Girls, Guergis, Guns & Armageddon


Marci McDonald’s 2006 article in The Walrus, Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons, gave us the first systematic analysis of the hidden Christian fundamentalist agenda of Stephen Harper’s goals for Canada – the establishment of the conditions necessary for the Second Coming of you-know-who.  Who knows if Harper is such a fantastical fool that he really believes in all that anti-evolutionary, anti-woman, anti-gay, pro-Israel STFUness.  What matters is that a bunch of nutbars has such power in the corridors of Canadian political power.

Harper has cemented a partnership with people who have become astonishingly powerful in the US and whose religious ideology nicely parallels social conservatism.  Harper is known to be a fiscal conservative, but has needed the support of old-style Progressive Conservatives who haven’t necessarily had the ability to attract the support of the far right wing – if they had, they wouldn’t have lost their Party.  Each time Harper throws an anti-gay, anti-choice, pro-Israel, law and order dog biscuit to this crowd he wins votes that would not necessarily fall into his lap via fiscal conservatism alone.

Is all this becoming more clear to Canadians?

Antonia Zerbisias’ interview with McDonald, now the author of a book on these issues – The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada  – provides us with a startling (to some people) collection of issues that have come to the fore of late that certainly substantiate the writer’s painstaking research, from the cancellation of Paul Martin’s national daycare programme to the introduction of  private members’ bills that would limit women’s free reproductive choice to Harper and company’s otherwise inexplicably over-the-top support of Israeli policy towards Palestine and general opposition to same-sex marriage.

That’s a cartload of issues and each one deserves it’s own discussion.  I’m going to have a brief look at how acceptance of the Fundy Formula effects women or, for the sake of the almost alliteration – teh girls – and how “liberals” have failed to appreciate the significance of CON policy and legislation.

From the outset women and women’s advocacy groups have had no difficulty apprehending HarperCON’s anti-woman agenda.  As McDonald points out, he began with the cancellation of a national daycare programme, moved on to a systematic assault on women’s equality-seeking groups and from there to defunding NGOs with specific focusses on providing reproductive services to women in developing countries and anti-violence initiatives.  He has also engaged in a vicious public assault on his former Minister for the Status of Women, Helena Guergis, whose portfolio had been all but disabled anyway.

These issues share many common characteristics and some that are not so obvious.  For instance, though most of us here understand quite well that the lack of a national daycare programme hurts not only the children of Canada but also women who are still their primary caretakers, we were probably less aware that, as McDonald points out, Harper “was also pandering to social conservatives who don’t believe that the government should have any role in child-rearing, who believe that mothers should be at home bringing up their children or who send their children to religious daycares and schools.”

Speaking for myself, I got the “women at home” aspect but missed the part about the children of working mothers placed in religious daycares and schools and the concomitant threat to public education.  As McDonald concludes:

 It was one of those policies that cut across both of his constituencies, economic and social. That would characterize most of his policies.

But McDonald misses something – that the struggle for a national daycare programme is something that not even Liberals will take to the wall – making it much too easy for Harper to hand out gifts to his social conservative base.  Maybe libs and lefties will take daycare if they can get it but it’s certainly nothing to bring down a minority government over.  Few issues that are perceived to be or actually are those that effect primarily teh girls are that important.  Or none.  In fact, when these issues are raised what I hear most often from the libs and even the left, such as it is, is that these issues are “distractions”, diversions from primary purposes, that they might be worth a few jabs in question period and an opportunistic media punchline here or there, but they are really window-dressing issues, dog bones thrown out or removed with little political, social or economic meaning beyond the moment.

For instance.  When the cabal reconvened after prorogation, Harper threw one of his bright shiny things into the Throne Speech, promising to make our national anthem “gender neutral”.  Quite apart from the discussions about what that would take and the general hue and cry about history and national treasures, what interested me was the response from the centre and the left along the lines that language doesn’t matter, sons are “generic” and Harper is just trying to trick you stupid broads into accepting this bright shiny thing as if it’s something real.  Down the toilet went the respectable and now historical feminist argument that yes, language does matter and under the bus, ground into the ruts, went teh girls.  Of course Harper had no trouble dumping the proposal and looked like he was responding to the outrage from social conservatives and liberals all in one fell swoop.  How nice for him.

I’m beginning to see a similar modus in operation with respect to Helena Guergis.  She’s a young, childless woman married to a brown man in political difficulty (even though he’s no longer in office) who “managed” a portfolio that men, conservative and otherwise, don’t care much about.  She wasn’t and isn’t worth much to anybody it seems.  Any attempt to point out the rampant sexism of the attack on Guergis result in shouts from the left that Guergis is a loose cannon, mythically and powerfully destructive and possibly a blondly stupid disaster with whom we should not concern ourselves one teensy bit.  STFU girls.

I was never a Guergis supporter.  But did she ever have any supporters?  And is there a liberal or left dude that gives an elderberry fart about what happens to women in politics?

It’s also been clear in the past that the abolition of Canada’s long-gun registry is an issue used as a political football by left, right and centre in attempts to prevent the alienation of “rural voters”, all of whom are assumed to be men.  Both Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton failed to whip their parties before the vote on the abolition bill in the last session of Parliament, resulting in an easy “yea” result for the legislation.  It remains mighty unclear that anything has changed this time ’round, despite Ignatieff’s attempts to revise the legislation.  Will Jack Layton whip?  Who the hell knows.  So it’s not only girls under the bus on this one, it’s dead girls under the bus.

As for the progressive defunding of women’s equality-seeking groups and NGOs, Ignatieff is perfectly content to use this issue as a political chip – but where the f**k has he been for the last four years while it was happening?  Where was he in December 2009 and early 2010 when a Liberal/NDP coalition would have brought down this anti-democratic, anti-woman, homophobic, pro-Israel and the Rapture government and, for instance, its attempted assault on pay equity?  As for the Libs failed attempt to underscore the reproductive rights of women with their Parliamentary motion?  I actually will stfu on that one.

Women have allowed themselves to be used thus for too long, hoping to get bigger prizes in the end.  Or perhaps any prize at all.  I’m beginning to hear heartening rumbles from girlfriend-land that none of these hopeless pols ought to rest comfortably in the beds their wives and girlfriends have made for so long, and so patiently.

The Theocons so well described by Marci McDonald are the focus of renewed realizations, discussions and organizing among awakening and already fully conscious women – and a few pro-feminist men.  Take care liberal and left doodz.  Move out of the crosshairs of that metaphorical but very well-aimed long-gun.



HarperCON whines

“Last night’s dominant CBC story … featured an attack on the religious affiliation of some government members and supporters,” the Tory missive says. “Apparently, the CBC thinks it newsworthy that some Conservative Ministers and MPs practice their faith. Even more scandalous, some members of the Prime Minister’s Office go to church!”

Pale is peeved.

And on the Helena Guergis story, there’s this from the PI who started it all:

“I have nothing — I have no evidence, or no information, with respect to the conduct of Ms. Guergis in my possession or knowledge,” he stated.

Instead, he said the mere threat of bad optics, coming after a string of embarrassing gaffes by Guergis, may have been enough to force Harper’s hand.

“This is an issue of optics,” Snowdy said.

“Suicide Psalms”

Part of an interview with Tracy Hamon and Mari-Lou Rowley, author of Suicide Psalms:

I imagine Suicide Psalms was a difficult book to write, given the nature of the poems. The subject of suicide and its consequences are topics we tend to shy away from, or whisper about in quiet voices. I found that the poems challenge society’s perception of suicide through their written and audible prayer. How did you find yourself writing about suicide? Was it a healing process?

The book came very quickly, but the emotional aftermath lingered—is still lingering. At first I was concerned about “putting it out there,” partly because of the content, and also because it is so different from my previous book, Viral Suite. I was compelled to write the book because my father committed suicide when I was two months old, yet it was never talked about, and I didn’t even know how he died until my late 20s. The book is, in part, an empathetic homage to suicidal friends and strangers—those who succeeded and those who didn’t.
The reason I decided to submit and publish Suicide Psalms is that I believe suicide is the last taboo—the only topic we don’t openly discuss. Support groups aside, you won’t find a TV series on the subject, although we have shows about serial killers, sex addicts, gay morticians, mafia analysands, etc. Yet, in western society it has become an epidemic, particularly among the young and in Aboriginal communities. In Japan, the spectre of suicide clubs is particularly haunting. Young people link up online and then go out and collectively off themselves; and this happens with such frequency that it no longer makes the news. It is also a primarily a first world phenomenon. People in third world counties starve to death before they kill themselves.
And this rash of suicides is not motivated out of any kind of romantic notions of death, in the way that Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther had young men all over Europe wearing yellow waistcoats and killing themselves—ostensibly out of unrequited love. Today’s suicides are motivated by an utter despair and hopelessness with life per se. Existential, psychological, environmental angst. Mixed with some chemical imbalances, yes. But we have to ask, why are so many people on SSRIs? What’s wrong with this picture?
I believe our disconnectedness with nature and our environment is fuelling the disconnection with self and disaffection with others. And I believe the environmental crisis is a form of collective suicide. I hope that these poems help to pay homage to those who have suicided, and help those who have survived to talk about it.
So to the second part of your question: how I came to write the book? In the winter of 2006, while attending the Writers/Artists colony at St. Peters Abby in Muenster, Saskatchewan, I had an incredible and haunting experience. I was staying in a hermitage on the outskirts of the Abby grounds, which was rather daunting as the weather was in the minus twenties, and there was no running water in the cabin, so I had to haul it by sled. The trek back to the Abby for meals and showers was fifteen minutes on snowshoes each way. One night, just as I was drifting off to sleep, a coyote began to howl right outside the thin walls of the cabin. When it finally stopped, the silence was so complete and eerie that it took ages before I managed to fall asleep. And then I had the most horrific dream, which became the poem “God’s Dog Boy.”
A year later, Suicide Psalms began to emerge—a howl that had been building since my father’s suicide. The poems literally insinuated themselves—the first when I was in the middle of writing an article on binary pulsars. The rest of the book came with such speed and ferocity that the writing process was actually euphoric. So yes, writing Suicide Psalms was cathartic, exhilarating, and terrifying. And it took me to a new level of emotional resonance in my work that will be difficult to get back to, I think. Writing the cerebral, sensual, science-based work of Viral Suite felt much safer.

More here at Manageable Imaginations

Happiness in the USA

Deborah Solomon interviews Charles Simic at NYT Magazine:

Have you noticed all these new nonfiction books on “happiness”? It’s an industry. It’s really frightening. People need to read a book on how to be happy? It’s completely an American thing. Can you imagine people in Naples sitting on a bus or in a trattoria reading a book about happiness?

Yes.  The rest is here

Blue Covenant

Maude Barlow, interviewed at The Tyee by Rob Annandale:

If you are ever going to share water from a water-wealthy area of one part of the world to another or even within an area — and you might find one day that Alberta’s going to need help, for instance — it has to be done by the people deciding through their government on a not-for-profit basis. So it’s a really important argument for public control of water, this notion of “should you share from place to place.” Because if it were allowed to be corporately controlled the way energy is controlled, water from Canada would go to Las Vegas. It would go to the golf courses and the automobile and computer industries in the U.S. It would not go to the kids in Latin America and Africa who are dying right now from lack of water. So it would have to be decided on a humanitarian basis and it would have to be decided on a not-for-profit basis.

That’s number one. Number two, we all collectively have to be sure that we can ecologically afford to move massive amounts of water. I believe that mostly, nature put water where it belongs and when we start to play around with this, we are playing God to some very serious extent.   [more]

Barlow’s latest book is Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Global Battle for the Right to Water

Laura Riding

The Poet’s Corner

Here where the end of bone is no end of song
And the earth is bedecked with immortality
In what was poetry
And now is pride beside
And nationality,
Here is a battle with no bravery
But if the coward’s tongue has gone
Swording his own lusty lung.
Listen if there is victory
Written into a library
Waving the books in banners
Soldierly at last, for the lines
Go marching on, delivered of the soul.

And happily may they rest beyond
Suspicion now, the incomprehensibles
Traitorous in such talking
As chattered over their countries’ boundaries.
The graves are gardened and the whispering
Stops at the hedges, there is singing
Of it in the ranks, there is a hush
Where the ground has limits
And the rest is loveliness.

And loveliness?
Death has an understanding of it
Loyal to many flags
And is a silent ally of any country
Beset in its mortal heart
With immortal poetry.

Laura Riding

Biography of Laura (Riding) Jackson

Anarchism Is Not Enough, a collection of poetry by Laura Riding

Poet Lisa Samuels wrote the introduction for Anarchism Is Not Enough; she is interviewed, in three parts, at Waggish, here, here and here

Comment on a Comment

Airline pilot Patrick Smith on Malcolm Gladwell, interviewed at CNN:

CNN interviewer: Another fascinating finding is that you are more likely to be in a plane crash if the pilot comes from a particular country. What’s that all about?

Gladwell: Yes. That’s a fascinating thing. The single most important variable in determining whether a plane crashes is not the plane, it’s not the maintenance, it’s not the weather, it’s the culture the pilot comes from.

That is a reckless and untrue statement. There is nothing, statistically or empirically, to justify such a conclusion. Looking over the accidents from the past several years, I see crashes involving airplanes from Nigeria, Cyprus, Kenya, France, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand. Looking further into their various causes, I do see a pattern of pilot error, usually in response to technical failure or some other unusual situation, but the majority of fatal mistakes were strictly technical/operational.

A factor in a limited number of accidents? I can accept that. But “the single most important variable in determining whether a plane crashes”? That is totally absurd, and I am extremely disappointed that somebody as influential as Malcolm Gladwell said it. In addition to being incorrect, it encourages the widely held notion that non-Western airlines are by their nature less safe than those of North America and Europe — a mythology I’ve addressed many times in this column.

What all of this underscores is the difficulty of finding wholly reliable information when it comes to commercial air travel. Aviation is a strange and mysterious realm, steeped in secrecy and veiled by an almost impenetrable vernacular. It begs to be sensationalized. Any journalist who comes near it has a hard time coming away with information that is, for the lay reader, at once digestible, useful and accurate. Gladwell gets a lot of it right, but still I expect better from one of our most talented and meticulous reporters.

Read the whole thing here

Bush Reflects?

From Joan Walsh at Salon:

I haven’t written about President Bush for quite a while. I prefer to look toward the future. But his delusional exit interview with ABC’s Charles Gibson made me pay attention again.

When Gibson asked Bush what he was “unprepared for” when he became president, Bush gave this rather stunning answer.

“Well, I think I was unprepared for war. I didn’t campaign and say, ‘Please vote for me, I’ll be able to handle an attack.'”

What an odd, self-pitying outbreak of candor for this strange president …

Read the rest here

Well, it’s just never a good idea to go to war when you’re not prepared …

Seize the Day, Canada

From an interview with Naomi Klein at rabble:

Kim Elliott: As you outline so well in your book and in various interviews in the U.S. media, the current financial crisis holds the possibility of being one of those moments when the shock doctrine can best be applied. Can you comment on both the Harper government’s economic and fiscal statement introduced last week, and on the Opposition’s response to that – that is, the formation of a coalition – in the context of the shock doctrine?

Naomi Klein: Yes, absolutely. What I think we are seeing is a clear example of the shock doctrine in the way the Harper government has used the economic crisis to push through a much more radical agenda than they won a mandate to do.

At the same time we are seeing an example of what I call in the book a “shock resistance,” where this tactic has been so overused around the world and also in Canada that we are becoming more resistant to the tactic – we are on to them – and Harper is not getting away with it.

What I think is really amazing about this moment is whatever happens next – whether we end up with this coalition or not, we will have an extremely chastened Harper. So the attempted shock doctrine has failed. I think we can say that decisively.

Just to be clear, what I mean by the shock doctrine, as you know, is the use of crisis to push through unpopular pro-corporate policies. This bundling of a whole package of policies: denying the right of public sector workers to strike, the attack on public financing of political parties, with the economic program – that is what failed, and people were offended by the opportunism of it.

This is what so many of us were worried about during the election – the context of a Tory victory in an economic crisis, because we know that there is this pattern of using an economic crisis to push through policies that were nowhere during the campaign.

Read the rest of the interview here

Watch the new rabble/coalition page

See the Newbie’s guide to prorogation at The Tyee‘s new political blog, The Hook and the article by Michael Byers, “The Case for the Coaltion” at The Tyee

“Hope Dies Last”

From a 2006 interview of Studs Terkel by Michael Shapiro at The Sun:

You’ve got neocons and neoliberals: I’m a neo-Neanderthal. But my ingratitude to technology is the real irony, because were it not for technology, I wouldn’t be here talking to you right now. Eight weeks ago, at the age of ninety-three, I was in the hospital with a broken neck. While I’m there, my personal doctor and my cardiologist say, “Your whole valve is shot, and you’ve got about three months to live.” I’m ninety-three, so I say, “What the hell. Ninety-three. Let the damned thing ride.” But they say the odds are a little better than they were nine years ago, when I had a quintuple bypass. So I say, “OK, I’ll do it,” because I’m curious. My ego wants to know: what’s the world going to be like? It may be in terrible shape, but I want to be around . . . sort of.

So my ego got the best of me. And the next thing I know I wake up, and they’re pulling me out on a gurney, and the surgeon says, “It’s all over.” I say, “You mean I’m dead?” He says, “No, no, you’ve got about four more years.” Four more years. I’m ninety-three — I don’t need four more years! It sounds so Nixonian: four more years.

Read the whole interview here

The Best of Bill Ayers

According to James Fallows, Bill Ayers’ interview with Terry Gross for NPR’s Fresh Air is the best of them all.  Here’s why:

Fallows says Gross’ interview with Ayers exemplifies how good she is at her job—and how bad so many other professional interviewers are at theirs. Here’s why he thinks Gross is so great:

…[W]hat she shows brilliantly in this interview, is: she listens, and she thinks. In my experience, 99% of the difference between a good interviewer (or a good panel moderator) and a bad one lies in what that person is doing while the interviewee talks. If the interviewer is mainly using that time to move down to the next item on the question list, the result will be terrible. But if the interviewer is listening, then he or she is in position to pick up leads (“Now, that’s an intriguing idea, tell us more about…”), to look for interesting tensions (“You used to say X, but now it sounds like…”), to sum up and give shape to what the subject has said (“It sounds as if you’re suggesting…”). And, having paid the interviewee the respect of actually listening to the comments, the interviewer is also positioned to ask truly tough questions without having to bluster or insult.

If you have this standard in mindis the interviewer really listening? and thinking?you will be shocked to see how rarely broadcast and on-stage figures do very much of either. But listen to this session by Gross to see how the thing should be done.

Audio of the interview is here

via Utne Reader