Saturday, October 04, 2008
Thursday, October 02, 2008
The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens: CHAPTER XIII SOME ACCOUNT OF EATANSWILL; OF THE STATE OF PARTIES THEREIN; AND OF THE ELECTION OF A MEMBER TO SERVE IN PARLIAMENT FOR THAT ANCIENT, LOYAL, AND PATRIOTIC BOROUGH
...With these words Mr. Pickwick descended to the parlour, where he found breakfast laid, and the family already assembled. The meal was hastily despatched; each of the gentlemen`s hats was decorated with an enormous blue favour, made up by the fair hands of Mrs. Pott herself; and as Mr. Winkle had undertaken to escort that lady to a house-top, in the immediate vicinity of the hustings, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Pott repaired alone to the Town Arms, from the back window of which, one of Mr. Slumkey`s committee was addressing six small boys and one girl, whom he dignified, at every second sentence, with the imposing title of `Men of Eatanswill,` whereat the six small boys aforesaid cheered prodigiously.
The stable-yard exhibited unequivocal symptoms of the glory and strength of the Eatanswill Blues. There was a regular army of blue flags, some with one handle, and some with two, exhibiting appropriate devices, in golden characters four feet high, and stout in proportion. There was a grand band of trumpets, bassoons, and drums, marshalled four abreast, and earning their money, if ever men did, especially the drum-beaters, who were very muscular. There were bodies of constables with blue staves, twenty committee-men with blue scarfs, and a mob of voters with blue cockades. There were electors on horseback and electors afoot. There was an open carriage-and-four, for the Honourable Samuel Slumkey; and there were four carriage-andpair, for his friends and supporters; and the flags were rustling, and the band was playing, and the constables were swearing, and the twenty committee-men were squabbling, and the mob were shouting, and the horses were backing, and the post-boys perspiring; and everybody, and everything, then and there assembled, was for the special use, behoof, honour, and renown, of the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall, one of the candidates for the representation of the borough of Eatanswill, in the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom. Loud and long were the cheers, and mighty was the rustling of one of the blue flags, with `Liberty of the Press` inscribed thereon, when the sandy head of Mr. Pott was discerned in one of the windows, by the mob beneath; and tremendous was the enthusiasm when the Honourable Samuel Slumkey himself, in top-boots, and a blue neckerchief, advanced and seized the hand of the said Pott, and melodramatically testified by gestures to the crowd, his ineffaceable obligations to the Eatanswill GAZETTE.
`Is everything ready?` said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey to Mr. Perker.
`Everything, my dear Sir,` was the little man`s reply.
`Nothing has been omitted, I hope?` said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey.
`Nothing has been left undone, my dear sir--nothing whatever. There are twenty washed men at the street door for you to shake hands with; and six children in arms that you`re to pat on the head, and inquire the age of; be particular about the children, my dear sir--it has always a great effect, that sort of thing.`
`I`ll take care,` said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey.
`And, perhaps, my dear Sir,` said the cautious little man, `perhaps if you could--I don`t mean to say it`s indispensable-but if you could manage to kiss one of `em, it would produce a very great impression on the crowd.`
`Wouldn`t it have as good an effect if the proposer or seconder did that?` said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey.
`Why, I am afraid it wouldn`t,` replied the agent; `if it were done by yourself, my dear Sir, I think it would make you very popular.`
`Very well,` said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, with a resigned air, `then it must be done. That`s all.`
`Arrange the procession,` cried the twenty committee-men.
Amidst the cheers of the assembled throng, the band, and the constables, and the committee-men, and the voters, and the horsemen, and the carriages, took their places--each of the twohorse vehicles being closely packed with as many gentlemen as could manage to stand upright in it; and that assigned to Mr. Perker, containing Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Tupman, Mr. Snodgrass, and about half a dozen of the committee besides.
There was a moment of awful suspense as the procession waited for the Honourable Samuel Slumkey to step into his carriage. Suddenly the crowd set up a great cheering.
`He has come out,` said little Mr. Perker, greatly excited; the more so as their position did not enable them to see what was going forward.
Another cheer, much louder.
`He has shaken hands with the men,` cried the little agent.
Another cheer, far more vehement.
`He has patted the babies on the head,` said Mr. Perker, trembling with anxiety.
A roar of applause that rent the air.
`He has kissed one of `em!` exclaimed the delighted little man.
A second roar.
`He has kissed another,` gasped the excited manager.
A third roar.
`He`s kissing `em all!` screamed the enthusiastic little gentleman, and hailed by the deafening shouts of the multitude, the procession moved on...
Posted by Peter at 4:00 PM
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Harper's passive, fearful Canada
"Risks, threats and dangers dominate Stephen Harper's campaign rhetoric. His Canada is a country whose citizens worry about teenage killers; oil-hungry foreigners prowling their Arctic waters; terrorists lurking in their cities; and economic shock waves rolling toward them.
There is a grain of truth in these images. Canadians are bracing for a recession. A Russian mini-submarine did launch a mission to claim the North Pole this summer. The rate of violent youth crime went up slightly in 2006. And no country is immune to terrorism.
But there is also a great deal of exaggeration.
Very few Canadians will ever come in contact with a homicidal minor; 85 young people were accused of murder in 2006 (the latest year for which statistics are available). Homicide constitutes 0.05 per cent of youth crime. Overall youth crime has been declining steadily for two decades.
Most of the "terrorist conspiracies" detected in Canada have looked pretty amateurish. The first suspect convicted under Canada's anti-terrorism law in a Brampton court yesterday was too inept to pose much of a threat. This is not to say a suicide bombing, hijacking or anthrax attack couldn't happen here. But cowering has never been the Canadian way.
Undersea military activity isn't what scares most northerners. Their biggest concern is the rapid melting of the polar ice cap. Their homes, roads and communities, built on permafrost, are buckling and sagging. The entire Arctic ecosystem, and the life it supports, is in danger.
There is also a huge blind spot in the Conservative leader's vision.
Harper fails to see Canadians as a people who pull together in hard times. He is oblivious to the work millions of public-spirited citizens are doing in their communities to solve problems and create opportunities.
This is reflected in his approach to everything from crime to economic policy.
Those unregenerate 14-year-old criminals he proposes to lock up for a decade were troubled kids when he came to power. Their teachers had spotted the danger signals. So had welfare caseworkers, community activists and beat cops. They had tried to help, but were hampered by too few resources and too little political support.
Harper acknowledged this week that broken families and deprived neighbourhoods can contribute to "delinquent behaviour." But he insisted that coddling young offenders doesn't work. Harsh discipline does.
That might make anxious voters feel better. But it won't divert preteens from heading down the same path. And it won't provide much real protection; today's 14-year-old prison inmates will be out on parole at 24.
The "economic certainty" Harper offers voters is merely a leaner version of what exists now.
He is not calling on Canadians to respond to be creative and caring. He is telling them to hunker down.
He is not tackling the structural problems that constrain Canada's growth; its aging infrastructure, overreliance on fossil fuels and shrinking manufacturing base. He says this is no time for "risky experiments."
He is not willing to use the power of the state as a buffer against market forces. All he is pledging to do is keep the budget balanced, taxes low and spending in check.
Some might describe that as "a steady hand on the wheel." Others would call it a damper on the Canadian spirit.
In a tactical sense, Harper's strategy is shrewd. Fear is a powerful motivator. It fits the mood of the times. It is much easier to elicit than hope.
It also lets an incumbent campaign with no virtually no platform. All Harper has to do is shoot down every idea his opponents put forward, a task he clearly relishes.
More than half of the 55 "news releases" on his campaign website denigrate the Liberals ("not worth the risk"), the Bloc Québécois ("never delivers concrete results") and the New Democrats ("out of touch with the concerns of working families").
It is a shame none of the other national party leaders has succeeded in tapping into the nation's better instincts.
It is a double shame Canadians are allowing Harper to set the bar so low..."
Posted by Peter at 1:34 PM