Friday, 18 December 2009

Stephen Harper: Doing Fuck-All, on Your Dime

Until the first years of the last century, all peoples of all times named their epochs according to the names and deeds of the great among them. We moderns are the first people for whom this is impossible. We are not "Elizabethans", even though we are. Nor are Americans "Obamans" any more than they could ever have been "Bushians".

For our "great" are small--far too small to impose their natures upon their times. They are, rather, the mere toys of their times. They are but anxious dandruff and dust motes held languidly aloft, eternally suspended in our stale political air, by the gusting flatulence of polls, focus groups, and bar graphs. They are the denatured and desaturated ex nihilo epiphenomena of cynically deployed public-management mechanisms.

The charismatic among our leaders can, of course, lend their names to techniques; thus, we have seen the Nixonian, the Reaganite, and the Clintonesque, but each of those words defines a disposition, not an era. Like dogs panting at the heels of their masters, we will be trained by our heroes; we cannot be magnified by them. Ezra Pound's angry verses continue to sing to me:

We have the press for wafer;
Franchise for circumcision.
All men, in law, are equals.
Free of Pisistratus,
We choose a knave or an eunuch
To rule over us.

We moderns have had to allow our eras to name themselves, according to whatever nature or identity each era appears to have gleaned from the inchoate forces working in and through it--thus the "Baby Boom" and "Me" generations.

I am already wondering what name shall be attached to what would be called the "Harper Era" if the word "Harper" denoted something meaningful enough to borrow or significant enough to be meaningful. As always, we shall simply need to christen our times with a word or phrase descriptive of the basic nature of our lives. If named strictly according to our current political complexion, the Harper era will almost certainly be dubbed the "Fuck-All" era. Lend the most cursory glance to recent domestic political news, and dare to gainsay the inevitability of what I prophesy. To wit:

1) The birthplace of our first prime minister and founder of the party Stephen Harper is holding hostage is threatened with demolition. A vital artefact of Canada’s historical patrimony--presumably of especially profound value to someone who at least poses as a conservative--is at risk of total annihilation. Stephen Harper and his government do fuck-all.

2) A feisty, hard-working P.C. Party Senator fights to give Canadians accurate information about how our stimulus dollars are being spent. A conservative Albertan, friend to Ralph Klein and Don Getty, she is committed to giving Canadians the kind of transparency promised in Harper’s chimerical 2006 election platform. Stephen Harper and his party—paladins of all the virtues and knights errant of sweetness and light—assist the valiant Senator by doing sweet fuck-all.

3) Liberal Senators offer to fast-track crime legislation about which the CPC has been cock-of-the-walk caterwauling for months. Conservative Senators decide to play idiotic procedural games that delay the bill. Thanks, Mr. Harper, for once again ensuring that you and your party do absolutely fuck-all.

4) After inheriting a Liberal-produced surplus of $13 billion and shortly after running on an electoral platform of fiscal probity, Harper announces a projected 2009 deficit of $55.9 billion, Canada’s first operating deficit since 1996. Those GST cuts were great for affording some of us a few extra packs of smokes per month. Sadly, their net effects on our fiscal integrity appear to have been worse than fuck-all.

5) A House of Commons committee urges that the Privacy Act be modernised and made more relevant, in order to render government processes more transparent and government data more accessible to Canadians. Stephen Harper and his party, always eager to deepen and widen the shark-infested moat surrounding their executive castle, predictably do fuck-all.

6) Richard Colvin writes reports detailing Afghan detainee abuse that are widely distributed among DFAIT and DND staff and high-level officials in the Afghan theatre of operations. In response to the possibility that war crimes might be occurring in areas under Canadian operational jurisdiction, Stephen Harper and his party hear, see, speak and do fuck-all.

7) Under Stephen Harper’s watch, the Canadian murder rate rises for the first time in decades. Stephen Harper and his party have been the unrivalled and peerlessly self-righteous exemplars of tough-on-crime posturing. Sadly, their “reforms” look more like huge drooling, banjo-eyed bucketfuls of demagogic fuck-all.

8) Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, Stephen Harper’s own appointment, lets his boss know how much money he needs to do his job. Stephen Harper and his party refuse to give Page what he needs—chiefly because he needs more than fuck-all.

9) A Canadian citizen faces a risible kangaroo court after being kidnapped as a child and held in illegal detention in an American/Cuban dungeon. Stephen Harper and his party—fulfilling their campaign promise to get tough on kids indoctrinated by their extremist parents—go to court to fight for their right to do fuck-all.

10) Stephen Harper’s government could have given the contract for the construction of our 2010 Olympic pavilion to a Canadian company. Unwilling to trust a bunch of sloppily communitarian Northern European-style welfare brats, Stephen Harper and his party thought it better to give us fuck-all—as we no doubt deserve.

11) Don’t be surprised when you hear that Stephen Harper’s fiscal commitment to things like hospitals, research grants, arts funding, and regional development adds up to a grand total of fuck-all. Harper has other, more important, funding priorities. He needs to put our hard-earned cash into his gallant struggle to meet the huge domestic demand for photos, videos, paintings, statutes and operas depicting his glorious self. He needs to send a woefully uncredentialed amateur “expert” to an environmental summit he has so far totally ignored. He needs to subsidise the God-given right of his seal-like senators (especially those who proudly do fuck-all) to jet their fat asses around the world swaddled snugly in Business Class splendour. As you for, dear plebeians, get your precious MRI and CT scans someplace else.

12) A “Conservative” Member of Parliament calls a special meeting of the committee investigating Afghan detainee abuse. Afterwards, he remembers that his job, as a CPC M.P, is to do fuck-all. So, he and his fellow CPC colleagues decide not to go to a meeting their own party convened. Because they lack quorum, the committee is forced to close. The Opposition wants to do their jobs. The CPC prefers, as always, to do sweet fuck-all. On your dime.


We are nearing four years of Stephen Harper—four years inaugurated by the callow marketing tag, “Canada’s Back!”. Four years later, and Canada is a leader in nothing, is best in the world at nothing, has most in the world of nothing, is greatest in nothing, beats the world at nothing, aspires to nothing, wishes for nothing, strives for nothing, dreams of nothing, sacrifices for nothing, belongs to nothing, is grounded in nothing, builds towards nothing, learns nothing, and remembers nothing. That shall be Stephen Harper’s epitaph, even should he and his cloddish cabinet rule for two decades—an epitaph written in spit, upon Styrofoam.

Bonus Fuck-Allness--"Canada's Back!" Edition :

Kevin Rudd of Australia gets an invitation to meet with President Obama, newly arrived in Copenhagen—as does Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Nicholas Sarkozy. China’s Ha Yafei is asked to join the group. Even da Silva of Brazil is invited to this emergency meeting of key international players.

What invitation does our very own Stephen Harper of Canada get? Fuck all—which makes sense, really: the American president never invites himself to dinner. Why would he invite himself to a summit meeting?

Stephen Harper: Not A Leader


thwap said...

And wait til he gets a majority and tries to do something. ugh.

I note that Paul Martin was also amazing about doing nothing but dithering when in power.

That's the thing with neo-liberals: aside from wringing-out the taxpayers for the elite's profit, they have no understanding about what we can do as a collective.

CanuckRover said...

Your Epilogue is brilliant. A must-read. Well done SF.

Ti-Guy said...

Well, this is a great post as usual; unfortunately the mood was ruined by thwap's useless partisan contribution. Talk about a "fuck all decade."

I shall try to overlook it.

Sir Francis said...

Bonus fuck-allitude has just been added--at no extra cost to you, the consumer!

liberal supporter said...

Your Epilogue answer's the age old question; "Is Nothing Sacred?" and the answer appears to be yes. For now.

thwap said...


OOh! Youse and meece have become enemies 'ave wee?

The honest truth is that i don't think that Sir Francis took my comment as a typical harpercon "b-bu-but the L-Li-Librulls!" comment.

I think he took it as agreement with the proposition that these economistic, soulless entities are almost all the same.

Which was my point all along. And it's pretty well undeniable. And it makes your hard-on for them all the more inexplicable.

You don't have to think the NDP is our last, best hope (as i do). You just don't have to be an APOLOGIST for the Liberals.

Sir Francis said...

...i don't think that Sir Francis took my comment as a typical harpercon "b-bu-but the L-Li-Librulls!" comment.

I am not favourably disposed to the notion that the Liberal and CPC machines have meaningfully different objectives or enabling assumptions. Given the führerprinzip that obtains in our political culture, the personality and priorities of party leaders are the ideologically determinative factors—not the roots and traditions of the parties in question. It is Stephen Harper's personal turpitude and the degree to which that has infected the CPC that has rendered his party vastly more repugnant than Ignatieff's to me. Both parties, though, seem to be irrecoverably degenerate. I see nothing in either of them worthy of loyalty or respect.

You don't have to think the NDP is our last, best hope...

Heh. I can dream, but I'm not sure I can manage hope.

The people I would vote for are all dead. I wish I could summon the ghosts of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and have them march on Ottawa and install the ghost of Tommy Douglas in the PMO and that of Georges Vanier in Rideau Hall. Really--even their corpses, propped up by makeshift braces, would provide better executive stewardship than Harper and his curs have given us.

Ti-Guy said...

Thwap, you sound like a nutcase when you start talking about me and the Liberals.

I've said elsewhere that there's no bigger critic of them than I (and all the Liberals I know) when they're in power (which is the only time they're really doing anything of consequence). Governance is something that plays out, in the real world, in the here and now, not something to be reviewed solely in retrospect to muse about how wonderful or disappointing it was.

I don't know what *you* were doing in the 90's, but I was able to observe what was happening at a distance and fairly objectively. I was grateful that we had a government that a) had pan-Canadian appeal b) put discipline back into the country's finances b) Kept the country together c) Weakened but at least didn't destroy significant social democratic institutions (we maintained health care, progressive taxation, a degree of wealth transfer and relatively healthy levels of unionisation) d) restrained the financial system. e) Was not terribly interested in social conservatism.

I really don't know what more could have been expected, given that the only likely alternatives were Reagan-Thatcher-Harris brand Conservatism. By the beginning of the millennium, things looked pretty good for Canada.

Something happened after the Iraq invasion, however, the entire story of which is yet to come out, but is likely the result of the Liberals' corporate allies' decision to punish them. Unfortunately, the period of disarray for the Liberals between 2003 and 2005 is all people remember.

Liberal collusion with corporate power is distasteful to me, but I've yet to see any alternative that can manage it better. When the socialists are in power, the Right (which is entirely about corporate power) becomes so insane that when it comes to their turn (and it inevitably does), they act like barbarians who've come to sack Rome. In any case, I've maintained my allegiance to Liberalism to promote political diversity in the face of two other entities (we can ignore the Bloc with is not a federal party) which would much rather prefer a narrower spectrum of political choices, like that which exists in the US or Britain and to avoid their cycles of power-abuse and revenge.

Ti-Guy said...

It is Stephen Harper's personal turpitude and the degree to which that has infected the CPC that has rendered his party vastly more repugnant than Ignatieff's to me. Both parties, though, seem to be irrecoverably degenerate. I see nothing in either of them worthy of loyalty or respect.

Don't you think the average Liberal supporter (and I'm not talking just about people who write blogs or clapped-out operatives like Warren Kinsella) provides some hope for the Party being redeemable in your view? Although Stephen Harper remains, for me, a convenient focus for everything I despise about that Party, its rank-and-file, to a person (and I know quite a few in real life...all sour, resentful, cynical and dumb...those who are conscious, that is), is the real source of my revulsion and that won't change anytime soon. I don't think that about the NDP, the Greens or even the Bloc.

Sir Francis said...


You make a powerful argument for the pragmatic usefulness--even necessity--of a party like the Liberals, and it's one that, as a Gen-Xer born and bred on Montréal's West Island, I have had graven into my soul for years.

I suppose the tension between pragmatism (which too easily becomes cynicism) and idealism is becoming harder for me to negotiate dispassionately as I age--perhaps because I feel that the global stakes are becoming higher every year.

Which brings us to an interesting question: when the stakes are at their highest, is it best to pursue a kind of ideological/philosophical purity in the belief that the possibly disastrous consequences will be redeemed by the integrity of our motivations, or to proceed according to a mundane, compromised, and somewhat shabby trajectory that will at least prevent (or defer) a crisis?

I'm torn on the question, and I'm sure that my bias for the former option is generated to some extent by my need to feel like I'm not really part of what’s warping the world so terribly at present. I'm sure many progressives are driven by much the same need--a need which need not be seen as a bad thing, in my view.

For the record, much of what I feel for the CPC and Liberals I feel also for the NDP--a party hardly immune to cynicism. I was crestfallen when they chose Layton over Blaikie last time around. I was actually getting ready to buy my membership and get in touch with the local riding association during the leadership convention. I just assumed that a thoughtful guy with a sterling ethos like Blaikie had it in the bag. The party went for glib Toronto flash, though, and I was totally disgusted. Still am. The NDP pretty much kissed the West and the urban working-class goodbye when they told Blaikie to fuck off. That's a shame.

Ti-Guy said...

and I'm sure that my bias for the former option is generated to some extent by my need to feel like I'm not really part of what’s warping the world so terribly at present.

I'm convinced that's what it is. We live in crappy, intellectually barren World, but it's the only one there is. One can engage that one and try to at least understand it (which does have its own intellectual reward) even if one doesn't have the energy to change it or one can focus on the type of World in which you know the integrity of motivation will eventually be rewarded. But possibly not for a while yet, if in one's lifetime at all.

I kind of meander between both, although, as I said in a comment to a previous post, I haven't read a work of fiction or seen a decent film in years.

SeanStok said...

It is so nice to have you actively writing for us again. I know there's a freedom that comes from writing under a pseudonym, but I'd sure like to know if you're also publishing for fully deserved personal credit.

Anyway, this makes a logical bookend to Wells' recent piece in Maclean's. It's not just a government doing fuck all, it's that they see it as a form of accomplishment. Somehow, negating or avoiding what *might* have happened under Liberal governance has become a point of pride.

Like the feckless teenager refusing to take out the garbage or mow the lawn, Harper seems consumed by rebelling against 'the man'. Which is positively insane in that he is 'the man'.

With any luck, most angry young men eventually learn that negativity is ultimately a dead end. That proving 'nobody is the boss of me' isn't the same thing as doing something with your life. Harper's getting a bit old for that lesson to have escaped him.

I'll even go so far as to favourably consider the Harris regime in Ontario. I hated what they did to my province, but at least they did something. There was a debate to be engaged in, and there was a sense that the collective had decisions to make and a course to chart.

Without getting into what particular form or direction this nation ought to take, I sure wish we could all agree that doing nothing is the worst possible strategy.

Ti-Guy said...

Anyway, Liberal haters: here's an article from The Walrus that features the type of analysis we're sorely lacking in this country when it comes to discussing the Liberal Party.

Sir Francis said...

I sure wish we could all agree that doing nothing is the worst possible strategy.

That's a complicated question. It has always been axiomatic for authentic conservatives that the key task of government is not to multiply laws and regulations but to prosecute properly such laws that perpetuate the public good as already exist while shearing away the malignant (or redundant) ones.

The power of that axiom has been fading for some time, as "Movement Conservatism"--the ersatz "culture-war" conservatism the Reform/Alliance imported from the States—is actually quite comfortable with a massive state and a dense regulatory regime, as long as they do their jobs--protecting the property "rights" of the trans-national plutocracy and fostering a capital market environment that produces an economic growth neither statistically nor empirically relevant to meaningful quality-of-life criteria.

Very few media have bothered to report that the Harper government is actually larger, significantly larger, than Paul Martin's. Our prime minister, a notorious anti-Dominion and anti-Confederation fanatic, has actually swelled the federal government in order to make it less of a presence in our lives. And the guy is still taken seriously. Astonishing.

We might say that the Bush Era down south and our current Harper Era demonstrate two conservative traditions undergoing full-blown senescence. That's true only if we understand that there never really was a conservative tradition in the United States and that Harper comes from a Prairie populist tradition that has always been ideologically promiscuous rather than authentically conservative.

The real senescence is in our inability to recognise real conservatism when we see and hear it. And that's not just a problem for Tories like me. Given the verso of the problem--that we've lost the ability to recognise real liberalism and real socialism when we see them--it's a problem for us all.

Sir Francis said...


Thanks for the link. I haven't looked at The Walrus in a while.

I've yet to read the article fully; did you peruse the comments, though? Anyone look familiar? Here's a clue: the commenter cudgels the author for his "fawning" pro-Ignatieff piece and then mocks the Liberals for being led by a "blue blood academic from Harvard". Yeah, it's him.

I wonder if Tomm subscribes to the magazine. I cannot now remember, from when I subscribed on-line a few years ago, whether The Walrus gives one the option of having issues delivered in discreet brown wrappers.

Naturally, too, Tomm would need to retrieve each issue from his post-box before the chatelaine got to it, as it's really not fit reading for ladies.

Ti-Guy said...

did you peruse the comments, though?

No. But thanks for drawing my attention to Tomm's bloody-minded idiocy. That's always fun. This bit is par for the course:

The second is the well described piece about Liberal history and how it conforms to the national balance between Quebec and Ontario. The build up clearly implies a "bigger" Canada is about to be described, but the entire piece never returns to this, instead appearing to accept and acknowledge that the Canadian hinterlands are still beyond Liberal understanding.

After all, it's always about him, his sparsely-populated Albertan wasteland and his never-ending persecution complex.

Sir Francis said...

You've got to hand it to Tomm and his ilk, though. They've really laid their fingers upon a strange facet of Canadian governmental history: generally speaking, more attention has been paid to the region that contains almost 60% of Canada's population than to any other. What the fuck kind of democracy is that? Remember, we're ruled by a "government" ushered in with the assent of about 22% of eligible voters. Now that's Tomm's kind of democracy.

As for Tomm's poor, neglected "hinterlands", you'll never trip over any evidence that he could give a damn about the vastly ignored Maritimes and Native communities, because (of course) it just serves the pogey-pulling, fire-water sodden wretches right. If they really had anything valuable to say, God would have blessed them with an underground ocean of oil.

For Tomm, our government's ethical responses should reflect those of a wily cathouse mama-san: bow and scrape before the tumescent punters with the big cash, and bolt the door against the earnest, bleeding-heart dullards who occasionally stop by in order to convince your girls to go back to the homes they ran away from. Good intentions are fine in the abstract, but they don't put food on the table nor giant plasma screens in the rec room, beside the hot tub.

Ti-Guy said...

They've really laid their fingers upon a strange facet of Canadian governmental history: generally speaking, more attention has been paid to the region that contains almost 60% of Canada's population than to any other. What the fuck kind of democracy is that? Remember, we're ruled by a "government" ushered in with the assent of about 22% of eligible voters. Now that's Tomm's kind of democracy.

I've made that point before (along with the other one, that; the whole point of a federation is to allow hinterland areas to govern themselves in ways they see fit), but for some reason, Albertans think there's some issue involving retributive justice that makes this OK (NEP and bilingualism, no doubt). But I think deep down, it's the conceit and arrogance of them to think the country doesn't have the look and feel of "The West," by which they mean God's Country, Alberta, of course.

Anonymous said...

So THAT's why I haven't seen _The Walrus_ around the house for months!

Lady Francis does appreciate having her sensibilities protected. It's one of the reasons she married Sir Francis.