A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘politics

[LINK] “The transformative visions of William Blake”

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Christopher Rowland has a stirring essay at Open Democracy about the importance of William Blake, as a philosopher of politics and as a literary figure (if, admittedly, after his death). I wish I engaged more with him; I wish I was more like him.

William Blake (1757-1827) lived most of his life in London, with a short spell on the Sussex coast, during which he was charged with sedition because of what he said to a soldier and for which he was put on trial. His life spanned the turbulent years that saw the independence of the American colonies and the French Revolution, both of which inform his prophetic understanding of history.

Blake’s two prophecies, America and Europe, were ‘prophetic’ not because Blake sought to predict what was going on—indeed they were written following these events. Rather, he sought to plumb the depths of the historical and social dynamics which were at work in them. He was part of a tradition of radical non-conformity in English religion, with different ways of reading the Bible.

In many ways Blake is an obvious choice of someone whose life’s work was to link ‘the personal and the political,’ but his work for justice and equality in the world was less through political activism or a practice which seeks to bring about societal transformation, and more about the intellectual task of changing hearts and minds. His Descriptive Catalogue of 1809 indicates that he wanted to make a pitch for a role as a public artist. But his exhibition met with the derision of the only reviewer of the exhibition (Robert Hunt), who disdainfully dismissed it as a “farrago of nonsense … the wild effusions of a distempered brain,” and Blake as “an unfortunate lunatic.”

This initiative on Blake’s part not only shows his sense of vocation but also the difficulties which attended the reception of his work. His illuminated books are as challenging today for the reader or viewer as they were when they were first published, and there will be many who continue to react like Hunt. But this complexity only underlines the difficulty of the interpretative tasks Blake undertook as he explored relationships to the past, and the cul-de-sacs which can so easily attend the journey of personal and political transformation.

Throughout his work he remained committed to the following task as expressed in the Marriage of Heaven and Hell: “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite.” Arguably, all of Blake’s works are designed to facilitate the process of change in the individual and in society. Transformation is key to everything he undertook.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 27, 2015 at 10:54 pm

[ISL] “Liberal Alan McIsaac wins seat in coin toss after recount tie”

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CBC reports from Prince Edward Island.

Liberal candidate Alan McIsaac’s seat in the P.E.I. legislature was affirmed by a coin toss on Tuesday, after a judicial recount of the votes in the May 4 provincial election revealed a tie.

Progressive Conservative candidate Mary Ellen McInnis lost the election by just two votes to incumbent McIsaac.

She officially filed for the recount in District 5, Vernon River-Stratford, on May 12.

Judge John Douglas performed the recount in a room at the Atlantic Technology Centre in Charlottetown.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 22, 2015 at 10:09 pm

[LINK] “Scotland’s growing influence on UK foreign policy”

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Kirsty Hughes’ Open Democracy article about the growing influence of Scotland on British foreign policy–and on the growth of a distinctly Scottish foreign policy–reminds me of debates held in Canada over Québec’s international role a generation ago.

Scotland’s policy stances on the EU and on global foreign policy, even in the absence of independence, are set to be of growing importance and influence – but have received remarkably little attention during the election campaign.

And while the outcome of the 2015 general election could transform the UK’s EU and wider foreign policy, one of the few similarities in the different campaigns in England and Scotland is that the focus of debate in both has been primarily domestic.

The probable greater impact of Scotland on UK foreign policy is in part due to the increased devolution of powers to Scotland, promised by the Unionist camp at the time of the referendum campaign and set out further through the Smith Commission Report. It means Scottish views on a raft of EU policies – from agriculture to finance to renewable energy – are going to need to be represented more in Brussels. And there is likely to be growing, quite likely controversial, demands from the Scottish government for a greater role and influence over key UK EU policies.

At the same time, if the SNP ends up with 50 or so MPs at Westminster as the polls predict – a seismic shift in Scottish and UK politics – they would certainly have some important influence over the EU and foreign policies of a minority Labour government. Even a minority Tory government might find that winning some foreign policy votes on sensitive issues that might split their own party could be won or lost depending on the SNP’s stance.

One reason Scottish foreign policy views have received little attention is that there is a general but mistaken view that devolution covers domestic issues only, and that even under ‘devo-max’, foreign policy and security would be excluded from Scottish influence. Yet with the UK part of the EU this domestic-foreign distinction makes little sense. With the EU passing laws from health and safety, age discrimination, competition and trade policy to sanctions, renewables targets and so on, what is domestic or ‘foreign’ is blurred and overlapping, and many of the EU policy areas lie within Scotland’s devolved areas of policy.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 21, 2015 at 10:56 pm

[LINK] “Navajo Nation president sworn in after contentious race”

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I’ve been keeping an eye on the politics of the Navajo Nation, thanks to Al Jazeera’s coverage.

The new president of the Navajo Nation was sworn in on Tuesday after an election delayed for five months by a dispute over a rival’s language ability, and he vowed to uphold the nation’s culture and sovereignty while putting forth a pro-business agenda.

Businessman and former Navajo Nation Council member Russell Begaye won the leadership of the largest U.S. Native American tribe after a contentious race last month that was dominated by controversy over a rule that presidential candidates be fluent in Navajo.

In his inaugural address, Begaye spoke of his desire to protect a language steeped in tradition and value.

“Let’s not ever be ashamed of speaking Navajo again as we move forward on this awakening of a new dawn,” said Begaye, who drew repeatedly on his campaign slogan, “Awakening of a New Dawn,” when speaking after he took the oath of office in Fort Defiance, Arizona.

He signed an agreement that includes moving forward with a tram — the controversial Grand Canyon Escalade project — that would shuttle tourists from cliff tops to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and other projects he agreed with his predecessor Ben Shelly to push forward. On the list is a rail port that would export crops and coal from the reservation and the pursuit of clean coal technology.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 19, 2015 at 9:36 pm

[LINK] “Omar Khadr should have served youth sentence, Supreme Court rules”

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CBC shares the extended Canadian Press article looking at the latest development in Omar Khadr’s life, out on bail and challenging his sentence before the Supreme Court. He may well have done wrong, but I think it’s safe to say he was treated badly. May he be able to build a civilized, sustainable life in Canada.

The Supreme Court of Canada wasted no time Thursday as it summarily rejected the federal government’s bid to have former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr declared an adult offender.

The case — the third time the Khadr file has come before the high court — centred on whether the eight-year war-crimes sentence he got from a U.S. military commission in 2010 ought to be interpreted as a youth or adult sentence.

The federal government has argued the latter, saying Khadr actually received five concurrent eight-year terms, one for each of his five war crimes — a conclusion the nine justices rejected in a rare decision from the bench.

“The sentence is under the minimum for an adult sentence,” Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin told the court after about 30 minutes of midday deliberations that immediately followed the end of the hearing.

“We are of the view that a proper interpretation of the relevant legislation does not permit Mr. Khadr’s eight-year sentence to be treated as five distinct eight-year sentences to be served concurrently.”

Written by Randy McDonald

May 14, 2015 at 10:26 pm

Posted in Canada, Politics

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[URBAN NOTE] “Sadat City Is a Cautionary Tale as Egypt Plans New Capital”

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Bloomberg’s Ahmed Feteha has a depressing article about the historical failure of planned cities in Egypt. What incentive do Egyptians have to move from the Nile valley that is already the natural centre of their country?

The sun-bleached portrait of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in military regalia that marks the entry to the city he built is testament to its brief flourishing and steady decline.

What began in 1978 as a vision for a new administrative capital today has a population of about 150,000, smaller than many rural towns. The recreation area at its center is unused and it’s not even linked to the national railway.

Four decades on, the latest Egyptian strongman to retire his uniform and rule as a civilian president, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, is taking another stab at building an alternative to congested Cairo. Featuring glass skyscrapers, landscaped neighborhoods and a theme park, his $75 billion project is likely to be financed by funds from Gulf Arab monarchies.

Developers say building the new city will create more than a million jobs. It’s part of El-Sisi’s drive to revive Egypt’s economy through mega-projects, including an $8 billion waterway parallel to the Suez Canal. Much like Sadat’s, critics say, the grandiose ambition is as misplaced as the governing priorities it exposes.

[. . .]

Trying to shift Egypt’s population from the Nile Delta is especially challenging. Every president since the 1952 overthrow of the monarchy has tried and “they’ve all failed,” said Samey El-Alayly, former president of Cairo University’s urban planning department in an interview.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 14, 2015 at 10:23 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto politics in a hashtag”

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Spacing Toronto’s Kat Eschner wrote about the genesis of the Twitter hashtag #topoli.

It was 2010. The G20 protests were in the news, and Rob Ford was running for mayor. Some of Toronto’s Twitter users took to the web to air their thoughts in 140 characters that included the new hashtag #TOpoli[.]

In the past year, from May 5, 2014 to May 4, 2015, more than 1.7 million tweets and retweets used that hashtag. But as the first ten tweets that used the hashtag show, it wasn’t a big success right off the bat. Though it was first used in June 2010, it didn’t really take off until October 25[.]

That’s when Jean-Pierre (JP) Boutros proposed changing from #VoteTO to a hashtag that more closely mirrored provincial hashtag #onpoli. “I just threw it out there,” he said. Boutros went on to work for Councillor Karen Stintz and run for council himself in 2o14. He thinks the hashtag took off because Toronto spent the four-plus years that followed in such preoccupation with municipal politics. But now that Rob Ford’s polarizing mayoralty is over, Boutros thinks there’s less interest in #TOpoli.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 13, 2015 at 10:41 pm

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