Refusing to debate abortion rights isn’t censorship | #cdnpoli

There’s a lot of sound and fury, understandably, about Stephen Woodworth’s attempt to reignite the abortion debate. 

It’s hard not to be struck, right off the bat, by the disingenuous bullshit surrounding it. Woodworth likes to characterize his initiative as an honest inquiry about when life begins. The Harper machine insists that Woodworth is acting on his own, and that this isn’t official government policy. 

Yeah, right. This from an operation so obsessed with message control that backbenchers dare not even fart without clearing it with the the PMO. 

And let’s be clear about what this is: it’s not a simple intellectual exercise or an attempt to update the state of scientific knowledge. It’s an assault on reproductive autonomy — a transparent and disingenuous attempt to reassert patriarchal control over women’s bodies and take away the freedom of choice that took decades to achieve.

To suggest that this “debate” isn’t welcome is not, as some misguided voices would argue, the same as advocating censorship. It’s an assertion that some debates are simply not worthy of consideration in public discourse. 

It’s inconceivable that in 2012, we would even discuss whether women have the right to control their own bodies. That question was settled by the Supreme Court of Canada more than two decades ago. Do we really have to go through all that again? Are we really prepared to put the basic human rights of our fellow citizens in issue? Seriously?

Framing it as a matter of free inquiry and intellectual exchange allows its proponents to posture as reasonable people and dismiss their opponents as angry, irrational and hysterical. Condescending? Ya think? What next? Are we going to have calm, reasonable, mature debates about whether black people should have the same rights as white people, or whether LGBT people should have the same rights as straight folk?

No. And saying “we’re not going to debate about it” isn’t censorship. Woodworth and his hangers-on — so-cons, misogynists, fundies and assorted intellectual wankers — are welcome to have as many of their little debates as they like. Fill yer boots, boys. 

Just not in the Parliament of Canada, let alone any forum that bills itself as “progressive.”

Related posts:

Politics, decency, and finding common ground: the restoration of civility | #TOpoli #cdnpoli

So I was listening to Matt Galloway talking to Karen Stintz on Metro Morning Friday. The interview isn’t up on the CBC web site yet, but as you might imagine, the topic was the future of public transit in Toronto in the wake of Thursday’s decision by council to opt for LRT on Sheppard East. 

It wasn’t long before the conversation turned to the extent to which the debate had been polarized. And what struck me more than anything else at the time was the care Councillor Stintz was taking not to apportion any blame for that:

As some of the subsequent Twitter talk shows, it’s not as if Ms. Stintz has undergone a wholesale conversion and been born again as a progressive. That’s not really the point. It’s not about where she or anyone else falls on the political spectrum. Nor is it about transit any more. No, the lesson here was about civility.

As someone much smarter than me remarked subsequently, so what? She’s conducting herself and and dealing with civic affairs the way it’s supposed to be done. That’s a baseline. Team Ford is below that. And in an ideal world, it should be a matter of course rather than something to be remarked upon. Unfortunately, in today’s world, where mud is flung and insults are a regular part of political discourse and everything is venomous and nasty and personal, a resolve to rise above it is something worthy of celebration, regardless of politics. Pour encourager les autres.

I’m lingering on this because it touches upon some of my favourite themes: public discourse, citizenship, and civic engagement. In the long term, those are all enhanced by a collective effort to restore a measure of civility and goodwill to the way we do things. It benefits us all, individually and as a community and a society, no matter who we are or what we think.

That brief reference to genuine conservatism reflects a much wider concern: the long-term project of reclaiming and reinvesting the conservative tradition with its honourable and time-proven roots. It’s what I like to think of as the Tory sensibility: decency, camaraderie, and a willingness to reach out to one’s opponents, set partisanship aside, and recognize that at the end of the day, we’re all committed to the same things. Our differences needn’t set us at each other’s throats.

So how did we get here? From a spirit of community, bipartisanship and the occasional beer with the other side to an era of dirty tricks, robocalls, electoral fraud and handbooks for disrupting the work of parliamentary committees?

It wasn’t by accident, and as with many things, it starts with words, their connotations, and their rhetorical effect. More than two decades ago, Newt Gingrich and Frank Luntz worked with a group of U.S. Republican operatives to craft a linguistic strategy for controlling conversation and framing discourse; the idea was to demonize and smear opponents as much as possible by using loaded words like “sick,” “pathetic,” “traitor,” “grotesque,” and other verbal hand grenades. We’ve seen the effect that’s had on politics and popular culture down there. Public discourse has been poisoned and the body politic has been damaged to a point from which it may never recover.

Fast forward to Canada today, where we’re hearing words like “turncoat,” “backstabber,” “stand with the child pornographers,” and so on. This is born of a desire not just to defeat one’s opponents, but to destroy them. Win at any cost. No substitute for victory. 

Is it hyperbole to suggest that the Gingrich/Luntz disease has infected us up here?

And then let’s go back even farther, to a contrast between realpolitik and “amateurism” set in the 1930s. (Yes, it’s from a work of fiction but we can still learn from it …)

Idealism? Nostalgia? Naivete? All of the above? Perhaps. But surely we’re all better off when we can acknowledge legitimacy in viewpoints with which we disagree. 

(And let’s acknowledge, of course, that there’s an element of classism in this. When you discuss values like decency, honour, and gentility, you’re betraying a certain way of looking at the world. Notions like noblesse oblige stem from a privileged background. I have to keep reminding myself that the lens through which I look at things is a product of that. It’s a luxury not everyone has.)

Yes, it’s nostalgia for a gentler time. There’s no shortage of people willing to remind us that the world isn’t like that any more, and that things have changed. 

And this is where the need to push back gets thrown into stark relief. The events of the last few decades — the growing inequality gap, the hollowing-out effects of “free trade,” the vapid coarsening of popular culture, and the continuing assault upon the social safety net, for starters — should demonstrate the moral vacuum at the heart of the agenda to which we’ve all been subjected. Now more than ever, it’s time to push the goalposts back, reclaim public discourse, redefine genuine principled conservatism, re-Occupy the public sphere and win back the words. 

We can start with a commitment to civility. Listening to your neighbours and giving your opponents the benefit of the doubt isn’t a sign of weakness, and it isn’t a class thing either. And by the same token, demonizing, misrepresenting, name-calling and smearing isn’t a civic virtue. It contaminates public discourse and lowers us all, and it needs to be called out for what it is.

Ultimately, we can have whatever kind of conversation we want. Do we want something that reflects well upon us, or do we want to sound like isolated mayors and tabloid columnists? I know which way I’d go.

Related posts:

Politics, decency, and finding common ground: the restoration of civility | #TOpoli #cdnpoli

So I was listening to Matt Galloway talking to Karen Stintz on Metro Morning Friday. The interview isn’t up on the CBC web site yet, but as you might imagine, the topic was the future of public transit in Toronto in the wake of Thursday’s decision by council to opt for LRT on Sheppard East. 

It wasn’t long before the conversation turned to the extent to which the debate had been polarized. And what struck me more than anything else at the time was the care Councillor Stintz was taking not to apportion any blame for that:

As some of the subsequent Twitter talk shows, it’s not as if Ms. Stintz has undergone a wholesale conversion and been born again as a progressive. That’s not really the point. It’s not about where she or anyone else falls on the political spectrum. Nor is it about transit any more. No, the lesson here was about civility.

As someone much smarter than me remarked subsequently, so what? She’s conducting herself and and dealing with civic affairs the way it’s supposed to be done. That’s a baseline. Team Ford is below that. And in an ideal world, it should be a matter of course rather than something to be remarked upon. Unfortunately, in today’s world, where mud is flung and insults are a regular part of political discourse and everything is venomous and nasty and personal, a resolve to rise above it is something worthy of celebration, regardless of politics. Pour encourager les autres.

I’m lingering on this because it touches upon some of my favourite themes: public discourse, citizenship, and civic engagement. In the long term, those are all enhanced by a collective effort to restore a measure of civility and goodwill to the way we do things. It benefits us all, individually and as a community and a society, no matter who we are or what we think.

That brief reference to genuine conservatism reflects a much wider concern: the long-term project of reclaiming and reinvesting the conservative tradition with its honourable and time-proven roots. It’s what I like to think of as the Tory sensibility: decency, camaraderie, and a willingness to reach out to one’s opponents, set partisanship aside, and recognize that at the end of the day, we’re all committed to the same things. Our differences needn’t set us at each other’s throats.

So how did we get here? From a spirit of community, bipartisanship and the occasional beer with the other side to an era of dirty tricks, robocalls, electoral fraud and handbooks for disrupting the work of parliamentary committees?

It wasn’t by accident, and as with many things, it starts with words, their connotations, and their rhetorical effect. More than two decades ago, Newt Gingrich and Frank Luntz worked with a group of U.S. Republican operatives to craft a linguistic strategy for controlling conversation and framing discourse; the idea was to demonize and smear opponents as much as possible by using loaded words like “sick,” “pathetic,” “traitor,” “grotesque,” and other verbal hand grenades. We’ve seen the effect that’s had on politics and popular culture down there. Public discourse
has been poisoned and the body politic has been damaged to a point from which it may never recover.

Fast forward to Canada today, where we’re hearing words like “turncoat,” “backstabber,” “stand with the child pornographers,” and so on. This is born of a desire not just to defeat one’s opponents, but to destroy them. Win at any cost. No substitute for victory. 

Is it hyperbole to suggest that the Gingrich/Luntz disease has infected us up here?

And then let’s go back even farther, to a contrast between realpolitik and “amateurism” set in the 1930s. (Yes, it’s from a work of fiction but we can still learn from it …)

Idealism? Nostalgia? Naivete? All of the above? Perhaps. But surely we’re all better off when we can acknowledge legitimacy in viewpoints with which we disagree. 

(And let’s acknowledge, of course, that there’s an element of classism in this. When you discuss values like decency, honour, and gentility, you’re betraying a certain way of looking at the world. Notions like noblesse oblige stem from a privileged background. I have to keep reminding myself that the lens through which I look at things is a product of that. It’s a luxury not everyone has.)

Yes, it’s nostalgia for a gentler time. There’s no shortage of people willing to remind us that the world isn’t like that any more, and that things have changed. 

And this is where the need to push back gets thrown into stark relief. The events of the last few decades — the growing inequality gap, the hollowing-out effects of “free trade,” the vapid coarsening of popular culture, and the continuing assault upon the social safety net, for starters — should demonstrate the moral vacuum at the heart of the agenda to which we’ve all been subjected. Now more than ever, it’s time to push the goalposts back, reclaim public discourse, redefine genuine principled conservatism, re-Occupy the public sphere and win back the words. 

We can start with a commitment to civility. Listening to your neighbours and giving your opponents the benefit of the doubt isn’t a sign of weakness, and it isn’t a class thing either. And by the same token, demonizing, misrepresenting, name-calling and smearing isn’t a civic virtue. It contaminates public discourse and lowers us all, and it needs to be called out for what it is.

Ultimately, we can have whatever kind of conversation we want. Do we want something that reflects well upon us, or do we want to sound like isolated mayors and tabloid columnists? I know which way I’d go.

Related posts:

 

@Goldsbie and @NickKouvalis talk #transit, but where’s @KarenStintz? | #TOpoli #TTC

Unethical oil and its Canadian friends | The Vancouver Observer | #tarsands

Partnerships with Myanmar and Sudan… links to Burmese heroin traffickers… With this cast of characters partnering in the development of the Northern Gateway, you’d think Ethical Oil would be at the front of the line condemning the pipeline.

That is if you think Ethical Oil’s real purpose is to oppose unethical oil.

If, on the other hand, its real purpose is to front for Enbridge with scurrilous attacks on pipeline opponents….  Well then its actions to date make sense.

More untreated tar-sands effluent, spewing into Canada’s public discourse. I don’t want to think about the effect it’s having on our civic ecosystem.

Apparently the arguments are so convincing that they need to pay some worthless little putz to redirect the conversation by squealing obscenities at people on television.

Related posts:

 

Chris Hedges: Zero Point of Systemic Collapse | Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters

The cultural belief that we can make things happen by thinking, by visualizing, by wanting them, by tapping into our inner strength or by understanding that we are truly exceptional is magical thinking. We can always make more money, meet new quotas, consume more products and advance our career if we have enough faith. This magical thinking, preached to us across the political spectrum by Oprah, sports celebrities, Hollywood, self-help gurus and Christian demagogues, is largely responsible for our economic and environmental collapse, since any Cassandra who saw it coming was dismissed as “negative.” This belief, which allows men and women to behave and act like little children, discredits legitimate concerns and anxieties. It exacerbates despair and passivity. It fosters a state of self-delusion. The purpose, structure and goals of the corporate state are never seriously questioned. To question, to engage in criticism of the corporate collective, is to be obstructive and negative. And it has perverted the way we view ourselves, our nation and the natural world. The new paradigm of power, coupled with its bizarre ideology of limitless progress and impossible happiness, has turned whole nations, including the United States, into monsters.

Chris Hedges, almost two years ago, on “junk politics.”

There’s really only one acceptable narrative, and it’s part of the function of the message machine to ensure that we stay within its parameters. The rest of it is just kabuki theatre designed to produce the illusion of choice, of debate, of a genuine multiplicity of viewpoints.

Something to keep in mind whenever you see Sun News meat puppets ranting about the Maoist collective at the State Broadcaster.

Related posts:

Chris Hedges: Zero Point of Systemic Collapse | Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters

The cultural belief that we can make things happen by thinking, by visualizing, by wanting them, by tapping into our inner strength or by understanding that we are truly exceptional is magical thinking. We can always make more money, meet new quotas, consume more products and advance our career if we have enough faith. This magical thinking, preached to us across the political spectrum by Oprah, sports celebrities, Hollywood, self-help gurus and Christian demagogues, is largely responsible for our economic and environmental collapse, since any Cassandra who saw it coming was dismissed as “negative.” This belief, which allows men and women to behave and act like little children, discredits legitimate concerns and anxieties. It exacerbates despair and passivity. It fosters a state of self-delusion. The purpose, structure and goals of the corporate state are never seriously questioned. To question, to engage in criticism of the corporate collective, is to be obstructive and negative. And it has perverted the way we view ourselves, our nation and the natural world. The new paradigm of power, coupled with its bizarre ideology of limitless progress and impossible happiness, has turned whole nations, including the United States, into monsters.

Chris Hedges, almost two years ago, on “junk politics.”

There’s really only one acceptable narrative, and it’s part of the function of the message machine to ensure that we stay within its parameters. The rest of it is just kabuki theatre designed to produce the illusion of choice, of debate, of a genuine multiplicity of viewpoints.

Something to keep in mind whenever you see Sun News meat puppets ranting about the Maoist collective at the State Broadcaster.

Related posts:

America today: Rick Perry has another prayer meeting, thousands line up in the heat for school supplies | #uspoli

The biggest gathering in Houston yesterday should tell America all it needs to know about Rick Perry. I’m not talking about the estimated 30,000 individuals who visited Reliant Stadium yesterday for The Response, a event endorsed by religious extremists and known hate-mongers.

I’m talking about the 100,000 Texans who waited in line for free school supplies, immunizations, fresh produce, and school uniforms.

The Houston Chronicle reports:

Some families camped out for hours to gain admittance into Houston’s first-ever, citywide back-to-school event at George R. Brown Convention Center, where free backpacks, school supplies, uniforms, haircut vouchers, immunizations and fresh produce were provided.

Others were turned away.

“It was getting beyond capacity,” HISD spokesman Jason Spencer said. “If nothing else, it shows the need.”

While our three-term governor was busy self-promoting to evangelical Christians in preparation to announce his bid for President, the actual people he governs were attempting to mitigate the damage he’s done to regular working Texas families just trying to get by. While Perry’s faithful lined up to break their fast with hot dogs and nachos, his constituents stood in the 90+ degree heat for bags of fruit and vegetables.

Sadly, there weren’t enough school supplies available to meet the tremendous need:

Beatrice Jones, who has two children in the Spring school district, arrived about 10:15 a.m. with her daughter and niece, only to find the doors closed and a police officer announcing the event was over.

“They were supposed to have school supplies, but all we got was sweating and paid parking,” Jones said.

School Superintendent Terry Grier posted a Twitter message Saturday morning that security personnel had estimated the crowd at 100,000. At about 10 a.m., officials made the call to close the doors.

Although planners didn’t know how many people would attend, they expected to serve at least 25,000 children, officials said.

Where are the gasping media reports of over 100,000 Texans waiting in the hot sun for school supplies and food? Where are the statistics about how Texas has some of the highest rates nationally of poverty and food insecurity in all of the breathless coverage of Rick Perry’s ‘Texas Miracle’? Where was the caravan of reporters from news outlets across America, interviewing the victims, rather than the worshipers, of the Perry administration? I suppose it’s nice that The Response had an almost four-fold increase in turnout for a day of prayer over the expected 8,000, but it’s horrifying that a charitable event for families of Texas schoolchildren should also see such a tremendous increase in turnout.

After all, needy families are about as common in Texas as failed missives to the Almighty are at Reliant Stadium.

Am I crazy and naive to wish that those 30,000 in attendance at Reliant had spent their time yesterday actually clothing the poor, feeding the hungry, or visiting the sick, rather than just praying for the free market to fix it for them?

Because while Rick Perry was ministering to the flock at the football stadium, it sure looks like a whole lot more of the “least of these brothers and sisters” were waiting in line for school supplies yesterday, not waiting in line to sway and pray.  

Posted without comment. Well, almost without comment. It’s Texas, after all. Arizona’s been getting a lot of attention recently, so maybe Governor Perry wants to play catchup or something.