Friday, June 22, 2012

The psychology of denial

           When vested interests begin to lose control, they panic and deny, then search for scapegoats. Does this article, do you think, give an accurate description of the political situation across North America today? Some interesting perspectives from a psychologist..

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fumento: A voice of reason from the Right

          Michael Fumento is a self-avowed man of the right. Given his beliefs on global warming - he believes it exists but spending money to deal with it is hopeless and prohibitively expensive - I would even consider him a reactionary. When people like that begin to get cold feet over the way the Right is heading it is undoubtedly time to start worrying (unless you have already given up trying to reason with them..)

            Fumento words are interesting because he is not an armchair theoretician. He served in the US military, was wounded in action several times and worked for right wing think tanks and other neoconservative organizations. He is one of a small, but growing number, of Right wing turncoats who are scared by what they see emerging on the Right end of the political spectrum. The words of these people carry a lot of weight with me: a Lefty might, after all, be expected to engage in pro forma Right bashing but not a dyed in the wool conservative.

             Mr. Fumento is afraid of a new Right which, in his words, has "co-opted the name “conservative” to scream their messages of hate and anger". Democrats are accused of being members of the Communist Party (?? do Communist Parties still exist??). Mitt Romney lets pass without comment tirades from the public demanding President Obama's indictment for treason. Whatever happened to the notion of the "loyal opposition", of respect for one's opponent's good faith and the parliamentary tradition of transparent, open debates on IDEAS?

              As the following video of tea party theoretician, Andrew Breitbart, demonstrates Fumento does have reason to worry. Our democracies in the West are dying; such rhetoric is the symptom of the internal cancer as Fumento justly oberves. Breitbart is seen here engaged in hatefilled provocation of peaceful Occupy demonstrators in Washington, DC: “You're freaks and animals! Stop raping people! Stop raping people! You freaks! You filthy freaks! You filthy, filthy, filthy raping, murdering freaks!”

              While I may disagree with many of Fumento's opinions and analyses of fact, I can't do better than cite his wise words:

"As a conservative, I disagree with the political opinions of liberals. But to me, a verbal assault indicates insecurity and weakness on the part of the assaulter... - the name-calling, the screaming, the horrible accusations - all are intended to stifle debate, the very lifeblood of a democracy."

               Amen! Mr Fumento - Amen! Our democracy in North America is in deep trouble indeed.

               As indicated earlier, there is something of a nano-trend going on. Fumento is not the only "traitor" to the "extreme right" (Fumento's term). Before him, there was the curious case of David Brock, Right wing hatchet man / spin-meister turned media watchdog, catching out the "extreme Right" in its dirty tricks campaign against political opponents.

                As both Fumento and Brock argue, the objectives of the "New" or "extreme" Right are not transparency, truth or morality in government but power. It is the machiavelean drive for power: the end justifies the means. If lies, character assassination and - ultimately - self-deception are needed to obtain power or negate threatening change, so be it. I personally suspect that the rise of what has been called the Authoritarian Personality is symptom / cause of a deep seated pathology in Western Industrial societies. We cannot adapt - not easily - to the breakdown of our dominant paradigm of Infinite Growth (for example: Peak Oil and other non-renewable resource depletion). Becaue we can't - or refuse - to confront our real problems head on, we retreat into a fantasy world where Magical Thinking still works: God has made a pact with man as recorded in the book of Genesis. In return for man's obedience, God will give man "dominion over the earth".

                 This is ultimately a suicidal path. Not only do our real problems not go away (they fester and worsen) but the unresolved inner fear promotes mad acts. Scapegoats are sought in an attempt to reduce internal stress by finding a sacrificial victim whose death or humiliation provides some temporary relief from our fear and guilt. Thus, in Russia when crops failed, pogroms were organized. The "sacrificed" Jews diverted the misery of the peasants onto "expendable" targets, sparing the elites (landed gentry, clergy). As said earlier, we are on a dangerous path. Witness the hunt for "terrorists" and "islamofascists".

                  As an example of what populist politics looks like in a Canadian context, we can do no better than to draw the reader's attention to the Robocalls Scandal during the last federal election. Typically, voters with preferences towards parties other than the Conservatives were called on election day and given misleading information. The caller might identify themself as an employee of Elections Canada. The voter would then be told that their poll had been moved. They would waste their time going to the wrong address, perhaps losing their vote in the process. We are on a dangerous path..


Friday, June 15, 2012

Asbestos: toxic legacy and present hypocrisy

            The Harper government shows a lack of transparency in its dealing with international partners (with our "allies" and "friends"). On the one hand, they continue to justify the export of asbestos and asbestos derived products to third world countries like India. On the other, we pay money to REMOVE asbestos and asbestos derived products from our schools, hospitals and other intstitutions where, in the past, they were employed as insulation. Is this not the height of hypocrisy - hence of a notable lack of transparency? The almighty dollar speaks louder than basic morality, fairness and decency for this government it seems. 

French language articles appearing in the press, relating to asbestos removal and health risks employees face working in old buildings with asbestos insulation:

Internal blog link (see commentaries also):

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Populism 101: the Basics

           From an imaginary (?) manual of populist political tactics, "Populism 101":

1- The Best Defense is a good Offense

           Smearing is high political art. It requires knowing your enemy and your public. To be really effective you need to develop a good sense of timing. You have to know who to smear, how to smear and when to smear. Otherwise you waste your effort and run the risk of smearing yourself ("blowback")...

           I don't know if a handbook bearing the title "Populism 101" really exists but the attack dog psychology of the Harper government sometimes make me think so.

           Recently, for example, the United Nations' right to food envoy visited Canada and delivered a rather scorching account of the state of the nation: a spreading gap between rich and poor, more people falling through the cracks of a failing social security net, poor children at risk of malnutrition in a (supposedly) "rich" country, disparities in nutrition between Canadians of European origin and aboriginal Canadians..

            Rather than face up to these consequences of the neoconservative value system that has grown up in this country over the past three decades, the Harper government decided to go on attack mode. Populism 101! When one's actions or ethics are called into question, counterattack! Smear! Divert attention from facts (or accusations) and belittle the bearer of bad tidings (the ancient Romans permitted a householder to kill the slave that was sent with bad news to his door).

               Envoy De Schutter's surprising - and shameful - findings were left unaddressed:

""Canada has long been seen as a land of plenty. Yet today one in 10 families with a child under six is unable to meet their daily food needs," (one in 10: ten percent! Brain development and thus success in later life is highly dependent upon nutrition in young ages.)

                Instead of addressing Mr De Schutter's findings, the Harper government subjected him to ad hominen attacks on his character, competence and motivation.  "Pit bull" Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq dismissed De Schutter as an "ill-informed" and "patronizing" academic who is "studying us from afar. You can't do better than that: populists are at their best when they play the anti-intellectual card - that's a perennial winner!

                   But not to be outdone, "Immigration Minister Jason Kenney lashed out at De Schutter, suggesting the envoy wasted both his time and the UN's resources by spending 11 days here. 'It would be our hope that the contributions we make to the United Nations are used to help starving people in developing countries, not to give lectures to wealthy and developed countries like Canada and I think this is a discredit to the United Nations,' Kenney said, noting that Canada sends billions of dollars in food aid to the developing world each year."

                Mr Kenney deftly deflected criticism here - another favorite populist tactic: the questions raised by Mr De Schutter had nothing to do with the billions of Canadian "aid" to the "developing" world but with the conditions of the poor in Canada itself. LOL!

                   Perhaps the true feelings of the Harperites toward the United Nations is reflected in the fact that during Mr De Schutters 11 day stay here, no cabinet ministers met with him! Indeed..

                Not too many stones were left unturned: health minister "Pit bull" Aglukkaq did not stoop from scapegoating. In her eyes, food security issues in the North resulted from protracted struggles with "environmentalists" trying to destroy traditional ways of life. (Now you begin to grasp why I think such a manual as "Populism 101" MIGHT exist..)

                The fact remains that 2 million Canadians - out of 34 million - are considered "food insecure". That's about 1 out 17 or about six percent of the population. 


transparency, democracy and the environment

          Do you care? Here's a first step:

Internal blog link, June 5, 2012:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Swedish in Milwaukee: My Life as a Writer: In times like these, why write?

 Interesting thesis: art as a reflective tool, a means of distancing ourselves from the world's programmed / manipulative chaos. Find the clear space within from which to see anew..

Swedish in Milwaukee: My Life as a Writer: In times like these, why write?: I am driven to write. The more I do it, the more driven I am. It starts crowding out all the other things I need to do, like make a living. ...

Bill 38, a clear window open on the environment?

              Insurance companies are feelin' the pinch of extreme weather damage caused by global warming / climate change. The effects are strong enough now to be statistically measurable and verifiable.. Such is the gist of a hot-off-the-press report released by the Insurance Bureau of Canada. (The above link includes a link to the full report for download.)

               If insurance companies feel that climate change / extreme weather event loss are cause for concern (their bottom line: $$$), one would think that the public should to be informed. In a democracy the public, the people, are the (nominal) rulers but a ruler, to be effective, needs to be well informed. It follows then, that our government should be doing all in its power to keep the public abreast of developments relating to climate change, its social and economic costs, risks, possible remediation, adaptation measures, not to mention, an active participation in the development of a vibrant, future oriented alternative energy sector. That would be rational in a democracy, wouldn't it? 

                Alas, in the government that Steven Harper built, things are not so clear, so limpid, so transparent..

                 For example, the current federal "omnibus" budget bill, Bill C-38. It has environmental groups and earth scientists climbing the walls. Why?

                  "The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which brought Canadians from all walks of life together to provide advice on federal policies, has been dismantled."

                   The pattern is consistent. It is often repeated in the actions and opinions of the Harper government. Naysayers to corporate greed are muzzled: funding is cut so they can't speak out. It is hard not to feel that the operative principle is: No news is good news! Regulatory mechanisms to monitor and control environmental impacts of energy / mineral megaprojects are being systematically dismantled by the Harper government, activists claim. But such behavior is nearsighted at best and folly at worst: denying the existence of problems does not make them go away! They will simply fester and come back worse later. 

                   Once again, we must insist, in a democracy, the people - being ruler - must be kept informed of issues in the domain of public interest, that is, of the Public Good. The Public Good - or the Civil Society - is that "model" or ideal of the Good Society in which all citizens - NOT "clients" - are called to have a hand. It is a common construction which serves all and which all serve. It is ultimately what defines us as a social being, a "citizen" or member of such and such a clan, tribe, society, nation, country,..

                 A "democratic" government which stiffles free information flows - and their proper contextualization / interpretation - is in dereliction of its duties to its citizens. The State, theoretically and juridically, is the nominal representative of the people, the organ of expression of the popular will or Vox Populi. A government which degenerates to the role of Servant of the Corporate Elite - and their supporting classes in the professions and administration - is in dreliction of its duties to its citizens. One definition of fascism is "control or seizure of the State by the corporate elite"..

                  This is no way to run a planet. It is fool's logic. The price to be paid by future generations will be immense. Our collective behavior on environmental questions is both mad and criminel..

                  Unfortunately, there is no simple way to reach a man in the grip of ideology. All information not conforming to the True Faith will be denied, deleted, ignored or re-interpreted to conform to the dominating paradigm. A bizarre example comes to mind: one of the predictions of standard global warming models (General Circulation Models or GCMs) is that BECAUSE the lower atmosphere traps heat more efficiently (thus warming), less heat reaches the stratosphere which - naturally - COOLS down a bit. For a while, GW "sceptics" actually had the cheek to re-interpret the verified prediction of the GCMS as "proof" that GW isn't happening: "if the world is warming, why is the stratosphere cooling down?" Duh..

                 In the final analysis, it will be History who determines who the fools were..

"The precautionary principle denotes a duty to prevent harm, when it is within our power to do so, even when all the evidence is not in."