Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Monday, March 28, 2011

Once More Unto The Breach Of Elections

"If war is too serious to leave to generals, then surely democracy is too important to delegate to politicians." - Jim Travers, Toronto Star

Some years ago I found myself in conversation with a man in Ontario's cottage country, and the topic turned to politics. It was an amiable chat, no heated tempers flaring up, nothing like that, which often does happen when you bring that subject up. Then he mentioned that he was a party campaign officer for the Conservative party, and suggested I ought to consider going into politics. I politely declined, citing that I really didn't have much time on my hands, which was true, though it wasn't the only reason.

I'm convinced that whatever it is we do for a living, we should be able to look ourselves in the mirror once or twice a day and not hate the person looking back at us. If I'd ever gone into politics, I'd end up hating myself. It's a cruel fact: the sort of people who can be trusted with power want nothing to do with politics, and the people who are in politics should never be trusted with any position of responsibility.

Full disclosure time: where do I stand politically? I would say that I'm conservative, though that's a bit of a loaded question these days. I cannot in good conscience vote Conservative, federally or provincially. I'm what's called a red Tory. That means these days, I have no party. Both wings of the Conservative Party, federal and in Ontario, here have been taken over by neo-conservatives and religious right fanatics. Think the Tea Party, without the overt racism. It's going to take many years before that taint is finally gone from those parties. So I'm forced to vote elsewhere.

Here in Canada we're back into election mode. Again, for the fourth time in seven years. A succession of minority governments, politicians squabbling like temper tantrum throwing brats incapable of working together reasonably, brings us yet again to an election in early May. For the next month and a bit, there are signs going up, calls being made to voters without end, politicians and campaign staff running around everywhere, trying to get voted in again. I'm already sick of it. And what will the result likely be? The same, a minority government run by the Conservatives, not really getting anything done. If we have any luck, both the Conservatives and the Liberals will lose a few seats a piece, forcing their leaders to quit. I'm not crossing my fingers though. I doubt we'll be that lucky.

Since first getting elected in 2006, the Conservatives have been spending their time playing political games, constantly in election threat mode, instead of, oh, running the country. They came in on promises of respect, accountability, and doing their best to make Parliament work. Instead, their record consists of secrecy, obstruction, sheer contempt for Parliamentary democracy, power games, and photo ops. Little wonder. The inner cabal running the show consists of hard right partisans who place ideology above fact. They seek to tear this country and its institutions down, to change it to a point where we won't recognize it. It'll take us decades to repair the damage they'll do with a majority government.

And right at the center of it all is Stephen Harper, current occupant of the Prime Minister's Office. I've long been convinced this man wants to crown himself Emperor Stephen the First. How would I define this man? Arrogant. Vindictive. Heartless. A screamer. Schoolyard bully. I suspect he was a bully as a kid, and no one ever gave him the kick in the ass he deserved. It's a shame. He might have learned a lesson, and turned out a halfway decent human being if they had. And his inner cabal is just like him. Right wing nutbars, determined to hold onto power at all costs like a dog with a bone, rabidly mean spirited. If there are still people in the Conservative party, who, like me, are red Tories... why don't they stand up and speak out? Why are they allowing this to continue?

During his tenure as Prime Minister, he has twice prorogued Parliament, fearful of losing power. He's consistently lied and obstructed time and time again. He's had our census altered to fit his ideological point of view. He's politicizing the bureaucracy. He's demanding information on academics who have been critical of him. He's pursuing a law and order build the prisons agenda, despite the fact that crime continues to be on the decline. He's now made it an official policy that all government letterheads should be marked as The Harper Government. Not the Canadian government.  There's a big difference. He's quite literally buying into the l'etat c'est moi mindset of Louis XIV.

And, lest we forget, he spent a billion dollars and change on a two day photo op called the G8 and G20 conferences last year, despite the fact that similar conferences last year cost much less. So, for the sake of an arrogant ideologue  who wanted to show off last summer, the core of our largest city (a city he despises) was shut down. Protesters and bystanders were beaten and arrested by police, illegally. Civil rights were tossed out the window. It was a disgrace, and during that incident, and many times since then, I've felt ashamed to be a Canadian. 

I know, this isn't the usual sort of thing you're used to from me. The next blog will be funny, I promise. You'll just have to make do with the editorial cartoons for a laugh. For the moment, there's a month of electoral garbage coming towards every single Canadian, and a decision to make (for those who actually give a damn about the state of their country). I certainly can't vote Conservative, obviously. Voting for the New Democrats (at least federally) doesn't appeal to me (sorry, Jack Layton, move to the center a bit, and ditch the porn star mustache and we'll talk). I'm not in Quebec, so I can't vote for the crazy separatists. So I'm stuck voting Liberal. And Michael Ignatieff isn't the sort of leader who inspires. 
There was a time, not long ago, that our country was thought of as having a conscience. Americans sewed our flag on their backpacks when they went off to Europe. We were the moderators, the peacekeepers. We were known for our sense of compassion, for fair play, for being a force for good in the world. Now? Our government is vindictive, mean spirited, and partisan above all. They've become the sort who keeps enemy lists. It's enough to make me relate to the manning the barricades mentality of 1789 in the streets of Paris.

I love my country. I hate what this right wing thug is doing to it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday

Masada, Israel

Once more, I'm doing a Six Sentence Sunday blog today. I'm taking these  from the work in progress in various spots through the text. The last two, incidentally, are from portions that have yet to be written, but the lines are very clear in my mind. As to who will say them? That's something I'll have to decide later...

“My darling, we probably just chatted with two spies.”

“I told Mrs. Tavington the day after the assassination, and I’ll tell you... hunt these people down to the ends of the earth.”

If they’d had a chance to think about it, they might have thought it to be the wrath of God.

She pressed down on the trigger, her last thought one she had memorized: Allahu akbar....

"To secure the peace, we'll have to make war."

(during a gunfight) "You and I go to the most interesting places."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cats In High Places

From time to time, living in Ottawa, when I'm downtown and have some free time on my hands, I'll go up to Parliament Hill, and walk the grounds. The hill is set high above the Ottawa River, and affords some of the best views in the area. It's dotted with statues of Prime Ministers, fathers of Confederation, and historical figures. On the west side, near a rise where the statues of Prime Minister Pearson and Queen Victoria reside, is something else entirely. It's a collection of sturdy shelters which serves as the home of a colony of cats.

These stray cats have been looked after by many years. The cat sanctuary started in the seventies by a woman named Irene Desmoreaux. After her death, Rene Chartrand took up the mantle and erected the shelters above (that's him in the picture). He's retired now, and a team of volunteers tend to the cats, who have it made. Good shelter, plenty of food, and lots of space to stroll about.

They can often be seen on the grounds of Parliament Hill, and are fairly friendly. Apparently they're also allowed into the buildings to tackle mice, though I remain rather dubious of their mousing skills, what with the fact that they can often be seen allowing squirrels to eat from their dishes, and let's face it... to a cat, a squirrel isn't that much different then a mouse.

Don't believe me?

I told you. And the raccoons that live on the slopes down below often turn up for a meal too. They get along quite well with the cats.

The Cat Sanctuary has become very popular with the tourists, and with people like me who live here and occasionally pay the Hill a visit. The cats are always about, lording over their domain. Cats, after all, do run the world, you know...

That brings us to the second part of today's blog. In doing research on my work in progress, Ten Downing Street came up. The home of the British Prime Minister interested me, as some of the scenes in the book take place there. During the research, I came across a curiousity: The Chief Mouser To The Cabinet Office.

For decades, it's been a tradition that a cat lives at Ten Downing, and it's still upheld today. The cat is "employed", and so belongs to the house, rather then as a pet of the PM's family (or to be precise, owner of the PM and their family, like I said, cats rule the world). The current holder of the title is a former stray named Larry, who, as fate would have it, has his own website. The title is mostly informal, but the cat stays even if the leader in question leaves office.

I loved the notion of a chief mouser, and so I've written it into the book. Here are a couple of examples:

The group paused, and Sabra spoke. “What in the..?”
Claire looked back to see what the matter was. A tan and grey cat paused at the doorway in the corridor, looking up at the newcomers. Sabra was looking down at it, her expression puzzled, as if she would not have expected to see an animal here. “That’s Fox. She’s the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet,” Claire explained with a straight face.
Sabra looked back at her, shaking her head. “You’re kidding.”
“I don’t speak lightly of the Chief Mouser.” The cat moved on.
“I’d comment on it, but the White House always has pets,” Stryker added.


She felt movement at her lower leg, and looked down, saw the Chief Mouser rubbing against her leg, passing by, softly purring. “Hello, Fox,” she called, as the cat trotted down the corridor. At least all’s well in her world, Claire thought with a smile.


Monday, March 21, 2011

The First Rate Nutbar Just Won't Take A Hint

Well, now that the West has finally decided to lend a hand, the uprising in Libya might stand a bit of a chance in taking down Gadhafi. If only someone had, oh, twenty years ago, dropped a smart bomb on him, or sent in the world's most dangerous assassin to do the job...

Yes, Fluffy, Destroyer of Worlds. He'd have had the job done inside of 48 hours.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Almighty Snow Demons, I Ask Thee, Make The Winter Return

And so here we are... the last day of winter. It didn't seem long enough. It never is.

I can't deny it anymore... spring is coming. Oh, sure, we can get snow in April and May. And even in June. And it's not that long before August comes, and the first chilly nights turn up...

I've seen the first shoots of garden plants coming through the soil, so when one sees them... the game is up. Old man winter is giving up the ghost and scampering off, waiting to come back with a full force in just a few months.

It really is my favourite season, by the way. The cold and the chill, and the wind so harsh that it feels like a knife cutting inside your throat... well, that's what's so good about it!

Now, now, before you go off and start calling for my head on a pike, think about it. Now you can tease me about the onset of spring, all you warm weather worshippers. Lord knows I've teased you about how wonderful the winter is. 

This past winter, we've seen big storms hit various areas. As I recall, Al Roker was stranded halfway across America at one point. Rumors of his survival based on eating his cameraman remain unsubstantiated.

A few weeks ago, after Toronto had been hit by a storm, a columnist wrote about the overreaction city and school officials made to the storm. He described real winters. His mother, as a Prairie girl, lived on a farm, where one winter day, she found herself caught in a white out. Only by following cowbells into a barn did she survive. That, my friends, is a real winter.

He went on to describe living on Baffin Island in Canada's far north for several years. During one storm, the temperature went down to -35C. Add to that wind gusts well over 100 kilometres an hour, you can imagine the wind chill. During the night, he heard this ungodly roar. In the morning, he noticed his neighbour's roof had been torn off by the wind. That, my friends, is a real winter.

Weather forecasters seem to overreact, I think. These people (who incidentally get paid to be wrong 90%  of the time) have in the last few years developed a habit of calling storms Snowmaggedon or Snowzilla or Dear God, We're All Going To Die! Eat Your Children! As to the storm itself? Well, it might dump 25 centimetres of snow on the ground, but it's nothing to get worked up about.

Not all of them do that, mind you. The forecasters here in the nation's capital tend to take things in stride. They might say, "We're getting twenty centimetres out of this system, so take care driving in tomorrow morning." Very calm, reasonable, and reassuring.

Contrast that with the spineless cowards at Global Television in Toronto (more on that in a future blog, tenatively called Why Canadians Hate Toronto), who, at the sign of ten centimetres of snow, proclaim it as a major snow emergency, and for thirty centimetres tell the audience they must consider taking a page from the Donner Party.

Goodbye, winter. I still love you. Hurry back just in time for the end of August.