Sunday, January 3, 2010

Prorogue 2: Electric Boogaloo

Yes, I know, I used the theme for a previous post title, but this time it's so much more fitting; the most ridiculous movie title ever together with the most ridiculous "democratic" trick ever. Maybe "Prorocracy" would be better? Doesn't really work as a snappy title, does it? Whatever, kinda proves a point though, as the words prorogue and democracy don't go together. Democrogue? Nope, neither. Except of course if you live in the Great White North where that wonderful leader who isn't at all creepy, Stephen Harper, has once again decided that the country works a lot better without all those elected people around trying to run the government. Yes, Prime Minister Harper has progrogued Parliament for the second time in two years.

What's a prorogue? Well, I guess you missed it a little over a year ago when Harper prorogued Parliament to avoid losing power and I wrote a post where I compared the Prime Minister to Robert Mugabe. Well it seems I was being a little harsh on Robert, at least he's pretending to get along with the 'unity' government. Canada, will once again be without any kind for a couple of months as Harper has suspended the parliamentary session. Sure, the prorogue has been used in the past when the legislative work of the session has been completed and everyone wants a little more holiday time. However, this move comes at a time when only half the work is done and much that had been begun will have to be restarted. Obviously, if you are Stephen Harper, King Charles I, Napoleon, Victoriano Huerta, Adolf Hitler, Francisco Franco or Augusto Pinochet, you've probably got a more devious motive than simple vacation time. A year ago, Harper did it to maintain power; a truly Machiavellian ideal. This year it seems so much more mundane, he simply wants to hide the truth from the people and above all avoid embarrassing questions while the world's spotlight is on Canada for the Olympics. Oh, and stack the senate while he's got a bit of extra time.

Once again, it's all about torture, this time in Afghanistan. When will we learn not to mess with that place? The strange part about the story is that it's not about Canadians torturing, it's simply about ignoring the facts and choosing not to do anything about it, eventually putting yourself in a position of being forced to either lie or shut the voices off. The key to Harper's move is that this procedure will also shut down parliamentary committees, from which a few questions are sure to be raised about Canadian troops handing over detainees to Afghan officials to be tortured. In late November diplomat Richard Colvin made the accusation, which was followed by the predictable shoot the messenger playbook - the old 'this guy is crazy or a terrorist or worse yet a liberal trying to get in the elected governments way'. Unfortunately for Harper and the rest of his theocratic leadership, Richard Colvin turns out to be one of those guys we should all admire. I mean heres a diplomatic staffer who volunteered to go into Afghanistan as a civilian representative with Canada's Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar after the previous worker had been killed by a suicide car bomber. Instead of retreating under a barrage of personal attacks from the government, he responded with a 16-page letter discrediting claims that the politburo hadn't known anything about the situation one by one. So, what's the deal, why not just fess up, wash their hands, fix the oversight error and move on?

Herein lies the heart of darkness or some alternate reality Three's Company plot. Yes, it could be as simple as non-competence which led to mistakes that have spun out of control to the point where they fear being embarrassed under the international spotlight during the Olympics. Yes, the Olympics, the timing of the announcement of prorogation even smells of Olympic fever. Not only did Harper hope that no one would be paying attention between Christmas and New Year, he made the announcement on the day when the Canadian national Olympic hockey team was announced. For all the non-Canadian readers, this is slightly more important than the announcement of the Nobel peace prize, the English World Cup squad and the Academy Award nominations all rolled into one, so Harper knew which story would lead the news that night.

Yet, still the campaign of misinformation along with the flood of talking points from "support our troops" to needing an elected senate (which we do need) and now the stalling tactics of the prorogation taken all together smell of something more insidious. Ranging from the banal - simply knowing the lemming-like, 'lead us to economic growth', apathetic populace will have forgotten everything come March, to the truly disturbing - that the maple leaf is being used as a tool to promote hatred in the Muslim world to help ensure the global "war on terror" (how do you have a war against an idea?) will continue indefinitely. Voters are more likely to care that a psychic has foretold a Conservative majority this year than the fact that the government is turning a blind eye to the Canadian contribution to the perpetual war on terror. In Mr. Colvin's own words, "Instead of winning hearts and minds, we caused Kandaharis to fear the foreigners. Canada's detainee practices alienated us from the population and strengthened the insurgency." Imagine being an Afghani, knowing that if you run into a maple leaf you may wind up being turned over to be tortured and, unfortunately, the Canadians did a lot of torture delivery for the Afghans - six times the British and twenty times the Dutch (yeah, not exactly high value targets: "They were picked up ... during routine military operations, and on the basis typically not of intelligence [reports] but suspicion or unproven denunciation."). What would your feeling be toward the occupying soldiers from the nation turning you over to be tortured? What would your friends and family think? The district...the nation. Once you begin thinking this way, maybe then you can begin to understand how not fixing this problem is but a small cog in the machine that ensures this "war on terror" continues forever (well, that or someone gets their hands on a bomb, or the west financially implodes - Osama's plan all along).

But when added to the Maher Arar story you don't need to be an Amnesty International worker to worry about how far we fallen so fast. Similar story, smaller scale but it demonstrates the shift in morals that has occurred over the past decade - the acceptance of torture. Oh, yeah, Maher Arar, you may have forgotten the Canadian citizen that the RCMP set  up to be sent to be tortured for over a year, yawn, didn't a US federal appeals court just rule that he had no rights? oh, but Omar Khadr, zzzzzz, the others? The population has become desensitized to the topic to the point they've simply turned off, at least while it's only brown people being tortured. In the 'war on terror' the question's no longer whether or not it's acceptable, which it hasn't been since everyone signed the Geneva Conventions, but where is the line, or who's doing it.

Who would have thought ten years ago that democratic nations would even be discussing their role in torture? It's truly frightening to see the moral decay that has eaten away at our core values, debating the semantics of torture; is this torture or that? is it our fault if we were only complicit in knowing about it? when can it be justified? there's more important things to worry about, like saving banks and growing the economy. While the Canadian electorate has been sleeping, their government has mutated into a truly Cheney-esque monstrosity. Sabotaging progress on climate change negotiations while creating the largest man-made ecological disaster in the world, moving to eliminate the national gun registry implemented to prevent massacres like this, an anti-drug strategy aiming at a US style prison culture, a new citizenship guide that rebrands Canada away from peacekeeping and diversity toward intolerance and hate. No, no and no.

Canada's situation is perhaps even more perilous than  it's southern neighbour's. Imagine if the tea party fringe of the conservative party were in charge, yeah, you get the picture. Still spending like drunken soldiers on important things like killing brown people, but also shaving taxes. Now, by the time Parliament sits again in March, yes, after the Olympics, Harper will have had time to pass Michaëlle Jean the names of five new senators, giving the Tories a majority in the upper house of the unelected senate, meaning the gestapo will be in full control. Actually, seeing as Harper only needed to call Jean to suspend democracy, maybe the senate choices will be posted on Jean's Facebook wall, after all it's the only forum poor Canadians seem to have these days. This will give the Conservatives the elusive majority in the upper house and thus a majority on the newly formed Senate committees and greater control for passing their own legislation, which means Harper won't have any roadblocks to implementing his agenda, yippee! If it weren't so predictably sad and dangerous it would be funny. It's almost hard not to feel sorry for my Canuck brethren, they don't really have a choice. Last time Harper prorogued, he did it because he feared the opposition taking power, this time he can do it because he doesn't fear them, there is no credible opposition to challenge him in the next election.

The country has become some kind of alternate reality version of America without the Barack Obama show to help them at least pretend that they're good guys, not meaning to hurt anyone. Ain't no thing, we're just less than halfway through our workload for the parliamentary session, it's best if we shut things down and get the Crown speech and budget ready, everybody go home, or more likely, stay in Arizona, California or your Mexico whatever it may be. Yeah, blame Canada, and France and the US and Poland and you name it, just consider us lucky that at least reporters can tell us what's really happening above the 49th...oh yeah, forgot about that Amy Goodman detention at the Peace Arch a month ago, even made MSNBC apparently:

I wouldn't worry though, it seems to be just the Olympics they're worried about, so as long as you're not coming to ask about the quality of the ice or question the hockey team selection you should be OK. Careful though, I dunno where they draw the line on issues surrounding the games, environmental destruction around Whistler, development on indigenous land? Canada's going into lock down for the Winter Games, only the right kind of people or stories are wanted. It makes perfect sense that it's all about the Olympics, after all the games capture the holy trinity of the right wing mantra - greed, fear and prejudice. Again, all I can say is: Canada! Canada! Canada!


Troy said...

My question it really getting worse, or has it always been this bad yet unaware of it?

They can get Vancouverites for hanging signs outside their houses, but what about t-shirts? Imagine the entire city walking around with t-shirts against Harper?

Shane said...

I've asked myself the same question Troy, are things getting worse (I mean the naked corruption, hypocrisy and I'm right so you're wrong thinking), or have they always been this way, only now we have more access to information and are therefore more aware? My gut tells me that Canadian politics has devolved recently to a more American style with us or against us thinking, without any thought given to analysis and actually solving problems. Guessing this is part of a larger trend though...