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Monthly Archives: August 2014

STEPHEN HARPER AND THE VOTER IN THE AGE OF INFANTILISM

 Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the Majority share in it. – Leo Tolstoy

If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must man be of learning from experience. – George Bernard Shaw

Avoid revolution or expect to get shot. Mother and I will grieve, but we will gladly buy dinner for the National Guardsman who shot you. – Dr. Paul Williamson, father of a Kent student

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

 

ENEMIES EVERYWHERE: THE SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY

John Baird’s condemnation of the UN Human Rights council and the appointment of Canadian William Schabas to head a commission examining possible war crimes in Gaza should surprise no one. The Harper regime has, almost from the first, been vocal in its antipathy to the United Nations. Too, anyone who voices criticism of Israel, as has Schabas and others at times, inevitably risks condemnation by Harper and gang with suggestions of being pro-Palestinian and/or anti-Jewish.

Such a stance is offensive if not surprising and indicative of a stubbornly blind mindset that refuses to acknowledge the possibility of more than black and white. This digging in of one’s heels and refusing to tolerate or even consider dissenting opinions is neither admirable nor productive and suggests the profound weakness of insecurity. It’s the fear similar to that experienced by bullies who, knowing deep within themselves they have wronged, wait for the bullied to strike back. They behave as they do because they believe themselves righteous besieged by enemies when none may at first exist. Eventually, however, it becomes fact, the enemies real. The bullying escalates and so does the bully’s fear as the resentment of the bullied intensifies.

Harper’s gang is made up of that kind of bully, frightened of what they have wrought for themselves, brave as a vindictive group but too cowardly to seize the opportunity to co-operate, to listen, to discuss, to be transparent, to include and to accept and even adopt the ideas of others. Instead, they brandish their majority as a club. For Harper and his gang, the velvet glove, the ability to admit to being wrong or to apologize, is less appealing than sneering dismissal and exclusion; they mistakenly perceive generosity, openness and tolerance as weakness. If you ain’t for us, you’re ag’in us. But how can one be for them with such an attitude? It may work for a time but it poses its own risks. The enemies grow in number and so does the fear from the bullies’ camp. It is a poisonous mixture: power, abuse of power, fear and more abuses of power. Add to that the ingredients of intolerance, the willingness to pander, degrees of bigotry, ignorance, arrogance and a propensity towards deceitfulness, the mixture becomes downright toxic.

If Harper occasionally shares the same doubts as the rest of the world on any matter, and that is not a given, they are surely of a fleeting nature not to be nurtured but, rather, excised as quickly and brutally as possible. The message is set in stone; it cannot and will not be changed. When things do go awry, it’s not Harper and crew, it’s the world aligned against them, the world of lazy public servants, egocentric scientists, ignorant students, leftist scholars, radical environmentalists, the mangy poor and helpless, just ordinary citizens, that is out of step. So when critics question Harper’s unwavering support of Israel and condemn Israel’s deadly response to the Hamas bombings in the West Bank, we cannot be surprised when the response is, “Israel has the right to defend itself.” That’s true. But what of its swift, brutal and at times apparently indiscriminate bombing of civilians that have resulted in massive numbers of slain Palestinians when measured against Israeli lives lost? There are brutes on either side, the naysayers, the don’t-give-a-damn-what-you think types, the zealots and cowards; there are also the hopeful, those live-and-let-live folks, good decent people who only wish peace. Every life lost through senseless slaughter is to be mourned, regretted and condemned. Again, however, the response is predictable: “Hamas is shelling bombs from schools and hospitals, using civilians as shields.” But is that true? Perhaps. However, I prefer evidence over taking the word of politicians with their own agenda. But such claims do add legitimacy for a response that is overwhelming and extreme, the forces of one side massively outmanned and outgunned by one of the most efficient armies in the world. I don’t know who is right. I know that Israel has every right to exist as a nation as any other. So, does Palestine. Whose story does one accept? I cannot help but be reminded of one episode during the Gulf War in which a young woman claimed to have witnessed Iraqi soldiers removing babies from incubators in a Kuwait Hospital and leaving them on the floor to die. Naturally, the world was shocked and outraged. This added another layer of legitimacy for the invasion of Iraq and provided further justification for the ouster and death of a vile dictator. Unfortunately, two years later, the world learned the story was false. The witness had lied, not only about her name and the story but also about being in Kuwait at the time; in reality, the “witness” was the daughter of a Kuwaiti ambassador. It was all a vast propaganda scheme to add fuel to justify the invasion of Iraq and just another of a long list of atrocity propaganda dating back to the Crimea war when “heathens” and “Huns” ate babies. Israel may well be right about Hamas; we have witnessed how they murder their own. But surely there is nothing wrong with questioning what we are fed and demanding more information. Atrocity stories make it more palatable to accept the bombing of known UN-run shelters for displaced Gazans. The killing of innocent men, women and children on either side is insupportable. Harper should say that. Instead he stands fast: “Israel has the right to defend itself.” Can’t we even ask the question?

It is not Harper’s support of Israel that troubles me; I support it, too, but not without reservation, without doubts. It is his refusal to accept that others have legitimate concerns about what they see as Israel’s disproportionate response to the Hamas bombings. Loyalty to a friend is one thing and it’s commendable; but acknowledgement that the friend can and may be wrong and, in the wake of such widespread condemnation, might do well to reconsider the extent of force in its response to Hamas, is probably a better test of friendship. To ridicule critics, to label them as anti-Israeli and of possibly questionable character, perhaps pro-Palestine and in need of monitoring is no way for a government claiming to be a democracy to behave. An enemy of my friend (or of those whose votes I’m pandering for) is my enemy. It is almost as if, in recognizing the humanity of the Palestinian victims, Baird and Harper and the rest of mob believe we are denying the humanity of the Jews. It may win votes, but isn’t the price too high?

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS

Not all should be accepted on face value, especially when it appears to coincide with one’s own worldview. So, when the Harper gang, one of the most secretive, petty, angry and partisan regimes this nation has ever endured, offers its version of events, of facts, of what they believe, one must be particularly diligent. Are Harper and his crew attempting to inform, expressing a true belief, or are they intending to mislead with malicious intent? When a government goes out of its way to remove obstacles to governmental spying on Canadians under the pretext of going after child abusers and then condemns sceptics with charges of “siding with pedophiles”, can it rightly claim to be working in the best interests of Canadians? A government that prefers secrecy to openness, deceit over truth, and punishment over understanding is a government that fears its citizens. How can we trust it when it doesn’t trust us?

This is not new. For the Harper gang, all critics, regardless of the cause, are suspect, dangerous, anti-Harper, anti-Conservative. They are the enemy; as such, they are worthy targets of the smear.

In a recent fundraising effort, the Conservatives went after Justin Trudeau, a man for whom I have grave doubts as a leader. But they did so with a lie. They told a story but left out some details. The lie of omission. They attacked Trudeau for visiting the Al Sunnah Al-Nabawiah mosque in 2011. He had, indeed. They further claimed, Jason Kenney even using his government email, that the US security agencies considered the mosque a recruitment centre for extremists. That, too, is true. However, what Kenney (who in the past illegally used government letterheads to fundraise for his party) and the other Harper gang omitted to tell us is this: That fact only became public when published in the New York Times a month after Trudeau’s visit. There is no doubt what Kenney intended with this vile, less than accurate attack. Too, nowhere in the email does Kenney acknowledge that just last year, two years after Trudeau, he had visited the same mosque, which, by then, presumably, he, and every member of the Harper gang, knew had garnered American interest. What makes the attacks so vile is that, knowing the truth, the Conservatives persisted in suggesting something even more sinister about Trudeau than doubts about his leadership abilities, innuendo that he supports extremists, terrorists, was, in fact, unpatriotic. That is vile stuff. It is also dishonest stuff. But it is also typical of the Harper thugs. When questioned about his visit, Kenney, a senior cabinet minister with Conservative leadership aspirations, claims he did not know that the mosque was suspect! The same excuse Trudeau used. However, the truth is on Trudeau’s side; he could not have known because the news had not yet been made public. What is Kenney’s excuse? Well, the Conservatives simply shrug, gloss over these facts and blithely continue fundraising and smearing Trudeau while ignoring his legitimate, to the point question: If the mosque is a known haven for terrorists, why hasn’t the government done anything about it? No answer.

But there have been other attacks against Trudeau and they, too, are misleading, dishonest, and partisan in the Conservative tax funded jabs against the Liberal leader.

The ads are aimed at parents, evidently in hopes of scaring up votes, and clearly more concerned with crushing Justin Trudeau and maintaining the health and wellbeing of the Conservative agenda than the health and wellbeing of their putative targets: children. In their efforts to add legitimacy to their propaganda, the Conservatives sought support from the medical profession in hopes they would give their stamp of approval to the Conservative anti-drug ads. Fortunately, the Canadian Medical Association, The College of Family and Physicians of Canada and The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons quickly saw through the Conservative ploy refusing to sign on. The ads suggest that Trudeau is endangering children with his stand on marijuana, which is one of legalization. Julian Fantino, minister of veterans affairs, has issued a flyer stating that Trudeau’s “first order of business is to make marijuana more accessible to minors,” and the Liberals plan on making “buying marijuana a normal, everyday activity for young Canadians” (CBC News, Aug. 16, 2014). This from a man who used to be a cop! Well, for this gang, no trick is too dirty, too vile, to not be used.

That Harper failed this time to recruit three highly respected and influential health bodies to act as his stooges is no reason for us to simply heave a sigh of relief and sit back. The Harper Conservatives are devious, clever, and dishonest, as we have seen. They will use any trick, the viler the better, to defeat their foes and flog their economic agenda, which includes squelching dissent, appeasing Big Business and suppressing worker wages.

In the past few weeks, we have learned that the fix Jason Kenney and the Harper gang promised to stop employers from exploiting foreign workers at wages 15% below that of Canadian workers was all smoke. For almost a year after the news was made public of wage suppression, Alberta companies were still allowed to exploit foreign workers at below rate. The Harper gang knew this. The Harper gang allowed it to happen. Another flap, and more promises by the Minister of Employment and Social Development and Multiculturalism. This government has aided and abetted corporations in their war against Canadian workers. They have kept silent about corporate wage suppression speaking out and acting only when the news once again made headlines.

Harper and gang have a lot for which to answer.

CONSERVATIVES, THE SECRET COURT AND THE DOUBLE STANDARD

Recently, the secretive House of Commons multi-party committee, the Board of Internal Economy, made up of four Conservatives, one Liberal and two NDP members, found the NDP guilty of misusing parliamentary resources with satellite offices and mass mail-outs. For many, myself included, the judgement is extremely questionable smacking more of payback by Kangaroo Court, the Liberals still smarting over their loss of Official Opposition status to the NDP and the Conservatives from Tom Mulcair’s effective questioning of Stephen Harper over his knowledge of the Duffy/Wright scandal. If the NDP committed wrongdoing, they must, of course, do the right thing.

The problem with the mail-outs, it appears, was a matter of a technicality: they were partisan in nature, that is, were not messages from individual MPs but mail designed to benefit the party according to Conservative John Duncan. Well, I don’t know. Almost every month I receive one or two mailings from the Conservative MP in my riding. True, there is lots of information about the accomplishments of the MP (not much) accompanied by many photos of him (too many). The messages clearly promote the party and it’s agenda often with claims proven to be untrue as with the Conservative Economic Action Plan, touting programs that didn’t even exist. The cost of advertising non-existent came to $2.5 million for taxpayers. The flyers also boast of Conservative support for the veterans. Well, we have witnessed what veterans think of this regime and its treatment of them.

There is, however, cause for concern on the matter of the satellite offices. The NDP claims it sought permission from the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer, to set up the offices; they also claim Scheer gave his approval. The Speaker, however, denies that he did so. Who does one believe? Scheer is a Harper appointee to the position. That doesn’t make him biased. But that he sat on requests from Elections Canada to suspend Shelley Glover and James Bezan for refusing to submit a full account of their expense for the 2011 campaign likely does. At the time, Scheer made the disingenuous claim there was no indication that the requests addressed to him were meant for the House. Elections Canada reports to the House, therefore any correspondence directed to the Speaker concerning members of parliament must, perforce, be also for the members of Parliament. His response on that occasion leaves me to doubt his version regarding the satellite offices and it certainly leads me to question whether he meets the standard of non-partisanship required of that post.

It is not the first time I have asked that question. Conservatives are not shy about politicising offices and agencies that have been and should remain, non-partisan and independent. Even with the Supreme Court, this gang could not stop itself from attempting to malign it when it lost its bid to appoint Mark Nadon to the high court. Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay, clearly unhappy with that outcome and with other decisions from the Supreme Court, set out to sway public opinion against the court by openly attacking the decisions, the court, and its members, engaging in contemptible efforts to smear Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin with charges of political interference regarding the Nadon affair. Their attempts failed because their story was an outright lie. Judging from the reaction from the public, few fell for the Harper/MacKay smear job.

Ethical? The Harper gang are as morally bankrupt as any political group can be. A few years back the Conservatives paid a $52000 fine after a plea bargain that allowed four upper echelon members to escape appearing before the courts over the “in-out” scam during the 2006 election that allowed Conservatives to illegally transfer monies that cost Canadians $2.3 million according to figures offered by Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher of Postmedia (April 10, 2012). That is money that belongs to Canadians but somehow ended up in the Conservative coffers.

Nevertheless, Harper and gang continue to assert they ran a clean, honest and ethical campaign in each of the last few elections. This is the party that threw a young staffer, Michael Sona, to the wolves for the robocall scandals, which led to investigations of voter suppression by Conservatives. Though Sona was the only one charged and found guilty for that, it was clear that the presiding judge, Justice Gary Hearn, did not believe he acted alone. This is significant and is at variance with a decision reached earlier by Yves Coté, Commissioner of Canada Elections, whose job it is to investigate election fraud. Coté’s investigation had found no evidence of involvement of voter suppression by others in the party. How Yves Coté, responds to the decision by Justice Hearn will be a good indicator of his independence especially since his office has been moved from Elections Canada, which reports to parliament, to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutors, which reports to the government. This move was clearly meant to handicap the Commissioner and leads to suspicions of a real probability of political interference by the government, particularly this government. It is a legal truism that investigators and prosecutors must work independently of each other. That can never be truer than in this instance when a government attempts to rig elections, as has the Harper gang. If there is no further investigation of the robocalls scandal, Canadians should be very concerned; Harper will have accomplished what he set out to do. That’s not good for democracy and it’s certainly not good for Canada.

Clean and ethical? Well we have Harper’s one-time parliamentary secretary, Dean del Mastro, pleading not guilty, now before the court facing four counts of election fraud during his 2011 election campaign. It was del Mastro, along with Pierre Poilievre, who viciously savaged Elections Canada and the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, for the investigations into election irregularities, in the majority of which Conservatives figured prominently. Clean? Ethical? Conservative Peter Penashue resigned for accepting illegal corporate donations for his campaign. We have Shelly Glover caught on camera attending a fundraising event attended by the very people who stood to gain from decisions made from her office. The same happened with Leona Aglukkaq, minister of economic development for the North, who sneaked into a fundraising event by a side door rather than face the cameras waiting at the front door. Yeah, they are clean all right.

There are few sinners as interesting as hypocrites.

So, when the Conservatives are demanding that NDP repay money, pardon me for asking questions of my own. Will the Harper gang reimburse Canadians the $2.5 million for the false advertising in their Economic Action Plan? Will the Conservatives repay the $2.3 million owed for the “in-out” scam between May of 2007 and the fall of 2011? Will Tony Clement give a full accounting of the $50 million slush fund for his riding during the G8 and G20 conferences? Will the government explain why it was necessary to spend close to a billion dollars for security for the same conferences and will it apologize for the mass arrests of peaceful protesters leading to only a handful of charges and few, if any, convictions? When Jason Kenney illegally used the government letterhead to fundraise on behalf of the Conservative Party, did he repay what was owed to the taxpayer? If the NDP owes money, and they may well do, make them pay. But, in the interests of justice and fairness, perceived and real, the Conservatives must also repay what they have pillaged from Canadians and it’s a lot, lot more than supposedly owed by the NDP. As Harper is fond of saying, If you throw mud, some is bound to stick to you.

THEY SIMPER, SHY AWAY AND PLEAD IGNORANCE

If governments lie, operate in secrecy, spy on citizens, defame one’s reputation, and abandon the basics of democracy, how worried should we be? Should we be concerned with the politicization of once independent government watchdog agencies, of attempts to disenfranchise voters, of efforts to turn the highest court into political organs enforcing government goals? Does it matter that our government masks legislation in omnibus bills and limits debate, refuses to consult with opposition members and feels no need to respond to questions in the House except to obfuscate, prevaricate or utter scripted nonsense having nothing to do with issues at hand? Must we accept a government that imposes its agenda because of its majority, that deregulates for the interests of Big Business against the interests of the public, and that blithely refuses to accept responsibility when things go terribly wrong?

For Harper and the gang, with the exception of getting power and clinging to it, nothing is more sacred than the market and their economic agenda.

Earlier last week, the Transportation Safety Board released its report on the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, which cost 47 lives. It’s a harsh indictment not just of the rail company involved, Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MM&A), but also of the Harper gang with it’s laissez-faire approach to Big Business which, as we all know, are honest brokers more than capable and more than willing to regulate themselves. They are all honourable companies run by honourable people, you see. So Big Business and their stooges (Harper and gang, if you don’t know it by now) would have us believe.

But on what is that belief based when, in the wake of the Maple Leaf tainted meat scandal that left 23 dead, the Harper crew cut the role of food inspectors to that of mere rubber stampers of in-house testing results by meat producers. Even then, not long after that tragedy, it was American border guards who caught the tainted meat shipped to the US by XL Foods. Where was the government oversight? As a result of that failure, this led to the largest tainted meat recall in Canadian history. Recently, the Mount Polley Mining Corp. breach of the tailings pond dam occurred in British Columbia. Said the minister of energy and mines, Bill Bennett, “If the company has made some mistakes… they will have to bear the responsibility.” Nowhere in that statement is the acceptance that the government has failed to provide proper oversight. From all levels of government, the public is told that it can, must, and will trust Big Business. The thing is, it’s not the mine owners who bear the real costs when these catastrophes occur, and they inevitably do. It is always the innocent who pay, those folks who place their trust in the very governments who have sold them out to Big Business. This philosophy of hands-off, trust business, approach is based on a false premise that free enterprisers like Harper and gang are fond of spouting, a sophomoric cliché that we on the bottom rung are to embrace as fact. It goes something like this: It is in a business’s own self-interest to protect their workers, to be honest, to be good citizen, to be good wards of our environment. It’s an old, tired refrain and it’s absolutely untrue. With very few exceptions, the bottom line is always the final arbiter of what corporations believe to be true and good: profits and enriching the wallets of shareholders even at the risk of cutting corners is always for the greater good. Take your chances, cross your fingers and, if someone dies, pray like hell it’s your competitor who is to blame. As long as governments like the Harper gang are in power, as long as they are in the pockets of Big Business, workers will continue to be exploited and companies allowed to cut corners. The trust of citizens will be betrayed time and again and it is the public who will be left to clean up the mess and who will pay for the mess. Corporations and executives will continue to rake in the dough and their political stooges to pad their pensions and become company board members when they retire from politics far richer than when they first entered the dirty game.

Trust Big Business and the government whose lodestone is free enterprise? There are too many graveyards filled by trusting citizens and innocent workers who placed their trust in governments that sold them out for an economic agenda.

The Lac Mégantic catastrophe came about because MM&A performed the minimum required in following the regulations, even cutting corners. They did the minimum and time and time again were cited for infractions. But, as the report makes clear, Transport Canada knew of the violations and yet did next to nothing in the way of corrective action. The Harper gang did not follow up or ensure that MM&A complied with all of the rules.

Following the report, the government was peculiarly silent. Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, emerged briefly from her warren to issue a statement that, typically from members of this gang, attempted to distance herself and her government from all responsibility. The rules are there, the railway company broke them. And that, apparently, is good enough, all that this regime intends to do. This sidestepping of responsibility is craven and abhorrent but, again, unsurprising. Why accept responsibility when staffers can be thrown under buses or, as in the rail disaster, companies can be fined and two or three employees scapegoated. The MM&A workers followed the rules; they did the minimum required of them and so did MM&A Railway and this Harper gang.

Where was the oversight? “Who is the guardian of public safety,” asked Wendy Tadros chair of the Transportation Board of Safety. Good question. Evidently no one.

WELCOME TO THE AGE OF INFANTILISM

So when I read that the government has quietly contributed $4 million of taxpayer monies towards a memorial commemorating the victims of Communism, I am not surprised. Nor am I surprised they attempted to do so with little fanfare. And yet, for free enterprising ideologues, it is odd that they haven’t pulled out the trumpets and sent them ablaring. The memorial is entitled Tribute to Liberty. The irony is rich. This is the government that has been linked to voter suppression, to robocalls, that has players facing election fraud charges. This is the party that has rigged the game with changes to the Elections Act that will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters and whose redrawing of electoral boundaries will likely garner them another twenty-two seats.

I want to ask, Where is the memorial for the victims of Capitalism? Where is the memorial for the 146 garment workers burnt to death in 1911 in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York because they were locked in and couldn’t escape? Where is the memorial for the 275 trapped in a Pakistan fire and the 1100 killed when a Bangladesh factory collapsed while making garments for European and North American companies? Where is the memorial for the thousands of men and women imprisoned and murdered by gun totting company thugs simply because they were unionists. Every day in every corner of the globe, workers die because management cut corners in the name of profit. It’s easier to replace workers than machinery. Miners, forest workers, first responders, military men and women, nurses, doctors, and countless others put their lives on the line daily to ensure that the economy runs smoothly. The appetite of Big Business is insatiable; there is never enough, the greedy pigs must be fed, the money shovelled into their open mouths as they step on the necks of those who have made them wealthy and successful. It is to such as these our government panders. So, no, there will be no national monument for workers.

Perhaps it’s a sign of naiveté, which should be surprising in someone who has reached the age I have, but I can still be shocked by the behaviour of others, this government in particular. I find it particularly offensive that those in positions of trust can lie, cheat, deny, blame others, and steal from the public purse time and time again without suffering shame and guilt. Why is that? Who is to be blamed? Well, I blame immoral, opportunistic individuals who enter politics for less than noble reasons, those folks who can spin the yarn and fake the warmth and win the brass ring to the road of enrichment, not of the self but of the bank account.

But I blame the voter even more. They continue to vote the same slime in again and again. I am puzzled as to why people stand in line for hours so that they can take Selfies of themselves with Rob Ford, that lying, amoral clown who deserves ridicule and contempt rather than the glow of admiration you see in the faces of those simpletons who apparently care nothing about morality, decency, honesty, law, order, and judgement. When is enough enough for these people? Have these politicians no shame? Have those voters lost all discernment? Are they blind, stupid, indifferent or all of these? I suspect it is the latter. When asked about Ford, those people speak proudly of him as the man who has saved them money (they never explain how), who is just like them (god help us), just ordinary folks (they forget he comes from a fairly wealthy family). They appear to find it amusing that he smokes crack, that he has lied, lied, lied and lied some more. They appear to be deaf to his misogynistic potty mouth, indifferent to his buffoonery, blind to his cartoonish version of the modern man. That he is an object for scorn, that he is dishonest and consorts with criminals does not deter these folks: he’s a celebrity, a folk hero.

These folks, the supporters of the likes of Harper and Ford, are truly frightening. It’s all a lark. Why worry, be happy. Who cares about the stench of corruption and moral decay, it’s all about the main chance and aren’t we all playing the game. So offer us shiny political bribes; we can easily and cheaply be bought and distracted with a few dollars in tax cuts and by cheap tinsel celebrities. Why worry, be happy, indulge the excesses, the vacuity, the vulgarity and the inanity of those narcissistic zombies.

In some respect, Harper offends me more because he is the bigger threat. He is smarter than Ford and meaner. He is petty and vengeful and he uses his majority as a club to ram legislation through. He is anti-democratic and not above rigging the game. His fixations at times appear to be from a world of unreality, as if wishing to to mark his reign of error by convincing himself that his is the Age of Triumphalism.

Not quite. It is true, we have entered a new era but it is far from glorious. It is a sad, dismal age, the Age of Infantilism.

 ***

But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine.

***

They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty not safety. Benjamin Franklin

 

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THE WORM IN THE APPLE: STEPHEN HARPER AND DEMOCRACY

 Certitude is not the test of certainty. – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

I hear many condemn these men because they were so few. When were the good and brave ever in the majority? – Henry David Thoreau

 

 

Frank A. Pelaschuk

 

If there is any hope for the Canadian future, surely it cannot be with Harper’s Conservatives, particularly the core band of entrenched, witless supporters who find their brand of nasty dirty tricks somehow acceptable if not bracing. Who cares what the goals are or how they are achieved or who shunted aside: anything goes at any cost. Civility, decency, honesty, and transparency appear to be mere products of another by-gone era; quaint, fondly remembered, but no longer tolerable, expedient, or expected. For such as these, morality is gauged by self-interest and individual gains. Democracy is a fine sentiment but what’s in it for me. The world has changed. So must we. Let’s rig the game.

It is not a pleasant vision. But these are not pleasant folk.

GENERAL BULLMOOSE LIVES

Harper and his gang know something about their supporters that core of true believers who cannot, will not, be swayed regardless of how secretive, dishonest, corrupt, mean-spirited or vile this Conservative regime is. That core is made up of the intractable self-centred, self-loving, of mean-spirited, free-enterprising corporate free-loaders, of gun-loving, anti-union, anti-government, tax-hating “but-“want-everything” lumpens, of belligerent immigrant vilifiers and exploiters, of “punish” the poor, the homeless, the helpless and hapless. It is upon this ilk that the Harper gang most relies. Come next election, victory is assured as long as they can divide the vote between the NDP and the Liberals and sway a few soft votes from either camp. Just to be certain, it might help to rig the Elections Act and gerrymander 30 new ridings with boundaries redistribution. It’s all about the economy, jobs and reduced taxes they will tell you appealing to your baser instincts neglecting to tell you that it’s really about power and suppression: getting power and keeping it. But, in order to keep that power, Harper and his gang believe it is necessary to wage war against Canadian citizens and organizations that stand in opposition to their narrow, single-minded fixation on the economy and tax cuts to the neglect of all the rest that makes for a successful, thriving, decent, and generous society. This is a group so devoted to their goals and yet are so frightened and so distrustful of their own citizens, the sixty per cent who did not vote for them, that, even with their majority of seats, still feels insecure. Wedded to an ideology, they cannot understand why most Canadians do not support them. To them, it is incomprehensible that so many voters find their policies exclusionary, limited, and just plain mean. Surely it’s all about money and self-interest and the welfare of Big Business. To quote Al Capp, they believe “What’s good for General Bullmoose (Capp’s fictional ruthless, mercenary capitalist) is good for everybody.” They are not wrong. It is good – for Big Business.

Over the past few years Harper and gang have deprived Canadians of over $43 billion with corporate tax cuts. Some figures place the cuts at $60 billion. It is estimated that corporate tax cuts are about $12 billion a year. The Conservative myth is that investing in business creates jobs. Where is the evidence? One thing is certain and neither the Harper gang nor the corporate beneficiaries of the largesse extracted from Canadians seem too eager to boast of it: corporate welfare is very good for Big Business but it comes at the expense of service cuts and public service jobs. They prefer buzzwords: restructuring, modernizing. The benefits, however, do not extend to our veterans nor those homeless on the streets but rather the sleazy group of Conservative politicians and CEOs who can boast about creating low income, part-time jobs. Whatever benefits most Canadians at the lower end of the scale may derive amount to little more than three to four hundred dollars a year, which are quickly consumed by increases in utility rates or goods. Canadians are left holding the bag carrying more of the load while the infrastructure upon which we depend, our highways, bridges, hospitals, public services, drinking water, public pension plans, and public safety nets are increasingly placed at risk through cuts, underfunding, and maintenance neglect. For Harper, hurling a few tiny shiny tokens our way is sufficient; it has never been about the welfare of Canadians but the welfare of Big Business. As we have seen with his regime’s persistent and often deceitful efforts to ensure that the Keystone XL pipeline and other pet projects succeed (including smearing opponents and downplaying the risks), he and his gang take on the roles of corporate shills. These Harper Conservative thugs apparently cannot understand why some Canadians are not convinced that cutting taxes for corporations, that keeping wages of low income earners low, and that keeping low income workers fearful of losing their jobs to immigrants is good for society, good for the economy. That it doesn’t work, that it’s a lie, doesn’t deter them. One can almost hear the puzzlement as those tiny peas rattle behind those beady, greedy eyes. What’s wrong with millionaires making more; after all, they create the jobs, they create wealth, they keep the economy going? It would be nice to test that theory if only for one agreed upon day when every worker on the globe found the courage to lay down his tools, held back his services and his skills. Let the Lords and Masters discover for themselves who really creates wealth, who keeps the world humming and functioning. Would the world tremble, come to a juddering halt for that single day? Perhaps not, but it would notice. And if it were extended to a second or third day…but it will not of course as long as workers believe they are powerless or lack the courage to take a stand.

It’s not a one way street, but Harper and his gang and their Masters in Big Business would have us believe differently: everything we have is through the generosity of the Titans of Capitalism and we should be grateful and keep our mouths shut. It’s a lie, as big a lie as saying all civil servants are lazy or every welfare claimant is a fraud or that every successful business man did it all by himself. Free enterprisers are often our biggest freeloaders. There is never enough for them. Hands out of our pockets, they scream while displaying no signs of hesitation in extending theirs for taxpayer monies during times of trouble or when blackmailing us into forking over huge grants and tax cuts to set up shop under threat they’ll look elsewhere. But, even then, that is often not enough. Even when the taxes are the lowest in North America, when the government well runs dry, when the government annual handouts stop, they often close shops, fire workers and run back home richer and happier without so much as a good-by kiss but rather a Kiss My Ass, Sucker!

It happens time and again and all governments play along as if it were some game. We voters are as much to blame for we keep on voting those scoundrels in time and again. As long as there are workers who swallow the line that they deserve less and others deserve more, that unions are greedy and Corporations charities, the likes of Harper and his crew will continue to sell out Canadians with a shoddy bill of goods. As long as we allow them to divert our attention away from their misdeeds by scapegoating others for our ills, they will crow and we will whine and others will bear the brunt of our fury. So it’s fixed minimum mandatory jail times and mandatory victim surcharges applied against the meanest and lowest and poorest among us, surcharges some judges have ignored as cruel and vindictive one, Ontario Court Justice David Paciocco writing in a 31 page judgement, “This is a crushing amount for him, beyond his foreseeable means. It is a sum that, in relative hardship, is many multiples of what a moneyed offender would have to pay. Simply put, Mr. Michael (the accused) is being treated more harshly because of his poverty than someone who is wealthy” (The Ottawa Citizen, Aug. 1, ’14).

THERE ARE ENEMIES EVERYWHERE

Yes, the economy and jobs certainly do matter. But there are other things equally important if not more so. Yet, it seems, neither Harper nor his supporters believe so.

So, what is it that Harper and his small, vindictive, insecure, weak crew fear from their own citizens that they feel compelled to wage war on them? Not content with their majority, which they happily wield as a bludgeon to ram through bills and batter the opposition to submission, they have displayed an unhealthy disregard for democracy itself using subterfuge in the forms of omnibus bills to sneak in legislation with little to no time offered for debate and examination; proposed amendments are dismissed out of hand or, if accepted, are trivial and trivialized. Opponents to these bills wanting nothing more than time to examine and debate them are smeared, charged with siding with pornographers or their patriotism questioned. This is vile stuff. What does Harper fear? He has the majority; the bills would pass. So what harm is there in demonstrating a little grace, in making some amendments that, if done well, would not only accomplish the stated goals, but would likely pass the smell and legal tests as well? To hold a majority and be generous is not weakness. In fact, the duty of all governments is to protect the interests of all citizens even it’s perceived enemies. However, this government acts out of weakness and fear and, in doing so, proves itself cowardly as it bullies and threatens and imposes. Every individual, every organization, every public servant and every citizen is viewed with suspicion if he or she dares stand up to this regime and say, “What you are doing is wrong”. This gang cannot accept such a criticism. They believe themselves inherently superior to all others who do not share their vision. They cannot apologize or admit to being wrong; they will not retreat. That is the danger of an Ideology embraced so tightly that it allows no room for oxygen. The oxygen deprived cannot imagine that opponents might have worthwhile contributions to offer in the way of ideas or change. And, because they are oxygen deprived, the Harper Conservatives appear incapable of holding more than one thought: they are right and everyone else is wrong, is out to get them, is a crazed left-winger and left-wingers, as everyone knows, are incapable of fiscal responsibility or of even a single good idea.

We have Harper and his gang attacking government watchdog agencies that are meant to protect the public from governmental abuses. We have oafish Mark Adler wishing to propose legislation that would force employees in these agencies swear loyalty oaths. But to whom would these workers be loyal? The agencies? The public at large? Or the Harper gang? Based on their behaviour, I know the answer to that and so do you if you’re not a blind adherent to the Harper agenda. As it is, those working for the PMO must sign life-long non-disclosure agreements. Why? What are Harper and gang doing on our behalf that we are not entitled to know? Right away I’m suspicious. I don’t trust them. I can’t trust them. Unless it touches upon matters of utmost national security, Canadians have every right to know everything its government does. Unfortunately, this government, which campaigned on transparency and honesty, had long ago abandoned those promises. Everyone is a potential terrorist, especially the voter that wants to boot this regime out of office. Harper really seems to believe that knowledge is a dangerous thing. As a consequence, Canadians have yet to be informed of the true costs of those overpriced fighter jets, the F-35s which Harper and the then Minister of Defence Peter MacKay claimed would be about $9 billion. Critics however, including the then Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, believe the costs will be much, much more. Thus far the estimates have pegged them ballooning from $45 to $125 billion. This lack of information is typical of the Harper gang. But, ask yourself: as a taxpayer footing the bill, shouldn’t you know how much it’s going to cost you? Harper believes not.

And because Harper does not think Canadians should know, or are incapable of handling what they might learn, he insists that knowledge should be limited. The less Canadians know, the better for all concerned. Especially for him and his crew. How can we ask questions to what we don’t know? So the Conservative gang muzzles scientists, smear critics and consider the poor and homeless as suspect. In fact, everyone is suspect. That legitimizes his efforts to obtain warrantless access to our internet accounts. Under the guise of going after pedophiles, the security agencies may as well hunt around for terrorists, perhaps learn what we think of this government, what are views are on the Israel/Palestine question etc. Enemies are everywhere; you could be one.

What Harper fears is certainly not those who form his core base of support and vote for him and his ilk. It is not even the spies, terrorists, criminals, immigrants he and the gang are quite happy to evoke at every opportune moment to play on our fears, exploit our bigotry and feed upon our ignorance to help keep him in power. It is knowledge that Harper fears and the wisdom that comes with it. An informed public is dangerous.

AND THEY ARE US

Unfortunately for Harper and crew, the quest for knowledge and truth is unquenchable and unstoppable. Unfortunately for Canadians, knowledge and truth are not enough when you have a government led by such as this vile gang for whom no dirty trick is too dirty, too vile, to not be exploited. Too, it is clear that the Conservatives themselves do not believe their own agenda, their own policies, in the rightness of their cause. If they did, the merits of Harper’s Conservatism should be enough to convince the majority of Canadians. It doesn’t. So, faith shaken, what can they do, these scoundrels? They can simply change the rules. And they have. For this group, chicanery comes easily.

With the passage of the so-called Fair Elections Act, supposedly to combat rampant voter fraud (a myth, a lie fuelled by Pierre Poilievre with his misrepresentation of the Neufeld Report on Electoral Reform) the Harper gang has effectively disenfranchised by some estimates, 100,000 to 500,000 voters. These include aboriginals, the poor, the homeless, the ill, the mentally ill, the elderly, those on welfare, and those with no fixed address, students, itinerant workers, and those relocating to other areas across the nation during election time. That’s a lot of people and mostly those on the bottom of the heap who would be least likely to vote Conservative.

Too, by next election, as stated earlier, there will be an additional 30 new ridings. With its penchant for rigging the game, gerrymandering of the boundaries will all but guarantee the Conservatives at least 22 new seats if voting patterns remain as is. However, as it is likely that the Conservatives are not as certain of voter support for their platform as they would wish, they are reluctant to test it without a little help.

Just to make certain that things are as easy as possible for a Conservative victory, Harper, with the assist of Pierre Poilievre, has reduced the powers of Elections Canada. While Elections Canada is still able to inform people where, when and what they need to have on them when they vote, it can no longer encourage voters to vote! Well, that leaves a few more voters Harper and gang don’t have to worry about.

As well, this gang has all but made it easier for those running for office to cheat. As if Conservatives haven’t tried in the past few elections with the in-out scam, with the robocalls scandals, with MPs such as Shelly Glover and James Bezan resisting calls from Elections Canada to submit full campaign claims. We even had Eve Adams attempting to palm off her spa treatments as expenses and Dean del Mastro facing the courts for fraudulent election expense claims. The Tories have greatly weakened the powers of Elections Canada. The agency, which is answerable to Parliament, will lose much of its powers to investigate election fraud. Those being investigated must be informed and must give permission before the public is informed. Too, witnesses who may know of fraud, cannot be compelled to testify. As well, and probably most offensive, the investigative arm of Elections Canada, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, has been moved to the Director of Public Prosecutions, which is accountable to the PMO. This is extremely important. This could, and would, likely lead to political interference especially with Harper at the helm. As well, the opportunity for corrupt outcomes would be enhanced with the prosecution also taking on the investigative role. It could decide what evidence to disclose or not. When this was pointed out by critics, the oily and sinister partisan, Poilievre, the Minister of Democratic Reform, suggested that the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, “only wanted more power’ for himself. That’s how Conservative under Harper work: they smear those who dare speak out against them. And if you are on the government payroll, they fire you or don’t rehire you. That’s what happened to Kevin Page. When there is little to no likelihood of discovery and punishment, there is every possibility of electoral fraud by those running for office.

Meanwhile, as the next election year approaches, the rat pack hunts out its enemies and picks them off one-by-one. Environmentalists are radicals and stooges for foreign interests. As if Canadians can’t think for themselves. Perhaps Harper and his gang arrived at that low opinion of others by using as benchmark the knowledge they possess of themselves and their supporters. Well, they know that crowd best, I guess.

BUT WHY SO MEAN TO SOME?

It is difficult to understand what it is that makes Harper and his gang as mean as they are. If they truly believe in their agenda and their methods of achieving them, why are they always on the offensive against their critics in ways that are, well, downright offensive, smack of arrogance, are based on ignorance and often dishonestly presented. Harper and his gang reveal a gross intolerance for questions from opposition members and even more aversion for answering them. Next time Parliament is in session, take the time to watch Question Period. One is left with the sad feeling that the Conservative gang are so wedded to the idea of power that they, themselves, have lost sight of what they offer and believe and can no longer give voice to them because those beliefs no longer exist or have become muddled with something else: winning, and at any cost.

I have little doubt they know that their approach of economy and job creation is too narrow and that its benefits, while there, are few, are not for the advantage of the whole of society but for the very few among the very privileged; for these few the benefits are many and rich indeed. For the rest, shiny promises and a few dollars in tax breaks perhaps and more in the way of public services cuts may be enough. But should it be? The envious are always with us. Unhappy with their lot, they are always willing to rip into public service workers and pull them down. And, of course, there are others to encourage them in their scapegoating. We have Tony Clement, president of the Treasury, feeding into that envy and hostility. He had no hesitation in throwing over 19,000 public workers out of work suggesting they are too many, are underworked and overpaid and altogether undeserving fat cat unionists. This is the man who milked from the public purse a $50 million slush fund for his riding during the 2010 G-8 and G-20 conferences less remembered for its accomplishments than the $1 million fake lake, the $250 thousand dollars gazebo and the mass arrests of peaceful protesters. Where is the outrage for all that?

It is easy to target those who can’t fight back. Harper and his gang are the schoolyard bullies; they appear to relish the role.

So, perhaps, the enemies Harper and gang see around them are real after all. It’s difficult to respect, let alone love, a government as abusive of others as this one with its relentless partisanship, its lack of fairness, its narrow vision and its inability to rise above its own desires to even consider the interests of all, including its enemies. The Harper crew offer little leeway. Unless promoting some pet project of their own, they avoid the media like the plague. After all, it is made up of “lickspittle elites”. And naturally, they do not trust educators, scientists and environmentalists unless they are stooges for Big Oil denying climate change or that humankind’s impact is real and devastating and on the edge of no turning back. How can you trust those biased anti-business, pro-NDP, ivory-towered intellectuals? Climate change, global warming? Rubbish. Just cyclical events that mankind has endured since the creation of the world three thousand years ago when man ran with dinosaurs. Ah! give me a break.

Thanks to Harper and his gang, 3,000 workers have been cut from the Canada Revenue Agency. They are out of work. As well as offering a $43 billion dollar free lunch to Big Business in tax breaks, the Harper gang appears eager to make it easier for corporations and wealthy individuals to set up offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes. The cuts in the CRA makes it more difficult, if not impossible, for the revenue agency to pursue and punish those cheats as well as recover the money owed the Canadian public. That is stolen money and there is little to no evidence that Harper and the gang are attempting to recover it. The tax evaders, along with Harper and crew, apparently agree with Leona Helmsley who infamously said: Only the little people pay taxes. In cutting those jobs, Harper and his gang give me the impression of abetting this criminal activity; they are the lookout while the gang inside pillage the bank. Experts estimate that Canadians are being cheated by more than $9 billion a year by scofflaw cheats. These are thieves. While Canadian taxpayers carry the burden, the wealthy, apparently believing themselves entitled, flout the law in the full knowledge that Harper is not able or unwilling to recover what we are owed. Instead, Harper and gang have other priorities. They have set out to put an end to what really riles them: charities. Not just any charity or all charities but only those of a perceived political slant: those charities that are critical of Harper and his government; those charities that believe in family planning, which may include abortion. You get the drift. Disagree with Harper’s worldview or offer an opinion with which he may disagree, you pay the price. Your patriotism is questioned. You’re branded as suspect. So, while over $9 billion are siphoned out of this country by knaves and thieves, charities are fighting for their survival as they are harassed with yearly audits. Now, some of those charities targeted have become so at the instigation of EthicalOil.org, the lobby group for Big Oil and the tarsands behind the Keystone XL pipeline project that has aroused so much interest from environmentalists and climatologists who have warned Harper and the gang about the risks involved in going ahead with it. Of course, EthicalOil.org, sanctimonious and hypocritical, so concerned with how our taxes are being spent will not, itself, reveal who its backers are except to state it only receives monies from Canadian companies. Personally, I am more interested in knowing if foreign interests own the Canadian companies and what benefits, if any, it obtains from taxpayers. Meanwhile, we must take them at their word that everything is above board while they smear others with innuendo.

Now, I am not saying there should no audits when taxpayers fund a charity. I do, however, expect that the audits be fair and applied to all political spectrums equally. But when the CRA becomes politicized, as it has under the Harper gang, targeting those on the left, one has to wonder, what is it that Harper and gang hope to accomplish? Of what are they afraid? Why would they punish the beneficiaries of the charitable work, those in desperate need, innocent victims, simply because the organization funds abortions, speaks out against some of Harper’s policies and legislation? That kind of behaviour is obscene from a government that purports itself as democratic. If it is silence that Harper seeks, it will not work; truth will always out ¾ eventually. What the public does learn, however, is that there is no limit to the smallness of the men and women in this regime. When one imagines they have sunk as low as humanly possible, they will sink lower. They wallow, apparently with great relish, in the shallow meanness of their collective character. As reported by Dean Beeby in the Ottawa Citizen (July 25, 2014), there is a word that the Harper gang and the CRA does not like in Oxfam’s stated goal which is to “prevent and relieve poverty, vulnerability and suffering by improving the conditions of individuals whose lives, livelihood, security or well-being are at risk.” The objectionable word is “prevent”. The CRA says, “…preventing poverty might benefit people who are not already poor.” This is insane. What does that mean? Picayune. Imbecilic. Arbitrary. Tax evaders are ripping off Canadians to the tune of over $9 billion a year and the government is threatening to remove the charitable status of an organization because of one word and save what…a couple of hundred thousand, a million or two? This is what our government deems more important than thieves ripping us off!

Well, intimidation worked with Oxfam; it removed the offending word. And you have to wonder why this government appears to be offended by the thought of wanting to rid or prevent the world of poverty. Perhaps, in doing so, it will be more difficult for employers to suppress wages because workers will no longer feel the need to undercut each other in competing for jobs. Is this to what Harper and his gang are reduced?

Minister of Revenue, Kerry-Lynne Findlay denies that the targeting of charities perceived to be on the left is politically motivated. Judge for yourself.

The David Suzuki Foundation, an outspoken advocate for the preservation of our environment and resources has also been listed. Well, Harper and gang don’t believe Global Warming is the real thing. The Foundation’s criticism of the Keystone XL pipeline project and Harper’s role has made it a target.

Amnesty International merits targeting because of its willingness to fight for the human rights of all who are incarcerated. In the past, it has been critical of the Harper regime’s treatment of Omar Khadr.

KAIROS, a United Church human rights advocacy group too has earned the ire of the Harper Gang. For many decades it received funding with the approval of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Then, a few years back, Bev Oda, at that time overseer of the agency (until forced to resign in disgrace over padded expense claims and a $16 glass of orange juice), rescinded CIDA’s approval by inserting “NOT” to the document thereby committing forgery. For that act, she was not punished. What had KAIROS done? It had committed the crime of disagreeing with Harper’s unquestioning support of the Israelis over their heavy-handed treatment of the Palestinians. Look what’s happening today. Not a word of condemnation from Harper though the world, while supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, condemns the brutality of its responses to Hamas bombings.

Another target is the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), which promotes research on economic and social policy issues. It’s easy to see why it is targeted. While it may look for economic and social alternatives, the Harper thugs clearly believe there are no alternatives to their economic plan. Rather than defend the Conservative plan, Harper finds it easier just to silence others.

Lastly, he has targeted PEN Canada, which promotes the right to free speech around the world. PEN had been critical of the Harper gang when it muzzled and fired government scientists. As stated earlier, it’s knowledge and the wisdom that comes with it that Harper fears. But, let’s give Harper some credit: He will defend with as much will as he can muster to fight for our right to agree with him.

These are not the only targets. Just a tip of the iceberg. Clearly what troubles Harper with these organizations is that all seem to be concerned with freedom and human rights. Now, what do you suppose Harper and his nasty crew have against freedom and human rights? Oh, yes, knowledge, wisdom.

THE KING OF KINGS – IN HIS OWN MIND

Vile, hypocritical, vicious, petty, mean, dishonest, conniving, sly and deceitful, this gang of lowlifes never feels in its element unless swimming in the slime of Conservative ideology. We have been witness to their behaviour when they smeared those taking the government to court over bad laws or bad appointments in an end run attempt to skirt the taws and democracy. They are not even above taking cheap shots against the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Beverley McLachlin accusing her of political interference during a search for a candidate for the Supreme Court. That turned out to be a lie. He and Peter MacKay, the Minister of Justice have yet to apologize to the Chief Justice, the Supreme Court and to the Canadian public. International jurists have called about Harper and MacKay to do the right thing. Neither will. They are not man enough, not decent enough to admit they were wrong and dishonest.

They are shameless and vile.

Just think of this: Thérèse Casgrain, a leading Quebec suffragette activist and first female to lead a political party had been honoured by Pierre Trudeau naming a national volunteer award after her, the Thérèse Casgrain Volunteer Award. If one followed her exploits, he would agree she deserved this recognition. Recently, we have learned that Stephen Harper has rebranded the award. It is now known as the Prime Minister’s Volunteer Award. How low can this man go? The Gazette Editor has it right: “Ignorant. Repugnant” (July 30, ’14). The rebranding occurred in 2010. We just learned of it this week. Think of that. This is Harper. You should not be surprised. Disgusted, yes, but not surprised. When I read about Casgrain and Harper’s dismissal of her, words written by Percy Bysshe Shelley came to mind: My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:/Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

Refresh your memory, read the poem. With Harper, vanity and arrogance are no myth. He looks in the mirror and imagines he sees a general. It’s his fancy and it’s pure rubbish.

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But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine.

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They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty not safety. Benjamin Franklin

 

 

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