Thursday, December 31, 2009

"Democracy Canadian-style: How do you like it so far?"

This is an article from the Globe and Mail about the then upcoming prorogation of Parliament. Such prorogation at the whim of Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party has occured and once again his and his parties contempt for Canadian parliamentary convention and democracy is painstakingly evident. I fear a Conservative majority government and I this is a mistake on their part, the Liberals force an election, and at least reduce the Cons to a smaller minority. I really hope this move bites the Cons and Stephen Harper square in the ass.

Random Uni Student

Democracy Canadian-style: How do you like it so far? - Globe and Mail by Lawrence Martin


Published on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009 6:15PM EST Last updated on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009 2:23AM EST by Lawrence Martin

When you think about it, the way to make governing easy is to dispense as much as is possible with the demands of democracy. The d-word is a drag. It gets in the way of the exercise of power. Ways need be found to circumvent it.

There are a variety of such ways. One is to limit the voice of the bureaucracy, the public service, making it more submissive and partisan. Ditto the foreign service. As well, you want to dispense with agency or commission heads who don't follow your thinking. If some agencies get particularly meddlesome, such as Elections Canada, take them to court.

There's an old-fashioned idea, once a Reform Party thing, that regular people – those grassroots folks – should have a sniff of the action. As nice as it sounds, don't go there. You need to amass unparalleled executive power so everything is top down and put through the filter of politics. For your own caucus, you enforce such tight discipline that no one dare cast an independent vote. You issue your members a secret handbook on how to disrupt parliamentary committees. For Question Period, you instruct your members to answer most queries with a putdown of the previous government's record.

A key facet of a downgrading democracy campaign has got to be cutting off access to information – so much so that you leave the Information Commissioner appalled, especially with the stonewalling at the Privy Council Office. Some sensitive documents are going to get out no matter how hard you try. So the strategy is to use national security as a cover to black out all potentially incriminating paragraphs. You may also wish to eliminate a huge government information registry (the Co-ordination of Access to Information Requests System) because the fewer the tracks, the better. You may also wish to prevent the publishing of departmental studies, especially ones that don't reflect well on your law-and-order proclivities.

It is said that a hallmark of democracy is the toleration of dissent. Best leave that one in the church pew. Exceptional measures need be used to crush the opposition. Stuff such as taking the unprecedented step of launching personal attack ads between election campaigns. Or trying to push through a measure that would effectively cut off financing to the opposition.

A heavy dose of demagoguery also can go a long way. Play on simple prejudices by accusing opponents of not supporting the troops or of being anti-Israel. If nothing's working, if the going gets really tough, don't hesitate to bring out the heavy timber. Just after Parliament has reopened, have it shut down.

If your campaign is waged effectively, you will enfeeble the checks and balances in the system and give the d-word a good clubbing, emerging very much in control.

That's effectively what's happened in Ottawa over the past four years. The Prime Minister is now in such command that he can get away with pretty much anything. And he is lauded for his conquests.

A test case of his powers is the re-emergence of the Afghan detainee controversy. The government is knee-deep in allegations of a cover-up, of obstruction of justice, of treating Parliament, as this newspaper said in an editorial, with contempt. The censoring of documents on the basis of national security – which also happened in the income trust controversy – is being met with great skepticism. The way the Military Police Complaints Commission has been blocked from probing the affair is unseemly. The treatment of diplomat Richard Colvin has spawned a letter of reproach from no fewer than 71 former ambassadors. William Johnson, a biographer of Stephen Harper, says flatly that “the government has subverted Canadian democracy.”

If true, it likely won't matter. The key is that once you've established such a pronounced degree of control over the levers of power, you're in position to strong-arm your way past anything. And so the government has halted hearings on the detainee file by boycotting them. And so the government is threatening to prorogue Parliament again so it doesn't have to face more detainee music.

It's more evidence from a stockpile of how the system's been brought to heel. It's democracy Canadian-style.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Hi everyone, I'm trying to read through Paradise Lost over the holiday break from classes and I forgot how much I love reading it. One passage that strikes me everything time I read it I thought was worth sharing. Paradise Lost is an epic (really friggen long) poem written in the later half of the 17th century by John Milton. By 1652 Milton was completely blind when he wrote the poem (or rather recited it) and in one passage in particular he laments the loss of his eyesight. The passage tears at my heart when I try to emphasize with Milton and comprehend what it must be like to no longer be able to witness sunshine or know the changing of the seasons by have no vision of them, or to never again see the face of any person. However, I am at least solaced by the fact that Milton, at least according to the poem, didn't dwell in depression but found strength in his faith, as seen in the last 4 lines.

Paradise Lost - Book 3, lines 21-55

(Milton here is talking to the Holy Spirit - his 'muse" for the poem)

thee I revisit safe,
And feel thy sovran vital Lamp; but thou
Revisit'st not these eyes, that rowle in vain
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn;
So thick a drop serene hath quencht thir Orbs, [ 25 ]
Or dim suffusion veild. Yet not the more
Cease I to wander where the Muses haunt
Cleer Spring, or shadie Grove, or Sunnie Hill,
Smit with the love of sacred Song; but chief
Thee Sion and the flowrie Brooks beneath [ 30 ]
That wash thy hallowd feet, and warbling flow,
Nightly I visit: nor somtimes forget
Those other two equal'd with me in Fate,
So were I equal'd with them in renown,
Blind Thamyris and blind M├Žonides, [ 35 ]
And Tiresias and Phineus Prophets old.
Then feed on thoughts, that voluntarie move
Harmonious numbers; as the wakeful Bird
Sings darkling, and in shadiest Covert hid
Tunes her nocturnal Note. Thus with the Year [ 40 ]
Seasons return, but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of Ev'n or Morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or Summers Rose,
Or flocks, or heards, or human face divine;
But cloud in stead, and ever-during dark [ 45 ]
Surrounds me, from the chearful wayes of men
Cut off, and for the Book of knowledg fair
Presented with a Universal blanc
Of Nature's works to mee expung'd and ras'd,
And wisdome at one entrance quite shut out. [ 50 ]
So much the rather thou Celestial light
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
Irradiate, there plant eyes
, all mist from thence
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight. [ 55 ]

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Following the trends...

Just a quick note, I'm sitting in the library studying the trends of historical theory and thought and a thought came into my mind that has come and gone before. The farther I go on in university the more I see my thinking as following trends already laid out. This doesn't concern me, I don't see it as a bad thing and I still feel myself to be an individual, but it's both comforting, interesting, and disconcerting at the same time to realize that you are intimately linked to the trends in the atmosphere and community you live in...without you even realizing it. The more I read the more I realize, for example, that my historical thinking is deeply based in the inclusiveness and diversity that is present in post-modern historical thought....and I didn't even realize it was happening! I count it as a good thing that I feel that all fields of history are relevant in some respect and that all fields (both historical and non) are important to the study of history; an inter-disciplinary approach to history is necessary. This is why I love social history (very much a product of post-modernist thought) because it seeks to include EVERYONE AND EVERY GROUP so that nobody's history will ever be forgotten. Take a look at your own life, what trends and ways of thinking in your lifetime are you intimately affected by....maybe without realizing it?

Bye for now,

Random Uni Student

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Questions from a Worker Who Reads"

Hello Everyone, a poem was brought to my attention that grabbed at something in my history soul. Social history is the history of ordinary people in everyday life as opposed to the history of great people and leaders etc. I think this poem shows the contrast between the two and brings out the importance of social history. I may have a new favourite:) Everything else is doing fine, have had a few ideas for posts but havn't had the chance to sit and write them. Maybe soon. I've already placed it up
beside this picture in my office - see images.

Questions from a Worker Who Reads

Who built Thebes of the 7 gates ?
In the books you will read the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock ?
And Babylon, many times demolished,
Who raised it up so many times ?
In what houses of gold glittering Lima did its builders live ?
Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished, did the masons go?
Great Rome is full of triumphal arches.
Who erected them ?
Over whom did the Caesars triumph ?
Had Byzantium, much praised in song, only palaces for its inhabitants ?
Even in fabled Atlantis, the night that the ocean engulfed it,
The drowning still cried out for their slaves.
The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone ?
Caesar defeated the Gauls.
Did he not even have a cook with him ?
Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down.
Was he the only one to weep ?
Frederick the 2nd won the 7 Years War.
Who else won it ?
Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors ?
Every 10 years a great man.
Who paid the bill ?
So many reports.
So many questions.

Bertolt Brecht 1935

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tim Horton's Canadian Again....wait....nm

So I heard on the CBC this morning that Tim Horton's has registered to and became Canadian based again. We were all a little perturbed when Tim Hortons became a an American company. This sounds like good news right? This sounded great to me to until I began to question that the company still might be american owned...and I'm right. I have nothing solid to go on because I havn't researched it and the only news report I did find was the news about the registration and not the finalization (which should come out within the day online)but I did find this as a comment on the story,

"What a bunch of crap. Its still isn't 'Canadian', its still owed by a US corporation, moving the head office to Canada DOESN'T make it Canadian. Wendy's parent company still owns it.

Countrystyle and Second Cup ARE Canadian.

Submitted by rroarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr at 7:32 PM Monday, June 29 2009"

Canadian IN NAME ONLY! Fake nationalism. I do hope though that the food gets back to the quality (less fast food and more restaurant style) it was before it was sold to the US company...but I doubt it.

The story from June can be found here as well as on the CBC website.

Random University Student

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ignatieff = brilliant academic, probably selfishly motivated, and grinch look-a-like

Hi everyone,

So, no matter how much I think Michael Ignatieff looks like the Grinch who stole Christmas (the resemblance is's his grin!!) and keeping in mind that John Kerry looks like the wicked witch of the west and Paul Martin looks like the gopher from the Winnie the Pooh cartoon series, AND no matter how much I believe (though it kills me to say it) the Conservatives when they accuse him of being in Canadian politics for his own self or his careers promotion, I still like him( more on his probably motives later)

To be honest, I don't care what his motives for running for PM are, as long as they're not malicious. Selfish doesn't bother me all that much. I don't believe it is his only motive, but I'm sure it's there. Let's be honest, MP's are human, and even the most well meaning and genuine MP's know that they've got a damn good job and that they're guaranteed almost any job if they losr their's kind of a perk of the job. I'm not trying to trash MP's...many of them I know are working very hard and on behalf of their consituents and their own personal and political values/beliefs. But, I digress.....ya, I ramble a lot...what of it????

Regardless of his motives, whether they be ethical or unethical, Mr. Ignatieff has, beyond measure, proved himself in a field I trust...academia (specifically history). His academic record, even if you don't agree with his opinions, proves that he is a capable, intelligent, sobre thinking, hard working,and politically/socially clever man (you don't become a leading professor at Harvard or Oxford by intelligence alone). This may sound a bit naive, but I just can't help but respect a man who has received such internal acclaim and respect from the academic community...

This biograpgical excerpt was taken from...

"Michael Ignatieff was born in Toronto on 12 May 1947. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a B.A. in History. After earning his Ph.D. from Harvard University, he was elected a Senior Research Fellow at King's College, Cambridge. He has taught at Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, the University of California, the University of London and the London School of Economics.

For several years Dr. Ignatieff lived in England, where he was a regular broadcaster and critic on television and radio, including feature programmes on Channel 4 and the British Broadcasting Corporation...Michael Ignatieff (was) the Carr Professor and Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University..." In addition and including the beforesaid..."In 2005, Ignatieff was appointed a senior fellow at the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for International Studies. Prior to that, he served as Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University for five years. In 2001, while at Harvard, Ignatieff was appointed as a Canadian commissioner on the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which helped guide a United Nations response to humanitarian crises seen in Kosovo, Rwanda and Darfur."(Taken from:

Also keep in mind, contrary to Conservative ads, it's not like Ignatieff just arrived here a month ago and if he didn't win the PMO he would go back to teaching...
"Ignatieff has had a meteoric rise in his political career. First elected in 2006, he has represented the riding of Etobicoke—Lakeshore, which is part of Toronto, Ontario. He first ran for the party leadership in 2006, but lost. He was recognized as the Parliamentarian of the Year in 2007." (Taken from:

He's been deeply involved in Canadian federal politcs since 2006! and failed once to achieve the leadership. I would assume that if he had only his own career in mind he would have continued being one of the top academics in the world and made his money and reputation that way. As well, he's been involved in the Liberal party before he even had a career, "Although he only entered politics recently, Ignatieff has been actively involved in the Liberal Party for more than 40 years. He campaigned for Lester B. Pearson in 1965 and served as a delegate and national youth coordinator for Pierre Trudeau in 1968."
(Taken from:

Wait...there's more!!

Check out his honourary doctorates...
"Michael Ignatieff as of June 2009 has received 11 Honorary Doctorates (list below is incomplete).

• Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec in 1995
• University of Stirling in Stirling, Scotland (D.Univ) on June 28, 1996[5]
• Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario (LL.D) on October 25, 2001[6]
• University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario (D.Litt) on October 26, 2001[7]
• University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, New Brunswick (D.Litt) in 2001[8]
• McGill University in Montreal, Quebec (D.Litt) on June 17, 2002[9]
• University of Regina in Regina, Saskatchewan (LL.D) om May 28, 2003[10]
• Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington (LL.D) in 2004[11]
• Niagara University in Lewiston, New York, USA (DHL) May 21, 2006[12]
(Taken from...

11!! FRiGGEN HONOURARY DEGREES! I'm impressed.

On top of all of this, he is a prolific writer...

1. A Just Measure of Pain: Penitentiaries in the Industrial Revolution, 1780-1850 Macmillan, 1978

2.The Wealth and Virtue: The Shaping of Political Economy in the Scottish Enlightenment (editor with Istvan Hont) Cambridge University Press, 1983

3.The Needs of Strangers Chatto & Windus, 1984

4.Nineteen Nineteen (with Hugh Brody) Faber and Faber, 1985

5.The Russian Album Chatto & Windus, 1987

6.Asya Chatto & Windus, 1991

7.Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism BBC Books, 1993

8.Scar Tissue Chatto & Windus, 1993

9.Isaiah Berlin: A Life Chatto & Windus, 1998

10.The Warrior's Honour: Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience Chatto & Windus, 1998

11.The Rights Revolution House of Anansi Press (Canada), 2000

12.Virtual War: Kosovo and Beyond Chatto & Windus, 2000

13.Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry Princeton University Press (US), 2001

14.Charlie Johnson in the Flames: A Novel Chatto & Windus, 2003

15.Empire Lite: Nation Building in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan Vintage, 2003

16.The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror Princeton University Press (US), 2004

17.American Exceptionalism and Human Rights Princeton University Press (US), 2005

18.After Paradise Chatto & Windus, 2007

(Taken from:

And has won many literary awards as well...

1988 Governor General's Literary Award for Non-Fiction (Canada) The Russian Album

1988 Heinemann Award The Russian Album

1993 Booker Prize for Fiction (shortlist) Scar Tissue

1993 MIND Book of the Year/Allen Lane Award Scar Tissue

1993 Whitbread Novel Award (shortlist) Scar Tissue

1999 James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for biography) (shortlist) Isaiah Berlin: A Life

1999 Jewish Quarterly Literary Prize for Non-Fiction (shortlist) Isaiah Berlin: A Life

2001 George Orwell Prize Virtual War: Kosovo and Beyond

(Taken from:

Now, I know very well that other politicians and both Stephan Harper and Jack Layton are university grads, and I beliece Jack Layton hold a Phd in Political Science and taught at Ryerson University, and Stephan Harper has Masters in Economics from the University of Calgary. Clearly, these men all of the capacity and abilities to make it through university and succede in academia and politics. I give them my respect whole heartedly for this. But, Ignatieff trumps them all in academia.

My earlier reasons in a previous blog for voting Liberal this coming election still stand. If Igantieff wasn't the leader they would still stand. However, it is no hard task for me, and with a clear conscience and solid foundation behind me, to vote Liberal with Michael Ignatieff as the hopeful PM.

Thanks for reading! Any corrections are welcome, my apologies if I missed a reference or two. All information can be found via wikipedia or a quick google search.

I found this 2004 lecture by's an interesting look at his politics before he was in the Canadian political spotlight...

Random Student

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Election Fever...sick with resentment and confusion

So, this afternoon I found myself listening to the CBC's "Cross Country Checkup", hosted by that intelligent, insightful, interesting, though all too frequently heard, host Rex Murphy. Todays program dealt with the pros and cons of minority governments in Canada and whether the impending election would occur, and if so, would it result in a minority government.


1.I, like many Canadians, resent the fact that we are going to spend millions of dollars again so frequently after the last election less than a year ago

2. An election will most likely maintain what will effectively be the status quo...either replacing a right of centre party with a left of centre party in a minority situation, or continuing with a right of centre party in a minority situation. Either way, not much will change...other than the ever changing rhetoric of our 'gloriously' maleable and shifting political parties, bending to and fro with the winds of current popular opinon...not exluding myself from this sociological phenomenon. As well, a great point put out during the radio show was that minority governments are even more susceptible to this wavering because the party with the slight majority of seats is ever worried about being defeated, and thus always thinking in the short term, and consequently become fiercly partisan. As you can see, my resentment is fed by a frustration of this cyclical trend of our political system in the last few years of simply retaining the status quo. I, like many callers on the Rex's show, yearn for the return of majority governments. I must say that I do reject Harper's claim that these last parliaments havn't worked, or are broken. They've worked quite well, just not in large dramatic instances that grab the publics attention, the kind produced by the voting power yielded by a majority government. Things get done in a minority government, good things, progressive things, things which contain ideas from many perspectives...they just get done at a much slower pace than in majority territory.

3. Confusion:

I yearn for a majority government but there are several glitches about this in my head. 1. I don't want a conservative minority, or majority government for several reasons that I won't get into. 2. I am left of centre and would by nature vote for the NDP. 3. The biggest glitch, voting for the NDP in an electiont that will almost assuredly end in the Liberals or Conservatives gaining a minority mandate would be, in my mind, a vote for the know, the whole idea of vote splitting. 3. So to answer something I've struggled with for a while, whether to vote NDP on principle or vote Liberal to hinder the conservtives, I've come to a decision, which I'm sure will change but thats besides the point. Knowing full well that the NDP will not even form a minority government in the foreseable future, and that if the Liberal's don't get more support we're in the line for another annoying Conservative minority term, I will vote Liberal in order to hinder the Conservatives. If, and this will be a while coming I'm sure, theres comes a time when the Liberal party is in for a clear majority win I will cast my vote for the NDP I see think they are a pivitol segment of thought and push for action in the Canadian parliamentary the role of the third party in Canadian political history. However, in the case that the Conservatives would be set to obtain a majority government I would also cast for the Liberals because that would be the only secure way of depriving the Conservatives of a more secure majority and possibly depriving them of it all together if more people think like me.

Conclusions? I don't like the Conservative Party of Canada as it stands now, I hold some small c conservative views and inclinations but not enough for me to support even a right of centre party. I would by nature support the NDP, and don't stop supporting NDP principles which the Liberals to some extent hold (NDP's are Liberals in a hurray said one former Prime Minister), but in order to prevent the Cons from holding power, I would support the Liberals, in whatever electoral situation this scenerio comes up in. Sorry, NDP, I still love you!

Random Student

In the Beginning...

I am a 22 year university student who happily lives in Ottawa with his partner in a quiet little neighbourhood, on the third floor of a small apartment building, in a quaint little two bedroom apartment in the heart of the city.

I hope some people will read my blog, which has no theme other than whats on my mind when I feel like blogging, but I doubt anyone will, except a few close friends and my boyfriend. Even then, I'm not holding out hope that they will either...sorry hunny, it's ok, I understand, I'm boring:)

Happy Reading,

Random Uni Student