After much prodding by other bloggers, I set this up for my own writings. The name is in honour of the two women that mentored me throughout my life on politics and intelligence issues, as well as being wonderful family members, now alas deceased. I hope to live up to their standards at this site.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

KNB is exactly correct and some other musings

KNB at Liberal Arts and Minds has a post up from Monday Feb 9 09 regarding the disproportionate voice the political far right has in this country currently and the way they abuse it and their fellow citizens who disagree with them and their positions, most recently the poor principal in New Brunswick over the Anthem being played (see these posts at Dr Dawg's and The Galloping Beaver for more). Not to mention how poor a job the corporate media has been doing in holding the Harper CPC government to account for factual honesty in what it claims and does. As she correctly notes we have a very small media ownership circle and far from being the so called liberal media Conservatives claim it to be it has shown itself to be far more sympathetic to the right side of the spectrum, which given the economic interests of the owners and advertisers of the national media makes perfect sense. This notion of the liberal media is a fiction where Canada is concerned and always has been. Indeed, it hasn't been true within America either despite the claims of the GOP over the past few decades. The media is largely owned by very wealthy families and/or corporations, neither of which tend to be known for having much liberal/left leanings, something which the why of should be blatantly obvious to anyone that actually uses their brains to think for a minute about it.

This is something that has drifted across the US border and been jumped on by the Canadian far right to explain why they have been shut out of national power for so long (as the last majority Conservative government was Mulroney's and that was mainly made up of Progressive Conservatives with a bit more of a pro-American lean than typical for PCPCs historically, but hardly representative of the far right as exemplified by first Reform, CA, and now the CPC). It is after all easier to blame others acting in a conspiracy to keep you down than it is to accept the fact that the supermajority (2/3rds) of the population clearly disagrees with you and your core political positions and policies, and that the vast majority of the public is at the minimum center-progressive to strongly leftwards progressive, especially where social policy is concerned. It allows you to not have to take a hard look at your positions and beliefs and wonder why if they are so superior why that supermajority doesn't share them, indeed rejects them as strongly as we see in Canadian society where the far right's beliefs are concerned.

Indeed, one of the other disturbing aspects of this Americanization of our political dialogue within the far right is how much more aggressive it is inherently as compared to traditional Canadian political context/discourse (including traditional Canadian Conservativism too, aka Progressive Conservatives who clearly are still a large segment of the CPC support despite the clear contempt those that actually run the Harper CPC have for them and their beliefs) since in this country the concept of a loyal opposition is inherent within its structure. The problem with Harper's kind of Conservativism is that it believes that anyone not with them is the enemy which is to be destroyed at any/all costs and never compromised with because they are traitors/evil/etc, an attitude not typical to Canadian culture/society/politics historically.

For years I have harped on about the dangerous of the Calgary School and Straussian political philosophy, which is what PM Harper and his inner circle believe and practice. I have done so in no small part because of two core beliefs within it, that the elite are the only ones whose opinions on governing philosophy and policy should count (indeed have a right to any opinion at all for that matter), and that the "noble lie" is acceptable political practice. It is one thing to expect politicians to exaggerate/lie about how good they and their ideas/policies are (especially in an election cycle) , that is alas inherent in human nature itself let alone politics, but at least politicians have to appear like they value being honest and truth telling. The Straussian though is proud of his noble lie to gain and hold power with, he believes it to be necessary and entirely justifiable/appropriate, and given that the core of a democratic governing system is the informed citizenry making decisions based on the facts this is a profoundly anti-democratic philosophy, and when combined with the elitism attitude shows a fundamental contempt for facts, democracy, and the citizenry of a democratic nation. Cheney showed us where this goes within the American system, and the only reason Harper has not managed to go as far yet is because he has failed to get that majority, although even with the minority he has already done a lot of long term damage.

So when we have a corporate media unwilling to challenge the CPC government on its many Many MANY lies, when it acts like it has no recollection of the contradictions Harper and his government have repeatedly committed, when it sits back and feeds such insane political hatred as happened to the poor NB principal, when the media does not take the attitude that the government is always someone to be viewed skeptically no matter who it is in power then we have a serious problem. This business with the anthem though underscores just how bad the followers of Harper can get over the smallest things (it is not like abortion or gay marriage, two hot button topics for the far right that also breeds this kind of hyper emotionalism), both in terms of getting the fundamental facts wrong as well as going to any lengths to use fear and smear against anyone in their sights. Apparently one of the complainers whined about how the pledge of allegiance had been dropped as well from schools (see this post from Allison at The Galloping Beaver), except this is an American tradition and not something we ever practiced in this country that I am aware of, at least not in any sort of organized/national manner. I freely concede some schools (especially private ones) might have had some sort of pledge especially in the past, but to the best of my knowledge this was never a broadly accepted tradition in this country.

Many of these Conservative voices also have shown that they believe this country works more like the USA in both structure and rights than it actually does. Take the free speech absolutism of some of these folks (as selective as it tends to be of course in terms of application), the underlying premise within our Constitution is not that there are absolute rights but a balance between individual rights and the collective rights of a society, a significantly different approach than that of the American Constitution and Bill of Rights. Also these so called Conservatives have shown themselves to be willing to either display gross ignorance or outright deception when it comes to how this country is governed as recently demonstrated by the claims that a coalition as suggested last year would be a coup d'etat, treason, usurpation of a duly elected government (since as I noted in my prior post we do not elect PMs and governments we elect Parliaments, and whoever is able to show by a majority of the votes in the HoC they have the confidence of the House forms the government), and yet this was not vigourously challenged by the media, no it mostly appeared to go along with letting the government spew this nonsense.

So we have a convergence here of a media owned/controlled by a small wealthy elite whose political preferences are generally going to align with the right/conservative side of the political spectrum, a small percent of the populace following a far right/American conservative belief structure that demonstrates fanatical traits in a very vocal (and other, someone cut those Liberal supporters brake lines and that was never typical prior to the rise of the Harper CPC) manner claiming to represent the silent majority when they clearly by all election results do not (when the best you can get is high 30% of just over 50% of eligible voters you clearly are not representing a majority of the public no matter how loud you scream it), and a party birthed in treachery and betrayal led by a man whose entire political career and adult life has been arguing for the adoption of a radical far right American variant of conservativism (while trash talking Canada's progressiveness both domestically and internationally especially to American right wing think tanks as well as regions of the country like the Atlantic region with its so called culture of defeatism) that embraces profoundly anti-democratic means and beliefs who has demonstrated his complete contempt for all that do not agree with him AND his utter contempt for the rule of law that we all are supposed to be bound by. With this combination I would argue that we have a greater threat to the long term viability/survival of a distinct Canadian identity, indeed a Canadian nation itself than even the Quebecois separatists have presented. At least the Separatists have abided by the outcomes of referendums that went against them and stayed within the legal framework of our nation, which is more than can be said for Harper and company.

So KNB is correct in saying we need to find better ways to counter these voices and to take down the Harper CPC and the underlying core beliefs of the Calgary School it represents AND the anything goes no holds barred total war scorched earth approach to politics as well. Already we are seeing an increasing corruption of this approach within our discourse from other than the CPC when it comes to rhetoric and dealing with opposing/competing parties. Take the recent refrain by the NDP and its supporters claiming the Liberals are in a coalition with the Harper CPC. This is going well beyond acceptable rhetoric in my view because it profoundly misrepresents the facts and the basic requirements/definition of what a coalition is. It is one thing to claim the Liberals are sellouts and such for supporting this budget, but to claim they are in a coalition with a party that clearly has shown its primary goal in power is to destroy the Liberal party is just nonsensical. Worse, the meaning of being in a coalition means that the various members of a coalition have the ability/power to shape policy and to share the powers of office between those members, something which clearly does not exist with the Liberals and the CPC. So calling it a coalition is a gross misrepresentation at the very minimum and well beyond playing fast and lose with the facts/reality in my judgment.

If the Liberals and CPC were truly a coalition then the Liberals would have some of the cabinet positions and would be able to significantly mold the policies coming out of the government before they were introduced at first reading. To misrepresent it this profoundly, ESPECIALLY after so recently defending the concept and legitimacy of a potential coalition government against the lies of the Harper CPC so recently all because it makes it easier to smear the Liberals instead of the more technical and truthful/accurate approach is the same sort of attack Harper has been using all along and for me personally underscores why I find Layton no more trustworthy than Harper (I do think Layton would be a less damaging PM than Harper, but only because Harper has far greater plans where remolding Canada at the most basic and profound levels is concerned, it is not because I consider him at all more trustworthy where placing power before principle is concerned on that front I see little difference between the two men).

I know this post has meandered a fair bit from the starting point, sorry about that, but generally this post is to agree with KNB's basic points and to underscore some of my own issues/concerns. One of the main things I have held against the Layton NDP since the days of Martin is that it deliberately chose to place trying to replace the Liberals as a greater priority than to protect the principles it always stood for that a Harper government directly threatened and threatened in a manner far greater than can be honestly argued ever came from the Liberals, even when the Liberals were dominated by their conservative wing. Layton and the NDP are very lucky Harper failed to get to a majority, because if he had the chances are that not only would he have emptied the coffers worse than he already has but also that powers needed to create new national social programs would have been devolved to the Provinces to prevent anything like medicare from ever being created again (given how the far right in this country sees medicare this should be obvious, especially for something like national day care as an example, or even say the Wheat Board given their repeated attempts to dismantle it to date).

As bad as the Liberals might be for advancing many NDP ideals, they are at least not fundamentally and totally hostile to them for the most part, and they can be moved in the direction the NDP wants at least some of the time. The same can not be said for the Harper CPC, indeed how much progress has the NDP made in advancing ANY of their agenda since Harper came to power as compared to when they had the Liberals to deal with and worse how many of their policies in place already have been rolled back (like womens rights, aboriginal issues, that sort of thing) under the Harper government? It is because of these points that I say the Layton NDP is placing power before principle, and has sold out those they claim to represent, and worse many within the NDP base either don't see it or see it as the price to pay to replace the Liberals, even though the two best chances in a row to do just that went by and they have yet to break their record for most seats within a Parliament (as I believe Broadbent still has that record, although if I am wrong it was broken by less than a handful, I am sure of that).

What is needed and what I have argued all along is to place traditional conflicts aside between the progressives, centrists, and socialists within this country and get rid of Harper first and foremost. Then, once he is gone, his policies undone and his way of playing politics discredited then go back to fighting each other, because whatever else the base of both the Liberals and the NDP care about Canada as a progressive nation and want it to continue to be one, there is disagreement on how far and fast this evolution should go between the two camps but at least they are in the same league whereas Harper's CPC wants to destroy all that both groups hold dear. Given the volume of the CPC base and the way they manage to get media attention the need to truly work together to defeat Harper by discrediting him at every turn the idea of playing destroy the competition between the NDP and Liberals is absolutely moronic and potentially suicidal politically speaking for progressives generally.

I have said that it is the Liberals that should be supported not only because of my issues with Layton but also because the polls (as in the cast votes in elections) have repeatedly shown there is not enough support to make even a NDP minority let alone a majority out there and will not be anytime soon, certainly not while Layton is still the leader. If it were going to happen it would have shown itself by now after the last two elections where the Liberals were as weakened and discredited as they could be. That it did not cannot be ignored/brushed aside no matter how many NDP partisans might like to, and the more they refuse to accept that dealing with Ignatief fairly and honestly is their best choice as opposed to standing apart and continuing the approach they have to date the more they will give Harper time and ability to further his anti-progressive, indeed anti-Canadian agenda.

Remember folks, I am a swing voter, in my quarter century or so of voting I have voted for every party except Reform/CA/CPC/BQ federally, it always depended on who was leading each party and the policies they advocated, the context of the national environment at the time, and how much I trusted (or distrusted least really) each to follow through at least in part on what they promised. I have been forced to the side of the Liberals the last few elections not because I see them as all that much better overall (especially now that Ignatief is the leader) but because despite everything I see them as the best chance to remove Harper and his anti-Canadian policies and restore some sanity and humane (not to mention competent) government to this country. I do so not just on my preferences but what I see the voters being willing to do. It has always been my primary priority to remove Harper, and I have always argued based from that perspective first.

BTW, before some Dipper comes at me about the coalition and Ignatief's sinking of it, I should remind folks that there was no guarantee that there would have been that choice from the GG instead of an election. That there could (and should) have been under our system given how soon after the last election should have been that offer made I have no disagreement about. However I wouldn't have thought she'd give Harper a proroguement to avoid a confidence vote he clearly would have lost, and I suspect that if there had been an election instead the CPC could have increased its seat count to a narrow majority thanks to voter fatigue by the less partisan minded (since of all the voting blocks Harper's is clearly the most motivated and likely to get out, especially if they think the evil lefties are trying to usurp his power, Harper's defeat was far from a sure thing) and further apathy in terms of turnout. Granted this is not a given, but even if he was held to another minority what would that have done except strengthen him yet again and weaken the opposition parties? I think some Dippers got so caught up in the thrill of the idea of being a part of a government that they blinded themselves to anything other than the coalition as the only way things could have gone, and when it failed to happen reacted as harshly as they did because of that disappointment as much as anything because some of the reaction I've seen from some Dippers has been way over the top even for partisans IMHO.

Well, in closing I just wish to underscore my agreement with KNB about the need to counter the loud voice of the far right in this country, they have a disproportionate voice to their actual size of the population. That we have a media that is clearly unwilling to hold the CPC government to the same standards of criticism and scrutiny prior governments were held to is also a problem needing to be focused on, although it is more because of economic reasons/positions than ideological I'd say, at least for most of the national media owners. I also think it is long past time the partisans of the NDP stop taking on the Liberals primarily because it helps Harper, and helping Harper should be the last thing we all want, and that while I dislike him myself Ignatief may have made the right decision in supporting the budget (at least in not bringing down the government at this time especially without any assurance the GG would actually consider a coalition replacement) even if I think he should have pushed for far more alterations to it before doing so (yes, I don't like the budget one little bit and am much less than pleased that Ignatief let it go through as he has and think he seriously failed Canadians on this one).

People are free to agree or disagree with me as they wish about all this, but it is what I think and see in all this, and I give fair warning now I will not be answering combative/hostile comments to this post. Indeed, my comment policy is that people are free to leave them about my work but that I feel no requirement/obligation to answer any comment unless I feel like it. I realize this offends some people's idea of how a comments section should work, but the bottom line is for me that I have only so much stamina and reserves to work with these days and I will decide who and what I respond to accordingly. I do believe in allowing my critics to have their say, I just don't feel I must automatically respond to them. I also would add that to date I have banned no one and censored no one ( the only comments I have deleted to date were ad spam) I reserve the right to do so if someone becomes too offensive, abusive, or goes beyond what I feel is legally defensible. My tolerances are fairly broad on these points, and so far no one has crossed these lines but there is always a first time for everything and if it happens I don't want people saying I never warned them.

One last thing, I am going to be away from my computer for the next several days, so I may not be able to respond to any comments left until Sunday at the earliest. It is possible I may be able to use the computer where I am going when it is not in use, but I know that will not be often during this absence. This post is mainly a stream of consciousness one, which is partly why it skips around as it does. It was also to vent a bit of stream on a couple of issues that have been annoying me. Take care and be well everyone.