collection of Harper quotations, compiled before the 2004 election.

Each quotation has its own special inanity, but some of them deserve special mention for the flamboyance of their incoherence. All of them make sense only in Harperland, that imaginary workers' paradise promised to us by the Great Helmsman and for which he has tirelessly striven since the Great Leap Backward two years ago. Let us arise, then, and go to Harperland--a vast stretch of fog-bound fenland where the laws of logic languish in perpetual suspension.

"Human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society…It is in fact totalitarianism".
In Harperland, the key tactic of dictatorial hegemony has always been to provide citizens full access to mechanisms of human rights remediation. This differs from our boring real world, where totalitarian regimes take away citizen access to human rights remediation.

"Whether Canada ends up as one national government or two national governments or several national governments, or some other kind of arrangement is, quite frankly, secondary in my opinion… And whether Canada ends up with one national government or two governments or ten governments, the Canadian people will require less government no matter what the constitutional status or arrangement of any future country may be".
In Harperland, a nation can have many "national" governments. There, people are not bound by the reactionary need to see a "nation" as a unitary organism, bound by collectively experienced values and ambitions. There, all physical, biological and political laws obey the Chairman, so that nations comprised of politically autonomous, culturally disconnected entities are perfectly viable--even ideal. Similarly, Harperlanders do not consider the human body to be in optimum physical condition until it has had its limbs and head lopped off and become a "body" of six sovereign, decentralised bodies.

"Canada appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status…".

In Harperland, when a nation the Chairman despises proclaims pride in its authentic, internationally-recognised strengths, it is deemed to be "boasting", for only those nations with a faltering economy, a massive underclass, disgracefully few social services and an obscenely expensive military establishment have a legitimate right to feel proud.

"...west of Winnipeg the ridings the Liberals hold are dominated by people who are either recent Asian immigrants or recent migrants from eastern Canada: people who live in ghettoes and who are not integrated into western Canadian society."
In the Chairman's world, those who dare to challenge Harperthought can be dismissed as "unassimilated" ghetto-dwellers who don't quite belong. They are allowed to stay and live in Harperland, of course; they are people, after all. They're just ignorant, which is not a crime. Besides, they make good nannies and janitors.

"I don't know all the facts on Iraq, but I think we should work closely with the Americans".
Unlike normal men, the Chairman does not require facts before declaring war and putting men and women in harm's way. His intuition and strong connection to the stars and planets provide more guidance than a mere grounding in reality ever could.

"Canada remains alienated from its allies, shut out of the reconstruction process to some degree, unable to influence events. There is no upside to the position Canada took."
In Harperland, avoiding Canadian casualties in a useless war is not considered an "upside". This is because, whenever Harperthought triumphs, the people are liberated from the bourgeois, mundane habit of valuing life and seeing its loss as a tragedy. Why, in Harperland, needless killing is hardly even seen as an awkwardness.

"I am more comfortable with a more populist tradition of conservatism. "Toryism" has the historical context of hierarchy and elitism and is a different kind of political philosophy..."
The Chairman has redefined "populism" as the process of spending two decades wallowing in the lap of Big Oil or in the deep end of the public trough while labouring under the delusion that one has not become part of the "élite". The Chairman's own life has been faithful to this vision, and all who wish to follow him must do likewise.

What we've just seen is the way to wring the latent absurdity out of any piece of Harperspeak. It is not difficult. Merely take a sentence, and express, in your own words, what Harper is actually saying.

Feel free to try it at home.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

A Hillier of Beans

Outgoing Chief Of Defence Staff Rick Hillier has been properly eulogised by the senior members of an apparently grateful government, but his resignation may imply more than any of the principal actors seem willing to admit.

Stephen Harper made it very clear during the recent NATO summit in Bucharest that he intends to start selling our Afghan mission as an act of disinterested philanthropy, rather than as an anti-terrorism campaign, believing that Canadians will find altruism more attractive than self-interest. Obviously, the need for the military to produce evidence of altruism (i.e. completed development tasks) will need to take priority over anti-Taliban combat.

One wonders how this strategy would sit with a general who, soon after being named Chief of Defence Staff, said this during a Maclean's Q&A session:

"Before Sept. 11, we were deploying men and women around the world, sometimes in very dangerous places, in essence as a reflection of Canadian values. I don't think anybody truly believed our existence, our survival, our security and stability depended on those operations. We were doing it because Canadians like to help out around the world. Since Sept. 11, we deploy men and women around the world to protect Canadian interests. We know that if we don't bring stability to places like Afghanistan, they will bring instability to Canada".

Clearly, a Chief of Staff who thinks that "Canadian values" and "helping out around the world" are superannuated luxuries that must be wiped off the agenda for the sake of the aggressive pursuit of our national interests is not the ideal point-man for a communications strategy intended to emphasise the selfless features of the endeavour.

More troubling are Hillier's views on the Afghani warlords. NATO, and the U.S. in particular, have made no secret of their displeasure with many of the warlords under Hamid Karzai's political protection. Undisciplined, volatile, violent, often as fundamentalist as the Taliban, warlords have helped turn Afghanistan into one of the world's foremost narco-states. The Q&A makes quite clear, though, that Hillier is rather fond of the scamps. In talking of the friendliness of the Afghan people, he enthuses:

"You had to experience their version of friendship to understand it. I experienced it from normal people we met right through to President [Hamid] Karzai himself -- and including many of the warlords. They weren't necessarily malicious, so we worked with these folks".

When asked whether he respects the warlords, Hillier responds:

"Absolutely. They beat the Russians pretty fairly and squarely and, at the end of the day, they were responsible for thumping the Taliban. Many of these folks were incredible leaders. Many of them had one goal: a stronger Afghanistan that was a centre of stability for the region. Others went down the road of personal greed, into the drug trade and a variety of things, but in many cases from insecurity because they didn't know what their position was going to be in a future Afghanistan. Some of them became very close friends".

Given that the U.S. is putting at least as many resources into taming and disarming the warlords and destroying their poppy crops as they're putting into fighting the Taliban, how happy could the Americans have been to be working with someone who thinks the warlords are real stand-up guys?

Putting aside what the Americans think of these "incredible leaders", let's hear what someone on the ground thinks of them--and not just anyone, but a woman (one of those about whom our pro-war armchair warriors claim to be so concerned).

Malalai Joya, at twenty-nine the youngest member of Afghanistan's lower house of parliament, visited Canada last year to speak about Afghani women's issues. This incredibly brave woman, who is still forced to wear a burqa in her "liberated" country and who has been threatened by fellow Jirga members for her outspokenness, had this to say about the warlords:

"The Northern Alliance fundamentalists are mentally similar to the Taliban, but superficially they have changed to suit their power by talking about democracy and the 9/11 tragedy...Today, they control Afghanistan. Some of them are ministers, governors, commanders or ambassadors. They control Afghanistan and our people are like hostages...The international community will not succeed in Afghanistan, because...they fought against the Taliban by supporting another bunch of terrorists".

A woman who lives in constant fear of being assaulted or killed by the people who ostensibly represent Afghan "democracy" is describing as Talibanesque murderers the folks Rick Hillier thinks of as "friends"--just normal, hard-working chaps. Allow me to go out on a limb and suggest that Hillier's oddly misplaced loyalties must have made for some awkward NATO joint planning sessions and some very awkward DND/PMO communication sessions.

Just tangentially, the Maclean's Q&A also vexes the status of Hillier's "straight-shooter" reputation. Hillier heaps fairly florid praise upon the recent Liberal budget (the last, I believe), which pledged $12.8 billion in new defence spending. He says:

"We'll look back and see that this was a turning point for the armed forces. Finally, that huge reservoir of support in the population for the men and women who wear the uniform manifested itself in the budget announcement".
About Prime Minister Paul Martin, Hillier says:

"What I've seen in my short time as chief of defence staff is a significant amount of time this prime minister devotes to defence and security issues. I'm pleasantly surprised. That was reflected in the budget, and it will be reflected in the defence policy statement".

Wait a minute. Isn't Hillier the guy who excoriated the Liberal Party last year as the authors of "The Decades of Darkness"? I don't recall hearing him exclude Paul Martin from that sweeping denunciation or defend Martin against the "soft-on-defence" slander of CPC pitbulls during the 2005-6 election.

Of course, correcting the CPC propaganda would have required Hillier to politicise himself, an act of shameless transvestiture that Hiller no doubt thought pointless until the electorate confirmed his old master or gave him a new one. After all, effective pandering is all about timing.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Omnibus Post: "O Tempora, O Morons!"

The varieties of "Conservative" Party idiocy are becoming difficult to catalogue. They multiply so prolifically and bloom in such an immeasurably wide spectrum of gaudy hues, that one requires the patience and skill of a Linnaeus if one hopes to keep a full account of them all. Please find below, in digest form, details of the latest CPC cretinisms:

"I'm Ready for My Close-Up, Mr. Dion":

After two years of loitering sullenly near the precincts of paranoid absurdity, CPC Communications strategists finally pole-vaulted over the shark yesterday with accusations that Elections Canada alerted the Liberals before their raid on CPC Headquarters in order to give them time to send videographers over to film the fiasco. CPC apparatchik Peter Van Loan provides a detailed description of the black helicopters:

"I am also given pause to wonder why it was that the Liberal Party of Canada just happened to be on the scene, camera crew at the ready..."

[Nota Bene: the CPC objects to the term "raid", insisting that the proper word to describe the execution of a search warrant is "visit". I expect major media outlets to act on this cue presently. I can just see the headlines now: "Police Visit Grow-Op".]

Predictably, then, the CPC has diverted attention away from their own alleged misdeeds with yet another attack upon the civil service, and they chose their target wisely: they do not allege that the RCMP leaked news of the raid, but that Elections Canada did, although there is as much evidence to suggest RCMP involvement as there is to suggest EC involvement (that is, none whatever), but some branches of the civil service are safer objects of scorn and slander than others. In this case, the CPC has preposterously chosen to impute partisan motives to a Ministry headed by a CPC appointee.

Essentially, the CPC is spitting mad that people with camcorders were allowed to record the sad sight of their party's reputation wilting, yet again, under the searing heat of public scrutiny. It is like hearing the doorman of a brothel complain of a client's badly knotted tie.

"The Wit and Wisdom of Rob Anders":

Chronic national embarrassment Rob Anders has delivered himself of the opinion that China is the "worst human rights abuser in the world". Sources close to the rabidly pro-Tibetan CPC clown confidently assert that Anders also stands foursquare behind the position that little kittens are cute and that it is nice to help old ladies with walkers negotiate busy intersections.

Strangely, however, Anders has never gone on record in support of a comprehensive anti-Chinese trade embargo, presumably because he would hate to see the regime's ruthless repression, vast network of slave labour camps and mass political executions get in the way of really neat deals on tube socks at his local Wal-Mart.

Also of note is Anders' vocal support of Tibetan rioters, whom he considers "freedom fighters", unlike scum such as Nelson Mandela, whom Anders once denounced as a "terrorist". Repeat after Rob: "Commies are bad; neo-Nazi Apartheid thugs are good".

Rob Anders is actually a legislator, people. We really should be losing some sleep over that.

"Junk Mail Just Got Junkier":

The CPC has been caught abusing a taxpayer-funded parliamentary mailing service in order to spread hysterical propaganda of the crassest kind.

The public mailing service was originally intended to allow M.P's to inform former constituents of riding boundary changes. All parties have used the service for other, more partisan purposes, but the CPC refuses to be governed by any decent restraint. While the Liberal Party has spent 1.9 million taxpayer dollars and the NDP 1.4 million dollars on the service, the CPC has pissed away a whopping 3.2 million dollars on obnoxious, Opposition-baiting junk mail.

Naturally, this CPC communications campaign has taken the high road. It's class all the way:

"But the sheer volume of Conservative flyers, combined with their highly provocative and patently partisan content, is raising eyebrows.

"The cost of Stephane Dion: Higher Taxes, More Debt," reads one such flyer that appeared in mailboxes near Elmira, Ont., recently.

Recipients were invited to check one of three boxes beside a picture of Dion:

-"I want higher taxes."

-"I want more debt."

-"I want a bit of both."

They could also check a box beside a smiling picture of Prime Minister Stephen Harper that states: "I want lower taxes and less debt."

Another flyer that's appeared in ridings across Ontario features a smirking, moking, beer-drinking, n'er-do-well in a "wife-beater" T-shirt staring into the camera--apparently under house arrest. The flyer accuses Liberals of being lax on sentencing."
One isn't sure whom to name as the inspiration for this tripe. Lee Atwater? Karl Rove? Julius Streicher?

There you have it, Canadians. The CPC has essentially wiped its ass on three million of your dollars in order to send you infantile anti-Dion vitriol--thus expending a fortune on something dozens of slackwitted Blogging Tories offer us daily, for free.

Canada's New Government: getting old, real fast.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Pontificating to the Pagans: Might as Well Whistle "Dixie"

I am speaking as only an intermittently observant Catholic (and a philosophically Tridentine one at that, as the Inquisitorial motto you see on the upper left will attest), but I do wish His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI were doing something productive--like rubber-stamping annulments--rather than preaching Catholic doctrine to a people who are even less receptive to the Catholic world-view than the indigenous Nauset tribes who looked on in horror as the Pilgrims disembarked from the Mayflower.

American popular culture has produced the most supinely relativist and crassly nihilist zeitgeist ever to exhale from the bowels of Western civilization. The lifestyles of opulent excess that our southern cousins pursue and the degrading forms of media entertainment that they consume communicate values and priorities that would have revolted even the most dissipated of the worthless court sycophants who cavorted with the teenaged Nero in the taverns and bathhouses of ancient Rome. Americans should thank God that Man is a fallen, wretched creature, otherwise their culture would not be the eminently lucrative and exportable commodity (and the key pillar of their global influence) that it is.

The Pope's U.S. visit treats us to the edifying spectacle of an essentially liberal people being instructed by real conservatism, one descending not from the pages of Thomas Paine and Milton Friedman, but from the pages of Origen, Aquinas and Thomas à Kempis. The Pope puts it decorously:

"It is not enough to count on [America's] traditional religiosity and go about business as usual, even as its foundations are being slowly undermined," he warned the bishops gathered at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The "American brand of secularism," he said, "can subtly reduce religious belief to a lowest common denominator."

Of course, the American brand of secularism can reduce (in fact must reduce) everything to the lowest common denominator. This is entirely a deliberately enacted consequence of the levelling process of American democracy, by which nobody can claim to be "special" (though Americans do self-confer the privilege of being collectively special).

Americans despise unearned privilege. Yes, their habit of elevating to quasi-divine status "celebrities" who impress only by their uselessness suggests that the American definition of the verb "to earn" is an odd one indeed, but their anti-aristocratic impulses are unquestionable. The problem is that truth, like beauty, maintains itself only through privilege. For the truth to be truth (that is, not an option among "truths" but rather the "Truth"), it must be sovereign; it cannot depend on anything for its power, not even on reason. Made ancillary, truth no longer belongs to itself, but to us; and what belongs to us, we may do with as we please. As soon as truth becomes the product of private ratiocination or of public argument, it becomes a man-made object--a commodity; and, in a democracy, commodities are all equal--equally provisional, equally exchangeable, and equally expendable.

Truth is intolerable to republican laissez-faire societies. Conservative author Yukio Mishima once argued that it had become impossible to speak the truth in liberal post-War Japan because the Emperor was no longer divine: in the past, one swore an oath to the Emperor, and where there is no Emperor, there can be no oath. Where oaths are impossible, there is no Truth.

Truth is feasible only for societies with a tradition of privilege, such as monarchies. This is why, despite its rapid secularisation over the last few decades, Europe is still the centre of Western philosophy: Truth, while no longer a sovereign force for them, retains a world-weary, Elvis-in-Vegas-like authority as an object of nostalgic respect. Conversely, America is the first great power in Western history to fail to produce a single indigenous school of philosophy (Transcendentalism and Pragmatism being derivatives of British prototypes). Americans are a practical people, and even the intellectually gifted among them have always recognised the futility--even the danger--of pursuing something that has been placed under social proscription.

No doubt, many conservative Americans--Catholic and non-Catholic alike--will applaud Benedict's critique of relativism, oblivious to the fact that relativism is a foundational feature of their society and now serves as America's primary cultural export. Likewise, most of them are quite unprepared to understand that it is precisely that relativism (rather than America's wealth, power, or "freedom") which frightens and intimidates fundamentally conservative societies--such as Islamic ones.

Certainly, none of them would acknowledge that a society whose pornography industry enjoys a per-annum gross higher than the GDP of many European nations and that provides massive mainstream audiences for execrable monuments of degeneracy like Saw and Hostel needs to ask itself the kinds of uncomfortable questions that would help Americans discover whether they are even still part of the Western civilisation that Pope Benedict represents or whether, like Turkey and Russia, they jumped the rails a long time ago.

Of course, many Americans would find presumptuously ludicrous the notion that anyone could speak on behalf of the Truth in the first instance, as if someone could hold a monopoly of access to a transcendent power that, in any event, may not even exist--as if anyone has the authority to determine (ex cathedra, as it were) what we must believe and what we must reject.

I felt rather the same way when I heard a certain semi-literate Texan bark to the world, "You're either for us or against us!". Americans, though, seemed disappointingly comfortable with this crude moral and intellectual blackmail. Perhaps too few of them understand that, although they are pleased to place the tin wreath of Petrine supremacy upon their Chief Executive, the world is not, and that those of us who still believe in Petrine authority prefer the real one.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

"Fucking Up for Canada"

Once upon a time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was considered the most senior Cabinet portfolio. At its head would be placed the most august of the Prime Minister's caucus colleagues. This is an office that has been filled, with honour, by Nobel Prize winners and former prime ministers. Mike Pearson, Joe Clark, Paul Martin Sr. and Flora MacDonald number among the many who have done Canada proud on the world stage.

The ever-innovative Stephen Harper, always on the qui vive for ways of overturning Canadian traditions, opted to litter the Ministry with two of the most inconsequential dullards of his groggily mediocre caucus, thus facilitating his own retention of total control over foreign policy (for, you see, a minister with a decent IQ or a full scrotum might make that task damnably difficult).

First, the Canadian people had to suffer through the Peter MacKay era. MacKay is a football-faced harlequin whose rise from richly-earned anonymity during the 2003 P.C. leadership race was eclipsed by the ignominy of his pro-Alliance coat-turning and consequent assassination of his own party. He acceded to the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs purely for protocol's sake: being the leader of one the CPC's "legacy" parties, MacKay could not be seen to settle for Transportation.

Thus, bereft of anything even approaching an international profile, MacKay stumbled through his commedia dell' arte of a tenure while Canadians averted their eyes. In one of the most embarrassing spectacles in Canadian diplomatic history, MacKay publicly announced his crush on U.S. Secretary of State Condolezza Rice. For months, the North American press followed this sordid soap opera, which ended only when MacKay, finally put out of his misery in a Cabinet shuffle, was demoted to National Defence (the fact that Harper would use Defence as the destination of a demotion during a time of war says volumes about how seriously he takes that portfolio and the war).

Harper then outdid himself and appointed Maxime Bernier--yet another faceless drone nobody outside his riding had ever heard of--as Minister of Foreign Affairs. With Bernier, Harper got all the amateur-hour gaucherie and shallowness that MacKay had provided, and, what is more, got them wrapped in the big, red bow of Bernier's barely passable English. Imagine Harper's elation at having created his perfect minister: a man who not only cannot think for himself, but who can barely speak for himself into the bargain.

Bernier's latest triumph? He openly mused to reporters about wanting to have the governor of Kandahar replaced. Made aware of the colossal size of his gaffe, he retreated from this position a few hours later after suffering the unprecedented humiliation of being publicly rebuked by his own spokesman.

The governor in question, Asadullah Khalid, has been accused of detainee torture, and, now that the CPC seems to have come to the belated belief that such torture actually occurred, Bernier might see Khalid's removal as a necessary anti-corruption gesture.

Awkwardly, though, most Afghans no doubt consider such a gesture to be their responsibility and their prerogative, to be undertaken how and when they choose--like in an election. The cause of Afghan stability is in no way advanced when the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs addresses the population as if he were an Ottoman Caliph addressing a gaggle of turbulent bedouins.

Ultimately, Bernier has only made Khalid's position more secure, as Karzai--painfully aware of the Afghani perception that he's a NATO puppet--will be loath to allow domestic affairs to proceed according to Western dictation. Moreover, Bernier has provided more ammunition (literally) to the insurgent propaganda that the West sees itself as Afghanistan's overlord rather than an ally. Finally, Bernier has unwittingly removed the fig leaf from the ugly fact that, at least in one region (and there are many others like it), Afghan "democracy" has amounted to a Gaza-Strip-like shambles of corruption and violence.

If Stephen Harper is as smart as he thinks he is, he'll muzzle Bernier, put him on a leash, and send him chasing after Condi's skirt. At least then, like his predecessor, he'll be harmless.

"Step Away From the Shredder..!"

I don't recall ever seeing Liberal Party Headquarters getting raided, even during the depths of Adscam. Do you?

"Harper-hu Akbar!"

Every week, it seems, the soil of Afghanistan is newly drenched with the blood of yet another gallant Canadian. Meanwhile, as our armchair warriors and sunshine patriots bravely blow their tocsins (from thousands of miles behind the lines) in support of our dogged defence of Hamid Karzai's Sharia-Law-driven Islamic fundamentalist regime, every day seems to drag this mission closer to the realms of grotesque absurdity.

I had thought it bad enough that Karzai's feudal "government" is worm-eaten with ex-Taliban and ex-Soviet-collaborationist thugs like Ismail Khan who lord it over their subjects with casual brutality.

I had thought it bad enough that Afghanistan's constitution mandates that journalists be sentenced to death for "blasphemy" and that anyone be sentenced to death for converting to Christianity.

I had thought it bad enough that (as pro-democracy groups on the ground are desperately trying to tell us) women are still bereft of the most basic human rights and may, in fact, be worse off than they were under the Taliban.

I had thought it bad enough that Afghanistan has, since the invasion, gained the distinction of supplying 93% of the world's heroin, thus becoming essentially an intercontinental weapon of mass destruction.

Well, it just got worse. Now we learn that Canada is considering funding the construction of a network of madrassas--academies of Islamist indoctrination--as part of our sixty-million-dollar commitment to help "reconstruct" the Afghan education system ("reconstruct" being government double-speak for "build from scratch", naturally). Madrassas, as you surely know, are the hives of hatred that routinely produce bitter harvests of Islamic extremism in places like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Now, this proposal is not being made by some low-level functionary still recovering from a lost weekend in Bangkok. On the contrary; the article states:

Canadian officials on the ground - both civilian and military - have been quietly pushing Ottawa over the last year to encourage the development of moderate madrassas as long-term strategy to fight extremism.

Ah, so we're not to worry, because our madrassas will be "moderate" ones. Presumably, Canadian personnel will be attached to each school in perpetuity to ensure the "moderate" credentials of its staff. Perhaps we needn't do even that much. After all, oversight seems hardly necessary in a land like Afghanistan, where things have always worked out nicely on their own.

We are told that the madrassas shall teach the "moderate" Hanafi version of Sharia Law rather than the more militant Wahhabi (the norm in Saudi Arabia). The article explains that Hanafi is a "less fundamentalist form of Islam".

Splendid. So Hanafi students will be less fundamentalist than the Wahhabi-inspired 9/11 hijackers. Could we expect them to fly just one plane into a building instead of two? Would they give an adulterous woman sixty lashes instead of ninety?

We fail to find reasons to consider Hanafi as moderate as these claims suggest. We note that Abdul Rahman, the would-be Christian, was sentenced to die according to specifically Hanafi principles, which mandate the death penalty for "apostasy" from Islam.

Worse, Deobandi, a popular form of Hanafi, has become the faith of the Taliban (yes, the Taliban--the bad guys). Worse still, Deobandi imams are so eager to issue fatwas that they've been accused of doing it for cash, stirring an horrifically fascinating stew of avarice and barbarism.

So let us review, shall we? Not content with disgorging Canadian blood and treasure in the service of a medieval, corrupt, thug-infested regime of poppy-mongers, we've now decided to underwrite the establishment of the kinds of "schools" that are known to incubate precisely the fanaticism that has been killing our soldiers for the past five years.

That this post cannot fit comfortably on a fridge magnet or a bumper sticker, I admit. I would nevertheless suggest that it deserves as much serious and respectful consideration--and perhaps more--as would yet another fatuous iteration of a "Support-Our-Troops" or "We-Don't-Cut-And-Run" cliché.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Stephen Harper's Hide and Go Seek

Stephen Harper's commitment to "transparent" governance is becoming daily more transparently fraudulent.

As a new week begins, we learn that Harper's "Conservative" government intends to wage a campaign of obstruction against those who seek answers concerning the still-festering Afghan detainee fiasco. Peter Tinsley, the chair of Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC), wishes to launch a public inquiry into the handling of the detainees, believing that he requires the power of subpoena in order to access the kinds of documents that the government has been unwilling to release. The government is refusing to grant Tinsley's request for an independent investigation, arguing (fatuously) that detainee transfers is "a military operation which does not form part of the 'policing duties and functions' for which the MPCC has oversight". Of course, prisoners of war have been the responsibility of military police since time immemorial; putting a man in grey pyjamas and making sure he gets his daily bread and water is not, nor ever has been, a combat operation.

We cannot help but be impressed by the CPC's gall: their attempt to impersonate people in possession of the slightest shred of moral authority is almost convincing. Sadly, Canadians remember only too well how lustily the CPC spat unconscionable, vicious slurs against anybody willing to lend credence to the well-documented allegations that our Afghan "allies" were torturing their prisoners, allegations that were ultimately credible enough for our military (who stopped the transfers last November). You will search the public record in vain for the CPC apology to all those it slandered for raising concerns that the Armed Forces later conceded were legitimate. Given their record of snarling mendacity, the CPC cannot expect Canadians to take them at their word about anything.

Detainee transfers have resumed. Once again, we are putting POW's into the hands of the untrained, undisciplined "soldiers" of a nation riven by tribal rivalries and unfamiliar with even the most basic instrumentalities of judicial due process and rule of law. We have a right to know what went wrong last year and to be given assurances that things will not go wrong again. Even the stridently pro-war hacks of the Manley commission felt compelled to deviate from their core mission (of "independently" telling Harper what he wanted to hear) in order to denounce Harper's secretive, uncommunicative approach to the Afghan conflict. Harper had an opportunity to overcome his political reflexes and signal a new era of openness, honesty and respect by allowing the light to shine on what was (and is) a dark time in our foreign-policy history. Instead, he obeyed his instincts and once again displayed his apparently illimitable contempt for the Canadian public and its values.

As prime minister, Paul Martin launched a public inquiry into the activities of his party's Québec wing. What would have been, under the more cautious and canny Chrétien, a merely internal review carrying manageable electoral consequences turned into a devastating circus that crushed the Liberal Party nation-wide. Throughout it all, Paul Martin never uttered a single regret; he clearly felt that he had done the right thing, despite the disaster.

When even such a mediocrity is capable of evincing an heroic level of political integrity by respecting the public's right to know in selfless disregard of the political costs, so much more may we demand from a man who clearly considers himself an ethically peerless political messiah.

We must offer, then, what Stephen Harper would surely consider a most deeply excoriating rebuke: Mr. Harper, you're no Paul Martin.

Friday, 11 April 2008

"Throwing Up for Canada"

Let's say you're the leader of a contumacious, Prairie-based party fuelled by populist class-war resentment, and let's say you manage to scrape together a hanging-by-the-fingernails minority government by expanding your support base beyond the angry loners, middle-aged virgins and trailer-park glue-sniffers who once comprised your core constituency.

Let's say that, after installing your velvet Elvis paintings and Maple Leafs night-lights at 24 Sussex, you proceed to do the following:

1) Accept floor crossers and an unelected hack Senate-appointee into Cabinet--in flagrant violation of your most fundamental ethical standards--in order to give yourself instant M.P.'s from places where virtually nobody voted for you;

2) Bring down some of the most costly, irresponsible, pork-filled budgets in recent Canadian history;

3) Pursue a thuggish program of anti-Opposition vilification and odium unlike anything witnessed in living memory;

4) Perfect the art of pandering to influential and wealthy ethnic groups for partisan gain;

5) Provide the most abjectly anti-federal concession to ethnic nationalism ever witnessed in North America;

6) Strangle any hint of independent thought, speech and action in an effort to retain total control of "the message" and constrain your caucus' vocal platoon of bone-in-the-nose recreants;

7) Fire or intimidate any civil servant who has the audacity to do his or her job without reference to your partisan needs or ideological programme; and

8) Suppress debate concerning your government's central foreign-policy initiative by slandering as "terrorist sympathisers" anybody who dares give voice to majority domestic opinion by critiquing the conduct of the war.

Now, if you've completed all these tasks, would you be happy with this? Would you be satisfied being in a dead heat with the Opposition, especially when you're an experienced, veteran politician who has rarely had his lips off the public teat during the span of his adult life and when your adversary is someone your party considers a laughable, gutless, clueless, indecisive milquetoast?

Would you enjoy taking the polling equivalent of an unlubricated bratwurst-sized proctoscope in Ontario to the tune of a measly 32% against the Opposition's 50%? After doing so much humiliating kow-towing to Quebec nationalism, would you expect to be rewarded by being twelve points below the separatist party and in a dead heat with a party led by one of the most hated men in Quebec?

In brief, could you possibly conceive of yourself as anything other than an achingly inept, stumblebum poltroon?

If your answer to the above question is "no", two things are indisputably true:

1) You are more honest than your disciples are; and

2) You are smarter than they are.

For more details, consult the entry for "Faint Praise" in the Oxford Dictionary Of Idioms.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Twilight of the Yobs

Well, we can now confidently announce that the Liberal Party has hit the lowest point of its long and occasionally illustrious history. As most of the bloggers who have earned my respect are at least nominal supporters of that party, I thought it appropriate to offer my condolences and share a few thoughts, not in attenuation of the disaster (for there can be no attenuation of it), but in elucidation of it.

From the time of its Reform and True Grit beginnings, the Liberal Party has advanced its naïve post-Enlightenment utopianism and arid Utilitarianism by way of many extraordinary leaders--some of them renowned for their intellectual rigor (Robert Baldwin, Edward Blake), others for their gentle humanity and integrity (Laurier, Pearson, St. Laurent), and others for their cold, calculating ruthlessness (King, Trudeau).

Stephane Dion will no doubt be remembered primarily as a "nice guy", unless some other as-yet undiscovered virtue supersedes what has so far been his only claim to eminence. This is why Stephen Harper will win the next election--not because he is a better person, nor because he has better ideas (or any ideas), nor because he makes a better prime minister. Stephen Harper will win because he is an asshole.

Paul Martin was not an asshole. Joe Clark was not an asshole. Pierre Trudeau was an asshole. Mackenzie King was an asshole. Brian Mulroney was an asshole. Yes, being a good politician is very important for those who wish to win, but being an asshole is absolutely vital. Not only is Stephane Dion not an asshole, but he is up against one of the most pluperfect assholes this nation has ever produced (and will ever produce). Stephen Harper is an asshole's asshole.

St. Paul asserted that "Satan is the lord of this world". We watch sadly as the works of evil men prosper, while those of good men come to nought. Yeats offered his famous lament: "the best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity". The world, you see, is designed for assholes. Fortunately for Stephen Harper, he is a lord among assholes.

When he emerged red and bawling from the amniotic Eden of his mother's womb, Stephen Harper was an asshole. While he memorised the alphabet and the Periodic Table, he was an asshole. When he kissed his first girl (as a graduate student, no doubt), he was an asshole. When, his mundane strivings at an end, he at last leaps into the Great Infinite Darkness, he will do so as an utter, unalloyed, unmitigated asshole. Stephen Harper may have only a Masters in Economics, but he has a PhD in being an asshole.

As you and I sleep, Stephen Harper meditates ways to perfect being an asshole. When you and I are eating, he is husbanding his resources for the sake of magnifying his capacity to be an asshole. He is the Platonic Form of the asshole. He is not just an assshole; he is Asshole in its pure plenary Ideality. Harper is the Heideggerian coming-into-being of assholicity. He is the Foucauldian episteme which makes possible the very concept of "asshole". He is the arché-asshole; the proto-asshole. Before Moses, before Adam, before the Lord's breath swept over the dark and formless void, Stephen Harper had begun being an asshole.

He is the distilled spirit of asshole--its quintessence. Every syllable of Harper's every word is an aria sung in unison by a thousand mezzo soprano assholes. He's the tenor in his very own asshole operetta. T.S. Eliot once wrote that "the worlds revolve like ancient women gathering fuel in vacant lots". He was wrong. The worlds revolve like Stephen Harper gathering fuel in vacant lots. Why? Because Harper is an asshole.

Stephen Harper brings out the worst in me. He brings out the worst in everybody, because he's an asshole. He will beat Stephane Dion, badly. Because he is an asshole, and assholes are the lords of this world.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Hands Across the Border...

One Canadian man and his family have learned the precise extent of America's commitment to the spirit of NAFTA and the depth of their gratitude for Canada's support of George W. Bush's risible "War on Terror".

Kevin Gibbons was recruited by a Utah company more than a decade ago and has done much valuable work in the state's communications industry. Gibbons says, "I have probably done more than most of the American citizens have to build their infrastructure". His entry to the States was granted through a TN Visa, a special work visa issued to non-immigrant NAFTA professionals.

After visiting family in Canada last year, Gibbons and his wife were denied re-entry to the United States. The problem? Gibbons' thirty-year-old conviction for marijuana possession. He turned his car around.

Later, upon attempting re-entry, he was again refused, this time because he was "unqualified" for the job at which he had performed superlatively for over a decade--this despite the best efforts of his American employer, who made it clear to border authorities that Gibbons was an absolute necessity to them.

Gibbons was given a short time to liquidate his assets in the United States (he claims to have lost about $100 000) and was then effectively deported. After having given the U.S. his technical expertise in a very specialised field of communications and after having raised a family in the States, he now appears permanently barred from entry into the country.

We might be tempted to ascribe this disgraceful infliction of arbitrary cruelty on America's post-9/11 need to purge itself of everything that might threaten their Väterland. We get a very different rationale, though, from Jan Pete, spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. She claims that "there is an increased demand on border guards to be very thorough with NAFTA applicants" because "we do have a commitment at the border to protect the American job market".

That's right: protecting the American job market has become part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's job description.

Kevin Gibbons: a name to remember the next time Americans bark more of their swaggering cant about their commitment to "liberalised trade" and a sobering reminder of how easily, in the land that allegedly prizes the "individual", a man and his family can be chewed up and spit out by a callous, impersonal, xenophobic state apparatus.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Stephen Harper Hates Canada: Part 999(googolplex * π )

Truly noble and heroic enterprises have required scant advocacy before the bar of Canadian public opinion. We met the great global challenges of the last century willingly and eagerly, fielding virtually all-volunteer armies in both World Wars and in Korea. Such advocacy as we harkened to during times of war (from the magnificent Winston Churchill, for an obvious example) merely externalised an already-fixed inner resolve. The moral determination of the Canadian people was spontaneous, unbound by coercion. The struggle against Hitler, which Canada and the Commonwealth carried on alone for more than two years, never needed to be sold to the nation as if it were a brand of deodorant.

Our intuitive ability to distinguish between a just and an unjust war is one of the many symptoms of our collective moral health. It is also deeply frustrating for the degenerates who compose our national managerial élite; approaching as near to Churchillian stature as a soggy hotdog approaches to haute cuisine, stuttering nonentities like Stephen Harper find themselves reduced to the vulgar expedient of dragging a grudging popular assent from a sceptical people by deploying the full arsenal of modern marketing techniques--the kind designed to convince consumers that Utopia awaits them in a box of Corn Flakes.

Clever marketing requires little if any moral integrity; thus one cannot but be astonished at how deplorably incompetent Harper has been at something for which he should be ideally suited. This article offers valuable insight into the specific reasons for Harper's failure. It also carries a subtext which confirms what many of us already suspected.

Ostensibly, the piece is meant to explain why Harper feels ready to become the Afghan war's primary salesman after shamefully letting others do the work for him. The author reminds us that Harper and his government have lately been "invisible" on the Afghan file:

"So much so that the military, in the form of Gen. Rick Hillier, the loquacious chief of defence staff, had to step into the breach with public speeches and his now-famous slide presentation. He even sent returning generals and soldiers out to speak to local chambers of commerce, dinner clubs and anyone else who would listen....Hillier and his soldiers became the face of Canada's war, and a lightning rod for the political opposition. And as the casualties continued to mount, so did the public outcry".

The author wonders whether John Manley had a hand in spurring Harper into a higher visibility:

"The Manley report was critical of Harper, saying he must take charge personally of the Afghan file. It was finally evident last week he was doing so".

The author is reminding us of two important facts--first, that Stephen Harper, a man lauded by his silly cult as a "real leader", was so impotently delinquent in his duty to champion what he claims is a crucial struggle in the "War on Terror" that he forced the Chief of the Defence Staff to politicise himself by effectively becoming Harper's surrogate, and, second, that Harper had to be shamed (by a report filed by a Chrétien-era Liberal) into waking up to his responsibilities. One taxes one's memory to recall a record of prime-ministerial ineptitude as shameful as this. Men are dying; Harper is fiddling, amateurishly.

Most revealing, though, is what the author says about the CPC's new selling point--its new "frame". Apparently, Harper has learned not to sell the war as revenge for 9/11 or as a theatre in the "War on Terror". It would appear that we Canadians are not motivated primarily by self-preservation:

"The mantra almost from the time the Conservatives took office had been that Canada had a responsibility to ensure Afghanistan didn't revert to the status of a failed state that could serve as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against North America. That rang hollow in the ears of many Canadians, a fact that Harper has apparently come to appreciate."

Stephen Harper puts it this way:

"What we've actually found is: when you argue our self-interest, that's actually less appealing to Canadian public opinion than the argument that we are actually concretely helping the Afghan people with their lives..."

The author concludes that

" order to win the hearts and minds of Canadians, the political message [must] be phrased in terms that [are] less - well, less American".

Now, I am not surprised that Harper's CPC would instinctively frame the Afghan mission in American terms. The CPC frames everything in American terms. Their political imaginations are entirely colonised by American priorities and values. I am fascinated, though, that Harper seems taken aback by the finding that Canadians are not motivated primarily by self-interest. It clearly never occurred to Harper that we Canadians can easily put others before ourselves, that we are generous--selfless, even. Keep in mind that generosity is a quality that continentalists like Harper reflexively attribute to the United States (just recall the notorious Canada-bashing speech in which Harper refers to the U.S. as "a light and an inspiration to [Canadians]").

I am willing to concede what is obvious, given Harper's rabid free-market fundamentalism (according to which self-interest is a primordial and sacred virtue)--that we should actually be flattered that Harper believed us all to be under the grace of the brutish self-interest that he considers the engine of civilisation. It is nevertheless lamentable to see the office of prime-minister occupied by a man whose ideological puerility blinds him to the real moral character of the people he pretends to lead, a man who has had to be bludgeoned into acknowledging his nation's generosity--a quality he has been only too blitheringly ready to assign to a nation that has done far less to earn it than we have.

So, Stephen Harper has learned that Canadians are generous. Good for him. Who knows? If he works hard at it, he might even learn something else about us before his term is over.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Stephen Harper: True Grit; No Tory

Given that the whining crybabies of the "Conservative" Party routinely fret themselves into a puerperal fever over "media bias", I thought it wise to devote some of my blog space to the promotion of the party and its agenda. Bear with me while I make a brief CPC-friendly announcement.

Stephen Harper or one of his ankle-biting cyphers is possibly at some location making some nebulous announcement concerning something of limited significance. He or she may also be cutting a ribbon, signing a huge novelty cheque, or turning sod with a silver-plated shovel.

There. That wasn't so hard, actually (though I do feel a bit cheap). Now, getting back to things that actually matter...

As incredible as it may sound, many CPC droids (and not just those adept in the art of auto-suggestion) seem convinced that their party is a credible vehicle for Canada's Tory heritage. One of the few not-entirely-insane Blogging Tories recently made the mistake of invoking John George Diefenbaker as a prime exemplar of Tory "achievement". In response, I gave the poor lad an indication of how thoroughly he had just kicked his own ass. More importantly, though, it occurred to me that Diefenbaker's values and career might serve as a quick and accurate litmus test of Stephen Harper's Tory bona fides.

I offer for your review, therefore, the results of Harper's performance in the "Diefenbaker Trials". These trials bring scrutiny to bear on Harper's approach to four critical issues--the rights of Parliament, justice, fiscal policy and trade, and relations with the United States. Let's begin.

1) Rights of Parliament:

In 1957, Diefenbaker attacked Louis St. Laurent's Liberal government in these terms:

"I have seen [the House] treated with shocking contempt, sorely wounded, robbed of its rights, its independence gone, usurped by a few Ministers who treat the rest of their Cabinet as juniors, and members of all Parties as though they were not entitled to be there...I have seen the hands of the Cabinet directing members and disciplining them into an abject servility."

Diefenbaker is describing St. Laurent's decrepit and doomed regime, but he might as well be speaking of Stephen Harper and his autocratic demotion of CPC MP's to the rank of trained monkeys, his attempts to suborn the civil service and turn it into an arm of the CPC and his total contempt for the rights and dignity of the Loyal Opposition.

2) Justice:

* Davie Fulton, Diefenbaker's Minister of Justice, re-oriented Canada's penitentiary system towards an ethic of rehabilitation. He also ordered an immediate review of all pending death sentences, resulting in the commutation of virtually all of them to life sentences--a process which Lester Pearson's government later adopted as a matter of policy. Fulton's act represented the de facto end of capital punishment in Canada.

Ask yourself how the CPC's crypto-American "hang-'em-high" attitude towards criminal justice issues can be compared to Diefenbaker's. Ask yourself how many CPC MP's would love the chance to vote in favour of re-introducing the death penalty, and ask yourself why Stephen Harper's government refused to support a U.N. motion imposing a world-wide moratorium on the death penalty (aside from one obvious reason--that such a motion would be awkward for the White House).

* As a junior MP during the war, Diefenbaker protested the decision of the Liberal government to intern British Columbia's Japanese-Canadians as a "cautionary measure" against the threat of subversion. Diefenbaker later denounced a Tory proposal to ban the Canadian Communist Party, decrying it as a symptom of U.S.-style McCarthyism.

Ask yourself how far Diefenbaker's championing of civil liberties--even those of unpopular and despised communities--equates with the CPC's apeing of Republican-style Islamophobia (under the pretext of fighting the "War on Terror"). What's the CPC position on Omar Khadr's Guantanamo detainment, for example?

3) Fiscal Policy and Trade:

* When the St. Laurent Liberals announced that they would allow an American corporation to build, own and operate the Trans-Canada Pipeline, Diefenbaker's Tories desperately tried to block the enabling legislation and later waged an overtly nationalist campaign during the election triggered by the bitter pipeline debate.

* During the election, Diefenbaker promised to divert a significant percentage of export trade away from the U.S. in order to safeguard Canada's economic independence. He also promised to enact legislation requiring American corporations to incorporate Canadian branch-plants as Canadian companies and to make equity stock available to Canadians.

* Diefenbaker was opposed to any plan that would permit the sale of Canadian water to the U.S.

* Alvin Hamilton, Diefenbaker's Minister of Agriculture, conceived and executed the sale of Canadian wheat to China. These exports, which were massive, brought unprecedented prosperity to the Canadian Prairies, and stands as one of Diefenbaker's greatest achievements. Washington was enraged at this "pro-Communist" flouting of American anti-Chinese orthodoxy. Diefenbaker explained:

"So strong was the opposition to Canada's policy that the Kennedy administration endeavoured to prevent a Canadian corporation whose parent company was in the United States from supplying Canada with the necessary loaders that were needed to ship the wheat to Communist China".

Now compare Diefenbaker's commitment to Canadian fiscal sovereignty with Harper's attitude. Ask yourself whether you have ever seen Stephen Harper display one iota of concern for Canadian independence, fiscal or otherwise. What is his position on North American "integration"? How loud was his defence of Canada when the U.S. threatened to impede cross-border traffic and trade in retaliation for Jean Chretien's refusal to support the invasion of Iraq? Why is Harper willing to sit and watch the sale of MDA to an American weapons manufacturer?

4) Relations with the U.S.:

* Diefenbaker's Minister of External Affairs, Howard Green, was fanatically anti-nuclear and a passionate advocate of global disarmament. He and Diefenbaker refused to participate in America's policy of anti-Cuban isolation, refused to put the Royal Canadian Air Force on alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis, refused an American "invitation" to join the Organization of American States (as a de facto U.S. water-carrier) and refused to allow the U.S. to deploy nuclear weapons on Canadian soil (a refusal that became one of the central issues of the 1962 election, when Diefenbaker waged yet another explicitly anti-American campaign).

Compare Diefenbaker's Canada-centric foreign-policy orientation to Stephen Harper's anti-Canadian, pro-American virulence. Recall that Harper insisted that Canada join the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, called Jean Chretien a "coward" for not doing so, authored a motion in the House demanding an "apology" for Canada's perfectly reasonable position, and later sent a letter to the Wall Street Journal expressing disgust for Liberal "anti-American disloyalty". Recall Harper's unbridled enthusiasm for the U.S. Anti-Ballistic Defence Shield. Frankly, just recall that Harper has never missed an opportunity to get down on all fours and raise his backside in meek acceptance of an American buggering.

The facts are clear. Ultimately, the relationship of Stephen Harper's CPC to the Tory Party of old is precisely that of the Black Mass to the Catholic liturgy: the CPC is a grotesque parody, a degraded sham. Its corpus seems viable, but its viscera are diseased. It is an empty suit of armour. It is, in the compelling words of the New Testament, a whited sepulchre--all cleanliness without and all filth and defilement within. It has claimed for itself a special place of dishonour among those other odious political machines (meaning all of them) whose uselessness has for more than a decade inflicted such an oppressive mortmain on our people as to make a cultural re-birth (or "restoration", more accurately termed) as inconceivable as it is absolutely necessary to our national survival.


Trusty Tory, the main inspiration (or expiration, actually) of this post, has just concluded his thread by conceding the truth of my critique of the CPC. He now completely agrees with a commenter who says that "the CPC is the party of classical liberalism" and that the party has abandoned “traditional Canadian nationalist conservatism”.

In typically incoherent CPC-droid fashion, however, Trusty Tory has yet failed to amend his post or supply it with a codicil that acknowledges the post's utter senselessness: he is either unaware that his admission stands in total contradiction to the substance of his post or simply doesn't care.

Trusty, you are truly through the looking glass, my friend. Give my regards to Alice. And please abstain from voting, federally and provincially. You're a danger to yourself and others.

Friday, 4 April 2008

"Who Ever Told You That You Could Work With Men?"

Ho hum. Another "Conservative" is exposed as a profane imbecile and an embarrassment to the House and to the nation. What is the world coming to? Next, we'll hear that a Catholic has been elevated to the papacy. I'm shocked...shocked, I tell you.

Given the CPC's current tanking in Ontario--a crucial electoral battleground--this latest fiasco must be doubly enraging for Stephen Harper, whose efforts to gentrify his party of angry cranks have been unstinting.

I would like to think that Lukiwski's abject apology was unsolicited, but I cannot help but wonder if he was motivated by a sharp talking-to. If so, the evidence suggests that it might have gone something like this, with Stevie going all "Pacino" on Lukiwski's sad, Kevin Spaceyesque carcass.

WARNING: the above link is NOT family-friendly, but, then again (as we've just found out), neither is the CPC.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

When Harperoids Attack

One of the most alarming facets of "Conservative" partisanship is the way it deprives its practitioners of the ability to employ even the most rudimentary instruments of logic and analysis.

For a case in point, I direct the reader to an ambush recently inflicted on me by Trusty Tory, usually one of the more sane and respectable of the Blogging Tories. That even such a rare homo sapiens among that wretched agglomeration finds it impossible to rise above dishonesty and moral cowardice is a scathing indictment of the CPC and of its corrosive effects upon the ethical fibre of its adherents.

Briefly, this young man asserts the following:

1) I am actually a Liberal;

2) I have never praised a Tory politician (such as John Diefenbaker, for example) on this blog;

3) I have always defended the Liberal Party on this blog;

4) Tory leaders who did not become Prime Minister (or had only brief ministries) were not real Tories, because they were "losers";

5) Stephen Harper's "success" proves that he is a Tory;

6) Red Tory wants to be seen as a conservative but is really a Liberal in "disguise" (Red Tory is openly Liberal, and his blog is on the Liblogs aggregator, by the way).

Go here to see these laughable canards unfolded in detail, and go here for my response. My comment has yet to be "moderated" by his Serene Harperness, Trusty Tory, but fear not. If it fails to get past his censor board, I shall paste the full text here.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Stephen Harper Says, "Screw the Troops..."

Apparently, Stephen and his Harpertards do not consider fallen Canadian soldiers to be worthy of parliamentary commemoration. The message seems to be, "Yeah, people are dropping like flies in Afghanistan, but, really...who gives a damn? Let's focus on the good news, people".

Fortunately for the CPC, they have a report to back up their disgraceful ingratitude. That's right: Harper is "standing up for Canada" by parroting the findings of a CPC-commissioned panel larded with faceless technocrats (a panel that also recommended that the flag no longer be lowered in annual commemoration of fallen police officers).

Leadership by report; leadership by poll; leadership by hack-ridden panel, brought to you by "Canada's New Government". Pathetic.

The Civil Wars

Much idle prattling about the state of on-line "civility" has disturbed that tiny portion of the blogosphere I frequent, where despairing voices rue civility's loss and pray for its return.

Frankly, given that the Internet merely represents the virtualisation of public space, I expect it to be a vulgar, graffiti-laden shambles, and I am both grateful and surprised whenever I encounter on-line discourse that, tonally and thematically, rises above what one finds scrawled on the walls of public urinals and parking garages. As to my own on-line conduct, I follow as faithfully as possible the precept that a gentleman never offends anybody unintentionally.

The problem is that civility is dialogical: one cannot be civil alone. Civility is a contextual process that requires a willing partner. Once engaged in debate with one of the myriad sputtering maniacs who loiter on the 'net, the "civil" speaker will find that his composure merely acts as an amplifying resonator for his antagonist's shrieking ululations. This can be diverting, but it can never be civil--any more than warfare can ever be civil.

Even in those few cases where on-line civility reigns, it is usually a mongrel thing--a gauche admixture of awkwardly executed "tolerance", a sloppy application of someone's vague notion of netiquette and a fumbling adherence to rhetorical courtesies that have never been (and never will be) codified. Given the odds against, on-line civility really shouldn't occur at all.

Incivility will always be the Internet norm. The challenge is to be civilly uncivil--that is, to retain the form of civility while in full process of being bloody offensive to someone on whom genuine civility would be wasted.

This alternative to actual civility, when performed dexterously, can (I firmly believe) provide a replica that is indistinguishable from the real thing and will afford one the satisfaction of knowing that, despite having argued in vain, one at least offered one's benighted antagonist a style to which to aspire.

As an example of such a style, I give you a sample from the writing of the brilliant prose master, Max Beerbohm. Here, he imagines himself composing a letter to a politician who has just suffered defeat at the polls (the poor chap's a Tory, of course). This is taken from Beerbohm's And Even Now. Enjoy.


Though I am myself an ardent Tory, I cannot but rejoice in the crushing defeat you have just suffered in West Odgetown. There are moments when political conviction is overborne by personal sentiment; and this is one of them.

The great bulk of the newspaper-reading public will be puzzled by your extinction in the midst of our party's triumph. But then, the great mass of the newspaper-reading public has not met you. I have. You will probably not remember me. You are the sort of man who would not remember anybody who might not be of some definite use to him. Such, at least, was one of the impressions you made on me when I met you last summer at a dinner given by our friends the Pelhams.

Among the other things in you that struck me were the blatant pomposity of your manner, your appalling flow of cheap platitudes, and your hoggish lack of ideas. It is such men as you that lower the tone of public life. And I am sure that in writing to you thus I am but expressing what is felt, without distinction of party, by all who sat with you in the late Parliament.

The one person in whose behalf I regret your withdrawal into private life is your wife, whom I had the pleasure of taking in to the aforesaid dinner. It was evident to me that she was a woman whose spirit was well-nigh broken by her conjunction with you. Such remnants of cheerfulness as were in her I attributed to the Parliamentary duties which kept you out of her sight for so very many hours daily. I do not like to think of the fate to which the free and independent electors of West Odgetown have just condemned her. Only, remember this: chattel of yours though she is, and timid and humble, she despises you in her heart.

I am, dear Mr. Pobsby-Burford,
Yours very truly, etc., etc.