Thursday, February 28, 2013

If Only They Could Ditch The Charter

Frances Russell is puzzled about why we need an Office of Religious Freedom:

One question: why not just celebrate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? It’s right there at the top of the charter’s Fundamental Freedoms section: “freedom of consicence and religion.” Were the Conservatives unaware? Had they read it? Or are they elevating “freedom of conscience and religion” above other fundamental human rights and freedoms — creating a hierarchy of human rights?

The answer is that what the Harperites call "religious freedom" trumps all other rights. It's a pat formula for a government which acts on faith rather than reason. For the Harper Party, the Charter is infuriating. That's why they did not celebrate its thirtieth anniversary:

A year ago, the Harper government all but ignored the Charter’s 30th anniversary. Asked why, Harper referred to “constitutional divisions” created by the refusal of the separatist Parti Quebecois government to sign the patriation package. (Incidentally, virtually the entire Quebec Liberal caucus voted to support it.)
Many social and religious conservatives — Harper’s bedrock base — loathe the charter. Many of them see it as violating the natural order of things: “The rich man in his castle, the poor man at the gate”, in the words of the old hymn. Or Ephesians 5:22 — “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”

If they could replace the Charter with the Office of Religious Freedom they could  rest in the bosom of Abraham. For people who firmly believe that they make the rules, the notion of universal human rights is anathema. Russell rightly sees through the facade:

Not only do the Harper Conservatives tacitly reject the concept of universal human rights, he (and many of his party members) want to be able to pick and choose the rights to be deemed fundamental — and the people they deem worthy of enjoying them.
 If only they could ditch the Charter.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sleeping Through Disaster

Jeffrey Simpson has an interesting column in this morning's Globe and Mail. The Conservatives equate majority government with majority support. But, Simpson writes, despite their attempts to change the Canadian character, the Harperites are still a distinct minority:

Reading the latest Focus Canada survey from the Environics Institute, however, illustrates how little progress the Conservatives have made. If this survey (that goes back more than three decades) shows anything, it is how on many issues the Conservative government is offside majority public opinion.

The survey tells the story. What Conservatives hold dear, most Canadians don't:

The Harperites are keen on symbols of importance to their core and, they hope, by extension to other Canadians. No such luck. They are gaga about the British monarchy. Yet when asked about the importance of national symbols, Canadians ranked monarchy last, a pitiful 17 per cent – way behind the second-least-important symbol. (A Nanos poll recently showed how the $30-million spent by the Harperites on “celebrating” the War of 1812 completely flopped as a way of re-engaging Canadians with that bit of history.)

On more important matters, 23 per cent of Conservatives are skeptical about the reality of climate change, compared with just 12 per cent of the general population. Six in 10 Canadians say they would support a B.C.-style carbon tax, but only 43 per cent of Conservatives would.

The two most important symbols for Canadians remain health care and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, neither of which the Harper government highlights.

Support for bilingualism is growing. It’s up to 63 per cent nationally but is favoured by just 46 per cent of Conservative supporters. Support is lowest in Alberta, the Conservative heartland. The aboriginal part of Canada’s makeup is seen by about half of Canadians as an important national symbol, but by only 33 per cent of Conservatives.

So, how does one account for Conservative success?  Well, the current first past the post system works in their favour. But, at the moment, Canadians seem to be pretty self satisfied:

Five years after that recession, the Environics Institute finds that 54 per cent of Canadians are “satisfied with the way things are going in the country.” That’s the second-highest level of satisfaction in the world (after China), and up from 45 per cent when Stephen Harper became Prime Minister.
Eighty-five per cent of Canadians report they are “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with the standard of living, a number that has varied very little in two decades.

The problem is that, while Canadians sit smugly in their homes, Mr. Harper is radically changing the way the country is governed -- and he is doing it quietly. When Canadians eventually rouse themselves from their apathy, they will be horrified  by what their prime minister has done.

They are sleeping through disaster.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

No Sam Pollack


Stephen Harper, we're told, is writing a book on hockey. It will be interesting to see if he has anything to say about the legendary Sam Pollack. The Montreal Canadiens were a power house for two decades because Pollack -- the team's general manager -- had an unfailing eye for talent, on the ice and behind the bench.

If there's one skill that Stephen Harper does not possess, it's knowing how to spot excellence. Micheal Harris writes that, again and again, Harper has displayed a talent for picking duds:

Consider the case of [Patrick] Brazeau. At the time of his appointment to the Red Chamber, there was lots of buzz that he wasn’t exactly the man on the top of the wedding cake. There were media accounts of sexual harassment allegations in the workplace, of missed child-support payments, and drinking on the job. None of those allegations were proven. And while his current run-in with the law is well documented, Brazeau is guilty of one thing: the non-statutory offence of atrocious poetry.

And, of course, there was Bruce Carson, that paragon of Conservative virtue:

Then there was the disastrous hiring of Bruce Carson as a key advisor to the prime minister. People make mistakes, yes. But I am still looking for another prime minister who hired someone with a criminal record to sit at his right hand. A fraud conviction is not usually a big selling point when looking for work.

But having a checkered relationship with the law is no impediment to advancement in Harperland:

Carson’s dubious appointment is small potatoes in comparison to the lack of judgment involved in welcoming confessed money-launderer Nathan Jacobson into the Conservative party’s inner sanctum.  Jacobson, who was proudly photographed between Prime Minister Harper and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in 2010, (or 2012 if the PMO is to be believed), acted as the seeing-eye dog for senior Harper cabinet ministers anxious to meet top Israeli politicians.

When it became public that their wealthy donor and door-opener was actually a man who was guilty of more than $40 million in money laundering in the U.S., cabinet heavyweights like Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Treasury Board President Tony Clement displayed shock. They claimed they hadn’t known a thing about Jacobson’s shady criminal past until a warrant was issued for his arrest in the summer of 2012 after failing to appear for sentencing in California.

As Harper appoints people like Carson and Jacobson to positions of responsibility, he sends  inspectors to the homes of Maritimers, accusing them of defrauding E.I.

Clearly, the prime minister is no Sam Pollack.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Pinocchio Index

Carol Goar writes, in The Toronto Star, that the C.D. Howe Institute has developed a tool to measure government fiscal accountability. It's called the Pinocchio Index. She writes:

This year’s just-released index contains several surprises:

  • The biggest overspender in the country? Saskatchewan by a long shot.

  • You’d never know it from the province’s balance sheet (it has a modest surplus) or Premier Brad Wall’s forceful rhetoric about fiscal responsibility. But the index shows Saskatchewan spent 38 per cent more than it budgeted between 2003 and 2012.

    It has now displaced Alberta, which for years masked its overspending by lowballing its oil and gas revenues, as the worst offender.

  •  The nation’s biggest (in fact only) underspender? Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • Most of the credit belongs to former premier Danny Williams, who brought down government spending faster than he said he would. The province’s expenditures have come in 10-per-cent underbudget for the past decade.

    Perhaps even more surprising is Ontario's fiscal position. If you believe Tim Hudak's rhetoric, the province is going to hell in a hand basket. But:

    It stuck to its budget plans better than any of its provincial peers (with the possible exception of Newfoundland). Moreover, its accounting methods are transparent and reliable. The province may be in the crosshairs of credit rating agencies right now, but it has a strong record of delivering what it promised.

    The Howe Institute does give Stephen Harper credit for fiscal prudence. However:

    Contrary to popular belief, Conservative governments aren’t always good fiscal managers. They may boast louder than their Liberal or New Democratic rivals about their fiscal rectitude. But only two Tory leaders — Williams and Prime Minister Stephen Harper — have made good on their claims.

    A long list of others — former Alberta premiers Ralph Klein and Ed Stelmach and current premier Alison Redford; Saskatchewan’s Wall (whose Saskatchewan party is to the right of the Conservatives) and former and current Yukon premiers Dennis Fentie and Darrell Pasloski (whose Yukon party is a Conservative break-off) — brazenly misrepresented their spending plans. The Liberal governments of Ontario and B.C. and the NDP government of Nova Scotia all scored better on the Pinocchio index.

    The index does not address the question of whether or not a government's fiscal policies are appropriate to the circumstances it faces. As the Harper government steadfastly adopts the Cameron prescription for hard economic times, the chickens will come home to roost.

    We await a C.D. Howe study on that issue.

    Sunday, February 24, 2013

    The Perils Of Prediction

    The National Post reports that, in a new book, John Ibbitson and Darrell Bricker predict that Stephen Harper's Conservative Party will be "perpetually dominant" in the 21st century:

    “Politics in Canada is dividing along ideological lines, and those divisions will only grow sharper over time.”

    “We believe that fortune favors the Harper government in the next election. But we don’t believe this is about the next election. We believe it is about the next decade, the next generation, and beyond.

    “We believe that the Conservative party will be to the 21st century what the Liberal party was to the 20th: the perpetually dominant party, the natural governing party.”

    The book, The Big Shift, is the development of an argument which Ibbitson has been pitching these days -- that the old "Laurentian consensus" -- the political triangle represented by Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa has been shattered.  Power, he maintains has moved westward:

    “Harper and his closest advisers were the first to anticipate the tremendous political potential of the Big Shift,” the book says.

    “He recognized that the West was transforming from a region of protest to an emerging centre of power.

    But just as Harper has ignored the lessons of history regarding the perils of relying on commodities to build a nation -- whether they were fur, wheat, oil or the infrastructure to move them -- Ibbitson and Bricker ignore the fact that  Montreal and Toronto invested in those western commodities. The financial hub of Canada is still firmly ensconced in the East. Energy companies -- like Shell -- may have moved their head offices to Calgary. But the banks aren't going to move.

    They have always been a thumb in the eye to Albertans -- and they still are. But they will remain in the East. And, when the bitumen bubble bursts in Alberta, money will once again flow to the centre. The Laurentian Consensus hasn't died. It's alive and well.

    Saturday, February 23, 2013

    Buying Votes

    This week, Stephen Harper launched his Office for the Promotion of Religious Freedom. Tasha Kheiriddin is puzzled:

    Of all the Conservatives’ initiatives to date, the most bewildering is its newly created Office for the Promotion of Religious Freedom. The Tories are deploying five million dollars of taxpayers’ money — ostensibly to promote not a particular religion, but the freedom to practice religion in general. Not in Canada, mind you, but around the world, in places from Turkey to Tibet.

    But the office is more than puzzling. It strikes at the very heart of Canadian democracy. Kheriddin writes:

    True, most Canadian laws are derived from Judeo-Christian principles: do not steal, do not kill, love thy neighbour as thyself. But we have no state religion. While our tax system does allow exemptions for faith-based organizations, government does not otherwise promote the practice of religion in general, or of one faith in particular.

    Even in our own country, we subordinate faith groups to general rules regarding respect for human rights. Our courts have held that the right to freedom of expression, the right to equality and the right to security of the person supersede the right to religion-based practices, or to prevent others from engaging in acts which offend religious sensibilities.

    We tolerate religion in Canada -- all religions. But we have erected a wall between Church and State. The Catholic Church has forbidden abortions. The five prime ministers who preceded Stephen Harper were all Catholics. But abortion is legal in Canada. Mosques dot the Canadian landscape. But our courts are not guided by Sharia Law. We believe in freedom of religion. And we believe in freedom from religion.

    So why have an Office of Religious Freedom? Mr Harper tells us that its mandate will be to promote freedom of religion abroad. Just how much freedom of religion will five million dollars buy abroad? The truth is that the OPRF, like all Harper initiatives, is about buying votes at home. That's what the GST cut was about -- even though it set up a structural deficit. That's what the Canada's Action Plan ads were about -- buying citizens' votes with their own money.

    It's the perfect con.

    Friday, February 22, 2013

    Greed And Secrecy

    The Neo Conservative revolution has spawned an alliance between government and corporations. What that means in practice is that we now have an alliance between Greed and Secrecy: Michael Harris writes:

    The sad fact is that secrecy and information control are the twin plagues of our age. Elites get to run their own shows and, for the most part, write their own report cards. It’s how Montreal got to be a giant Mob restaurant. It’s how the Catholic Church preached morality and concealed sexual abuse in its parish shadows for decades. It’s how the cod were wiped out. It’s how Stephen Harper uses the aura of office to ward off demands for information. All he wants you to see are the commercials you pay for saying what a great job he’s doing.

    The antidote to that alliance is democracy. And that is why, around the world, the Right has been on the march to stamp out what it has called an "excess" of democracy. It's much safer to buy your politicians. In Britain, the financial services industry had Tony Blair's Labour government in its pocket. The Libor scandal

    was actually aided and abetted by the government of the day and the Bank of England. No one was regulating the Wild West banking practices because they had opted for the so-called “light touch” approach to supervising banking.

    People with the lightest touch usually turn out to be pickpockets. De-regulation of the banking industry unleashed 10,000 hyenas on an unsuspecting public.

    In Canada, as recently released documents make clear, the Harper government exists to actualize the oil companies' agenda. Citizens just get in the way. If they don't know what's going on, life is so much easier.

    Thursday, February 21, 2013

    A Personality Cult?

    Andrew Coyne --with some justification -- is frustrated. The Liberal Party, he writes, is preparing itself for Justin Trudeau. And, to that end, it will "transform itself into a personality cult. Anything but define itself."

    I confess that I have reservations about the younger Trudeau. His support for the oil sands is a little too full throated for me. But, the oil sands aside, Coyne's knock against Trudeau is that he has no platform -- except for some vague defense of the middle class.

    But let's be realistic. The way politics is played these days is different than the way it used to be played. We live in the era of the 24/7 campaign. And that means you must define your opponent before he or she defines him or herself. Unveiling a platform during a leadership race gives your opposition all kinds of time to frame you as they wish.The time for a platform is not during a leadership race. It's during an election.

    There are more important questions to be answered during a leadership race. Does a candidate possess the character and temperament to be prime minister? I would argue, for instance, that Stephen Harper possesses neither. More importantly, does a candidate possess the communication skills to connect with Canadians? Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff -- for all their their academic brilliance -- did not.

    And then there is the matter of experience -- which seems to be Justin's short suit. How he deals with that problem will either make him or break him.

    Like Coyne, I would like to hear more ideas coming from the Liberal tent. But I don't expect to hear them until after the leadership race is over.

    Wednesday, February 20, 2013

    Headwaiter To The Provinces

    Back in 2008, Lawrence Martin wrote that Stephen Harper had truly become headwaiter to the provinces.  The phrase, originally coined by Pierre Trudeau to mock Joe Clark and the Conservative vision of the country, was Stephen Harper's prime directive. Martin wrote:

    The firewall guy has curbed the federal spending power, he's corrected the so-called fiscal imbalance in favour of the provinces, he's doled out new powers to Quebec and now, if we are to believe Mr.[Lawrence] Cannon, more autonomy is on the way for one and all.

    Mr. Harper has always favoured a crisp reading of the Constitution. He has always been - and now it really shows - a philosophical devolutionist.

    His nation-of-duchies approach will drive Canadian traditionalists bananas. They will see it not as nation building, but nation scattering.

    The Revolutionaries of the  Right have been devoted to devolution for a long time. The late Eugene Forsey  understood their game plan. He  called them "province worshippers:"

    “… (T)he voice of the province-worshipper is loud in the land … If the province-worshippers have their way, there will be no real Canada, just a boneless wonder. The province worshippers are reactionaries. They would turn back the clock 100 years or more. They would make us again a group of colonies, American colonies this time, with a life poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

    And they have been accomplishing their objectives. We are well on our way to becoming a boneless wonder. Frances Russell writes that, after dismantling medicare and pensions, the Right's next target is equalization:

    Needless to say, equalization doesn’t sit well with the Canadian Right. Both it and the federal spending power are burrs under the Right’s saddle because they believe it — and the spending power — are largely responsible for the postwar expansion of the Canadian state.

    In the end, that's what the Harperites want to do -- kill the Canadian state.

    Tuesday, February 19, 2013

    A Kennedy In Ottawa?

    There are rumors that Caroline Kennedy will be the next American ambassador to Ottawa. Lawrence Martin writes that you shouldn't make book on that:

    It’s not only the iconic liberal name that would grate on the Tories. There’s some history to be recalled here. And from a Conservative perspective, what an ugly stretch of history it is.

    President John F. Kennedy was Tory enemy No. 1. The Kennedy relationship with John Diefenbaker was the worst in the history of the presidents and prime ministers. The Kennedy administration precipitated Dief’s downfall on a no-confidence vote in 1963. In the election campaign, the Cameloters worked against the Tories, giving Lester Pearson every lift they could.

    Like the Diefenbaker Tories, the Harperites resent the hippness of the Obama White House. And they see things through a puritanical lens. It's that puritanism which is behind their Office of Religious Freedom -- and it causes trouble. Martin tells a story about Howard Green -- Dief's Minister of External Affairs -- whose footsteps John Bard is trying to walk in:

    The Kennedyites couldn’t believe the naïveté of Dief’s foreign minister, Howard Green. Dean Rusk, Kennedy’s secretary of state, once told me of how the story made the White House rounds of a visit to Ottawa by Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba. The African leader had the reputation of a notorious fornicator. In a meeting with Green, he asked that a girl be sent over to his Chateau Laurier suite. The churchgoing Green thought he meant a typist. When the unsuspecting stenographer entered Lumumba’s room all hell broke loose.

    No, Martin writes, perhaps Obama will appoint former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm: "She is articulate, charismatic and has the hands-on political experience that Caroline Kennedy lacks." And, besides, she was born in Vancouver.

    Monday, February 18, 2013

    The Epitome of Folly

    The Edmonton Journal reports that Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver knows about the damage being done by mining the tar sands:

    Tailings ponds from oilsands production are leaking and contaminating Alberta’s groundwater, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was told in an internal memo obtained by Postmedia News.

    The memo, released through access to information legislation, said that federal government scientists, including Quebec City-based research geoscientist Martine Savard, had discovered evidence of the contamination in new research that rejected longstanding claims that toxins in the region of the Athabasca River were coming from natural sources.

    “The studies have, for the first time, detected potentially harmful, mining-related organic acid contaminants in the groundwater outside a long-established out-of-pit tailings pond,” said the memo from deputy minister Serge Dupont, dated June 19, 2012.

    Oliver, of course, would not make that information public. It undercuts his whole argument that Canada's future is all about being an energy superpower. But the scientists at Environment Canada keep telling him and the other Harperites what they don't want to hear:

    Environment Canada describes groundwater contamination as a serious problem since aquifers can remain contaminated for decades or centuries, leaking into lakes, rivers or streams, while potentially creating costly water supply problems.

    Other peer-reviewed research, published last fall, has also found evidence that contaminants from oilsands air pollution are collecting on the bottom of lakes that are up to 100 kilometres away, raising concerns about anticipated expansion over the next decade.

     The Harperites believe that, if they ignore the evidence, it will go away. That belief, of course, is the epitome of folly.

    This entry is cross posted at Eradicating Ecocide.

    Sunday, February 17, 2013

    Does Anyone Listen To Dick Cheney Anymore?

    Speaking at a Republican dinner in Wyoming recently, Dick Cheney opined that President Obama's national security personnel choices were "dismal." He was particularly offended by Obama's choice of Chuck Hegal to run the defense department. That's Chuck Hegal, who was being wounded in Vietnam when Cheney was getting serial deferments -- because, in his own words, he had "other priorities."

    Joe Conason writes:

    It is hard to imagine a record as profoundly impressive as that of the Bush-Cheney administration, back when everyone knew that [Cheney] was really in charge of everything important—especially the war on terrorism, the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.

    Of course, occasionally Cheney got some things wrong:

    True, Cheney’s intelligence apparatus failed to capture or kill Osama bin Laden after 9/11—indeed, failed to prevent the 9/11 attacks, despite ample warnings that began with Bill Clinton’s farewell message in January 2001 and culminated in a blaring President’s Daily Brief from the CIA in August 2001. True, Cheney’s defense command allowed bin Laden and Mullah Omar to escape following the invasion of Afghanistan, while American and NATO troops slogged through that deadly conflict without a plausible goal or even an exit strategy. And true, the national security cabinet run by Cheney misled the nation into war against Iraq, on false premises, without adequate preparation or clear objectives, at a cost of many thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. And true, too, the ultimate result was to embarrass the United States repeatedly while increasing the regional power of the mullahs in Iran.

    Cheney, of course, does not admit mistakes. And that is -- and was -- the problem.  Which begs the question, "Why is anyone still listening to him?"

    This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.

    Saturday, February 16, 2013

    A Morose, Vindictive Man

    Speaking at the Salt Spring Forum in December, Tom Flanagan -- Stephen Harper's former eminence gris -- said of his former pupil:

    He is an unusual package of characteristics. He can be charismatic in small groups, morose, secretive, suspicious and vindictive. These may not be traits you want in your next door neighbour, but they are very useful in politics."

    Harper himself provided an illustration of those characteristics this week when, Carol Goar writes, he told a Burnaby audience that

    he would change the Criminal Code, giving prosecutors the power to designate some of these offenders as too dangerous to be released, meaning they would forfeit the right to an annual review of their mental health and the privilege of becoming eligible for unescorted passes. He would also require provincial review boards, which decide whether they can be discharged from psychiatric facilities, to place public safety above all other considerations, including the individual’s constitutionally enshrined rights. 

    And he brought with him his list of tough on crime achievements:

    To demonstrate his commitment to community safety, the Prime Minister brought along a 10-page list of the bills his government had enacted to fight crime. There was legislation targeting sexual predators, terrorists, drug dealers, child pornographers, violent young offenders, street racers, white collar criminals and gang members. The implication — unstated, of course — was that mentally ill offenders belonged on the list.

    The problem with Harper's achievements, is that they arise from his own fevered brain, not a verifiable social context. Canadian crime is at its lowest in forty years. And examples of the mentally unstable prowling our streets are few and far between:

    Harper’s announcement was designed to tap into public anxiety. In recent memory, there have been three gruesome homicides by people with mental illness. In 2008, Schoenborn killed his children and Vince Li, who had schizophrenia, decapitated his seatmate on a Greyhound bus headed for Winnipeg. In 2009, Guy Turcotte, a Montreal cardiologist, brutally stabbed his two children in a bout of depression.

    But none of these tragedies exposed “glaring gaps” in the justice system. The B.C. Review Board failed to contact Schoenborn’s ex-wife and children before granting him a day pass; a deadly human error. The Tribunal Adminstratif du Québec was duped by Turcotte, a long-time manipulator, into believing he posed no danger to society – a fatal misjudgment . No one knew Li was schizophrenic when he killed his seatmate. Harper’s legislation would have made no difference in his case. 

    Once again, Mr. Harper has verified Flanagan's diagnosis. The prime minister is a morose, vindictive man.

    Friday, February 15, 2013

    They Know They Can Get Away With Them

    For the Harperites, denial is Standard Operating Procedure -- until they're caught in a lie. Then they back off their denial. But they do it without blushing. Take the case of Pamela Wallin's senate expenses. Lawrence Martin writes that, even though Wallin was on a list of audited senators,

    Senator David Tkachuk, chair of the Senate committee that reviews senator expenses, told The Globe and Mail that no, she was not on the list. But then, just a few minutes later came a CTV report in which Ms. Wallin herself confirmed she was being audited.

    Why would Tkachuk, certainly in position to know, have denied it? Was he under orders from the Prime Minister’s Office to keep it under the wraps? Or was it just an interestingly timed brain malfunction?

    Conservative brains malfunction with alarming regularity:

    The Senate-referral denial followed a denial by the Conservatives last week that they were behind a robocalls scheme on electoral boundary changes in Saskatchewan. That denial didn’t hold up either. When confronted by reporters with evidence, the Conservatives U-turned, confirming they were behind the calls. At the same time Minister Keith Ashfield was denying that the government had changed the rules for publishing documents from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans:

    Columnist Michael Harris had detailed the changes on publications policy in a column in iPolitics. He had interviewed several scientists. After the Ashfield denial, they confirmed their initial statements to Harris on the policy changes. As well, Harris had more evidence — an email from inside DFO referencing “new publication review committee procedures.”

    Add the denials to a long list of government attempts to conceal information:

    The institution of an unprecedented vetting system wherein all messaging has to pass through central command. The hoarding of information on program costing to the point where Stephen Harper became the first prime minister in history to be found in contempt of Parliament. The near-record use of time allocation, closure and other measures to limit Parliamentary debate. The muzzling of the science community. Mr. Harper becoming the first prime minister in memory not to hold open-ended press conferences. The shutting down of Parliament twice for blatantly political ends.

    A few other examples: The surreptitious in-and-out affair. Allegations that robocalls were used to send Canadians to the wrong polling stations. The use of debate-limiting omnibus bills. The closing down of the long-form census and other databanks and websites. An edict exempting cabinet staffers from having to testify at parliamentary committees. Several instances of document tampering. The accountability-defying practice of having ministers under the gun not stand in the Commons and answer questions. Measures making it harder to use the Access to Information system. Appointing lapdogs as watchdogs, the prime example being the Integrity Commissioner.

    It's clear that, when the Harperites can't hide information, they lie. And they do all these things because they know they can get away with them.

    Thursday, February 14, 2013

    The Stupidity Of Child Poverty

    The Conference Board recently took the nation's pulse and discovered that child poverty is on the rise in Canada. Diane Swinemar, the executive director of Feed Nova Scotia, writes:

    Most know the House of Commons passed a unanimous vote in 1989 to end child poverty by the year 2000. Not so long ago, we acknowledged the 20-year anniversary of that failed promise. Now, four years later, our country still doesn’t seem to care about our children. And more than one in every seven are growing up in poverty.

    Despite rare legislative unanimity, child poverty did not become a priority. In fact, the problem became worse. Swinemar writes:

    In 1989, there was a glimmer of hope for the six-year-old girl growing up with this huge disadvantage. But time passed, little headway was made with child poverty rates, and that six-year-old girl is now 30 — and you have to wonder how her life has turned out. She might be an anomaly. She might have beaten the insurmountable odds poverty undoubtedly stacked against her, but the statistics certainly weren’t in her favour.

    She probably grew up in an unsafe neighbourhood with higher than average crime rates. Her parents likely struggled to provide adequate nutritious meals, in turn making it difficult for her to focus at school. This likely caused her academic performance to suffer. Maybe she managed to scrape by and graduate from high school, but college or university was out of the question. Maybe she was fortunate enough to find work, but two minimum-wage jobs probably didn’t cover the bills and she likely ended up at the doors of a local food bank looking for help (and thank goodness she at least had that option). There is a good chance she now has children of her own. And if that’s the case, she is probably devastated that, like her own parents, she can’t give them everything they need. And the cycle continues.

    Any society which does not invest in its children is doomed. As its adults admire their reflections in their mirrors, it slowly strangles itself. Psychologists call it narcissism. Historians call it stupidity.

    Wednesday, February 13, 2013

    Lousy Economists

    As a response to the Great Depression, western governments put in place several "economic shock absorbers" -- unemployment insurance, welfare and baby bonus cheques -- to cushion the negative effects of an economic downturn. But neo-conservatives, convinced that they encouraged people to become fat and lazy, systematically destroyed those shock absorbers. Under the banner, "Makers Not Takers," people like Paul Martin and Stephen Harper cut back on government assistance to Canadians. Carol Goar writes, in The Toronto Star, that the war on the poor continues:

    [Jim] Flaherty has ruled out “risky new spending schemes” — by which he means improved social programs. His March budget might include a couple of targeted poverty-alleviation measures for aboriginal Canadians, but nothing broadly based. On the tax side, he aims to reduce the number of brackets, making it less progressive and allowing high-income earners to keep more of their money. (Canada and the U.S. are going in opposite directions on this issue. Washington’s top personal tax rate is 35 per cent. It is slated to rise to 39.6 per cent next year. Ottawa’s top rate is 29 per cent. It is expected to remain stable or go down.)

    And while Flaherty makes the rich richer:

    [Diane] Finley is making it harder to get employment insurance. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is making it harder for new Canadians to rebuild their family support networks in this country. Revenue Minister Gail Shea is making it harder for Canadians without Internet access — typically the poor and the elderly — to claim tax refunds and credits. Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel is making it harder for the provinces and municipalities to plan public works projects and hire workers. And Labour Minister Lisa Raitt is weakening the collective bargaining system.

    The stabilizers were an attempt to increase demand when economies -- and people -- were struggling. They were not just a compassionate response to people who found themselves between a rock and a hard place -- they made good economic sense.

    But Mr. Harper and Co. believe compassion is a character flaw. And -- their own propaganda aside -- it's painfully obvious that they're lousy economists.

    Tuesday, February 12, 2013

    The Women Have Arrived

    When Kathleen Wynne introduced her cabinet yesterday, she became the fifth woman premier in the federation. Lawrence Martin writes:

    Now, women run much of the federation. They are at the controls in five provinces – including every big one in the country – and one territory. There’s Kathleen Wynne, who was sworn in as the Premier of Ontario on Monday. There’s Alison Redford in Alberta, Christy Clark in British Columbia and Pauline Marois in Quebec. Add to them Kathy Dunderdale in Newfoundland and Labrador. And don’t forget Eva Aariak in Nunavut.

    Which leads to the question, will the tone of Canadian politics change? Martin writes:

    It’s a good bet they’ll bring a greater degree of integrity and morality to politics. Not that they’ll be squeaky clean. Some of the aforementioned face questions of ethical breaches. But given the male precedent, the task of forging a higher degree of public respect for the system should be achievable.

    The problem, of course, is that the prime minister is a good old boy. Ever since his quarrel with Belinda Stronach, he has left the impression that he has a hard time dealing with strong women.  Add to that the fact that Harper refuses to meet the premiers -- male or female -- as a group, and you have a divided nation. And that's just how Stephen Harper likes it. Like a medieval lord, he treats the premiers as vassals, playing them off one against the other. So don't expect to see the ladies gathered around a conference table with the prime minister.

    And, given the problems Canada faces -- on the economy, climate change and healthcare -- that is tragic. Martin writes that conferences between the prime minister and the premiers

    are a nation-building challenge to be faced, not dodged. It is normal practice for leaders of major organizations to meet with their big constituent parts to thrash out problems and priorities. Mr. Harper shows skill and moxie at international forums and would be capable of the same here. He excuses himself by saying he meets often with the premiers separately. That’s true. But other prime ministers did that as well as bring all the premiers together.

    One wonders if Harper is afraid that the ladies would underscore his fundamental flaws. Women have a talent for doing that sort of thing.

    Monday, February 11, 2013

    Marching To Oblivion

    Republicans must be furious with David Frum. The man who wrote George W. Bush's "axis of evil" speech is increasingly at odds with his party. On Saturday he wrote that the economy of the United States is far from full recovery:

    A new survey by Rutgers University finds that 23% of Americans have lost a job (whether full-time or part-time) at some point in the past four years. Another 11% report a job loss by a member of their immediate family.

    There are 12.3 million unemployed Americans today, and that number would be even higher if we counted those who have quit searching for work.

    However, congressional Republicans -- cheered on by Charles Krauthammer -- have vowed to stand firm on budget cuts -- even if it triggers the budget sequester. Frum writes:

    The sequester ax is sharp. It will cut government spending in the next fiscal year by 0.5% of GDP and continue to chop deeper and deeper over the decade ahead, until an alternative budget deal is reached. A half a point does not sound like much, until you remember that the U.S. economy is growing at a rate of barely 2%.

    Economists in the room will note that the U.S. budget deficit already is shrinking at the fastest rate since the end of Second World War: According to the Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. budget deficit is on track to decline by 3.7 percentage points between fiscal 2010 and the end of fiscal 2013 — without any changes in current policy at all. That would be a steeper deficit reduction than occurred during the booming 1990s.

    Economists may also worry: Won’t accelerating the already rapid deficit-cutting with extra taxes and additional abrupt spending cuts risk pushing the U.S. back into recession — in the same way that premature budget-cutting in 1937 aborted the economic recovery of 1934-1936 and plunged the U.S. back into depression?

    Europe has been down this road. It leads over the cliff. The Republicans have become the lemming party -- happily marching into oblivion.
    This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.

    Sunday, February 10, 2013

    Scared As Hell

    Paranoia drives the Harper government. If you don't believe that, consider what is happening at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Michael Harris writes:

    Fisheries and Oceans Canada, where a reign of terror aimed at choking off internal leaks has been in full swing since the disastrous decision to close the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), has issued a new policy on the publication of scientific papers.

    Previous policies applied only to those papers prepared by DFO scientists. If government scientists teamed up with non-DFO scientists on a paper, it was merely “recommended” that DFO scientists adhere to the departmental publication policy. The new policy applies to all submissions and DFO approval is required. Just to make sure scientists get the message, that part of the revised guidelines is printed in bold italics. Making things worse, the new policy does not lay out the criteria for giving thumbs-down to a publication.

    The Harperites are deeply afraid that evidence based information will de-rail their agenda. And, of course, they're right. All the evidence these days -- economic, social, political -- is running against them. Take, for instance, their prime directive -- that austerity is the way to a brighter future. Europe has proved for the last two years that austerity won't generate growth. And, after two omnibus budget bills, that reality has descended on Canada:

    “We saw the other shoe drop for the Canadian economy,” on Friday, said Douglas Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets. “And there feels like there was a bit of comeuppance.”

    Data showed employment fell back in January — the first time that has happened in six months — with many people simply giving up looking for work.

    As well, the number of new residential buildings under construction tumbled during the same month, with weaker activity in both single and multiple-unit homes, particularly in Ontario.

    When the news is not good, the government desperately tries to muzzle the messengers. Because, when you begin to look at the data, you discover that the folks who sell themselves as competent managers are frauds. Harris writes:

    And where else on the planet would a government close down a unique and celebrated facility like the ELA to save $2 million a year, while blowing $25 million trying to breathe relevance into a 200 year-old war?

    If the truth ever gets out, this government will be consigned to the dustbin of history. No wonder they're scared as hell.

    Saturday, February 09, 2013

    Appalling and Disappointing

    The travails of Patrick Brazeau and Mike Duffy have once again led to calls for reform or abolition of the Senate. The argument is that the Senate has always been a House of Patronage, not a House of Sober Second Thought. The two aforementioned senators appear to prove the first proposition. But Tasha Kheirriddin asks some important questions, which appear to be getting lost in the nasty details:

    First, shouldn’t someone in the government have known about them? Second, if they did, why did the prime minister proceed with the nomination? Third, if they didn’t know, why didn’t they? How much due diligence is actually done on Senate nominations?

    For, as disturbing as the allegations against Brazeau and Duffy are, there is a real question about the man who appointed  them. Brazeau appealed to the prime minister because he liked to use that magic word -- accountability. Brazeau's called for accountability on the subject of reserve finances. Accountability -- the very issue which Mr. Harper and the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Auditor General have argued about for five years.

    No one appeared interested in red flags which were all over Brazeau's record. Keirriddin writes:

    Allegations of sexual harassment and alcohol abuse, failure to pay child support and an audit launched by Health Canada into expense claims by his previous employer — these are not the things one wants to see on senatorial resumes. 

    And Brazeau had a habit of saying things which were less than politic. After Canadian Press reporter Jennifer Ditchburn reported that Brazeau had the worst attendance record in the Senate, Brazeau called her a "bitch." Perhaps, becaue the Harperites treat their opponents with such contempt, they didn't see that as an issue.

    Then there is the case of Mike Duffy, who constantly refers to his Island roots. Surely, the fact that his primary residence was not there was a non issue.

    The Harper motto is, "Saying makes it so." The problem is that, as neat as it sounds, it's patently untrue. And a man who believes it is not to be trusted -- in both small and large matters. In Mr. Harper's own words, his judgement is "appalling and disappointing."

    Friday, February 08, 2013


    Yesterday, Lawrence Martin asked a question, the answer to which has been obvious since Stephen Harper became prime minister: Does the fish rot from the head down? The story behind those recent robocalls in Saskatchewan gives the lie to the Conservative claims that robocalls in the last election were the work of rogue campaign workers with names like Pierre Poutine:

    To date, the Conservatives have tried to pass off any dirty tricks onto ‘rogue’ actors or junior party people like Michael Sona from the riding of Guelph, which is at the centre of the robocalls controversy. Sona in turn has alleged that what happened in Guelph was not isolated but part of what he termed a massive scheme.

    This time, the people who are being  outed are much higher up on the food chain:

    Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski fingered Byrne as the figure ultimately responsible for the party’s surreptitious and deceptive telephone campaign in Saskatchewan in a dispute over the changing of riding boundaries. We can bet loyalist Lukiwski didn’t speak without the prior approval of the Prime Minister’s Office.

    It was Byrne who managed the 2011 election campaign:

    That so-called clean and ethical campaign saw voters being marched out of Conservative rallies for having suspected minor ties to other parties — and a bogus leak from a senior Tory strategist trying to tie Michael Ignatieff to planning sessions for the Iraq war.

    This time, Harper is defending Byrne:

    In question period Thursday, Harper said, "There was no violation of CRTC rules in this case, unlike the Liberal Party did in a different case. The fact of the matter, Mr. Speaker, is that the party has said there was a mistake here and we have clarified that."

    The Conservatives make mistakes. But they never do wrong. The opposition parties should remember what Frank McKenna said when he retired as the Canadian ambassador to Washington: “They are dealing with thugs; they’ve got to fight back and fight hard.”

    Thursday, February 07, 2013

    Mad Men

    Frances Russell writes that the Mad Men who currently reside in Ottawa's executive suites are destroying the Canada that their wiser forebears built after World War II:

    In keeping with the world-wide market mania of the last two decades, Canada’s dominant political and economic ideology demonizes government and the state except as a tool of social control, defence and war.

    Driven by the bully pulpit of corporate think tanks and right-wing politicians, the push is on to shrivel, if not dismantle, all the achievements of Canada’s last half-century and more of nation-building. 

    They seek to transform the nation, convinced that Canadians have become fat and lazy:

    From equalization to medicare, from unemployment insurance to collective bargaining, from affordable housing to pensions and from social programs to quality affordable education, all are supposedly crippling distortions of that pinnacle of human intellect and success — the untrammelled free market. And so all must be downsized or abolished.

    She then goes on to quote choice passages from several think tanks, which claim to be fonts of wisdom. Consider this pearl from Brian Lee Crowley, president of the Macdoanld-Lauier Institute:

    “Subsidizing poorly-performing parts of Canada is in truth a policy of refusing to make people face the consequences of the poor policy choices they have made over the years,”

    Russell then juxtaposes Crowley's nostrum to this passage from the  Rowell-Sirois Report, which was commissioned to examine the causes of and remedies to The Great Depression:

    “The most economically distressed areas are the ones least capable of supporting those services and yet are also the ones in which the needs are likely to be the greatest. Not only national duty and decency, if Canada is to be a nation at all, but equity and national self-interest demand that the residents of these areas be given average services and equal opportunities …

    History shines a harsh light our present day "best and brightest." They are truly Mad Men.

    Wednesday, February 06, 2013

    The Hammer

    Errol Mendes wonders if the Harper government is bidding its time, waiting to use a constitutional hammer to get the Northern Gateway Pipeline up and running:

    Some legal supporters of the pipeline in Alberta are arguing that the Northern Gateway project would constitute a single interprovincial work or undertaking, and so would come under the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government under sections 91(29) and 92(10)a of the Constitution Act 1867.

    This suggests a possible legal strategy for the Harper government — to assert that B.C. cannot use its control over provincial Crown lands under section 109 of the Constitution Act to prevent federal work approved by the National Energy Review Board under the NEB Act, which would be finally approved by the federal cabinet under the changes in the first omnibus budget bill, C-38.

    The last two budget bills have prepared the ground:

    Evidence of this silent legal strategy based on Section 92(10)a can be gleaned from one of the most controversial aspects of Bill C-45, the omnibus budget bill that altered the Navigable Waters Protection Act (the title of which was tellingly changed to the Navigation Protection Act).

    The changes could give major pipeline projects an exemption from a previous requirement that would have forced pipeline proponents to provide evidence that the pipelines would not damage around 99 per cent of lakes and navigable waterways in Canada. There are some remaining protected lakes and rivers still subject to federal oversight (many of them magically seem to be located in Conservative-held ridings, but away from the proposed pipeline route).

    Departing Environmental Commissioner Scott Vaughn warns that there are many "gaps" in Canada's environmental legislation -- gaps which the Harper government have made cavernous:

    He pointed to Canada’s lack of preparedness for a major offshore oil spill on its east coast and warned of a potential 300 per cent jump in tanker traffic on the west coast.

    He reminded us the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 spilled 4.9 million barrels of oil and the clean-up and other costs of civil damages has hit $40 billion.

    In Canada, the corporate liability for such spills is $30 million on the east coast, and the liability for the nuclear industry is $75 million and has not been updated in more than 35 years, something Vaughan called “pretty shocking.”

    Canadians should not be surprised if the Harper government lowers the hammer to try and get Northern Gateway approved. But, Mendes warns, if they choose that option, "then Canada is in for a period of political and social tumult."

    This entry is cross posted at Eradicating Ecocide.

    Tuesday, February 05, 2013

    Shilling For Benefits

    Last week the press was all a twitter -- because Stephen Harper was tweeting. It makes you wonder what kind of critical thinking skills our press barons possess. Michael Harris writes that it's all about replica news:

    Perhaps the prime minister’s temerity in tweeting his own image is based on the replica news model he has managed to foist on broad swaths of the news profession. Replica news is what the government wants to see reproduced. Journalism, as Orwell famously remarked, is printing what someone doesn’t want you to print.

    And, let's face it, there is all kinds of information the Harper government doesn't want you to know:

    A few highlights of our replica news landscape at this point: the PM has choked off real information and substituted bumf at the cabinet level; he has terrified the public service into silence, with one of his ministers going so far as to require loyalty oaths from staff; his rare appearances on network television are like outings to one of those farms where the kids get to pet the animals.

    As for those traditional press gatherings where the questions aren’t limited by the PM and the identities of the inquiring journalists aren’t agreed to in advance with some flak from the PMO, Stephen Harper has done away with them altogether. Not one in nearly seven years in office.

    Which raises the question, why is the press corps not more cynical? And why are they so easily co-opted? That's not to say that some journalists aren't doing a good job -- people like Stephen Maher, Glen McGregor, Lawrence Martin, Tom Walkom  -- and Mr. Harris himself.

    It's pretty obvious that the blue sweaters and the kittens are props for The Great Imposter. Perhaps there are others -- like Mike Duffy, Peter Kent and Pam Wallin -- who have discovered that shilling for Stephen Harper reaps benefits.

    Monday, February 04, 2013


    The Conference Board keeps churning out reports which should embarrass the Harper government. The Board's latest report ranks Canada 7th out of 17 developed countries in terms of quality of life. It's interesting that, in terms of falling crime rates, we are doing very well -- although, if you believe what the government tells us, it's not well enough.

    But what is truly disturbing is the growing rate of income inequality:

    In Canada, the gap between rich and poor has widened over the past 15 years, and the board says all age groups have felt the change -- with both child and elderly poverty on the rise.

    And in one of the most troubling signs, the working-age poverty rate rose to 11.1 per cent in the late 2000s from 9.4 per cent in the mid-1990s. Since the financial crisis hit in 2008, the overall share of low income Canadians has increased as well -- from 12.4 per cent in 2007 to 13 per cent in 2010, the report found.

    Add that a truly disturbing rise in child poverty --  Canada’s child poverty rate is 15.1 per cent, up from 12.8 per cent in the mid 1990's -- and you get a picture of a country in regression.

    Perhaps, most notably, the country at the bottom on all measures was the United States, which the Harper government has taken as its model.

    We are racing to get to the bottom as fast as we can.

    Sunday, February 03, 2013

    The Reckoning

    As the present Masters of the Universe survey what they have wrought, they dismiss the young as lazy and pampered. But Henry Giroux writes that, across that universe, youth are in revolt:

    As young people make diverse claims on the promise of a radical democracy in the streets, on campuses, and at other occupied sites, articulating what a fair and just world might be, they are treated as criminal populations—rogue groups incapable of toeing the line, “prone to irrational, intemperate and unpredictable” behavior.[16] 

     Those who belittle the young, however, don't understand what's behind the revolt:

    Young people today are protesting against a strengthening global capitalist project that erases the benefits of the welfare state and the possibility of a radical notion of democracy. They are protesting against a neoliberal project of accumulation, dispossession, deregulation, privatization, and commodification that leaves them out of any viable notion of the future. They are rejecting and resisting a form of casino capitalism that has ushered in a permanent revolution marked by a massive project of depoliticization, on the one hand, and an aggressive, if not savage, practice of distributing upward wealth, income, and op­portunity for the 1 percent on the other.

    Rejecting the notion that democracy and markets are the same, young people are calling for the termination of corporate control over the commanding institutions of politics, culture, and economics, an end to the suppression of dissent, and a shutting down of the permanent warfare state.

    The Masters of the Universe didn't see the Great Recession coming. And they don't see The Reckoning  just around the corner.

    Saturday, February 02, 2013

    They Want In

    When Preston Manning's  neo-conservatives rode into Ottawa twenty years ago, their rallying cry was, "The West Wants In." They claimed that they had been outsiders for too long. And, with the hypocrisy which has characterized them since their arrival, they then proclaimed that there should be "No More Prime Ministers From Quebec."

    They succeeded, not by filling a big tent, but by carefully targeting voters and excluding -- by robocalls and other dubious techniques -- the majority of Canadian voters. It is curious then, Rick Salutin writes, that their exclusive politics has empowered those who are considered outsiders. We saw that phenomenon with the election of Barack Obama, with the election last week of Kathleen Wynne as leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario and -- I would suggest -- with the Idle No More movement. Salutin writes:

    This isn’t the politics of ideas and issues anymore, though it has those. It’s the politics of inclusion. In the old days, the guys at the core articulated a vision and gathered “outsiders” — youth, women, ethnics — around it. But they stayed in effective control. Here the outsiders form a majority — it’s the point — and issues follow. Obama’s win in the U.S. is the prototype, but only in his second election.

    The Republicans are beginning to catch on. They are suddenly in favour of immigration reform, although I suspect they still haven't figured out what is really going on. Salutin is ahead of them:

    It seems to me this has to do with globalization, but not the economic kind that leaders like Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan preached in the 1980s. This is globalized contact in myriad forms, including online games, person-to-person, unmediated by authorities and news anchors. Guess what they find: outsiders are the global majority — by miles. Authoritative males are few — and you don’t need them to learn what’s going on, or their blessing to act. There’s also a mingling effect due to vast migrations, based on economic needs and dislocations. This all runs counter to the explicit agenda of economic globalization, which plays people off against each other, isolates them and forces them to compete.

    If Salutin is right, Stephen Harper's agenda is doomed. But, like his Republican cousins, he soldiers on -- convinced that the wealthy create jobs and, therefore, they need to be handled with kid gloves. It is truly unfortunate that those who presently rule the roost do not understand what they have wrought.

    When the new outsiders force their way in, the old outsiders will be back where they started.

    Friday, February 01, 2013

    A Time For Sublime Madness

    Chris Hedges believes that we face a dark future. What awaits us is an era of upheaval:

    The planet we have assaulted will convulse with fury. The senseless greed of limitless capitalist expansion will implode the global economy. The decimation of civil liberties, carried out in the name of fighting terror, will shackle us to an interconnected security and surveillance state that stretches from Moscow to Istanbul to New York.

    There is every reason to despair. But, he writes, what has saved us in the past is our power to imagine a better future:

    It was the human imagination that sustained Sitting Bull and Black Elk as their land was seized and their cultures were broken. And it was the human imagination that allowed the survivors in the Nazi death camps to retain the power of the sacred.

    It is the imagination that makes possible transcendence. Chants, work songs, spirituals, the blues, poetry, dance and art converged under slavery to nourish and sustain this imagination. These were the forces that, as Ralph Ellison wrote, “we had in place of freedom.” The oppressed would be the first—for they know their fate—to admit that on a rational level such a notion is absurd, but they also know that it is only through the imagination that they survive. Jewish inmates in Auschwitz reportedly put God on trial for the Holocaust and then condemned God to death. A rabbi stood after the verdict to lead the evening prayers. 

    At first blush it all sounds rather silly -- a flight into fancy in the face of disaster. But Hedges is serious; and, theologian that he truly is, he turns to Reinhold Neibur to make his point:

    Niebuhr wrote that “nothing but madness will do battle with malignant power and ‘spiritual wickedness in high places.’ ” This sublime madness, as Niebuhr understood, is dangerous, but it is vital. Without it, “truth is obscured.” And Niebuhr also knew that traditional liberalism was a useless force in moments of extremity. Liberalism, Niebuhr said, “lacks the spirit of enthusiasm, not to say fanaticism, which is so necessary to move the world out of its beaten tracks. It is too intellectual and too little emotional to be an efficient force in history.”

    It is in the imagination that there is salvation:

    It is only those who can retreat into the imagination, and through their imagination can minister to the suffering of those around them, who uncover the physical and psychological strength to resist.

    Hedges is not preaching a turn the other cheek theology. His creed drove Christ to throw the money changers out of the temple. Like Christ, Hedges does not preach violence. But he does preach resistance -- because, in the end, our only option is to resist.

    And that means that the power brokers will claim that we are sublimely mad.