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Know your government!

Photo: flickr/pmwebphotos

This time of year depressed the prophet Jeremiah. "And Jeremiah said: 'The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.'" Talk about your jeremiads.

Did The Man Upstairs really grant these Old Testament kvetches clairvoyance? Several Christian sects believe those apocalyptic, end-of-days prophecies will come true one day, and of course we can't prove they won't. But clearly old Jer knew of which he spake: for us poor sinners here in Harperland, summer is also ended and we too are not saved.

Yet even a prophet couldn't know as much about Prime Minister Harper and his co-conspirators as we do today, thanks to various post-biblical technologies. I myself am the consumer of a veritable cornucopia of reliable information on this subject, and it's only fair I share some of my best sources with concerned fellow citizens. After all, the more you know, the more alarmed you'll invariably become, and the more likely you are to join the resistance.

I've often referred in these columns to some of my reliable authorities -- the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Rideau Institute, The Daily Show -- but let me introduce here three others that I find indispensable. In no particular order:

I never miss Linda Belanger's HarperWatch, and neither should you. Distressed by what she considered the government's consistently anti-democratic behaviour, Citizen Belanger decided it must be documented. She began her blog a couple of years ago as a one-woman public service, which it surely is. It's an extensive monthly collection of stories critical of the government culled from all kinds of media, both mainstream and otherwise. Many of the most thoughtful and devastating originate in online sources that we might otherwise miss. But you'll be surprised how many damning stories come from well-known conservative newspapers which, we can safely predict, will ignore their own evidence when they again endorse Mr. Harper come 2015. Bravo, Ms. Belanger!

Anyone apprehensive about how our liberties are being eroded before our very eyes -- secret surveillance, the punishment of dissent -- should not miss the weekly News Digest issued by the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group.

Despite its name, the ICLMG is an all-Canadian coalition of 38 national civil society organizations that focuses both on Canada and elsewhere. The digest publishes "news articles, events, calls to action and much more regarding national security, anti-terrorism, civil liberties and other issues related to the mandate and concerns of ICLMG and its member organizations."

The 38 members are a Who's Who of progressive, activist Canada, and among them they represent just about every decent tendency in the country, including representatives of Muslims, Jews and Christians, trade unions, students, profs, lawyers, NGOs, refugees, environmentalists and any other virtuous groups you can think of. When Harperland compiles its "enemies list," it surely includes most of the 38 -- a badge of honour by any reckoning.

Finally, for the moment at least, let me introduce one other vital source (though there are many others): FAIR, an appropriate acronym for the awkwardly named Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform. You'll understand it better from its motto: "Protecting Whistleblowers Who Protect the Public Interest." Like ICLMG, FAIR sends out a monthly newsletter rich in articles "about whistleblowing and whistleblowers and the types of wrongdoing that they typically expose."

In opposition, everyone loves whistleblowers and vows to honour them. In government, everyone loathes and fears them and spends much effort to silence or discredit them. That's why they're among the heroes of our age. The unlikely tag team of Barack Obama and Stephen Harper are testament to this truism. Obama has shocked even loyalists by his vindictive treatment of whistleblowers, while Prime Minister Harper violates on an almost daily basis Opposition Leader Harper's wholehearted commitment to open, transparent and accountable government -- the kind whistleblowers help make possible.

It's FAIR's mandate to "empower employees to speak out without fear of reprisal when they encounter wrongdoing," whether in government or the private sector. The online newsletter is one of its tools. Even though FAIR's a volunteer-run charity operating with slender resources, this posting is a rich source of information and exposés that otherwise most of us would never even know about. Given the record of the Harper government and the determination of its leader to run the most closed government in Canadian history -- as even many of his supporters acknowledge -- I'm grateful that FAIR exists, as I am to Linda Belanger and the folks at ICLMG, and so will you be.

This government spends countless millions of taxpayer dollars on blatant propaganda. Progressives have their modest but priceless blogs. But we have more. We also have Jeremiah's predecessor the prophet Micah, who called on his people to "act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God."

Photo: flickr/pmwebphotos

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