Category Archives: Conservatism

And if there isn’t a democratic solution…?

On my bicycle commute today I stopped along a trail for a moment – okay, it was to step behind some trees to pee – and I’d been listening to the haunting Radiolab podcast Dark Side of the Earth. I had just heard David Wolf’s account of spacewalking outside the Mir spacecraft with fellow astronaut Anatoly Solovyev, a moment during which they floated in their suits and stared away from Earth into the depths of the universe, with Solovyev telling Wolf to just relax – “расслабься.”

I had to pause the podcast and take out my earbuds to remove my neckwarmer, and I was suddenly in this stirring spring moment, beside a river, with songbirds all around, the sky a crisp blue. It was one of those abruptly sublime moments that take you by surprise and leave you dumbstruck, floating in a moment unencumbered by thought.

After a minute or so, as usually happens, the experience became polluted by exterior concerns, among them: I should take a video of this, I’m late for work, I need to blog about this…but these thoughts were followed by the most disturbing of all – that all this, all the wonder of this world, right now, right this minute, is in peril. The beauty of the instant both bolstered and destroyed by the tenuousness of it.

I experienced a moment of recognition that the planet’s prospects are extremely dire if we do not aggressively pursue significant change.

It brought to me thoughts of the recent defeat of stricter gun law legislation in the United States senate, this landmark moment that illustrates how our society is actually governed, not with the intent of preserving and enhancing the things that are good for us – our safety, health, and environment – but rather to support the means and ends of one tiny group of unbelievably selfish entities – the multinational corporations, and the ultra-wealthy people who run them. Everything of human agency, everything political, is now catered almost exclusively to a few thousand wealthy psychopaths, whose only concern is to maintain and augment their wealth regardless of the cost to life, to the natural world, and to the welfare of the rest of us. Make no mistake: the NRA-influenced Senate buyoff is simply an overt representation of how democracies now function, that is, with politicians acting almost entirely for the interests of their financial backers – those that contribute significantly to their election campaigns.

This is state-sanctioned bribery at the highest level, and it can only be changed by those in power, i.e., incumbent politicians. The problem of course is that politicians who vote to fix the system risk defeat in the next election cycle when their backers find compliant candidates who will legislate their will. Newcomers who oppose the bribery system stand no chance of being elected without funding from players in the bribery system.

So if there’s no chance of a democratic solution, what’s left? I hate to say it, but logic dictates that if there is no democratic solution, we must either endure the system as it stands (at least until the consequences of the status quo come to bear, which they will – I’m thinking here of climate change), or bring about transformation through non-democratic means. It’s the reason I feel so compelled by this new feature film, The East – in concept it represents a radical course of action for a world that has lost its ability to create policies for anyone but the rich.

I guarantee this film will make more than a few corporate executives uncomfortable.

Let me be clear, I am not advocating for violent change. I abhor violence – in fact, violence, as seen in the empire-building efforts of the Bush II White House, is simply another tool of the wealthy to spread their influence. But I do believe it is the course that will be taken by individuals and groups if the political situation does not soon change. People are becoming desperate – from poverty, injustice, climate change – and these are only going to get worse. Desperate people are dangerous. The wealthy are desperate themselves, desperate to maintain control, desperate to increase their obscene wealth. This is their psychosis.

The alternative is that the natural world will bite back. We cannot destroy the world. But we can damage it enough that it will ruin civilization. This is the path we’re on. I have children, I wish I was wrong. I can find little evidence that I am not.

Think of it this way: wouldn’t you love to watch a nature program or IMAX film about some startling species or gorgeous ecosystem without the inevitable warning from the narrator about the multiple threats to its existence? But you always see it coming, despite the grace of the whales or the vitality of the African savannah – the big “but” in the program, when we are told of dwindling numbers or the encroachment of oil companies.

I want to experience the world not as something threatened, and probably doomed, but as a place both beautiful and perpetual. A lot of political change has to happen before we get there. And if that change doesn’t come democratically, it will come violently. With violence from the planet. And violence from the people, either independently, or in association with disruptions of climate.

In other words – either we end the influence of wealth on our political system so we can pursue what’s right for the people and the planet, or we suffer violent consequences. I’d rather do it on our own terms, before it’s too late. Is there a way?


Guns: Two Memes Sum it Up Perfectly

“One failed attempt at a shoe bomb and we all take off our shoes at the airport. Thirty-one school shootings since Columbine and no change in our regulation of guns.”

~John Oliver

I don’t think there’s a better example of how policy is shaped by lobbying, rather than rational thought.

And on that topic, those who claim that gun regulations have no correlation with gun violence have some explaining to do about the character of the American people. If it’s not your lax gun laws that account for the disproportionate number of gun deaths in the United States, what is it? Your propensity toward violence, or the rampant inequality in your society? I do not ask this as a rhetorical question: why then so many gun deaths? You’ll have a hard time coming up with an answer you’re proud of, patriots.


Tagged ,

The Austerity Myth

Harper's cover Oct 2012

“The problem is that although austerity may work for individuals, it seldom works for economies. To the contrary, frequently it makes matters worse. If all individuals tighten their belts, demand for goods and services will fall, workers will be fired, and demand will fall even more. Business won’t invest without growing sales: this was Keynes’s message in a nutshell. He argued that government had to supply the spending for goods and services that would restore incentives to invest, while simultaneously lowering interest rates. Rather than adjusting down, unemployment could stay high indefinitely.”
~Jeff Madrick, “The Austerity Myth,” Harper’s Magazine: October 2012

Note that it’s rich people telling everyone else they need to tighten their belts. Let the rich tighten their own goddamn belts.

Tagged ,

Cons Say: “Liberals Are Selfish”

You may be poor, but not as poor as the uncalibrated picture on the left.

This morning I listened to This American Life’s episode #478: Red State Blue State about rifts in families and friendships caused by clashing politics. On it, we heard from a Republican woman who cannot fathom her friend’s Democratic views because, to paraphrase, “she’s not selfish, but liberals are selfish.”

This is standard rightwing fodder, the idea that liberals want “free handouts,” etc. I recall when I used to dog conservatives on forums for right-leaning news sites (where the cons were relentless at responding – I always had to get back to my job, don’t they have jobs?), and whenever I supported some liberal policy I’d invariably be accused of being a welfare recipient (which I’ve never been, btw). The idea here is clear: that I had to be defending liberal policies because I was benefiting from them, i.e., only someone on welfare would support welfare.

And I had an epiphany. Conservatives cannot conceive of the idea that someone would support policies that aren’t of direct benefit to themselves, because conservatives only support policies that are of direct benefit to themselves. The idea that I want systems in place to help the poor because I care about the poor can’t even enter their consciousness. It causes a short circuit in their thinking, because they themselves are incapable of thinking in this way. Help other people? How exactly does that work?

The TAL episode fascinated me because a conservative relative of mine and I have clashed in email (he usually sends me some spurious anecdote “all in fun,” which I subsequently attack with logic “all in fun,” and then his wife emails and tells me to stop upsetting him), and ultimately his arguments can be boiled down to how he doesn’t want his taxes to support liberal schemes. In other words, he wants to keep more cash for himself, to spend on things like a $400 specialized calibration of his plasma TV (true story).

So answer me this question, ye conservatives: what is more selfish, to agree to spread one’s own wealth to improve the lives of all people and society in general, or to keep one’s money to get a prettier TV picture?

Tagged , , , , ,

9-11 Revenge

According to the Costs of War project, which continues to assess the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts in the wake of the 9-11 attacks, the death toll attributable to direct violence from these wars currently stands at 300,000. The death toll from the 9-11 attacks was approximately 3000. This would put the “revenge ratio” at 100-to-1.

While the Nazis were known to protect their soldiers in occupied areas by enforcing a policy of disproportionate revenge killing of civilians, the Kragujevac massacre of 1941 is notable as an example because it was enacted with a 100-to-1 revenge ratio. This ratio was considered by the Nazis who organized it as “particularly harsh.”

While I abhor what happened on 9-11, I cannot believe that any victim of this atrocity would rest in peace knowing that for her or his own death, 100 people – that vast majority of them entirely innocent, and many of them children – would be violently murdered in a multi-year campaign of revenge.

Tagged , ,

Norman Educates Clint

Norman Educates Clint

A picture on display at the Canadian Film Centre gets some treatment from…er…an anonymous employee. Norman Jewison coaches Clint Eastwood on the purpose of furniture. Clint is happy he got it all figured out.

Tagged , ,

Stephen Harper refuses to blow

In many jurisdictions, refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test invokes the same charges as those imposed for those who do submit and are found to have exceeded the legal blood alcohol limit. Logically, refusal implies guilt.

Similarly, Stephen Harper and his Conservatives’ failure to vigorously and openly cooperate with the Robocall scandal investigation can only be viewed as an admission of guilt. Democracy is not a partisan issue. Governments – frequently conservative governments – vehemently expound on the sanctity of democracy when rallying for wars against dictatorships, but frequently attempt to undermine democracy in their own nations, as we are currently seeing in many southern United States such as Florida.

Stephen Harper – you can either embrace this opportunity to exonerate you and your party, or you can admit guilt.

Attention fat conservatives: buffets are socialism

a buffetNo, I don’t mean Warren Buffett, I’m talking about those all-you-can-eat affairs at restaurants. You contribute your money to a pool, and that pool allows the establishment to offer a tremendous quantity and variety of food. You may not be eating the spinach or bean salad, but some of your money is funding those foods for others, and in the meantime you get to load your plate with sausages, cheese steaks, and french…er…”freedom” fries. If you really are against the concept of socialism, you will stop using buffets! Oh, also, make sure you never use services from the police department, fire department, postal service, and ensure that you never fall under the protection of the armed forces. Socialism sucks!

Tagged , ,

And these fools want to govern?

PC Flyer

Wood u voat 4 PCs?

In my mailbox today I found this flyer from the Ontario PC party. At the upper right is a quote, attributed to The Trentonian, May 13, 2011: “[Tim Hudak] said a PC government will give families, seniors and small business owners relief on hydro bills and by pulling the plug on mandatory smart meters.” Yes, read it again. And again. Clearly there’s a rogue “and” in there. Fine, The Trentonian needs to hire a proofreader…there are a lot of words in a newspaper. But for the PC party to quote this, verbatim, on a flyer with about 75 words on it, is appalling. These losers want to manage our energy systems, our hospitals, our education system? If you can’t handle the language on a fucking flyer, how are you going to manage a province of thirteen million people?

Oh, but it’s just one little error, Bri. Don’t be so hard on these folks. Okay, wait, there’s more. Sure, they’re quibbles, but look how it ads up. This is one fucking piece of paper, and these dweebs can’t get it right:

  • I looked up the article in The Trentonian. It’s from May 12th, not May 13th. Details, details.
  • One of the bullet points reads: Remove the ‘Debt Retirement Charge”. That’s right; Tim is saving money by making the first quotation mark a single, while showing his extravagance by closing with a double. (An interesting editorial conundrum: how to present that quote in text? Enclosed in single quotes, I would’ve used doubles; if it ran with doubles, I’d use singles. But one of each? Agh!)
  • And how about that zinger in the upper left: “Unplug smart meters, [Tim] Hudak says.” It’s a quote from the Toronto Sun, nothing more than a paraphrase of what Hudak said. There’s no value judgment here, no endorsement by the paper, nothing at all remarkable about it. Just a thing Tim said, and the Sun mentioned. Thanks for showing up, Tim, here’s your prize!

Putting aside an unreasonable expectation that my government be smart enough to write a sentence, all these promises to reduce the cost of electricity are perilous. If you look at this page from the Ministry of Energy, some of the debt that charge is paying accumulated because the Harris PC government kept electricity rates artificially low.  Maybe it’s just me, but if something like electricity is expensive to produce, it should be expensive to consume…it’s the only way to get people to conserve. And isn’t that what Conservatives should be advocating?

Crybaby conservatives: facts need a “counterweight”

Paging through Toronto Life’s May 2011 edition I came across an interview with this guy named Ezra Levant. It’s a name I felt like I’d seen somewhere before, but I’m not a media junkie due to time constraints, so I knew nothing about him. I was fascinated though, and not in a good way. He complains that the CBC doesn’t include enough conservative “pundits” on their programs. He also said something about advocating for “freedom” and “freedom of speech.” And it occurred to me that this is the conservative attitude: that no matter how ridiculous and unbacked by facts their ideas may be, they should have the right to express themselves as much as those who discuss things that are actually true.

In other words, I have an opinion based on science, e.g., climate change is actually happening. But some rightwing nutbar comes along and says he believes it’s not happening – that’s all it’s got to be, some deepseated belief this guy feels somewhere behind his sternum – and it’s a denial of his right to freedom of speech not to give him equal billing to declaim his viewpoint.

I assume this attitude stems from religion, where your belief in something that doesn’t exist is unquestionable, and to be considered as valid as things that are empirically provable. Levant says, “There is no counterweight in the official consensus media narrative. I think there are plenty of people who are just desperate for the other side of the story…” The thing is, this “counterweight,” the “other side of the story,” is nothing but emotional fiction. People want their unsubstantiated feelings to be legitimized by some talking head on TV. Enter Levant.

He’s given about 300 words in total, and he can’t even manage these without contradicting himself. In describing Sun News’s format, he says they “won’t have the typical set-up, with one Liberal, one Tory and one New Democrat.” But the whole purpose of his rant is to say that CBC doesn’t include the Tory. And yet here he says it’s the “typical set-up.” I guess this guy feels like he’s being consistent…and that should be good enough for any conservative.